On November 24, 1632, Benedict Spinoza was born in Amsterdam to a prosperous Jewish family which had fled to Holland to escape
the Spanish Inquisition. Spinoza was an extremely bright and fiercely independent thinker, questioning accepted doctrines and
challenging authority figures most of his life (his beliefs so alienated the local Jewish leadership that, at age 24, he was expelled from
the Amsterdam synagogue). Spinoza supported himself by tutoring schoolchildren and learning the trade of lensmaking, but his lifetime
passion was philosophy. Heavily influenced by the "new philosophy" of Rene Descartes, Spinoza became one of the principal exponents
of seventeenth-century Rationalism. His most famous work was the posthumously published "Ethics," in which he tried to deduce ethical
guidelines with mathematical certainty from axioms and theorems.
A few passages from "Ethics" are of special interest to students of oxymoronica:
"Those who are believed to be most abject and humble
are usually most ambitious and envious."
"Those are most desirous of honor and glory
who cry out the loudest of its abuse
and the vanity of the world."