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Becoming PoliticalSpinoza's Vital Republicanism and the Democratic Power of Judgment$
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Christopher Skeaff

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226555478

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226555508.001.0001

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State of Judgment

State of Judgment

(p.93) 4 State of Judgment
Becoming Political

Christopher Skeaff

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the constructive meanings Spinoza accords to state and religion as they combine in a conception of civil religion that he develops over the course of the Theological-Political Treatise. It focuses, in particular, on Spinoza’s analysis of and unmistakable praise for the ancient Hebrew “theocracy.” The chapter contends that Spinoza’s history of ancient Israel functions as a case study in how a people acquired and preserved a state of nondomination. It contends, further, that on the basis of the Hebrew case, Spinoza fashions a novel conception of civil religion that assigns to the universal moral core of scripture a political role as the source of public happiness and solidarity. The chapter shows how the optic of civil religion helps to disaggregate the politically salient meanings of religion in Spinoza, and, in turn, to approach the vexed issue of the modern state’s conceptual debt to religion less as an “either/or” question of dependence or independence than as a “both-and” question of interdependence along different (institutional, cultural, justificatory) dimensions.

Keywords:   civil religion, Hebrews, Spinoza, state, theocracy

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