Statesmen versus philosophers: Experience and method in Spinoza's political treatise

Julie E. Cooper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A commitment to method is one of Spinoza's philosophical signatures. Yet surprisingly little has been written about Spinoza's method for the study of politics. In this context, the Political Treatise emerges as a crucial text for understanding Spinoza's method, because it is the lone text in which Spinoza opines on proper approaches to the study of politics. In this chapter, Cooper examines the techniques that Spinoza employs in the Political Treatise. When compared to the Theologico-Political Treatise, the Political Treatise is notable for its abstraction, for the negligible work performed by history and experience. Cooper highlights Spinoza's abstract turn in an effort to temper some of the revolutionary fervor that surrounds Spinoza's unfinished work. In the Political Treatise, dispensing with an abstract theory of right does not usher in a permanent revolution. Rather, it licenses abstraction from historical contingency in a quest for modes of argument - whether deductive or empirical - powerful enough to forestall controversy and dissent.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpinoza's Political Treatise
Subtitle of host publicationA Critical Guide
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781316756607
ISBN (Print)9781107170582
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2018


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