We open the very first page of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus where the Dutch philosopher lays down the fundamental conditions of human freedom, beginning with freedom of thought. And immediately we find the link that is requisite for the definition of freedom:
 If men were always able to regulate their affairs with sure judgment, or if fortune always smiled upon them, they would not get caught up in any superstition. But since people are often reduced to such desperate straits that they cannot arrive at any solid judgment and as the good things of fortune for which they have a boundless desire are quite uncertain, they fluctuate wretchedly between hope and fear.
 I think that everyone is aware of this, even though I also believe that most people have no self-knowledge.
 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. But in a free republic (respublica),5 on the other hand, nothing that can be devised or attempted will be less successful. For it is completely contrary to the common liberty to shackle the free judgment of the individual with prejudices or constraints of any kind.
For freedom to obtain in a society – for that society to be governed as a “free republic”, as a res publica, as a public concern -, then this freedom must be founded not on “superstition” and all forms of distorted beliefs, but rather on sound “sure and solid judgement”. Because freedom as we have defined it – and as Simone Weil reminds us – is most certainly not the ability to fulfil effortlessly one’s every desire or caprice. Freedom is not caprice; it is not a whimsy. For freedom to have any sense and any value, it must be faced by the twin diametrical ne-cessities (the nec-cessare, no retro-ceding, the nec plus ultra), by the boundaries of nature on one side and society on the other. Freedom requires these outward constraints, as well as the inner self-restraint – that is to say, both the containment (by the life-world) and the contentment (of the self) – that we know in common as in philosophical parlance as judgement. For Spinoza as for Simone Weil, freedom and judgement go hand in hand. The restraint and constraint of human freedom involves judgements as to our ability to carry out our thoughts into action:
Tout jugement porte sur une situation objective, et par suite sur un tissu de nécessités. L'homme vivant ne peut en aucun cas cesser d'être enserré de toutes parts par une nécessité absolument inflexible ; mais comme il pense, il a le choix entre céder aveuglément à l'aiguillon par lequel elle le pousse de l'extérieur, ou bien se conformer à la représentation intérieure qu'il s'en forge ; et c'est en quoi consiste l'opposition entre servitude et liberté. Les deux termes de cette opposition ne sont au reste que des limites idéales entre lesquelles se meut la vie humaine sans pouvoir jamais en atteindre aucune, sous peine de n'être plus la vie. Un homme serait complètement esclave si tous ses gestes procédaient d'une autre source que sa pensée, à savoir ou bien les réactions irrai-sonnées du corps, ou bien la pensée d'autrui ; l'homme primitif affamé dont tous les bonds sont provoqués par les spasmes qui tordent ses entrailles, l'esclave romain perpétuellement tendu vers les ordres d'un surveillant armé d'un fouet, l'ouvrier moderne qui travaille à la chaîne, approchent de cette condition misérable. (Reflexions, pp.60-1)
The exercise of judgement requires the presence of a formal or logical negative element – that of rationality or ratiocination – and a substantive or positive or ethical element. The rational element can only be negative in the sense that it can only inform against actions that are evidently contradictory. This is purely a formal requirement because logic and rationality cannot dictate or indicate what choices we make: they can only alert us to the fact that our proposed choices are inconsistent with or contradictory to the premises upon which those choices were founded.
Arbitrary actions not founded on logic and rationality (on the principle of non-contradiction) cannot be free because the agent is quite obviously acting pursuant to a force or motive that is either imposed by an external agent – acting upon dictation – or else pursuant to contradiction, which will result in the action not yielding the expected result. (Einstein was entirely wrong in pressing the oft-repeated definition of madness as “repeating the same action expecting a different outcome”. Madness is rather pursuing an action by adopting contradictory means, knowing them to be so or not being in a condition to appreciate the contradiction between means and ends. Sometimes even geniuses are totally and emphatically wrong!) Logic and science cannot tell us what to do; they can only warn us about contradictoriness of the means we are adopting to achieve a premeditated goal. Those scientists who pretend to tell us what to do by means of their “science” neglect to mention or forget that “science” itself does not exist because there are only “scientific activities” that are themselves a positive ethical goal that human beings choose to pursue!
Similarly, but perhaps more culpably, those late-romantics who discard the negative warnings of logic and science when pursuing their activities in the name of “freedom” (!) forget that the indispensable condition for the exercise of freedom is formally rational judgement! As Weil puts it, to exercise freedom is to dispose of one’s actions in accordance with rational judgement: -
Et disposer de ses propres actions ne signifie nullement agir arbitrairement ; les actions arbitraires ne procèdent d'aucun jugement, et ne peuvent à proprement parler être appelées libres.
Here Weil is reiterating a thought central to Max Weber’s methodology of social science which was concerned centrally with the distinction between scientifically rational means and ethical values (between Zweck-Rationalitat and Wert-Rationalitat). But how do we know when a decision is “arbitrary” and not a proper “judgement”? And so also whether the actions it prompts are “free” or “spontaneous” instead of induced or even “irrational”? This was the crucial question, the stumbling block, on which Weber’s entire methodology of social science ultimately hurtled! True, we may be able to determine logico-scientifically what proposed actions are contradictory or counter-productive: the choice of means is open to rational evaluation. But this is only a negative use of reason: what comes into play when we apply logic and scientific evidence to a projected course of action is not substantive Reason itself; rather, it is only instrumental reason or rationality. (On Weber, we refer to our “Weber and Liberum Arbitrium”.)
The choice of ends, by contrast, involves the exercise of substantive Reason, which determines positively the free choice of our course of action not purely in terms of the application of existing means but also in relation to the discovery and development (“scientific research”) of future means! Clearly, that is a political problem where “the clash of wills” and “the meeting of minds” between individuals is concerned. A form of political organization is needed that minimizes conflict whilst encouraging consensus, all the while preserving as much as possible both freedom of thought and of speech as well as of action.
Given the much easier task of discerning the negative definition of freedom and judgement through logic and scientific evidence, what we call the intellect or the understanding or better still instrumental reason, it is not surprising that both Spinoza and Weil turn preliminarily to this instrumental reason as the building block for the wider definition of freedom. Here is Weil:
Quant à la liberté complète, on peut en trouver un modèle abstrait dans un problème d'arithmétique ou de géométrie bien résolu ; car dans un problème tous les éléments de la solution sont donnés, et l'homme ne peut attendre de secours que de son propre jugement, seul capable d'établir entre ces éléments le rapport qui constitue par lui-même la solution cherchée.
