Benedictus de Spinoza Criticism - Essay

Jonathan Bennett (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “A Character Sketch of the Ethics” and “The Cast of Spinoza's Mind,” in A Study of Spinoza's Ethics, Hackett Publishing Company, 1984, pp. 7-54.

[In the following essay, Bennett outlines the central theses of the Ethics and positions them in their historical context.]


The central topic of this book is Spinoza's one indisputable masterpiece, the Ethics. In my first chapter I shall say what sort of work the Ethics is, what sort Spinoza took it to be, how it relates to the rest of his work, and in what spirit I intend to approach it.


(The entire section is 23673 words.)

Henry E. Allison (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Spinoza's Philosophy in Its Historical Context,” in Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction, Yale University Press, 1987, pp. 24-43.

[In the following excerpt, Allison explores the historical context that shaped Spinoza's philosophical interests and method.]

Spinoza's Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata (Ethics Demonstrated in a Geometrical Manner) is an extremely difficult and forbidding book. Both its obscure, scholastic terminology and its stark, geometrical form provide formidable barriers to even the philosophically trained reader and undoubtedly help to explain the great diversity of ways in which the work has been interpreted. Thus,...

(The entire section is 8293 words.)

Thomas Carson Mark (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Spinoza on the Power and Eternity of the Intellect,” in Supplementum Festivum: Studies in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller, edited by James Hankins, John Monfasani, and Frederick Purnell, Jr., Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1987, pp. 589-610.

[In the following essay, Mark demonstrates how Spinoza's Ethics unifies his theories of knowledge, the emotions, and action.]

In the first three parts of the Ethics, Spinoza offers a systematic metaphysics, epistemology and psychology. This was required, he believed, as a foundation; a general understanding of the world and of human nature must provide a context before specifically ethical...

(The entire section is 8637 words.)

Alan Donagan (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Human Freedom,” in Spinoza, The University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp. 169-89.

[In this essay, Donagan interprets Spinoza's philosophy of freedom in terms of his metaphysics.]


To the extent that human beings are guided by reason, Spinoza has argued, there must be a ‘convergence of their conatus’.1 It ‘follows from the necessity of [their] own nature’ that, outside civil society, human beings not only judge by their own wits (ex suo ingenio) what is good and evil, that is, what is advantageous to them and what is not, but also strive to return evil for what they...

(The entire section is 8659 words.)

G. H. R. Parkinson (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Introduction to Ethics by Spinoza, translated by G. H. R. Parkinson, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1989, pp. vii-xx.

[In the following essay, Parkinson studies Spinoza's life in order to elucidate the philosophical questions that animate the Ethics.]

Spinoza's Ethics is one of the most difficult of philosophical works. Yet it continues to exercise a peculiar fascination, and this is by no means confined to philosophers. One of Spinoza's admirers was the poet Goethe—indeed, Goethe was partly responsible for the upsurge of interest in Spinoza late in the eighteenth century, and encouraged the publication of the first complete edition of Spinoza's works. In the...

(The entire section is 5652 words.)

David A. Freeman (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Spinoza on Self-Consciousness and Nationalism,” in History of European Ideas, Vol. XVI, No. 4-6, 1993, pp. 915-20.

[In the essay that follows, Freeman considers Spinoza's conception of self-consciousness and nationalism to be extensions of his “ontological-physical” model of humanity.]


In this essay I focus upon the concept of self-consciousness and nationalism as developed in Spinoza's physics, psychology of man, and extended into his treatment of political community. Spinoza is a seventeenth century thinker who advances a unique interpretation of man that is firmly grounded in the rich and varied modes of philosophical...

(The entire section is 2823 words.)

Alan Donagan (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Spinoza's Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 343-82.

[In the essay that follows, Donagan explores Spinoza's fusion of naturalism and supernaturalism in his theology, and discusses his views on particular issues such as revelation, faith, and the immortality of the soul.]

Spinoza's theology, although original, owes much to the cultural soil that nourished it. His parents were among the many “Marranos”—Portuguese Jews who in their native country had been compelled outwardly to embrace Roman Catholicism—who had emigrated to Amsterdam in the early seventeenth century. In the freedom of their new...

(The entire section is 16992 words.)

Richard H. Popkin (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Spinoza and Bible Scholarship,” in The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 383-407.

[In the essay that follows, Popkin studies the Biblical scholarship of the Theological-Political Treatise,evaluating the ways in which Spinoza's religious views reflected his overriding rational secularism.]

Spinoza is usually considered one of the creators of modern Biblical scholarship and Biblical criticism because of the views about the Bible that he expressed in the Theological-Political Treatise and in some of his letters. In this chapter I shall briefly indicate a way in which Spinoza's views might have developed, then...

(The entire section is 11066 words.)

Raia Prokhovnik (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “From Democracy to Aristocracy: Spinoza, Reason and Politics,” in History of European Ideas, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 2-4, 1997, pp. 105-15.

[In the essay that follows, Prokhovnik claims that, while Spinoza celebrates democracy in the Theologico-Political Treatise of 1670, the traditional focus on this early text fails to consider Spinoza's preference for aristocracy in the Political Treatise of 1677.]


Several commentators on Spinoza take his famous pronouncements in the Theologico-Political Treatise1 of 1670, that, democracy is ‘the most natural form of...

(The entire section is 5536 words.)