Review of E. E. Powell: Spinoza and Religion

Review of Spinoza and Religion, by E. E. Powell, Social Research, Vol. 9, No. 4 (November 1942).  Reprinted in What Is Political Philosophy?


An adequate understanding of Spinoza’s philosophy in general and his political philosophy in particular presupposes perfect clarity about his attitude toward religion. Has the first part of the Ethics to be taken at its face value, that is, as speculative theology, or is it merely an exoteric presentation of what in esoteric presentation would be perhaps a “first philosophy,” in the sense of Bacon or Hobbes? This is the question which the reader of Professor Powell’s book cannot help raising. The book is the second edition of a study first published in 1906, but its thesis is as challenging today as it was, or should have been, thirty-six years ago.