The problem with this negative definition of freedom is dual: first, it says nothing about what to do; second, it involves the operability or feasibility of our own decisions, but it does not involve consideration of other human actors, as Weil herself concedes:
Les efforts et les victoires de la mathématique ne dépassent pas le cadre de la feuille de papier, royaume des signes et des dessins ; une vie entièrement libre serait celle où toutes les difficultés réelles se présenteraient comme des sortes de problèmes, où toutes les victoires seraient comme des solutions mises en action. Tous les éléments du succès seraient alors donnés, c'est-à-dire connus et maniables comme sont les signes du mathématicien ; pour obtenir le résultat voulu, il suffirait de mettre ces éléments en rapport grâce à la direction méthodique qu'imprimerait la pensée non plus à de simples traits de plume, mais à des mouvements effectifs et qui laisseraient leur marque dans le monde. (Reflexions, p.61)
For it is only when, first, we decide on a goal to pursue and concomitantly, second, we have to consider the effects or “mark” of this pursuit on the surrounding world which includes other humans and the environment – it is only then that the ambit of the intellect ends and the judgement of substantive Reason begins! The very notion of “free will”, in its Latin version as “liberum arbitrium”, reflects the “arbitrariness” of the will in the ambi-valent sense that the “free” will can be interpreted both as “arbitrary” (capricious) and as an application of “rational judgement”. The arbiter, the referee, is the person who decides on the validity of a course of action based, yes, on “judgement” – but ultimately on an “auto-nomous” (self-ruled) decision! It is the arbitrariness of this autonomy that raises all the difficult political questions involving decision-making. An arbiter or referee whose arbitration is pre-determined from the outset cannot be “free” – and therefore neither can the will be “free” as “liberum arbitrium”.
As Carl Schmitt reminds us, “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception”! The exception is precisely that part of the ambit of freedom that is not “negative”, that does not involve logic or science, and is therefore not technical but political because the very boundaries and limits of the will are involved due to the existence of other autonomous wills!
It is not just Simone Weil who makes the grave error to mistake “judgement” as the hallmark of freedom with the “negative” faculty of the intellect, rather than substantive Reason. Long before Weil, even as acute a philosopher as Baruch Spinoza fell into the same metaphorical trap:
 Perhaps someone will think that in this way we are turning subjects into slaves, supposing a slave to be someone who acts on command, and a free person to be one who behaves as he pleases. But this is not true at all. In fact, anyone who is guided by their own pleasure in this way and cannot see or do what is good for them, is him or herself very much a slave. The only [genuinely] free person is one who lives with his entire mind guided solely by reason.
Thus far, then, we have Weber and Weil join Spinoza in making the exercise of the will as freedom dependent upon the guidance of the will by “judgement” or “reason”. But that Spinoza also confuses instrumental and substantive Reason is made pellucid in all his argumentation in the Tractatus, of which we have found incontrovertible proof in the sentences that follow the previous quotation:
Acting on command, that is, from obedience, does take away liberty in some sense, but it is not acting on command in itself that makes someone a slave, but rather the reason for so acting. If the purpose of the action is not his own advantage but that of the ruler, then the agent is indeed a slave and useless to himself.
Quite unmistakably, Spinoza here makes the content and exercise of reason coincide with the utilitarian calculus of by an agent of “his own advantage”. What makes a society and a State “free”, then, according to Spinoza is the ability of the State to safeguard the private individual interest of its “subjects” so that they may accept the contractus unionis as a contractus subjectionis whilst at the same time remaining “free” simply and entirely because this “contractual subjection” (an obvious oxymoron) happens to coincide with their own selfish “advantage” – and specifically with the preservation of their utilitarian natural rights acquired from the state of nature into the new civil or political State.
But in a state and government where the safety of the whole people, not that of the ruler, is the supreme law,6 he who obeys the sovereign in all things should not be called a slave useless to himself but rather a subject. The freest state, therefore, is that whose laws are founded on sound reason; for there each man can be free whenever he wishes,7 that is, he can live under the guidance of reason with his whole mind. (Tractatus, P.201)
The definition of freedom as dependent on judgement or Reason is therefore for Spinoza fundamental to the constitution of a free human society as a status civilis, as a State, as against the status naturae, the pre-political “state of nature”. But the entire raison d’etre of the status civilis, of the State or Common-wealth, is not simply and merely the preservation of the status quo ante that prevailed in the status naturae! The legitimacy and purpose of the State cannot be, therefore, “the safety of the whole people”, the salus publica, the mere “policing” of “natural rights” that individuals presumably enjoyed in the state of nature. And the reason why the State cannot be confined to this role as Police is that a human society can never be static, because the interaction of its human members not just inter se but also with their environment will determine a constant change in their relations and in their social status through economic and other exchanges.
In conceiving of the State (“the ruler”) as mere Police, as the enforcer of the salus publica, Spinoza completely misconceives the entire nature of human society and thence of the State. Therefore he also misconceives the entire role and nature of freedom and judgement (or Reason) in the formation and constitution of the State. It is the dynamic nature of human relations and interaction that doom Spinoza’s reduction of “reason” as the foundation of the State to mere instrumental reason, to sheer selfish calculation! A State or re-public is not just the status quo, a constitution etched in gold or chiseled in concrete: a constitution is either “living” or it is dead and buried, a museum piece. The difficulty with Spinoza’s account of the constitution of the res publica is that he cannot explain how the selfish utilitarian agents who inhabit the status naturae can ever overcome their instrumental reason – the negative utilitarian calculus of profit and loss or “advantage” – so as to be able to erect a “public thing” that must be founded obviously on a common interest that cannot be merely “the preservation of their pre-existing natural rights in the state of nature”, that is, their “safety” as Spinoza styles it. A State that is mere Police is no state at all! Something more than instrumental reason or intellect must be involved in the formation and constitution of a free State. And this something more is substantive Reason.
