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Political Treatise

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Certainly, freedom is central to Spinoza's political thought, but to understand it properly, we need to explain how it alleviates, rather than encourages, superstition among the nonrational multitude. In light of his belief in the permanency of irrationality and superstition, Spinoza does not hope to expunge illusions from political life. Advocating freedom is an attempt to adapt the facts of the imagination to the needs of our political order and create stability. The belief in freedom—that is, the belief that we are individual actors who decide our actions and determine our fate—is the most powerful and abiding illusion in politics.

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Mainly the second Treaty emphasises on the inter-relation of property and formation of Government. Locke has provided a mixed conception of property throughout his both treaties. In his social contract theory Locke made property rights central to the formation and development of civil society and democratic governance. Locke’s argument was based on the natural law and where natural law fell short he relied on the Christianity. Locke believed that laws can only be legitimate if they are to promote the common good and that people will as a group do the right thing. According to Locke the reason for people to come under the governmental control was mainly to protect their property. John Locke in his Two Treatises of Government has not given any clear definition of property and rather given a double meaning which refers to an economic right and a quality of being. It is significant that in the first statement Locke draws a distinction between property as necessary or useful whereas in the second he creates a union between property existing for life and convenience. Life and convenience are not rival goals such that one chooses to advance one or the other. Rather, echoing the empirical interpretation of the Law of Nature, one seeks preservation at all times and comfort when it is available. It is, however, possible to differentiate between goods that serve the advantage of life itself–necessities–and goods that serve the advantage of convenience–the useful. The need for property to fit such broad characteristics helps to make sense of Locke’s strange way of explaining its origin and purpose.”

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Internalization of these values would ensure civic community and cohesion among Hobbesian subjects (95-96). Hobbes and Spinoza are two theorists that are often aligned against each other not only because they were rationalists who shared the same time period but also because Spinoza was reputedly influenced by much of Hobbes’s writing. Spinoza referred to the Leviathan when he composed the Theological-Political Treatise (Elwes’s introduction xxxii)

Civic community entails the definition that Dietz highlights in her text as being a society that is cohesive. However, civic community, as defined by political scientists like Robert Putnam, also had additional connotations. According to Putnam, civic community also involves civic engagement, political equality and associations that foster cooperation (87-89). Spinoza, rather than Hobbes, is a true advocate for civic community and cohesion as he grants greater space for religious expression and political freedoms such as freedom of speech. Hobbes’ political system is primarily concerned with limiting many forms of public expression and the possible civic community that usually results from such free expression. Spinoza and Hobbes both agreed that religion should not serve as a competing source of authority to a sovereign. They both also maintained that the sovereign should ban forms of speech that could possibly incite rebellion. However, Spinoza grants his subjects much greater freedoms to express themselves within his polity and this freedom helps foster civic community.

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As shown above, Spinoza’s reputation as a political thinker is eclipsed by his reputation as a rationalist metaphysician. Nevertheless, Spinoza was a penetrating political theorist whose writings have enduring significance

In his two political treatises, Spinoza advances a number of forceful and original arguments in defense of democratic governance, freedom of thought and expression, and the subordination of religion to the state. On the basis of his naturalistic metaphysics, Spinoza also offers trenchant criticisms of ordinary conceptions of right and duty. And his account of civil organization stands as an important contribution to the development of constitutionalism and the rule of law.

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Carter, Stephen L. God’s Name in Vein. New York: Basic Books, 2000Cooke, Paul. Hobbes and Christianity. London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996

Dietz, Mary. “Hobbes’s Subject as Citizen.” Thomas Hobbes and Political Theory. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1990 Feldman, Karen.

“Conscience and the Concealments of Metaphor in Hobbes’s “Leviathan.” Philosophy & Rhetoric, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2001), pp. 21-37

Finan, Christopher. From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America, Boston: Beacon Press, 2007Frankel, Steven.

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