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Spinoza's Philosophy of Divine Order


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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General Overview

This book argues that the thought of Baruch de Spinoza—or Benedcit de Spinoza1—is best understood as a philosophy of divine order. By order, I mean an organized and directed totality, caused only by itself, and with nothing falling outside of its purview. For Spinoza, such an order is divine precisely because of its infinite, solely-caused character, and thus he equates it with God—along with Nature and substance. This book is an attempt to delineate the many aspects and implications of Spinoza’s conception of divine order, particularly with regard to how human beings should live.

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