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7 - The metaphysics of the Theological-Political Treatise

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2011

Yitzhak Y. Melamed
Affiliation:
The Johns Hopkins University
Michael A. Rosenthal
Affiliation:
University of Washington
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Summary

“[The common people] love the relics of time more than eternity itself.”

(Theological-Political Treatise, Preface [Giii 10])

INTRODUCTION

In a certain, seemingly possible world in which Spinoza's Ethics had not been published, the Theological-Political Treatise would have become Spinoza's major oeuvre for generations to come. How likely such a world would have been – an issue which is primarily a function of the determination and capacities of Spinoza's circle of friends, as well as those of the Dutch authorities – is not for us to tell. But given the possibility, one might be tempted to consider the following question: had it been the case that the Ethics did not survive, what would we know about the metaphysical views of Spinoza? Unfortunately, this counterfactual exercise is virtually impossible to carry out, for we cannot un-know what we know about Spinoza's late views in the Ethics, nor can we truly avoid reading the TTP with an eye towards the Ethics.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that, with a few exceptions, the existing literature on the TTP pays little attention to the metaphysical doctrines of the book, while on the other hand, studies of Spinoza's metaphysics commonly make little use of the TTP. These complementary attitudes, while understandable, seem to be mistaken for two reasons. First, a study of the TTP can tell us quite a bit about the development of Spinoza's metaphysical views.

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Spinoza's 'Theological-Political Treatise'
A Critical Guide
, pp. 128 - 142
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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