The Enlightenment and Spinoza's revolutionary rationalism

Born in 1632 in the Dutch Republic, the rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza was one of the great fathers of Enlightenment thinking. As Hamid Alizadeh explains, Spinoza’s philosophy – which contained a materialist and atheistic kernel – represented a revolutionary challenge to the authority of both Church and state.

The age of Enlightenment, also known as the age of Reason, was one of the most inspiring episodes in human history. It produced a multitude of thinkers whose struggle against ignorance, superstition and religious dogma played a key role in the fight against the feudal system and the dictatorship of the Church. The radical philosophy of the Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), played a seminal role in this development.

Such was the impact of his ideas, as Hegel explained, that “Spinoza [was] made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.”[1] Coming from Hegel, these words are an undeniable testament to the influence of Spinoza’s ideas. For this great thinker, however, philosophy was no tame, speculative exercise. It was directly linked to the task of understanding nature and society, in order to change them for the benefit of mankind.

Neither laugh, nor weep but understand!

“I have taken great care not to deride, bewail, or execrate human actions, but to understand them. So I have regarded human emotions such as love, hatred, anger, envy, pride, pity, and other agitations of the mind not as vices of human nature but as properties pertaining to it in the same way as heat, cold, storm, thunder, and such pertain to the nature of the atmosphere. These things, though troublesome, are inevitable, and have definite causes through which we try to understand their nature. And the mind derives as much enjoyment in contemplating them aright as from the knowledge of things that are pleasing to the senses.” [2]

Spinoza was an outstanding representative of his age. Along with other early Enlightenment thinkers such as Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and René Descartes (1596-1650), he was one of those towering figures of history and a leading light at a time when humanity was fighting its way out of the gloomy morass of feudal society.

In his famous Historical and Critical Dictionary published in 1697, even the theologian Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), who was an avowed opponent of Spinoza’s monism (i.e. a philosophy that considers the world to be composed of one substance e.g. matter or mind), had to admit that “he was a man who was averse to any constraint of conscience and a great enemy of dissimulation. This is why he freely set forth his doubts and his beliefs.” [3] In doing so, we might add, he encapsulated the true spirit of his age.

Everywhere in Europe, Spinoza received notoriety for his unbending rational method, and his rejection of any recourse to traditions, emotions and empty morality when seeking to understand the nature of our world at its most fundamental level. Those who attempted to explain nature by “the will of God”, he boldly accused of seeking “the sanctuary of ignorance.”[4] In this quest for a rational approach, and an explanation of nature on the account of nature alone, he inescapably came into conflict with the ruling ideas of his time.

Revolution and counter-revolution

The Enlightenment covers a period of intense cultural, scientific and intellectual turmoil, coinciding with the rise of capitalism in Europe, spanning from roughly the middle of the 17th century until the first decades of the 19th century. This was a period of extreme turbulence: of wars, civil wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. The internal contradictions of the old European regimes had been exacerbated by the rise of the bourgeoisie. The old order had been destabilised and in the 17th century, the major European monarchies transformed into absolutist regimes, with all power concentrated in the hands of the monarchical ruler, who balanced between the old, decrepit aristocracy and the ascending capitalist class.

Absolutism was supported by the established Church, be it Catholic or Protestant, which maintained a dictatorship over all aspects of personal life, including people’s thoughts. France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were gripped by wars and civil wars – fought in the name of religion – which led to the deaths of millions of people. In modern day Germany, the Thirty Years’ War – formally a war between Catholics and Lutherans – cost between 5 and 8 million lives.

The powers of the Church reached deep into every crevice of society. Books that were believed to contradict, or even to sow doubt in religious dogmas; the authority of scripture as the undisputed truth; or the clergy’s monopoly over interpreting such scripture, were censored, banned or burned en masse. Throughout Europe between 1560 and 1630, 80,000 people were charged with witchcraft and half of them were executed. Scientists such as Galileo were persecuted by Church inquisitors. Some, like Giordano Bruno, were burned at the stake for contradicting official doctrines.

Spinoza’s family was also a victim of Church persecution. They were first expelled from Spain in 1492 after the adoption of the Alhambra Decree, which ordered the expulsion of practising Jews. Moving first to Portugal, they were forced to convert to Catholicism and to practice their faith in secret for almost a century. They later moved to France, finally settling in the Netherlands, which at that time was the country in Europe with the most tolerant attitude towards their religion.

