Infomotions, Inc.Improvement of the understanding, Ethics and Correspondence / translated from the Latin by R. H. M. Elwes. / Spinoza, Benedictus de, 1632-1677




Author: Spinoza, Benedictus de, 1632-1677
Title: Improvement of the understanding, Ethics and Correspondence / translated from the Latin by R. H. M. Elwes.
Publisher: Washington ; New York : Dunne, [1901].
Tag(s): prop; spinoza; essence; god; infinite; emotions; necessarily; proof; emotion
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Identifier: understandingeth00spinuoft
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IMPROVEMENT OFTHE UNDERSTAND 
ING,ETHICS AND CORRESPONDENCE 










OF 



BENEDICT DE SPINOZA 



TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN BY 

R. H. M. EL WES 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

FRANK SEWALL, A. M. 






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WASHINGTON & LONDON 

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COPYRIGHT, 1901, 

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PUBLISHER 



INTRODUCTION vii 

afterwards fulfilled, availed to prevent; and with awful 
maledictions he was excommunicated for his (< frightful 
heresies. w These consisted mainly in a critique of the 
Holy Scriptures very much in the line of the Higher 
Criticism of Christian Scholars of to-day, but conducted 
in a more devout and even in a more rational spirit 
than that which characterizes much of what now passes 
as quite orthodox. With his Judaism he renounced his 
name, Baruch, and assumed the Latin equivalent in call 
ing himself Benedictus de Spinoza. Although entering 
practically into the ranks of Christian philosophers, he 
never received Christian baptism, and the elements of 
mysticism and suggestions here and there in his system 
of the <( Talmud " and the (< Cabbala, with glimpses of the 
neo-Platonism of Philo and Plotinus make us aware of an 
attitude of thought and reflection distinctly different 
from that of his Christian contemporaries. 

Practically banished from Amsterdam, where he was 
even threatened with assassination, Spinoza lived in 
several obscure villages and towns of Holland in scholarly 
retirement, enjoying the fellowship of a few devoted 
friends and disciples until his final settlement in The 
Hague in 1671, in which city he died in 1677. The 
publication of his u Theological Political Treatise in which 
he pleads for freedom of thought both in civil and 
religious matters as essential to the well being of both 
the Church and State, brought him into such disfavor 
with the authorities, it being placed in the Index by 
Rome and its publication forbidden by the States Gen 
eral, that the book could only be circulated under a 
false title and many of his friends assumed an attitude 
of cold reserve or open criticism. Among these was the 
English Scholar, Oldenburg, the first Secretary of the 
Royal Society of England, who nevertheless continued 
in correspondence with him and, being a friend of Robert 
Boyle, the chemist, kept Spinoza informed of the progress 
of science in England. Meanwhile in The Hague, sup 
porting himself in the humble vocation of a grinder 
of lenses and living in the greatest simplicity in the 
family of a poor painter, Van der Spijk, Spinoza was 



viii SPINOZA 

constructing- and revising the work with which his 
fame is chiefly associated but which was not published 
until immediately after his death, the <( Ethics. w 

Spinoza s earliest work was his <( Principles of the Car 
tesian Philosophy together with Cogitata Metaphisica, w pub 
lished at Amsterdam in 1663. It at once established his 
reputation as a master of Cartesianism, without winning 
his own indorsement, and its preparation and dictation 
to his youthful pupil Albert Burgh did not interfere with 
his maturing at the same time his own independent sys 
tem of philosophy which was, for a time, to bring him 
into a very different repute. This embraced first his 
celebrated * Tractatus Theologico-Politicus* which, besides 
setting forth the claim for free criticism of affairs both 
civil and religious, is largely a study of the Old Testa 
ment with the effort to show that the end of religion is 
not to inculcate truths but obedience : that the Scriptures 
are not scientific but ethical in their nature and author 
ity; that Christ is superior to Moses in that the latter 
was taught by exterior vision, the former by intuitive 
consciousness, showing that in Christ the Divine Wisdom 
had taken on human nature. This much abused treatise 
was published in Hamburg in 1670. It bore the motto: 
i John: IV: 13. <( Hereby know we that we dwell in 
him and he in us because he hath given us of his 
spirit. }> The book being interdicted was printed with 
false titles once in Leyden and twice in Amsterdam in 
1673. 

The <( Ethics, J> although begun probably before 1661, was 
not printed until after the author s death in 1677, and 
then in a volume entitled <( Opera Posthuma. )} These em 
braced besides the (< Ethics w other treatises written about 
the same time. They were the <( Treatise on the Improve 
ment of the Understanding * embracing the method intro 
duced in the <( Ethics w ; and the Tractatus Politicus w in 
which the absolutism of Hobbe s (( Theory of Government " 
is criticised ; also some <( Letters from Learned Men " and 
the author s replies and a (( Compendium of Hebrew 
Grammar. w (( A Treatise on God, on Man and His Hap 
piness with notes on the (( Tractatus T he o logic o- Politicus 



INTRODUCTION ix 

was quite recently discovered and published in 1852 at 
Halle: also a <( Tract on the Rainbow, w Spinoza s sole 
scientific treatise, with a (( Collection of Letters J> and a 
* Biography w was published in Amsterdam in 1862. 

The <( Ethics M proper is entitled : (< Ethica : ordine geome- 
trice demonstrata, et in quinque partes distincta, in quibus 
agitur ; I. de Deo ; II. de natura et origine mentis ; III. 
de natura et origine affectuum ; IV. de servitute humana 
sen de affectuum viribus ; V. de potentia intellectus seu de 
libettate humana* 

The treatment is mathematical proceeding as in Euclid 
from Definitions and Axioms to Propositions deduced 
therefrom. Thus Part First embraces the Definitions: 
I. Cause sui; II. the Finite; III. Substance; IV. At 
tribute; V. Modes; VI. God; VII. Freedom; and VIII. 
Eternity. Then follow the Axioms, and Propositions, and 
Corollaries. 

It will be seen that although entitled (< Ethics the trea 
tise covers the whole range of metaphysics, theology, and 
epistemology, and yet that the ethics forms the culmina 
tion of the whole system, inasmuch as it looks to estab 
lishing a clear demonstrable nexus between God and the 
human conduct. From the ontological proof, if proof at 
all it can be called, of the existence of God from his 
nature, or from his being of (< such an essence as can only 
be conceived of as existing, >J and thus from God s being and 
existence as necessary, he derives all the laws of existence, 
of creation, of nature, and of man s conduct as fixed in 
an eternal necessity. But God s necessity must at the 
same time be _^erfect_faejedojn > since it cannot be con 
strained by any things except itself, inasmuch as there can 
be no <( other }> to the One absolute substance. The only 
(( other )} to the One self-existent and self-caused substance 
must be that of the finite affections and modes of 
the infinite attributes possessed by the One substance. 
These attributes are summed up in the two universal 
ones, Extension and Thought, which are not, as in Des 
cartes, two subordinated or created substances, but are 
merely two aspects of one and the same only substance. 
So that God as the one substance is at once all extended 



X, 



x SPINOZA 

body and all thought. Particular things having a limited 
or finite existence, whether in thought or extension, are 
but modes or affections of one or the other of these chief 
attributes. Their life or being is distinguished from the 
life of God as (< being in alio w as distinguished from 
* being in se." But the (< being in alio is subject to limi 
tations and restrictions from other (< being in alio * / it is 
thereby subject to passion, to feeling, to desire, to will, 
to emotions of pleasure, appetite, want, and pain. Its 
desire is to complete its being. The sense of this com 
pletion is joy ; the sense of its absence is sadness. These 
emotions, joy and sadness, will and appetite, are all 
called (< affections of thought, )J but of the thought as 
natura naturata^ or the created (( mode, w and not of the 
thought in God, or natura naturans. With this limitation 
of the affections as of <( being in alio, }) or subject to im 
perfection and constraint, comes also, and, indeed, as its 
cause, ignorance or the lack of the adequate or perfect 
knowledge. It is this lack of the perfect knowledge of 
the whole which causes these affections and passions to 
wear in man s temporal experience the appearance of 
what is evil. This delusion of evil is the bondage of 
passion or of the affections, the servitus humana, treated 
of in Part IV., in which division of the work, the ethics 
truly begins. From this bondage there is liberation and 
redemption only through the more and more perfect 
knowledge of God with the consequent vision of all things 
sub specie ceternitatis, or in their relation to the divine 
perfection. This satisfaction in the relations of the lim 
ited <( being in alio }> amounts to an extension or completion 
of life, and is termed joy; and the experience of this joy 
with the knowledge of its source, or of the completeness 
of life in the divine, is love. 

The highest attainment of the human mind is the "in 
tellectual love of God, which is the contemplation of the 
divine perfection in which all the seeming limitations 
and imperfections of the finite are lost in the harmonious 
unity of the infinitely many in the One. This knowledge 
is itself virtue since to know a thing to be good is to 
love it, and only that can be seen to be good which is a 



INTRODUCTION x j 

part of the common or universal good. In this (< intel 
lectual love, w or the love of knowing the good, even God 
may be said to love himself in loving mankind ; and man 
in the same love rejoices in virtue not because it en 
ables him to govern his lusts; but because he does rejoice 
in it, therefore to govern his lusts is possible. The 
mortal part of man is the affections and modes of 
his being in alio* including the imagination and the 
memory of his earthly mind. The immortal part is that 
idea which expresses the essence of the body under the 
idea of eternity, or as God sees it, and which therefore 
can never perish but survives death, although it passes 
from all the limitations and consequent emotions and 
memory of a temporal world. 

The later critics found Spinoza s logic to be far from 
irrefutable, and the ordinary reader will not fail to detect 
instances of his reasoning in a circle where he seems to 
be convinced that he is offering an infallible demonstra 
tion. Skepticism will find it easy to challenge even his 
first certainty and to agree with Voltaire s verdict: 

Vous foes tres con/us Baruch Spinoza: mais etes vous 
aussi danger eux qu on le dit ? Je souhais que non: et ma 
raison c est que vous etes confus, que vous avez e crit en 
mauvais latin, et qu il n y y a pas dix personnes in Europe 
qui vous lisent d un bout a I autre quoique on vous ait 
traduit en francais* 

The, in one aspect, sublime idea of the intellectual 
love of God may in another aspect be interpreted as 
only an expression of an infinite self-love on the part of 
deity contemplating with delight his own perfection and 
granting this contemplative joy only to those finite crea 
tures who cast themselves into the abyss of his infinity 
at the sacrifice of their own individuality. On the other 
hand when viewed in his relation to his time and to the 
traditions, religious and philosophical, with which the 
aspirations of his youthful and generous nature had to 
contend, coupled with the gentle and self-sacrificing traits 
exhibited in his conduct with friends and foes and his 
heroic contention for the freedom of thought and belief, 
the contribution of Spinoza to the humanizing influence 



xii SPINOZA 

of philosophy cannot be denied, nor the existence in his 
theory of truth germs of vast significance. 

It is not strange that the epithet attached to Spinoza 
by Novalis <( the God-intoxicated, should have come to 
be held the most truly descriptive of this philosopher 
who found in his Euclidian demonstrations a vision of 
God as real as that accorded to the ecstasy of the medi- 
daeval saints; or that Hegel should say that, better than 
to call him an atheist were it to call him an acosmist, as 
one who in his vision of that which is the union of the 
world and God loses all sight of the world in the fuller 
vision of God. 




CONTENTS 



PAGE 

ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING . i 

Of the ordinary objects of men s desires i 

Of the true and final good 4 

Certain rules of life 5 

Of the four modes of perception 6 

Of the best mode of perception 8 

Of the instruments of the intellect, or true ideas . . . . 10 

Answers to objections I3 

First part of method. Distinction of true ideas from fictitious 

ideas I5 

And from false ideas 22 

Of doubt ... 26 

Of memory and forgetfulness 28 

Mental hindrances from words and from the popular confu 
sion of ready imagination with distinct understanding . 29, 30 
Second part of method. Its object, the acquisition of clear and 

distinct ideas 3I 

Its means, good definitions. Conditions of definition ... 32 

How to define the understanding 36 

THE ETHICS . 39 

PART I. CONCERNING GOD qo 

Definitions 39 

Axioms 40 

Prop. I. Substance is by nature prior to its modifications . 40 
Prop. II. Two substances, whose attributes are different, 

have nothing in common 40 

Prop III. Things, which have nothing in common, cannot 

be one the cause of the other 41 

Prop. IV. Two or more distinct things are distinguished 
one from the other either by the difference of the attri 
butes of the substance, or by the differences of their modi 
fications 4! 

Prop. V. There cannot exist in the universe two or more 

substances having the same nature or attribute ... 41 
Prop. VI. One substance cannot be produced by another 
substance . 



xiv SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART I. CONCERNING God Continued. 

Prop. VII. Existence belongs to the nature of substance . 42 

Prop. VIII. Every substance is necessarily infinite . . 42 

Prop. IX. The more reality or being a thing has, the greater 

the number of its attributes 45 

Prop. X. Each particular attribute of the one substance 

must be conceived through itself 45 

Prop. XI. God, or substance consisting of infinite attributes, 
of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, 
necessarily exists 45 

Prop. XII. No attribute of substance can be conceived, from 

which it would follow that substance can be divided . . 48 

Prop. XIII. Substance absolutely infinite is indivisible . 48 

Prop. XIV. Besides God no substance can be granted or 

conceived 49 

Prop. XV. Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God noth 
ing can be, or be conceived 49 

Prop. XVI. From the necessity of the divine nature must 
follow an infinite number of things in infinite ways that is, 
all things which fall within the sphere of infinite intellect 53 

Prop. XVII. God acts solely by the laws of his own nature, 

and is not constrained by anyone 54 

Prop. XVIII. God is the indwelling and not the transient 

cause of all things 57 

Prop. XIX. God and all the attributes of God are eternal 57 

Prop. XX. The existence of God and his essence are one 

and the same 58 

Prop. XXI. All things, which follow from the absolute na 
ture of any attribute of God, must always exist and be in 
finite, or, in other words, are eternal and infinite through 
the said attribute 58 

Prop. XXII. Whatever follows from any attribute of God, 
in so far as it is modified by a modification, which exists 
necessarily and as infinite thiough the said attribute, 
must also exist necessarily and as infinite .... 60 

Prop. XXIII. Every mode, which exists both necessarily 
and as infinite, must necessarily follow either from the 
absolute nature of some attribute of God, or from an at 
tribute modified by a modification, which exists neces 
sarily and as infinite 60 

Prop. XXIV. The essence of things produced by God does 

not involve existence 60 

Prop. XXV. God is the efficient cause not only of the exist 
ence of things, but also of their essence 61 

Prop. XXVI. A thing, which is conditioned to act in a par 
ticular manner, has necessarily been thus conditioned 



CONTENTS 



xv 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART I. CONCERNING GOD Continued. 

by God ; and that which has not been conditioned by God 
cannot condition itself to act 61 

Prop. XXVII. A thing, which has been conditioned by God 
to act in a particular way, cannot render itself uncondi 
tioned 62 

Prop. XXVIII. Every individual thing, or everything which 
is finite and has a conditioned existence, cannot exist or 
be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for exist 
ence and action by a cause other than itself, which also is 
finite and has a conditioned existence ; and likewise this 
cause cannot in its turn exist or be conditioned to act, un 
less it be conditioned for existence and action by another 
cause, which also is finite and has a conditioned existence, 
and so on to infinity 62 

Prop. XXIX. Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all 
things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular 
manner by the necessity of the divine nature ... 63 

Prop. XXX. Intellect, in function finite, or in function in 
finite, must comprehend the attributes of God and the 
modifications of God, and nothing else 64 

Prop. XXXI. The intellect in function, whether finite or in 
finite, as will, desire, love, etc. , should be referred to pas 
sive nature, and not to active nature 64 

Prop. XXXII. Will cannot be called a free cause, but only a 

necessary cause 6 5 

Prop. XXXIII. Things could not have been brought into 
being by God in any manner or in any order different 
from that which has in fact obtained 66 

Prop. XXXIV. God s power is identical with his essence . 70 

Prop. XXXV. Whatsoever we conceive to be in the power 

of God, necessarily exists 70 

Prop. XXXVI. There is no cause from whose nature some 

effect does not follow 7 o 

APPENDIX 7O 



PART II. OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND ... 78 

Preface 7 3 

Definitions 7 3 

Axioms 79 

Prop. I. Thought is an attribute of God, or God is a think 
ing thing 79 

Prop. II. Extension is an attribute of God, or God is an ex 
tended thing 80 



xvi SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART II. OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND Continued. 

Prop. Ill In God there is necessarily the idea, not only of 
his essence, but also of all things which necessarily follow 
from his essence 80 

Prop. IV. The idea of God, from which an infinite number 

of things follow in infinite ways, can only be one . . 81 

Prop. V. The actual being of ideas owns God as its cause, 
only in so far as he is considered as a thinking thing, not 
in so far as he is unfolded in any other attribute ; that is, 
the ideas both of the attributes of God and of particular 
things do not own as their efficient cause their objects, or 
the things perceived, but God himself, in so far as he is a 
thinking thing , 81 

Prop. VI. The modes of any given attribute are caused by 
God, in so far as he is considered through the attribute of 
which they are modes, and not in so far as he is considered 
through any other attribute 82 

Prop. VII. The order and connection of ideas is the same 
as the order and connection of things 82 

Prop. VIII. The ideas of particular things, or of modes, 
that do not exist, must be comprehended in the infinite 
idea of God, in the same way as the formal essences of 
particular things or modes are contained in the attributes 
of God 83 

Prop. IX. The idea of an individual thing actually exist 
ing is caused by God, not in so far as he is infinite, but in 
so far as he is considered as affected by another idea of a 
thing actually existing, of which he is the cause, in so far 
as he is affected by a third idea, and so on to infinity . 84 

Prop. X. The being of substance does not appertain to the 
essence of man in other words, substance does not con 
stitute the actual being of man 85 

Prop. XI. The first element, which constitutes the actual 
being of the human mind, is the idea of some particular 
thing actually existing 87 

Prop. XII. Whatsoever comes to pass in the object of the 
idea, which constitutes the human mind, must be per 
ceived by the human mind, or there will necessarily be 
an idea in the human mind of the said occurrence. That 
is, if the object of the idea constituting the human mind 
be a body, nothing can take place in that body without 
being perceived by the mind 88 

Prop. XIII. The object of the idea constituting the human 
mind is the body, in other words a certain mode of exten 
sion which actually exists, and nothing else .... 88 



CONTENTS xvii 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART II. OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND Continued. 
Digression on the nature of bodies Axioms I., II. Lem 
mas I. III 90 

Axioms I., II 9 ! 

Definition Axiom III. Lemmas IV., V 92 

Lemmas VI., VII 93 

Postulates 94 

Prop. XIV. The human mind is capable of perceiving a 
great number of things, and is so, in proportion as its 
body is capable of receiving a great number of impres 
sions 04 

Prop. XV. The idea, which constitutes the actual being of 
the human mind, is not simple, but compounded of a great 

number of ideas 94 

Prop. XVI. The idea of every mode, in which the human 
body is affected by external bodies, must involve the na 
ture of the human body, and also the nature of the exter 
nal body 95 

Prop. XVII. If the human body is affected in a manner 
which involves the nature of any external body, the hu 
man mind will regard the said external body as actually 
existing, or as present to itself, until the human body be 
affected in such a way as to exclude the existence of the 

said external body 95 

Prop. XVIII. If the human body has once been affected by 
two or more bodies at the same time, when the mind 
afterward imagines any of them, it will straightway 

remember the others also 97 

Prop. XIX. The human mind has no knowledge of the body, 
and does not know it to exist, save through the ideas of 
the modifications, whereby the body is affected . 99 
Prop. XX. The idea or knowledge of the human mind is 
also in God, following in God in the same manner, and 
being referred to God in the same manner, as the idea 

or knowledge of the human body 99 

Prop. XXL This idea of the mind is united to the mind, 

in the same way as the mind is united to the body . . 100 
Prop. XXII. The human mind perceives not only the modi 
fications of the body, but also the ideas of such modifi 
cations . I00 

Prop. XXIII. The mind does not know itself, except in so 
far as it perceives the ideas of the modifications of the 

body Ior 

Prop. XXIV. The human mind does not involve an ade 
quate knowledge of the parts composing the human body 101 



xviii SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART II. OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND Continued. 
Prop. XXV. The idea of each modification of the human 
body does not involve an adequate knowledge of the 

external body IO2 

Prop. XXVI. The human mind does not perceive any ex 
ternal body as actually existing, except through the ideas 
of the modifications of its own body .... 102 

Prop. XXVII. The idea of each modification of the human 
body does not involve an adequate knowledge of the 

human body itself 1O3 

Prop. XXVIII. The ideas of the modifications of the 
human body, in so far as they have reference only to 
the human mind, are not clear and distinct, but confused 103 
Prop. XXIX. The idea of the idea of each modification of 
the human body does not involve an adequate knowl 
edge of the human mind 104 

Prop. XXX. We can only have a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration of our body IO 4 

Prop. XXXI. We can only have a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration of particular things external to 

ourselves Io g 

Prop. XXXII. All ideas, in so far as they are referred to 

God, are true I05 

Prop. XXXIII. There is nothing positive in ideas, which 

causes them to be called false 106 

Prop. XXXIV. Every idea, which in us is absolute or ade 
quate and perfect, is true 106 

Prop. XXXV. Falsity consists in the privation of knowl 
edge, which inadequate, fragmentary, or confused ideas 

involve IO 6 

Prop. XXXVI. Inadequate or confused ideas follow by the 

same necessity as adequate or clear and distinct ideas . 107 
Prop. XXXVII. That which is common to all, and is 
equally in a part and in the whole, does not constitute 

the essence of any particular thing 107 

Prop. XXXVIII. Those things, which are common to all, 
and are equally in a part and in the whole, cannot be 

conceived except adequately 107 

Prop. XXXIX. That, which is common to and a property 
of the human body and such other bodies as are wont 
to affect the human body, and which is present equally 
in each part of either or in the whole, will be represented 

by an adequate idea in the mind 108 

Prop. XL. Whatsoever ideas in the mind follow from ideas, 

which are therein adequate, are also themselves adequate 109 



CONTENTS xix 

PAG a 
THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART II OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND Continued. 

Prop. XLI. Opinion is the only source of falsity, reason 
and intuition are necessarily true 112 

Prop. XLII. Reason and intuition, not opinion, teach us to 

distinguish the true from the false 112 

Prop. XLI 1 1. He who has a true idea, simultaneously 
knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the 
truth of the thing perceived 112 

Prop. XLIV. It is not in the nature of reason to regard 

things as contingent, but as necessary 114 

Prop XLV. Every idea of every body, or of every particu 
lar thing actually existing, necessarily involves the eter 
nal and infinite essence of God 115 

Prop. XLVI. The knowledge of the eternal and infinite 
essence of God, which every idea involves, is adequate 
and perfect 116 

Prop. XLVI I. The human mind has an adequate knowl 
edge of the eternal and infinite essence of God . . .116 

Prop. XLVI II. In the mind there is no absolute or free 
will ; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by 
a cause, which has also been determined by another 
cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity 118 

Prop. XLIX. There is in the mind no volition, or affirma 
tion and negation, save that which an idea, inasmuch as 
it is an idea, involves ng 

PART III. ON THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS . 127 

Definitions 128 

Postulates 129 

Prop. I. Our mind is in certain cases active, and in cer 
tain cases passive. In so far as it has adequate ideas, it 
is necessarily active ; and in so far as it has inadequate 

ideas, it is necessarily passive 129 

Prop. II. Body cannot determine mind to think, neither 
can mind determine body to motion or rest, or any state 

different from these, if such there be 130 

Prop. III. The activities of the mind arise solely from ade 
quate ideas; the passive states of the mind depend 

solely on inadequate ideas 134 

Prop. IV. Nothing can be destroyed, except by a cause 

external to itself 135 

Prop. V. Things are naturally contrary, that is, cannot 
exist in the same object, in so far as one is capable of 

destroying the other 135 

Prop. VI. Everything in so far as it is in itself, endeavors 
to persist in its own being 135 



xx SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART III. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS Continued, 

Prop. VII. The endeavor, wherewith everything endeavors 
to persist in its own being is nothing else but the actual 
essence of the thing in question 136 

Prop. VIII. The endeavor, whereby a thing endeavors to 
persist in its being, involves no finite time, but an in 
definite time 136 

Prop. IX. The mind, both in so far as it has clear and 
distinct ideas, and also in so far as it has confused 
ideas, endeavors to persist in its being for an indefinite 
period, and of this endeavor it is conscious . . .136 

Prop. X. An idea, which excludes the existence of our 
body cannot be postulated in our mind, but is contrary 
thereto 137 

Prop. XI. Whatsoever increases or diminishes, helps or 
hinders the power of activity in our body, the idea 
thereof increases or diminishes, helps or hinders the 
power of thought in our mind 137 

Prop. XII. The mind, as far as it can, endeavors to con 
ceive those things, which increase or help the power of 
activity in the body .139 

Prop. XIII. When the mind conceives things which di 
minish or hinder the body s power of activity, it en 
deavors, as far as possible, to remember things, which 
exclude the existence of the first-named things . . . 139 

Prop. XIV. If the mind has once been affected by two 
emotions at the same time, it will, whenever it is 
afterward affected by one of the two, be also affected 
by the other 140 

Prop. XV. Anything can, accidentally, be the cause of 
pleasure, pain, or desire .140 

Prop. XVI. Simply from the fact that we conceive that 
a given object has some point of resemblance with an 
other object, which is wont to affect the mind pleasur- 
ably or painfully, although the point of resemblance 
be not the efficient cause of the said emotions, we shall 
still regard the first-named object with love or hate . 141 

Prop. XVII. If we conceive that a thing, which is wont 
to affect us painfully, has any point of resemblance with 
another thing, which is wont to affect us with an equally 
strong emotion of pleasure, we shall hate the first-named 
thing, and at the same time we shall love it . . .142 

Prop. XVIII. A man is as much affected pleasurably or 
painfully by the image of a thing past or future, as by 
the image of a thing present 143 



CONTENTS xx i 

THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART III. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS Continued 

Prop. XIX. He who conceives that the object of his love 

is destroyed will feel pain; if he conceives that it 

is preserved, he will feel pleasure .... .144 

Prop. XX. He who conceives that the object of his hate 

is destroyed will feel pleasure I44 

Prop. XXL He who conceives that the object of his love 
is affected pleasurably or painfully will himself be 
affected pleasurably or painfully; and the one or the 
other emotion will be greater or less in the lover, ac 
cording as it is greater or less in the thing loved . 145 
Prop. XXII. If we conceive that anything pleasurably 
affects some object of our love, we shall be affected 
with love toward that thing. Contrariwise, if we con 
ceive that it affects an object of our love painfully, we 
shall be affected with hatred toward it . . . . I45 
Prop. XXIII. He who conceives that an object of his 
hatred is painfully affected will feel pleasure. Con 
trariwise, if he think that the said object is pleasurably 
affected, he will feel pain. Each of these emotions will 
be greater or less, according as its contrary is greater 

or less in the object of hatred I4 6 

Prop. XXIV. If we conceive that anyone pleasurably 
affects an .object of our hate, we shall feel hatred 
toward him also. If we conceive that he painfully affects 
the said object, we shall feel love toward him . .147 
Prop. XXV. We endeavor to affirm, concerning ourselves 
and concerning what we love, everything that we con 
ceive 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 I47 

Prop. XXVI. 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 I47 

Prop. XXVII. By the very fact that we conceive a thing, 
which is like ourselves, and which we have not regarded 
with any emotion, to be affected with any emotion, we 
are ourselves affected with a like emotion .... 148 
Prop. XXVIII. We endeavor to bring about whatsoever 
we conceive to conduce to pleasure; but we endeavor 
to remove or destroy whatsoever we conceive to be 
truly repugnant thereto, or to conduce to pain . . . 149 



xxii SPINOZA 

PAGB 

THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART III. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS Continued. 
Prop. XXIX. We shall also endeavor to do whatsoever we 
conceive men to regard with pleasure, and contrari 
wise we shall shrink from doing that which we conceive 

men to shrink from 15 

Prop. XXX. If anyone has done something which he con 
ceives as affecting other men pleasurably, he will be 
affected by pleasure, accompanied by the idea of him 
self as a cause; in other words, he will regard himself 
with pleasure. On the other hand, if he has done any 
thing which he regards as affecting others painfully, 

he will regard himself with pain 150 

Prop. XXXI. If we conceive that anyone loves, desires, 
or hates anything which we love, desire, or hate, we 
shall thereupon regard the thing in question with more 
steadfast love, etc. On the contrary, if we think that 
anyone shrinks from something that we love, we shall 

undergo vacillation of soul i5 r 

Prop. XXXII. If we conceive that anyone takes delight 
in something, which only one person can possess, we 
shall endeavor to bring it about, that the man in ques 
tion shall not gain possession thereof 152 

Prop. XXXIII. When we love a thing similar to ourselves, 
we endeavor, as far as we can, to bring it about that 

it should love us in return 153 

Prop. XXXIV. The greater the emotion with which we 
conceive a loved object to be affected toward us, the 

greater will be our complacency 153 

Prop. XXXV. If anyone conceives that an object of his 
love joins itself to another with closer bonds of friend 
ship than he himself has attained to, he will be affected 
with hatred toward the loved object and with envy 

toward his rival 154 

Prop. XXXVI. He who remembers a thing, in which he 

has once taken delight, desires to possess it under the 

same circumstances as when he first took delight therein 155 

Prop. XXXVII. Desire arising through pain or pleasure, 

hatred or love, is greater in proportion as the emotion 

is greater . . 155 

Prop. XXXVIII. If a man has begun to hate an object of 
his love, so that love is thoroughly destroyed, he will, 
causes being equal, regard it with more hatred than if 
he had never loved it, and his hatred will be in propor 
tion to the strength of his former love 156 



CONTENTS 

THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART III. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS Continued. 

Prop. XXXIX. He who hates anyone will endeavor to do 

him an injury, unless he fears that a greater injury will 

thereby accrue to himself; on the other hand, he 

who loves anyone will, by the same law, seek to benefit 

y him 157 

Prop. XL. He who conceives himself to be hated by an 
other, and believes that he has given him no cause for 

hatred, will hate that other in return I5 8 

Prop. XLI. If anyone conceives that he is loved by an 
other, and believes that he has given no cause for such 

love, he will love that other in return I59 

Prop. XLIL He who has conferred a benefit on anyone 
from motives of love or honor will feel pain, if he sees 
that the benefit is received without gratitude . . . .159 
Prop. XLIII. Hatred is increased by being reciprocated, 

and can on the other hand be destroyed by love . . .160 
Prop. XLIV. Hatred which is completely vanquished by 
love passes into love; and love is thereupon greater 

than if hatred had not preceded it !6 O 

Prop. XLV. If a man conceives that anyone similar to 
himself hates anything also similar to himself, which he 

loves, he will hate that person l6l 

Prop. XLVI. If a man has been affected pleasurably or 
painfully by anyone of a class or nation different from 
his own, and if the pleasure or pain has been accom 
panied by the idea of the said stranger as cause, under 
the general category of the class or nation, the man will 
feel love or hatred not only to the individual stranger, 
but also to the whole class or nation, whereto he belongs 161 
Prop. XLVI I. Joy arising from the fact that anything we 
hate is destroyed or suffers other injury, is never unac 
companied by a certain pain in us .".... T 6i 
Prop. XLVIII. Love or hatred toward, for instance, Peter 
is destroyed, if the pleasure involved in the former, or the 
pain involved in the latter emotion, be associated with 
the idea of another cause; and will be diminished in pro 
portion as we conceive Peter not to have been the sole 

cause of either emotion l62 

Prop. XLIX. Love or hatred toward a thing, which we 
conceive to be free, must, other conditions being similar, 
be greater than if it were felt toward a thing acting by 

necessity ^ 

Prop. L. Anything whatever can be, accidentally, a cause 
of hope or fear . 



xxiv SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART III. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS Continued. 

