A Portrait of Spinoza
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Scholarly article / Open Access
Warren Zev Harvey wrote a bold and now famous paper over thirty years ago entitle "A Portrait of Spinoza as a Maimonidean," defending the dominant influence of the philosophy of the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides on the thought of Baruch Spinoza. However, since then, he further developed his thesis by publishing numerous articles showing that Spinoza was not only developing the ideas of Maimonides, but also was unique in synthesizing many different competing strands within medieval Jewish philosophy more generally, including those of Abraham Ibn Ezra, Levi Gersonides, and Hasdai Crescas. In other words, one can even be a Maimonidean by adapting the view of Maimonides's critics who nonetheless continued his philosophic legacy within the discourse that he began. While the thought an character of Baruch Spinoza has been continually scrutinized and reinterpreted in every generation since his death, I argue that Harvey's emphasis on the diversity of Jewish sources within Spinoza's thought aims to be a model for a political liberalism that is rooted within the texts of the Jewish tradition, while also one that advocates an intellectual pluralism.
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