The Politics of Fear: Idolatry and Superstition in Maimonides and Spinoza

Daniel H. Frank

in Judaic Sources and Western Thought

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199583157
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728952 | DOI:
The Politics of Fear: Idolatry and Superstition in Maimonides and Spinoza

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This chapter provides a comparative analysis of Maimonides and Spinoza on idolatry and superstition, mental states that tend both to undermine political stability and to detract from the possibility of attaining happiness and fulfilment. The antidote to such destabilizing features is law. For Maimonides, the divine law promulgated by Moses binds the community and provides a path to happiness for each of its members. By contrast, for Spinoza, the law of the civil state provides political stability for all by steadfastly sidelining traditional religious practices; however, the law does no more than this, and thus leaves unanswered what role, if any, the state and its laws play in the attainment of the happiness of its members.

Keywords: divine law; freedom; idolatry; monotheism; philosopher-king; prophecy; superstition

Chapter.  5195 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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