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Playlist: MIchael Goldfarb's Portfolio

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God Intoxicated Man: the Life and Modern Times of Benedict Spinoza

From MIchael Goldfarb | 53:38

Michael Goldfarb tells the story of how the God Intoxicated Man, Benedict Spinoza, seeded the Englightenment and became the philosopher for today.

Godintoxicated_small This has been the year of post-truth in American politics; the year when facts, as the basic building blocks of public discourse, were eclipsed by something else: rumor, prejudice and the irrational. America is not alone. Around the world, propaganda feeds sectarian and nationalist hatreds breeding violence and instability.

The ideas of the Enlightenment, which provided the philosophical underpinning, for the Founding Fathers and the development of modern democracy, have been challenged by events that many in America still are having difficulty in understanding.

In this documentary, Michael Goldfarb, looks at the life and thought of philosopher, Benedict Spinoza. Spinoza, one of the first Enlightenment philosophers, is famously difficult, yet it was from him that the core ideas that motivated Jefferson, Madison et al sprung: the separation of the Church from the affairs of the state, using philosophical reasoning to create a “tolerant” society where wise policies, freely debated, guide people toward “liberty.” Spinoza was the first philosopher to use “democracy” in the modern sense. It is not a surprise to learn, as the documentary explains, that John Locke lived with Spinoza's friends in Amsterdam in the years when he composed the Letter Concerning Toleration.

God Intoxicated Man combines biography, history and music to reclaim this important thinker for our troubled times and in doing so provide deep historical context for the struggle for the future going on in America and around the world.

IN this program, award-winning documentarian and former NPR London correspondent Michael Goldfarb uses the philosopher's own words and contemporary music to tell the story of Spinoza's life and thought.

As the documentary unfolds, its contemporary resonance becomes absolutely clear. In a time when rationalism as the foundation for government is under threat, it is important to be reminded of what happens to societies which abandon their commitment to having a public space where people of different views can, guided by dispassionate reason and a respect for facts, find a way to work out their differences.