'A Theologico-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise'
By Benedict de Spinoza (Author), Francesco Cordasco (Author), R. H. M. Elwes (Translator)
Two important works by one of philosophy's most original and penetrating thinkers appear in this volume. Spinoza's "Theologico-Political Treatise" presents an eloquent plea for religious liberty, demonstrating that true religion consists of the practice of simple piety, independent of philosophical speculation. He examines the Bible at length to show that freedom of thought and of speech are consistent with the religious life. In the unfinished "Political Treatise," the author develops a theory of government founded on common consent.
A philosopher of Jewish background born in Amsterdam, Spinoza was expelled from the synagogue for his unorthodox views and lived most of his life as a recluse. He was deeply attracted to the philosophy of Descartes and wrote an account of that philosophy in order to propagate it. His most famous work, entitled Ethics, was published after his death and is considered to be one of the major works of modem philosophy. Spinoza was in search of the supreme good which for him meant the possession of a human nature which would be perfectly aware of its position in the universe and within the total scheme of things. He believed that the part can only be understood in reference to the whole, the first whole being what he called "God-nature." For that reason he was accused of pantheism and in fact he is, technically speaking, a pan- theist for he identifies God with the totality of the universe.
He was a critic of both Cartesian dualism, which he rejected through his emphasis upon the wholeness of reality, and of Hobbsian empiricism. Spinoza is not technically speaking a Jewish philosopher. Rather, he belongs to the mainstream of modern European philosophy but at the same time there are certain elements of his thought which go back to classical Jewish philosophy which, of course, had very close relations with classical Islamic philosophy throughout the earlier centuries, some of its major figures such as Ibn Gabirol and Maimonides having even written works in Arabic.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)