Baruch Spinoza, later Benedict de Spinoza

Baruch
Spinoza, later Benedict de Spinoza
1633
1677

Dutch Philosopher of Portuguese Jewish Origin

Author Quotes

When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in Him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes. I am not astonished; for I believe that, if a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular. Thus each would ascribe to God its own attributes, would assume itself to be like God, and look on everything else as ill-shaped. The briefness of a letter and want of time do not allow me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, or the questions you have propounded. Besides, suggesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. That we do many things in the world from conjecture is true, but that our redactions are based on conjecture is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth. A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him. But in philosophic reflection this is not so. On the contrary, we must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow. Again, we cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain; for there have been many persons so enamored of contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms.

When, the prophets, in speaking of this election which regards only true virtue, mixed up much concerning sacrifices and ceremonies, and the rebuilding of the temple and city, they wished by such figurative expressions, after the manner and nature of prophecy, to expound matters spiritual, so as at the same time to show to the Jews, whose prophets they were, the true restoration of the state and of the temple to be expected about the time of Cyrus.

When, therefore, we said we venerate a man, through wonder at his prudence, fortitude, etc., we do so, because we conceive those qualities to be peculiar to him, and not as common to our nature; we, therefore, no more envy their possessor, than we envy trees for being tall, or lions for being courageous.

Will and Intellect are one and the same thing.

With regard to marriage, it is plain that it is in accordance with reason, if the desire of connection is engendered not merely by external form, but by a love of begetting children and wisely educating them; and if, in addition, the love both of the husband and wife has for its cause not external form merely, but chiefly liberty of mind.

Yet minds are not conquered by force, but by love and high-mindedness.

You seem to wish to employ reason, and ask me, How I know that my philosophy is the best among all that have ever been taught in the world, or are being taught, or ever will be taught? a question which I might with much greater right ask you; for I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy. If you ask in what way I know it, I answer: In the same way as you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient, will be denied by no one whose brain is sound, and who does not go dreaming of evil spirits inspiring us with false ideas like the true. For the truth is the index of itself and of what is false. But you, who presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men, on whom you have pinned your credulity, you, who know that they are the best among all who have taught, do now teach, or shall in future teach other religions. Have you examined all religions, ancient as well as modern, taught here and in India and everywhere throughout the world? And, if you, have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best since you can give no reason for the faith that is in you? But you will say, that you acquiesce in the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the rest of mankind are ensnared and deceived by the prince of evil spirits. But all those outside the pale of the Romish Church can with equal right proclaim of their own creed what you proclaim of yours.

When we mistakenly fear an evil, the fear vanishes when we hear the true tidings; but the contrary also happens, namely, that we fear an evil which will certainly come, and our fear vanishes when we hear false tidings; thus imaginations do not vanish at the presence of the truth, in virtue of its being true, but because other imaginations, stronger than the first, supervene and exclude the present existence of that which we imagined.

The multitude understand by the power of God the free will of God, and the right over all things that exist, which latter are accordingly generally considered as contingent. For it is said that God has the power to destroy all things, and to reduce them to nothing. But... God acts by the same necessity, as that by which he understands himself. ...so also does it follow by the same necessity that God performs infinite acts in infinite ways. ...God's power is identical with God's essence in action; therefore it is as impossible for us to conceive of God as not acting, as to conceive of him as non-existent. ...the power which is commonly attributed to God is not only human (as showing that God is conceived by the multitude as a man, or in the likeness of a man), but involves the negation of power. ...No one will be able to follow my meaning, unless he is scrupulously careful not to confound the power of God with the human power and right of kings.

There is in the mind no volition or affirmation and negation, save that which an idea, inasmuch as it is an idea, involves.

This hatred towards an object of love joined with envy is called Jealousy.

Thus we see, the mind can undergo many changes, and can pass sometimes to a state of greater perfection, sometimes to a state of lesser perfection. These passive states of transition explain to us the emotions of pleasure and pain. By pleasure therefore in the following propositions I shall signify a passive state wherein the mind passes to greater perfection. By pain I shall signify a passive state whereby the mind passes to a lesser perfection. Further, the emotion of pleasure in reference to the body and mind together I shall call stimulation (titillatio) or merriment (hilaritus), the emotion of pain in the same relation I shall call suffering or melancholy. But we must bear in mind, that stimulation and suffering are attributed to man, when one part of his nature is more affected than the rest, merriment and melancholy, when all parts are alike affected. What I mean by desire I have explained in Proposition 9 of this part; beyond these three I recognize no other primary emotion; I will show as I proceed, that all other emotions arise from these three.

We do not desire a thing because we adjudge it to be good, but, on the contrary, we call it good because we desire it, and consequently everything to which we are averse we call evil. Each person, therefore, according to his affect judges or estimates what is good and what is evil, what is better and what is worse, and what is the best and what is the worst. Thus the covetous man thinks plenty of money to be the best thing and poverty the worst.

Whatever comes about, since it is made by God, must therefore be necessarily predetermined by Him, because otherwise He would be changing, which in Him would be a great imperfection… We thereby deny that God can omit to do what He actually does.

The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.

There is no fear without some hope, and no hope without some fear.

This imitation of emotions, when it is referred to pain, is called compassion; when it is referred to desire, it is called emulation, which is nothing else but the desire of anything, engendered in us by the fact that we conceive that others have the like desire.

To act absolutely in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting according to the laws of our own proper nature. But only in so far as we understand do we act. Therefore, to act in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting, living, and preserving our being as reason directs, and doing so from the ground of seeking our own profit.

We endeavor to affirm, concerning ourselves, and concerning what we love, everything that we conceive to affect pleasurably ourselves, or the loved object. Contrariwise, we endeavor to negative everything, which we conceive to affect painfully ourselves or the loved object.

Whatsoever can be perceived by the infinite intellect as constituting the essence of substance, belongs altogether only to one substance: consequently, substance thinking and substance extended are one and the same substance, comprehended now through one attribute, now through another. So, also, a mode of extension and the idea of that mode are one and the same thing, though expressed in two ways. This truth seems to have been dimly recognized by those Jews who maintained that God, God's intellect, and the things understood by God are identical. ...Thus, whether we conceive of nature under the attribute of thought, or under any other attribute, we shall find the same order, or one and the same chain of causes — that is, the same things follow in either case. ...Wherefore of things as they are of themselves, God is really the cause, inasmuch as he consists of infinite attributes.

The object of the idea constituting the human mind is the body, in other words a certain mode of extension which actually exists, and nothing else.

There is no free will in the human mind: it is moved to this or that volition by some cause, and that cause has been determined by some other cause, and so on infinitely.

This is the end I aim at: to acquire knowledge of the union of mind with the whole of nature... To do this it is necessary first to understand as much of nature as suffices for acquiring such knowledge, and second to form a society of the kind which permits as many as possible to acquire such knowledge. Third, attention must be paid to moral philosophy... Fourthly, because health is no small means to achieving this end, the whole of medicine must be worked out. And fifthly... because it is possible to gain more free time and convenience in life, mechanics is in no way to be despised.

To act absolutely in obedience to virtue is in us the same thing as to act, to live, or to preserve one's being (these three terms are identical in meaning) in accordance with the dictates of reason on the basis of seeking what is useful to one's self.

We endeavor to affirm, concerning that which we hate, everything which we conceive to affect it painfully; and contrariwise, we endeavor to deny, concerning it, everything which we conceive to affect it pleasurably.

Author Picture
First Name
Baruch
Last Name
Spinoza, later Benedict de Spinoza
Birth Date
1633
Death Date
1677
Bio

Dutch Philosopher of Portuguese Jewish Origin