Prop. LI. Different men may be differently affected by the 
same object, and the same man may be differently af 
fected at different times by the same object .... 164 

Prop. LII. An object, which we have formerly seen in 
conjunction with others, and do not conceive to have 
any property that is not common to many, will not be 
regarded by us for so long as an object which we con 
ceive to have some property peculiar to itself .... 165 

Prop. LIII. When the mind regards itself and its own 
power of activity, it feels pleasure ; and that pleasure is 
greater in proportion to the distinctness wherewith it 
conceives itself and its own power of activity . . . 167 

Prop. LIV. The mind endeavors to conceive only such 
things as assert its power of activity 167 

Prop. LV. When the mind contemplates its own weakness, 
it feels pain thereat 167 

Prop. LVI. There are as many kinds of pleasure, of pain, 
of desire, and of every emotion compounded of these, 
such as vacillations of spirit, or derived from these, such 
as love, hatred, hope, fear, etc., as there are kinds of 
objects, whereby we are affected 169 

Prop. LVI I. Any emotion of a given individual differs 
from the emotion of another individual only in so far as 
the essence of the one individual differs from the essence 
of the other 171 

Prop. LVIII. Besides pleasure and desire, which are pas 
sivities or passions, there are other emotions derived 
from pleasure and desire, which are attributable to us, 
in so far as we are active 172 

Prop. LIX. Among all the emotions attributable to the 
mind as active, there are none which cannot be referred 
to pleasure or pain 173 

Definitions of the Emotions 175 

General Definition of the Emotions 187 



PART IV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE OR THE STRENGTH OF THE 

EMOTIONS 189 

Preface 189 

Definitions 192 

Axiom 194 

Prop. I. No positive quality possessed by a false idea is 
removed by the presence of what is true in virtue of its 
being true 194 



CONTENTS xxv 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART IV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE Continued. 

Prop. II. We are only passive in so far as we are a part of 
Nature, which cannot be conceived by itself without 
other parts 195 

Prop. III. The force whereby a man persists in existing 
is limited, and is infinitely surpassed by the power of 
external causes 195 

Prop. IV. It is impossible that man should not be a 
part of Nature, or that he should be capable of un 
dergoing no changes, save such as can be under 
stood through his nature only as their adequate 
cause 195 

Prop. V. The power and increase of every passion, and 
its persistence in existing, are not defined by the power, 
whereby we ourselves endeavor to persist in existing, 
but by the power of an external cause compared with 
our own 196 

Prop. VI. The force of any passion or emotion can over 
come the rest of a man s activities or power, so that 
the emotion becomes obstinately fixed to him . . .197 

Prop. VII. An emotion can only be controlled or de 
stroyed by another emotion contrary thereto, and with 
more power for controlling emotion 197 

Prop. VIII. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing 
else but the emotions of pleasure or pain, in so far as 
we are conscious thereof 198 

Prop. IX. An emotion, whereof we conceive the cause to 
be with us at the present time, is stronger than if we 
did not conceive the cause to be with us . . . .198 

Prop. X. Toward something future, which we conceive 
as close at hand, we are affected more intensely than 
if we conceive that its time for existence is separated 
from the present by a longer interval ; so too by the re 
membrance of what we conceive to have not long 
passed away we are affected more intensely than if 
we conceive that it has long passed away . . . .199 

Prop. XL An emotion toward that which we conceive 
as necessary is, when other conditions are equal, more 
intense than an emotion toward that which is possible, 
or contingent, or non-necessary 200 

Prop. XII. An emotion toward a thing, which we know 
not to exist at the present time, and which we con 
ceive is possible, is more intense, other things 
being equal, than an emotion toward a thing contin 
gent 200 



xxvi SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Con tin ued. 

PART IV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE Continued. 

Prop. XIII. Emotion toward a thing contingent, which 
we know not to exist in the present, is, other conditions 
being equal, fainter than an emotion toward a thing past . 201 

Prop. XIV. A true knowledge of good and evil cannot 
check any emotion by virtue of being true, but only in 
so far as it is considered as an emotion .... 201 

Prop. XV. Desire arising from the knowledge of good 
and evil can be quenched or checked by many other de 
sires arising from the emotions, whereby we are assailed 201 

Prop. XVI. Desire arising from the knowledge of good 
and evil, in so far as such knowledge regards what is 
future, may be more easily controlled or quenched 
than the desire for what is agreeable at the present 
moment . 202 

Prop. XVII Desire arising from the true knowledge of good 
and evil, in so far as such knowledge is concerned with 
what is contingent, can be controlled far more easily still, 
than desire for things that are at present .... 202 

Prop. XVIII. Desire arising from pleasure is, other things 

being equal, stronger than desire arising from pain . . 203 

Prop. XIX. Every man, by the laws of his nature, necessa 
rily desires or shrinks from that which he deems to be 
good or bad 205 

Prop. XX. The more every man endeavors and is able to 
seek what is useful to him, in other words to preserve his 
own being, the more is he endowed with virtue ; on the 
contrary, in proportion as a man neglects to seek what is 
useful to him, that is, to preserve his own being, he is 
wanting in power 205 

Prop. XXI. No one can rightly desire to be blessed, to act 
rightly, and to live rightly, without at the same time wish 
ing to be, to act, and to live, in other words, to actually 
exist 206 

Prop. XXII. No virtue can be conceived as prior to this en 
deavor to preserve one s own being 206 

Prop. XXIII. Man, in so far as he is determined to a partic 
ular action because he has inadequate ideas, cannot be ab 
solutely said to act in obedience to virtue; he can only be 
so described, in so far as he is determined for the action, 
because he understands 207 

Prop. XXIV. 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 ac 
cordance with the dictate of reason on the basis of seeking 
what is useful to oneself 207 



CONTENTS xxvii 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART JV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE Continued. 

Prop. XXV. No one wishes to preserve his being for the sake 

of anything else 207 

Prop. XXVI. Whatsoever we endeavor in obedience to rea 
son is nothing further than to understand ; neither does the 
mind, in so far as it makes use of reason, judge anything 
to be useful to it, save such things as are conducive to un 
derstanding 208 

Prop. XXVII. We know nothing to be certainly good or evil, 
save such things as really conduce to understanding, or 
such as are able to hinder us from understanding . . 208 
\ Prop. XXVIII. The mind s highest good is the knowledge of 

God, and the mind s highest virtue is to know God . . 209 

Prop. XXIX. No individual thing, which is entirely different 
from our own nature, can help or check our power of ac 
tivity, and absolutely nothing can do us good or harm, un 
less it has something in common with our nature . . 209 

Prop. XXX. A thing cannot be bad for us through the qual 
ity which it has in common with our nature, but it is bad 
for us, in so far as it is contrary to our nature . . .210 

Prop. XXXI. In so far as a thing is in harmony with our 

nature, it is necessarily good 210 

Prop. XXXII. In so far as men are a prey to passion, they 
cannot in that respect, be said to be naturally in harmony 211 

Prop. XXXIII. Men can differ in nature, in so far as they 
are assailed by those emotions, which are passions or 
passive states ; and to this extent one and the same man 
is variable and inconstant 211 

Prop. XXXIV. In so far as men are assailed by emotions 
which are passions, they can be contrary one to another 211 

Prop. XXXV. In so far only as men live in obedience to 

reason, do they always necessarily agree in nature . . 213 

Prop. XXXVI. The highest good of those who follow virtue is 

common to all, and therefore all can equally rejoice therein 214 

Prop. XXXVII. The good, which every man who follows 
after virtue desires for himself, he will also desire for 
other men, and so much the more, in proportion as he has 
a greater knowledge of God 215 

Prop. XXXVIII. Whatsoever disposes the human body, so 
as to render it capable of being affected in an increased 
number of ways, or of affecting external bodies in an 
increased number of ways, is useful to man ; and is so in 
proportion as the body is thereby rendered more capable 
of being affected or of affecting other bodies in an in 
creased number of ways ; contrariwise, whatsoever renders 
the body less capable in this respect is hurtful to man . 219 



xxviii SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART IV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE Continued. 

Prop XXXIX. Whatsoever brings about the preservation of 
the proportion of motion and rest, which the parts of the 
human body mutually possess, is good; contrariwise, 
whatsoever causes a change in such proportion is bad . 219 

Prop. XL. Whatsoever conduces to man s social life, or 
*H causes men to live together in harmony, is useful, whereas 

whatsoever brings discord into a State is bad . . . 221 

Prop. XLI. Pleasure in itself is not bad but good; contrari 
wise, pain in itself is bad 221 

Prop. XLII. Mirth cannot be excessive, but is always good; 

contrariwise, Melancholy is always bad 221 

Prop. XLIIL Stimulation may be excessive and bad ; on the 
other hand grief may be good, in so far as stimulation or 
pleasure is bad 221 

Prop. XLIV, Love and desire may be excessive . . . 222 

Prop. XLV. Hatred can never be good .... . 223 

Prop. XLVI. He, who lives under the guidance of reason, 
endeavors, as far as possible, to render back love, or 
kindness, for other men s hatred, anger, contempt, etc., 
toward him .... 224 

Prop. XLVI I. Emotions of hope and fear cannot be in them 
selves good 225 

Prop. XLVIII. The emotions of over-esteem and disparage 
ment are always bad 225 

Prop. XLIX. Over-esteem is apt to render its object proud 225 

Prop. L. Pity, in a man who lives under the guidance of 

reason is in itself bad and useless 225 

Prop. LI. Approval is not repugnant to reason, but can 

agree therewith and arise therefrom 226 

Prop. LII. Self -approval may arise from reason, and that 

which arises from reason is the highest possible . . 227 

Prop. LIIL Humility is not a virtue, or does not arise 

from reason .... 227 

Prop. LIV. Repentance is not a virtue, or does not arise 
from reason, but he who repents of an action is doubly 
wretched or infirm .... ... 228 

Prop. LV. Extreme pride or dejection indicates extreme 
ignorance of self ... 228 

Prop. LVI. Extreme pride or dejection indicates extreme 

infirmity of spirit 22 8 

Prop. LVI I. The proud man delights in the company of 
flatterers and parasites, but hates the company of the 
high-minded 229 

Prop. LVIII. Honor (gloria) is not repugnant to reason, 
but may arise therefrom 230 



CONTENTS xxix 



THE ETHICS Continued, 

PART IV. OF HUMAN BONDAGE Continued, 

Prop. LIX. To all the actions, whereto we are determined 
by emotions, wherein the mind is passive, we can be 
determined without emotion by reason 231 

Prop. LX. Desire arising from a pleasure or pain, that is, 
not attributable to the whole body, but only to one or 
certain parts thereof, is without utility in respect to 
man as a whole 233 

Prop. LXI. Desire which springs from reason cannot be 

excessive 233 

Prop. LXI I. In so far as the mind conceives a thing 
under the dictate of reason, it is affected equally, 
whether the idea be of a thing present, past, or future 234 

Prop. LXIII. He who is lead by fear, and does good in 

order tp escape evil, is not led by reason . . . .235 

Prop. LX1V. The knowledge of evil is an inadequate 

knowledge 236 

Prop. LXV. Under the guidance of reason we should pur 
sue the greater of two goods and the lesser of two evils 236 

Prop. LXVI. We may, under the guidance of reason, 
seek a greater good in the future in preference to a 
lesser good in the present, and we may seek a lesser 
evil in the present in preference to a greater evil in 
the future 236 

Prop. LXVII. A free man thinks of nothing less than of 
death; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death, 
but of life .... 237 

Prop. LXV1II. If men were born free, they would, so 
long as they remained free, form no conception of good 
or evil 237 

Prop. LXIX. The virtue of a free man is seen to be as 
great, when it declines dangers, as when it overcomes 
them 239 

Prop. LXX. The free man, who lives among the igno 
rant, strives, as far as he can, to avoid receiving 
favors from them 239 

Prop. LXX I. Only free men are thoroughly grateful, 

one to another 2 o 

Prop. LXXII. The free man never acts fraudulently, but 

always in good faith ... 240 

Prop. LXXII I. The man who is guided by reason is more 
free in a State, where he lives under a general system 
of law, than in solitude, where he is independent . 240 

Appendix on the Right Way of Life 241 



xxx SPINOZA 

PAGE 

THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART V. ON THE POWER OF THE UNDERSTANDING, OR OF 

HUMAN FREEDOM 250 

Preface .... 250 

Axioms 253 

Prop. I. Even as thoughts and the ideas of things are ar 
ranged and associated in the mind, so are the modifi 
cations of the body, or the images of things precisely in 
the same way arranged and associated in the body . 253 

Prop. II. If we remove a disturbance of the spirit, or 
emotion, from the thought of an external cause, and 
unite it to other thoughts, then will the love or hatred 
toward that external cause, and also the vacillations 
of spirit, which arise from these emotions be destroyed . 254 

Prop. III. An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be 
a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea 
thereof 254 

Prop. IV. There is no modification of the body whereof 

we cannot form some clear and distinct conception . 254 

Prop. V. An emotion toward a thing which we conceive 
simply, and not as necessary, or as contingent, or as 
possible, is, other conditions being equal, greater than 
any other emotion 256 

Prop. VI. The mind has greater power over the emo 
tions, and is less subject thereto, in so far as it under 
stands all things as necessary 256 

Prop. VII. Emotions, which are aroused or spring from 
reason, if we take account of time, are stronger than 
those, which are attributable to particular objects, that 
we regard as absent 257 

Prop. VIII. An emotion is stronger in proportion to the 
number of simultaneous concurrent causes whereby it 
is aroused 258 

Prop. IX. An emotion, which is attributable to many and 
diverse causes, which the mind regards as simultaneous 
with the emotion itself, is less hurtful, and we are less 
subject thereto, and less affected toward each of its 
causes, than if it were a different and equally powerful 
emotion, attributable to fewer causes or to a single cause 258 

Prop. X. So long as we are not assailed by emotions 
contrary to our nature, we have the power of arranging 
and associating the modifications of our body according 
to the intellectual order 258 

Prop. XI. In proportion as a mental image is referred to 
more objects, so is it more frequent, or more often vivid, 
and affects the mind more 261 



CONTENTS xxxi 

PAGE 

THE El HICS Continued. 

PART V. ON THK POWKR OF THE UNDERSTANDING Continued. 

Prop. XII. The mental images of things are more easily 
associated with the images referred to things which we 
clearly and distinctly understand than with others . . 261 

Prop. XIII A mental image is more often vivid, in pro 
portion as i+ is associated with a greater number of other 
images 261 

Prop. XIV, The mind can bring it about, that all bodily 
modifications or images of things may be referred to 
the idea of God . . 262 

Prop. XV. He who clearly and distinctly understands 
himself and his emotions, loves God, and so much the 
more in proportion as he more understands himself and 
his emotions 262 

Prop. XVI. This love toward God must hold the chief 

place in the mind 262 

Prop. XVII. God is without passions, neither is he affected 

by any emotion of pleasure or pain 262 

Prop. XVIII. No one can hate God 262 

Prop. XIX. He who loves God cannot endeavor that 

God should love him in return 263 

Prop. XX. This love toward God cannot be stained by 
the emotion of envy or jealousy ; contrariwise, it is the 
more fostered, in proportion as we conceive a greater 
number of men to be joined to God by the same bond 
of love 263 

Prop. XXI. The mind can onlv imagine anything, or re 
member what is past, while the body endures . . 265 

Prop. XXII. Nevertheless in God there is necessarily an 
idea, which expresses the essence of this or that human 
body under the form of eternity 266 

Prop. XXIII. The human mind cannot be absolutely 
destroyed with the body, but there remains of it some 
thing which is eternal 266 

Prop. XXIV. The more we understand particular things, 
the more do we understand God 267 

Proo. XXV. The highest endeavor of the mind, and the 

highest virtue, is to understand things by intuition . . 267 

Prop. XXVI. In proportion as the mind is more capable of 
understanding things by intuition, it desires more so to 
derstand things 267 

Prop. XXVII. From intuition arises the highest possible 
mental acquiescence 268 

Prop. XXVIII. The endeavor or desire to know things by 

intuition cannot arise from opinion, but from reason . 268 



xxxii SPINOZA 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART V. ON THE POWER OF THE UNDERSTANDING Continued. 
Prop. XXIX. Whatsoever the mind understands under the 
form of eternity, it does not understand by virtue of con 
ceiving the present actual existence of the body, but 
by virtue of conceiving the essence of the body under 

the form of eternity 268 

Prop. XXX. Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and the 
body under the form of eternity, has to that extent neces 
sarily a knowledge of God, and knows that it is in God, 

and is conceived through God 269, 

Prop. XXXI. Intuition depends on the mind, as its formal 

cause, in so far as the mind itself is eternal ... 269 
Prop. XXXII. Whatsoever we understand by intuition, we 
take delight in, and our delight is accompanied by the 

idea of God as cause 270 

Prop. XXXIII. The intellectual love of God, which arises 

from intuition, is eternal 271 

Prop. XXXIV. The mind is, only while the body endures, 

subject to those emotions which are attributable to passions 271 
Prop. XXXV. God loves himself with an infinite intellec 
tual love 2 Hj 

Prop. XXXVI. The intellectual love of the mind toward 
God is that very love of God, whereby God loves himself, 
not in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he can be 
explained through the essence of the human mind re 
garded under the form of eternity ; in other words, the 
intellectual love of the mind toward God is part of the 
infinite love, wherewith God loves himself . . . 272 

Prop. XXXVII. There is nothing in nature, which is con 
trary to this intellectual love, or which can take it away . 273 
Prop. XXXVIII. In proportion as the mind understands 
more things by reason and intuition, it is less subject 
to those emotions which are evil, and stands in less fear 

of death .... 273 

Prop. XXXIX. He who possesses a body capable of the 
greatest number of activities possesses a soul whereof 

the greatest part is eternal 274 

Prop. XL. In proportion as each thing possesses more of 
perfection, so is it more active, and less passive ; and, 
vice versa, in proportion as it is more active, so is it 

more perfect 275 

Prop. XLI. Even if we did not know that our mind is 
eternal, we should still consider as of primary importance 
piety and religion, and generally all things, which in 
Part IV. we showed to be attributable to courage and 
high-mindedness 276 



CONTENTS xxxiii 



THE ETHICS Continued. 

PART V. ON THE POWER OF THE UNDERSTANDING Continued. 

Prop. XLII. Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but 

virtue itself; neither do we rejoice therein, because we 

control our lusts, but. contrariwise, because we rejoice 

therein, we are able to control our lusts . . . 277 

SPINOZA S CORRESPONDENCE (ABRIDGED) ... 279 

Letters I. XXV. A. (1661-1676). Between Spinoza and 
Henry Oldenburg 279 

Letters XXVI. XXVIII. Between Spinoza and Simon de 

Vries ... 314 

Letters XXIX., XXIX. A. (1663). From Spinoza to Lewis 

Meyer .... 321 

Letter XXX. (1664). From Spinoza to Peter Balling . .329 

Letters XXXI. XXXVIII. (1664-65 ). Between Spinoza and 
William Blyenbergh 335 

Letters XXXIX. XLI. (1666). From Spinoza to Christian 

Huyghens, on the unity of God 336 

Letters XLI.A., XLII. (1665-66). From Spinoza to a cor 
respondent probably identified with John Bresser . . 364 

Letter XLIII. (1666). Spinoza to I. v. M. on a problem 
connected with games of chance (omitted). 

Letters XLIV. XLVI. (on scientific subjects, and omitted), 
and Letter XLVII. (1667-71). From Spinoza to a cor 
respondent probably identified with Jarig Jellis . . . 368 

Letter XLVIII. (1671). From Lambert de Velthuysen to 
Isaac Orobio against Tractatus Theologico - Politicus 
(omitted). 

Letter XLIX. (1671). Spinoza s answer to XLVIII., ad 
dressed to Isaac Orobio 369 

Letter L. (1674). From Spinoza to Jarig Jellis, on Hobbes, 

etc - 374 

Letters LI., LII. (1671). Between Spinoza and Leibnitz . 376 
Letters LIII., LIV. (1673). Between Spinoza and Fabritius 379 
Letters LV. LX. (1674). Between Spinoza and Hugo 

Boxel on Ghosts 381 

Letters LXL LXXII. (1674-76). Between Spinoza, E. W. 

von Tschirnhausen and G. H. Schaller 395 

Letters LXXIII., LXXIV. (1675). Between Spinoza and 

Albert Burgh 4I 6 

Letter LXXV. (1675 ?) From Spinoza to Lambert de Vel 
. 426 



ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDER 
STANDING. 



AFTER experience had taught me that all the usual sur 
roundings of social life are vain and futile; seeing- that 
none of the objects of my fears contained in themselves 
anything either good or bad, except in so far as the mind 
is affected by them, I finally resolved to inquire whether 
there might be some real good having power to com 
municate itself, which would affect the mind singly, to 
the exclusion of all else; whether, in fact, there might 
be anything of which the discovery and attainment would 
enable me to enjoy continuous, supreme, and unending 
happiness. I say (< I FINALLY resolved, w for at first sight 
it seemed unwise willingly to lose hold on what was sure 
for the sake of something then uncertain. I could see 
the benefits which are acquired through fame and riches, 
and that I should be obliged to abandon the quest of 
such objects, if I seriously devoted myself to the search 
for something different and new. I perceived that if 
true happiness chanced to be placed in the former I 
should necessarily miss it; while if, on the other hand, 
it were not so placed, and I gave them my whole atten 
tion, I should equally fail. 

I therefore debated whether it would not be possible 
to arrive at the new principle, or at any rate at a cer 
tainty concerning its existence, without changing the 
conduct and usual plan of my life ; with this end in view 
I made many efforts, but in vain. For the ordinary sur 
roundings of life which are esteemed by men (as their 
actions testify) to be the highest good, may be classed 
under the three heads Riches, Fame, and the Pleasures 
of Sense: with these three the mind is so absorbed that 
it has little power to reflect on any different good. By 



2 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

sensual pleasure the mind is enthralled to the extent of 
quiescence, as if the supreme good were actually attained, 
so that it is quite incapable of thinking of any other ob 
ject; when such pleasure has been gratified it is followed 
by extreme melancholy, whereby the mind, though not 
enthralled, is disturbed and dulled. 

The pursuit of honors and riches is likewise very 
absorbing, especially if such objects be sought simply 
for their own sake, inasmuch as they are then supposed 
to constitute the highest good. In the case of fame the 
mind is still more absorbed, for fame is conceived as 
always good for its own sake, and as the ultimate end 
to which all actions are directed. Further, the attain 
ment of riches and fame is not followed as in the case 
of sensual pleasures by repentance, but, the more we 
acquire, the greater is our delight, and, consequently, 
the more we are incited to increase both the one and 
the other; on the other hand, if our hopes happen to be 
frustrated we are plunged into the deepest sadness. 
Fame has the further drawback that it compels its 
votaries to order their lives according to the opinions of 
their fellow-men, shunning what they usually shun, and 
seeking what they usually seek. 

When I saw that all these ordinary objects of desire 
would be obstacles in the way of a search for something 
different and new nay, that they were so opposed 
thereto, that either they or it would have to be aban 
doned, I was forced to inquire which would prove the 
most useful to me: for, as I say, I seemed to be will 
ingly losing hold on a sure good for the sake of 
something uncertain. However, after I had reflected on 
the matter, I came in the first place to the conclusion 
that by abandoning the ordinary objects of pursuit, and 
betaking myself to a new quest, I should be leaving a 
good, uncertain by reason of its own nature, as may be 
gathered from what has been said, for the sake of a good 
not uncertain in its nature (for I sought for a fixed 
good), but only in the possibility of its attainment. 

Further reflection convinced me, that if I could really 
get to the root of the matter, I should be leaving certain 



SPINOZA 3 

evils for a certain good. I thus perceived that I was in 
a state of great peril, and I compelled myself to seek 
with all my strength for a remedy, however uncertain it 
might be ; as a sick man struggling with a deadly disease, 
when he sees that death will surely be upon him unless 
a remedy be found, is compelled to seek such a remedy 
with all his strength, inasmuch as his whole hope lies 
therein. All the objects pursued by the multitude, not 
only bring no remedy that tends to preserve our being, 
but even act as hindrances, causing the death not seldom 
of those who possess them, and always of those who are 
possessed by them. There are many examples of men 
who have suffered persecution even to death for the sake 
of their riches, and of men who in pursuit of wealth have 
exposed themselves to so many dangers, that they have 
paid away their life as a penalty for their folly. Exam 
ples are no less numerous of men, who have endured the 
utmost wretchedness for the sake of gaining or preserving 
their reputation. Lastly, there are innumerable cases 
of men, who have hastened their death through over 
indulgence in sensual pleasure. All these evils seem to 
have arisen from the fact, that happiness or unhappiness 
is made wholly to depend on the quality of the object 
which we love. When a thing is not loved, no quarrels 
will arise concerning it no sadness will be felt if it 
perishes no envy if it is possessed by another no 
fear no hatred, in short no disturbances of the mind. 
All these arise from the love of what is perishable, such 
as the objects already mentioned. But love toward a 
thing eternal and infinite feeds the mind wholly with joy, 
and is itself unmingled with any sadness, wherefore it is 
greatly to be desired and sought for with all our strength. 
Yet it was not at random that I used the words, (< If I 
could go to the root of the matter, >J for, though what I 
have urged was perfectly clear to my mind, I could not 
forthwith lay aside all love of riches, sensual enjoyment, 
and fame. One thing was evident, namely, that while 
my mind was employed with these thoughts it turned 
away from its former objects of desire, and seriously con 
sidered the search for a new principle; this state of 



4 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

things was a great comfort to me, for I perceived that 
the evils were not such as to resist all remedies. 
Although these intervals were at first rare, and of very 
short duration, yet afterward, as the true good became 
more and more discernible to me, they became more fre 
quent and more lasting; especially after I had recognized 
that the acquisition of wealth, sensual pleasure, or fame, 
is only a hindrance, so long as they are sought as ends 
not as means; if they be sought as means they will be 
under restraint, and, far from being hindrances, will 
further not a little the end for which they are sought, as 
I will show in due time. 

I will here only briefly state what I mean by true 
good, and also what is the nature of the highest good. 
In order that this may be rightly understood, we must 
bear in mind that the terms good and evil are only ap 
plied relatively, so that the same thing may be called 
both good and bad, according to the relations in view, 
in the same way as it may be called perfect or imperfect. 
Nothing regarded in its own nature can be called perfect 
or imperfect; especially when we are aware that all 
things which come to pass, come to pass according to the 
eternal order and fixed laws of nature. However, human 
weakness cannot attain to this order in its own thoughts, 
but meanwhile man conceives a human character much 
more stable than his own, and sees that there is no 
reason why he should not himself acquire such a char 
acter. Thus he is led to seek for means which will bring 
him to this pitch of perfection, and calls everything 
which will serve as such means a true good. The chief 
good is that he should arrive, together with other individ 
uals if possible, at the possession of the aforesaid char 
acter. What that character is we shall show in due time, 
namely, that it is the knowledge of the union existing 
between the mind and the whole of nature. This, then, 
is the end for which I strive, to attain to such a char 
acter myself, and to endeavor that many should attain to 
it with me. In other words, it is part of my happiness 
to lend a helping hand, that many others may understand 
even as I do, so that their understanding and desire may 



SPINOZA 5 

entirely agree with my own. In order to bring- this about, 
it is necessary to understand as much of nature as will 
enable us to attain to the aforesaid character, and also 
to form a social order such as is most conducive to the 
attainment of this character by the greatest number with 
the least difficulty and danger. We must seek the assist 
ance of Moral Philosophy * and the Theory of Education ; 
further, as health is no insignificant means for at 
taining our end, we must also include the whole science 
of Medicine, and, as many difficult things are by con 
trivance rendered easy, and we can in this way gain 
much time and convenience, the science of Mechanics 
must in no way be despised. But, before all things, a 
means must be devised for improving the understanding 
and purifying it, as far as may be at the outset, so that 
it may apprehend things without error, and in the best 
possible way. 

Thus it is apparent to every one that I wish to direct 
all sciences to one end and aim, so that we may attain 
to the supreme human perfection which we have named ; 
and, therefore, whatsoever in the sciences does not serve 
to promote our object will have to be rejected as useless. 
To sum up the matter in a word, all our actions and 
thoughts must be directed to this one end. Yet, as it is 
necessary that while we are endeavoring to attain our 
purpose, and bring the understanding into the right path, 
we should carry on our life, we are compelled first of all 
to lay down certain rules of life as provisionally good, 
to wit, the following : 

I. To speak in a manner intelligible to the multitude, 
and to comply with every general custom that does not 
hinder the attainment of our purpose. For we can gain 
from the multitude no small advantages, provided that 
we strive to accommodate ourselves to its understanding 
as far as possible: moreover, we shall in this way gain 
a friendly audience for the reception of the truth. 

II. To indulge ourselves with pleasures only in so far 
as they are necessary for preserving health. 

* I do no more here than enumerate the sciences necessary for our 
purpose ; I lay no stress on their order. 



6 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

III. Lastly, to endeavor to obtain only sufficient money 
or other commodities to enable us to preserve our life and 
health, and to follow such general customs as are con 
sistent with our purpose. 

Having laid down these preliminary rules, I will betake 
myself to the first and most important task, namely, the 
amendment of the understanding, and the rendering it 
capable of understanding things in the manner necessary 
for attaining our end. 

In order to bring this about, the natural order demands 
that I should here recapitulate all the modes of perception, 
which I have hitherto employed for affirming or denying 
anything with certainty, so that I may choose the best, 
and at the same time begin to know my own powers and 
the nature which I wish to perfect. 

Reflection shows that all modes of perception or knowl 
edge may be reduced to four: 

I. Perception arising from hearsay or from some sign 
which everyone may name as he pleases. 

II. Perception arising from mere experience that is, 
from experience not yet classified by the intellect, and 
only so called because the given event has happened to 
take place, and we have no contradictory fact to set 
against it, so that it therefore remains unassailed in our 
mind. 

III. Perception arising when the essence of one thing 
is inferred from another thing, but not adequately; this 
comes when from some effect we gather its cause, or when 
it is inferred from some general proposition that some 
property is always present. 

IV. Lastly, there is the perception arising when a thing 
is perceived solely through its essence, or through the 
knowledge of its proximate cause. 

