The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism

By G. H.R. Parkinson | Go to book overview

Spinoza reconstructs the republican argument. Here also passions have to be kept in check by institutional arrangements, linking the citizens’ private interest to that of the commonwealth. The radical position of dissenting religious groups is reconstructed in Spinoza’s analysis of democracy. Although this was unfinished, it is evident that democracy cannot imply license, but the broadening of the category of citizens to the whole male, adult, economically self-supporting population. That is, only those who have an articulated interest can be institutionally integrated into the pursuit of the common interest. However detached and objective this analysis may be, it is evident that Spinoza takes republicanism (or aristocracy) to correspond most closely to the Dutch situation. He may be saying: here are the feasible possibilities, pick your choice, but the institutional and economic arrangements of the Dutch Republic are closest to that of his model of federalist aristocracy. The Orangists, and William III in particular, who stated that he had rather be a Doge of Venice than a king in the Dutch Republic, would scarcely feel comfortable in Spinoza’s monarchy. But the events of the eighteenth century showed that Spinoza had foreseen the weaknesses of the Dutch stadholderate. But even in that century of Christian enlightenment, an atheist like Spinoza was not going to be heard. Spinoza’s principled political philosophy was going to inspire philosophers elsewhere, who like him understood the birthpangs of modernity. In France Rousseau and in Great Britain Adam Smith continued the project, just as in our day libertarians, marxists and even postmodern philosophers follow his lead. This radical naturalist of the seventeenth century is a present-day companion in our quest for understanding man and society.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Citations in the text are from The Collected Works of Spinoza, ed. and trans. E. Curley, vol. I, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1985 (Ethics); Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, trans. Samuel Shirley with introduction by Brad S. Gregory, Leiden, Brill, 1989; A Theologico-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise, trans. with an introduction by R.H.M. Elwes, London, Routledge, 1883 (Tractatus Politicus citations only).

For an explanation of abbreviations used in the text, see Chapter 8, p. 303.


Editions

Full editions of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
9.1 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus […], from the Latin, with an introduction and notes by the editor, London, Trübner, 1862.

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