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    George H. Smith, Freethought and Freedom: A Critique of Spinoza

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    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
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    George H. Smith, Freethought and Freedom: A Critique of Spinoza

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Dim 18 Oct - 14:22

    http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/freethought-freedom-critique-spinoza

    « Spinoza defended the Hobbesian position that we have the right to do whatever we have the power to do. In thus rendering rights coextensive with power, Spinoza insisted that men are “natural enemies” who, while pursuing their self-preservation and welfare in a state of nature without government, would have the unlimited right to take any actions they deem conducive to those ends, including acts of violence against innocents who had not harmed them in any manner.
    Spinoza refused to call invasive acts committed in a state of nature “unjust.” The concepts of just and unjust actions arise only under the jurisdiction of a sovereign government. »
    “Spinoza, like Thomas Hobbes and some other critics of institutionalized religion, defended a position known as Erastianism (after the Swiss theologian Thomas Erastus, 1524-83), according to which churches and religious practices generally should be under the absolute control of the sovereign secular state. […]
    Thus although Spinoza did not wish churches to wield any political power, he did not defend the separation of church and state, as we now understand that expression. Rather, he argued that churches should be subservient to the state, and that religious believers should obey all state demands regarding rites and ceremonies, however personally offensive they may be.
    We thus see how Spinoza was a mixed bag from a libertarian perspective. True, he believed that a sovereign should be rational, which means that a sovereign should impose only those restrictions on freedom necessary to maintain peace and social order—a society in which individuals can pursue their own interests without coercive interference. But Spinoza also believed that the vast majority of people are irrational, that they are guided by their passions instead of by their reason—this, after all, is why they need a government to restrain their actions—but he had no grounds for defending the superior rationality of rulers, who are as likely as anyone else to succumb to their lusts and other irrational desires. The only restraint on a ruler is his own preservation and welfare, so a rational ruler will not push oppressive laws to the point where citizens become so outraged that they attempt to overthrow him. But in Spinoza’s scheme, there is no moral principle of individual rights that would render anything a ruler attempts to do unjust in the libertarian understanding of that term. For Spinoza, therefore, there is no right to resist (or even to disobey) oppressive laws, much less a right to overthrow tyrannical governments.”
    “Spinoza repeatedly observed that most people are governed by their passions, not by their reason, yet he also argued that in an ideal government rulers will self-limit their powers according to rational calculations of utility. Rational rulers will understand that tyrannical measures will ultimately diminish their power and are therefore detrimental to their own self-interest. But why should we assume that rulers are, or will be, more rational than the many irrational people they rule? If history proves anything, it proves the exact opposite. Many rulers throughout history would have been leading candidates for the first available vacancy in a lunatic asylum. Spinoza’s rational rulers smack of Plato’s philosopher-kings; both ideas are dangerously naïve.”
    “As traditionally conceived—not only in classical liberalism but in other political traditions as well—rights were conceived as the flip side of moral obligations. Thus if you have a right to x, I have the obligation not to coercively interfere with your use and disposal of x. Rights were regarded as principles that distinguish between mine and thine in a social context. To equate rights with power makes mincemeat of this important distinction and ultimately reduces to redundancy or nonsense. In the final analysis, Spinoza’s theory of rights amounts to saying nothing more than we have the power to do whatever we have the power to do.”
    -George H. Smith, Freethought and Freedom: A Critique of Spinoza.


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