In the early 17th century, the Netherlands was in the throes of the world’s first bourgeois revolution, which took the form of a war of national liberation from Spain, lasting from 1566 until 1609. The United Provinces, as the young bourgeois Republic came to be known, was a multicultural commercial hub and, at the time, home to the most advanced forms of capitalist industry and manufacture. Its struggle against Catholicism and absolutism became a focal point for radical thinkers and revolutionaries across the continent. It naturally, therefore, provided fertile ground for the development of some of the most advanced ideas of the time, including those of Descartes, Spinoza, and later John Locke (1632-1704).

Born into a merchant family in 1632, Spinoza received a traditional Jewish upbringing and education. Although he excelled as a student of the Torah and Talmud, his radical views saw him excommunicated from the Jewish community by special decree at the age of 25.

Spinoza was more interested in other matters, however. As a young man he became acquainted with and later joined the Collegiants – a radical Christian sect, which fought against religious orthodoxy, ecclesiastic authority and power, as well as for the highest forms of religious and intellectual tolerance. Later on, the sect split in two under the impact of the advances in philosophy and science, spearheaded by people like Descartes and Spinoza himself, with the Socinian wing taking on an increasingly rationalist outlook, leaving little to no space for deities and religious authority.

Radical religious sects such as the Anabaptists, Quakers, Ranters, Levellers and Diggers were mushrooming across Europe, reflecting the crisis of the old regime and the revolutionary moods amongst the masses. Many of them rejected societal hierarchies and some, such as the Diggers of the English Revolution, even went as far as to reject private property altogether. Such groupings played a pivotal role in the monumental events of the English Civil War of 1642–1649, the world’s second bourgeois revolution, which ended in the victory of Cromwell’s army and the deposition and execution of the absolute monarch.

The scientific revolution

Across Europe, the bourgeoisie was gaining strength at the expense of the feudal ruling class. The cities were growing and along with them trade, manufacture and industry. This development gave a powerful impulse to a revolution in science.

Spinoza eagerly followed developments in science. He was himself a reputable lens grinder – an art that played an important role in the development of astronomy as well as biology and chemistry – and he worked hard, although unsuccessfully, on developing a purely scientific explanation for the occurrence of rainbows.

The hangingThe Thirty Years’ War – formally a war between Catholics and Lutherans – cost between 5 and 8 million lives / Image: public domain

He corresponded regularly with Henry Oldenburg, a scientist and one of the most prominent members of the British scientific Royal Society, as well as with Robert Boyle, one of the founders of modern chemistry and of the modern experimental scientific method. He was also in contact with the famous Danish anatomist, geologist and paleontologist Nicolas Steno, whose anatomic dissections Spinoza at one point attended on a daily basis.

Science was marching ahead at a rapid speed. The most important of these advances were the development of Newtonian classical mechanics, and the victory of the Copernican system in astronomy, which once and for all demolished the idea that the earth was the centre of the universe.

Every step forward for science undermined the dogmas of the Church; and the idea of a capricious and all-powerful deity ruling over the world, was gradually giving way to a view of a world governed by definite laws, independent of human beings.

The old doctrine claimed that reality was rigidly ordered, with God at the top and the monarchs and religious authorities as his undisputed representatives on earth. Earth in turn was the centre of the universe, with the sun, moon and stars revolving around it. The masses found themselves predestined to endure whatever hardships this unchanging edifice imposed on them. The victory of the Copernican system dealt a shattering blow to this world view.

All of these advances came through a combination of experimental science and analysis, that is, without recourse to religious scripture and clerical interpretation, which were the officially decreed paths to truth.

The rise of rationalism

This revolution in science found a counterpart in philosophy. In Britain, early materialism developed in the form of the empiricism of people such as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). The empiricist school emphasised experiment and observation as the fundamental pillars of all knowledge.

At the same time, continental Europe witnessed the rise of modern Rationalism, the father of which was the French philosopher René Descartes, famous for his aphorism “I think therefore I am”. Descartes identified reason, that is systematic scientific thought, as the highest form of knowledge. All established truths, Descartes believed, had to be justified by reason – even the existence of God, for which Descartes attempted to develop a rational explanation.

This in itself was a cardinal sin in the Church’s book, which maintained that faith and scripture was the only basis for truth and that God as the supreme being did not have to be justified by anything, let alone by the ideas of a layman.

But Descartes’ rationalism converged with the advances in science – where mathematical calculations applied to observational facts furnished proofs of the new theories – and on this basis, they were taken up by scientists and philosophers across Europe. In fact, Descartes’ professed aim was to develop a method for scientific certainty. And although there remained room in Descartes' system for God, his physics took on board much of the views of his contemporaries in science, explaining nature as a lawful realm where God played no role.

