Judith Joseph

Spinoza and van Leeuwenhoek
woodblock print on rag paper
20 x 16 in.

Truth has been a Contested Concept for centuries. My work deals with a philosopher who was punished for questioning the “truths” of his day. Baruch de Spinoza ran afoul of the religious authorities of 17th century Amsterdam because he applied scientific logic and philosophical analysis to the Bible. He was excommunicated for life by the rabbinic council, excoriated by Christian clergy and shunned in every way.

Like his neighbor Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who invented the microscope and discovered the microbe, de Spinoza was a lens grinder. His profession is emblematic of his clarity of thought. Ships were sailing from his city to “discover” the New World, as he explored the philosophical nature of God and the world.

The New Truths he discovered, which were later incorporated into religious norms, shook the status quo and were deemed dangerous and heretical. My work expresses his unfettered, diligent seeking of Truth: the insights and flight of a free mind.

© Judith Joseph