Of course, in outlining his theory of the constitution of a State – a State by institution and not by acquisition because he allows of a state of nature, unlike Locke where the state of nature already contains ready-made all the ingredients for the formation of the liberal State -, Spinoza is simply regurgitating the political theoretic principles that Hobbes had outlined much earlier. With a fundamental difference: - that the Englishman’s political theory is vastly superior in its consistency and elaboration than that of the Dutchman. Whereas Spinoza assumes quite erroneously that instrumental reason suffices to establish the terms of a contractus unionis as well as subjectionis , Hobbes’s greatness lay precisely in denying that Reason – instrumental or least of all substantive – has anything at all to do with the institution of the status civilis or politicus from the status naturae!
Hobbes was too fine a dialectician and too refined in matters political (as Descartes conceded to highlight the contrast with his gaps in scientific and mathematical knowledge) to overlook the evident contradiction in founding the Common-wealth purely on self-interest. As we know, Hobbes’s State is founded when self-interested individuals seek to protect them from the anarchy of the state of nature not pursuant to their Reason, however conceived, but – precisely! – owing to their fear! And specifically “fear of violent death” at the hands of other self-interested human rivals! It is the irrational instinctual metus mortui that founds the Hobbesian Leviathan – this deus mortalis, opposed to the strong theological slant of the Dutchman -, once the individuals of the state of nature decide through fear to alienate their original anarchical free-dom they possessed in the bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all) of the state of nature.
In this regard, among many others, Spinoza’s political theory is of a disarming simplicity when compared with Hobbes’s. Yet, Spinoza – the philosopher of Love, of the amor intellectualis Dei – is entirely right to seek in Reason, not in fear, the cement that binds human beings together. Because fear – the most negative of instincts – can only lead to flight or fight; it can never lead to a human community worthy of the name – least of all a res publica. The reason why Spinoza cannot go beyond instrumental reason as the foundation of the State is quite simply that – like all philosophers before and many after him – he sees human beings from an ontogenetic perspective as against a phylogenetic one.
So far, as we have seen, both Weil and Spinoza envisage a negative definition of freedom and of the social bond – one in which (a) human beings are taken as self-interested individuals, (b) freedom is as devoid of the necessity of collaborative labour as is conceptually possible, and therefore finally (c) human beings need other human beings as little as possible. (In Hobbes, of course, freedom ceases to exist as a political category, in foro externo, because the contractus unionis becomes instantly a contractus subjectionis that shrivels freedom into a purely psychological internal state, in foro interno.) It is this last aspect of freedom in human society, in the status civilis, that Spinoza tackles with greater attention. We have seen already that Spinoza’s political theory tends to assume away – let alone even explain away! – all the conflicts that are evident in human society and therefore in the formation and constitution of a res publica. That is at least one reason why Bertrand Russell justifiably called him “the most lovable of philosophers”! The same could not be said of his coeval Thomas Hobbes, of course, or of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for whom the “clash of wills” - the will to power, the universal Eris or Heraclitean polemos – is absolutely central not just to political philosophy but indeed to the very understanding of ontological reality – to the very essence of the life-world, of physis, of nature itself!
We shall deal with this aspect of Spinoza’s work next.
(Kierkegaard and the Unicum)
We saw earlier that Thomas Hobbes’s political theory starts from vastly more robust logical and philosophical premises than does Spinoza’s – which is why Hobbes will stand forever as the most advanced and coherent ideological exponent of the bourgeoisie and of its socio-economic and political system. Whereas Hobbes attributes the institution of the State as a contractual arrangement between ultimately selfish atomized individuals to the instinctual fear of death at the hands of any other individual in the state of nature where “man is a wolf to man” (homo hominis lupus), Spinoza instead sees the State and civil society as the acquisition of pre-existing “natural rights” in the state of nature that are simply inducted into or transferred to the new State (what we call “the acquisition of natural rights into the civil state”) through the exercise of human reason because this is the best way to maximise individual and social welfare through the security and safety that the State offers to each individual:
 Nevertheless, no one can doubt how much more beneficial it is for men to live according to laws and the certain dictates of reason, which as I have said aim at nothing but men’s true interests. Besides there is no-one who does not wish to live in security and so far as that is possible without fear; but this is very unlikely to be the case so long as everyone is allowed to do whatever they want and reason is assigned no more right than hatred and anger. For there is no one who does not live pervaded with anxiety whilst living surrounded by hostility, hatred, anger and deceit and who does not strive to avoid these in so far as they can. If we also reflect that without mutual help, and the cultivation of reason, human beings necessarily live in great misery, as we showed in chapter 5, we shall realize very clearly that it was necessary for people to combine together in order to live in security and prosperity. Accordingly, they had to ensure that they would collectively have the right to all things that each individual had from nature and that this right would no longer be determined by the force and appetite of each individual but by the power and will of all of them together. (P.197)
But the objection is readily moved: assuming, as does Spinoza himself following Hobbes, that individuals are ultimately selfish, how can they agree to form a State that guarantees the safety of each? Because it is abundantly obvious that if individuals are endowed with a “reason” that allows them to see beyond their individual selfish gratification to the common good, then it is obvious that such a state of nature could never have existed state of nature – precisely for the reason that the ability of individuals to be reasonable means that they were never single-mindedly selfish in the first place! By introducing “reason” as a substantive faculty and not just a formal, mechanical, instrumental, calculating, utilitarian one as did Hobbes, Spinoza simply assumes away the problem to which he claims to have found a solution! Where Hobbes avoids this evident contradiction or tautology is by arguing that not “reason” - understood either as an ethical altruistic faculty or even as instrumental reason, as a simple formal logical utilitarian calculus - induces human beings to agree to be subjected to the law of the State to secure their own safety; but rather it is “fear” – the fear of violent death at the hands of other selfish humans, the metus mortui; fear which is an elemental emotion entirely consistent with the barbaric and violent conditions of the state of nature – where “the war of all against all” prevails; it is irrational Fear, not Reason (either substantive or instrumental) that induces and impels selfish individuals to alienate their free-dom (everything is allowed) and exit the state of nature in favour of the political State.
