Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 October 2021
The way Spinoza lived and died has often played a part in the interpretation of his thought. Because his life is poorly documented, there is no lack of fictive anecdotes about his person and reputed character. This chapter offers an up-to-date scholarly account, based on a critical examination of the sources. After a discussion of method, issues, and background, it deals chronologically with the places where Spinoza lived. He was born (1632) and grew up in Amsterdam. In the years between his expulsion from the Jewish community (1656) and the earliest known correspondence (1661), Spinoza’s whereabouts are unknown. Apparently, he acquired renown as a philosopher in that period. From there we can trace the development of Spinoza’s oeuvre, as he moves from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg, where he wrote his first published work, Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy, thence to Voorburg, where he spent most of his time composing the Theological-Political Treatise, and eventually to The Hague. He had already started on his Ethics in Rijnsburg but only finished it in The Hague. In the year before Spinoza died, he began writing the unfinished Political Treatise. The chapter takes into account recent work on his health and demise (1677)
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