Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Lee C. Rice
Curtis L. Carter
Michael G. Vater
While volumes of material have been written on Spinoza's metaphysical and ethical writings, scant attention, at least in English speaking countries, has been paid to the political works. And although Spinoza's political works constitute a large percentage of his total corpus, his reputation as a political theorist has not reached the level accorded to him in other areas. One wonders, therefore, whether Spinoza has an interesting and profound political philosophy. Part of the purpose of his dissertation is to argue that, indeed, a substantive and coherent political doctrine can be found in Spinoza' s works. Moreover, one discovers that Spinoza's political philosophy is remarkably modern. Perhaps no other political thinker has so consistently maintained a scientific approach to politics. Since little detailed analysis of the principles of Spinoza; s political thought can be found, the chapters that follow are intended to lend support to the general thesis that Spinoza approaches politics scientifically.
The scientific or positivistic attitude taken by Spinoza is to be found in all aspects of his political thought. His views of the nature of the state and political authority are no exception. In order to achieve a clear understanding of these two central features of the political doctrine, I begin by arguing that the fundamental concepts employed by Spinoza in his political philosophy are devoid of normative content. The opening chapter serves as both an introduction to Spinoza's methodology and as a vehicle for the presentation of substantive material. Once the positivistic nature of Spinoza's enterprise has been determined, more specific areas are examined. First among these areas is Spinoza's view of the origin of the state. Conclusions drawn here are utilized in an analysis of the essential elements in his view of the state and political authority. Finally, those few normative principles that are a
part of Spinoza's political doctrine are discussed and applied to an examination of the uses of state power.