[This extremely subtle but vital distinction in Hobbes’s political philosophy between instrumental and substantive Reason is one that I uncovered through the reading of Nietzsche. Only later did I discover the same analysis in one of Norberto Bobbio’s finest essays on Hobbes. Here it is:
3. La definizione che Hobbes dà della legge naturale non differisce formalmente dalle definizioni tradizionali. Per Hobbes la legge naturale è un dettame della retta ragione •. Come tale la legge naturale si differenzia dalla legge positiva che è posta dalla volontà. Ciò che costituisce la differenza della definizione hobbesiana da quella degli altri giusnaturalisti è il diverso significato di ragione. Per Hobbes la ragione è una operazione di calcolo con la quale traiamo delle conseguenze dai nomi convenuti per esprimere e notare i nostri pensieri. Non ha un valore sostanziale, ma soltanto formale; non ci rivela l'essere, ma ci mette in grado di ricavare da certi principi certe conseguenze; non è la facoltà con cui apprendiamo la verità evidente dei primi princìpi, ma la facoltà del ragionamento. È stato detto, ancora recentemente, che la ragione di Hobbes non ha un significato antologico, ma metodologico '. Essa non è un apprendimento di princìpi evidenti ma un metodo per pensare. La concezione ch'egli ha della ragione non è metafisica, ma strumentale. Lo stesso Hobbes, alla definizione sopra riportata di legge naturale, fa seguire questa annotazione: « Per retta ragione nello stato naturale dell'umanità, diversamente dalla maggior parte degli scrittori che la considerano una facoltà infallibile, intendo l'atto di ragionare, cioè il ragionamento, proprio a ciascun individuo e vero, nei riguardi delle azioni che possono portare utilità o danno agli altri uomini » 6
Da questo diverso significato di ragione deriva una differenza fondamentale tra la concezione hobbesiana della legge naturale e le concezioni tradizionali. Per_ queste ultime la naturalis ratio o recta ratio prescrive ciò che è buono o cattivo in sé-stesso; per Hobbes, invece, indica ciò che è buono o cattivo rispetto a un determinato fine: « Quelle che chiamiamo leggi di natura non sono altro che una specie di conclusione , tratta dalla ragione in merito a quel che si deve fare o tralasciare » '. E con una maggior chiarezza: « ... non sono che conclusioni, o teoremi, relativi a ciò che conduce alla conservazione e alla difesa di sé stessi » 8• Del resto, non vi possono essere princìpi per sé veri in una filosofia nominalistica come quella di Hobbes, secondo la quale « vero e falso sono attributi del discorso, non delle cose, e, dove non vi è discorso non vi è né verità né falsità » 9• (N. Bobbio, “Legge naturale e legge civile nella filosofia politica di Hobbes” in Da Marx a Hegel, p.16-17)]
True, in the earlier quotation Spinoza does refer to the human wish to avoid fear. But this avoidance is not “instinctual”! Instead, it is dictated by “reason” and the “true interest” of human beings – in other words, a reason that is more than just instrumental, a mere calculus of utility, but one that is a shared substantive common goal of all human beings! In other words, substantive Reason! That Spinoza con-fuses (misconstrues and mixes together) the two quite distinct notions of substantive and instrumental reason can be gleaned quite easily from the previous quotation and from the one that follows, and indeed from his entire preamble to his theory of the State:
 From this it follows that the right, and the order of nature, under which all human beings are born and for the most part live, prohibits nothing but what no one desires or no one can do;2 it does not prohibit strife or hatred or anger or fraud or anything at all that appetite foments. This is unsurprising since nature is not bound by the laws of human reason which aim only at the true interest and conservation of humans, but rather by numberless other things that  concern the eternal order of the whole of nature (of which human beings are but a small part), and all individual things are determined to live and behave in a certain way only by the necessity of this order. When therefore we feel that anything in nature is ridiculous, absurd or bad, it is because we know things only in part. We wish everything to be directed in ways familiar to our reason, even though what reason declares to be bad, is not bad with respect to the order and laws of universal nature but only with respect to the laws of our own nature.
Spinoza fails to understand that his idea of Reason cannot stand because it seeks to be both things at once, instrumental and substantive, and therefore it seeks to separate substantive Reason from faith purely on first principles, a priori, deductively or dialectically – something that we are showing to be impossible.
 Hence, in order to determine how far each person possesses freedom to think whatever they wish about faith and who we should regard as the true faithful even if their beliefs differ from ours, we must [correctly] define faith and its fundamental principles. This is what I propose to do in this chapter, and at the same time I propose to separate faith from philosophy which, indeed, has been the principal purpose of the whole work. 
Given these premises and tenets, the very purpose of Spinoza’s Tractatus becomes immediately un-tenable. If there is to be any freedom in a society, Spinoza stipulates, then the expression of freedom - which must at a minimum follow the formal requirements of instrumental reason - must be separated from faith. Because, if it were otherwise, if faith could interfere with logic and calculation, then the reasoning process itself which is the indispensable ingredient of all reasoning – philosophical or scientific – could not take place – and faith could and would interfere at the very least with freedom of expression, let alone with any other freedom. Yet this distinction entails that it is entirely possible for faith – any faith or at least “true” faith – to be separated and distinguished from practical reasoning and activity in society so that it does not interfere with the functioning and order of that society. But this proposition is manifestly false – for the simple reason that all faith must have a concrete, practical content! Faith is not just an empty belief void of real content. Faith, like all human thoughts, must have a specific real referent to which it points: it must exhort or forbid human beings to do or refrain from doing particular acts, to engage in or desist from specific conduct and practices!
The specious tenor of Spinoza’s argument is made all the more evident in the following passage:
 It remains only to show that there is no interaction and no affinity between faith or theology, on the one side, and philosophy, on the other. By now this must be obvious to anyone who knows the aim and the foundations of these two disciplines, which are certainly as different from each other as any two things could be. For the aim of philosophy is nothing but truth, but the aim of faith, as we have abundantly demonstrated, is simply obedience and piety. The foundations of philosophy are universal concepts, and philosophy should be drawn from nature alone. But the foundations of faith are histories and language and are to be drawn only from Scripture and revelation, as we showed in chapter7. Faith therefore allows every person the greatest liberty to think, so that they may think whatever they wish about any question whatever without doing wrong. It only  condemns as heretics and schismatics those who put forward beliefs for the purpose of promoting disobedience, hatred, conflict and anger. On the other hand, faith regards as faithful only those who promote justice and charity as far as their reason and abilities allow. (pp.183-40)
If “the aim of philosophy [which for Spinoza is indistinguishable from and interchangeable with reason] is nothing but truth”, then it follows that reason can lead to “truth”. Yet, as we have demonstrated, only instrumental reason can tell us what is not true! Most important, neither instrumental nor substantive Reason can ever tell us what is true! And the reason why substantive Reason cannot establish “truth” for us is that ultimately truth is a belief based on faith! By stating that “the aim of philosophy is nothing but truth”, Spinoza is clearly implying that whereas philosophy and reason can have “truth” as an “aim”, and possibly lead to it, the same cannot be said of faith. But this statement is manifestly false because (ironically and facetiously using logic as instrumental reason!) we have shown that philosophy itself must ultimately rely on faith if it is to seek the “truth” – any “truth” and every “truth”! Of course, faith also cannot establish or ascertain “truth” – and yet “truth” is certainly its “aim” – in total and blatant contradiction with Spinoza’s ill-conceived and sophistical contention here!