All these kinds of perception I will illustrate by examples. 
By hearsay I know the day of my birth, my parentage, 
and other matters about which I have never felt any 
doubt. By mere experience I know that I shall die, 
for this I can affirm from having seen that others like 
myself have died, though all did not live for the same 
period, or die by the same disease. I know by mere 



SPINOZA 7 

experience that oil has the property of feeding- fire, and 
water of extinguishing it. In the same way I know that 
a dog is a barking animal, man a rational animal, and in 
fact nearly all the practical knowledge of life. 

We deduce one thing from another as follows : when we 
clearly perceive that we feel a certain body and no other, 
we thence clearly infer that the mind is united to the 
body, and that their union is the cause of the given sen 
sation; but we cannot thence absolutely understand the 
nature of the sensation and the union. Or, after I have 
become acquainted with the nature of vision, and know 
that it has the property of making one and the same thing 
appear smaller when far off than when near, I can infer 
that the sun is larger than it appears, and can draw other 
conclusions of the same kind. 

Lastly, a thing may be perceived solely through its 
essence ; when, from the fact of knowing something, I know 
what it is to know that thing, or when, from knowing 
the essence of the mind, I know that it is united to the 
body. By the same kind of knowledge we know that two 
and three make five, or that two lines each parallel to a 
third, are parallel to one another, etc. The things which 
I have been able to know by this kind of knowledge are 
as yet very few. 

In order that the whole matter may be put in a clearer 
light, I will make use of a single illustration as follows: 
Three numbers are given it is required to find a fourth, 
which shall be to the third as the second is to the first. 
Tradesmen will at once tell us that they know what is 
required to find the fourth number, for they have not yet 
forgotten the rule which was given to them arbitrarily 
without proof by their masters ; others construct a universal 
axiom from their experience with simple numbers, where 
the fourth number is self-evident, as in the case of 2, 4, 3, 6; 
here it is evident that if the second number be multi 
plied by the third, and the product divided by the first, 
the quotient is 6 ; when they see that by this process the 
number is produced which they knew beforehand to be 
the proportional, they infer that the process always holds 
good for finding a fourth number proportional. Mathe- 



8 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

maticians, however, know by the proof of the nineteenth 
proposition of the seventh book of Euclid, what numbers 
are proportionals, namely, from the nature and property 
of proportion it follows that the product of the first and 
fourth will be equal to the product of the second and 
third: still they do not see the adequate proportionality 
of the given numbers or, if they do see it, they see it not 
by virtue of Euclid s proposition, but intuitively, without 
going through any process. 

In order that from these modes of perception the best 
may be selected, it is well that we should briefly enu 
merate the means necessary for attaining our end. 

I. To have an exact knowledge of our nature which 
we desire to perfect, and to know as much as is needful 
of nature in general. 

II. To collect in this way the differences, the agree 
ments, and the oppositions of things. 

III. To learn thus exactly how far they can or cannot 
be modified. 

IV. To compare this result with the nature and power 
of man. We shall thus discern the highest degree of 
perfection to which man is capable of attaining. We 
shall then be in a position to see which mode of percep 
tion we ought to choose. 

As to the first mode, it is evident that from hearsay 
our knowledge must always be uncertain, and, moreover, 
can give us no insight into the essence of a thing, as is 
manifest in our illustration ; now one can only arrive at 
knowledge of a thing through knowledge of its essence, 
as will hereafter appear. We may, therefore, clearly con 
clude that the certainty arising from hearsay cannot be 
scientific in its character. For simple hearsay cannot 
affect anyone whose understanding does not, so to speak, 
meet it half way. 

The second mode of perception* cannot be said to give 
us the idea of the proportion of which we are in search. 
Moreover its results are very uncertain and indefinite, for 

* I shall here treat a little more in detail of experience, and shall 
examine the method adopted by the Empirics, and by recent philoso 
phers. 



SPINOZA 9 

we shall never discover anything- in natural phenomena 
by its means, except accidental properties, which are never 
clearly understood, unless the essence of the things in 
question be known first. Wherefore this mode also must 
be rejected. 

Of the third mode of perception we may say in a man 
ner that it gives us the idea of the thing sought, and that 
it enables us to draw conclusions without risk of error; 
yet it is not by itself sufficient to put us in possession of 
the perfection we aim at. 

The fourth mode alone apprehends the adequate es 
sence of a thing- without danger of error. This mode, 
therefore, must be the one which we chiefly employ. How, 
then, should we avail ourselves of it so as to gain the 
fourth kind of knowledge with the least delay concerning 
things previously unknown ? I will proceed to explain. 

Now that we know what kind of knowledge is necessary 
for us, we must indicate the way and the method whereby 
we may gain the said knowledge concerning the things 
needful to be known. In order to accomplish this, we 
must first take care not to commit ourselves to a search, 
going back to infinity that is, in order to discover the 
best method for finding out the truth, there is no need of 
another method to discover such method; nor of a third 
method for discovering the second, and so on to infinity. 
By such proceedings, we should never arrive at the knowl 
edge of the truth, or, indeed, at any knowledge at all. 
The matter stands on the same footing as the making of 
material tools, which might be argued about in a similar 
way. For, in order to work iron, a hammer is needed, and 
the hammer cannot be forthcoming unless it has been 
made ; but, in order to make it, there was need of another 
hammer and other tools, and so on to infinity. We might 
thus vainly endeavor to prove that men have no power of 
working iron. But as men at first made use of the instru 
ments supplied by nature to accomplish very easy pieces of 
workmanship, laboriously and imperfectly, and then, when 
these were finished, wrought other things more difficult 
with less labor and greater perfection ; and so gradually 
mounted from the simplest operations to the making of 



10 



IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 



tools, and from the making of tools to the making of 
more complex tools, and fresh feats of workmanship, till 
they arrived at making, with small expenditure of labor, 
the vast number of complicated mechanisms which they 
now possess. So, in like manner, the intellect, by its na 
tive strength,* makes for itself intellectual instruments, 
whereby it acquires strength for performing other intel 
lectual operations, and from these operations gets again 
fresh instruments, or the power of pushing its investiga 
tions further, and thus gradually proceeds till it reaches 
the summit of wisdom. 

That this is the path pursued by the understanding may 
be readily seen, when we understand the nature of the 
method for finding out the truth, and of the natural in 
struments so necessary for the construction of more com 
plex instruments, and for the progress of investigation. I 
thus proceed with my demonstration. 

A true idea (for we possess a true idea) is something 
different from its correlate (ideatum); thus a circle is 
different from the idea of a circle. The idea of a circle 
is not something having a circumference and a centre, 
as a circle has ; nor is the idea of a body that body itself. 
Now, as it is something different from its correlate, it is 
capable of being understood through itself; in other 
words, the idea, in so far as its actual essence (essentia 
formalis} is concerned, may be the subject of another 
subjective essence (essentia objectiva). And, again, this 
second subjective essence will, regarded in itself, be 
something real, and capable of being understood; and so 
on, indefinitely. For instance, the man Peter is some 
thing real ; the true idea of Peter is the reality of Peter 
represented subjectively, and is in itself something real, 
and quite distinct from the actual Peter. Now, as this 
true idea of Peter is in itself something real, and has 
its own individual existence, it will also be capable of 
being understood that is, of being the subject of 
another idea, which will contain by representation 
(objective) all that the idea of Peter contains actually 
* By native strength, I mean that bestowed on us by external causes, 
as I shall afterwards explain in my philosophy. 



SPINOZA u 

(formaliter). And, again, this idea of the idea of Peter 
has its own individuality, which may become the subject 
of yet another idea; and so on, indefinitely. This every 
one may make trial of for himself, by reflecting that 
he knows what Peter is, and also knows that he 
knows, and further knows that he knows that he knows, 
etc. Hence it is plain that, in order to understand the 
actual Peter, it is not necessary first to understand the 
idea of Peter, and still less the idea of the idea of Peter. 
This is the same as saying that, in order to know, there 
is no need to know that we know, much less to know 
that we know that we know. This is no more necessary 
than to know the nature of a circle before knowing the 
nature of a triangle. But, with these ideas, the contrary 
is the case: for, in order to know that I know, I must 
first know. Hence it is clear that certainty is nothing 
else than the subjective essence of a thing: in other 
words, the mode in which we perceive an actual reality 
is certainty. Further, it is also evident that, for the cer 
titude of truth, no further sign is necessary beyond the 
possession of a true idea: for, as I have shown, it is not 
necessary to know that we know that we know. Hence, 
again, it is clear that no one can know the nature of the 
highest certainty, unless he possesses an adequate idea, 
or the subjective essence of a thing: for certainty is 
identical with such subjective essence. Thus, as the 
truth needs no sign it being sufficient to possess the 
subjective essence of things, or, in other words, the ideas 
of them, in order that all doubts may be removed it 
follows that the true method does not consist in seeking 
for the signs of truth after the acquisition of the idea, 
but that the true method teaches us the order in which 
we should seek for truth itself, or the subjective essences 
of things, or ideas, for all these expressions are synony 
mous. Again, method must necessarily be concerned 
with reasoning or understanding I mean, method is not 
identical with reasoning in the search for causes, still 
less is it the comprehension of the causes of things: it is 
the discernment of a true idea, by distinguishing it from 
other perceptions and by investigating its nature in order 



12 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

that we may thus know our power of understanding, and 
may so train our mind that it may, by a given standard, 
comprehend whatsoever is intelligible, by laying down 
certain rules as aids, and by avoiding useless mental 
exertion. 

Whence we may gather that method is nothing else than 
reflective knowledge, or the idea of an idea; and that as 
there can be no idea of an idea unless an idea exists 
previously, there can be no method without a pre-existent 
idea. Therefore, that will be a good method which shows 
us how the mind should be directed, according to the 
standard of the given true idea. 

Again, seeing that the ratio existing between two ideas 
is the same as the ratio between the actual realities cor 
responding to those ideas, it follows that the reflective 
knowledge which has for its object the most perfect being 
is more excellent than reflective knowledge concerning 
other objects in other words, that method will be most 
perfect which affords the standard of the given idea of 
the most perfect being whereby we may direct our mind. 
We thus easily understand how, in proportion as it acquires 
new ideas, the mind simultaneously acquires fresh instru 
ments for pursuing its inquiries further. For we may 
gather from what has been said, that a true idea must 
necessarily first of all exist in us as a natural instrument ; 
and that when this idea is apprehended by the mind, it 
enables us to understand the difference existing between 
itself and all other perceptions. In this, one part of the 
method consists. 

Now it is clear that the mind apprehends itself better in 
proportion as it understands a greater number of natural 
objects; it follows, therefore, that this portion of the 
method will be more perfect in proportion as the mind 
attains to the comprehension of a greater number of ob 
jects, and that it will be absolutely perfect when the mind 
gains a knowledge of the absolutely perfect being or 
becomes conscious thereof. Again, the more things the 
mind knows, the better does it understand its own strength 
and the order of nature ; by increased self-knowledge it can 
direct itself more easily, and lay down rules for its own 



SPINOZA 13 

guidance; and, by increased knowledge of nature, it can 
more easily avoid what is useless. 

And this is the sum total of method, as we have already 
stated. We may add that the idea in the world of thought 
is in the same case as its correlate in the world of real 
ity. If, therefore, there be anything in nature which is 
without connection with any other thing, and if we assign 
to it a subjective essence, which would in every way cor 
respond to the objective reality, the subjective essence 
would have no connection with any other ideas in other 
words, we could not draw any conclusion with regard to 
it. On the other hand, those things which are connected 
with others as all things that exist in nature will be 
understood by the mind, and their subjective essences 
will maintain the same mutual relations as their objective 
realities that is to say, we shall infer from these ideas 
other ideas, which will in turn be connected with others, 
and thus our instruments for proceeding with our investi 
gation will increase. This is what we are endeavoring to 
prove. Further, from what has just been said namely, 
that an idea must, in all respects, correspond to its cor 
relate in the world of reality it is evident that, in order 
to reproduce in every respect the faithful image of nature, 
our mind must deduce all its ideas from the idea which 
represents the origin and source of the whole of nature, 
so that it may itself become the source of other ideas. 

It may, perhaps, provoke__ J astonishment that, after 
having said that the good method is that which teaches 
us to direct our mind according to the standard of the 
given true idea, we should prove our point by reasoning, 
which would seem to indicate that it is not self-evident. 
We may, therefore, be questioned as to the validity of 
our reasoning. If our reasoning be sound, we must take 
as a starting point a true idea. Now, to be certain that 
our starting point is really a true idea, we need a proof. 
This first course of reasoning must be supported by a 
second, the second by a third, and so on to infinity. To 
this I make answer that, if by some happy chance any 
one had adopted this method in his investigations of 
nature that is, if he had acquired new ideas in the 



i 4 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

proper order, according 1 to the standard of the original 
true idea, he would never have doubted of the truth of 
his knowledge, inasmuch as truth, as we have shown, 
makes itself manifest, and all things would flow, as it 
were, spontaneously toward him. But as this never, or 
rarely, happens, I have been forced so to arrange my 
proceedings, that we may acquire by reflection and fore 
thought what we cannot acquire by chance, and that it 
may at the same time appear that, for proving the truth, 
and for valid reasoning, we need no other means than 
the truth and valid reasoning themselves: for by valid 
reasoning I have established valid reasoning, and, in like 
measure, I seek still to establish it. Moreover, this is 
the order of thinking adopted by men in their inward 
meditations. The reasons for its rare employment in 
investigations of nature are to be found in current mis 
conceptions, whereof we shall examine the causes here 
after in our philosophy. Moreover, it demands, as we 
shall show, a keen and accurate discernment. Lastly, it 
is hindered by the conditions of human life, which are, 
as we have already pointed out, extremely changeable. 
There are also other obstacles, which we will not here 
inquire into. 

If any one asks why I have not at the starting point 
set forth all the truths of nature in their due order, 
inasmuch as truth is self-evident, I reply by warning 
him not to reject as false any paradoxes he may find 
here, but to take the trouble to reflect on the chain 
of reasoning by which they are supported; he will then 
be no longer in doubt that we have attained to the truth. 
This is why I have begun as above. 

If there yet remains some sceptic, who doubts of our 
primary truth, and of all deductions we make, taking 
such truth as our standard, he must either be arguing 1 
in bad faith, or we must confess that there are men 
in complete mental blindness either innate or due to 
misconceptions that is, to some external influence. 

Such persons are not conscious of themselves. If they 
affirm or doubt anything, they know not that they affirm 
or doubt ; they say that they know nothing, and they say 



SPINOZA 15 

that they are ignorant of the very fact of their knowing 
nothing. Even this they do not affirm absolutely, they are 
afraid of confessing that they exist, so long as they 
know nothing-; in fact, they ought to remain dumb, for 
fear of haply supposing something which should smack 
of truth. Lastly, with such persons, one should not 
speak of sciences; for, in what relates to life and con 
duct, they are compelled by necessity to suppose that 
they exist, and seek their own advantage, and often 
affirm and deny, even with an oath. If they deny, grant, 
or gainsay, they know not that they deny, grant, or gain 
say, so that they ought to be regarded as automata, 
utterly devoid of intelligence. 

Let us now return to our proposition. Up to the pres 
ent we have, first, defined the end to which we desire 
to direct all our thoughts ; secondly, we have determined 
the mode of perception best adapted to aid us in attain 
ing our perfection; thirdly, we have discovered the way 
which our mind should take, in order to make a good 
beginning namely, that it should use every true idea 
as a standard in pursuing its inquiries according to fixed 
rules. Now, in order that it may thus proceed, our 
method must furnish us, first, with a means of distin 
guishing a true idea from all other perceptions, and 
enabling the mind to avoid the latter; secondly, with 
rules for perceiving unknown things according to the 
standard of the true idea; thirdly, with an order which 
enables us to avoid useless labor. When we became ac 
quainted with this method, we saw that, fourthly, it 
would be perfect when we had attained to the idea of 
the absolutely perfect Being. This is an observation 
which should be made at the outset, in order that we may 
arrive at the knowledge of such a being more quickly. 

Let us then make a beginning with the first part of 
the method, which is, as we have said, to distingtiish 
and separate the true idea from other perceptions, and 
to keep the mind from confusing with true ideas those 
which are false, fictitious, and doubtful. I intend to 
dwell on this point at length, partly to keep a distinction 
so necessary before the reader s mind, and also because 



16 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

there are some who doubt of true ideas, through not having" 
attended to the distinction between a true perception and 
all others. Such persons are like men who, while they 
are awake, doubt not that they are awake, but after 
ward in a dream, as often happens, thinking that they 
are surely awake, and then finding that they were in 
error, become doubtful even of being awake. This state 
of mind arises through neglect of the distinction between 
sleeping and waking. 

Meanwhile, I give warning that I shall not here give the 
essence of every perception, and explain it through its 
proximate cause. Such work lies in the province of 
philosophy. I shall confine myself to what concerns 
method that is, to the character of fictitious, false, and 
doubtful perception, and the means of freeing ourselves 
therefrom. Let us then first inquire into the nature of a 
fictitious idea. 

Every perception has for its object either a thing con 
sidered as existing, or solely the essence of a thing. 
Now <( fiction w is chiefly occupied with things considered 
as existing. I will, therefore, consider these first I 
mean cases where only the existence of an object is 
feigned, and the thing thus feigned is understood, or 
assumed to be understood. For instance, I feign that 
Peter, whom I know to have gone home, is gone to see 
me, or something of that kind. With what is such an 
idea concerned ? It is concerned with things possible, 
and not with things necessary or impossible. I call a 
thing IMPOSSIBLE, when its existence would imply a con 
tradiction; NECESSARY, when its non-existence would imply 
a contradiction; POSSIBLE, when neither its existence nor 
its non-existence imply a contradiction, but when the 
necessity or impossibility of its nature depends on causes 
unknown to us, while we feign that it exists. If the 
necessity or impossibility of its existence depending on 
external causes were known to us, we could not form 
any fictitious hypothesis about it; whence it follows that 
if there be a God or omniscient Being, such an one 
cannot form fictitious hypotheses. For, as regards our 
selves, when I know that I exist, I cannot hypothesize 



SPINOZA 17 

that I exist or do not exist, any more than I can hy 
pothesize an elephant that can go through the eye of a 
needle; nor when I know the nature of God, can I hy 
pothesize that he exists or does not exist. The same 
thing must be said of the Chimaera, whereof the nature 
implies a contradiction. From these considerations, it is 
plain, as I have already stated, that fiction cannot be con 
cerned with eternal truths. 

But before proceeding further, I must remark, in pass 
ing, that the difference between the essence of one thing 
and the essence of another thing is the same as that 
which exists between the reality or existence of one thing 
and the reality or existence of another; therefore, if we 
wished to conceive the existence, for example, of Adam, 
simply by means of existence in general, it would be the 
same as if, in order to conceive his existence, we went 
back to the nature of being, so as to define Adam as a 
being. Thus, the more existence is conceived generally, 
the more is it conceived confusedly, and the more easily 
can it be ascribed to a given object. Contrariwise, the 
more it is conceived particularly, the more is it under 
stood clearly, and the less liable is it to be ascribed, 
through negligence of Nature s order, to anything save 
its proper object. This is worthy of remark. 

We now proceed to consider those cases which are 
commonly called fictions, though we clearly understand 
that the thing is not as we imagine it. For instance, 
I know that the earth is round, but nothing prevents my 
telling people that it is a hemisphere, and that it is like 
a half apple carved in relief on a dish; or, that the sun 
moves round the earth, and so on. However, examina 
tion will show us that there is nothing here inconsistent 
with what has been said, provided we first admit that 
we may have made mistakes, and be now conscious of 
them; and, further, that we can hypothesize, or at least 
suppose, that others are under the same mistake as our 
selves, or can, like us, fall under it. We can, I repeat, 
thus hypothesize so long as we see no impossibility. 
Thus, when I tell anyone that the earth is not round, etc., 
I merely recall the error which I perhaps made myself, 



i8 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

or which I might have fallen into, and afterward I 
hypothesize that the person to whom I tell it is still, or 
may still fall under the same mistake. This I say, I can 
feign so long as I do not perceive any impossibility or 
necessity; if I truly understood either one or the other 
I should not be able to feign, and I should be reduced 
to saying that I had made the attempt. 

It remains for us to consider hypotheses made in prob 
lems, which sometimes involve impossibilities. For in 
stance, when we say let us assume that this burning candle 
is not burning, or, let us assume that it burns in some im 
aginary space, or where there are no physical objects. 
Such assumptions are freely made, though the last is 
clearly seen to be impossible. But, though this be so, 
there is no fiction in the case. For, in the first case, I 
have merely recalled to memory another candle not burn 
ing, or conceived the candle before me as without a flame, 
and then I understand as applying to the latter, leaving 
its flame out of the question, all that I think of the former. 
In the second case, I have merely to abstract my thoughts 
from the objects surrounding the candle, for the mind to 
devote itself to the contemplation of the candle singly 
looked at in itself only; I can then draw the conclusion 
that the candle contains in itself no cause for its own 
destruction, so that if there were no physical objects the 
candle, and even the flame, would remain unchangeable, 
and so on. Thus there is here no fiction, but true and 
bare assertions. 

Let us now pass on to the fictions concerned with es 
sences only, or with some reality or existence simultane 
ously. Of these we must specially observe that in 
proportion as the mind s understanding is smaller, and its 
experience multiplex, so will its power of coining fictions 
be larger, whereas, as its understanding increases, its 
capacity for entertaining fictitious ideas becomes less. 
For instance, in the same way as we are unable, while 
we are thinking, to feign that we are thinking or not 
thinking, so, also, when we know the nature of body we 
cannot imagine an infinite fly ; or, when we know the na 
ture of the soul, we cannot imagine it as square, though 



SPINOZA , 9 

anything may be expressed verbally. But, as we said 
above, the less men know of nature the more easily can 
they coin fictitious ideas, such as trees speaking, men in 
stantly changed into stones, or into fountains, ghosts ap 
pearing in mirrors, something issuing from nothing, even 
gods changed into beasts and men, and infinite other ab 
surdities of the same kind. 

Some persons think, perhaps, that fiction is limited by 
fiction, and not by understanding; in other words, after 
1 have formed some fictitious idea, and have affirmed of 
my own free will that it exists under a certain form in 
nature, I am thereby precluded from thinking of it under 
any other form. For instance, when I have feigned (to 
repeat their argument) that the nature of body is of a 
certain kind, and have of my own free will desired to 
convince myself that it actually exists under this form, I 
am no longer able to hypothesize that a fly, for example, 
is infinite; so, when I have hypothesized the essence of 
the soul, I am not able to think of it as square, etc. But 
these arguments demand further inquiry. First, their 
upholders must either grant or deny that we can under 
stand anything. If they grant it, then necessarily the 
same must be said of understanding as is said of fiction. 
If they deny it, let us, who know that we do know some 
thing, see what they mean. They assert that the soul can 
be conscious of, and perceive in a variety of ways, not 
itself nor things which exist, but only things which are 
neither in itself nor anywhere else, in other words, that 
the soul can, by its unaided power, create sensations or 
ideas unconnected with things. In fact, they regard the 
soul as a sort of god. Further, they assert that we or our 
soul have such freedom that we can constrain ourselves, or 
our soul, or even our soul s freedom. For, after it has 
formed a fictitious idea, and has given its assent thereto, it 
cannot think or feign it in any other manner, but is con 
strained by the first fictitious idea to keep all its other 
thoughts in harmony therewith. Our opponents are thus 
driven to admit, in support of their fiction, the absurdities 
which I have just enumerated; and which are not worthy 
of rational refutation. 



20 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

While leaving such persons in their error, we will take 
care to derive from our argument with them a truth 
serviceable for our purpose, namely, that the mind, in 
paying attention to a thing hypothetical or false, so as 
to meditate upon it and understand it, and derive the 
proper conclusions in due order therefrom, will readily 
discover its falsity; and if the thing hypothetical be in 
its nature true, and the mind pays attention to it, so as 
to understand it, and deduce the truths which are deriv 
able from it, the mind will proceed with an uninter 
rupted series of apt conclusions ; in the same way as it would 
at once discover (as we showed just now) the absurdity 
of a false hypothesis, and of the conclusions drawn 
from it. 

We need, therefore, be in no fear of forming hypoth 
eses, so long as we have a clear and distinct perception 
of what is involved. For, if we were to assert, haply, 
that men are suddenly turned into beasts, the statement 
would be extremely general, so general that there would 
be no conception, that is, no idea or connection of sub 
ject and predicate, in our mind. If there were such a 
conception we should at the same time be aware of the 
means and the causes whereby the event took place. 
Moreover, we pay no attention to the nature of the sub 
ject and the predicate. Now, if the first idea be not fic 
titious, and if all the other ideas be deduced therefrom, 
our hurry to form fictitious ideas will gradually subside. 
Further, as a fictitious idea cannot be clear and distinct, 
but is necessarily confused, and as all confusion arises 
from the fact that the mind has only partial knowledge 
of a thing either simple or complex, and does not dis 
tinguish between the known and the unknown, and, again, 
that it directs its attention promiscuously to all parts of 
an object at once without making distinctions, it follows, 
FIRST, that if the idea be of something very simple, it 
must necessarily be clear and distinct. For a very simple 
object cannot be known in part, it must either be known 
altogether or not at all. SECONDLY, it follows that if a 
complex object be divided by thought into a number of 
simple component parts, and if each part be regarded 



SPINOZA 21 

separately, all confusion will disappear. THIRDLY, it fol 
lows that fiction cannot be simple, but is made up of the 
blending of several confused ideas of diverse objects or 
actions existent in nature, or rather is composed of at 
tention* directed to all such ideas at once, and unac 
companied by any mental assent. 

Now a fiction that was simple would be clear and dis 
tinct, and therefore true, also a fiction composed only of 
distinct ideas would be clear and distinct, and therefore 
true. For instance, when we know the nature of the 
circle and the square, it is impossible for us to blend 
together these two figures, and to hypothesize a square 
circle, any more than a square soul, or things of that 
kind. Let us shortly come to our conclusion, and again 
repeat that we need have no fear of confusing with true 
ideas that which is only a fiction. As for the first sort 
of fiction of which we have already spoken, when a 
thing is clearly conceived, we saw that if the existence 
of that thing is in itself an eternal truth, fiction can 
have no part in it; but if the existence of the thing 
conceived be not an eternal truth, we have only to be 
careful that such existence be compared to the thing s 
essence, and to consider the order of nature. As for the 
second sort of fiction, which we stated to be the result 
of simultaneously directing the attention, without the 
assent of the intellect, to different confused ideas repre 
senting different things and actions existing in nature, 
we have seen that an absolutely simple thing connot be 
feigned, but must be understood, and that a complex 
thing is in the same case if we regard separately the 
simple parts whereof it is composed; we shall not even 
be able to hypothesize any untrue action concerning 
such objects, for we shall be obliged to consider at 
the same time the causes and the manner of such action. 

* Observe that fiction regarded in itself, differs only from dreams in 
that in the latter we do not perceive the external causes which we per 
ceive through the senses while awake. It has hence been inferred that 
representations occurring in sleep have no connection with objects 
external to us. We shall presently see that error is the dreaming of a 
waking man ; if it reaches a certain pitch it becomes delirium. 



22 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

These matters being thus understood, let us pass on 
to consider the false idea, observing the objects with 
which it is concerned, and the means of guarding our 
selves from falling into false perceptions. Neither of 
these tasks will present much difficulty, after our inquiry 
concerning fictitious ideas. The false idea only differs 
from the fictitious idea in the fact of implying a mental 
assent that is as we have already remarked, while the 
representations are occurring, there are no causes present 
to us, wherefrom, as in fiction, we can conclude that such 
representations do not arise from external objects, in fact 
it is much the same as dreaming with our eyes open, or 
while awake. Thus a false idea is concerned with (or to 
speak more correctly), attributable to the existence of a 
thing whereof the essence is known, or the essence itself, 
in the same way as a fictitious idea. If attributable to 
the existence of the thing, it is corrected in the same 
way as a fictitious idea under similar circumstances. If 
attributable to the essence, it is likewise corrected in the 
same way as a fictitious idea. For if the nature of the 
thing known implies necessary existence, we cannot possi 
bly be in error with regard to its existence; but if the 
nature of the thing be not an eternal truth, like its essence, 
but contrariwise, the necessity or impossibility of its 
existence depends on external causes, then we must follow 
the same course as we adopted in the case of fiction, for 
it is corrected in the same manner. As for false ideas 
concerned with essences, or even with actions, such per 
ceptions are necessarily always confused, being com 
pounded of different confused perceptions of things 
existing in nature, as, for instance, when men are per 
suaded that deities are present in woods, in statues, in 
brute beasts, and the like ; that there are bodies which, by 
their composition alone, give rise to intellect; that corpses 
reason, walk about and speak ; that God is deceived, and 
so on. But ideas which are clear and distinct can never 
be false: for ideas of things clearly and distinctly con 
ceived are either very simple themselves, or are com 
pounded from very simple ideas that is, are deduced 
therefrom. The impossibility of a very simple idea being 



SPINOZA 23 

false is evident to every one who understands the nature 
of truth or understanding and of falsehood. 

As regards that which constitutes the reality of truth, 
it is certain that a true idea is distinguished from a false 
one, not so much by its extrinsic object as by its intrinsic 
nature. If an architect conceives a building properly 
constructed, though such a building may never have ex 
isted, and may never exist, nevertheless the idea is true; 
and the idea remains the same, whether it be put into 
execution or not. On the other hand, if any one asserts, 
for instance, that Peter exists, without knowing whether 
Peter really exists or not, the assertion, as far as its as- 
serter is concerned, is false, or not true, even though Peter 
actually does exist. The assertion that Peter exists is 
true only with regard to him who knows for certain that 
Peter does exist. Whence it follows that there is in ideas 
something real, whereby the true are distinguished from 
the false. This reality must be inquired into, if we are 
to find the best standard of truth (we have said that we 
ought to determine our thoughts by the given standard 
of a true idea, and that method is reflective knowledge), 
and to know the properties of our understanding. Neither 
must we say that the difference between true and false 
arises from the fact that true knowledge consists in know 
ing things through their primary causes, wherein it is 
totally different from false knowledge, as I have just ex 
plained it: for thought is said to be true, if it involves 
subjectively the essence of any principle which has no 
cause, and is known through itself and in itself. Where 
fore the reality (forma) of true thought must exist in 
the thought itself, without reference to other thoughts; 
it does not acknowledge the object as its cause, but must 
depend on the actual power and nature of the under 
standing. For, if we suppose that the understanding has 
perceived some new entity which has never existed, as 
some conceive the understanding of God before He cre 
ated things (a perception which certainly could not arise 
from any object), and has legitimately deduced other 
thoughts from the said perception, all such thoughts 
would be true, without being determined by any 



24 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

external object; they would depend solely on the power 
and nature of the understanding. Thus, that which con 
stitutes the reality of a true thought must be sought 
in the thought itself and deduced from the nature of 
the understanding. In order to pursue our investiga 
tion, let us confront ourselves with some TRUE idea, whose 
object we know for certain to be dependent on our 
power of thinking, and to have nothing corresponding to 
it in nature. With an idea of this kind before us, we 
shall, as appears from what has just been said, be more 
easily able to carry on the research we have in view. 
For instance, in order to form the conception of a sphere, 
I invent a cause at my pleasure namely, a semicircle 
revolving round its centre, and thus producing a sphere. 
This is indisputably a true idea; and, although we know 
that no sphere in nature has ever actually been so formed, 
the perception remains true, and is the easiest manner 
of conceiving a sphere. We must observe that this per 
ception asserts the rotation of a semicircle which asser 
tion would be false, if it were not associated with the 
conception of a sphere, or of a cause determining a mo 
tion of the kind, or absolutely, if the assertion were iso 
lated. The mind would then only tend to the affirma 
tion of the sole motion of a semicircle which is not con 
tained in the conception of a semicircle, and does not arise 
from the conception of any cause capable of producing 
such motion. 

