Passages confirming Marx's respect for Spinoza, from a search for Spinoza's 
name at

Marx's Notebooks on Epicurean Philosophy 1839 6th Notebook

On the one hand, one could accept Baur's pronouncement that no philosophy 
of antiquity bears so much the character of religion as the Platonic. But 
it would only mean that no philosopher had taught philosophy with more 
religious inspiration, that to no one philosophy had to a greater extent 
the determination and the form, as it were, of a religious cult. With the 
more intensive philosophers, such as Aristotle, Spinoza, Hegel, their 
attitude itself had a more general form, less steeped in empirical feeling.

Marx Doctoral Dissertation 1841

Spinoza says that ignorance is no argument. [Spinoza, Ethics, Part I, Prop. 
36, Appendix] If one was to delete the passages in the ancients which he 
does not understand, how quickly would we have a tabula rasa!

Rheinische Zeitung  July  1842.

Machiavelli and Campanella, and later Hobbes, Spinoza, Hugo Grotius, right 
down to Rousseau, Fichte and Hegel, began to regard the state through human 
eyes and to deduce its natural laws from reason and experience, and not 
from theology.

German Ideology Chapter 3 1846

"Stirner" now has to introduce an empirical definition of right, which he 
can ascribe to the individual, i.e., he has to recognise something else in 
right besides holiness. In this connection, he could have spared himself 
all his clumsy machinations, since, starting with Machiavelli, Hobbes, 
Spinoza, Bodinus and others of modern times, not to mention earlier ones, 
might has been represented as the basis of right.


Steuart remained even more of "a dead dog" than Spinoza appeared to be to 
Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing's time.

Capital Vol 1 1867 Footnote to Chapter 24 Section 3

He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the 
Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic. It has never occurred 
to the vulgar economist to make the simple reftexion, that every human 
action may be viewed, as "abstinence" from its opposite. Eating is 
abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, 
abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &C. These 
gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a way, over Spinoza's: 
"Determinatio est Negatio."

1873 Afterword to the Second German edition of Capital: in the course of 
defiantly paying his intellectual dues to Hegel, Marx repeats his earlier 
formula about the ridiculousness of calling Spinoza a dead dog:

The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years 
ago, at a time when it was still the fashion. But just as I was working at 
the first volume of "Das Kapital," it was the good pleasure of the peevish, 
arrogant, mediocre 'Epigonoi who now talk large in cultured Germany, to 
treat Hegel in same way as the brave Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing's time 
treated Spinoza, i.e., as a "dead dog." I therefore openly avowed myself 
the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even here and there, in the chapter 
on the theory of value, coquetted with the modes of expression peculiar to him.

I have not attempted more explicit quotations from Engels, which exist in 

Michael Hardt's comment about Marx and Spinoza was that Spinoza was a 
communist before Marx.

Rather than "How Marxist was Spinoza?" which makes Marxism a standard of 
truth, the question might be better posed as "How Spinozist was Marx?"

So far these quotes show that Marx respected Spinoza.

Having now read Stuart Hampshire's "Spinoza - An Introduction to his 
Philosophical Thought", I am going to risk a few comments, and ask for 
corrections of emphasis or accuracy from others.

Following his rediscovery by the German Romantics, Spinoza was understood 
in his philosophy to advocate a sort of pantheism in which God was 
synonymous with nature. However that was in a materialist sense. In his 
struggle to distance himself from Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism, 
Spinoza focussed his philosphical approach on a fundamental metaphysical 
comprehensive statement about the universe. This has the merit of avoiding 
empricist approaches to scientific inquiry. I suggest it is much more akin 
to Marx's comprehensive approach to data, than that of the English speaking 

Spinoza emphasised the interconnections of all things, which is very much a 
feature of dialectics. He also doubted the permanence of what we would 
normally call things, another feature, although he did not talk of 

His approach was a metaphysical approach inspired by the ideal of 
mathematics. Although like Marx, he had a relative theory of knowledge, of 
an ascent from limited to more complete knowledge, his metaphysical model 
had no place for time. Spinoza was clearly influenced by the development of 
philosophical thought, but according to Hampshire had no sense of human 
society being shaped and altered by history. Thus he could not be a 
forerunner of ideas of historical materialism.

Spinoza was rigorous enough to avoid the great philosophical compromise 
between religion and scientific experimentation: that God created the 
universe at the beginning, and scientists merely discover the objective 
workings of that universe. Spinoza ruled out an act of initial creation. 
Therefore if change were to come about, that would have to be through 
developments in the eternally pulsating nature of reality itself. I would 
suggest that his mathematical, timeless model actually prepares the ground 
for such a theoretical development, which was superior to the compromise of 
the Deists and their predecessors.

Although Spinoza is an important and progressive contributor to ideas of 
bourgeois right, he interprets right as virtually synonymous with power. 
Therefore he has a materialist approach to the struggle of interests that 
make up the state. He also assumes that all humans have some power.

However he sees no historical progressive role for a working class, and has 
an ambivalent attitude to the multitude. But perhaps Marx's ideas about 
classes were more complex than some of his followers imply.

Spinoza's ontology is consistent with a universe made up of layered 
semi-permanent units, in conformity with modern complexity theory. So IMHO 
is Marx's perspective.

A fine human being, who was ahead of his time in seeing the implications of 
bourgeois society at its best. But despite the fact that he had no sense of 
historical development, still less of historical materialism, he was also 
very much a product of his historical era.

Chris Burford


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