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Abstract

One of the aims of Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is to vindicate the view that philosophy and theology are separate forms of enquiry, neither of which has any authority over the other. However, many commentators have objected that this aspect of his project fails. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Spinoza implicitly gives epistemological precedence to philosophy. I argue that this objection misunderstands the nature of Spinoza's position and wrongly charges him with inconsistency. To show how he can coherently allow both that theology and philosophy employ independent epistemological standards, and that philosophy is epistemologically superior to theology, we need to step back from the immediate disputes to which the Tractatus is a response and examine a Ciceronian distinction on which Spinoza indirectly draws. As well as enabling us to vindicate Spinoza's position, it places his alleged naturalism in a new light and portrays philosophizing as a form of piety.