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Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and PoliticsThe Theologico-Political Treatise$
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Susan James

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199698127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199698127.001.0001

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What Divine Law Is

What Divine Law Is

(p.83) Chapter 4 What Divine Law Is
Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Susan James

Oxford University Press

Spinoza's positive account of the divine law is an extremely radical one, almost uniquely so in the context of seventeenth‐century debate. God is not a legislator who issues decrees and punishments, and prescriptions only become laws when they are ordained by a human agent. Human beings must therefore take responsibility for the laws under which they live. This chapter analyses Spinoza's complex defence of this position, tracing his distinctions between divine law, divine natural law, and revealed law. It also explains how the Treatise employs these resources to defend a number of controversial claims. Some of these are positive—for example, philosophy rather than Scripture yields the clearest understanding of what divine law prescribes. Many of them are negative—for example, Spinoza's account of law is designed to undermine the providentialism around which Calvinist theology is organized. Here we see Spinoza articulating the practical implications of his own philosophy.

Keywords:   divine law, divine natural law, revealed law, natural law, Calvinist theology, providentialism, divine legislator, philosophy and theology

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