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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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Sovereignty and Freedom

Sovereignty and Freedom

(p.290) Chapter 12 Sovereignty and Freedom
Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Susan James

Oxford University Press

Along with many other Dutch republican writers, Spinoza holds that the sovereign must control sacred as well as civil matters, although in doing so he challenges the Dutch Reformed Church. Drawing on the example of the Hebrew Republic, he advocates the unification of civil and religious law. This suggestion guides an argument to the effect that piety (the goal of true religion and thus divine law) is a condition of peace (the goal of civil law) and vice versa, so that sovereign and citizens must protect both values, together with the religious pluralism and freedom to philosophize on which they depend. How far, exactly, should religious freedom and the freedom to philosophize extend? Spinoza sets out some limits. Nevertheless, republics become more secure as they cultivate a democratic ethos, and develop resources for engaging in the kind of peaceful debate that is the hallmark of genuine philosophy.

Keywords:   Dutch republic, Hebrew Republic, unified divine and civil law, relation between piety and security, liberty of conscience, freedom to philosophize, democracy, political freedom, rational understanding

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