Thus FALSITY consists only in this, that something is 
affirmed of a thing, which is not contained in the con 
ception we have formed of that thing, as motion or rest 
of a semicircle. Whence it follows that simple ideas can 
not be other than TRUE e.g., the simple idea of a semi 
circle, of motion, of rest, of quantity, etc. 

Whatsoever affirmation such ideas contain is equal to 
the concept formed, and does not extend further. Where 
fore we may form as many simple ideas as we please, 
without any fear of error. It only remains for us to 
inquire by what power our mind can form true ideas, 
and how far such power extends. It is certain that such 
power cannot extend itself infinitely. For when we affirm 



SPINOZA 25 

somewhat of a thing, which is not contained in the con 
cept we have formed of that thing, such an affirmation 
shows a defect of our perception, or that we have formed 
fragmentary or mutilated ideas. Thus we have seen that 
the motion of a semicircle is false when it is isolated in 
the mind, but true when it is associated with the concept 
of a sphere, or of some cause determining such a motion. 
But if it be the nature of a thinking being, as seems, 
prima facie, to be the case, to form true or adequate 
thoughts, it is plain that inadequate ideas arise in us 
only because we are parts of a thinking being, whose 
thoughts some in their entirety, others in fragments 
only constitute our mind. 

But there is another point to be considered, which was 
not worth raising in the case of fiction, but which gives 
rise to complete deception namely, that certain things 
presented to the imagination also exist in the under 
standing in other words, are conceived clearly and dis 
tinctly. Hence, so long as we do not separate that 
which is distinct from that which is confused, certainty, 
or the true idea, becomes mixed with indistinct ideas. 
For instance, certain Stoics heard, perhaps, the term 
"soul," and also that the soul is immortal, yet imagined 
it only confusedly; they imagined, also, and understood 
that very subtle bodies penetrate all others, and are 
penetrated by none. By combining these ideas, and 
being at the same time certain of the truth of the axiom, 
they forthwith became convinced that the mind consists 
of very subtle bodies; that these very subtle bodies can 
not be divided, etc. But we are freed from mistakes of 
this kind, so long as we endeavor to examine all our 
perceptions by the standard of the given true idea. We 
must take care, as has been said, to separate such per 
ceptions from all those which arise from hearsay or 
unclassified experience. 

Moreover, such mistakes arise from things being con 
ceived too much in the abstract; for it is sufficiently 
self-evident that what I conceive as in its true object I 
cannot apply to anything else. Lastly, they arise from a 
want of understanding of the primary elements of nature 



26 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

as a whole; whence we proceed without due order, and 
confound nature with abstract rules, which, although 
they be true enough in their sphere, yet, when misapplied, 
confound themselves, and pervert the order of nature. 
However, if we proceed with as little abstraction as pos 
sible, and begin from primary elements that is, from 
the source and origin of nature, as far back as we can 
reach, we need not fear any deceptions of this kind. As 
far as the knowledge of the origin of nature is concerned, 
there is no danger of our confounding it with abstrac 
tions. For when a thing is conceived in the abstract, as 
are all universal notions, the said universal notions are 
always more extensive in the mind than the number of 
individuals forming their contents really existing in 
nature. 

Again, there are many things in nature, the difference 
between which is so slight as to be hardly perceptible to 
the understanding ; so that it may readily happen that such 
things are confounded together, if they be conceived ab 
stractedly. But since the first principle of nature cannot 
(as we shall see hereafter) be conceived abstractedly or 
universally, and cannot extend further in the understand 
ing than it does in reality, and has no likeness to mutable 
things, no confusion need be feared in respect to the idea 
of it, provided (as before shown) that we possess a standard 
of truth. This is, in fact, a being single and infinite ; in 
other words, it is the sum total of being, beyond which 
there is no being found. 

Thus far we have treated of the false idea. We have 
now to investigate the doubtful idea that is, to inquire 
what can cause us to doubt, and how doubt may be re 
moved. I speak of real doubt existing in the mind, not 
of such doubt as we see exemplified when a man says that 
he doubts, though his mind does not really hesitate. The 
cure of the latter does not fall within the province of 
method, it belongs rather to inquiries concerning obstinacy 
and its cure. Real doubt is never produced in the mind 
by the thing doubted of. In other words, if there were 
only one idea in the mind, whether that idea were true or 
false, there would be no doubt of certainty present, only a 



SPINOZA 27 

certain sensation. For an idea is in itself nothing" else 
than a certain sensation; but doubt will arise through 
another idea, not clear and distinct enough for us to be 
able to draw any certain conclusion with regard to the 
matter under consideration ; that is, the idea which causes 
us to doubt is not clear and distinct. To take an example. 
Supposing that a man has never reflected, taught by ex 
perience, or by any other means, that our senses sometimes 
deceive us, he will never doubt whether the sun be greater 
or less than it appears. Thus rustics are generally aston 
ished when they hear that the sun is much larger than 
the earth. But from reflection on the deceitfulness of the 
senses * doubt arises, and if, after doubting, we acquire 
a true knowledge of the senses, and how things at a dis 
tance are represented through their instrumentality, doubt 
is again removed. Hence we cannot cast doubt on true 
ideas by the supposition that there is a deceitful Deity, 
who leads us astray even in what is most certain. We can 
only hold such an hypothesis so long as we have no clear 
and distinct idea in other words, until we reflect on the 
knowledge which we have of the first principle of all 
things, and find that which teaches us that God is not a 
deceiver, and until we know this with the same certainty 
as we know from reflecting on the nature of a triangle 
that its three angles are equal to two right angles. But 
if we have a knowledge of God eqiial to that which we 
have of a triangle, all doubt is removed. In the same 
way as we can arrive at the said knowledge of a triangle, 
though not absolutely sure that there is not some arch- 
deceiver leading us astray, so can we come to a like knowl 
edge of God under the like condition, and when we have 
attained to it, it is sufficient, as I said before, to remove 
every doubt which we can possess concerning clear and 
distinct ideas. Thus, if a man proceeded with our inves 
tigations in due order, inquiring first into those things 
which should first be inquired into, never passing over a 
link in the chain of association, and with knowledge how 
to define his questions before seeking to answer them, he 

* That is, it is known that the senses sometimes deceive us. But it 
is only known confusedly, for it is not known how they deceive us. 



28 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

will never have any ideas save such as are very certain, 
or, in other words, clear and distinct; for doubt is only 
a suspension of the spirit concerning some affirmation or 
negation which it would pronounce upon unhesitatingly if it 
were not in ignorance of something, without which the 
knowledge of the matter in hand must needs be imperfect. 
We may, therefore, conclude that doubt always proceeds 
from want of due order in investigation. 

These are the points I promised to discuss in this first 
part of my treatise on method. However, in order not 
to omit anything which can conduce to the knowledge 
of the understanding and its faculties, I will add a few 
words on the subject of memory and forgetfulness. 

The point most worthy of attention is, that memory 
is strengthened both with and without the aid of the 
understanding. For the more intelligible a thing is, the 
more easily it is remembered, and the less intelligible 
it is, the more easily do we forget it. For instance, a 
number of unconnected words is much more difficult to 
remember than the same number in the form of a nar 
ration. The memory is also strengthened without the 
aid of the understanding by means of the power where 
with the imagination or the sense called common is af 
fected by some particular physical object. I say 
PARTICULAR, for the imagination is only affected by par 
ticular objects. If we read, for instance, a single 
romantic comedy, we shall remember it very well, so 
long as we do not read many others of the same kind, 
for it will reign alone in the memory. If, however, we 
read several others of the same kind, we shall think of 
them altogether, and easily confuse one with another. 
I say, also PHYSICAL. For the imagination is only 
affected by physical objects. As, then, the memory is 
strengthened both with and without the aid of the un 
derstanding, we may conclude that it is different from 
the understanding, and that in the matter considered in 
itself there is neither memory nor forgetfulness. What, 
then, is memory ? It is nothing else than the actual 
sensation of impressions on the brain, accompanied with 
the thought of a definite duration of the sensation. This 



SPINOZA 29 

is also shown by reminiscence. For then we think of 
the sensation, but without the notion of continuous dura 
tion; thus the idea of that sensation is not the actual 
duration of the sensation or actual memory. Whether 
ideas are or are not subject to corruption will be seen 
in my philosophy. If this seems too absurd to any one, 
it will be sufficient for our purpose, if he reflect on the 
fact that a thing is more easily remembered in propor 
tion to its singularity, as appears from the example of 
the comedy just cited. Further, a thing is remembered 
more easily in proportion to its intelligibility; therefore 
we cannot help remembering that which is extremely 
singular and sufficiently intelligible. 

Thus, then, we have distinguished between a true idea 
and other perceptions, and shown that ideas fictitious, 
false, and the rest, originate in the imagination that is, 
in certain sensations fortuitous (so to speak) and dis 
connected, arising not from the power of the mind, but 
from external causes, according as the body, sleeping or 
waking, receives various motions. 

But one may take any view one likes of the imagin 
ation so long as one acknowledges that it is different from 
the understanding, and that the soul is passive with regard 
to it. The view taken is immaterial, if we know that the 
imagination is something indefinite, with regard to which 
the soul is passive, and that we can by some means or 
other free ourselves therefrom with the help of the under 
standing. Let no one then be astonished that before prov 
ing the existence of body, and other necessary things, I 
speak of imagination of body, and of its composition. 
The view taken is, I repeat, immaterial, so long as we 
know that imagination is something indefinite, etc. As 
regards a true idea, we have shown that it is simple or 
compounded of simple ideas ; that it shows how and why 
something is or has been made; and that its subjective 
effects in the soul correspond to the actual reality of its 
object. This conclusion is identical with the saying of 
the ancients, that true science proceeds from cause to 
effect ; though the ancients, so far as I know, never formed 
the conception put forward here that the soul acts accord- 



30 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

ing to fixed laws; and is, as it were, an immaterial auto 
maton. Hence, as far as is possible at the outset, we have 
acquired a knowledge of our understanding, and such a 
standard of a true idea that we need no longer fear con 
founding truth with falsehood and fiction. Neither shall 
we wonder why we understand some things which in 
nowise fall within the scope of the imagination, while 
other things are in the imagination but wholly opposed 
to the understanding, or others, again, which agree there 
with. We now know that the operations, whereby the 
effects of imagination are produced, take place under other 
laws quite different from the laws of the understanding, 
and that the mind is entirely passive with regard to them. 
Whence we may also see how easily men may fall into 
grave errors through not distinguishing accurately between 
the imagination and the understanding; such as believ 
ing that extension must be localized, that it must be 
finite, that its parts are really distinct one from the other, 
that it is the primary and single foundation of all things, 
that it occupies more space at one time than at another, 
and other similar doctrines, all entirely opposed to truth, 
as we shall duly show. 

Again, since words are a part of the imagination 
that is, since we form many conceptions in accordance 
with confused arrangements of words in the memory, de 
pendent on particular bodily conditions there is no 
doubt that words may, equally with the imagination, be 
the cause of many and great errors, unless we keep 
strictly on our guard. Moreover, words are formed ac 
cording to popular fancy and intelligence, and are, there 
fore, signs of things as existing in the imagination, not 
as existing in the understanding. This is evident from 
the fact that to all such things as exist only in the un 
derstanding, not in the imagination, negative names are 
often given, such as incorporeal, infinite, etc. So, also, 
many conceptions really affirmative are expressed nega 
tively, and vice versa, such as uncreate, independent, infi 
nite, immortal, etc., inasmuch as their contraries are much 
more easily imagined, and, therefore, occurred first to 
men, and usurped positive names. Many things we 



SPINOZA 31 

affirm and deny, because the nature of words allows us 
to do so, though the nature of things does not. While 
we remain unaware of this fact, we may easily mistake 
falsehood for truth. 

Let us also beware of another great cause of confusion, 
which prevents the understanding from reflecting on 
itself. Sometimes, while making no distinction between 
the imagination and the intellect, we think that what we 
more readily imagine is clearer to us; and also we think 
that what we imagine we understand. Thus, we put first 
that which should be last; the true order of progression 
is reversed, and no legitimate conclusion is drawn. 

Now, in order at length to pass on to the second part 
of this method, I shall first set forth the object aimed at, 
and next the means for its attainment. The object aimed 
at is the acquisition of clear and distinct ideas, such as 
are produced by the pure intellect, and not by chance 
physical motions. In order that all ideas may be reduced 
to unity, we shall endeavor so to associate and arrange / 
them that our mind may, as far as possible, reflect sub 
jectively the reality of nature, both as a whole and as 
parts. 

As for the first point, it is necessary ( as we have said ) 
for our purpose that everything should be conceived, / 
either SOLELY THROUGH ITS ESSENCE, or THROUGH ITS PROXI 
MATE CAUSE. If the thing be self-existent, or as is com 
monly said, the cause of itself, it must be understood 
through its essence only; if it be not self-existent, but 
requires a cause for its existence, it must be understood 
through its proximate cause. For, in reality, the knowl 
edge of an effect is nothing else than the acquisition of 
more perfect knowledge of its cause. Therefore, we may 
never, while we are concerned with inquiries into actual 
things, draw any conclusions from abstractions; we shall 
be extremely careful not to confound that which is only 
in the understanding with that which is in the thing 
itself. The best basis for drawing a conclusion will be 
either some particular affirmative essence, or a true and 
legitimate definition. For the understanding can not 
descend from universal axioms by themselves to particu- 



32 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

lar things, since axioms are of infinite extent, and do not 
determine the understanding to contemplate one particu 
lar thing more than another. Thus the true method of 
discovery is to form thoughts from some given definition. 
This process will be the more fruitful and easy in pro 
portion as the thing given be better defined. Wherefore, 
the cardinal point of all this second part of method con 
sists in the knowledge of the conditions of good defini 
tion, and the means of finding them. I will first treat of 
the conditions of definition. 

A definition, if it is to be called perfect, must explain 
the inmost essence of a thing, and must take care not to 
substitute for this any of its properties. In order to 
illustrate my meaning, without taking an example which 
would seem to show a desire to expose other people s 
errors, I will choose the case of something abstract, the 
definition of which is of little moment. Such is a circle. 
If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight 
lines drawn from the center to the circumference are 
equal, every one can see that such a definition does not 
in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one 
of its properties. Though, as I have said, this is of no 
importance in the case of figures and other abstractions, 
it is of great importance in the case of physical beings 
and realities : for the properties of things are not under 
stood so long as their essences are unknown. If the 
latter be passed over, there is necessarily a perversion 
of the succession of ideas which should reflect the succes 
sion of nature, and we go far astray from our object. 

In order to be free from this fault, the following rules 
should be observed in definition: 

I. If the thing in question be created, the definition 
must (as we have said) comprehend the proximate cause. 
For instance, a circle should, according to this rule, be de 
fined as follows: the figure described by any line whereof 
one end is fixed and the other free. This definition clearly 
comprehends the proximate cause. 

II. A conception or definition of a thing should be such 
that all the properties of that thing, in so far as it is con 
sidered by itself, and not in conjunction with other things, 



SPINOZA 33 



can be deduced from it, as may be seen in the^sdefinition 
given of a circle : for from that it clearly follows that all 
straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference 
are equal. That this is a necessary characteristic of a 
definition is so clear to any one, who reflects on the matter, 
that there is no need to spend time in proving it, or in 
showing that, owing to this second condition, every defini 
tion should be affirmative. I speak of intellectual affirma 
tion, giving little thought to verbal affirmations which, 
owing to the poverty of the language, must sometimes, 
perhaps, be expressed negatively, though the idea con 
tained is affirmative. 

The rules for the definition of an uncreated thing are as 
follows : 

I. The exclusion of all idea of cause that is, the thing 
must not need explanation by anything outside itself. 

II. When the definition of the thing has been given, 
there must be no room for doubt as to whether the thing 
exists or not. 

* III. It must contain, as far as the mind is concerned, 
no substantives which could be put into an adjectival 
form; in other words, the object defined must not be ex 
plained through abstractions. 

IV. Lastly, though this is not absolutely necessary, it 
should be possible to deduce from the definition all the 
properties of the thing defined. 

All these rules become obvious to any one giving strict 
attention to the matter. 

I have also stated that the best basis for drawing a con 
clusion is a particular affirmative essence. The more 
specialized the idea is, the more is it distinct, and there 
fore clear. Wherefore a knowledge of particular things 
should be sought for as diligently as possible. 

As regards the order of our perceptions, and the man 
ner in which they should be arranged and united, it is 
necessary that as soon as is possible and rational, we 
should inquire whether there be any being (and, if so, 
what being) that is the cause of all things, so that its 
essence, represented in thought, may be the cause of all 
our ideas, and then our mind will to the utmost possible 
3 



34 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

extent reflect nature. For it will possess, subjectively, 
nature s essence, order, and union. Thus we can see 
that it is before all things necessary for us to deduce all 
our ideas from physical things that is, from real enti 
ties, proceeding, as far as may be, according to the series 
of causes, from one real entity to another real entity, 
never passing to universals and abstractions, either for 
the purpose of deducing some real entity from them, or 
deducing them from some real entity. Either of these 
processes interrupts the true progress of the understand 
ing. But it must be observed that, by the series of 
causes and real entities, I do not here mean the series 
of particular and mutable things, but only the series of 
fixed and eternal things. It would be impossible for 
human infirmity to follow up the series of particular 
mutable things, both on account of their multitude, sur 
passing all calculation, and on account of the infinitely 
diverse circumstances surrounding one and the same thing, 
any one of which may be the cause for its existence or 
non-existence. Indeed, their existence has no connection 
with their essence, or (as we have said already) is not 
an eternal truth. Neither is there any need that we 
should understand their series, for the essences of particu 
lar mutable things are not to be gathered from their 
series or order of existence, which would furnish us with 
nothing beyond their extrinsic denominations, their rela 
tions, or, at most, their circumstances, all of which are 
very different from their inmost essence. This inmost 
essence must be sought solely from fixed and eternal 
things, and from the laws, inscribed (so to speak) in 
those things as in their true codes, according to which 
all particular things take place and are arranged; nay, 
these mutable particular things depend so intimately and 
essentially (so to phrase it) upon the fixed things, that 
they cannot either be or be conceived without them. 
Whence these fixed and eternal things, though they are 
themselves particular, will nevertheless, owing to their 
presence and power everywhere, be to us as universals, 
or genera of definitions of particular mutable things, and 
as the proximate causes of all things. 



SPINOZA 



35 



But, though this be so, there seems to be no small diffi 
culty in arriving- at the knowledge of these particular 
things, for to conceive them all at once would far surpass 
the powers of the human understanding. The arrange 
ment whereby one thing is understood before another, as 
we have stated, should not be sought from their series of, 
existence, nor from eternal things. For the latter are all 
by nature simultaneous. Other aids are therefore needed 
besides those employed for understanding eternal things 
and their laws; however, this is not the place to recount 
such aids, nor is there any need to do so, until we have 
acquired a sufficient knowledge of eternal things and their 
infallible laws, and until the nature of our senses has 
become plain to us. 

Before betaking ourselves to seek knowledge of partic 
ular things, it will be seasonable to speak of such aids, 
as all tend to teach us the mode of employing our senses, 
and to make certain experiments under fixed rules and 
arrangement which may suffice to determine the object 
of our inquiry, so that we may therefrom infer what laws 
of eternal things it has been produced under, and may 
gain an insight into its inmost nature, as I will duly 
show. Here, to return to my purpose, I will only en 
deavor to set forth what seems necessary for enabling us 
to attain to knowledge of eternal things, and to define 
them under the conditions laid down above. 

With this end, we must bear in mind what has already 
been stated, namely, that when the mind devotes itself to 
any thought, so as to examine it and to deduce there 
from in due order all the legitimate conclusions possible, 
any falsehood which may lurk in the thought will be 
detected; but if the thought be true, the mind will readily 
proceed without interruption to deduce truths from it. 
This, I say, is necessary for our purpose, for our 
thoughts may be brought to a close by the absence of a 
foundation. If, therefore, we wish to investigate the first 
thing of all, it will be necessary to supply some foun 
dation which may direct our thoughts thither. Further, 
since method is reflective knowledge, the foundation 
which must direct our thoughts can be nothing else than 



36 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

the knowledge of that which constitutes the reality of 
truth, and the knowledge of the understanding, its prop 
erties, and powers. When this has been acquired we 
shall possess a foundation wherefrom we can deduce our 
thoughts, and a path whereby the intellect, according to 
its capacity, may attain the knowledge of eternal things, 
allowance being made for the extent of the intellectual 

powers. 

If, as I stated in the first part, it belongs to the nature 
of thought to form true ideas, we must here inquire what 
is meant by the faculties and power of the understand 
ing. The chief part of our method is to understand as well 
as possible the powers of the intellect, and its nature; 
we are, therefore, compelled (by the considerations ad 
vanced in the second part of the method) necessarily to 
draw these conclusions from the definition itself of 
thought and understanding. But, so far, we have not 
got any rules for finding definitions, and, as we cannot 
set forth such rules without a previous knowledge of 
nature, that is without a definition of the understanding 
and its power, it follows either that the definition of the 
understanding must be clear in itself, or that we can 
understand nothing. Nevertheless this definition is not 
absolutely clear in itself; however, since its properties, 
like all things that we possess through the understanding, 
cannot be known clearly and distinctly, unless its nature 
be known previously, the definition of the understanding 
makes itself manifest, if we pay attention to its proper 
ties, which we know clearly and distinctly. Let us, then 
enumerate here the properties of the understanding, let 
us examine them, and begin by discussing the instru 
ments for research which we find innate in us. 

The properties of the understanding which I have chiefly 
remarked, and which I clearly understand, are the fol 
lowing : 

I. It involves certainty in other words, it knows that 
a thing exists in reality as it is reflected subjectively. 

II. That it perceives certain things, or forms some ideas 
absolutely, some ideas from others. Thus it forms the 
idea of quantity absolutely, without reference to any other 



SPINOZA 37 

thoughts; but ideas of motion it only forms after taking 
into consideration the idea of quantity. 

III. Those ideas which the understanding forms abso 
lutely express infinity ; determinate ideas are derived from 
other ideas. Thus in the idea of quantity, perceived by 
means of a cause, the quantity is determined, as when a 
body is perceived to be formed by the motion of a plane, 
a plane by the motion of a line, or, again, a line by the 
motion of a point. All these are perceptions which do 
not serve toward understanding quantity, but only to 
ward determining it. This is proved by the fact that 
we conceive them as formed as it were by motion, yet 
this motion is not perceived unless the quantity be per 
ceived also; we can even prolong the motion so as to form 
an infinite line, which we certainly could not do unless 
we had an idea of infinite quantity. 

IV. The understanding forms positive ideas before 
forming negative ideas. 

V. It perceives things not so much under the condition 
of duration as under a certain form of eternity, and in 
an infinite number ; or rather in perceiving things it does 
not consider either their number or duration, whereas, 
in imagining them, it perceives them in a determi 
nate number, duration, and quantity. 

VI. The ideas which we form as clear and distinct, seem 
so to follow from the sole necessity of our nature, 
that they appear to depend absolutely on our sole power; 
with confused ideas the contrary is the case. They are 
often formed against our will. 

VII. The mind can determine in many ways the ideas 
of things, which the understanding forms from other 
ideas : thus, for instance, in order to define the plane of an 
ellipse, it supposes a point adhering to a cord to be moved 
round two centres, or, again, it conceives an infinity of 
points, always in the same fixed relation to a given straight 
line, or a cone cut in an oblique plane, so that the angle of 
inclination is greater than the angle of the vertex of the 
cone, or in an infinity of other ways. 

VIII. The more ideas express perfection of any object, 
the more perfect are they themselves; for we do not 



38 IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING 

admire the architect who has planned a chapel so much as 
the architect who has planned a splendid temple. 

I do not stop to consider the rest of what is referred to 
thought, such as love, joy, etc. They are nothing to our 
present purpose, and cannot even be conceived unless the 
understanding be perceived previously. When perception 
is removed, all these go with it. 

False and fictitious ideas have nothing positive about 
them (as we have abundantly shown) which causes them 
to be called false or fictitious ; they are only considered as 
such through the defectiveness of knowledge. Therefore, 
false and fictitious ideas as such can teach us nothing con 
cerning the essence of thought ; this must be sought from 
the positive properties just enumerated ; in other words, 
we must lay down some common basis from which these 
properties necessarily follow, so that when this is given, 
the properties are necessarily given also, and when it is 
removed, they too vanish with it. 

[ The rest of the treatise is wanting. ] 



THE ETHICS. 

PART I. CONCERNING GOD. 
DEFINITIONS. 

I. BY THAT which is SELF-CAUSED, I mean that of which 
the essence involves existence, or that of which the nature 
is only conceivable as existent. 

II. A thing is called FINITE AFTER ITS KIND, when it 
can be limited by another thing of the same nature; 
for instance, a body is called finite because we always 
conceive another greater body. So, also, a thought is lim 
ited by another thought, but a body is not limited by 
thought, nor a thought by body. 

III. By SUBSTANCE, I mean that which is in itself, and is 
conceived through itself; in other words, that of which 
a conception can be formed independently of any other 
conception. 

IV. By ATTRIBUTE, I mean that which the intellect per 
ceives as constituting the essence of substance. 

V. By MODE, I mean the modifications * of substance, or 
that which exists in, and is conceived through, something 
other than itself. 

VI. By GOD, I mean a being absolutely infinite that 
is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which 
each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality. 

Explanation. I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after 
its kind: for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, in 
finite attributes may be denied; but that which is abso 
lutely infinite, contains in its essence whatever expresses 
reality, and involves no negation. 

VII. That thing is called free, which exists solely by 
the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action 

* ^Affectiones* 

(39) 






40 THE ETHICS 

is determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that 
thing is necessary, or rather constrained, which is deter 
mined by something external to itself to a fixed and 
definite method of existence or action. 

VIII. By ETERNITY, I mean existence itself, in so far 
as it is conceived necessarily to follow solely from the 
definition of that which is eternal. 

Explanation. Existence of this kind is conceived as 
an eternal truth, like the essence of a thing, and, there 
fore, cannot be explained by means of continuance or 
time, though continuance may be conceived without a 
beginning or end. 

AXIOMS. 

I. Everything which exists, exists either in itself or in 
something else. 

II. That which cannot be conceived through anything 
else must be conceived through itself. 

III. From a given definite cause an effect necessarily 
follows; and, on the other hand, if no definite cause be 
granted, it is impossible that an effect can follow. 

IV. The knowledge of an effect depends on and involves 
the knowledge of a cause. 

V. Things which have nothing in common cannot be 
understood, the one by means of the other ;^ the concep 
tion of one does not involve the conception of the other. 

VI. A true idea must correspond with its ideate or 
object. 

VII. If a thing can be conceived as non-existing, its 
essence does not involve existence. 

PROPOSITIONS. 

PROP. I. Substance is by nature prior to its modifications. 

Proof. This is clear from Def. iii. and v. 

PROP. II. Two substances, whose attributes are dif 
ferent, have nothing in common. 

Proof. Also evident from Def. iii. For each IT st 

in itself, and be conceived through itself; in othv 5, 

the conception of one does not imply the conc^ f 

the other. 



CONCERNING GOD 41 

PROP. III. Things which have nothing in common can 
not be one the cause of the other. 

Proof. If they have nothing in common, it follows that 
one cannot be apprehended by means of the other (Ax. v.), 
and, therefore, one cannot be the cause of the other 
(Ax. iv.). Q.E.D. 

PROP. IV. Two or more distinct things are distinguished 
one from the other either by the difference of the attri 
butes of the substances, or by the difference of their 
modifications. 

Proof. Everything which exists, exists either in itself 
or in something else (Ax. i.), that is (by Def. iii. and v.), 
nothing is granted in addition to the understanding, except 
substance and its modifications. Nothing is, therefore, 
given besides the understanding, by which several things 
may be distinguished one from the other, except the sub 
stances, or, in other words (see Ax. iv.), their attributes 
and modifications. Q.E.D. 

PROP. V. There cannot exist in the universe two or more 
substances having the same nature or attribute. 

Proof. If several distinct substances be granted, they 
must be distinguished one from the other, either by the 
difference of their attributes, or by the difference of their 
modifications (Prop. iv.). If only by the difference of 
their attributes, it will be granted that there cannot be 
more than one with an identical attribute. If by the 
difference of their modifications as substance is naturally 
prior to its modifications (Prop, i.), it follows that set 
ting the modifications aside, and considering substance in 
itself, that is truly (Def. iii. and vi.), there cannot be 
conceived one substance different from another, that is 
(by Prop, iv.), there cannot be granted several substances, 
but one substance only. Q.E.D. 

"PROP. VI. One substance cannot be produced by another 
substance. 

Proof. It is impossible that there should be in the 
universe two substances with an identical attribute, i. c. , 
which have anything common to them both (Prop, ii.), 
and, therefore (Prop, iii.), one cannot be the cause of 
another, neither can one be produced by the other. Q. E. D. 



42 THE ETHICS 

Corollary. Hence it follows that a substance cannot be 
produced by anything external to itself. For in the uni 
verse nothing is granted, save substances and their modi 
fications (as appears from Ax. i. and Def. iii. and v.). 
Now (by the last Prop.) substance cannot be produced 
by another substance, therefore it cannot be produced by 
anything external itself. Q.E.D. This is shown still 
more readily by the absurdity of the contradictory. For, 
if substance be produced by an external cause, the 
knowledge of it would depend on the knowledge of its 
cause (Ax. iv.), and (by Def. iii.) it would itself not be 
substance. 

PROP. VII. Existence belongs to the nature of sub 
stance. 

Proof. Substance cannot be produced by anything ex 
ternal (Corollary, Prop, vi.), it must, therefore, be its own 
cause that is, its essence necessarily involves existence, 
or existence belongs to its nature. 
> PROP. VIII. Every substance is necessarily infinite. 

Proof. There can be only one substance with an identi 
cal attribute, and existence follows from its nature (Prop, 
vii.); its nature, therefore, involves existence, either as 
, finite or infinite. It does not exist as finite, for (by 
j Def. ii.) it would then be limited by something else of 
the same kind, which would also necessarily exist (Prop, 
vii.); and there would be two substances with an identi 
cal attribute, which is absurd (Prop. v.). It therefore 
exists as infinite. Q.E.D. 

