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    ‟There can be no rational life without reason.”

    Baruch Spinoza

    Spinozism is the philosophy of Jewish-Dutch thinker Baruch Spinoza. Spinozism combines a commitment to a number of Cartesian metaphysical and epistemological principles with elements from ancient Stoicism, Hobbes, and medieval Jewish rationalism into a nonetheless highly original system. The naturalistic views on God, the world, the human being and knowledge serve to ground a moral philosophy centered on the control of the passions leading to virtue and happiness. They also lay the foundations for a strongly democratic political thought and a deep critique of the pretensions of Scripture and sectarian religion.

    Spinoza's thoughts constituted the first examples of pantheism. He opposed to Christian philosophers of religion, by accepting causality instead of teleology.

    Philosophical Beliefs[edit | edit source]

    God or Nature[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza's philosophy centers on the idea that God and Nature are one and the same, known as pantheism. He rejects the notion of a personal God with human characteristics and equates God with Nature. According to him, everything in the universe is part of Nature, and everything follows the same basic laws. Spinoza's naturalism, radical for his time, asserts that humans are not separate from Nature but integral to it. He argues that human emotions and actions, like hatred and anger, are part of Nature's workings and can be understood through its laws.

    His philosophy is rooted in the principle of sufficient reason, which states that everything has an explanation. Spinoza rejects the idea of a supernatural Creator and sees the entire system of reality as Nature itself, bringing God and the universe into closer relationship. This perspective elevates Nature to the status of God, emphasizing the unity of reality and rejecting supernatural explanations.

    Structure of Reality[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza's philosophy introduces the concept of God having "attributes," such as 'extension' and 'thought,' with infinitely many such attributes. 'Extension' is linked to physical activities like taking up space, while 'thought' relates to mental processes like thinking. According to Spinoza, everything in the universe is a mode of these attributes: bodies are modes of extension, and ideas are modes of thought. He defines substance as a self-existent, eternal reality, with extension and thought being its primary attributes. Spinoza sees reality as dynamic activity, where substance expresses itself through these attributes in infinite ways. For example, physical phenomena are modes of extension, while mental experiences are modes of thought.

    Spinoza emphasizes the dynamic nature of reality, rejecting static interpretations. He views the universe as a logical and dynamic system, where attributes like extension and thought are expressions of an infinitely complex reality.

    Ethics[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza sees reality as active, where everything has a drive to persist and exist. Even in inanimate objects, there's a basic urge for survival, called a "will to live." This urge is seen physiologically as appetite and consciously as desire. Good and bad are not determined by thinking but by desire: if something is desired, it's considered good; if not, it's seen as bad. Pleasure, linked to external causes, is called love, while pain is called hate. All human feelings come from pleasure, pain, and desire, with their variety coming from different external objects and individual conditions.

    Spinoza divides feelings into two categories: active and passive. Active feelings lead to self-realization and pleasure, while passive feelings, or passions, cause pain and result from external influences. As understanding grows, reason helps overcome the domination of passions. With intuitive knowledge, the mind sees everything as part of the eternal order, finding joy in perfect self-activity. This path to enlightenment isn't easy, but according to Spinoza, anything truly excellent is rare and challenging.

    Religion[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza sharply criticizes organized religion, especially Judaism. He argues that theology and philosophy should remain separate, as theology focuses on obedience while philosophy seeks rational truth. He rejects supernatural explanations for events like prophecy and miracles, believing they have natural causes. Spinoza questions the authorship and structure of the Bible, claiming it's a compiled text with many authors, not a single revelation.

    He challenges the clergy's intolerance and their use of force to suppress dissent, arguing for a proper understanding of Scripture. Spinoza's critique led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam. He rejects the idea of Jews as "God's chosen people" and offers sociological explanations for their survival despite persecution. Spinoza views circumcision as a symbol of Jewish separateness. He sees the Torah as a political constitution for ancient Israel, no longer applicable in modern times. Spinoza's views on religion and Scripture sparked controversy but have influenced modern interpretations of religious texts and freedom of thought.

    Political Beliefs[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes agreed that life without an organized community would be harsh and short. A state provides security, resources, and time for personal development. Citizens must obey its laws, ensuring order and protection from dangers and their own impulses. While this may seem like a loss of freedom, it's necessary for true human life, according to Spinoza. State sovereignty isn't absolute. Wise governments seek citizen cooperation and allow peaceful advocacy for reforms. Spinoza advocated for state religion as a unifying force but ensured it was flexible enough to accommodate different beliefs. He believed in granting the civil government significant power to resist the control of militant churches, promoting freedom of thought and speech.

    Right is Might[edit | edit source]

    In Spinoza's political theory, he asserts that "right is might," meaning that power and justice are closely connected. This principle allows him to approach political issues scientifically, akin to solving mathematical problems. However, some mistakenly believe that Spinoza reduces justice to mere force, but this is not the case. Spinoza's concept of "power" extends beyond physical strength to include mental and intellectual capabilities. He emphasizes the importance of qualities like strength of mind and intellect. Spinoza's philosophy recognizes the role of ideal motives in both individual and communal life. However, it's important to note that Spinoza only considers men as full citizens, as outlined in his unfinished Tractus Politicus.

    Forms of Government[edit | edit source]

    Spinoza examines three main types of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Monarchy can become tyrannical without checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. Similarly, aristocracy can turn into oligarchy and requires similar safeguards. Overall, Spinoza favors democracy, where the government represents the people. In a democracy, there's less conflict between the people and the government compared to monarchy or aristocracy, making it better suited for maintaining peace.

    Tractatus Politicus[edit | edit source]

    The "Tractatus Politicus" (TP), or Political Treatise, was the final and incomplete work written by Baruch Spinoza. It was penned between 1675 and 1677 and published after his death in 1677. The subtitle of this treatise explains its purpose: it demonstrates how societies, whether monarchies or aristocracies, can be best governed to avoid tyranny and ensure the peace and liberty of citizens. It is divided into eleven chapters, covering topics such as natural law, the role of supreme authorities, and the ideal forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Spinoza analyzes each form without endorsing one as superior. However, he does argue in the final chapter that democracy should ensure freedom for all based on natural law, challenging the idea of majority rule.

    In an unusual move, Spinoza discusses women in this work, suggesting they are unfit for political power, contrary to his typically radical views on social hierarchies. The treatise also explores the concept of peace, defining it as more than just the absence of war but as a virtue rooted in strength of character. Spinoza references Niccolò Machiavelli, suggesting that attempting to remove a tyrant without addressing the causes of tyranny is imprudent. Some scholars believe the Political Treatise was influenced by Spinoza's response to authoritarian rule in the Netherlands during his time, particularly under William of Orange following France's invasion in 1672.

    Variants[edit | edit source]

    Spinozist Marxism[edit | edit source]

    Spinozist Marxism is a combination of Marxist and Spinozist theories. French philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and Louis Althusser, were the most important people in neo-Spinozism and post-Marxism.

    Labriolianism[edit | edit source]

    Labriolianism is the philosophy of Italian Marxist theoretician and philosopher Antonio Labriola.

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