Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (1670) is one of the most important philosophical works of the early modern period. In it Spinoza discusses at length the historical circumstances of the composition and transmission of the Bible, demonstrating the fallibility of both its authors and its interpreters. He argues that free enquiry is not only consistent with the security and prosperity of a state but actually essential to them, and that such freedom flourishes best in a democratic and republican state in which individuals (...) are left free while religious organizations are subordinated to the secular power. His Treatise has profoundly influenced the subsequent history of political thought, Enlightenment 'clandestine' or radical philosophy, Bible hermeneutics, and textual criticism more generally. It is presented here in a new translation of great clarity and accuracy by Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan Israel, with a substantial historical and philosophical introduction by Jonathan Israel. (shrink)
Two important works by one of philosophy's most original and penetrating thinkers appear in this volume. Spinoza's "A Theologico-Political Treatise" presents an eloquent plea for religious liberty, demonstrating that true religion consists of the practice of simple piety, independent of philosophical speculation. He examines the Bible at length to show that freedom of thought and speech are consistent with the religious life. In the unfinished "A Political Treatise," the author develops a theory of government founded on common consent.