Spinoza’s Liberal Republicanism and the Challenge of Revealed Religion

AARON L. HEROLD
POLITICAL RESEARCH QUARTERLY 67.2 (2014): 239-252

Abstract: Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise is a foundational liberal work whose republican teaching also anticipates today’s communitarian critiques. Those critiques reopen the Treatise’s guiding question of whether politics must be grounded in a religious teaching, and they compel us to reconsider Spinoza’s claim that civic dedication can be rooted in an attachment to intellectual freedom. I assess Spinoza’s liberal republicanism by examining how it emerges from a critique of the Bible. I conclude that Spinoza’s attempt to reconcile individual liberty with civic dedication clarifies liberalism’s moral power and ultimate vulnerabilities—vulnerabilities which help explain why revealed religion has reemerged to challenge it.