It was therefore no surprise that his works were placed on the Index of forbidden books by the Catholic Church in 1663 due to the danger they posed to official religion. Even in the Netherlands Cartesian ideas were censored and Descartes’ name was banned from mention in lectures and disputations at the universities.

“God or nature”

Spinoza was a keen student of Descartes’ works, and took on board his staunchly rationalist approach. Everything had to be justified and proven rationally. For Spinoza, however, this also applied to Descartes’ system.

According to Descartes, reality has a dual character consisting of two substances, mind and matter, both of which exist entirely independently of each other. The key advance here was to see the physical world as entirely governed by natural laws, which could be uncovered by humanity via the scientific method.

lecturing philosopher Every step forward for science undermined the dogmas of the Church; and the idea of a capricious and all-powerful deity ruling over the world, was gradually giving way to a view of a world governed by definite laws, independent of human beings / Image: public domain

Standing apart from this lawful world, however, is the mind, which Descartes believed to be entirely separate and independent from the physical world. The sole point of intersection between these two spheres of reality was supposed to be in the pineal gland, the resting place for the human soul and the origin of all ideas. But how and by what mechanism this intersection occurred, Descartes could not explain.

Spinoza criticised this inconsistency in Descartes’ dualism, instead developing a new monist doctrine, which holds that “in Nature there exists only one substance,” which he maintains is eternal and “absolutely infinite.” [5] This infinite, eternal and all-encompassing substance Spinoza called “God”, adding in the same breath “or nature.”[6] According to Spinoza, God or the mind are no special substances standing apart from nature; all beings including the human mind and soul are merely modifications of the same one substance. Thus Spinoza’s God is no God at all, in the sense of a supreme and conscious being who observes and rules over the world according to his own whims.

This God is simply nature: unlimited, self-caused and perpetually in motion, acting solely according to its own immanent and eternal laws. “Nature does not act with an end in view,” he wrote in his Ethics, adding that “the eternal and infinite being, whom we call God, or Nature, acts by the same necessity whereby it exists.” These natural laws in turn, he held, can be uncovered and understood by us by means of science and rational thought.

But humanity cannot set itself apart from natural laws, he said: “Men believe that they are free, precisely because they are conscious of their volitions and desires; yet concerning the causes that have determined them to desire and will they do not think, not even dream about, because they are ignorant of [those causes].” [7]

According to Spinoza, freedom does not come from attempting to stand above natural laws; but in understanding them in order to use them to humanity’s advantage. These are very advanced ideas, which have since been proven many times over by modern science.

Spinoza’s doctrine is often described as a form of pantheism, that is, a worldview which sees the universe as the manifestation of God. But Spinoza’s outlook was not as simple as that. It is obvious for all to see that, even though Spinoza spoke of God and at times used religious jargon, God appears entirely superfluous in his framework. Like the great philosophers of ancient Greece, Spinoza attempted to explain the world on its own account, without any recourse to the supernatural.

At the time, this was a radical rupture in philosophy and it immediately brought Spinoza to the centre of all philosophical debates in Europe. According to his contemporary, Pierre Bayle, Spinoza himself was openly advocating atheism late in his life. Whether this is true or not, we cannot know. Spinoza was highly controversial for his time, nevertheless he was often careful in how he formulated himself to avoid the worst forms of persecution. Regardless, that the germs of atheism and materialism were at the centre of Spinozism was abundantly clear to all at the time and it brought the ire of the authorities down upon Spinoza’s writings, which were also added to the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

In his famous Dictionary, where the longest article was dedicated to Spinoza and Spinozism, Bayle, echoing the impression Spinoza left on his contemporaries, wrote that “he is the first who reduced atheism to a system, and who made it a body of doctrine linked and interwoven according to the manners of geometers”.[8]

But Spinoza was not so much interested in defending himself from the accusation of atheism, than in exposing his accusers:

“[H]e who seeks the true causes of miracles and is eager to understand the works of Nature as a scholar, and not just to gape at them like a fool, is universally considered an impious heretic and denounced by those to whom the common people bow down as interpreters of Nature and the gods. For these people know that the dispelling of ignorance would entail the disappearance of that astonishment, which is the one and only support for their argument and for safeguarding their authority.” [9]

The Theological-Political Treatise

For Spinoza, philosophy was not an abstract and independent field apart from science and politics. Quite the contrary, he drew the most radical conclusions on the basis of it. The clearest expression of this was in his Theological-Political Treatise, which as opposed to his magnum opus, Ethics, was published during his lifetime, albeit not under his own name.

