Spinoza, Equality, and Hierarchy

Beth Lord* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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9 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


A well-established liberal tradition of reading Spinoza casts him as a forerunner of Enlightenment doctrines of equality. Jonathan Israel, in his influential and important books, argues that modern political ideas of freedom and equality are rooted in the "radical" Spinozistic Enlightenment as much as they are in the "moderate" Enlightenment of Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. In a recent book, Israel (2010) claims that the Spinozistic radical Enlightenment is the democratic and egalitarian tradition of thought, whereas the moderate Enlightenment sought to maintain social, economic, and political hierarchies. Nick Nesbitt, while critical of Israel, upholds this claim, arguing that Spinoza believes in "the pursuit of undivided, universal equality by whatever means necessary" (2012, 166).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-77
Number of pages19
JournalHistory of Philosophy Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Spinoza
  • equality
  • egalitarianism
  • politics
  • proportion


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