Spinoza's philosophy of divine order

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Zachary Braiterman


Benedictus de Spinoza, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Philosophy, Bible

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Religion


This dissertation argues that Baruch de Spinoza's conception of God plays a decisive, and often unappreciated, role in his conceptions of politics and religion. While Spinoza is often interpreted as an early secular or liberal thinker, this work argues that such interpretations neglect the senses of order and authority that are at the heart of Spinoza's idea of God. For Spinoza, God is an organized and directed totality of all that exists. Moreover, for Spinoza, God is entirely immanent to this totality, to such an extent that all things are fundamentally of God. When we fully appreciate the extent to which God permeates and orders every aspect of our reality, the full sense of Spinoza's theories of tolerance and the social contract come into view, for rather than assuming that the human beings involved in political relationships are independent, autonomous individuals, we can see that for Spinoza they are parts of a larger whole who are subject to distinct natural laws. Spinoza maintains that such laws manifest themselves equally and identically in the seemingly distinct realms of religion and politics. In this respect, then, Spinoza's theories of religion and biblical interpretation are not properly secular in character but rather blur the standard boundary between the religious and the political, as they try to recognize and codify the inviolable laws of nature--or God.


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