Benedict de Spinoza was born on November 24, 1632 in a Jewish enclave in Amsterdam. When he was 23, his ideas about God, man's immortal soul, and free will (in reaction to the writings of René Descartes) caused his synagogue to excommunicate him. He published his masterpiece, Ethics, in 1677, making him a leader in rationalist thought, and paving the way to the Enlightenment period.
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