Why was Spinoza excommunicated?

By decree of the angels and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of the entire holy congregation, and in front of these holy scrolls with the 613 precepts which are written therein; cursing him with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho and with the curse which Elisha cursed the boys and with all the castigations which are written in the Book of the Law. Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law. But you that cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.

Baruch Spinoza managed to get the harshest ostracism ever pronounced on a member of the Portuguese-Jewish community in Amsterdam. The reason? Basically, he disagreed with everything the leaders of the community believed in and made them worry for their already-shaky position in a Catholic society.

Doom doom death’n’destruction

I’m glad all these universities are deciding, for some reason, that they should put their lectures online, even if the selection is usually slim. I looked through Yale’s courses recently and one course caught my eye – Death. Man, if universities are going to educate you about one thing, death sure seems like something they should prepare you for. Anyway, I think I’ll start ‘taking’ the course free of charge. Thanks, Yale.

Philosophical readings

The Guardian has a great (and ongoing) series of articles detailing philosophers’ ideas on faith and religion. They are on their fourth philosopher right now – Heidegger – and seem to be doing a great job of summarizing what each one thought. I have only gotten through two of them, but they’re probably all worth reading; the comments, maybe. Some are good, others ill-informed.

Another recent discovery is the Berkeley Webcasts. I had vaguely known about them before, but only just started listening to them. It’s a great way to spend your bike into work listening to lectures on, say, social psychology.