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Lucretius Hebraizant: Spinoza's Reading of Ecclesiastes


  • Warren Montag

Warren Montag

Occidental College



Spinoza viewed the book of Ecclesiastes, in its original Hebrew and thus cleared of the interpretations imposed upon it in the guise of translation, as a powerful critique of the two most important variants of the superstition that taught human beings to regard both nature and themselves as degraded expressions of an unattainable perfection. The first was organized around the concept of miracle, the divine suspension of the actual concatenation of things, as if God were an earthly sovereign declaring a state of exception. The second was the apparent opposite of this first, the idea that the concatenation of things has an origin and an end, that is, an order decreed by God. Spinoza reads Ecclesiastes through the lens of Epicurus and Lucretius, as if it were an attempt in the Hebrew idiom, an idiom in certain ways perhaps better suited for this task than either Greek or Latin, to shatter the decrees of destiny and to regard with pleasure those singular things (both human and non-human) that cannot and need not be made straight.