Note /. As finite existence involves a partial negation, 
and infinite existence is the absolute affirmation of the 
given nature, it follows (solely from Prop, vii.) that every 
substance is necessarily infinite. 

Note II. No doubt it will be difficult for those who 
think about things loosely, and have not been accus 
tomed to know them by their primary causes, to com 
prehend the demonstrations of Prop, vii.: for such 
persons make no distinction between the modifications of 
substances and the substances themselves, and are ignor 
ant of the manner in which things are produced; hence 
they attribute to substances the beginning which they 






CONCERNING GOD 43 

observe in natural objects. Those who are ignorant of 
true causes, make complete confusion think that trees 
might talk just as well as men that men might be 
formed from stones as well as from seed; and imagine 
that any form might be changed into any other. So, 
also, those who confuse the two natures, divine and 
human, readily attribute human passions to the deity, 
especially so long as they do not know how passions 
originate in the mind. But, if people would consider 
the nature of substance, they would have no doubt 
about the truth of Prop. vii. In fact, this proposition 

x<l would be a universal axiom, and accounted a truism. 
For, by substance, would be understood that which is in 

"Titself, and is conceived through itself that is, some 
thing of which the conception requires not the concep 
tion of anything else; whereas modifications exist in 
something external to themselves, and a conception of 
them is formed by means of a conception of the thing 
in which they exist. Therefore, we may have true ideas 
of non-existent modifications; for, although they may ,,, 
have no ACTUAL existence apart from the conceiving ^ 
intellect, yet their essence is so involved in something 
external to themselves that they may through it be 
conceived. Whereas the only truth substances can have, ^ 
external to the intellect, must consist in their exis.tencejrr~ 
because they are conceived through themselves. There 
fore, for a person to say that he has a clear and dis 
tinct that is, a true idea of a substance, but that he 
is not sure whether such substance exists, would be the 
same as if he said that he had a true idea, but was not 
sure whether or nof it was false (a little consideration 
will make this plain) ; or if any one affirmed that substance 
is created, it would be the same as saying that a false 
idea was true in short, the height of absurdity. It 
must, then, necessarily be admitted that the existence 
of substance as its essence is an eternal truths ""Snd we 
can hence conclude by another process of reasoning 
that there is but one such substance. I think that this 
may profitably be done at once ; and, in order to proceed 
regularly with the demonstration, we must premise: 



, 



44 THE ETHICS 

1. The true definition of a thing neither involves nor 
expresses anything beyond the nature of the thing defined. 
From this it follows that 

2. No definition implies or expresses a certain number 
of individuals, inasmuch as it expresses nothing beyond 
the nature of the thing defined. For instance, the defi 
nition of a triangle expresses nothing beyond the actual 
nature of a triangle : it does not imply any fixed number 
of triangles. 

3. There is necessarily for each individual existent 
/ thing a cause why it should exist. 

4. This cause of existence must either be contained in 
the nature and definition of the thing defined, or must 
be postulated apart from such definition. 

It therefore follows that, if a given number of indi 
vidual things exist in nature, there must be some cause 
for the existence of exactly that number, neither more 
nor less. For example, if twenty men exist in the uni 
verse (for simplicity s sake, I will suppose them existing 
simultaneously, and to have had no predecessors), and 
we want to account for the existence of these twenty 
men, it will not be enough to show the cause of human 
existence in general; we must also show why there are 
exactly twenty men, neither more nor less: for a cause 
must be assigned for the existence of each individual. 
Now this cause cannot be contained in the actual nature 
of man, for the true definition of man does not involve 
any consideration of the number twenty. Consequently, 
the cause f or Jbhe existence of these twenty men, and, 
consequently, of each of them, must necessarily be sought 
externally to each individual. Hence we may lay down 
te~aEsoiute ; rule, that everything which may consist of 
several individuals must have an external cause. And, 
as it has been shown already that existence appertains 
to the nature of substance, existence must necessarily be 
included in is_ definition ; and from its definition alone 
existence must be deducible. But from its definition (as 
we have shown, Notes ii., iii.), we cannot infer the ex 
istence of several substances; therefore it follows that 
there is only one substance of the same nature. Q.E.D. 



CONCERNING GOD 45 

PROP. IX. The more reality or being a thing has the 
greater the number of its attributes ( Def. iv.). 

PROP. X. Each particular attribute of the one substance 
must be conceived through itself. 

Proof. An attribute is that which the intellect perceives 
of substance, as constituting its essence (Def. iv.), and, 
therefore, must be conceived through itself (Def. iii.). 
Q.E.D. 

Note. It is thus evident that, though two attributes are, 
in fact, conceived as distinct that is, one without the help 
of the other yet we cannot, therefore, conclude that they 
constitute two entities, or two different substances. For 
it is the nature of substance that each of its attributes is 
conceived through itself, inasmuch as all the attributes it 
has have always existed simultaneously in it, and none 
could be produced by any other; but each expresses the 
reality or being of substance. It is, then, far from an 
absurdity to ascribe several attributes to one substance: 
for nothing in nature is more clear than that each and 
every entity must be conceived under some attribute, and 
that its reality or being is in proportion to the number 
of its attributes expressing necessity or eternity and infin 
ity. Consequently it is abundantly clear, that an absolutely 
infinite being must necessarily be defined as consisting in 
infinite attributes each of which expresses a certain eternal 
and infinite essence. 

If any one now ask, by what sign shall he be able to 
distinguish different substances, let him read the follow 
ing propositions, which show that there is but one sub 
stance in the universe, and that it is absolutely infinite, 
wherefore such a sign would be sought for in vain. 

PROP. XI. God, or substance, consisting of infinite attri 
butes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essen 
tiality, necessarily exists. 

Proof. If this be denied, conceive, if possible, that God 
does not exist: then his essence does not involve exist 
ence. But this (by Prop, vii.) is absurd. Therefore God 
necessarily exists. 

Another proof. Of everything whatsoever a cause or 
reason must be assigned, either for its existence, or for its 



46 THE ETHICS 

^ J non-existence e. g., if a triangle exist, a reason or cause 
must be granted for its existence; if, on the contrary, it 
does not exist, a cause must also be granted, which pre 
vents it from existing, or annuls its existence. This 
reason or cause must either be contained in the nature 
of the thing in question, or be external to it. For in 
stance, the reason for the non-existence of a square 
circle is indicated in its nature, namely, because it would 
involve a contradiction. On the other hand, the existence 
of substance follows also solely from its nature, inasmuch 
as its nature involves existence. (See Prop. vii. ) 

But the reason for the existence of a triangle or a circle 
does not follow from the nature of those figures, but from 
the order of universal nature in extension. From the 
latter it must follow, either that a triangle necessarily 
exists, or that it is impossible that it should exist. So 
much is self-evident. It follows therefrom that a thing 
A necessarily exists, if no cause or reason be granted which 
prevents its existence. 

J If, then, no cause or reason can be given, which pre 
vents the existence of God, or which destroys his exist 
ence, we must certainly conclude that he necessarily does 
exist. If such a reason or cause should be given, it must 
either be drawn from the very nature of God, or be 
external to him that is, drawn from another substance 
of another nature. For if it were of the same nature, 
God, by that very fact, would be admitted to exist. But 
substance of another nature could have nothing in com 
mon with God (by Prop, ii.), and therefore would be 
unable either to cause or to destroy his existence. 

As, then, a reason or cause which would annul the 
divine existence cannot be drawn from anything external 
to the divine nature, such cause must, perforce, if God 
does not exist, be drawn from God s own nature, which 
would involve a contradiction. To make such an affirma 
tion about a being absolutely infinite and supremely per 
fect, is absurd; therefore, neither in the nature of God, 
nor externally to his nature, can a cause or reason be 
assigned which would annul his existence. Therefore, 
God necessarily exists. Q. E.D. 



CONCERNING GOD 47 

Another proof. The potentiality of non-existence is 
a negation of power, and contrariwise the potentiality of 
existence is a power, as is obvious. If, then, that which 
necessarily exists is nothing but finite beings, such finite 
beings are more powerful than a being absolutely infinite, 
which is obviously absurd; therefore, either nothing exists, 
or else a being absolutely infinite necessarily exists also. 
Now we exist either in ourselves, or in something else 
which necessarily exists (see Ax. i. and Prop, vii.) 
Therefore a being absolutely infinite in other words, 
God (Def. vi.) necessarily exists. Q.E.D. 

Note. In this last proof, I have purposely shown God s 
existence & posteriori, so that the proof might be more 
easily followed, not because, from the same premises, 
God s existence does not follow & priori. For, as the 
potentiality of existence is a power, it follows that, in 
proportion as reality increases in the nature of a thing, 
so also will it increase its strength for existence. There 
fore a being absolutely infinite, such as God, has from 
himself an absolutely infinite power of existence, and hence 
he does absolutely exist. Perhaps there will be many 
who will be unable to see the force of this proof, inas 
much as they are accustomed only to consider those 
things which flow from external causes. Of such things, 
they see that those which quickly come to pass that is, 
quickly come into existence quickly also disappear; 
whereas they regard as more difficult of accomplishment 
that is, not so easily brought into existence those 
things which they conceive as more complicated. 

However, to do away with this misconception, I need 
not here show the measure of truth in the proverb, 
(< What comes quickly, goes quickly, nor discuss whether, 
from the point of view of universal nature, all things 
are equally easy, or otherwise: I need only remark, that 
I am not here speaking of things, which come to pass 
through causes external to themselves, but only of 
substances which (by Prop, vi.) cannot be produced by 
any external cause. Things which are produced by 
external causes, whether they consist of many parts or 
few, owe whatsoever perfection or reality they possess 



48 THE ETHICS 

solely to the efficacy of their external cause, and there 
fore their existence arises solely from the perfection of 
their external cause, not from their own. Contrariwise, 
whatsoever perfection is possessed by substance is due 
to no external cause ; wherefore the existence of substance 
must arise solely from its own nature, which is nothing- 
else but its essence. Thus, the perfection of a thing 
does not annul its existence, but, on the contrary, 
asserts it. Imperfection, on the other hand, does annul 
7 it; therefore we cannot be more certain of the existence 
of anything, than of the existence of a being absolutely 
infinite or perfect that is, of God. For inasmuch as 
"Ihis essence excludes all imperfection, and involves 
absolute perfection, all cause for doubt concerning his 
existence is done away, and the utmost certainty on the 
question is given. This, I think, will be evident to 
every moderately attentive reader. 

PROP. XII. No attribute of substance can be conceived 
from which it would follow that substance can be di 
vided. 

Proof. The parts into which substance as thus con 
ceived would be divided, either will retain the nature of 
substance, or they will not. If the former, then (by 
Prop, viii.) each part will necessarily be infinite, and (by 
Prop, vi.) self -caused, and (by Prop, v.) will perforce 
consist of a different attribute, so that, in that case, sev 
eral substances could be formed out of one substance, 
which (by Prop, vi.) is absurd. Moreover, the parts (by 
Prop, ii.) would have nothing in common with their 
whole, and the whole (by Def. iv. and Prop, x.) could 
both exist and be conceived without its parts, which 
everyone will admit to be absurd. If we adopt the sec 
ond alternative namely, that the parts will not retain 
the nature of substance then, if the whole substance 
were divided into equal parts, it would lose the nature of 
substance, and would cease to exist, which (by Prop, vii.) 
is absurd. 

PROP. XIII. Substance absolutely infinite is indivisible. 

Proof. If it could be divided, the parts into which it 
was divided would either retain the nature of absolutely 



CONCERNING GOD ri 

infinite substance, or they would not. If the former, we 
should have several substances of the same nature, which 
(by Prop, v.) is absurd. If the latter, then (by Prop, 
vii.) substance absolutely infinite could cease to exist, 
which (by Prop, xi.) is also absurd. 

Corollary. It follows that no substance, and conse 
quently no extended substance, in so far as it is sub 
stance, is divisible. 

Note. The indivisibility of substance may be more 
easily understood as follows. The nature of substance 
can only be conceived as infinite, and by a part of sub 
stance, nothing else can be understood than finite 
substance, which (by Prop, viii.) involves a manifest contra 
diction. 

PROP. XIV. Besides God no substance can be granted 
or conceived. 

Proof. As God is a being absolutely infinite, of whom 
no attribute that expresses the essence of substance can 
be denied (by Def. vi.), and he necessarily exists (by 
Prop, xi.); if any substance besides God were granted 
it would have to be explained by some attribute of God, 
and thus two substances with the same attribute would 
exist, which (by Prop, v.) is absurd; therefore, besides 
God no substance can be granted, or consequently, be 
conceived. If it could be conceived, it would necessarily 
have to be conceived as existent; but this (by the first 
part of this proof) is absurd. Therefore, besides God no 
substance can be granted or conceived. Q.E.D. 

Corollary I. Clearly, therefore: i. God is one, that is 
(by Def. vi.) only one substance can be granted in the 
universe, and that substance is absolutely infinite, as we 
have already indicated (in the note to Prop. x.). 

Corollary II. It follows: 2. That extension and thought 
are either attributes of God or (by Ax. i.) accidents (affec- 
tiones] of the attributes of God. 

PROP. XV. Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God 
nothing can be, or be conceived. 

Proof. Besides God, no substance is granted or can 
be conceived (by Prop, xiv.), that is (by Def. iii.) nothing 
which is in itself and is conceived through itself. But 
4 



5 o THE ETHICS 

modes (by Def. v.) can neither be, nor be conceived 
without substance; wherefore they can only be in the 
divine nature, and can only through it be conceived. 
But substances and modes form the sum total of exist 
ence (by Ax. i.), therefore, without God nothing can be, 
or be conceived. Q.E.D. 

Note. Some assert that God, like a man, consists of 
body and mind, and is susceptible of passions. How far 
such persons have strayed from the truth is sufficiently 
evident from what has been said. But these I pass over. 
For all who have in anywise reflected on the divine 
nature deny that God has a body. Of this they find 
excellent proof in the fact that we understand by body 
a definite quantity, so long, so broad, so deep, bounded 
by a certain shape, and it is the height of absurdity to 
predicate such a thing of God, a being absolutely infinite. 
But meanwhile by the other reasons with which they try 
to prove their point, they show that they think corporeal 
or extended substance wholly apart from the divine 
nature, and say it was created by God. Wherefrom the 
divine nature can have been created, they are wholly 
ignorant; thus they clearly show, that they do not know 
the meaning of their own words. I myself have proved 
sufficiently clearly, at any rate in my own judgment 
(Coroll. Prop, vi., and Note 2, Prop, viii.), that no sub 
stance can be produced or created by anything other 
than itself. Further, I showed (in Prop, xiv.), that be 
sides God no substance can be granted or conceived. 
Hence we drew the conclusion that extended substance 
is one of the infinite attributes of God. However, in 
order to explain more fully, I will refute the arguments 
of my adversaries, which all start from the following 

points : 

Extended substance, in so far as it is substance, con 
sists, as they think, in parts, wherefore they deny that it 
can be infinite, or, consequently, that it can appertain to 
God. This they illustrate with many examples, of which 
I will take one or two. If extended substance, they say, 
is infinite, let it be conceived to be divided into two 
parts . each part will then be either finite or infinite. If 



CONCERNING GOD 51 

the former, then infinite substance is composed of two 
finite parts, which is absurd. If the latter, then one 
infinite will be twice as large as another infinite, which 
is also absurd. 

Further, if an infinite line be measured out in foot 
lengths, it will consist of an infinite number of such 
parts; it would equally consist of an infinite number of 
parts, if each part measured only an inch : therefore, one 
infinity would be twelve times as great as the other. 

Lastly, if from a single point there be conceived to be 
drawn two diverging lines which at first are at a definite 
distance apart, but are produced to infinity, it is certain 
that the distance between the two lines will be continu 
ally increased, until at length it changes from definite to 
indefinable. As these absurdities follow, it is said, from 
considering quantity as infinite, the conclusion is drawn, 
that extended substance must necessarily be finite, and, 
consequently, cannot appertain to the nature of God. 

The second argument is also drawn from God s supreme 
perfection. God, it is said, inasmuch as he is a supremely 
perfect being, cannot be passive ; but extended substance, 
in so far as it is divisible, is passive. It follows, there 
fore, that extended substance does not appertain to the 
essence of God. 

Such are the arguments I find on the subject in writers, 
who by them try to prove that extended substance is 
unworthy of the divine nature, and cannot possibly ap 
pertain thereto. However, I think an attentive reader 
will see that I have already answered their propositions; 
for all their arguments are founded on the hypothesis 
hat extended substance is composed of parts, and such 
a hypothesis I have shown (Prop, xii., and Coroll. Prop, 
xiii.) to be absurd. Moreover, any one who reflects will 
see that all these absurdities (if absurdities they be, 
which I am not now discussing), from which it is sought 
to extract the conclusion that extended substance is finite, 
do not at all follow from the notion of an infinite quantity, 
but merely from the notion that an infinite quantity 
is measureable, and composed of finite parts; therefore, 
the only fair conclusion to be drawn is that infinite 



52 THE ETHICS 

quantity is not measureable, and cannot be composed of 
finite parts. This is exactly what we have already 
proved (in Prop. xii.). Wherefore the weapon which 
they aimed at us has in reality recoiled upon themselves. 
If, from this absurdity of theirs, they persist in drawing 
the conclusion that extended substance must be finite, they 
will in good sooth be acting like a man who asserts that 
circles have the properties of squares, and, finding him 
self thereby landed in absurdities, proceeds to deny that 
circles have any centre, from which all lines drawn to 
the circumference are equal. For, taking extended sub 
stance, which can only be conceived as infinite, one, and 
indivisible (Props, viii., v., xii.) they assert, in order to 
prove that it is finite, that it is composed of finite parts, 
and that it can be multiplied and divided. 

So, also, others, after asserting that a line is composed 
of points, can produce many arguments to prove that a 
line cannot be infinitely divided. Assuredly it is not less 
absurd to assert that extended substance is made up of 
bodies or parts, than it would be to assert that a solid 
is made up of surfaces, a surface of lines, and a line of 
points. This must be admitted by all who know clear 
reason to be infallible, andjnost of all by those who deny 
the possibility of a vacuum. For if extended substance 
could be so divided that its parts were really separate, 
why should not one part admit of being destroyed, the 
others remaining joined together as before ? And why 
should all be so fitted into one another as to leave no 
vacuum? Surely in the case of things, which are really 
distinct one from the other, one can exist without the 
other, and can remain in its original condition. As 
then, there does not exist a vacuum in nature (of which 
anon), but all parts are bound to come together to pre 
vent it, it follows from this also that the parts cannot 
be really distinguished, and that extended substance in 
so far as it is substance cannot be divided. 

If any one asks me the further question, Why are we 
naturally so prone to divide quantity? I answer, that 
quantity is conceived by us in two ways ; in the abstract 
and superficially, as we imagine it; or as substance, as 



CONCERNING GOD 53 

we conceive it solely by the intellect. If, then, we 
regard quantity as it is represented in our imagination, 
which we often and more easily do, we shall find that it 
is finite, divisible, and compounded of parts; but if we 
regard it as it is represented in our intellect, and con 
ceive it as substance, which it is very difficult to do, we 
shall then, as I have sufficiently proved, find that it is 
infinite, one, and indivisible. This will be plain enough 
to all, who make a distinction between the intellect and 
the imagination, especially if it be remembered, that 
matter is everywhere the same, that its parts are not 
distinguishable, except in so far as we conceive matter 
as diversely modified, whence its parts are distinguished, 
not really, but modally. For instance, water, in so far 
as it is water, we conceive to be divided, and its parts 
to be separated one from the other; but not in so far as 
it is extended substance; from this point of view it is 
neither separated nor divisible. Further, water, in so 
far as it is water, is produced and corrupted; but, in 
so far as it is substance, it is neither produced nor 
corrupted. 

I think I have now answered the second argument; it 
is, in fact, founded on the same assumption as the first 
namely, that matter, in so far as it is substance, is 
divisible, and composed of parts. Even if it were so, I 
do not know why it should be considered unworthy of 
the divine nature, inasmuch as besides God (by Prop, xiv.) 
no substance can be granted, wherefrom it could receive 
its modifications. All things, I repeat, are in God, and 
all things which come to pass, come to pass solely 
through the laws of the infinite nature of God, and fol 
low (as I will shortly show) from the necessity of his 
essence. Wherefore it can in nowise be said, that God 
is passive in respect to anything other than himself, or 
that extended substance is unworthy of the Divine nature, 
even if it be supposed divisible, so long as it is granted 
to be infinite and eternal. But enough of this for the 
present. 

PROP. XVI. From the necessity of the divine nature 
must follow an infinite number of things in infinite ways 



54 THE ETHICS 

that is, all things which can fall within the sphere of in 
finite intellect. 

Proof. This proposition will be clear to everyone, who 
remembers that from the given definition of any thing 
the intellect infers several properties, which really neces 
sarily follow therefrom (that is, from the actual essence 
of the thing defined) ; and it infers more properties in 
proportion as the definition of the thing expresses more 
reality, that is, in proportion as the essence of the thing 
defined involves more reality. Now, as the divine nature 
has absolutely infinite attributes (by Def. vi.), of which 
each expresses infinite essence after its kind, it follows 
that from the necessity of its nature an infinite number 
of things (that is, everything which can fall within the 
sphere of an infinite intellect) must necessarily follow. 
Q.E.D. 

Corollary /. Hence it follows, that God is the efficient 
cause of all that can fall within the sphere of an infinite 
intellect. 

Corollary II. It also follows that God is a cause in him 
self, and not through an accident of his nature. 

Corollary III. It follows, thirdly, that God is the abso 
lutely first cause. 

PROP. XVII. God acts solely by the laws of his own na 
ture, and is not constrained by any one. 

Proof. We have just shown (in Prop, xvi.), that solely 
from the necessity of the divine nature, or, what is the 
same thing, solely from the laws of his nature, an 
infinite number of things absolutely follow in an infinite 
number of ways; and we proved (in Prop, xv.), that 
without God nothing can be, nor be conceived; but 
that all things are in God. Wherefore nothing can 
exist outside himself, whereby he can be conditioned or 
constrained to act. Wherefore God acts solely by the 
laws of his own nature, and is not constrained by any 
one. Q.E.D. 

Corollary I. It follows: i. That there can be no 

cause which, either extrinsically or intrinsically, besides 

the perfection of his own nature, moves God to act. 

Corollary II. It follows: 2. That God is the sole 



CONCERNING GOD 55 

free cause. For God alone exists by the sole necessity of 
his nature (by Prop. xi. and Prop, xiv., Coroll. i. ), 
and acts by the sole necessity of his nature, where 
fore God is (by Def. vii. ) the sole free cause. Q.E.D. 

Note. Others think that God is a free cause, be 
cause he can, as they think, bring it about, that those 
things which we have said follow from his nature 
that is, which are in his power, should not come to 
pass, or should not be produced by him. But this is 
the same as if they said, that God could bring it about, 
that it should not follow from the nature of a trian 
gle, that its three interior angles should not be equal 
to two right angles; or that from a given cause no 
effect should follow, which is absurd. 

Moreover, I will show below, without the aid of this 
proposition, that neither intellect nor will appertain to 
God s nature. I know that there are many who think 
that they can show, that supreme intellect and free 
will do appertain to God s nature; for they say they 
know of nothing more perfect, which they can attrib 
ute to God, than that which is the highest perfection 
in ourselves. Further, although they conceive God as 
actually supremely intelligent, they yet do not believe, 
that he can bring into existence everything which he 
actually understands, for they think that they would 
thus destroy God s power. If, they contend, God had 
created everything which is in his intellect, he would not 
be able to create anything more, and this, they think, 
would clash with God s omnipotence ; therefore, they pre 
fer to assert that God is indifferent to all things, and 
that he creates nothing except that which he has de 
cided, by some absolute exercise of will, to create. How 
ever, I think I have shown sufficiently clearly (by Prop. 
xvi. ), that from God s supreme power, or infinite na 
ture, an infinite number of things that is, all things 
have necessarily flowed forth in an infinite number of 
ways, or always follow from the same necessity; in 
the same way as from the nature of a triangle it fol 
lows from eternity and for eternity, that its three in 
terior angles are equal to two right angles. Wherefore the 



56 THE ETHICS 

omnipotence of God has been displayed from all eter 
nity, and will for all eternity remain in the same state of 
activity. This manner of treating the question attrib 
utes to God an omnipotence, in my opinion, far more 
perfect. For, otherwise, we are compelled to confess 
that God understands an infinite number of creatable 
things, which he will never be able to create, for, if 
he created all that he understands, he would, accord 
ing to this showing, exhaust his omnipotence, and ren 
der himself imperfect. Wherefore, in order to establish 
that God is perfect, we should be reduced to estab 
lishing at the same time, that he cannot bring to pass 
everything over which his power extends; this seems 
to be an hypothesis most absurd, and most repugnant 
to God s omnipotence. 

Further (to say a word here concerning the intellect 
and the will which we attribute to God), if intellect and 
will appertain to the eternal essence of God, we must 
take these words in some significations quite different 
from those they usually bear. For intellect and will, 
which should constitute the essence of God, would per 
force be as far apart as the poles from the human intel 
lect and will, in fact, would have nothing in common 
with them but the name ; there would be about as much 
correspondence between the two as there is between the 
Dog, the heavenly constellation, and a dog, an animal 
that barks. This I will prove as follows: If intellect 
belongs to the divine nature, it cannot be in nature, as 
ours is generally thought to be, posterior to, or simulta 
neous with the things understood, inasmuch as God is 
prior to all things by reason of his casualty (Prop. xvi. 
Coroll. i.). On the contrary, the truth and formal es 
sence of things is as it is, because it exists by represen 
tation as such in the intellect of God. Wherefore the 
intellect of God, in so far as it is conceived to constitute 
God s essence, is, in reality, the cause of things, both of 
their essence and of their existence. This seems to have 
been recognized by those who have asserted, that God s 
intellect, God s will, and God s power, are one and the 
same. As, therefore, God s intellect is the sole cause of 



CONCERNING GOD 



57 



things, namely, both of their essence and existence, it 
must necessarily differ from them in respect to its es 
sence, and in respect to its existence. For a cause dif 
fers from a thing it causes, precisely in the quality 
which the latter gains from the former. 

For example, a man is the cause of another man s 
existence, but not of his essence (for the latter is an 
eternal truth), and, therefore, the two men may be en 
tirely similar in essence, but must be different in exist 
ence; and hence if the existence of one of them cease, 
the existence of the other will not necessarily cease also ; 
but if the essence of one could be destroyed, and be made 
false, the essence of the other would be destroyed also. 
Wherefore, a thing which is the cause both of the essence 
and of the existence of a given effect, must differ from 
such effect both in respect to its essence, and also in 
respect to its existence. Now the intellect of God is 
the cause of both the essence and the existence 
of our intellect; therefore the intellect of God in so fat 
as it is conceived to constitute the divine essence, dif 
fers from our intellect both in respect to essence and in 
respect to existence, nor can it in anywise agree there 
with save in name, as we said before. The reasoning 
would be identical, in the case of the will, as any one 
can easily see. 

PROP. XVIII. God is the indwelling and not the tran 
sient cause of all things. 

Proof. All things which are, are in God, and must be 
conceived through God (by Prop, xv.), therefore (by 
Prop, xvi., Coroll, i.) God is the cause of those things 
which are in him. This is our first point. Further, 
besides God there can be no substance (by Prop, xiv.), 
that is nothing in itself external to God. This is our 
second point. God, therefore, is the indwelling and not 
the transient cause of all things. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XIX. God, and all the attributes of God, are 
eternal. 

Proof. God (by Def. vi.) is substance, which (by 
Prop, xi.) necessarily exists, that is (by Prop, vii.) exist- 



58 THE ETHICS 

ence appertains to its nature, or (what is the same thing) 
follows from its definition; therefore, God is eternal (by 
Def. viii.). Further, by the attributes of God we must 
understand that which (by Def. iv.) expresses the essence 
of the divine substance in other words, that which apper 
tains to substance : that, I say, should be involved in the 
attributes of substance. Now eternity appertains to the 
nature of substance (as I have already shown in 
Prop, vii.); therefore, eternity must appertain to each 
of the attributes, and thus all are eternal. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition is also evident from the man 
ner in which (in Prop, xi.) I demonstrated the existence 
of God; it is evident, I repeat, from that proof, that the 
existence of God, like his essence, is an eternal truth. 
Further (in Prop. xix. of my Principles of the Cartesian 
Philosophy "), I have proved the eternity of God, in an 
other manner, which I need not here repeat. 

PROP. XX. The existence of God and his essence are 
one and the same. 

Proof. God (by the last Prop.) and all his attributes 
are eternal, that is (by Def. viii.) each of his attributes 
expresses existence. Therefore the same attributes of 
God which explain his eternal essence, explain at the 
same time his eternal existence in other words, that 
which constitutes God s essence constitutes at the same 
time his existence. Wherefore God s existence and God s 
essence are one and the same. Q.E.D. 

Corollary I. Hence it follows that God s existence, like 
his essence, is an eternal truth. 

Corollary II. Secondly, it follows that God, and all the 
attributes of God, are unchangeable. For if they could be 
changed in respect to existence, they must also be able 
to be changed in respect to essence that is, obviously, 
be changed from true to false, which is absurd. 

PROP. XXI. All things which follow from the absolute 
nature of any attribute of God must always exist and be 
infinite, or, in other words, are eternal and infinite 
through the said attribute. 

Proof. Conceive, if it be possible (supposing the prop 
osition to be denied), that something in some attribute 



CONCERNING GOD 59 

of God can follow from the absolute nature of the said 
attribute, and that at the same time it is finite, and 
has a conditioned existence or duration ; for instance, the 
idea of God expressed in the attribute thought. Now 
thought, in so far as it is supposed to be an attribute of 
God, is necessarily (by Prop, xi.) in its nature infinite. 
But, in so far as it possesses the idea of God, it is sup 
posed finite. It cannot, however, be conceived as finite, 
unless it be limited by thought (by Def. ii.); but it is 
not limited by thought itself, in so far as it has consti 
tuted the idea of God (for so far it is supposed to be 
finite ) ; therefore, it is limited by thought, in so far as 
it has not constituted the idea of God, which neverthe 
less (by Prop, xi.) must necessarily exist. 

We have now granted, therefore, thought not constitut 
ing the idea of God, and, accordingly, the idea of God 
does not naturally follow from its nature in so far as it 
is absolute thought (for it is conceived as constituting, 
and also as not constituting, the idea of God), which is 
against our hypothesis. Wherefore, if the idea of God 
expressed in the attribute thought, or, indeed, anything 
else in any attribute of God ( for we may take any exam 
ple, as the proof is of universal application ) follows from 
the necessity of the absolute nature of the said attribute, 
the said thing must necessarily be infinite, which was 
our first point. 

Furthermore, a thing which thus follows from the neces 
sity of the nature of any attribute cannot have a limited 
duration. For if it can suppose a thing, which follows 
from the necessity of the nature of some attribute, to 
exist in some attribute of God, for instance, the idea of 
God expressed in the attribute thought, and let it be sup 
posed at some time not to have existed, or to be about 
not to exist. 

