Download Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity by Steven B. Smith PDF

By Steven B. Smith

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)—often famous because the first smooth Jewish thinker—was additionally a founding father of glossy liberal political philosophy. This ebook is the 1st to attach systematically those features of Spinoza's legacy. Steven B. Smith indicates that Spinoza used to be a politically engaged theorist who either recommended and embodied a brand new belief of the emancipated person, a philosopher who decisively stimulated such various activities because the Enlightenment, liberalism, and political Zionism.Focusing on Spinoza's Theologico-Political Treatise, Smith argues that Spinoza used to be the 1st philosopher of be aware to make the civil prestige of Jews and Judaism (what later turned often called the Jewish query) an important factor of contemporary political suggestion. sooner than Marx or Freud, Smith notes, Spinoza recast Judaism to incorporate the liberal values of autonomy and emancipation from culture. Smith examines the situations of Spinoza's excommunication from the Jewish group of Amsterdam, his skeptical attack at the authority of Scripture, his transformation of Mosaic prophecy right into a revolutionary philosophy of background, his use of the language of normal correct and the social agreement to protect democratic political associations, and his accomplished comparability of the traditional Hebrew commonwealth and the fashionable advertisement republic. in response to Smith, Spinoza's Treatise represents a vintage protection of non secular toleration and highbrow freedom, displaying them to be valuable foundations for political balance and liberal regimes. during this examine Smith examines Spinoza's way to the Jewish query and asks even if a Judaism, so conceived, can lengthy live on.

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The answers to these questions all derive from a basic phenomenon that Spinoza bent all his efforts to expose: the power of revealed religion. All errors and superstitions are species of one fundamental prejudice. The prejudice on which all other prejudices rest is the authority that people have accorded to a single book, the Bible or Scripture. Spinoza uses "Bible" and "Scripture" (in the singular) to refer to both the Old and the New Testaments. 1 Yet even the most superficial reading of the Treatise shows that the vast majority of its materials derive from the Jewish rather than the Christian Scripture.

By implication, the passage was written long after the time of Og, who was a direct contemporary of Moses. Spinoza speculates that the mode of speaking is appropriate to a time considerably later, perhaps when the bedstead and other ''relics" were discovered by David, who conquered the city of Rabbah (2 Sam. 60 Besides anachronism there is the problem of contradictory predication, or the attribution of contradictory attributes to God. Spinoza's proof texts here are Samuel's denial and Jeremiah's affirmation that God repents of his decisions (1 Sam.

They think it pious to trust nothing to reason and to their own judgment, but impious to doubt the reliability of those who handed down the Sacred Books to us. This is mere folly, not piety. What are they worried about? What are they afraid of? Can religion and faith not be defended unless men deliberately know nothing about anything, and say farewell to reason completely? 65 For any careful reader of the Treatise it should be evident from the biting and polemical tone of this passage that Spinoza is concerned with more than the obscure Jehuda Alpakhar.

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