All publications
  2017 - Scholarly publications
van Miert, Dirk, Touber, Jetze, Steenbakkers, Piet & Nellen, Henk (2017). Scriptural Authority and Biblical Criticism in the Dutch Golden Age - God’s Word Questioned. (400 p.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2016 - Scholarly publications
Steenbakkers, Piet (2016). Leo Polak over Spinoza. In Klaas van Berkel & Stefan van der Poel (Eds.), Nieuw licht op Leo Polak (1880-1941) - Filosoof van het vrije denken (pp. 37-56) (20 p.). Hilversum: Verloren.
  2016 - Popularising publications
Steenbakkers, Piet (2016). Spinoza, Beyond the Legends. In Paul Ziche (Eds.), Spinoza Research - To Be Continued (pp. 9-24) (16 p.). Voorschoten: Uitgeverij Spinozahuis.
  2015 - Professional publications
Steenbakkers, Piet (2015). Benedictus de Spinoza (1632–1677) - De samenleving als deel van de natuur. In Erik De Bom (Eds.), Een nieuwe wereld - Denkers uit de Nederlanden over politiek en maatschappij (1500–1700) (pp. 220–255, 297–301, 325–328) (50 p.). Antwerpen: Polis.
  2014 - Scholarly publications
Steenbakkers, Piet, van Bunge, Wiep, Krop, Henri & van de Ven, Jeroen (2014). The Bloomsbury Companion to Spinoza. (400 p.). London: Bloomsbury.
  2014 - Professional publications
Steenbakkers, Piet (2014). Das Wort Gottes und die wahre Religion - Das Fazit von Spinozas Bibelkritik (Kapitel 11–12). In Ottfried Höffe (Eds.), Baruch de Spinoza: Theologisch-politischer Traktat (pp. 127–137) (11 p.). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
Steenbakkers, Piet (2014). Human dignity in renaissance humanism. In Marcus Düwell, Jens Braarvig, Roger Brownsword & Dietmar Mieth (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (pp. 85-94) (10 p.). Cambridge University Press.
  2014 - Popularising publications
Steenbakkers, Piet, Borsboom, Anne & Woodward, Anne (2014). The Art of Nietzsche. Amsterdam: Gopher.
Steenbakkers, Piet (2014). Why Nietzsche wrote such good music. In Anne Borsboom, Anne Woodward & Piet Steenbakkers (Eds.), The Art of Nietzsche (pp. 58–69) (13 p.). Amsterdam: Gopher.
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Spinoza’s Web
01.03.2014 to 15.07.2017
General project description 

The Spinoza’s Web-project examines the life and work of the Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677), as well as the networks in which he participated. In the reception and assessment of his thought, scholars have always seen an indissoluble connection between his writings, character and reputation, and the course of  his life. Every era thus forms its own impression of Spinoza, and this image plays an important role—more than it does with other philosophers—in the way his thought is understood. This project seeks to develop tools for documenting Spinoza’s life, writings, and work as completely as possible, and will trace out the impact of his philosophy by mapping out the context in which his thought evolved. The project revolves around four research axes, each of which will produce its own output.

Sub-project 1: The Spinoza Web

The first sub-project seeks to assemble all the available documents and data pertaining to Spinoza and to make them available via an open-access website. The Spinoza Web will accommodate all the sources pertaining to Spinoza’s life, works, letters, correspondents, and networks. Much material has already been uncovered, but new, thorough and directed research will also be undertaken in various libraries and archives. Spinoza scholarship must confront several obstacles particular to it that result from the mystery in which much of his life is shrouded. Yet since both followers and opponents collected whatever writings they could get their hands on, new discoveries are from time to time unearthed in unexpected places. A prime example is the early manuscript of the Ethica recently discovered in the Vatican Library by Leen Spruit.

Sub-project 2: A Bibliography of Spinoza’s Works from 1663 to 1796

Spinoza’s works circulated in manuscript as well as printed form, and were both applauded and despised. They were also outlawed, and even before this formal censure was pronounced his ideas were already considered dangerous and therefore circulated clandestinely. The publication of his works was a risky business, and this had impact on their circulation: most appeared anonymously, with false titles and misleading publisher information. In order to document this aspect of the reception history, a second sub-project will produce an exhaustive description of all of Spinoza’s published works (including translations) that appeared in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The result will be A Bibliography of Spinoza’s Works from 1663 to 1796.

Sub-project 3: Van Velthuysen and his Circle

Spinoza formed an important part of the intellectual landscape of the last decades of the Dutch Golden Age, in which philosophy played a bigger role than is commonly assumed. Here the new philosophy of Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and the like found resonance. Spinoza’s philosophical ideas created a shockwave, also among those who gladly embraced the new philosophy. Even the Utrecht physician and philosopher Lambertus van Velthuysen, who was himself suspected of being a dangerous modernist, accused Spinoza of atheism. Van Velthuysen stood at the centre of a republican-Cartesian society called the ‘Collegie der Sçavanten’. This group included several university professors, and partly found its cohesion in the common enemy of the members, namely the formidable orthodox-Calvinist theologian Gisbertus Voetius. These Utrecht Cartesians were in touch with Spinoza, but also distanced themselves from him. Van Velthuysen played an important role in the development of the new philosophy in the Netherlands, and it is high time that his role, as well as the network in which he moved, are carefully documented. This is the goal of the third sub-project, entitled Van Velthuysen and his Circle.

