Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism

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Transaction Publishers, Jan 1, 1987 - History - 323 pages
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In this classic work the author undertakes to show how Spinoza's philosophical ideas, particularly his political ideas, were influenced by his underlying emotional responses to the conflicts of his time. It thus differs form most professional philosophical analyses of the philosophy of Spinoza. The author identifies and discusses three periods in the development of Spinoza's thought and shows how they were reactions to the religious, political and economic developments in the Netherlands at the time. In his first period, Spinoza reacted very strongly to the competitive capitalism of the Amsterdam Jews whose values were "so thoroughly pervaded by an economic ethics that decrees the stock exchange approached in dignity the decrees of God," and of the ruling classes of Amsterdam, and was led out only to give up his business activities but also to throw in his lot with the Utopian groups of the day. In his second period, Spinoza developed serious doubts about the practicality of such idealistic movements and became a "mature political partisan" of Dutch liberal republicanism. The collapse of republicanism and the victory of the royalist party brought further disillusionment. Having become more reserved concerning democratic processes, and having decided that "every form of government could be made consistent with the life of free men," Spinoza devoted his time and efforts to deciding what was essential to any form of government which would make such a life possible.

In his carefully crafted introduction to this new edition, Lewis Feuer responds to his critics, and reviews Spinoza's worldview in the light of the work of later scientists sympathetic to this own basic standpoint. He reviews Spinoza's arguments for the ethical and political contributions of the principle of determinism, and examines how these have guided, and at times frustrated, students and scholars of the social and physical sciences who have sought to understand and advance these disciplines.

 

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This book has been a touchstone of my lifelong study of Spinoza. It takes the great metaphysician's thought and places it in a social & political context. Spinoza was the first modern philosopher to make the comprehensive arguments for separating church and state and Feuer brilliantly explains the arguments and the historical background against which Spinoza came up with them.
I made extensive use of this book when researching and writing my book Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews From the Ghetto Led to Revolution and REnaissance and I recommend to all who are interested in the history of ideas and building their knowledge for the ongoing fight with the ultra-religious who want to bring religion back into the political space.
 

Selected pages

Contents

The Excommunication of Baruch Spinoza
1
The Jewish Community of Amsterdam
2
Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated
4
The Economic and Political Structure of Amsterdam Jewry
5
the Cases of Menasseh ben Israel and Uriel Acosta
9
How Spinoza Became a Liberal Republican
17
Spinozas Rejection of Jewish Authority
22
the Commercial Magnates and Rabbis Aboab and Morteira
24
the People as Mob
138
Spinoza Withdraws Again
139
Why Did the Liberal Republic Fall?
150
Theory of a Commercial Aristocracy
158
Constitution for the Dictatorship of the Commercial Aristocracy
164
The Impasse of Authoritarian Liberalism
175
Academic Freedom and Public Education
179
A Republican Conceives the Theory of Limited Monarchy
182

The Trial
33
Revolutionist in Mystic Withdrawal
38
Retreat Among the Religious Communists
40
Spinozas Mennonite Friends
43
Spinozas Meeting With an English Quaker Missionary
47
Spinozas Pantheism and the Radical Thought of the Seventeenth Century
52
Political Scientist in the Cause of Human Liberation
58
The Political Setting
61
The Birth of Liberalism
65
The Calvinist Party in the Netherlands
69
the Geometrical Method in Politics
76
Spinoza and the Mass of Mankind
80
the Guide to Action and the Apotheosis of Acquiescence
82
The Promise and Anguish of Democracy
87
Demonstration of the Futility of Revolution
90
What Is Democracy?
101
Manifesto for Freedom
108
To Preserve the Republic
119
Philosophic Liberal in a Reactionary Age
136
Free Men or Slaves?
192
A Free Mans Philosophy
198
The Ethics of the Free Man as a Critique of the Calvinist Ethics
200
The Mystic Rejection of Libertine Hedonism
207
Precursor to Freud
210
Intellectual Love of God and Intellectual Hatred
215
Spinozas Leap Beyond the Geometrical Method
221
the Failure of the Geometrical Method
227
Spinoza as a Left Cartesian
229
the Discovery of the Plurality of Attributes
233
Spinozas Panpsychism
235
a Masochist Projection
239
the Language of Artisans and Merchants
242
Linguistic Nonsense or Linguistic Transfiguration?
247
Epilogue
254
Notes
259
Index
309
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