In this political treatise, Spinoza mercilessly criticised superstition and in particular organised religion. At this time, the Bible, the Torah and other religious scripture were decreed by the authorities to be the direct words of God to be followed slavishly, although on the basis of the interpretation of the clergy only.

Tractatus Image public domainFrom the first lines of the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’ Spinoza took no prisoners / Image: public domain

Spinoza declared war on this approach. He maintained that the scriptures were entirely historical documents, which merely reflected the laws and moral values of a given period. “[T]he method of interpreting Scripture”, he said, “does not differ from the [correct] method of interpreting nature, but rather is wholly consonant with it.”[10] This was a complete break with all past tradition – in essence Spinoza is calling for a materialist interpretation of scripture.

From the first lines of the Theological-Political Treatise Spinoza took no prisoners, stating that the root of all superstition is the lack of understanding and control that people have over their own fates. He then goes on to explain how this superstition is utilised by the rulers to perpetuate their rule. But in order to do this, they first need to dress this superstition in opulent buildings, obscure ceremonies, costumes and traditions. In other words, what Spinoza was exposing was the swindle of organised religion as a masquerade meant for the fooling of the masses.

He then directly links this operation to monarchical government: “It may indeed be the highest secret of monarchical government and utterly essential to it, to keep men deceived, and to disguise the fear that sways them with the specious name of religion, so that they will fight for their servitude as if they were fighting for their own deliverance, and will not think it humiliating but supremely glorious to spill their blood and sacrifice their lives for the glorification of a single man.”[11]

The courage and the clarity of these powerful statements stand in stark contrast to the conceited gibberish that goes for philosophy at universities today. Far ahead of his time, Spinoza exposed an essential element of class society: that in order to maintain its rule, the ruling class not only needs a state and armed bodies of men, but also, and just as importantly, powerful institutions to disseminate its ideology such as the church and, we might add in our time, the schools, the media, etc. And thus his philosophy became an open indictment of the ruling class and all its institutions.

On prophets, prophecies and miracles

Spinoza went through the Bible and the Torah methodically, highlighting all their contradictions. Basing himself on the text alone, he dismissed the alleged prophets of Judaism and Christianity as men, “not endowed with more perfect minds than others but only a more vivid power of imagination”.[12] The only exception to this, he claims, is Jesus Christ whom he however defined more as a philosopher of ethics than a supernatural being.

According to Spinoza, the prophets were essentially mere politicians and Jesus Christ a philosopher, who used impressive and mystical language that they called ‘prophecies’ in order to convince their fellow men and thereby to constitute social and moral order. But given that those decrees only apply to the historical period in question, he maintains, there is little for us to learn from them except for the most general moral values of the revelation.

Another point of Spinoza’s attack was on the so-called miracles or proofs of God. He rejected any notion that these had any truth to them and maintained that what the Bible mentions as miracles were just natural phenomena that people at the time could not explain.

“In this sense everything that surpassed the Jews’ understanding and whose natural causes were unknown at that time, tended to be attributed to God. Thus a storm was called, ‘a rebuke from God’, and thunder and lightning the arrows of God; for they thought that God kept the winds shut up in caverns which they called the treasuries of God, [...]. For the same reason miracles are called works of God, that is, astounding works. For all natural things are undoubtedly works of God and exist and act by divine power. In this sense therefore the Psalmist calls the miracles of Egypt powers of God, because they opened up a path to safety for the Hebrews in their extreme danger when they were not expecting any exit to appear, and so they were totally amazed.”[13]

In fact, later on in the book, Spinoza attributes the story of the parting of the sea at the command of Moses to “an east wind that blew very strongly for a whole night” and not some kind of divine intervention.

Going through the texts methodically, Spinoza concludes that there is nothing to learn from them except for moral values and societal norms, and even these norms, Spinoza claims, were only applicable to the specific historical conditions at the time. Ultimately, he concludes, all that is left for us to use is the most basic moral message of the Bible, that people should “love their neighbour as themselves”;[14] even this lesson Spinoza holds, however, is precisely what organised religion has ignored:

“I have often been amazed to find that people who are proud to profess the Christian religion, that is [a religion of] love, joy, peace, moderation and good will to all men, opposing each other with extraordinary animosity and giving daily expression to the bitterest mutual hatred. So much so that it has become easier to recognise an individual’s faith by the latter features than the former.” [15]

Freedom of speech and thought, secularism and Democracy

Spinoza’s criticism went to the heart of the monarchical dictatorship of the rule of the clergy. According to the decrees of the Church, the Bible was the absolute truth and the highest authority. But according to Spinoza, the truth is not to be found anywhere in scripture or the Church, but from the study of nature.

