Susan James

in Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698127
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740558 | DOI:

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According to Spinoza, the Dutch Reformed Church and other confessions defend doctrines that serve to promote superstition and obstruct a proper understanding of the relation between religion and philosophy. Its views about three topics—ceremonies, biblical narratives and miracles—are particularly damaging, and Spinoza sets out to show how they inhibit the growth of philosophical understanding. This chapter examines the philosophical grounds on which he argues that ceremonies are inessential to true religion. It explores his claim that narratives such as those in Scripture are designed to teach the divine law in an imaginative form and encourage devotion in ordinary people. It explicates his contentions that there are no miracles in the sense of interruptions of the natural order. True religion, Spinoza concludes, can dispense with ceremonies and should modify its conception of miracles, despite the contrary views of established religions.

Keywords: superstition; true religion; role of ceremonies; role of biblical narratives; status and function of miracles; philosophical understanding

Chapter.  12242 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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