Spinoza's Democratic Turn: Chapter 16 of the Theologico-Political Treatise

Review of Metaphysics 48 (2):359 - 388 (1994)


There are several reasons that have contributed to the neglect of the Treatise as a classic of modern democratic theory. In the first place, Spinoza's political theory is buried three quarters of the way through the Treatise and comes to light only after the reader has slogged through a long and painstaking discussion of biblical philology and criticism. Second, Spinoza's defense of democracy is undergirded by a naturalistic metaphysics that is more immoralist than Hobbes and scarcely to the taste of most modern readers. And third, Spinoza remained wedded to certain premodern notions about the difference between the intellectuals and the vulgar which, it is believed, undercut his democratic commitments.

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