From here, he went on to challenge the role and privileges of the clergy altogether, arguing that it should be stripped of all its official powers. He staunchly defended a complete separation of church and state and universal “freedom to philosophise”:[16]

“Everyone is therefore obliged to live solely by their own decisions and not by someone else’s, and they are not bound to acknowledge anyone as judge or as the rightful defender of religion.”[17]

He also argued that a democratic republic was the best form of state and even that a citizens’ army was preferable to a mercenary army, which the rulers would more easily use to oppress the will of the masses.

The Theological-Political Treatise was a bombshell, which sent shockwaves across Europe. This is proven by the fact that even though it was widely banned, even in the Netherlands, plentiful copies of it have survived to this day.

Noah arkThose who attempted to explain nature by “the will of God”, he boldly accused of seeking ‘the sanctuary of ignorance’ / Image: public domain

Spinoza became notorious for his atheistic and revolutionary ideas, which stood in direct opposition to Christianity, Judaism and mediaeval philosophy as a whole. Well into the 18th century in fact, his was the most prominent critique of religion and clerical rule.

Radical sects eagerly took up his ideas and arguments throughout the continent, and in Amsterdam he became one of the most prominent leaders, if not the most prominent leader of atheistic circles. According to the Spinoza scholar Jonathan Israel, Spinoza’s ideas were not only known amongst the intelligentsia, but also in wider European society. This made him a primary target of attacks by all defenders of the existing order although until the end of his life Spinoza remained unmoved by his critics and fiercely loyal to his ideas.

Ahead of his time

Spinoza’s philosophical ideas were far ahead of his time and many of them would only be proven by science centuries later. It is true that there was an ambiguity in his concept of “God or nature”, and that his writings contained a tail end of the prevailing scholastic tradition. Some modern academics have used this to dismiss him as an idealist and a traditionalist, but they fail to grasp the earthquake that Spinozism represented in the history of thought. It would not have been the first time in history that new ideas were presented in the framework of an old rhetoric – particularly when a departure from such rhetoric could have fatal consequences. But it is undeniable that all of his works are imbued with a powerful combative spirit of atheism and materialism.

A direct counterpart to his philosophy, Spinoza’s political writings were no less revolutionary. For almost a century, his arguments were regarded as the best and most systematic case for secularism and freedom of thought. In this, he anticipated and to some degree also inspired the French philosophers of the 18th century who played a crucial role in preparing the great French Revolution.

Dare to know!

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant once summed up the Enlightenment in the motto ‘dare to know!’. He went on to say: “The officer says: ‘Do not argue—drill!’ The tax collector: ‘Do not argue—pay!’ The pastor: ‘Do not argue—believe!’”[18]

The philosophers of the Enlightenment, however, refused to blindly obey. In the words of Descartes, they took it as their task to “doubt all things”. This is a method quite apart from the cynical scepticism that has infected modern academia, in which all truth disappears and only an empty doubt remains. On the contrary, the method of the Enlightenment thinkers was to demand a rational and scientific explanation of all the established beliefs in society. And in doing so, they laid the basis for science, culture and thereby for the advance of human society to a qualitatively higher level. This was nothing short of a revolution.

This revolution in the field of ideas, was a key part of the social revolution against feudalism in which these courageous and ingenious thinkers played a pivotal role by demolishing official ideology and inspiring revolutionary trends across Europe.

To these monumental developments, our modern so-called philosophers respond with sneering hostility. Michel Foucault, one of the grandees of contemporary academic thought, once wrote that “we must free ourselves from the intellectual blackmail of ‘being for or against the Enlightenment.’”[19] Others go much further in their attacks. In the ivory towers of the universities and the walled gardens of academic publishing, far away from real life, the Enlightenment is portrayed as the highest sin. Disappointed that they do not find an ultimate truth in the ‘Reason’ of the Enlightenment, the postmodernists attack the idea of science and rational thought altogether, just as they condemn all revolutions that do not solve all the problems of humanity at once.