Just as he did when he inducted “natural rights” from the state of nature into the civil state by defining and assuming away all the evident contradictions contained in his political theory, so now Spinoza exasperatedly hopes that the vain repetition of a non sequitur will lead us – to follow him in this fantasy of separating substantive Reason from faith! Writes Spinoza: -
We have established it as absolutely certain that theology should not be subordinate to reason, nor reason to theology, but rather that each has its own domain. For reason, as we said, reigns over the domain of truth and wisdom, theology over that of piety and obedience. For the power of reason, as we have shown, cannot extend to ensuring that people may be happy by obedience alone without understanding things, while theology tells us nothing other than this and decrees nothing but obedience. Theology has no designs against reason, and cannot have any. For the dogmas of faith (as we showed in the previous chapter) determine only what is necessary for obedience, and leave it to reason to determine how precisely they are to be understood in relation to truth. Reason is the true light of the mind without which it discerns nothing but dreams and fantasies. (Spinoza, p.190)
But this is precisely the entire point! The crux of the contention! Neither substantive Reason nor instrumental reason can determine how precisely the dogmas or tenets of faith are to be understood in relation to truth! Neither substantive nor instrumental reason can ever establish any “truth” whatsoever except negatively in the case of instrumental reason – by showing that a given proposition or project is logically contradictory or practically counter-productive - or as an article of faith in the case of substantive Reason! Spinoza is seeking to reduce truth to the calculus of utility – which can be accomplished only by instrumental reason in a negative sense (in the sense of “this is untrue because it is contradictory and illogical”). But truth cannot be reduced or confined to instrumental reason because the meaning of truth requires the faith of substantive Reason and faith in substantive Reason! Hence, substantive Reason cannot possibly be disentangled from faith in its pursuit of truth. Spinoza confusedly argues that he has achieved just this when in fact he has merely separated instrumental (not substantive!) reason from faith – and therefore also what he calls “philosophy”, by which he intends the ambit of substantive Reason but in fact is only logic or instrumental reason, from theology!
The central political question then becomes for us (I am using the Hegelian distinction between being-in-itself and being-for-itself where the former is the inert world and the latter refers to human consciousness [Bewusst-sein], the “for us”) in Western civilisation to determine, first, on what rational bases we can ground this “faith in Reason and Freedom” that arises from the inter-subjectivity of “truth” – and thence what specific social institutional arrangements can best protect and enhance the Freedom entailed by out “faith of and in substantive Reason”.
 Hitherto our concern has been to separate philosophy from theology and to establish the freedom to philosophize which this separation allows to everyone. The time has now come to enquire how far this freedom to think and to say what one thinks extends in the best kind of state. To consider this in an orderly fashion, we must first discuss the foundations of the state but, before we do that, we must explain, without reference to the state and religion, the natural right (jus) which everyone possesses. (Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, p.195)
It is surely no historical coincidence that the rise of capitalism in the last five hundred years runs abreast with that of modern skepticism. (See R. Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza.) The rising European bourgeoisie needed to question and undermine religious faith to the extent that such faith posed a clear and imponent obstacle to the research and experimentation and the elimination of old customs and traditions required to facilitate the relentless advance of capitalist industrial production and distribution. The old faith of absolutist regimes needed to be substituted with a new “marketplace of ideas” in which the “citizens” of the new liberal nation-states based on parliamentary representation could argue, discuss, debate and above all else experiment to their hearts’ content, so long as the real marketplace of the economy, subject to the scientific “laws of the self-regulating market”, was left untouched by religious faith and other inhibitions and superstitions. (On all this, see our “Descartes’s World”.)
In effect, the bourgeoisie could homologate, on one side, the ideology of a technical-neutral economic science that could preserve scientifically the expanded reproduction of bourgeois society and, on the other side, the freedom of thought and of religious observance or faith by means of the corresponding political neutrality of the liberal State in the sphere of public opinion. This was then and remains to this day the essence of bourgeois liberalism – the belief that the technical scientificity of the capitalist marketplace can ensure the efficient reproduction of society – the Economics – on one side, and the freedom of thought, of faith, and even of speech in the public sphere – the Politics – with the homologation of these very heterogeneous spheres – one scientific, Economic, and the other eminently Political – guaranteed osmotically by the technical neutrality of the liberal State – the State of Law.
The secret to the enduring and universal prescriptions, appeal and legitimacy of Political Economy, from Smith to Mill and beyond to the Neoclassics, was all here. And it is precisely on this Political Economy homologating the scientific sphere of Economics with the Political one of public opinion (freedom of thought, of opinion, and of faith) that the liberal State was founded. The technical-neutral legitimacy of the liberal State was based precisely on its ability to secure the inflexible, authoritarian scientific operation of capitalist industry, on one hand, and the liberal tolerance of divergent and conflicting views, opinions, ideas and faiths in the political sphere. It was thus that the neat separation between economic base and ideological superstructure espoused and theorised even by the sharpest critics of bourgeois liberal society (not least Karl Marx and Marxism tout court) could triumph unhindered and unquestioned across the political spectrum from bourgeois conservatism to proletarian socialism. Tolerance in public opinion and absolute discipline in the factory: these were and are the unspoken foundations of liberal bourgeois society and of capitalist industry.
