Political Treatise (1676)

Spinoza, Baruch. Political Treatise, ed. Jonathan Israel. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000.


1. PHILOSOPHERS conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into

which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride,

bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually

pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and

reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow

manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to

make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of

men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be.

Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally

written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics,

which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera,

or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets

when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all

sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of

politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice; and no men

are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or


2. But statesmen, on the other hand, are suspected of plotting against

mankind, rather than consulting their interests, and are esteemed more

crafty than learned. No doubt nature has taught them, that vices will

exist, while men do. And so, while they study to anticipate human

wickedness, and that by arts, which experience and long practice have

taught, and which men generally use under the guidance more of fear than

of reason, they are thought to be enemies of religion, especially by

divines, who believe that supreme authorities should handle public

affairs in accordance with the same rules of piety, as bind a private

individual. Yet there can be no doubt, that statesmen have written about

politics far more happily than philosophers. For, as they had experience

for their mistress, they taught nothing that was inconsistent with


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