Spinoza insists in the Theological Political Treatise that philosophy and theology are two separate kingdoms. I argue here that there is a basis in the psychology of the Ethics for one of the major components of the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Under the kingdom of theology, religion's principal function is to overcome the influence of harmful passion that prevents people from living life according to a fixed plan: people can live according to a fixed plan because they can obey. (...) Through a series of arguments I show that Spinoza takes obedience to arise through devotion; devotion to associate with ideas of miracles and imaginative monotheism; and these ideas to be imaginative ideas of singular objects. On the psychology of the Ethics, ideas of this sort, although highly irrational, nevertheless give minds a power to resist harmful passion similar to that of ideas of reason. Although problems remain for the interpretation of the doctrine of the two kingdoms, this argument shows that Spinoza's psychology gr.. (shrink)
Event synopsis: Professor Susan James inverses Leo Strauss’ reading of Spinoza. Whereas Strauss emphasized the hidden subtext of Spinoza’s arguments, James revives the explicit debates of his time within which Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise was situated. But this is not a simple historical reconstruction. James’ close reading of the Treatise offers a radically new perspective on Spinoza’s revolutionary book – a reading that presents startling new perspective on the political, metaphysical and theological implications of the book. Given the importance of Spinoza’s (...) political writings in contemporary radical democratic approaches to the state, James intervention has the potential to reshape the way we think of a Spinozan politics. (shrink)
Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise was published anonymously in 1670 and immediately provoked huge debate. Its main goal was to claim that the freedom of philosophizing can be allowed in a free republic and that it cannot be abolished without also destroying the peace and piety of that republic. Spinoza criticizes the traditional claims of revelation and offers a social contract theory in which he praises democracy as the most natural form of government. This Critical Guide presents essays by well-known scholars in (...) the field and covers a broad range of topics, including the political theory and the metaphysics of the work, religious toleration, the reception of the text by other early modern philosophers and the relation of the text to Jewish thought. It offers valuable perspectives on this important and influential work. (shrink)
In this paper, I draw out a tension between miracles, prophecy, and Spinoza’s assertions about Moses in the Theological-Political Treatise (TTP). The three seem to constitute an inconsistent triad. Spinoza’s account of miracles requires a naturalistic interpretation of all events. This categorical claim must therefore apply to prophecy; specifically, Moses’ hearing God’s voice in a manner which does not seem to invoke the imagination or natural phenomena. Thus, Spinoza seemingly cannot maintain both Moses’ exalted status and his account of miracles. (...) I consider some possible solutions, but find that they are either untrue to Spinoza’s position, or would undercut his categorical argument against miracles. I therefore conclude that Spinoza leaves an unresolved tension in the TTP. (shrink)
Context -- A Jew in Amsterdam -- Conflicts and communities -- Christian philosophy? -- A Bible gallery -- Religion and politics in the TTP -- Miracles, meaning, and moderation -- Christian pluralism -- Ethics reconsidered -- Providence, obedience, and love -- Spinoza and Christianity.
Spinoza is supposed to have denied the existence of miracles. I argue that instead of denying them he offers his readers a way of understanding miracles within his own metaphysical system in which God and nature are identified. I then offer some historical conjectures as to why his view has been misunderstood so often and for so long.
In Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus two phenomena, which are of crucial importance for revealed religion, namely prophetic revelation and miracle, are investigated in two different ways. The first phenomenon, prophetic revelation, is primarily considered as a theological issue and is mainly discussed on the basis of biblical research. The second phenomenon, miracle, is primarily considered as a philosophical issue and is mainly discussed on the basis of rational principles. The question is raised why Spinoza is using two different methods to discuss (...) these two issues. Some have argued that Spinoza is using these two different methods on account of strategic reasons. Nevertheless, such a strategic explanation is not entirely satisfactory in so far as it ignores more substantial reasons, which are related to the content of the issues mentioned. In search of these substantial reasons it is necessary to investigate Spinoza’s discussion of the phenomena of prophetic revelation and miracle in more detail. This investigation leads to the conclusion that Spinoza exerts himself more to give causal explanations of miracles than of prophetic revelations, although both phenomena are considered by him as purely natural. However, in the last analysis both extraordinary phenomena are considered as inexplicable natural events, which in this respect are not different from all ordinary natural events. In this way we discover at the border of Spinoza’s rigorous rationalism a new enchantment of the world. (shrink)
In a work that draws on an impressive array of scholarly resources and an extensive study of Spinoza’s teaching, Steven Smith’s recent book examines the status of Spinoza as “the first emancipated Jew” in the broader context of “the Jewish Question”. The author’s interest is to relate Spinoza’s treatment of the theologico-political problem to his advocacy of liberalism and commercial republicanism in the Tractatus theologico-politicus. The authority of the doctrine conveyed in that work is reflected in the championing of religious (...) toleration, political liberalism, and popular education that was embraced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, as Smith acknowledges, “it was the Enlightenment, above all, that made the case for Jewish emancipation and Bildung that is the theme of this book”. In particular, the author seeks to establish the “profound and determinative influence” of Spinoza’s Tractatus on the thinking of Mendelssohn, Lessing, Kant, and Hegel. (shrink)
This is a study of what Spinoza intended to be the refutation of orthodox Judaism, and indeed, of all religious orthodoxy. The recovery of that refutation, as Strauss illustrates in his preface to this translation, is needed by theology because the progressive liberalization of religion has now reached the point where theology is hardly able to distinguish itself from sundry civil moralities. Owing to this beginning, both in its plan and execution this study has little in common with historical studies (...) of the origin of religious liberalism. Part I distinguishes the classical or Epicurean critique of religion, which did not entail enlightenment, from the modern critique, whose origin Strauss finds in Hobbes. Part II examines Spinoza's critique of orthodoxy, the critique of Calvin, the teaching on the relation between religion and politics, and the concept of Bible criticism. Since Strauss' guiding concern is to discover whether the critique of orthodoxy can be met from the grounds of orthodoxy, he takes great care to specify precisely the assumptions of each argument and the belief against which it is directed. When completed, this effort becomes the articulation of the conflict between reason and revelation. That conflict is shown as it is understood by each side, and Strauss assesses the vulnerability of each to the other.—H. C. (shrink)