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From Limbo 5. Ease Irreparable EthiCS Pseudonym Outside Homonyms He distinguishes between circumstantially valuable goods and non-circumstantially valuable goods. According to Spinoza, goods for the body can be truly valuable and good, but what leads to understanding is certainly valuable and good. He says that knowledge of God is the mind's greatest good. Knowledge of God is always useful and is thus non-circumstantially valuable. Whereas some knowledge is useful in some circumstances and for some persons but not for other persons, knowledge of God is always beneficial to every individual.

Knowledge of God is knowledge of nature including the principles, laws, and rules by which nature operates. Ethics, for Spinoza, is a matter of liberation from the bondage to passive affects through the cultivation of reason. Civil society arises when men recognize the advantages of society with respect to the enhancement of their power as individuals.

Spinoza emphasizes that the individual retains his natural right when he enters civil society. These free individuals will comprise a harmonious society as long as men live according to the guidance of reason rather than according to their passion. In a society in which all persons live by the direction of reason there will be no need for a political authority to restrict people's actions. Unfortunately, human beings do not always live under the guidance of reason.

It follows that a sovereign or state is necessary in order to ensure through the threat of force that individuals are protected from the unrestrained forceful pursuit of self-interest on the part of other individuals. Spinoza teaches that the state must be deduced from the common nature of man. He sees the real purpose of the state as freedom. He conceives of the state as an expression of the rational order of the universe.

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As an institution, the state is the rational embodiment of checks upon the irrational power of the populace. Spinoza explains that sovereign authority is required to maintain stability for the sake of its citizens' potential flourishing. Holding that the origin and purpose of the state is security, he emphasizes that morality is not the concern of the state. The state has no moral foundation. It is devoid of normative principles. Spinoza understood that the scope of morality was deeper and wider than the scope of politics.

The state comes into being because social order i. A person is free to the degree that he rationally decides what ends are in his interest. Spinoza explains that a person is free in society whenever the state is ruled by reason. In such a state, political freedom involves the least possible encroachment on personal freedom including the exercise of one's judgment.

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Spinoza's prescriptive political philosophy suggests that state force be limited to providing peace and social order. Such a minimalist state would leave people free to pursue their own projects. The sovereign's power does not extend to all aspects of an individual's life. For Spinoza, the proper objects of desire are: 1 to know things by their primary or first causes; 2 to control one's passions or to acquire virtuous habits ; and 3 to live one's life in safety, security, and physical well-being. The means of attaining the first two reside in the nature of man himself and depend solely upon the laws of human nature.

Politics applies to only the third classification because the means to insure security of life and conservation of the body lie mainly in external circumstances. This implies the need for a society with definite and uniform laws. Morality is excluded from Spinoza's political theory. He understood that politics is not appropriate for the production of virtue. Morality surpasses the political. Politics is pertinent to providing security and physical well-being and not to ethical matters.

Politics is concurred with peace and commodious living which are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for attaining the good. However, their achievement is far removed from, and has little to do with, character development and substantive morality. According to Spinoza, political theory should not be concerned with morality and morality cannot be reduced to a matter of rights nor to the operation of the state which comes about through social cooperation and agreement as a means of attaining social order. Social contract, for Spinoza, is based on the desire for individual freedom.

People desire a stable political community to provide a substantial degree of personal freedom particularly regarding freedom to philosophize and on freedom of religious expression. Spinoza argues that the security and stability of society is enhanced by freedom of thought. He explains that individuals exercise their judgment by natural right and that no one, including the state, has the power to command the thoughts of another person.

Spinoza states the expression should be limited only when it directly obstructs the main purpose of the state. It is only in the most extreme cases that the state has the right to restrict expression. It is permissible to express different and conflicting opinions up to the point of defiance of all law and order i. It is acceptable to speak against particular state actions but not against the state's right to make and enforce laws. Spinoza explains that broad toleration of expression is a basic component of any social contract.

According to his perfectionist concept of toleration, the more the state is tolerant, the more likely and more readily it will be for individuals to be tolerant in their lives. Spinoza's argument for tolerance is integral to his more comprehensive idea of human flourishing. Spinoza maintains that the main threat to freedom comes from church ministers who depend upon fear and superstitions to gain and to keep power.

He explains that some clergy want to use politics as a means for resolving theological disputes or for seeking dominance.

Theory Out of Bounds

He wanted to free the public square of clerical politician-preachers overwhelmed with their own holiness. Some clergy advance claims as a means to divide government and pave the way to their own ascendancy to power. Spinoza, like Epicurus, saw religion as a major source of the world's problems as religious claims and doctrinal differences often intensify into religious wars. He observes that legislation of beliefs was a major source of religious schisms. Schisms emerge from efforts of authorities to decide through law the intricacies of theological controversies. He also emphasizes the danger to public stability from the existence of a diversity of religious sects and ceremonial rites of worship.

Spinoza wanted that state to have sufficient power to effectively battle the clergy and their various brands of intolerance. Desiring to remove religion as a disturbing factor in politics, Spinoza advocated the subordination of religion to politics. This, he said, would prevent sectarianism and the multiplication of religious battles. Spinoza's goal was to divest the clergy of all political power by placing authority over the practice of religion in the hands of the state. He did not want to abolish religion but he did want to protect the state from the diverse judgments of the many.

Spinoza suggests that the sovereign should have total dominance in all secular and spiritual public matters. The state is thus charged with keeping all members of society to the agreement of the social contract through its absolute powers with respect to public affairs. Spinoza emphasizes the need for the preservation of unity within the state. He thus calls for rights of the sovereign free of restriction so that the sovereign may be strong enough to protect individuals from both social and clerical intolerances.

Spinoza's position is that the state has the same absolute right to command regarding spiritual rights as it does with respect to temporal rights. By spiritual rights, Spinoza refers to outward observances of piety and external religious rites and not to the inward worship of God nor to piety itself. His goal is to secure freedom from speculative doctrines and ceremonial practices. He therefore places all questions regarding external ceremonies and rites in the hands of the state.

Spinoza subordinates religious authority and activities to political authority. Outward religious practices encroach upon the beliefs and relationships of citizens and thus fall under state interests. Freedom of religious diversity is to be permitted among the citizens but this liberty is limited to private worship and belief. Spinoza's goal is to divorce politics from the traditional types of religious authority. Spinoza argues for a minimal rational religion determined by the state.

There is to be no church separate from the religion instituted by, and regulated by, the state. He had studied scripture in a similar way as he studied nature and concluded that the Bible and other religious texts were filled with speculative and inadequate views. He saw no legitimate purpose in arguing from authority, opinion, or superstition. Desiring a minimal number of theoretical propositions for religion, he looked for a form of rational religion that was in accord with the requirements of universal human morality. Spinoza concludes that the sovereign should require adherence to no more than a minimal creed that was neutral regarding competing sects.

He therefore interprets and boils down all religions to the ideas of justice and charity. He maintained that just and kind behaviors were to be the pillars of religious belief. Spinoza says that the only moral lesson that we should take from the Bible is to obey God which he interprets to mean to love one's neighbor as oneself.

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New Spinoza, Theory Out Of Bounds by Warren Montag | | Booktopia

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