Journal of the History of Philosophy 36 (2):322-324 (1998)

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322 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 36:2 APRIL 1998 little help from his congregation's rabbis -- not only from an orthodox conformity to Jewish traditions, but from any sense of Jewish identity whatsoever. Perhaps it might be more accurate to call Spinoza the "first secular citizen." One of the more contentious claims of Smith's book is his insistence that Spinoza's Treatise contains an esoteric dimension, an intentionally hidden doctrine that only the most careful readers could ascertain. Part of the defense of this Straussian model is the identification of "deliberate contradictions" in the text. I, for one, do not see any esoteric doctrines in the Treatise; nor do I see that any of the alleged inconsistencies could possibly qualify as "deliberate contradictions." Spinoza's is indeed a complex text that often requires some hard work in order to determine what exactly he's getting at. But I would think that the Treatise's "exoteric" pronouncements are radical enough to dis- courage anyone from seeking to find a subversive message underneath a strategically engineered veneer. Moreover, I do not think that Spinoza's famously cautious nature, and his reluctance to share his unpublished writings with any but a few of his closest associates, should be confused with the kind of caution that leads to esoteric writing. On the other hand, there can be no question that, as Smith notes, Spinoza tailored his presentation in the Treatise to a particular audience,..
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2008.0882
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