For these people, any talk about progress is reactionary in and of itself. They point to this or that shortcoming of Enlightenment thought, or the fact that oppression was not eradicated in the “Age of Reason”, to argue that therefore the bourgeois revolution, in spite of its immense achievements, was no advance at all and perhaps even a step back from feudal society with its barbaric backwardness, superstition and mass ignorance. But there can be no middle path in any revolution, and those who try to find one will soon find themselves in the camp of the existing order. Our postmodernists are no exception: in all of their ‘reasoning’ they place themselves in opposition to the Enlightenment and the bourgeois revolution – that is, on the side of reaction. Friedrich Engels answered these accusations a long time ago:

“Every form of society and government then existing, every old traditional notion, was flung into the lumber-room as irrational; the world had hitherto allowed itself to be led solely by prejudices; everything in the past deserved only pity and contempt. Now, for the first time, appeared the light of day, the kingdom of reason; henceforth superstition, injustice, privilege, oppression, were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal Right, equality based on Nature and the inalienable rights of man.

BastilleSpinoza’s arguments anticipated and to some degree also inspired the French philosophers of the 18th century who played a crucial role in preparing the Great French Revolution / Image: public domain

“We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealised kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realisation in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the 18th century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch.”[20]

The Enlightenment signalled the dawn of a new capitalist society, which was the most advanced form of society at the time. This was a huge step forward for humanity. Under capitalism, culture, science and technology flourished and reached unprecedented heights. It produced productive forces which have the potential to transform society and lift the entirety of humanity out of poverty and misery. Of course, it goes without saying that within the confines of this system that is not possible.

Today capitalism itself has reached a dead-end. It has become a huge impediment to progress and to the development of science and culture. Meanwhile, whereas a tiny minority live in extravagant opulence, the vast majority are condemned to a daily grind to stay afloat. The bourgeoisie in its early days based itself on rationalism, empiricism and materialism. It promoted science, philosophy, culture; in other words, it promoted enlightenment. Today, it is increasingly turning towards ignorance; irrationalist dogmas such as postmodernism and positivism, have become the key means by which it attempts to justify its own existence.

The mantle of revolution has now fallen on the working class, whose task is not only to overthrow capitalism, but class society altogether. As in all revolutions, an integral part of the proletarian revolution is the struggle for ideas: a struggle for materialism and for a rational and scientific approach against the reactionary idealist propaganda of the ruling class and its high priests in the halls of academia. The truth, in other words, has yet again become a revolutionary weapon, this time against the bourgeoisie.

In this struggle, we Marxists proudly claim the best revolutionary traditions of the Enlightenment and reject the slanders of the postmodernists against the audacious thinkers of that epoch. Marxism builds on all the most advanced ideas of the bourgeois revolution, enriched and developed by the enormous advances in science since then as well as the experiences of the working class.

Our struggle is not for a new form of class society, but the liberation of mankind from the shackles of class society altogether. We fight for a new dawn for humanity: where the veil of ignorance, which is absolutely necessary for any class society, can be torn off, and humanity as a whole, basing itself on universal enlightenment, science and technology, can establish a heaven for itself on earth.


[1] GWF Hegel, Lectures on the history of philosophy, Vol. 3, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1874, pg 283

[2] B Spinoza, “Political Treatise”, Spinoza Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, 2002, pg 681

[3] P Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965, pg 290

[4] B Spinoza, Ethics, Spinoza Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, 2002, pg 241

[5] ibid., pg 221

[6] ibid., pg 321

[7] ibid., pg 239

[8] Pierre Bayle, Dictionnaire Dictionnaire historique et critique, Nouvelle Édition, Tome Treizième, 1820 p. 421 - own translation. Original: “Je crois qu’il est le premier qui ait réduit en système l’athéisme, et qui en ait fait un corps de doctrine lié et tissu selon les manières des géomètres”.

[9] B Spinoza, Ethics, Spinoza Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, 2002, pg 221

[10] B Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, Cambridge University Press 2007, pg 98

[11] ibid., pg 6

[12] ibid., pg 27

[13] ibid., pg 24-25

[14] ibid., pg 102

[15] ibid., pg 7

[16] ibid., pg 195

[17] ibid., pg 206

[18] I. Kant, “An answer to the question: What is enlightenment?”, Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pg 18

[19] M Foucault, ‘What is Enlightenment?’, The Foucault Reader, Pantheon Books, 1984, pg 45

[20] F Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, The Classics of Marxism, Vol 1, Wellred Books, 2013, pg 39

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