Spinoza on Turning the Other Cheek

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Spinoza rejects ‘turning the other cheek’ where humans live in civic community, and denies that piety ever requires it under those circumstances. Yet he argues that Jeremiah and Jesus counsel it under the exceptional circumstances where civic community collapses, and one is exposed to oppression. Spinoza defends his view by appealing to the love command—one must love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. This chapter shows how turning the other cheek when one cannot count on others to do likewise can be rational on Spinoza’s terms and how he resolves the apparent tension of his claim that one must not turn the other cheek when one lives under the rule of civil law with his claims that hatred is always bad, and that anyone who ‘lives by the guidance of reason’ endeavors to ‘repay another’s hatred with love or nobility’.