Volume 7, 2000
Castellio vs. Spinoza on Religious Toleration
The central thesis of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise is that the state not only can permit freedom of philosophizing without endangering piety or the public peace, but that it must do so if it is not to destroy piety and the public peace. Spinoza’s argument is not limited to religious toleration, but is an argument for freedom of philosophizing generally. Nevertheless, freedom of philosophizing in religion is the central case. In making such an argument, he contributed greatly toward the transformation of Western culture with respect to toleration and religious liberty. As an historian, I want to understand how this transformation came about and what role Spinoza played in it. As a philosopher, I also want to know whether any of the arguments philosophers made in favor of religious toleration deserved to be effective in bringing about this transformation.