Freedom of conscience in Spinoza’s Political Treatise: Between sovereign limitations and citizen demand

Abstract : Freedom of conscience has an ambiguous status in Spinoza’s philosophy. It is often presented in a pragmatic way, as a limitation of the sovereign’s power; if he violates his subjects’ beliefs then he will arouse their indignation and thereby bring about the collapse of the state. However, it also seems to have an ethical meaning. When Spinoza says that it is people’s own duty not to allow them to be treated like cattle, it sounds almost like a challenge or at least like a demand. One can therefore wonder about the status of freedom of conscience, about its extension (whether actual or desirable) among the people and about its place in Spinoza’s understanding of people’s individual and collective existence.
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Submitted on : Friday, July 17, 2015 - 11:33:42 AM
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Julie Henry. Freedom of conscience in Spinoza’s Political Treatise: Between sovereign limitations and citizen demand. Reformation & Renaissance Review, 2012, Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience in Spinoza and Pierre Bayle, 14 (1), pp.8-22. ⟨10.1179/1462245913Z.0000000001⟩. ⟨halshs-01177872⟩

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