Spinoza's banishment

Clara Figueiredo, series_ quarantine records, house, São Paulo, 2020
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By ARI MARCELO SOLON*

Was Spinoza banned because he was an anti-capitalist democrat or because he was an atheist?

Excommunicated Benedict was never. Excommunication is an ecclesiastical act. What he suffered, however, was a banishment by the Portuguese Marranos community.

Why did he suffer banishment, if in the Middle Ages the Averroist Narboni also did not believe in the immortality of the soul? If Maimonides, in the “Guide for the Perplexed”, preferred the Aristotelian eternity of the world to biblical creationism? If Jewish mysticism dialectically affirms that the world arises from contractions (dzimidzum) of the deity itself?

Dutch Calvinist toleration is a myth. So that they could build their beautiful temple, the Marranos signed a kind of contract with the Dutch authorities, from which they signed the commitment that they should not allow any religious heresy in their bosom. The brilliant Talmudist Spinoza had opinion bags: advocated a radical citizen democracy rather than the monarchical authoritarianism of the Orange dynasty favored by orthodox Puritans. Economically, an anti-capitalist stance disdaining the commercial activities of its thriving community.

In summary, it is only in this political-economic context that the heretical ideas (husbanded by the rabbis mentioned above, in previous times) concretely led to Bento's expulsion from the sacred Portuguese congregation.

Why do I return to this theme, exhaustively debated in the history of philosophy?

Recently, a professor friend of mine, an expert on Spinoza's work, suffered a shocking second banishment. He asked to film the beautiful synopsis on the street of the Jews and received an offensive letter saying that, for publicizing works by Spinoza, he was a person non grata of that community.

I got to know Professor Melamed through articles on the impact of the Hegelian dialectic on Marx's fight against poverty. In a second moment, it allowed me to solve the enigma of my doctor: the revolutionary Laskian key to the neo-Kantian philosophy of law.

Lask, Weber's protégé, stuck with his protector's relativism via Fichte. He demonstrated that in knowledge there is a rational gap and a nakedness of logical categories within neo-Kantianism, but against Kant he opens up the possibilities of the phenomenology of Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger.

When Paulson came to Sanfran at my invitation, he said that my doktorvater had written the best work on the neo-Kantianism of Lask's two-dimensionality. I always learned from my advisor that Lask's insight was due to his Plotinian-Neoplatonic impulses: a return to ancient philosophy to solve the problems of modern philosophy (which Heidegger copied).

Last week, reading Melamed, I visualized that Fichte, to overcome Kant's philosophy of knowledge, had resorted to a Jewish heretic who took the name of Maimon, like the illustrious rationalist rabbi of Andalusia. Reading the article, I realized that Lask's insight had its origin via Fichte, in Maimon: against Kant's transcendental philosophy, he advocated a philosophical skepticism and where mystical intuitionism resulted. After all, Maimon was expelled from his community, but from there he learned the emptiness of rational categories.

In conclusion, Carl Schmitt may even be right that Spinoza deserved his banishment read in Portuguese, without the beautiful Venetian ritual of blowing the ram's horn and the black candles on the floor fictitiously associated with it. Hermann Cohen also defended this excommunication. Salomon Maimon might have deserved a similar banishment in defending German Enlightenment against the religion of his fathers; but Melamed, an observant Jew who taught me Marxism, the acosmism of Spinoza and Maimon, never did.

*Ari Marcelo Solon is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among others, of books, Paths of philosophy and science of law: German connection in the development of justice (Prisms).

 

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