Theological-Political Treatise: Gebhardt Edition Paperback – 1 Nov 2001
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This new edition of Samuel Shirley's translation of Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (a revision of that published by E.J. Brill in 1991, based on Gebhart's Heidelberg edition of 1925) is accompanied by a new introduction and notes prepared especially for this volume by a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. Included also are Spin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In 1670 he anonymously published a book entitled the Theological-Political Treatise. He wrote it Latin instead of Dutch to avoid punishment from the authorities. This text acted as both a critique of organized religion and a radical outlook on the concept of G-d. Controversially, he did this by re-interpreting and criticizing the bible. He shocked society when he said that Moses did not write the first five books of the Torah, and further dissected the inaccuracies to suggest that what people know to be the word of G-d is actually just a series of compiled ancient texts. He went on to suggest that the reason that most of the words in the bible were to be seen as law instead of tale was to maintain a militant political hold on society. From his perspective, Spinoza saw this as an outright contradiction to his (and the true) meaning and concept of G-d. Ultimately, Spinoza’s groundbreaking interpretation of the bible was meant to warn the Protestants currently engaging in war of the dangers of religious dogmatism.
Spinoza sees G-d as synonymous with nature. He sees G-d simply as the sum of what exists. G-d is the universe and the universe is G-d. Essentially, G-d has infinite qualities. As humans, we are only able to perceive and understand very few of them, and those which we cannot comprehend exist far beyond the visible world and account for the supernatural, coincidental, and miraculous. This means that everything man sees as divine acts of G-d are actually just the parts of nature and the universe and exceed our limit of understanding. Therefor, science is the genuine discerning of G-d laws and everything mankind believes to be G-d laws are actually just universally applicable human ordinances misinterpreted or altered throughout the bible to maintain order. The best proof that Spinoza has offered for this concept is in Exodus 3:14 “14 God said to Moshe, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh/ I Am what I Am,” and added, “Here is what to say to the people of Israel: ‘Ehyeh /I Am has sent me to you.’”
When Albert Einstein was asked if he believed in G-d his response was "I believe in Spinoza's G-d."
Second, he was the son of a well-to-do Spanish or Portuguese family who had to imigrate to the then United States of the Netherlands to escape the persecution of the Catholic Holy Inquisition, which was at its heyday in Spain and Portugal. It was in the famous tradition of Holland's liberal thinking that he grew up and began his philosophical studies, which were latter to be the foudation for great philosophers like Hegel. Third, as soon as he could, he abrogated the Jewish religion and his Jewish origins and was then anathemized ever since by the Jewish community and by his own family, to the point of being barred to share his fathers' inheritance. He appealed to court, won the case, and voluntarily did not take possession of the money. Fourth, in the tradition of a few great philosophers (Rousseau among them), he disdained all the luxuries and prestige his intellect could bring him and prefered to work as a shoemaker , devoting much of his time to his philosophical thinking, particularly targeted to some tenets of the Jewish and Catholic religions. Sure, there is many more to tell from this unique philosopher, but the reader can be sure that this is the very appeal of the book and is mirrored all the time in his reflexions. His lack of a superior knowledge of Latin, the language in which the text was originally written in the very tradition of the time, allows the reader an easy understanding of the content Spinoza tries to convey, whithout in any way jeopardizing the strenght of the philosopher's arguments.
In the book, which was never his intention to be published in his lifetime, he addresses many religious and philosophical questions and one is appaled by the apparent easiness with which the philosophers runs down a lot of religious dogmas, both Jewish and Catholic, whithout any possiblity of being considered heretic. Take, for instance, the logic with which he approaches miracles, and the reader will be astounded by the clearness of his arguments, originally developed in Latin (one of the more than 8 languages he was able to read or read/write). Also of importance is the characterization of the differences between apostles and prophets, and many more. His vision of the best way politics should be conducted - he favored his concept of democracy - is less strong but none the less interesting.
This is a seminal book for everyone interested in the foundations of the modern philosophical thinking where Spinoza occupies a very important place.