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Spinoza's Philosophy of Divine Order

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Ben Stahlberg

While Spinoza is often interpreted as an early secular or liberal thinker, this book argues that such interpretations neglect the senses of order and authority that are at the heart of Spinoza’s idea of God. For Spinoza, God is an organized and directed totality of all that exists. God is entirely immanent to this totality, to such an extent that all things are fundamentally of God. Appreciating the full extent to which God permeates and orders every aspect of reality, allows the full sense of Spinoza’s theories of tolerance and the social contract to come into view. Rather than assuming that human beings involved in political relationships are independent, autonomous individuals, for Spinoza they are parts of a larger whole subject to distinct natural laws. Spinoza maintains that such laws manifest themselves equally and identically in the seemingly distinct realms of religion and politics. In this respect, Spinoza’s theories of religion and biblical interpretation are not properly secular in character but rather blur the standard boundary between the religious and the political as they try to recognize and codify the inviolable laws of nature – or God.
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Conclusion: “Man Is God to Man”

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Conclusion

“Man Is God to Man”

Spinoza’s philosophy is governed by the assertion that God is one entirely comprehensive identity which can exist in distinction to nothing and can have nothing outside of itself. While this God (or Substance, or Nature) expresses itself through an infinite variety of attributes and in an infinite number of modes, this process of expression does not separate God from any of these modes or attributes (this expression is not the creation of something else). Human beings live happier, better lives to the extent that they realize that they are (already) a part of this divine totality, and come to see themselves not as individuals as such but rather as highly orchestrated movements or moments within God’s expression. When we understand that we are inevitably subject to the order that that expression produces, we learn the virtue of cognizant obedience and reject the notion that we could will for ourselves a “kingdom within a kingdom.” Further, Spinoza argues that such rational compliance produces love—for oneself, God, and the other parts of the world. Though there is certainly a strong sense that the degree to which the love of God, in Spinoza’s work, is intellectual, this intellectual love stems from and depends upon certain common notions that exist in all people. As religion promotes these fundamental, conceptual virtues it is itself a rational activity that ← 155 | 156 → brings human beings together in peace and virtue,...

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