Spinoza’s earnest endeavor “to separate philosophy from theology” must be situated in this politico-ideological spectrum whereby the logico-scientific and instrumental reason of bourgeois industry and science could be freed from the strictures of religious faith and other social customs through the very skepticism that instrumental reason invokes to demolish all unproven and unscientific beliefs and customs. - And therefore, in Spinoza’s own symmetry, the separation of faith from reason is predicated on the skeptical tenet that Reason does not rely on or indeed contain any elements of faith – that the two are mutually exclusive. His is perhaps the most veiled summation of the bourgeois “scientific” skepticism that presents Reason as (a) almost exclusively instrumental reason (logical and mathematical calculation), and therefore (b) as a negative critical tool to be employed in the adjudication of open debate over opinions and beliefs, though not faith itself which, ex hypothesi, is entirely “separate” from and therefore incommensurable with reason itself. In this regard, Spinoza’s novel approach to Reason and faith is ultimately an attempt to promote tolerance in public debate by (i) removing faith from the public sphere, and (ii) reassuring the citizens of the new bourgeois republics in Holland and Britain that their State could act as a technico-neutral institution to guarantee freedom of thought and speech in a “marketplace of ideas” that could function only if the analogous and homologous real marketplace of capitalist production could be left to its own scientifically-established self-regulation. (On all this, the insuperable reference is K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation.)
In reality, however, this impassioned defence of the bourgeois economic marketplace and its political counterpart in the marketplace of opinions (public opinion) could not stand because faith and reason cannot be so neatly separated as Spinoza imagined. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive because the two are jointly exhaustive. Although instrumental reason is a pure faculty of thought as Wittgenstein showed (we may contradict ourselves in error, but we cannot entertain contradiction), this is certainly not true of substantive Reason. Because the “truth” that substantive Reason seeks to establish is a practical-ethical goal and, as such, it must entail the existence of a belief or faith in the desirability of truth. This is so because there cannot be any ultimate proof – logical or scientific or otherwise – of the desirability of Reason and truth. We are either on the side of these human faculties and goals or we are not. The choice is ours. Yet, this does not mean that we cannot or must desist from advancing overwhelming practical reasons behind our choice to follow Reason and truth, and ultimately to choose freedom. (We shall review the phenomenological grounding of our “faith in Reason” later.)
Thus, “the freedom to philosophize” is not “allowed by the separation of philosophy from theology” and therefore of reason from faith for two concomitant reasons. The first is that substantive Reason engenders and ultimately must be sustained by faith in itself. The second is that faith – blind faith especially – cannot be pure “piety and obedience” and thus it necessarily interferes with substantive Reason. In other words, Reason ultimately cannot and must not tolerate any faith other than faith in reason!
Just as Spinoza’s political theory retraces and in many ways re-proposes Hobbes’s own superbly coherent summation of the fundamental principles of bourgeois society and its underlying foundational ideology, so does his attempted separation of faith from reason reflect – faithfully! – the bourgeois conviction that the reasonable, indeed scientific, technical-neutral functioning of the capitalist economy is the indispensable condition for the existence of a free liberal society – evidently one that is able to separate the public “thing” - the wealth that is common in the “Common-wealth”, the res publica - from the freedom of faith and thought that the bourgeois economy and bourgeois liberalism jointly guarantee. There is an implicit belief in this ideology that the economic base of a society – its material reproduction - (a) can be insulated scientifically and technically (through the human faculty of instrumental reason) from the sphere of public opinion and subjective belief and faith; and (b) such insulation can guarantee the peaceful co-existence of any ideas, customs, beliefs and opinions that members of the society might entertain. The bourgeois ideology of liberalism is all here.
Note that this bourgeois-capitalist ideology – liberalism – does not countenance or envisage the active democratic participation of citizens in the constitution of the State. On the contrary, it assumes that the liberal State is “scientifically” or “naturally” constituted so that the citizens are not the active democratic decision-makers but instead are the passive recipients of “liberties” or “legal guarantees” on the part of this technically-neutral and scientifically constituted “natural” State – “natural” because it is the natural outgrowth of the natural rights and propensities of the individuals that have agreed contractually to found bourgeois civil society and the liberal State! Spinoza’s evident aim in the Tractatus is to draw the “reasonable” acquisition of the res publica, of bourgeois civil society and its State, from the “natural rights” pre-existing in “the state of nature”. In this respect, Spinoza’s political theory is closer to John Locke’s than it is to Thomas Hobbes’s.
It is entirely obvious that this type of “insulation” of economics from politics is homologous and analogous to the presumed separation of faith from reason and philosophy from theology that Spinoza attempts and claims to have demonstrated: the “freedom” – of opinion and faith – guaranteed by “the State of Law” of liberal society depends entirely on this separation! Spinoza assumes here that faith is a pure intense feeling of devotion to a Supreme Being that abstracts from, and voids itself of, any specific content that might concern human behavior – excluding, of course, the very action of focusing on this faith by sheer mental exertion. For Spinoza, faith consists of pure Piety and Obedience. For Spinoza, Reason, by contrast - although like faith it remains a pure mental process (a “tool”, just like instrumental reason or indeed economics for Schumpeter and Joan Robinson was “a box of tools”) that is entirely conceptual and therefore abstract and formal, that is, immaterial – , yet must be applied purely instrumentally to human activities to determine how and to what extent they are feasible.
But it is just as obvious, however, how untenable Spinoza’s proposition is. Faith always and inevitably, like any other thought, must have a material content, not least because it is a material thought process. (One may recall here Kant’s saying that “intuition without concepts is blind, and concepts without intuition are empty”. As we have sought to show in our discussion of Kant in “The Philosophy of the Flesh”, this is probably as close as Kant ever got to admitting that thoughts too are “material”. Heidegger’s anthropological existentialist reformulation of Kant’s idealism in the Kantbuch moves in a parallel direction to ours.) For Spinoza, faith can be without practical content – a pure dimension of thought; an ethereal intension, rather than a practical extension; whereas reason must have a practical extension or application, for otherwise it would not be “reason” at all – that is, both ratio and causa, both calculation of the relation between real material entities and causal link between them. For him faith is an abstract belief or emotion toward the Deity – it is pure “piety and obedience” – and can therefore be “empty” as well as “blind”. But piety toward whom or what, we ask? Worse still, Obedience to whose Will? By contrast, Reason is instead a formal faculty to connect real thoughts and entities: it cannot be “empty” because reason cannot ec-sist without the world; and it most certainly is not “blind” because its only purpose is to be applied to the world (cf. Kant’s notion of intuition).
