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A Political Treatise Research Papers

Research papers on Spinoza's A Political Treatise may focus on the philosophical work or Spinoza's overall themes within the treatise. The writers at Paper Masters will custom write a project on Spinoza or A Political Treatise for your philosophy course. Undergraduate research on famous works of philosophy are a specialty at Paper Masters.

In A Political Treatise, Benedict de Spinoza attempts to outline the merits of what he considers the three major forms of government:  

  1. Democratic
  2. Aristocratic
  3. Monarchical

His death precluded him from giving as much time and space to the democratic system as he devotes to the others, but the surviving text allows us to see what Spinoza thought were some of the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

The Democratic System

A Political Treatise

From Spinoza’s brief comments on democracy, we see how he began to distinguish it from aristocracy: The difference between this {democracy} and aristocracy consists…chiefly in this, that in an aristocracy it depends on the supreme council’s will and free choice only, that this or that man is made a patrician, so that no one has the right to vote or fill public offices by inheritances and that no one can by right demand this right…

The democratic system is, then, a more inclusive system.  Anyone has, by right, the privilege of voting or holding public office.  Spinoza argues that if by virtue of law, only those citizens who are male and who have attained a certain age are eligible to sit in a public seat, then it’s conceivable that the number of people in the democratic government would be smaller than that of the aristocratic system.  Democratic inclusiveness, he asserts, is not a function of the number of people in the system, but the accessibility of the system to the broadest segment of people.

Some of Spinoza’s contemporaries viewed this as an inferior aspect of democracy.  In the aristocracy, they claimed, only the best of the best were eligible for public service.  Spinoza, however, claims that nepotism in the aristocratic system levels it with the democratic system: For patricians will always think those the best, who are rich, or related to themselves in blood, or allied by friendship… indeed if… they were free from all passion, and guided by mere zeal for the public welfare in choosing their patrician colleagues, no dominion could be compared to aristocracy.

Women in Democracy

Little else – maybe a page – is said about democracy.  But Spinoza does, in this page, take up the question of whether women in democracy should be granted the right to vote and participate in the government.  Women and slaves, he says, are excluded from democratic systems because they are under the domains of “men and masters”. “But,” Spinoza continues, “perhaps, someone will ask whether women are under men’s authority by nature or institution?  For if it has been by mere institution, then we had no reason compelling us to exclude women from government”.  Spinoza proceeds to argue that women’s subordination is from nature.  Nowhere in history, he says, where men and women have lived together, have women ruled.  Indeed, he claims, men are unwilling to suffer a woman’s rule. You can assume that he doesn’t mention monarchies like Queen Elizabeth's because she wasn't elected.

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