Spinoza on Free Speech

20 June 2024

In this workshop, Spinoza-experts from the Netherlands and abroad will turn to one of the classic defenders of the freedom of speech, Benedict Spinoza. 

Foto: Portrait of Benedictus de Spinoza, Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons

His defense is frequently associated with liberalism and an ideal of individual human flourishing unconstrained by tradition. A strong case, however, can also be made for a republican reading which links Spinoza’s account of free speech to the development of the common good. Free speech, in this reading, is essential for the development of sound, self-prescribed laws, which, in turn, underscore the collective effort to become a freer, more rational people.

The focus of this workshop is on the nature of Spinoza’s concept of the freedom of speech (libertas loquendi) and its place in his political and ethical projects. In addition, we will consider the present-day value and potential of Spinoza’s concept of free speech (including the limits to such potential). Can Spinoza still offer some form of guidance for public debate in the complex, pluralistic, often struggling democracies of our 21st century?


  • Henri Krop (Erasmus University Rotterdam): “Libertas philosophandi: Spinoza’s transformation of academic freedom into a political device”
  • Steph Marston (Birkbeck College): “Cultivating potentia: The systemic significance of freedom to speak in Spinoza’s TTP”
  • Justin Steinberg (Brooklyn College): “Spinoza on seditious speech”
  • Dan Taylor (The Open University): “Why do unfree republics prosper?”


Date: June, 20, 2024
Time: 9.30 - 17.30 H
Venue: PThU, Filmzaal, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam


You can register by sending an email to r.bijlsma@pthu.nl. Registration closes on 13 June.