Now thought being an attribute of God, must neces 
sarily exist unchanged (by Prop, xi., and Prop, xx., 
Coroll. ii. ) ; and beyond the limits of the duration of the 
idea of God (supposing the latter at some time not to 
have existed, or not to be going to exist), thought would 
perforce have existed without the idea of God, which is 



60 THE ETHICS 

contrary to our hypothesis, for we supposed that, thought 
being given, the idea of God necessarily flowed there 
from. Therefore the idea of God expressed in thought, 
or anything which necessarily follows from the absolute 
nature of some attribute of God, cannot have a limited 
duration, but through the said attribute is eternal, which 
is our second point. Bear in mind that the same propo 
sition may be affirmed of anything, which in any attribute 
necessarily follows from God s absolute nature. 

PROP. XXII. Whatsoever follows from any attribute 
of God, in so far as it is modified by a modification, 
which exists necessarily and as infinite, through the 
said attribute, must also exist necessarily and as in 
finite. 

Proof. The proof of this proposition is similar to that 
of the preceding one. 

PROP. XXIII. Every mode, which exists both neces 
sarily and as infinite, must necessarily follow either from 
the absolute nature of some attribute of God, or from an 
attribute modified by a modification which exists neces 
sarily, and as infinite. 

Proof. A mode exists in something else, through which 
it must be conceived (Def. v.), that is (Prop, xv.), it 
exists solely in God, and solely through God can be con 
ceived. If, therefore, a mode is conceived as necessarily 
existing and infinite, it must necessarily be inferred or 
perceived through some attribute of God, in so far as 
such attribute is conceived as expressing the infinity and 
necessity of existence, in other words (Def. viii.) eternity; 
that is, in so far as it is considered absolutely. A mode, 
therefore, which necessarily exists as infinite, must follow 
from the absolute nature of some attribute of God, either 
immediately (Prop, xxi.) or through the means of some 
modification, which follows from the absolute nature of 
the said attribute; that is (by Prop, xxii.), which exists 
necessarily and as infinite. 

PROP. XXIV. The essence of things produced by God 
does not involve existence. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from Def. i. For 
that of which the nature (considered in itself) involves 



CONCERNING GOD 61 

existence is self-caused, and exists by the sole necessity 
of its own nature. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that God is not only the 
cause of things coming into existence, but also of their 
continuing in existence, that is, in scholastic phraseology, 
God is cause of the being of things (essendi rerum). 
For whether things exist, or do not exist, whenever we 
contemplate their essence, we see that it involves neither 
existence nor duration; consequently, it cannot be the 
cause of either the one or the other. God must be the 
sole cause, inasmuch as to him alone does existence ap 
pertain. (Prop. xiv. Coroll. i.) Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXV. God is the efficient cause not only of the 
existence of things, but also of their essence. 

Proof. If this be denied, then God is not the cause 
of the essence of things; and therefore the essence of 
things can (by Ax. iv.) be conceived without God. This 
(by Prop, xv.) is absurd. Therefore, God is the cause of 
the essence of things. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition follows more clearly from 
Prop. xvi. For it is evident thereby that, given the 
divine nature, the essence of things must be inferred 
from it, no less than their existence in a word, God 
must be called the cause of all things, in the same 
sense as he is called the cause of himself. This will be 
made still clearer by the following corollary. 

Corollary. Individual things are nothing but modi 
fications of the attributes of God, or modes by which 
the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and 
definite manner. The proof appears from Prop. xv. 
and Def. v. 

PROP. XXVI. A thing which is conditioned to act 
in a particular manner, has necessarily been thus con 
ditioned by God ; and that which has not been conditioned 
by God cannot condition itself to act. 

Proof. That by which things are said to be conditioned 
to act in a particular manner is necessarily something 
positive ( this is obvious ) ; therefore both of its essence and 
of its existence God by the necessity of his nature is the 
efficient cause (Props, xxv. and xvi.) ; this is our first point. 



62 THE ETHICS 

Our second point is plainly to be inferred therefrom. For 
if a thing, which has not been conditioned by God, could 
condition itself, the first part of our proof would be false, 
and this, as we have shown, is absurd. 

PROP. XXVII. A thing, which has been conditioned by 
God to act in a particular way, cannot render itself uncon 
ditioned. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from the third 
axiom. 

PROP. XXVIII. Every individual thing, or everything 
which is finite and has a conditioned existence, cannot 
exist or be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned 
for existence and action by a cause other than itself, 
which also is finite, and has a conditioned existence; 
and likewise this cause cannot in its turn exist, or be 
conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for existence 
and action by another cause, which also is finite, and 
has a conditioned existence, and so on to infinity. 

Proof. Whatsoever is conditioned to exist and act, has 
been thus conditioned by God (by Prop. xxvi. and Prop. 
xxiv., Coroll.) 

But that which is finite and has a conditioned exist 
ence, cannot be produced by the absolute nature of any 
attribute of God; for whatsoever follows from the abso 
lute nature of any attribute of God is infinite and eternal 
(by Prop. xxi). It must, therefore, follow from some 
attribute of God, in so far as the said attribute is con 
sidered as in some way modified; for substance and 
modes make up the sum total of existence (by Ax. i. 
and Def. iii., v.), while modes are merely modifications 
of the attributes of God. But from God, or from any of 
his attributes, in so far as the latter is modified by a 
modification infinite and eternal, a conditioned thing can 
not follow. Wherefore it must follow from, or be con 
ditioned for, existence and action by God or one of his 
attributes, in so far as the latter are modified by some 
modification which is finite and has a conditioned exist 
ence. This is our first point. Again, this cause or this 
modification (for the reason by which we established the 
first part of this proof) must in its turn be conditioned by 



CONCERNING GOD 63 

another cause, which also is finite, and has a conditioned 
existence, and again, this last by another (for the same 
reason ) ; and so on ( for the same reason ) to infinity. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. As certain things must be produced immediately 
by God, namely those things which necessarily follow 
from his absolute nature, through the means of these 
primary attributes, which, nevertheless, can neither exist 
nor be conceived without God, it follows: i. That God 
is absolutely the proximate cause of those things imme 
diately produced by him. I say absolutely, not after his 
kind, as is usually stated. For the effects of God cannot 
either exist or be conceived without a cause (Prop. xv. 
and Prop, xxiv., Coroll.). 2. That God cannot properly 
be styled the remote cause of individual things, except 
for the sake of distinguishing these from what he imme 
diately produces, or rather from what follows from his 
absolute nature. For, by a remote cause, we understand 
a cause which is in no way conjoined to the effect. But 
all things which are, are in God, and so depend on 
God, that without him they can neither be nor be con 
ceived. 

PROP. XXIX. Nothing in the universe is contingent, 
but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a 
particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature. 

Proof. Whatsoever is, is in God (Prop. xv.). But God 
cannot be called a thing contingent. For (by Prop, xi.) 
he exists necessarily, and not contingently. Further, the 
modes of the divine nature follow therefrom necessarily, 
and not contingently (Prop, xvi.); and they thus follow, 
whether we consider the divine nature absolutely or 
whether we consider it as in any way conditioned to act 
(Prop, xxvii.). Further, God is not only the cause of 
these modes, in so far as they simply exist (by Prop. 
xxiv., Coroll.), but also in so far as they are considered 
as conditioned for operating in a particular manner 
(Prop. xxvi.). If they be not conditioned by God (Prop, 
xxvi.), it is impossible, and not contingent, that they 
should condition themselves; contrariwise, if they be 
conditioned by God, it is impossible, and not contingent 



64 THE ETHICS 

that they should render themselves unconditioned. 
Wherefore all things are conditioned by the necessity of 
the divine nature, not only to exist, but also to exist 
and operate in a particular manner, and there is nothing 
that is contingent. Q. E. D. 

Note. Before going any further, I wish here to ex 
plain, what we should understand by nature viewed as 
active (natura naturans}, and nature viewed as passive 
(natura naturata). I say to explain, or rather call atten 
tion to it, for I think that, from what has been said, it is 
sufficiently clear, that by nature viewed as active we 
should understand that which is in itself, and is con 
ceived through itself, or those attributes of substance, 
which express eternal and infinite essence, in other 
words (Prop, xiv., Coroll. i., and Prop, xvii., Coroll. ii.) 
God, in so far as he is considered as a free cause. 

By nature viewed as passive I understand all that 
which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, 
or of any of the attributes of God, that is, all the 
modes of the attributes of God, in so far as they are 
considered as things which are in God, and which with 
out God cannot exist or be conceived. 

PROP. XXX. Intellect, in function (actu) finite, or in 
function infinite, must comprehend the attributes of God 
and the modifications of God, and nothing else. 

Proof. A true idea must agree with its object (Ax. vi.) ; 
in other words (obviously), that which is contained in 
the intellect in representation must necessarily be granted 
in nature. But in nature (by Prop, xiv., Coroll. i.) 
there is no substance save God, nor any modifications 
save those (Prop, xv.) which are in God, and cannot 
without God either be or be conceived. Therefore the 
intellect, in function finite, or in function infinite, must 
comprehend the attributes of God and the modifications 
of God, and nothing else. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXI. The intellect in function, whether finite 
or infinite, as will, desire, love, etc., should be referred 
to passive nature and not to active nature. 

Proof. By the intellect we do not (obviously) mean 
absolute thought, but only a certain mode of thinking, 



CONCERNING GOD 65 

differing from other modes, such as love, desire, etc., 
and therefore ( Def. v.) requiring to be conceived through 
absolute thought. It must (by Prop. xv. and Def. vi.), 
through some attribute of God which expresses the 
eternal and infinite essence of thought, be so conceived, 
that without such attribute it could neither be nor be 
conceived. It must therefore be referred to nature pas 
sive rather than to nature active, as must also the other 
modes of thinking. Q.E.D. 

Note. I do not here, by speaking of intellect in func 
tion, admit that there is such a thing as intellect in 
potentiality: but, wishing to avoid all confusion, I de 
sire to speak only of what is most clearly perceived by 
us, namely, of the very act of understanding, than which 
nothing is more clearly perceived. For we cannot per 
ceive anything without adding to our knowledge of the 
act of understanding. 

PROP. XXXII. Will cannot be called a free cause, but 
only a necessary cause. 

Proof. Will is only a particular mode of thinking, like 
intellect; therefore (by Prop, xxviii.) no volition can exist, 
nor be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned by 
some cause other than itself, which cause is conditioned by 
a third cause, and so on to infinity. But if will be sup 
posed infinite, it must also be conditioned to exist and 
act by God, not by virtue of his being substance abso 
lutely infinite, but by virtue of his possessing an attribute 
which expresses the infinite and eternal essence of thought 
(by Prop, xxiii.). Thus, however it be conceived, whether 
as finite or infinite, it requires a cause by which it should 
be conditioned to exist and act. Thus (Def. vii.) it can 
not be called a free cause, but only a necessary or con 
strained cause. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. /.Hence it follows, first, that God does not 
act according to freedom of the will. 

Corollary. //.It follows secondly, that will and intel 
lect stand in the same relation to the nature of God as do 
motion, and rest, and absolutely all natural phenomena, 
which must be conditioned by God (Prop, xxix.) to exist 
and act in a particular manner. For will, like the rest, 

5 



66 THE ETHICS 

stands in need of a cause, by which it is conditioned to 
exist and act in a particular manner. And although, when 
will or intellect be granted, an infinite number of results 
may follow, yet God cannot on that account be said to 
act from freedom of the will, any more than the infinite 
number of results from motion and rest would justify 
us in saying that motion and rest act by free will. Where 
fore will no more appertains to God than does anything 
else in nature, but stands in the same relation to him as 
motion, rest, and the like, which we have shown to follow 
from the necessity of the divine nature, and to be con 
ditioned by it to exist and act in a particular manner. 

PROP. XXXIII. Things could not have been brought 
into being by God in any manner or in any order differ 
ent from that which has in fact obtained. 

Proof. All things necessarily follow from the nature of 
God (Prop, xvi.), and by the nature of God are con 
ditioned to exist and act in a particular way (Prop. xxix). 
If things, therefore, could have been of a different nature, 
or have been conditioned to act in a different way, so 
that the order of nature would have been different, God s 
nature would also have been able to be different from 
what it now is; and therefore (by Prop, xi.) that different 
nature also would have perforce existed, and consequently 
there would have been able to be two or more Gods. 
This (by Prop, xiv., Coroll. i.) is absurd. Therefore 
things could not have been brought into being by God 
in any other manner, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note I. As I have thus shown, more clearly than the 
sun at noonday, that there is nothing to justify us in 
calling things contingent, I wish to explain briefly 
what meaning we shall attach to the word contin 
gent; but I will first explain the words necessary and 
impossible. 

A thing is called necessary either in respect to its 
essence or in respect to its cause; for the existence of a 
thing necessarily follows, either from its essence and 
definition, or from a given efficient cause. For similar 
reasons a thing is said to be impossible ; namely, inasmuch 
as its essence or definition involves a contradiction, or 



CONCERNING GOD 67 

because no external cause is granted, which is conditioned 
to produce such an effect; but a thing can in no respect 
be called contingent, save in relation to the imperfection 
of our knowledge. 

A thing of which we do not know whether the essence 
does or does not involve a contradiction, or of which 
knowing that it does not involve a contradiction, we are 
still in doubt concerning the existence, because the order 
of causes escapes us, such a thing, I say, cannot appear 
to us either necessary or impossible. Wherefore we call 
it contingent or possible. 

Note II. It clearly follows from what we have said, 
that things have been brought into being by God in the 
highest perfection, inasmuch as they have necessarily 
followed from a most perfect nature. Nor does this 
prove any imperfection in God, for it has compelled us 
to affirm his perfection. From its contrary proposition, 
we should clearly gather (as I have just shown), that 
God is not supremely perfect, for if things had been 
brought into being in any other way, we should have to 
assign to God a nature different from that, which we are 
bound to attribute to him from the consideration of an 
absolutely perfect being. 

I do not doubt, that many will scout this idea as absurd, 
and will refuse to give their minds up to contemplating it, 
simply because they are accustomed to assign to God a 
freedom very different from that which we (Def. vii.) have 
deduced. They assign to him, in short, absolute free will. 
However, I am also convinced that if such persons reflect 
on the matter, and duly weigh in their minds our series of 
propositions, they will reject such freedom as they now 
attribute to God, not only as nugatory, but also as a great 
impediment to organized knowledge. There is no need for 
me to repeat what I said in the note to Prop. xvii. But, 
for the sake of my opponents, I will show further, that 
although it be granted that will appertains to the essence 
of God, it nevertheless follows from his perfection, that 
things could not have been by him created other than 
they are, or in a different order; this is easily proved, if 
we reflect on what our opponents themselves concede, 



68 THE ETHICS 

namely, that it depends solely on the decree and will of 
God, that each thing is what it is. If it were otherwise, 
God would not be the cause of all things. Further, that 
all the decrees of God have been ratified from all eter 
nity by God himself. If it were otherwise, God would 
be convicted of imperfection or change. But in eternity 
there is no such thing as when, before, or after; hence 
it follows solely from the perfection of God, that God 
never can decree, or never could have decreed anything 
but what is; that God did not exist before his decrees, 
and would not exist without them. But, it is said, sup 
posing that God had made a different universe, or had 
ordained other decrees from all eternity concerning nature 
and her order, we could not therefore conclude any imper 
fection in God. But persons who say this must admit that 
God can change his decrees. For if God had ordained any 
decrees concerning nature and her order, different from 
those which he has ordained in other words, if he had 
willed and conceived something different concerning nature 
he would perforce have had a different intellect from 
that which he has, and also a different will. But if it 
were allowable to assign to God a different intellect and 
a different will, without any change in his essence or 
his perfection, what would there be to prevent him 
changing the decrees which he has made concerning cre 
ated things, and nevertheless remaining perfect ? For 
his intellect and will concerning things created and their 
order are the same, in respect to his essence and per 
fection, however they be conceived. 

Further, all the philosophers whom I have read admit 
that God s intellect is entirely actual, and not at all 
potential; as they also admit that God s intellect, and 
God s will, and God s essence are identical, it follows that, 
if God had had a different actual intellect and a different 
will, his essence would also have been different; and 
thus, as I concluded at first, if things had been brought 
into being by God in a different way from that which 
has obtained, God s intellect and will, that is (as is ad 
mitted) his essence would perforce have been different, 
which is absurd. 



CONCERNING GOD 69 

As these things could not have been brought into being 
by God in any but the actual way and order which has 
obtained ; and as the truth of this proposition follows from 
the supreme perfection of God; we can have no sound 
reason for persuading ourselves to believe that God did 
not wish to create all the things which were in his intel 
lect, and to create them in the same perfection as he had 
understood them. 

But, it will be said, there is in things no perfection nor 
imperfection; that which is in them, and which causes 
them to be called perfect or imperfect, good or bad, 
depends solely on the will of God. If God had so willed, 
he might have brought it about that what is now perfec 
tion should be extreme imperfection, and vice versa. What 
is such an assertion, but an open declaration that God, 
who necessarily understands that which he wishes, might 
bring it about by his will, that he should understand 
things differently from the way in which he does under 
stand them? This (as we have just shown) is the height 
of absurdity. Wherefore, I may turn the argument against 
its employers, as follows: All things depend on the 
power of God. In order that things should be different 
from what they are, God s will would necessarily have to 
be different. But God s will cannot be different (as we 
have just most clearly demonstrated ) from God s perfec 
tion. Therefore neither can things be different. I con 
fess that the theory which subjects all things to the will 
of an indifferent deity, and asserts that they are all 
dependent on his fiat, is less far from the truth than the 
theory of those, who maintain that God acts in all things 
with a view of promoting what is good. For these latter 
persons seem to set up something beyond God, which 
does not depend on God, but which God in acting looks 
to as an exemplar, or which he aims at as a definite 
goal. This is only another name for subjecting God to 
the dominion of destiny, an utter absurdity in respect to 
God, whom we have shown to be the first and only free 
cause of the essence of all things and also of their exist 
ence. I need, therefore, spend no time in refuting such 
wild theories. 



7 THE ETHICS 

PROP. XXXIV. God s power is identical with his es 
sence. 

Proof. From the sole necessity of the essence of God 
it follows that God is the cause of himself (Prop, xi.) 
and of all things (Prop. xvi. and Coroll.). Wherefore 
the power of God, by which he and all things are and 
act, is identical with his essence. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXV. Whatsoever we conceive to be in the 
power of God, necessarily exists. 

Proof. Whatsoever is in God s power, must (by the 
last Prop.) be comprehended in his essence in such a 
manner, that it necessarily follows therefrom, and there 
fore necessarily exists. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXVI. There is no cause from whose nature 
some effect does not follow. 

Proof. Whatsoever exists expresses God s nature or 
essence in a given conditioned manner (by Prop, xxv., 
Coroll.); that is (by Prop, xxxiv.), whatsoever exists, ex 
presses in a given conditioned manner God s power, which 
is the cause of all things, therefore an effect must (by 
Prop, xvi.) necessarily follow. Q.E.D. 

APPENDIX. In the foregoing I have explained the na 
ture and properties of God. I have shown that he neces 
sarily exists, that he is one : that he is, and acts solely by 
the necessity of his own nature ; that he is the free cause 
of all things, and how he is so; that all things are in 
God, and so depend on him, that without him they could 
neither exist nor be conceived ; lastly, that all things are 
pre-determined by God, not through his free will or ab 
solute fiat, but from the very nature of God or infinite 
power. I have further, where occasion offered, taken care 
to remove the prejudices, which might impede the com 
prehension of my demonstrations. Yet there still remain 
misconceptions not a few, which might and may prove 
very grave hindrances to the understanding of the con 
catenation of things, as I have explained it above. I 
have therefore thought it worth while to bring these 
misconceptions before the bar of reason. 

All such opinions spring from the notion commonly 



CONCERNING GOD 71 



entertained, that all things in nature act as men them 
selves act, namely, with an end in view. It is accepted 
as certain, that God himself directs all things to a defi 
nite goal (for it is said that God made all things for man, 
and man that he might worship him). I will, therefore, 
consider this opinion, asking first, why it obtains general 
credence, and why all men are naturally so prone to adopt 
it ? secondly, I will point out its falsity ; and, lastly, I will 
show how it has given rise to prejudices about good and 
bad, right and wrong, praise and blame, order and con 
fusion, beauty and ugliness, and the like. However, this 
is not the place to deduce these misconceptions from the 
nature of the human mind: it will be sufficient here, if 
I assume as a starting point, what ought to be universally 
admitted, namely, that all men are born ignorant of the 
causes of things, that all have the desire to seek for what 
is useful to them, and that they are conscious of such 
desire. Herefrom it follows first, that men think them 
selves free, inasmuch as they are conscious of their 
volitions and desires, and never even dream, in their igno 
rance, of the causes which have disposed them to wish 
and desire. Secondly, that men do all things for an end, 
namely, for that which is useful to them, and which they 
seek. Thus it comes to pass that they only look for a 
knowledge of the final causes of events, and when these 
are learned, they are content, as having no cause for 
further doubt. If they cannot learn such causes from 
external sources, they are compelled to turn to considering 
themselves, and reflecting what end would have induced 
them personally to bring about the given event, and thus 
they necessarily judge other natures by their own. Fur 
ther, as they find in themselves and outside themselves 
many means which assist them not a little in their search 
for what is useful, for instance, eyes for seeing, teeth 
for chewing, herbs and animals for yielding food, the sun 
for giving light, the sea for breeding fish, etc., they come 
to look on the whole of nature as a means for obtaining 
such conveniences. Now as they are aware, that they 
found these conveniences and did not make them they 
think they have cause for believing, that some other being 



72 THE ETHICS 

has made them for their use. As they look upon things 
as means, they cannot believe them to be self-created; 
but, judging from the means which they are accustomed 
to prepare for themselves, they are bound to believe in 
some ruler or rulers of the universe endowed with 
human freedom, who have arranged and adapted every 
thing for human use. They are bound to estimate the 
nature of such rulers (having no information on the 
subject) in accordance with their own nature, and there 
fore they assert that the gods ordained everything for 
the use of man, in order to bind man to themselves and 
obtain from him the highest honors. Hence also it fol 
lows, that everyone thought out for himself, according to 
his abilities, a different way of worshipping God, so that 
God might love him more than his fellows, and direct 
the whole course of nature for the satisfaction of his 
blind cupidity and insatiable avarice. Thus the preju 
dice developed into superstition, and took deep root in 
the human mind; and for this reason everyone strove 
most zealously to understand and explain the final causes 
of things; but in their endeavor to show that nature 
does nothing in vain, i. e., nothing which is useless to 
man, they only seem to have demonstrated that nature, 
the gods, and men are all mad together. Consider, I 
pray you, the result: among the many helps of nature 
they were bound to find some hindrances, such as storms, 
earthquakes, diseases, etc. : so they declared that such 
things happen, because the gods are angry at some 
wrong done them by men, or at some fault committed 
in their worship. Experience day by day protested and 
showed by infinite examples, that good and evil fortunes 
fall to the lot of pious and impious alike; still they 
would not abandon their inveterate prejudice, for it was 
more easy for them to class such contradictions among 
other unknown things of whose use they were ignorant, 
and thus to retain their actual and innate condition of 
ignorance, than to destroy the whole fabric of their rea 
soning and start afresh. They therefore laid down as an 
axiom, that God s judgments far transcend human under 
standing. Such a doctrine might well have sufficed to 



CONCERNING GOD 73 

conceal the truth from the human race for all eternity, 
if mathematics had not furnished another standard of 
verity in considering solely the essence and properties of 
figures without regard to their final causes. There are 
other reasons (which I need not mention here) besides 
mathematics, which might have caused men s minds to be 
directed to these general prejudices, and have led them to 
the knowledge of the truth. 

I have now sufficiently explained my first point. There 
is no need to show at length, that nature has no particu 
lar goal in view, and that final causes are mere human 
figments. This, I think, is already evident enough, both 
from the causes and foundations on which I have shown 
such prejudice to be based, and also from Prop, xvi., and 
the Corollary of Prop, xxxii., and, in fact, all those 
propositions in which I have shown, that everything in 
nature proceeds from a sort of necessity, and with the 
utmost perfection. However, I will add a few remarks, 
in order to overthrow this doctrine of a final cause utterly. 
That which is really a cause it considers as an effect, and 
vice versa: it makes that which is by nature first to be 
last, and that which is highest and most perfect to be 
most imperfect. Passing over the questions of cause and 
priority as self-evident, it is plain from Props, xxi., xxii., 
xxiii. that that effect, is most perfect which is produced 
immediately by God; the effect which requires for its 
production several intermediate causes is, in that respect, 
more imperfect. But if those things which were made 
immediately by God were made to enable him to attain 
his end, then the things which come after, for the sake 
of which the first were made, are necessarily the most 
excellent of all. 

Further, this doctrine does away with the perfection of 
God: for, if God acts for an object, he necessarily desires 
something which he lacks. Certainly, theologians and 
metaphysicians draw a distinction between the object of 
want and the object of assimilation ; still they confess that 
God made all things for the sake of himself, not for the 
sake of creation. They are unable to point to anything 
prior to creation, except God himself, as an object for 



7 4 THE ETHICS 

which God should act, and are therefore driven to admit 
(as they clearly must), that God lacked those things for 
whose attainment he created means, and further that he 
desired them. 

We must not omit to notice that the followers of this 
doctrine, anxious to display their talent in assigning 
final causes, have imported a new method of argument 
in proof of their theory namely, a reduction, not to 
the impossible, but to ignorance ; thus showing that they 
have no other method of exhibiting their doctrine. For 
example, if a stone falls from a roof on to some one s 
head and kills him, they will demonstrate by their new 
method, that the stone fell in order to kill the man ; for, 
if it had not by God s will fallen with that object, how 
could so many circumstances ( and there are often many 
concurrent circumstances) have all happened together by 
chance ? Perhaps you will answer that the event is due 
to the facts that the wind was blowing, and the man was 
walking that way. (< But why, they will insist, tt was 
the wind blowing, and why was the man at that very 
time walking that way ? If you again answer, that the 
wind had then sprung up because the sea had begun to 
be agitated the day before, the weather being previously 
calm, and that the man had been invited by a friend, 
they will again insist : (< But why was the sea agitated, 
and why was the man invited at that time ? w So they 
will pursue their questions from cause to cause, till at 
last you take refuge in the will of God in other words, 
the sanctuary of ignorance. So, again, when they sur 
vey the frame of the human body, they are amazed; and 
being ignorant of the causes of so great a work of art 
conclude that it has been fashioned, not mechan 
ically, but by divine and supernatural skill, and has 
been so put together that one part shall not hurt an 
other. 

Hence any one who seeks for the true causes of mira 
cles, and strives to understand natural phenomena as an 
intelligent being, and not to gaze at them like a fool, is 
set down and denounced as an impious heretic by those, 
whom the masses adore as the interpreters of nature and 



CONCERNING GOD 75 

the gods. Such persons know that, with the removal of 
ignorance, the wonder which forms their only available 
means for proving and preserving their authority would 
vanish also. But I now quit this subject, and pass on to 
my third point. 

After men persuaded themselves, that everything which 
is created is created for their sake, they were bound to 
consider as the chief quality in everything that which is 
most useful to themselves, and to account those things 
the best of all which have the most beneficial effect on 
mankind. Further, they were bound to form abstract 
notions for the explanation of the nature of things, such 

as GOODNESS, BADNESS, ORDER, CONFUSION, WARMTH, COLD, 

BEAUTY, DEFORMITY, and so on ; and from the belief that 
they are free agents arose the further notions PRAISE and 

BLAME, SIN and MERIT. 

I will speak of these latter hereafter, when I treat of 
human nature; the former I will briefly explain here. 

Everything which conduces to health and the worship 
of God they have called GOOD, everything which hinders 
these objects they have styled BAD; and inasmuch as 
those who do not understand the nature of things do not 
verify phenomena in any way, but merely imagine them 
after a fashion, and mistake their imagination for under 
standing, such persons firmly believe that there is an 
ORDER in things, being really ignorant both of things 
and their own nature. When phenomena are of such a 
kind, that the impression they make on our senses 
requires little effort of imagination, and can consequently 
be easily remembered, we say that they are WELL-ORDERED ; 
if the contrary, that they are ILL-ORDERED or CONFUSED. 
Further, as things which are easily imagined are more 
pleasing to us, men prefer order to confusion as though 
there were any order in nature, except in relation to our 
imagination and say that God has created all things in 
order; thus, without knowing it, attributing imagination 
to God, unless, indeed, they would have it that God fore 
saw human imagination, and arranged everything, so 
that it should be most easily imagined. If this be their 
theory they would not, perhaps, be daunted by the fact 



7 6 THE ETHICS 

that we find an infinite number of phenomena, far sur 
passing our imagination, and very many others which 
confound its weakness. But enough has been said on 
this subject. The other abstract notions are nothing but 
modes of imagining, in which the imagination is differ 
ently affected, though they are considered by the ignorant 
as the chief attributes of things, inasmuch as they believe 
that everything was created for the sake of themselves; 
and, according as they are affected by it, style it good 
or bad, healthy or rotten and corrupt. For instance, if 
the motion whose objects we see communicate to our 
nerves be conducive to health, the objects causing it are 
styled BEAUTIFUL; if a contrary motion be excited, they 
are styled UGLY. 

Things which are perceived through our sense of smell 
are styled fragrant or fetid; if through our taste, sweet 
or bitter, full-flavored or insipid, if through our touch, 
hard or soft, rough or smooth, etc. 

Whatsoever affects our ears is said to give rise to noise, 
sound, or harmony. In this last case, there are men lu 
natic enough to believe that even God himself takes 
pleasure in harmony; and philosophers are not lacking 
who have persuaded themselves, that the motion of the 
heavenly bodies gives rise to harmony all of which in 
stances sufficiently show that everyone judges of things 
according to the state of his brain, or rather mistakes for 
things the forms of his imagination. We need no longer 
wonder that there have arisen all the controversies we 
have witnessed and finally scepticism : for, although hu 
man bodies in many respects agree, yet in very many 
others they differ; so that what seems good to one 
seems bad to another; what seems well ordered to one 
seems confused to another; what is pleasing to one dis 
pleases another, and so on. I need not further enumer 
ate, because this is not the place to treat the subject at 
length, and also because the fact is sufficiently well 
known. It is commonly said: (< So many men, so many 
minds ; everyone is wise in his own way ; brains differ as 
completely as palates. All of which proverbs show, that 
men judge of things according to their mental disposi- 



CONCERNING GOD 77 

tion, and rather imagine than understand : for, if they un 
derstood phenomena, they would, as mathematics attest, 
be convinced, if not attracted, by what I have urged. 

We have now perceived, that all the explanations com 
monly given of nature are mere modes of imagining, 
and do not indicate the true nature of anything, but 
only the constitution of the imagination; and, although 
they have names, as though they were entities, existing 
externally to the imagination, I call them entities imag 
inary rather than real; and, therefore, all arguments 
against us drawn from such abstractions are easily 
rebutted. 

