From Radical Materialist to Idealist: The History of Spinozism in the Netherlands


Henri Krop, Spinoza, een paradoxale icoon van Nederand (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2014), ISBN: 978 90 351 38711, 821 pp.


Henri Krop, the author of this impressive monograph, declares that he himself is ‘not a Spinozist’. Consequentially, anyone looking for an essentialist interpretation of Spinoza’s work should look elsewhere. Written in a contextualist manner, Krop’s work is a history of the way in which very different Dutch thinkers interpreted Spinoza’s work in the context of the intellectual climate of their own time. Thus, the almost 800 pages of this book offer a thorough reception history as well as an insightful exploration of the intellectual depth of Spinoza’s body of thought itself.
Due to its vast subject matter the focus is, understandably, solely on the impact of Spinoza on the Netherlands. The work is also a history of ideas in the classical sense of the word. The author pays some attention to socio-economic and -cultural developments, but philosophy and theology are its main concerns.
Krop discerns four different periods in the history of Dutch Spinozism. In each of these distinctly different aspects of Spinoza’s thought emerged. The first period starts with the publication of the Tractatus Theologico Politicus in 1670 and ends in 1720. The stormy reception of Spinoza’s views is described in the light of the raging debates between scholastics, Cartesians, orthodox Protestants and spiritualists. Krop notices that even between alleged Spinozists convictions differed widely. Moreover, most of the outrage was directed at the Tractatus Theologico Politicus and the first chapters of Spinoza’s Ethics – in which he elaborated on his monism. The rest of the Ethics and his political views were largely neglected by his opponents. In light of the increased interest in the Dutch Radical Enlightenment among scholars of history and philosophy, these chapters might be the most relevant to an international audience. Krop’s cautious account is a refreshing addition to more sensationalist versions provided by scholars such as Jonathan Israel and Steven Nadler.

Read more