"To sin with Reason"Spinoza’s Moral Atheism in the German Early Enlightenment

Abstract

The essay strives to present three different readings in Spinoza’s Ethics, written during the German Early Enlightenment – Christian Kortholt’s De Tribus Impostoribus Magnis Liber (1680), Johann Georg Wachter’s Der Spinozismus im Jüdenthumb (1699), and Johann Joachim Weidener’s Hominem Spinozæ (1719). These essays, which in my opinion constitute a truthful representation of the attitude toward Spinoza in the German Early Enlightenment, condemn Spinoza’s ethical system through an elaborate refutation of his ontological thought. As I would like to show, the criticism against Spinoza’s ethical system rests not on a negation of moral principles in his thought, but rather on the conviction that Spinoza harbors a distorted notion of morality. This morality is best defined as ‘moral atheism’, which corresponds to Spinoza’s atheistic determinism.

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