Now more than ever our complex society demands critical reflection. The tidal wave of opinions we are bombarded with in the press and on social media also do much to appeal to our powers of thought and reason. A simple ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ is not enough: those who make a positive contribution to social debate should also be prepared to take a critical look at their own positions, and it is this critical attitude that the International Spinoza Price Foundation wishes to stimulate by organising educational and public activities focusing on its international laureates in both the Netherlands and Flanders.
The International Spinoza Price Foundation has a 2-year cycle, with each cycle tackling an urgent social topic such as ‘Health, risk and society’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Europe’. Within the framework of this theme, an independent jury of Dutch and Flemish academics choose two laureates: a contemporary thinker and a historical thinker.
The contemporary thinker is awarded the Spinozalens every other year around 24th November, the date of birth of Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza, who lends his name to the prize itself. The Spinozalens, first awarded in 1999, consists of a bronze statue of Spinoza and a prize of 10,000 euros, as well as the publication of one of the laureate’s books or texts that has yet to be translated into Dutch by Boom Uitgevers.
‘Peace is not the absence of war. It is a virtue that comes from willpower and persistent hankering.’
Baruch de Spinoza, Tractatus Politicus
Why the name Spinozalens?
The Spinozalens is named after the most famous philosopher that The Netherlands has ever produced, Baruch de Spinoza. In his work, particularly in his magnum opus Ethica, Spinoza was an advocate for values such as reason and tolerance.
The immense value of Spinoza’s ideas certainly was not reflected in his income. The permanently destitute philosopher ground optical lenses to earn his daily bread, but despite this, his writings were the focus of attention. Many of Spinoza’s contemporaries recognized that he was laying the foundations for a new basis for morality.