The philosophical studies of Yamaguchi University

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The philosophical studies of Yamaguchi University Volume 10
published_at 2001

On the 'Credo Minimum' in Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Ueno Osamu
1.57 MB
It would certainly be surprising if a nonbeliever philosopher were to propound ‘dogmas of faith' and pretend that everyone is bound to accept them. Such was the case with Baruch or Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) in his doomed Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), which aroused a strong suspicion of ‘disguised arguments'. In this paper 1 will try to defend him against the charge of ‘double language' by shedding new light on the problem. Is it conceivable at all that an infidel should truthfully talk about ‘credo'? A solution has been offered by what is called ‘dual language' theory, according to which Spinoza is immaculate because the dogmas are ‘metaphors' of philosophical truths. Although misleading in their literal sense, the dogmas are perfectly ‘translatable' into philosophical language, and consequently not necessarily deceptive nor inconsistent with his own philosophy. I examine this theory to show its deficiency in grasping the emphasis Spinoza lays upon the radical indifference of the dogmas to truth claim. An alternative view will be proposed, which will bring us to a notion of grammatical norm involved in saying ‘pious' or ‘impious': the dogmas are propounded to determine conclusively that which a man, regardless of what he actually holds in his mind, can be justly presumed to hold about God when, and only when, this man is rightly said to be ‘pious'. Spinoza achieves this aim by founding the legitimacy of religious beliefs exclusively upon their being necessary conditions of obedience to God's command to love one's neighbour. The credo minimum is derived from a grammatical norm of saying right which everyone agrees to de facto, and hence everyone is bound to accept the dogmas, apart from truth claim. 1 draw the conclusion that the credo minimum has nothing to do with metaphor or disguise, its aim being to show the norm beyond which abuse in what we may call the language game of ‘piety' begins.