chapter  11
15 Pages

Spinoza Past and Present

ByWIEP VAN BUNGE

Over the last three and a half centuries few philosophers’ reputations have enjoyed reversals of fortune as dramatic as Spinoza’s. Today there are Spinoza societies in the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel and the Netherlands. The Vereniging Het Spinozahuis, the society that owns the house Spinoza lived in at Rijnsburg, has over a thousand members, making it the largest philosophical society in the Netherlands. It holds lectures twice a year, inviting many of the leading scholars around the world. On an annual basis it organises summer schools on all aspects of Spinoza’s legacy, attracting scores of visitors. In 1997, in celebration of the centenary of Het Spinozahuis, a major exhibition of paintings, sculptures and installations inspired by Spinoza’s life and work was staged in Amsterdam.2 Before the introduction of the euro, the Dutch thousand guilders banknote bore the portrait of Spinoza, and no major city in the Netherlands is without its Spinozalaan, -straat or -weg. Just as Rotterdam has a Gymnasium Erasmianum and an Erasmus Universiteit, Amsterdam is proud of its Spinoza Lyceum. The visiting chair in philosophy at the University of Amsterdam, held among others by Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam and Judith Butler, is named the Spinoza Chair, and the most prestigious prize awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientifi c Research (NWO) is known as the Spinoza Premie.