Sub-project 4: Weaving the Web: The Development of Spinoza’s System

The fourth sub-project will seek to bring together the above lines of study in a synthetic overview of Spinoza’s philosophical development. Although his thought is highly systematic in nature, and although all the component parts bear a strong connection to each other, this coherence has proved to be difficult for later generations to grasp. As a result, his writings have at times been decried as either impenetrable or inconsistent, and it has been assumed that Spinoza continually tweaked his texts. On the basis of a careful study of the internal logic of Spinoza’s philosophical development, his interaction with his context, and the way in which his individual works were composed and transmitted, the sub-project Weaving the Web: The Development of Spinoza’s System will document the stages in the development of his thought, situated in its historical context.

A wider public

A remarkable aspect of Spinoza’s philosophy is the audience it has garnered for itself beyond philosophers alone. Scholars active in other disciplines have likewise found inspiration in his ideas, but also outside the academic setting there has been a remarkable amount of interest in Spinoza. This is evident, for example, in the sale of his works, the popular books and websites dedicated to Spinoza, and the societies devoted to the study of his thought. This is especially true in the Netherlands. The Spinoza’s Web-project will seek to offer research output of a high quality and with a thorough academic basis, but in more widely accessible forms. It is structured in such a way that the results will not only be of benefit to the academic community, but also reach the wider public with a general interest in Spinoza’s philosophy.


The project is scheduled to be carried out between March 2014 and July 2018 at the University of Utrecht. It is supervised by Piet Steenbakkers, senior lecturer in modern philosophy at the University of Utrecht, and the holder of the endowed Spinoza Studies-chair (Spinozahuis-society) at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Role Project Leader Funding
NWO grant: NWO, Humanities, Free competition
Project members UU

Completed projects

Biblical Criticism and Secularization in the Seventeenth Century 01.11.2009 to 30.04.2013
General project description


the seventeenth century, the dominant position of religion and church gradually
eroded under the influence of debates in which the sacrosanct status of the
Bible played an important role. Traditionally, this process has been explained
with reference to the rise of the sciences, in particular astronomy and
physics, which, from 1635 onwards, led to a worldview in which a divine power,
watching over human affairs, seemed superfluous. According to this
interpretation, the scientific revolution was accompanied by an even more
radical one in philosophy, which eventually paved the way for the



propose to address this complicated development, which may be described as a
process of secularization, from quite a different angle. We think there are
good reasons to postulate that this process of secularization was a gradual
change that started earlier and owed much to autonomous developments in the
field of classical philology. This ultimately caused an upheaval in the
received views of Bible, religion and church. The term ‘secularization’, then,
is here used in the specific sense of assigning a secular, non-sacred status to
the Bible, which in turn resulted in questioning the claims to truth upheld by
the established churches. Textual research caused the conviction that the Word
of God had been preserved in a single sacred source to give way to the
awareness of a complicated transmission in a plurality of (often heavily
corrupted) texts. This undermined the exclusive Christian claim to salvation.



will examine our hypothesis by exploring the activities of Dutch scholars,
preachers and pamphleteers in the period from 1575 to 1725. The geographical
concentration on the Netherlands, and especially Holland, is intentional: Dutch
scholarship was profoundly engaged in Bible study, Holland was the centre of
the book trade in that period, and the public debates in the Netherlands were
to be a hotbed for ‘enlightened’ ideas. Our inquiry will study in detail the
contributions made by luminaries such as Hugo Grotius, Isaac Vossius, Isaac de
La Peyrère, Benedictus de Spinoza, Pierre Bayle and Jean Le Clerc. Analysing
tracts, pamphlets and collections of letters, both in Latin and in the
vernacular, we will trace how an originally academic debate gradually broadened
into a maelstrom of public controversy.

Role Researcher Funding
NWO grant
Project members UU
External project members:
  • prof. dr H. Nellen (Huygens ING; EUR)
  • dr D. van Miert (Huygens ING)
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Additional functions and activities

SInce November 2004 holder of the Chair of Spinoza Studies in Erasmus University Rotterdam, endowed by the Society Het Spinozahuis.

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Full name
prof. dr. P.M.L. Steenbakkers Contact details
Janskerkhof 13

Janskerkhof 13
Room 1.16A
The Netherlands

Phone number (department) +31 30 253 1794
Janskerkhof 13

Janskerkhof 13
Room -
The Netherlands

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Last updated 28.03.2017