Radical Cartesian Politics: Van Velthuysen, De la Court, and Spinoza

Studia Spinozana: An International and Interdisciplinary Series 15:35-65 (1999)
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Spinoza's political writings are not merely a theoretical exercise or a philosophical conclusion of his system. They are part of a very practical political discussion in seventeenth-century Holland. Spinoza was influenced by and played a role in a political movement known as "Radical Cartesianism", which combined ideas from Descartes and Hobbes in order to argue against the reinstatement of a stadholder. This movement provided arguments for religious and philosophical freedom and against monarchy based on a fundamental drive of self-preservation and a particular understanding of the passions. This paper provides a general introduction to Radical Cartesianism by explaining its historical context and discussing two Radical Cartesian voices: Lambertus van Velthuysen and the brothers De la Court. The final section discusses Spinoza's political philosophy as a systemization of their Radical Cartesian ideas.

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Tammy Nyden
Grinnell College


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