Pure faith is “blind” when and because it is devoid of reason, not backed by practical experience. Reason cannot be co-extensive with faith because its goals must always be backed by evidence. Faith other than faith in Reason must be blind; Reason cannot be blind if it wishes to preserve itself. Reason must be concrete; faith cannot be so. Yet, empty faith is pointless! Blind faith is the contrary of “empty faith”: – indeed, it is so “blindly” fixed or fixated on its “points” – the object of faith - that there is no point in arguing against it! It is pointless to attempt to persuade blind faith from pursuing its “point”! The point of blind faith is that it cannot be disproven; it is implicit, total, blind – it is immune to reason and reasoning! (For a more sympathetic approach to faith, but one wholly consistent with ours here, see amongst others M. Cacciari, Della Cosa Ultima, p.127.) This point can be driven home if we begin to think of religious faith in terms of “religious observance” – that is, in terms of the specific conduct that religious faith inevitably prescribes or proscribes!
Reason itself is not immune to faith! Faith is inconfutable; in contrast, the conclusions of reason must be falsifiable! (Cf. Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, The Logic of Scientific Discovery.) Faith is the end of Reason – as the nec plus ultra or ultimate boundary or limit or terminus ad quem of Reason because no more questions can be asked, no more “reasons” can be given. Beyond Reason lies Fichte’s projectio per hiatus irrationalem. Faith is the unstated and unwitting, and perhaps unwanted aim of Reason, its Voll-endung, its con-clusion, its com-pletion, its satis-faction. For Reason not to debouch into faith, it needs to keep its quest end-less, abjuring and eschewing faith. For Reason to keep its integrity, it must renounce and revile all faith except in itself! But then, to do so, it must offer “reasons” – never step over into blind faith, into mysticism. To maintain its faith in itself, Reason must combat all other faiths as false gods. Reason can and must only tolerate itself – and no faith other than in itself! (Cf. the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no god other than me”.) Spinoza concludes: -
Thus, the purpose of the state [Respublica]… is freedom. Furthermore, we have seen that the one essential feature in the formation of the state was that all power to make laws should be vested in the entire citizen body, or in a number of citizens, or in one man. For since there is a considerable diversity in the free judgment of men, each believing that he alone knows best, and since it is impossible that all should think alike and speak with one voice, peaceful existence could not be achieved unless every man surrendered his right to act just as he thought fit. Thus, it was only the right to act as he thought fit that each man surrendered, and not his right to reason and judge. So while to act against the sovereign's decree is definitely an infringement of his right, this is not the case with thinking, judging, and consequently with speaking, too, provided one does no more than express or communicate one's opinion, defending it through rational conviction alone, not through deceit, anger, hatred, or the will to effect such changes in the state as he himself decides. (TTP, 293)
Spinoza’s aim is the co-existence of faith and reason (see quotation above). To secure this co-existence, he has to divorce faith from politics and leave politics to Reason. That is precisely the utopia of liberalism, of capitalist ideology: to separate the technical-neutral, scientific operation of the economy, the contractual society of self-interested individuals, from their opinions and beliefs and faiths. If indeed the reproduction of society (simple or expanded) can be secured scientifically through the optimal allocation of social resources by means of the market mechanism, then a similar operation can be achieved in the sphere of public opinion where the free exchange of ideas can lead to a contractual “meeting of the minds” or agreement between individuals such that they will reach a democratic consensus over the laws of the republic and its State. The underlying assumption here is that the market mechanism that governs the sphere of production and distribution of social wealth is (a) dependent on materialistic utilitarian motives from self-interested individuals, and (b) both these materialistic motives and the market mechanism regulating them are independent from and indeed impervious to other beliefs, motives, opinions and faiths that can be freely debated and decided upon in “the marketplace of public opinion”.
The reproduction of capitalist society is thus made to be dependent on technical-neutral objective scientific developments independent of “subjective” faiths and opinions, while these “life-style” choices can be debated democratically and be guaranteed constitutionally by the welfare-tutelary liberal State which serves as an osmotic barrier to ensure that the “subjective side” of faith and opinion does not interfere with the “objective side” of science, technology and economics that ensures the efficient reproduction of capitalist society. Here is Spinoza again:
 In order, then, for loyalty to be valued rather than flattery, and for sovereigns to retain their full authority and not be forced to surrender to sedition, freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions. We cannot doubt that this is the best way of ruling, and has the least disadvantages, since it is the one most in harmony with human nature. In a democratic state (which is the one closest to the state of nature), all men agree, as we showed above, to act but not to judge or think according to the common decision. That is, because people cannot all have the same opinions, they have agreed that the view which gains the most votes should acquire the force of a decision, reserving always the right to recall their decision whenever they should find a better course. The less people are accorded liberty of judgment, consequently, the further they are from the most natural condition and, hence, the more oppressive the regime.
The democratic state is “the one closest to the state of nature” because it preserves the utilitarian self-interest of individuals. But to that “utilitarian equilibrium” of possessive individualism, the democratic state advocated by Spinoza adds the security of the liberal State – the protection of “life, liberty, and estate” (John Locke, Two Treatises). Spinoza’s democratic state does not deliberate on the allocation of social resources, on the reproduction of society and the distribution of wealth. Instead, it is entirely confined to the sphere of opinion: -
…freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions. We cannot doubt that this is the best way of ruling, and has the least disadvantages, since it is the one most in harmony with human nature.
Once again, Spinoza’s supposition – his prejudicial assumption – is that the material interests of self-interested individuals in the state of nature are (a) natural and therefore (b) pre-determined and immutable except through abusive violence that the “security” of the State alone can protect and for which the individuals agree to erect the State in the first place! The role of the State, then, is that of securing the natural rights to possession that obtained in the state of nature, and to guarantee the freedom of thought of the newly-formed citizenry. As with Schopenhauer, the fundamental rationale of the State, of the res publica, is the salus publica: the State is Police! The seal of this “opinionistic” stance of Spinoza’s is the fact that the Tractatus is assuredly “political” – but it is above all theologico-political in the sense that its overriding aim is to regulate the relation between Reason as the formation of public opinion and Faith as the foundation of Religion! Spinoza’s only concern is the freedom of thought unburdened from the oppression of rulers and above all from religious interference.
