1670: Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus

Baruch Spinoza c. 1665 (Public Domain)


In 1670, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza publishes his controversial Tractatus theologico-politicus anonymously. The book argues for libertas philosophandi – the “freedom to philosophize” – and reads the Bible with a critical eye.


“In a Free Commonwealth it should be lawful for every Man to think what he will, and speak what he thinks”
– Baruch Spinoza: Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670)

The book is too controversial, even for the tolerant Dutch. Spinoza’s patron Jan de Witt is assassinated in 1672. The same year, a viral anonymous pamphlet calls the Tractatus a “book forged in hell by the renegade Jew together with the Devil”.