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According to a search on Google for "who founded agnosticism": It says that T.H. Huxley is the first to coin the word agnosticism publicly, but there is no much said about who was the founder of the actual philosophy.

Can Spinoza be considered the "formal" founder of agnosticism? If so who were some of his influencers in that regards? and if not, who is?

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  • Wikipedia has a history section on Agnosticism. Pegging people after the fact and without their input is a dubious activity, but Huxley himself named Hume as "the prince of agnostics", and Kant is often associated with the label as well. Going further back in history is even more dubious, but one can ascribe it to ancient skeptics and some Hindu schools if one really wishes. Spinoza would not be on the list by any stretch, although some used "atheist" on him as a dirty word. – Conifold Feb 5 at 5:44
  • I think the best that can be said is that we don't know – Strawberry Feb 5 at 17:13
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Spinoza spends the whole first part of his master book, Ethics, describing God and its properties, so clearly he thought there is something we can known about it.

He is often described as deist or pantheist ("God is the universe"), also atheist by some (he did not believe in a personal god), but he does not fit the definition of agnostic by any acception of the word.

As for the founder, it's difficult to say. As you said the term has been coined recently but the idea has been around since at least Epicurus ("we can't know the gods, so why care about them?") and I would be surprised if we can't find a presocratic with a similar view. I think the idea is fairly natural for any philosopher with empirist tendencies, and many can have reached the conclusion independently, which makes the idea of a well identified founder irrelevant.

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  • I would like to accept your answer, as I believe it is the correct answer, but can you mention who is considered the founder of agnosticism? – Isaac Brenig Feb 5 at 5:45
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    Its difficult to say. As you said the term has been coined recently but the idea has been around since at least Epicurus ("we can't know the gods, so why care about them?") and I would be surprised if we can't find a democratic with a similar view. – armand Feb 5 at 7:30
  • Funny enough, I could actually find some literature connecting Spinoza, pantheism and agnosticism on some relevant issues: pantheism.com/about/pantheism-and-agnosticism , however I better understand the difference now – Isaac Brenig Feb 5 at 18:16
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    @IsaacBrenig i see where they're going, according to Spinoza we have but a body and a mind, so those are the 2 sole ways we can know God, but he has an infinity of other substances, so we can never know all of him -> agnostic. Yet very few thinkers have the opinion that we can know all of God, even Thomas Aquinas who is not an agnostic by any stretch of the imagination said God have mysteries we mere humans can't fathom. If we go by this standard everybody is agnostic. If we arranged thinkers on a "gnostic/agnostic spectrum", i still think Spinoza would be fairly far on the gnostic side. – armand Feb 5 at 23:24
  • Sorry i confused "substances" with "attributes" in the comment above. – armand Feb 6 at 0:22

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