What Divine Law Is

Susan James

in Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698127
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740558 | DOI:
 							What Divine Law Is

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Spinoza's positive account of the divine law is an extremely radical one, almost uniquely so in the context of seventeenth‐century debate. God is not a legislator who issues decrees and punishments, and prescriptions only become laws when they are ordained by a human agent. Human beings must therefore take responsibility for the laws under which they live. This chapter analyses Spinoza's complex defence of this position, tracing his distinctions between divine law, divine natural law, and revealed law. It also explains how the Treatise employs these resources to defend a number of controversial claims. Some of these are positive—for example, philosophy rather than Scripture yields the clearest understanding of what divine law prescribes. Many of them are negative—for example, Spinoza's account of law is designed to undermine the providentialism around which Calvinist theology is organized. Here we see Spinoza articulating the practical implications of his own philosophy.

Keywords: divine law; divine natural law; revealed law; natural law; Calvinist theology; providentialism; divine legislator; philosophy and theology

Chapter.  13448 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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