Art and Culture
De Bree

Spinoza Kring – Circle

Art and Culture / De Bree
Sint Antoniesbreestraat 69

According to board members of the Amsterdam Spinoza Circle, the thought process of the philosopher, political mind, mathematician
and lens sharpener is more up-to-date than ever. And they seem to be correct, because the organization grows abundantly. They fill the concert halls of Paradiso and they open new branches in Amsterdam as if it were nothing.

‘We now exist ten years and it is developing gloriously’, says Johan de Jong, board member of the Spinoza Circle. We are housed in the beautiful library of the ancient “De Pinto House”on Sint Antoniebreestraat, where the Spinoza Circle has it’s own space. This is the neighbourhood, near “the Nieuwmark”’, the “Rembrandt House” and the Waterlooplein where the great thinker has placed many footsteps, and in 2008 his statue was unveiled on his 376th birthday. “In perspective, it is amazing that it is so popular now.” De Jong continues, ‘but yes … what Spinoza said and what he stood for, are unmistakably the toughest conversational subjects of this moment.’ According to him and founder Frank van Kreuningen, sooner or later everyone who is involved with Spinoza will experience a moment of recognition. Van Kreuningen: ‘You will think to yourself, yes, it makes perfect sense. I always thought likewise, but he does express it in a much more direct and sharp fashion.’

Allround man
Some information – Baruch Spinoza lived from 1633 to 1677 and was described by contemporaries as a nice, modest, quiet man. He had been raised Jewish and, as he grew older, he took an interest in science, and his religion was put to the test. He was eventually expelled from the Jewish community. The ‘Theological-political tract’ and ‘The Ethics’ are seen as his two most important works. ‘What is also striking is how all-round the man was’, says De Jong. ‘He has found and published truths about things as diverse as politics, theology, ethics, the scientific method, human emotions, you name it.’
It is almost as if he gave us a gift that, right now, that can be unwrapped better than ever. This is how the members of the circle see Spinoza’s work. Spinoza, for example, stated that there is no god, let us say – no man with a beard in heaven. De Jong: ‘In his eyes god is nature and in natural development it is all about the cause that leads to consequences. What happens in nature, what happens in life is necessary and inevitable, says Spinoza. And although you can only own up to that fact, you do not lose your responsibility. Turn on the news and see the importance of that insight. ‘
Democracy as the highest political system, separation of religion and state, it is all traceable to Spinoza. ‘Freedom of expression – that is of the highest importance, was also a revolutionary insight of Spinoza at the time,’ says Van Kreuningen. ‘Nobody is allowed to obstruct someone in what he or she thinks, but again … you are responsible for what you say and are liable for it. Perfectly fits in with the abuse and threat that is happening online on a large scale. The current philosophical subject matter is radically raised by the philosopher from Amsterdam. ”

And that is something that the Spinoza Circle also likes to highlight; Spinoza is a child of Amsterdam. In his time the city was a world center, grew rapidly and housed people from all over the world. ‘They had to live with each other,’ Van Kreuningen continues, ‘and that required neutral government and laws, as well as freedom, understanding and tolerance. In other words, freedom, understanding and tolerance must be guaranteed by that government and these laws. Amsterdam made that true and became an example for the world. The enormous freedom which we have is a direct result of Spinoza’s views and how they have been used since World War II, ‘De Jong: ‘We exist for ten years now, we have dozens of students, drawing full houses in Paradiso, we will get a Spinoza room in the Public Library and working on a new Spinoza room in the Stopera. Our goal is that Amsterdam and Spinoza are seen as self-evident parts of a two-unit, and things are moving in the right direction. Of course, I wondered what the wind is so good for us. I really think it is because the implementation of his ideas in daily practice has some problems with headwinds, lately. Because of this people realize how important he is. ‘

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