This article investigates the contribution of Spinoza and some authors of his circle (Antistius Constans, Van den Enden and Koerbagh) on the modern conception of tolerance. In his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670), Spinoza launches the libertas philosophandi-question integrating two kinds of freedom between which there is a tension: freedom of thought and speech and freedom of religious conscience. As freedom means living and acting in society in light of one’s own interests, tolerance becomes a political issue that depends from political perspectives and priorities. This insight leads Spinoza to bringing together the control of political authority on religious affairs and a political regime of religious plurality and toleration. These ideas seem to be reminiscent of texts published in his immediate circle: the anonymus De jure ecclesiasticorum (1665); the political pamphlets Kort verhael (1662) and Vrye Politijke Stellingen (1665) of his teacher Van den Enden; the subversive dictionary Een Bloemhof (1668) and the systematic philosophical Een Ligt (1668) of Koerbagh. In these texts the question of religion and religious authority shifts to the question of the nature and origin of political authority. The authors all criticize the abuse of power in light of the idea that there is no freedom without equality and no equality without freedom. Together with Spinoza’s Tractatus politicus (1677), they thereby form an anomaly within the anomaly of the Calvinist Low Countries that regards specifically this radical democratic view. They are not so much talking about tolerance but about everyone’s active participation in political life which is necessary for the rescue of the republic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalRoczniki Filozoficzne
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Spinoza
  • democracy of the multitude
  • tolerance
  • Spinoza’s circle
  • Antistius Constans
  • Van den Enden
  • Koerbagh
  • libertas philosophandi
  • freedom of thought and speech


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