Many argue in this way. If all things follow from a 
necessity of the absolutely perfect nature of God, why are 
there so many imperfections in nature ? such, for instance, 
as things corrupt to the point of putridity, loathsome 
deformity, confusion, evil, sin, etc. But these reasoners 
are, as I have said, easily confuted, for the perfection of 
things is to be reckoned only from their own nature and 
power; things are not more or less perfect, according as 
they delight or offend human senses, or according as 
they are serviceable or repugnant to mankind. To those 
who ask why God did not so create all men, that they 
should be governed only by reason, I give no answer 
but this: because matter was not lacking to him for the 
creation of every degree of perfection from highest to 
lowest; or, more strictly, because the laws of his nature 
are so vast, as to suffice for the production of everything 
conceivable by an infinite intelligence, as I have shown 
in Prop. xvi. 

Such are the misconceptions I have undertaken to 
note; if there are any more of the same sort, everyone 
may easily dissipate them for himself with the aid of a 
little reflection. 



PART II. 

OF THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND. 

PREFACE. 

I NOW pass on to explaining the results, which must 
necessarily follow from the essence of God, or of the 
eternal and infinite being; not, indeed, all of them (for 
we proved in Part, i., Prop, xvi., that an infinite number 
must follow in an infinite number of ways), but only 
those which are able to lead us, as it were by the hand, 
to the knowledge of the human mind and its highest 
blessedness. 

DEFINITIONS. 

I. By BODY I mean a mode which expresses in a cer 
tain determinate manner the essence of God, in so far as 
he is considered as an extended thing. ( See Part i. , Prop, 
xxv. Coroll.). 

II. I consider as belonging to the essence of a thing 
that, which being given, the thing is necessarily given also, 
and, which being removed, the thing is necessarily re 
moved also ; in other words, that without which the thing, 
and which itself without the thing, can neither be nor 
be conceived. 

III. By IDEA, I mean the mental conception which is 
formed by the mind as a thinking thing. 

Explanation. I say CONCEPTION rather than perception, 
because the word perception seems to imply that the 
mind is passive in respect to the object; whereas concep 
tion seems to express an activity of the mind. 

IV. By AN ADEQUATE IDEA, I mean an idea which, in 
so far as it is considered in itself, without relation to the 
object, has all the properties or intrinsic marks of a true 
idea. 

(78) 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 79 

Explanation. I say INTRINSIC, in order to exclude that 
mark which is extrinsic, namely, the agreement between 
the idea and its object (ideatum). 

V. DURATION is the indefinite continuance of existing. 
Explanation. I say INDEFINITE, because it cannot be 

determined through the existence itself of the existing 
thing, or by its efficient cause, which necessarily gives 
the existence of the thing, but does not take it away. 

VI. REALITY and PERFECTION I use as synonymous 
terms. 

VII. By PARTICULAR THINGS, I mean things which are 
finite and have a conditioned existence; but if several 
individual things concur in one action, so as to be all 
simultaneously the effect of one cause, I consider them 
all so far, as one particular thing. 

AXIOMS. 

I. The essence of man does not involve necessary exist 
ence, that is, it may, in the order of nature, come to pass 
that this or that man does or does not exist. 

II. Man thinks. 

III. Modes of thinking, such as love, desire, or any 
other of the passions, do not take place, unless there be 
in the same individual an idea of the thing loved, desired, 
etc. But the idea can exist without the presence of any 
other mode of thinking. 

IV. We perceive that a certain body is affected in many 
ways. 

V. We feel and perceive no particular things, save 
bodies and modes of thought. 

N. B. The postulates are given after the conclusion of 
Prop. xiii. 

PROPOSITIONS. 

PROP. I. Thought is an attribute of God, or God is a 
thinking thing. 

Proof. Particular thoughts, or this or that thought, are 
modes which, in a certain conditioned manner, express 
the nature of God ( Part i., Prop, xxv., Coroll.). God there 
fore possesses the attribute (Part i., Def. v.) of which the 



8o THE ETHICS 

concept is involved in all particular thoughts, which latter 
are conceived thereby. Thought, therefore, is one of 
the infinite attributes of God, which express God s eternal 
and infinite essence (Part i., Def. vi.). In other words, 
God is a thinking thing. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition is also evident from the fact, 
that we are able to conceive an infinite thinking being. 
For, in proportion as a thinking being is conceived as 
thinking more thoughts, so it is conceived as containing 
more reality or perfection. Therefore a being which can 
think an infinite number of things in an infinite number 
of ways, is, necessarily, in respect of thinking, infinite. 
As, therefore, from the consideration of thought alone we 
conceive an infinite being, thought is necessarily (Part i. , 
Def. iv. and vi.) one of the infinite attributes of God, as 
we were desirous of showing. 

PROP. II. Extension is an attribute of God, or God is 
an extended thing. 

Proof. The proof of this proposition is similar to that 
of the last. 

PROP. III. In God there is necessarily the idea not only 
of his essence, but also of all things which necessarily 
follow from his essence. 

Proof. God (by the first Prop, of this Part) can think 
an infinite number of things in infinite ways, or (what 
is the same thing, by Prop, xvi., Part i.) can form the 
idea of his essence, and of all things which necessarily 
follow therefrom. Now all that is in the power of God 
necessarily is. (Parti., Prop, xxxv.) Therefore, such an 
idea as we are considering necessarily is, and in God 
alone. Q.E.D. (Part i, Prop, xv.) 

Note. 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. Further, 
the power of God is very often likened to the power of 
kings. But this doctrine we have refuted (Parti., Prop. 
xxxii., Corolls. i. and ii.), and we have shown (Part i., 
Prop, xvi.) that God acts by the same necessity, as that 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 81 

by which he understands himself; in other words, as it 
follows from the necessity of the divine nature (as all 
admit), that God understands himself, so also does it 
follow by the same necessity, that God performs infinite 
acts in infinite ways. We further showed (Parti., Prop, 
xxxiv.) that God s power is identical with God s essence 
in action; therefore it is as impossible for us to conceive 
God as not acting as to conceive him as non-existent. 
If we might pursue the subject further, I could point 
out, that 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 a negation of power. However, I am un 
willing to go over the same ground so often. I would 
only beg the reader again and again, to turn over fre 
quently in his mind what I have said in Part i. from 
Prop. xvi. to the end. No one will be able to follow 
my meaning, unless he is scrupulously careful not to con 
found the power of God with the human power and right 
of kings. 

PROP. IV. The idea of God, from which an infinite 
number of things follow in infinite ways, can only 
be one. 

Proof. Infinite intellect comprehends nothing save the 
attributes of God and his modifications (Part i., Prop, 
xxx.). Now God is one (Part i., Prop xiv., Coroll.). 
Therefore the idea of God, wherefrom an infinite num 
ber of things follow in infinite ways, can only be one. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. V. The actual being of ideas owns God as its 
cause, only in so far as he is considered as a thinking 
thing, not in so far as he is unfolded in any other attri 
bute ; that is, the ideas both of the attributes of God and 
of particular things do not own as their efficient cause their 
objects (ideata) or the things perceived, but God himself 
in so far as he is a thinking thing. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from Prop. iii. of 

this Part. We there drew the conclusion, that God can 

form the idea of his essence, and of all things which 

follow necessarily therefrom, solely because he is a think - 

6 



82 THE ETHICS 

ing thing, and not because he is the object of his own idea. 
Wherefore the actual being of ideas owns for cause God, 
in so far as he is a thinking thing. It may be differently 
proved as follows : the actual being of ideas is ( obviously ) a 
mode of thought, that is ( Part i., Prop, xxv., Coroll.) a mode 
which expresses in a certain manner the nature of God, in 
so far as he is a thinking thing, and therefore (Part i. , Prop, 
x.) involves the conception of no other attribute of God, 
and consequently (by Part i., Ax. iv.) is not the effect of 
any attribute save thought. Therefore the actual being of 
ideas owns God as its cause, in so far as he is considered 
as a thinking thing, etc. Q. E. D. 

PROP. VI. The modes of any given attribute are caused 
by God, in so far as he is considered through the attri 
bute of which they are modes, and not in so far as he is 
considered through any other attribute. 

Proof. Each attribute is conceived through itself, with 
out any other (Part i., Prop, x.); wherefore the modes of 
each attribute involve the conception of that attribute, 
but not of any other. Thus (Part i., Ax. iv.) they are 
caused by God, only in so far as he is considered through 
the attribute whose modes they are, and not in so far as 
he is considered through any other. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence the actual being of things, which 
are not modes of thought, does not follow from the 
divine nature, because that nature has prior knowledge 
of the things. Things represented in ideas follow, and 
are derived from their particular attribute, in the same 
manner, and with the same necessity as ideas follow 
(according to what we have shown) from the attribute 
of thought. 

PROP. VII. The order and connection of ideas is the 
same as the order and connection of things. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from Part i., Ax. iv. 
For the idea of everything that is caused depends on a 
knowledge of the cause, whereof it is an effect. 

Corollary. Hence God s power of thinking is equal to 
his realized power of action that is, whatsoever follows 
from the infinite nature of God in the world of extension 
(formaliter), follows without exception in the same order 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 83 

and connection from the idea of God in the world of 
thought (objective]. 

Note. Before going any further, I wish to recall to mind 
what has been pointed out above namely, that 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 the other. 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. For instance, a 
circle existing in nature, and the idea of a circle exist 
ing, which is also in God, are one and the same thing 
displayed through different attributes. Thus, whether we 
conceive nature under the attribute of extension, or 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 following in either case. 
I said that God is the cause of an idea for instance, 
of the idea of a circle in so far as he is a thinking 
thing; and of a circle, in so far as he is an extended 
thing, simply because the actual being of the idea of a 
circle can only be perceived as a proximate cause through 
another mode of thinking, and that again through an 
other, and so on to infinity; so that, so long as we con 
sider things as modes of thinking, we must explain 
the order of the whole of nature, or the whole chain of 
causes, through the attribute of thought only. And, in 
so far as we consider things as modes of extension, we 
must explain the order of the whole nature through 
the attribute of extension only; and so on, in the case 
of other attributes. Wherefore of things as they are in 
themselves God is really the cause, inasmuch as he con 
sists of infinite attributes. I cannot for the present ex 
plain my meaning more clearly. 

PROP. VIII. The ideas of particular things, or of modes, 
that do not exist, must be comprehended in the infinite 



84 THE ETHICS 

idea of God, in the same way as the formal essences of 
particular things or modes are contained in the attributes 
of God. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from the last ; it 
is understood more clearly from the preceding note. 

Corollary. Hence, so long as particular things do not 
exist, except in so far as they are comprehended in the 
attributes of God, their representations in thought or 
ideas do not exist, except in so far as the infinite idea 
of God exists; and when particular things are said to 
exist, not only in so far as they are involved in the 
attributes of God, but also in so far as they are said to 
continue, their ideas will also involve existence, through 
which they are said to continue. 

Note. If anyone desires an example to throw more 
light on this question, I shall, I fear, not be able to give 
him any, which adequately explains the thing of which I 
here speak, inasmuch as it is unique, however, I will 
endeavor to illustrate it as far as possible. The nature 
of a circle is such that if any number of straight lines 
intersect within it, the rectangles formed by their seg 
ments will be equal to one another; thus, infinite equal 
rectangles are contained in a circle. Yet none of these 
rectangles can be said to exist, except in so far as the 
circle exists ; nor can the idea of any of these rectangles 
be said to exist, except in so far as they are compre 
hended in the idea of the circle. Let us grant that, 
from this infinite number of rectangles, two only exist. 
The ideas of these two not only exist, in so far as they 
are contained in the idea of the circle, but also as they 
involve the existence of those rectangles; wherefore they 
are distinguished from the remaining ideas of the remain 
ing rectangles. 

PROP. IX. The idea of an individual thing actually ex 
isting is caused by God, not in so far as he is infinite, 
but in so far as he is considered as effected by another 
idea of a thing actually existing, of which he is the 
cause, in so far as he is affected by a third idea, and so 
on to infinity. 

Proof. The idea of an individual thing actually exist- 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 85 

ing is an individual mode of thinking, and is distinct 
from other modes (by the Corollary and Note to Prop. 
viii. of this part); thus (by Prop. vi. of this part) it is 
caused by God, in so far only as he is a thinking thing. 
But not (by Prop, xxviii. of Part i.) in so far as he is a 
thing thinking absolutely, only in so far as he is consid 
ered as affected by another mode of thinking; and he 
is the cause of this latter, as being affected by a third, 
and so on to infinity. Now, the order and connection of 
ideas is (by Prop.vii. of this book) the same as the order 
and connection of causes. Therefore of a given individ 
ual idea another individual idea, or God, in so far as 
he is considered as modified by that idea, is the cause; 
and of this second idea God is the cause in so far as he 
is affected by another idea and so on to infinity. Q.E.D. 
Corollary. Whatsoever takes place in the individual ob 
ject of any idea, the knowledge thereof is in God, in so 
far only as he has the idea of the object. 

Proof. Whatsoever takes place in the object of any 
idea, its idea is in God (by Prop. iii. of this part), not 
in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he is consid 
ered as affected by another idea of an individual thing 
(by the last Prop. ) ; but (by Prop. vii. of this part) the order 
and connection of ideas is the same as the order and 
connection of things. The knowledge, therefore, of that 
which takes place in any individual object will be in God, 
in so far only as he has the idea of that object. Q.E.D. 

PROP. X. The being or substance does not appertain 
to the essence of man in other words, substance does 
not constitute the actual being* of man. 

Proof. The being of substance involves necessary ex 
istence (Parti., Prop. vii.). If, therefore, the being of sub 
stance appertains to the essence of man, substance being 
granted, man would necessarily be granted also (II. Def. 
ii), and, consequently, man would necessarily exist, which 
is absurd (II. Ax. i.). Therefore, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition may also be proved from I. v. , 
in which it is shown that there cannot be two substances 
of the same nature; for as there may be many men, the 

* Forma. 



86 THE ETHICS 

being of substance is not that which constitutes the 
actual being of man. Again, the proposition is evident 
from the other properties of substance namely, that sub 
stance is in its nature infinite, immutable, indivisible, etc., 
as anyone may see for himself. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that the essence of man 
is constituted by certain modifications of the attributes 
of God. For (by the last Prop.) the being of substance 
does not belong to the essence of man. That essence 
therefore (by i. 15) is something which is in God, 
and which without God can neither be nor be con 
ceived, whether it be a modification (i. 25 Coroll.), or a 
mode which expresses God s nature in a certain conditioned 
manner. 

Note. Everyone must surely admit, that nothing can 
be or be conceived without God. All men agree that 
God is the one and only cause of all things, both of 
their essence and of their existence; that is, God is not 
only the cause of things in respect to their being made 
(secundum fieri), but also in respect to their being (secun 
dum esse). 

At the same time many assert, that that, without which 
a thing cannot be nor be conceived, belongs to the essence 
of that thing; wherefore they believe that either the 
nature of God appertains to the essence of created things, 
or else that created things can be or be conceived with 
out God; or else, as is more probably the case, they hold 
inconsistent doctrines. I think the cause for such con 
fusion is mainly, that they do not keep to the proper or 
der of philosophic thinking. The nature of God, which 
should be reflected on first, inasmuch as it is prior both 
in the order of knowledge and the order of nature, they 
have taken to be last in the order of knowledge, and 
have put into the first place what they call the objects 
of sensation; hence, while they are considering natural 
phenomena, they give no attention at all to the divine 
nature, and, when afterward they apply their mind to 
the study of the divine nature, they are quite unable to 
bear in mind the first hypotheses, with which they have 
overlaid the knowledge of natural phenomena, inasmuch 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 87 

as such hypotheses are no help toward under 
standing the Divine nature. So that it is hardly to 
be wondered at, that these persons contradict themselves 
freely. 

However, I pass over this point. My intention here 
was only to give a reason for not saying, that that, 
without which a thing cannot be or be conceived, be- 
longs to the essence of that thing: individual things 
cannot be or be conceived without God, yet God does 
not appertain to their essence. I said that <( I considered 
as belonging to the essence of a thing that, which being 
given, the thing is necessarily given also, and which 
being removed, the thing is necessarily removed also; 
or that without which the thing, and which itself with 
out the thing can neither be nor be conceived. }> (II. 
Def. ii.) 

PPOP. XI. The first element which constitutes the ac 
tual being of the human mind, is the idea of some par 
ticular thing actually existing. 

Proof. The essence of man (by the Coroll. of the 
last Prop.) is constituted by certain modes of the attri 
butes of God, namely (by II. Ax. ii.), by the modes of 
thinking, of all which (by II. Ax. iii.) the idea is prior 
in nature, and, when the idea is given, the other modes 
(namely, those of which the idea is prior in nature) 
must be in the same individual (by the same Axiom). 
Therefore an idea is the first element constituting the 
human mind. But not the idea of a non-existent thing, 
for then (II viii. Coroll.) the idea itself cannot be said 
to exist; it must therefore be the idea of something 
actually existing. But not of an infinite thing. For an 
infinite thing (I. xxi., xxii.) must always necessarily 
exist; this would (by II. Ax. i.) involve an absurdity. 
Therefore the first element, which constitutes the actual 
being of the human mind, is the idea of something ac 
tually existing. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that the human mind is 
part of the infinite intellect of God; thus when we say, 
that the human mind perceives this or that, we make 
the assertion, that God has this or that idea, not in so 



88 THE ETHICS 

far as he is infinite, but in so far as he is displayed 
through the nature of the human mind, or in so far as 
he constitutes the essence of the human mind ; and when 
we say that God has this or that idea , not only in so far 
as he constitutes the essence of the human mind, but 
also in so far as he, simultaneously with the human 
mind, has the further idea of another thing, we assert 
that the human mind perceives a thing in part or in 
adequately. 

Note. Here, I doubt not, readers will come to a stand, 
and will call to mind many things which will cause them 
to hesitate; I therefore beg them to accompany me 
slowly, step by step, and not to pronounce on my state 
ments, till they have read to the end. 

PROP. XII. Whatsoever comes to pass in the object of 
the idea, which constitutes the human mind, must be per 
ceived by the human mind, or there will necessarily be 
an idea in the human mind of the said occurrence. That 
is, if the object of the idea constituting the human mind 
be a body, nothing can take place in that body without 
being perceived by the mind. 

Proof. Whatsoever comes to pass in the object of any 
idea, the knowledge thereof is necessarily in God (II. ix. 
Coroll.), in so far as he is considered as affected by the 
idea of the said object, that is (II. xi.), in so far as he 
constitutes the mind of anything. Therefore, whatsoever 
takes place in the object constituting the idea of the 
human mind, the knowledge thereof is necessarily in God, 
in so far as he constitutes the nature of the human mind ; 
that is (by II. xi. Coroll.) the knowledge of the said thing 
will necessarily be in the mind, in other words the mind 
perceives it. 

Note. This proposition is also evident, and is more 
clearly to be understood from II. vii., which see. 

PROP. XIII. 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. 

Proof. If indeed the body were not the object of the 
human mind, the ideas of the modifications of the body 
would not be in God (II. ix. Coroll.) in virtue of his con- 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 89 

stituting our mind, but in virtue of his constituting the 
mind of something else; that is (II. xi. Coroll.), the ideas 
of the modifications of the body would not be in our mind ; 
now (by II. Ax. iv.) we do possess the ideas of the modi 
fications of the body. Therefore the object of the idea 
constituting the human mind is the body, and the body 
as it actually exists (II. xi.). Further, if there were any 
other object of the idea constituting the mind besides 
body, then, as nothing can exist from which some effect 
does not follow (I. xxxvi.) there would necessarily have 
to be in our mind an idea, which would be the effect of 
that other object (II. xi.); but (II. Ax. v.) there is no such 
idea. Wherefore the object of our mind is the body as 
it exists, and nothing else. Q.E.D. 

Note. We thus comprehend, not only that the human 
mind is united to the body, but also the nature of the 
union between mind and body. However no one will be 
able to grasp this adequately or distinctly, unless he first 
has adequate knowledge of the nature of our body. The 
propositions we have advanced hitherto have been entirely 
general, applying not more to men than to other individ 
ual things, all of which, though in different degrees, are 
animated.* For of everything there is necessarily an idea 
in God, of which God is the cause, in the same way as 
there is an idea of the human body; thus whatever we 
have asserted of the idea of the human body must neces 
sarily also be asserted of the idea of everything else. Still, 
on the other hand, we cannot deny that ideas, like objects, 
differ one from the other, one being more excellent than 
another and containing more reality, just as the object of 
one idea is more excellent than the object of another idea, 
and contains more reality. 

Wherefore, in order to determine, wherein the human 
mind differs from other things, and wherein it surpasses 
them, it is necessary for us to know the nature of its object, 
that is, of the human body. What this nature is, I am not 
able here to explain, nor is it necessary for the proof of 
what I advance, that I should do so. I will only say gen 
erally, that in proportion as any given body is more fitted 

*Animata. 



90 THE ETHICS 

than others for doing many actions or receiving 1 many im 
pressions at once, so also is the mind, of which it is the 
object, more fitted than others for forming many simul 
taneous perceptions ; and the more the actions of one body 
depend on itself alone, and the fewer other bodies concur 
with it in action, the more fitted is the mind of which it 
is the object for distinct comprehension. We may thus 
recognize the superiority of one mind over others, and may 
further see the cause, why we have only a very confused 
knowledge of our body, and also many kindred questions, 
which I will, in the following propositions, deduce from 
what has been advanced. Wherefore I have thought it 
worth while to explain and prove more strictly my present 
statements. In order to do so, I must premise a few 
propositions concerning the nature of bodies. 

AXIOM I. All bodies are either in motion or at rest. 

AXIOM II. Every body is moved sometimes more slowly, 
sometimes more quickly. 

LEMMA I. Bodies are distinguished from one another in 
respect of motion and rest, quickness and slowness, and 
not in respect of substance. 

Proof. The first part of this proposition is, I take 
it, self-evident. That bodies are not distinguished in 
respect of substance, is plain both from I. v. and I. 
viii. It is brought out still more clearly from I. xv.,note. 

LEMMA II. All bodies agree in certain respects. 

Proof. All bodies agree in the fact, that they involve 
the conception of one and the same attribute (II., Def. 
i.). Further, in the fact that they may be moved less 
or more quickly, and may be absolutely in motion or at 
rest. 

LEMMA III. A body in motion or at rest must be 
determined to motion or rest by another body, which 
other body has been determined to motion or rest by a 
third body, and that third again by a fourth, and so on 
to infinity. 

Proof. Bodies are individual things (II., Def. i.) which 
(Lemma I.) are distinguished one from the other in 
respect to motion and rest; thus (I. xxviii.) each must 
necessarily be determined to motion or rest by another 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 91 

individual thing, namely (II. vi.), by another body, which 
other body is also (Ax. i.), in motion or at rest. And 
this body again can only have been set in motion or 
caused to rest by being determined by a third body to 
motion or rest. This third body again by a fourth, and 
so on to infinity. Q. E. D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that a body in motion 
keeps in motion, until it is determined to a state of rest 
by some other body ; and a body at rest remains so, until 
it is determined to a state of motion by some other body. 
This is indeed self-evident. For when I suppose, for 
instance, that a given body, A, is at rest, and do not take 
into consideration other bodies in motion, I cannot affirm 
anything concerning the body A, except that it is at rest. 
If it afterward comes to pass that A is in motion, this 
cannot have resulted from its having been at rest, for no 
other consequence could have been involved than its 
remaining at rest. If, on the other hand, A be given in 
motion, we shall, so long as we only consider A, be 
unable to affirm anything concerning it, except that it is 
in motion. If A is subsequently found to be at rest, this 
rest cannot be the result of A S previous motion, for such 
motion can only have led to continued motion; the state 
of rest therefore must have resulted from something, 
which was not in A, namely, from an external cause 
determining A to a state of rest. 

AXIOM I. All modes, wherein one body is affected by 
another body, follow simultaneously from the nature of 
the body affected and the body affecting ; so that one and 
the same body may be moved in different modes, accord 
ing to the difference in the nature of the bodies moving 
it; on the other hand, different bodies may be moved in 
different modes by one and the same body. 

AXIOM II. When a body in motion impinges on another 
body at rest, which it is unable to move, it recoils in 
order to continue its motion, and the angle made by the 
line of motion in the recoil and the plane of the body at 
rest, whereon the moving body has impinged, will be equal 
to the angle formed by the line of motion of incidence 
and the same plane. 



92 THE ETHICS 

So far we have been speaking only of the most simple 
bodies, which are only distinguished one from the other 
by motion and rest, quickness and slowness. We now 
pass on to compound bodies. 

Definition. When any given bodies of the same or dif 
ferent magnitude are compelled by other bodies to remain 
in contact, or if they be moved at the same or different 
rates of speed, so that their mutual movements should 
preserve among themselves a certain fixed relation, we 
say that such bodies are in union, and that together they 
compose one body or individual, which is distinguished 
from other bodies by this fact of union. 

AXIOM III. In proportion as the parts of an individual, 
or a compound body, are in contact over a greater or less 
superficies, they will with greater or less difficulty admit 
of being moved from their position; consequently the 
individual will, with greater or less difficulty, be brought 
to assume another form. Those bodies whose parts are 
in contact over large superficies, are called HARD; those, 
whose parts are in contact over small superficies, are 
called SOFT ; those, whose parts are in motion among one 
another, are called FLUID. 

LEMMA IV. If from a body or individual, compounded of 
several bodies, certain bodies be separated, and if at the 
same time, an equal number of other bodies of the same 
nature take their place, the individual will preserve its nature 
as before, without any change in its actuality (forma). 

Proof, Bodies (Lemma i.) are not distinguished in re 
spect of substance: that which constitutes the actuality 
(for main) of an individual consists (by the last Def.) in 
a union of bodies; but this union, although there is a 
continual change of bodies, will (by our hypothesis) be 
maintained; the individual, therefore, will retain its na 
ture as before, both in respect of substance and in re 
spect of mode. Q.E.D. 

LEMMA V. If the parts composing an individual become 
greater or less, but in such proportion, that they all pre 
serve the same mutual relations of motion and rest, the 
individual will still preserve its original nature, and its 
actuality will not be changed. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 93 

Proof. The same as for the last Lemma. 
LEMMA VI. If certain bodies composing an individual 
be compelled to change the motion, which they have in 
one direction, for motion in another direction, but in such 
a manner, that they be able to continue their motions 
and their mutual communication in the same relations as 
before, the individual will retain its own nature without 
any change of its actuality. 

/V00/. This proposition is self-evident, for the indi 
vidual is supposed to retain all that, which, in its defi 
nition, we spoke of as its actual being. 

LEMMA VII. Furthermore, the individual thus composed 
preserves its nature whether it be, as a whole, in motion 
or at rest, whether it be moved in this or that direc 
tion; so long as each part retains its motion, and pre 
serves its communication with other parts as before. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from the defini 
tion of an individual prefixed to Lemma iv. 

Note. We thus see, how a composite individual may 

be affected in many different ways, and preserve its 
nature notwithstanding. Thus far we have conceived an 
individual as composed of bodies only distinguished one 
from the other in respect of motion and rest, speed and 
slowness ; that is, of bodies of the most simple character. 
If, however, we now conceive another individual com 
posed of several individuals of diverse natures, we shall 
find that the number of ways in which it can be affected, 
without losing its nature, will be greatly multiplied. 
Each of its parts would consist of several bodies, and 
therefore (by Lemma vi.) each part would admit, with 
out change to its nature, of quicker or slower motion, 
and would consequently be able to transmit its motions 
more quickly or more slowly to the remaining parts. If 
we further conceive a third kind of individuals composed 
of individuals of this second kind, we shall find that they 
may be affected in a still greater number of ways with 
out changing their actuality. We may easily proceed 
thus to infinity, and conceive the whole of nature as one 
individual, whose parts, that is, all bodies, vary in infi 
nite ways, without any change in the individual as a 



94 THE ETHICS 

whole. I should feel bound to explain and demonstrate 
this point at more length, if I were writing a special 
treatise on body. But I have already said that such is 
not my object, I have only touched on the question, be 
cause it enables me to prove easily that which I have in 
view. 

POSTULATES. 

I. The human body is composed of a number of indi 
vidual parts, of diverse nature, each one of which is in 
itself extremely complex. 

II. Of the individual parts composing the human body 
some are fluid, some soft, some hard. 

III. The individual parts composing the human body, 
and consequently the human body itself, are affected in 
a variety of ways by external bodies. 

IV. The human body stands in need for its preserva 
tion of a number of other bodies, by which it is continu 
ally, so to speak, regenerated. 

V. When the fluid part of the human body is deter 
mined by an external body to impinge often on another 
soft part, it changes the surface of the latter, and, as it 
were, leaves the impression thereupon of the external 
body which impels it. 

VI. The human body can move external bodies, and 
arrange them in a variety of ways. 

PROP. XIV. The human mind is capable of perceiving 
a great number of things, and is so in proportion as its 
body is capable of receiving a great number of im 
pressions. 

Proof. The human body (by Post. iii. and vi.) is 
affected in very many ways by external bodies, and is 
capable in very many ways of affecting external bodies. 
But (II. xii.) the human mind must perceive all that 
takes place in the human body; the human mind is, 
therefore, capable of perceiving a great number of 
things, and is so in proportion, etc. Q. E. D. 

PROP. XV. The idea, which constitutes the actual being 
of the human mind, is not simple, but compounded of a 
great number of ideas. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 95 

Proof. The idea constituting the actual being of the 
human mind is the idea of the body (II. xiii.), which 
(Post, i.) is composed of a great number of complex 
individual parts. But there is necessarily in God the 
idea of each individual part whereof the body is com 
posed (II. viii., Coroll.); therefore (II. vii.), the idea of 
the human body is composed of these numerous ideas of 
its component parts. Q. E.D. 

PROP. XVI. The idea of every mode, in which the 
human body is affected by external bodies, must involve 
the nature of the human body, and also the nature of the 
external body. 

Proof. All the modes, in which any given body is 
affected, follow from the nature of the body affected, and 
also from the nature of the affecting body (by Ax. i., 
after the Coroll. of Lemma iii.), wherefore their idea 
also necessarily (by I. Ax. iv.) involves the nature of 
both bodies; therefore, the idea of every mode, in which 
the human body is affected by external bodies, involves 
the nature of the human body and of the external body. 
Q.E.D. 

Corollary I. Hence it follows, first, that the human 
mind perceives the nature of a variety of bodies, together 
with the nature of its own. 

Corollary II. It follows, secondly, that the ideas, which 
we have of external bodies, indicate rather the constitu 
tion of our own body than the nature of external bodies. 
I have amply illustrated this in the Appendix to Part I. 

PROP. XVII. If the human body is affected in a man 
ner which involves the nature of any external body, the 
human mind will regard the said external body as actually 
existing, or as present to itself, until the human body be 
affected in such a way, as to exclude the existence or the 
presence of the said external body. 

Proof. This proposition is self-evident, for so long as 
the human body continues to be thus affected, so long 
will the human mind (II. xii.) regard this modification 
of the body that is (by the last Prop.), it will have 
the idea of the mode as actually existing, and this idea 
involves the nature of the external body. In other words, 



96 THE ETHICS 

it will have the idea which does not exclude, but postulates 
the existence or presence of the nature of the external 
body; therefore the mind (by II. xvi., Coroll. i.) will 
regard the external body as actually existing, until it is 
affected, etc. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. The mind is able to regard as present 
external bodies, by which the human body has once been 
affected, even though they be no longer in existence or 
present. 

