Pieter Court, de la

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Court, de la
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Pieter de la Court was a Dutch economist and businessman, and the origin of the successful De la Court family. He pioneered modern thinking about the economic importance of free competition and was an uncompromising advocate of the republican form of government. Pieter de la Court was the pupil of Cartesian professor Adriaan Heereboord. Pieter was a textile merchant in Leiden. He moved to Amsterdam (1655) and lived at the ‘Fluwelen Burgwal’. See: NNBW, vol. 7, cols 335–7; Kernkamp, 1956; id., 1958 (correspondence), 1980; DDP, vol. 1, pp. 224–7; Weststeijn, 2012. For a study of the development and sources of De la Court’s political ideas and ‘popular’ state: Haitsma-Mulier, 1980, pp. 120–69; Nyden-Bullock, 1999.

De la Court's work was closely studied by Spinoza. Whether Spinoza and Pieter de la Court met each other is hard to tell and also not likely given the historical evidence available. Nevertheless, it is virtually certain that they at least knew of each other’s reputation and writings. Traces of any personal contacts or connections can be found neither in Pieter de la Court’s and in Spinoza’s fluid networks nor in their private correspondences (Kernkamp, 1956; cf. Kerkhoven and Blom, 1985). It is obvious, though, that the Leiden De la Court brothers, as well as the later political work by Franciscus van Enden, profoundly influenced Spinoza’s political philosophy. Their writings had a long-term impact on the development and formation of the early philosophical and social reasoning and Republican logic of the young philosopher. Their writings had a fundamental influence on Spinoza’s advocacy for the principle of civilian supremacy—aiming at guaranteeing long-lasting peace—and his perception of toleration, human freedom and rights in relation to the human passions and natural law (TP, ch. 1, § 7, G 3/276). It is also not very surprising that in Tractatus politicus (only first published in the posthumous works in 1677) Spinoza explicitly refers with much praise to works of ‘V.H.’ (De la Court brothers) (TP, ch. 8, § 31). 

From the inventory of the estate made after Spinoza’s death in 1677, it becomes evident that he studied the ground-breaking Republican ideas of the De la Courts profoundly. The legal document shows that he had at least copies of some of his treatises, but it is unknown when he read those books (Offenberg, Spinoza’s Library, pp. 318 and 320, resp. nos 35 and 90; Musschenga and Van Sluis, pp. 32 and 57–8). The inventory lists a copy of the second edition of Consideratien. Spinoza also had a collection of six lengthy essays with a preface (‘Voor-reeden. Aen den Leeser’) called Politike discoursen (Political Discourses), authored by Johan De la Court and published by his brother Pieter under their joint pen name ‘D.C.’ (Weststeijn, 2012, p. 53).


Alias: Van den Hooft, Van den Hove.


Johan Court, de la


Johan van der Voort


Willem Voort, van der


Adriaan Heereboord