Put bluntly, Spinoza’s aim in the Tractatus is to legitimize the bourgeois liberal State by (a) asserting the dependence of its reproductive economic base on pre-political “natural rights” ascertainable and defensible through “reason” (by which he intends “instrumental reason”) unencumbered by religious faith and other creeds, and (b) seeking to prove the conceptual and practical independence and separation of faith from reason so as to demonstrate the ability of the bourgeois liberal State to guarantee freedom of thought and speech. In other words, Spinoza is contending that faith is politically harmless because it does not interfere with the reasoning of a liberal bourgeois society – so long as those who observe their faith in liberal society stick to pure faith as piety and obedience! The circulus vitiosus, the tautological reasoning in Spinoza’s argument would be laughable if it did not come from such a genial mind! (Incidentally, it is obvious from our analysis that we side with Massimo Cacciari against Antonio Negri in their epic diatribe over the assessment of Spinoza’s political philosophy and theory of the State. Far from being a revolutionary democrat, as Negri contended, Spinoza here reveals himself as a proponent of the liberal bourgeois State, as Cacciari maintained.)
In a democratic state (which is the one closest to the state of nature), all men agree, as we showed above, to act but not to judge or think according to the common decision.
But judging and thinking are a form of acting – especially when they concern material interests! Once again, as he always does, Spinoza solves the problem of the democratic state and conflict of interest by defining or assuming the conflict away, by restricting it to the sphere of opinion as against action! No regard whatsoever is had by Spinoza for how and to what extent thoughts and words and associations are to be safeguarded or tolerated against the interests of the republic. Nor does he pay any attention to the “economic” question – to the production and distribution of social wealth, to the conflict of material interests that invariably is accompanied by seemingly “ideological” debates. This is sheer theoretical and practical folly because the “scientific” operation of the economic base can never be isolated from the opinions, beliefs, customs and, of course, the “faith” that Spinoza wishes to protect with his freedom of thought and action as well as of religious observance! In short, what Spinoza leaves out is the whole question of tolerance. As Balibar puts it,
The difficulty - and the interest - of the political theory set out in the TTP lies in the tension it creates between notions which are apparently incompatible and which are still perceived as such even today. This tension at first appears to stem from the attempt to transcend the ambiguities inherent in the idea of "tolerance". (Spinoza and Politics, p.25.)
(Balibar, in his Spinoza and Politics, carries out a spirited exegesis and justification of the Dutch philosopher’s many contradictory political notions – with the notable merit of at least identifying them and dutifully and meticulously pointing them out!)
“Transcend the ambiguities inherent in the idea of ‘tolerance’” – indeed! Spinoza merely ignores them by defining them away, by (a) defining true faith as a practice with no political content, and (b) by confining reason to instrumental reason, which allows (i) for the freedom of bourgeois public opinion, and (ii) the freedom of bourgeois commercial and scientific experimentation. (As we showed in “Descartes’s World”, commercial and industrial capitalist enterprise are inseparable in the history of capitalism.) The problem with Spinoza’s entire theorization of the free republic is that, on one hand, he defines problems away; and on the other hand, when the problems keep cropping up in reality, he simply says that they are not problems in any case because conflict simply makes the free republic freer!
It is quite surprising that Spinoza, the foremost proponent of the mos geometricus – the syllogistic argumentation so ably adopted in his Ethics – should fall into so many palpable contradictions, vicious circles, non sequiturs and tautologies! It is true that Spinoza developed his political theory in a much more systematic and deductive form in the late Tractatus Politicus (minus the theology, that is). The strict determinism and immanentism of the late Tractatus Politicus brings him much closer to the materialist mechanicism of Hobbes. Importantly, however, Spinoza moves away from the jusnaturalistic (natural right) possessive individualistic premises of the earlier Tractatus to a more collectivist immanentist position (one that we shall develop presently).
Still, when it comes to truly syllogistic or even Euclidean argumentation, one can do no better than to prefer the sublime consistency of Thomas Hobbes’s political theory whose materialism was far more scientifically based than Spinoza’s immanentism. It was to avoid the contradictions of liberalism, and therefore in full awareness of them, that Hobbes founded his bourgeois political theory on illiberal principles! In fact, it is not surprising that Spinoza’s later Tractatus too moves in this illiberal direction, out of sheer consistency.
Thus, it is not possible to separate faith from reason because faith inevitably points to a real material content, to a specific course of action – which inevitably and invariably attracts the critique of reason for “kingdoms not of this world” (Weber) that yet seek to interfere with life in this world! And therefrom erupts the clash, the conflict between blind faith and skeptical reason. Hence, by way of conclusion, we must return to the Spinoza quotation we already cited above, which is the fatidic point where he finally confronts the true crux of the problem in defining a free republic – “la questione spinosa”, we may wittily call it (the spiny issue):
Thus, the purpose of the state [Respublica]… is freedom. … For since there is a considerable diversity in the free judgment of men, each believing that he alone knows best, and since it is impossible that all should think alike and speak with one voice, peaceful existence could not be achieved unless every man surrendered his right to act just as he thought fit. Thus, it was only the right to act as he thought fit that each man surrendered, and not his right to reason and judge. So while to act against the sovereign's decree is definitely an infringement of his right, this is not the case with thinking, judging, and consequently with speaking, too, provided one does no more than express or communicate one's opinion, defending it through rational conviction alone, not through deceit, anger, hatred, or the will to effect such changes in the state as he himself decides. (TTP, 293)
As we have established, contrary to what Spinoza contends, “thinking, judging, and consequently…speaking” are forms of political action! (Hannah Arendt spent her entire lifetime trying to prove this essential point – see The Human Condition, above all.) In other words, this is worth emphasizing – the essential ingredient of a free republic is that decisions are made democratically when alternatives are deliberated upon “through rational conviction alone”! The next question for us to tackle is this, then: given that faith and substantive Reason are inseparable or, as we stated earlier, are “jointly exhaustive” and not “mutually exclusive”, how can we reasonably build a republic founded on our faith in Reason and freedom? And further, what are the rational foundations of such a faith? And once we have established this, how far can we tolerate views, opinions, ideas, creeds, faiths that challenge the very legitimacy and stability of a free republic founded on faith in Reason?