for their inner thoughts which alone could o¡end), then an example is made of
honest men which is viewed rather as martyrdom [than justi¢ed punishment].
This antagonizes rather than frightens people, and moves them to compas-
sion, or even incites them to take revenge. Finally, upright dealing and trust
are undermined, £atterers and traitors are encouraged, and the foes [of those
with dissenting views] triumph, since their indignation has been surrendered
to: they have turned the sovereign powers into adherents of their dogmas of
which they are recognized as the interpreters. As a consequence, they dare
usurp the authority and right of the high o⁄cers of the state and are not
ashamed to boast that they have been directly appointed by God and that
their own decrees are divine whereas those of the sovereign authorities are
merely human ones and, accordingly, they then require that sovereigns should
defer to these divine ^ that is to say to their own ^ decrees. No one can fail to
see that all this is utterly destructive of the common good of the republic.
17] For this reason we reach the same conclusion here as we did above,
, that the state is never safer than when piety and religion are
taken to consist solely in the practice of charity and justice, when the right
of the sovereign authorities, whether in sacred or secular matters, is con-
cerned only with actions, and when everyone is allowed to think what they
wish and to say what they think.
18] This completes what I proposed to discuss in this treatise. It
remains only to say explicitly that I have written nothing in it that
I would not very willingly submit to the examination and judgment of
the sovereign authorities
of my own country. If they judge that anything
I have said here con£icts with the laws of the land or is prejudicial to the
common good, I wish it unsaid. I know that I am human and may have
erred. However, I have taken great pains not to err, and to ensure above
all that whatever I have written should be entirely consistent with the
laws of the land, with piety, and with morality.
‘Sovereign authorities’ means here the States General of the United Provinces together with the
States of Holland, which formally held sovereignty and legal jurisdiction over all of Spinoza’s
places of residence (Amsterdam, Rijnsburg, Voorburg and The Hague).
A free state
Annotations: Spinoza’s supplementary
notes to theTheological-Political Treatise
In the years after the publication of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,
Spinoza gradually added a number of supplementary notes in the
margins of his own personal copy which we know he wished to see
added to the published version. ‘I should like you’, he wrote to Henry
Oldenburg, in September
1675,‘to point out to me the passages in the
Tractatus Theologio-Politicus which have proved a stumbling-block to
learned men. For I want to clarify this treatise with some additional
notes and, if possible remove the prejudices which have been conceived
The copy furnished with these Adnotationes was sent from
The Hague to his publisher, Jan Rieuwertsz, in Amsterdam, after
Spinoza’s death, in
1677, along with the rest of his manuscripts and
papers. Although this original version subsequently disappeared with-
out trace, most of the notes appeared in the French version of the
1678, while the remainder, and nearly all those previously
known only in the French version, were rediscovered in modern times.
They were found, in their Latin versions, as hand-written explanatory
notes on various manuscripts and printed copies of the book. The
fullest version, a list of
36 Latin Adnotationes compiled by Prosper
1675^1756), survives today in a manuscript kept in the
Leiden University Library. However, there remains a certain amount of
disagreement among scholars as to whether all or only most of these
notes were actually written by Spinoza himself.
Spinoza, The Letters,
322; see also Fokke Akkerman, ‘Aantekeningen’ to Spinoza, Theologisch-
Politiek Traktaat (ed.) F. Akkerman (Amsterdam,
1997), p. 438.
[C hapte r
1: (p. 13) ‘nabi’: If the third root letter of a word, in Hebrew, is
one of those called ‘quiescent’, it is normally omitted, and instead the
second letter of the stem is reduplicated. Thus from khilah, omitting the
´, we get khole´l and hence khol, and from nibah we get nobe´b,
and thence nib sepataim,‘utterance’ or ‘speech’. Similarly, from baza we get
bazaz or buz (shagag, shug, misge
´h come from shagah; hamam from hamah;
belial, balal from balah). Rabbi Solomon Jarghi [Rashi] has therefore
interpreted this term nabi very well, and is wrongly criticized by Ibn
Ezra, who does not have quite so perfect a knowledge of Hebrew. Note
also that the noun nebuah (‘prophecy’) is a general term which includes
every kind of prophecy, while other words are more restricted and refer
to a particular kind of prophecy, as I believe is well-known to scholars.
2: (p. 14) ‘its practitioners cannot be called prophets’:That is
to say, interpreters of God. For an interpreter of God is someone who
interprets the decrees of God
to others to whom these have not been
revealed and who, in accepting them, are relying solely on the authority of
the prophet and the credit which he enjoys. However, if those who listen to
prophets became prophets in the same way as those who listen to philo-
sophers become philosophers, a prophet would then not be an interpreter
of divine decrees, since his hearers would be relying not on the testimony
and authority of the prophet but on the actual
revelation and internal
testimony just as the prophet does. In the same way, sovereign authorities
are the interpreters of the law of their state, because the laws which they
make are upheld exclusively by the authority of the sovereigns themselves
and rely upon their testimony alone.
3 (p. 25) ‘that the prophets
had a unique and extraordinary
virtue’: although some men have certain abilities that nature does not
bestow on others, we do not say that they surpass human nature unless the
capacities they uniquely possess are such that these cannot be understood
from the de¢nition of human nature. Gigantic size, for instance, is
uncommon but it is still human; likewise, very few people possess the gift
of composing poems extempore but this too is nevertheless human;
‘Since they do not suggest anything else’ [in Dutch].
‘That have been revealed to him’.
‘Divine’ [in French].
‘And there are some who do it easily’ [in French].