Proof. When external bodies determine the fluid parts 
of the human body, so that they often impinge on the 
softer parts, they change the surface of the last named 
(Post, v.); hence (Ax. ii., after Coroll. of Lemma iii.) 
they are refracted therefrom in a different manner from 
that which they followed before such change; and, 
further, when afterward they impinge on the new sur 
faces by their own spontaneous movement, they will be 
refracted in the same manner, as though they had been 
impelled toward those surfaces by external bodies; con 
sequently, they will, while they continue to be thus 
refracted, affect the human body in the same manner, 
whereof the mind (II. xii.) will again take cognizance 
that is (II. xvii.), the mind will again regard the ex 
ternal body as present, and will do so, as often as the 
fluid parts of the human body impinge on the aforesaid 
surfaces by their own spontaneous motion. Wherefore, 
although the external bodies, by which the human 
body has once been affected, be no longer in existence, the 
mind will nevertheless regard them as present, as often as 
this action of the body is repeated. Q.E.D. 

Note. We thus see how it comes about, as is often the 
case, that we regard as present things which are not. It 
is possible that the same result may be brought about by 
other causes; but I think it suffices for me here to have 
indicated one possible explanation, just as well as if I 
had pointed out the true cause. Indeed, I do not think 
I am very far from the truth, for all my assumptions are 
based on postulates, which rest, almost without exception, 
on experience, that cannot be controverted by those who 
have shown, as we have, that the human body, as we feel 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 97 

it, exists (Coroll. after II. xiii). Furthermore (II. vii., 
Coroll., II. xvi., Coroll. ii.), we clearly understand what is 
the difference between the idea, say, of Peter, which con 
stitutes the essence of Peter s mind, and the idea of the 
said Peter, which is in another man, say, Paul. The 
former directly answers to the essence of Peter s own 
body, and only implies existence so long as Peter exists; 
the latter indicates rather the disposition of Paul s body 
than the nature of Peter, and, therefore, while this dis 
position of Paul s body lasts, Paul s mind will regard 
Peter as present to itself, even though he no longer 
exists. Further, to retain the usual phraseology, the 
modifications of the human body, of w r hich the ideas rep 
resent external bodies as present to us, we will call the 
images of things, though they do not recall the figure of 
things. When the mind regards bodies in this fashion, 
we say that it imagines. I will here draw attention to 
the fact, in order to indicate where error lies, that the 
imaginations of the mind, looked at in themselves, do not 
contain error. The mind does not err in the mere act 
of imagining, but only in so far as it is regarded as 
being without the idea, which excludes the existence of 
such things as it imagines to be present to it. If the 
mind, while imagining non-existent things as present to 
it, is at the same time conscious that they do not really 
exist, this power of imagination must be set down to the 
efficacy of its nature, and not to a fault, especially if 
this faculty of imagination depend solely on its own 
nature that is (I. Def. vii.), if this faculty of imagination 
be free. 

PROP. XVIII. If the human body has once been affected 
by two or more bodies at the same time, when the mind 
afterward imagines any of them, it will straightway 
remember the others also. 

Proof. The mind (II. xvii. Coroll.) imagines any given 
body, because the human body is affected and disposed by 
the impressions from an external body, in the same manner 
as it is affected when certain of its parts are acted on by 
the said external body; but (by our hypothesis) the body 
was then so disposed, that the mind imagined two bodies 
7 



98 THE ETHICS 

at once ; therefore, it will also in the second case imagine 
two bodies at once, and the mind, when it imagines one, 
will straightway remember the other. Q.E.D. 

Note. We now clearly see what MEMORY is. It is simply 
a certain association of ideas involving the nature of things 
outside the human body, which association arises in the 
mind according to the order and association of the modi 
fications (affectiones) of the human body. I say, first, it 
is an association of those ideas only, which involve the 
nature of things outside the human body: not of ideas 
which answer to the nature of the said things: ideas of the 
modifications of the human body are, strictly speaking 
(II. xvi.), those which involve the nature both of the 
human body and of external bodies. I say, secondly, that 
this association arises according to the order and associ 
ation of the modifications of the human body, in order to 
distinguish it from that association of ideas, which arises 
from the order of the intellect, whereby the mind per 
ceives things through their primary causes, and which is 
in all men the same. And hence we can further clearly 
understand, why the mind from the thought of one thing, 
should straightway arrive at the thought of another thing, 
which has no similarity with the first ; for instance, from the 
thought of the word pomum (an apple), a Roman would 
straightway arrive at the thought of the fruit apple, which 
has no similitude with the articulate sound in question, nor 
anything in common with it, except that the body of the man 
has often been affected by these two things ; that is, that 
the man has often heard the word pomum, while he was 
looking at the fruit ; similarly every man will go on from 
one thought to another, according as his habit has ordered 
the images of things in his body. For a soldier, for in 
stance, when he sees the tracks of a horse in sand, will 
at once pass from the thought of a horse to the thought 
of a horseman, and thence to the thought of war, etc. ; 
while a countryman will proceed from the thought of a 
horse to the thought of a plow, a field, etc. Thus every 
man will follow this or that train of thought, according as 
he has been in the habit of conjoining and associating the 
mental images of things in this or that manner. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 99 

PROP. XIX. The human mind has no knowledge of the 
body, and does not know it to exist, save through the 
ideas of the modifications whereby the body is affected. 

Proof. The human mind is the very idea or knowl 
edge of the human body (II. xiii.), which (II. ix.) is in 
God, in so far as he is regarded as affected by another 
idea of a particular thing actually existing: or, inasmuch 
as (Post, iv.) the human body stands in need of very 
many bodies whereby it is, as it were, continually regen 
erated ; and the order and connection of ideas is the same 
as the order and connection of causes (II. vii.); this idea 
will therefore be in God, in so far as he is regarded as 
affected by the ideas of very many particular things. 
Thus God has the idea of the human body, or knows the 
human body, in so far as he is affected by very many 
other ideas, and not in so far as he constitutes the nature 
of the human mind; that is (by II. xi. Coroll.), the human 
mind does not know the human body. But the ideas of 
the modifications of body are in God, in so far as he 
constitutes the nature of the human mind, or the human 
mind perceives those modifications (II. xii.), and conse 
quently (II. xvi.) the human body itself, and as actually 
existing; therefore the mind perceives thus far only the 
human body. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XX. The idea or knowledge of the human mind 
is also in God, following in God in the same manner, 
and being referred to God in the same manner, as the 
idea or knowledge of the human body. 

Proof. Thought is an attribute of God (II. i.); there 
fore (II. iii.) there must necessarily be in God the idea 
both of thought itself and of all its modifications, conse 
quently also of the human mind (II. xi.). Further, this 
idea or knowledge of the mind does not follow from God, 
in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he is affected 
by another idea of an individual thing (II. ix.). But 
(II. vii.) the order and connection of ideas is the same 
as the order and connection of causes; therefore this idea 
or knowledge of the mind is in God and is referred to 
God, in the same manner as the idea or knowledge of 
the body. Q.E.D. 



ioo THE ETHICS 

PROP. XXI. This idea of the mind is united to the 
mind in the same way as the mind is united to the 
body. 

Proof. That the mind is united to the body we have 
shown from the fact, that the body is the object of the 
mind (II. xii. and xiii.); and so for the same reason the 
idea of the mind must be united with its object, that is, 
with the mind in the same manner as the mind is united 
to the body. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition is comprehended much more 
clearly from what we said in the note to II. vii. We there 
showed that the idea of body and body, that is, mind and 
body (II. xiii.), are one and the same individual conceived 
now under the attribute of thought, now under the attri 
bute of extension; wherefore the idea of the mind and the 
mind itself are one and the same thing, which is conceived 
under one and the same attribute, namely, thought. The 
idea of the mind, I repeat, and the mind itself are in God 
by the same necessity and follow from him from the same 
power of thinking. Strictly speaking, the idea of the mind, 
that is, the idea of an idea, is nothing but the distinctive 
quality (forma] of the idea in so far as it is conceived as 
a mode of thought without reference to the object; if a 
man knows anything, he, by that very fact, knows that he 
knows it, and at the same time knows that he knows that 
he knows it, and so on to infinity. But I will treat of this 
hereafter. 

PROP. XXII. The human mind perceives not only the 
modifications of the body, but also the ideas of such 
modifications. 

Proof. The ideas of the ideas of modifications follow in 
God in the same manner, and are referred to God in the 
same manner, as the ideas of the said modifications. This 
is proved in the same way as II. xx. But the ideas of the 
modifications of the body are in the human mind (II. xii.), 
that is, in God, in so far as he constitutes the essence of 
the human mind; therefore the ideas of these ideas will 
be in God, in so far as he has the knowledge or idea of 
the human mind, that is (II. xxi.), they will be in the 
human mind itself, which therefore perceives not only 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 101 

the modifications of the body, but also the ideas of such 
modifications. Q. E.D. 

PROP. XXIII. The mind does not know itself, except 
in so far as it perceives the ideas of the modifications of 
the body. 

Proof. T^Q idea or knowledge of the mind (II. xx.) 
follows in God in the same manner, and is referred to 
God in the same manner, as the idea or knowledge of the 
body. But since (II. xix.) the human mind does not 
know the human body itself, that is (II. xi. Coroll.) since 
the knowledge of the human body is not referred to God, 
in so far as he constitutes the nature of the human mind; 
therefore, neither is the knowledge of the mind referred 
to God, in so far as he constitutes the essence of the 
human mind; therefore (by the same Coroll. II. xi.), the 
human mind thus far has no knowledge of itself. Fur 
ther the ideas of the modifications, whereby the body is 
affected, involve the nature of the human body itself 
(II. xvi.), that is (II. xiii.), they agree with the nature of 
the mind; wherefore the knowledge of these ideas neces 
sarily involves knowledge of the mind; but (by the last 
Prop.) the knowledge of these ideas is in the human mind 
itself; wherefore the human mind thus far only has 
knowledge of itself. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIV. The human mind does not involve an 
adequate knowledge of the parts composing the human body. 

Proof. The parts composing the human body do not 
belong to the essence of that body, except in so far as 
they communicate their motions to one another in a cer 
tain fixed relation (Def. after Lemma iii), not in so far 
as they can be regarded as individuals without relation to 
the human body. The parts of the human body are highly 
complex individuals (Post, i.), whose parts (Lemma iv.) 
can be separated from the human body without in any 
way destroying the nature and distinctive quality of the 
latter, and they can communicate their motions (Ax. i., 
after Lemma iii.) to other bodies in another relation; 
therefore (II. iii.) the idea or knowledge of each part will 
be in God, inasmuch (II. ix. ) as he is regarded as 
affected by another idea of a particular thing, which par- 



102 THE ETHICS 

ticular thing" is prior in the order of nature to the afore 
said part (II. vii.). We may affirm the same thing of 
each part of each individual composing the human body; 
therefore, the knowledge of each part composing the hu 
man body is in God, in so far as he is affected by very 
many ideas of things, and not in so far as he has the 
idea of the human body only, in other words, the idea 
which constitutes the nature of the human mind (II. xiii.); 
therefore (II. xi. Coroll.) the human mind does not in 
volve an adequate knowledge of the human body. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXV. The idea of each modification of the hu 
man body does not involve an adequate knowledge of 
the external body. 

Proof. We have shown that the idea of a modification 
of the human body involves the nature of an external 
body, in so far as that external body conditions the 
human body in a given manner. But, in so far as the 
external body is an individual, which has no reference to 
the human body, the knowledge or idea thereof is in God 
(II. ix.), in so far as God is regarded as affected by the 
idea of a further thing, which (II. vii.) is naturally prior 
to the said external body. Wherefore an adequate knowl 
edge of the external body is not in God, in so far as he 
has the idea of the modification of the human body; in 
other words, the idea of the modification of the human 
body does not involve an adequate knowledge of the 
external body. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXVI. The human mind does not perceive any 
external body as actually existing, except through the 
ideas of the modifications of its own body. 

Proof. If the human body is in no way affected by a 
given external body, then (II. vii.) neither is the idea of 
the human body, in other words, the human mind, affected 
in any way by the idea of the existence of the said ex 
ternal body, nor does it in any manner perceive its exist 
ence. But, in so far as the human body is affected in any 
way by a given external body, thus far (II. xvi. and 
Coroll.) it perceives that external body. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. In so far as the human mind imagines an 
external body, it has not an adequate knowledge thereof. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 103 

Proof. When the human mind regards external bodies 
through the ideas of the modifications of its own body, 
we say that it imagines (see II. xvii. note); now the 
mind can only imagine external bodies as actually exist 
ing. Therefore (by II. xxv.), in so far as the mind 
imagines external bodies, it has not an adequate knowl 
edge of them. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXVII. The idea of each modification of the 
human body does not involve an adequate knowledge of 
the human body itself. 

Proof. Every idea of the modification of the human 
body involves the nature of the human body, in so far as 
the human body is regarded as affected in a given man 
ner (II. xvi.). But, inasmuch as the human body is an 
individual which may be affected in many other ways, 
the idea of the said modification, etc. Q. E. D. 

PROP. XXVIII. The ideas of the modifications of the 
human body, in so far as they have reference only to the 
human mind, are not clear and distinct, but confused. 

Proof. The ideas of the modifications of the human 
body involve the nature both of the human body and of 
external bodies (II. xvi.); they must involve the nature 
not only of the human body but also of its parts ; for the 
modifications are modes (Post, iii.), whereby the parts of 
the human body, and, consequently, the human body as a 
whole are affected. But (by II. xxiv., xxv.) the adequate 
knowledge of external bodies, as also of the parts com 
posing the human body, is not in God, in so far as he is 
regarded as affected by the human mind, but in so far as 
he is regarded as affected by other ideas. These ideas of 
modifications, in so far as they are referred to the human 
mind alone, are as consequences without premises, in 
other words, confused ideas. Q.E.D. 

Note. The idea which constitutes the nature of the 
human mind is, in the same manner, proved not to be, 
when considered in itself alone, clear and distinct ; as also 
is the case with the idea of the human mind, and the 
ideas of the ideas of the modifications of the human body, 
in so far as they are referred to the mind only, as every 
one may easily see. 



104 THE ETHICS 

PROP. XXIX. The idea of the idea of each modification 
of the human body does not involve an adequate knowl 
edge of the human mind. 

Proof. The idea of a modification of the human body 
(II. xxvii.) does not involve an adequate knowledge of the 
said body, in other words, does not adequately express its 
nature; that is (II. xiii.) it does not agree with the nature 
of the mind adequately; therefore (I. Ax. vi.), the idea of 
this idea does not adequately express the nature of the 
human mind, or does not involve an adequate knowledge 
thereof. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that the human mind, 
when it perceives things after the common order of 
nature, has not an adequate but only a confused and 
fragmentary knowledge of itself, of its own body, and of 
external bodies. For the mind does not know itself, 
except in so far as it perceives the ideas of the modifi 
cations of body (II. xxiii.). It only perceives its own 
body (II. xix.) through the ideas of the modifications, 
and only perceives external bodies through the same 
means; thus, in so far as it has such ideas of modifica 
tion, it has not an adequate knowledge of itself (II. xxix.), 
nor of its own body (II. xxvii.), nor of external bodies 
(II. xxv.), but only a fragmentary and confused knowl 
edge thereof (II. xxviii. and note). Q.E.D. 

Note. I say expressly, that the mind has not an ade 
quate but only a confused knowledge of itself, its own 
body, and of external bodies, whenever it perceives things 
after the common order of nature ; that is, whenever it is 
determined from without, namely, by the fortuitous play 
of circumstance, to regard this or that ; not at such times 
as it is determined from within, that is, by the fact of 
regarding several things at once, to understand their points 
of agreement, difference, and contrast. Whenever it is 
determined in anywise from within, it regards things 
clearly and distinctly, as I will show below. 

PROP. XXX. We can only have a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration of our body. 

Proof. The duration of our body does not depend on 
its essence (II. Ax. i.), nor on the absolute nature of 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 105 

God (I. xxi.). But (I. xxviii.) it is conditioned to exist 
and operate by causes, which in their turn are conditioned 
to exist and operate in a fixed and definite relation by 
other causes, these last again being conditioned by others, 
and so on to infinity. The duration of our body there 
fore depends on the common order of nature, or the con 
stitution of things. Now, however a thing may be 
constituted, the adequate knowledge of that thing is in 
God, in so far as he has the ideas of all things, and not 
in so far as he has the idea of the human body only. 
(II. ix. Coroll.) Wherefore the knowledge of the duration 
of our body is in God very inadequate, in so far as he is 
only regarded as constituting the nature of the human 
mind; that is (II. xi. Coroll.), this knowledge is very 
inadequate in our mind. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXI. We can only have a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration of particular things external to our 
selves. 

Proof. Every particular thing, like the human body, 
must be conditioned by another particular thing to exist 
and operate in a fixed and definite relation; this other 
particular thing must likewise be conditioned by a third, 
and so on to infinity. (I. xxviii.) As we have shown in 
the foregoing proposition, from this common property of 
particular things, we have only a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration of our body ; we must draw a similar 
conclusion with regard to the duration of particular things, 
namely, that we can only have a very inadequate knowl 
edge of the duration thereof. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that all particular things 
are contingent and perishable. For we can have no 
adequate idea of their duration (by the last Prop.), and 
this is what we must understand by the contingency 
and perishableness of things. (I. xxxiii., Note i.) For 
(I. xxix.), except in this sense, nothing is contingent. 

PROP. XXXII. All ideas, in so far as they are re 
ferred to God, are true. 

Proof. All ideas which are in God agree in every re 
spect with their objects (II. vii. Coroll.), therefore (I. 
Ax. vi.) they are all true. Q.E.D. 



106 THE ETHICS 

PROP. XXXIII. There is nothing- positive in ideas, 
which causes them to be called false. 

Proof. If this be denied, conceive, if possible, a posi 
tive mode of thinking, which should constitute the dis 
tinctive quality of falsehood. Such a mode of thinking 
cannot be in God (II. xxxii.); external to God it cannot 
be or be conceived (I. xv.). Therefore there is noth 
ing positive in ideas which causes them to be called 
false. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXIV. Every idea, which in us is absolute or 
adequate and perfect, is true. 

Proof. When we say that an idea in us is adequate and 
perfect, we say, in other words (II. xi. Coroll.), that the 
idea is adequate and perfect in God, in so far as he 
constitutes the essence of our minds; consequently (II. 
xxxii.), we say that such an idea is true. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXV. Falsity consists in the privation of knowl 
edge, which inadequate, fragmentary, or confused ideas 
involve. 

Proof. There is nothing positive in ideas, which causes 
them to be called false ( II. xxxiii) ; but falsity cannot 
consist in simple privation (for minds, not bodies, are 
said to err and to be mistaken), neither can it consist in 
absolute ignorance, for ignorance and error are not iden 
tical ; wherefore it consists in the privation of knowledge, 
which inadequate, fragmentary, or confused ideas in 
volve. Q.E.D. 

Note. In the note to II. xvii. I explained how error 
consists in the privation of knowledge, but in order to 
throw more light on the subject I will give an example. 
For instance, men are mistaken in thinking themselves 
free ; their opinion is made up of consciousness of their 
own actions, and ignorance of the causes by which they 
are conditioned. Their idea of freedom, therefore, is 
simply their ignorance of any cause for their actions. 
As for their saying that human actions depend on the 
will, this is a mere phrase without any idea to correspond 
thereto. What the will is, and how it moves the body, 
they none of them know ; those who boast of such knowl 
edge, and feign dwellings and habitations for the soul, 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 107 

are wont to provoke either laughter or disgust. So, 
again, when we look at the sun, we imagine that it is 
distant from us about two hundred feet; this error does 
not lie solely in this fancy, but in the fact that, while we 
thus imagine, we do not know the sun s true distance 
or the cause of the fancy. For although we afterward 
learn, that the sun is distant from us more than six hun 
dred of the earth s diameters, we none the less shall 
fancy it to be near; for we do not imagine the sun as 
near us, because we are ignorant of its true distance, but 
because the modification of our body involves the essence 
of the sun, in so far as our said body is affected thereby. 

PROP. XXXVI. Inadequate and confused ideas follow by 
the same necessity, as adequate or clear and distinct ideas. 

Proof. All ideas are in God (I. xv.), and in so far as 
they are referred to God are true (II. xxxii.) and (II. vii. 
Coroll.) adequate; therefore there are no ideas confused 
or inadequate, except in respect to a particular mind 
(cf. II. xxiv. and xxviii.); therefore all ideas, whether 
adequate or inadequate, follow by the same necessity 
(II. vi.). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXVII. That which is common to all (cf. 
Lemma II. above), and which is equally in a part and 
in the whole, does not constitute the essence of any par 
ticular thing. 

Proof. If this be denied, conceive, if possible, that 
it constitutes the essence of some particular thing; for in 
stance, the essence of B. Then (II. Def. ii.) it cannot 
without B either exist or be conceived ; but this is against 
our hypothesis. Therefore it does not appertain to B S es 
sence nor does it constitute the essence of any particular 
thing. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXVIII. Those things, which are common to 
all, and which are equally in a part and in the whole, 
cannot be conceived except adequately. 

Proof. Let A be something which is common to all 
bodies, and which is equally present in the part of any 
given body and in the whole. I say A cannot be con 
ceived except adequately. For the idea thereof in God 
will necessarily therefore be adequate (II. vii. Coroll.) 



io8 THE ETHICS 

both in so far as God has the idea of the human body, 
and also in so far as he has the idea of the modifications 
of the human body (II. xvi. , xxv., xxvii.), involve in part 
the nature of the human body and the nature of external 
bodies; that is (II. xii. , xiii.), the idea in God will nec 
essarily be adequate, both in so far as he constitutes the 
human mind, and in so far as he has the ideas, which 
are in the human mind. Therefore the mind (II. xi. 
Coroll.) necessarily perceives A adequately, and has this 
adequate perception, both in so far as it perceives 
itself and in so far as it perceives its own or 
any external body, nor can A be conceived in any other 
manner. Q. E. D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that there are certain 
ideas or notions common to all men; for (by Lemma ii.) 
all bodies agree in certain respects, which (by the fore 
going Prop.) must be adequately or clearly and distinctly 
perceived by all. 

PROP. XXXIX. That, which is common to and a prop 
erty of the human body and such other bodies as are 
wont to affect the human body, and which is present 
equally in each part of either, or in the whole, will be 
represented by an adequate idea in the mind. 

Proof. If A be that, which is common to and a prop 
erty of the human body and external bodies, and equally 
present in the human body and in the said external 
bodies, in each part of each external body and in the 
whole there will be an adequate idea of A in God (II. 
vii. Coroll.) both in so far as he has the idea of the hu 
man body, and in so far as he has the ideas of the given 
external bodies. Let it now be granted, that the human 
body is affected by an external body through that, which 
it has in common therewith, namely, A ; the idea of this 
modification will involve the property A (II. xvi.), and 
therefore (II. vii. Coroll.) the idea of this modification, 
in so far as it involves the property A, will be adequate 
in God, in so far as God is affected by the idea of the 
human body; that is (II. xiii.), in so far as he constitutes 
the nature of the human mind; therefore (II. xi. Coroll.) 
this idea is also adequate in the human mind. Q.E.D. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 109 

Corollary. Hence it follows that the mind is fitted to 
perceive adequately more things, in proportion as its body- 
has more in common with other bodies. 

PROP. XL. Whatsoever ideas in the mind follow from 
ideas which are therein adequate, are also themselves 
adequate. 

Proof. This proposition is self-evident. For when we 
say that an idea in the human mind follows from ideas 
which are therein adequate, we say, in other words (II. xi. 
Coroll.) that an idea is in the divine intellect, whereof 
God is the cause, not in so far as he is infinite, nor in 
so far as he is affected by the ideas of very many partic 
ular things, but only in so far as he constitutes the essence 
of the human mind. 

Note I. I have thus set forth the cause of those 
notions, which arc common to all men, and which form 
the basis of our ratiocination. But there are other causes 
of certain axioms or notions, which it would be to the 
purpose to set forth by this method of ours ; for it would 
thus appear what notions are more useful than others, 
and what notions have scarcely any use at all. Further 
more, we should see what notions are common to all men, 
and what notions are only clear and distinct to those \vho 
are unshackeled by prejudice, and we should detect those 
which are ill-founded. Again we should discern whence 
the notions called SECONDARY derived their origin, and 
consequently the axioms on which they are founded, and 
other points of interest connected with these questions. 
But I have decided to pass over the subject here, partly 
because I have set it aside for another treatise, partly 
because I am afraid of wearying the reader by too great 
prolixity. Nevertheless, in order not to omit anything 
necessary to be known, I will briefly set down the causes, 
whence are derived the terms styled TRANSCENDENTAL, 
such as Being, Thing, Something. These terms arose 
from the fact, that the human body, being limited, is 
only capable of distinctly forming a certain number of 
images (what an image is I explained in II. xvii. note) 
within itself at the same time ; if this number be exceeded 
the images will begin to be confused; if this number 



i io THE ETHICS 

of images which the body is capable of forming 
distinctly within itself, be largely exceeded, all will be 
come entirely confused one with another. This being 
so, it is evident ( from II. Prop. xvii. Coroll. and xviii. ) 
that the human mind can distinctly imagine as many 
things simultaneously, as its body can form images simul 
taneously. When the images become quite confused in 
the body, the mind also imagines all bodies confusedly 
without any distinction, and will comprehend them, as it 
were, under one attribute, namely, under the attribute 
of Being, Thing, etc. The same conclusion can be drawn 
from the fact that images are not always equally vivid, 
and from other analogous causes, which there is no need 
to explain here; for the purpose which we have in view 
it is sufficient for us to consider one only. All may be 
reduced to this, that these terms represent ideas in the 
highest degree confused. From similar causes arise those 
notions, which we call GENERAL, such as man, horse, dog, 
* etc. They arise, to wit, from the fact that so many im 
ages, for instance, of men, are formed simultaneously in 
the human mind, that the powers of imagination break 
down, not indeed utterly, but to the extent of the mind 
losing count of small differences between individuals 
(e. g., color, size, etc.) and their definite number, and 
only distinctly imagining that, in which all the individuals, 
in so far as the body is affected by them, agree ; for that 
is the point, in which each of the said individuals chiefly 
affected the body; this the mind expresses by the name 
man, and this it predicates of an infinite number of par 
ticular individuals. For, as we have said, it is unable to 
imagine the definite number of individuals. We must, 
however, bear in mind, that these general notions are 
not formed by all men in the same way, but vary in each 
individual according as the point varies, whereby the body 
has been most often affected and which the mind most 
easily imagines or remembers. For instance, those who 
have most often regarded with admiration the stature of 
man, will by the name of man understand an animal of 
erect stature ; those who have been accustomed to regard 
some other attribute, will form a different general image 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND in 

of man, for instance, that man is a laughing animal, a 
two-footed animal without feathers, a rational animal, and 
thus, in other cases, everyone will form general images 
of things according to the habit of his body. 

It is thus not to be wondered at, that among philoso 
phers, who seek to explain things in nature merely by 
the images formed of them, so many controversies should 
have arisen. 

Note II. From all that has been said above it is 
clear, that we, in many cases, perceive and form our 
general notions: (i.) From particular things represented 
to our intellect fragmentarily, confusedly, and without 
order through our senses (II. xxix. Coroll.). I have set 
tled to call such perceptions by the name of knowledge 
from the mere suggestions of experience. (2.) From 
symbols, e.g., from the fact of having read or heard cer 
tain words we remember things and form certain ideas 
concerning them, similar to those through which we 
imagine things (II. xviii. note). I shall call both these 
ways of regarding things KNOWLEDGE OF THE FIRST KIND, 
OPINION, or IMAGINATION. (3.) From the fact that we 
have notions common to all men, and adequate ideas of 
the properties of things ( II. xxxviii. Coroll. xxxix. and 
Coroll. and xl.); this I call REASON and KNOWLEDGE OF 
THE SECOND KIND. Besides these two kinds of knowledge, 
there is, as I will hereafter show, a third kind of knowl 
edge, which we will call intuition. This kind of knowl 
edge proceeds from an adequate idea of the absolute 
essence of certain attributes of God to the adequate 
knowledge of the essence of things. I will illustrate all 
three kinds of knowledge by a single example. Three 
numbers are given for finding a fourth, which shall be 
to the third as the second is to the first. Tradesmen 
without hesitation multiply the second by the third, and 
divide the product by the first; either because they have 
not forgotten the rule which they received from a master 
without any proof, or because they have often made trial 
of it with simple numbers, or by virtue of the proof of 
the nineteenth proposition of the seventh book of Euclid, 
namely, in virtue of the general property of proportionals. 



ii2 THE ETHICS 

But with very simple numbers there is no need of this. 
For instance, one, two, three, being given, everyone can 
see that the fourth proportional is six; and this is much 
clearer, because we infer the fourth number from an in 
tuitive grasping of the ratio, which the first bears to the 
second. 

PROP. XLI. Knowledge of the first kind is the only 
source of falsity, knowledge of the second and third 
kinds is necessarily true. 

Proof. To knowledge of the first kind we have (in the 
foregoing note) assigned all those ideas, which are inade 
quate and confused; therefore this kind of knowledge is 
the only source of falsity (II. xxxv.). Furthermore, we 
assigned to the second and third kinds of knowledge those 
ideas which are adequate; therefore these kinds are nec 
essarily true (II. xxxiv.). Q. E.D. 

PROP. XLII. Knowledge of the second and third kinds, 
not knowledge of the first kind, teaches us to distinguish 
the true from the false. 

Proof. This proposition is self-evident. He, who knows 
how to distinguish between true and false, must have an 
adequate idea of true and false. That is (II. xl., note ii.), 
he must know the true and the false by the second or 
third kind of knowledge. 

PROP. XLIII. He, who has a true idea, simultaneously 
knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the 
truth of the thing perceived. 

Proof. A true idea in us is an idea which is adequate 
in God, in so far as he is displayed through the nature of 
the human mind (II. xi. Coroll.). Let us suppose that 
there is in God, in so far as he is displayed through the 
human mind, an adequate idea, A. The idea of this idea 
must also necessarily be in God, and be referred to him in 
the same way as the idea A (by II. xx., whereof the proof 
is of universal application). But the idea A is supposed to 
be referred to God, in so far as he is displayed through 
the human mind; therefore the idea of the idea A must 
be referred to God in the same manner; that is (by II. 
xi. Coroll.), the adequate idea of the idea A will be in 
the mind, which has the adequate idea A; therefore he, 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 113 

who has an adequate idea or knows a thing truly (II. 
xxxiv.), must at the same time have an adequate idea 
or true knowledge of his knowledge; that is, obviously, 
he must be assured. Q. E. D. 

Note. I explained in the note to II. xxi. what is meant 
by the idea of an idea; but we may remark that the 
foregoing proposition is in itself sufficiently plain. No 
one, who has a true idea, is ignorant that a true idea 
involves the highest certainty. For to have a true idea 
is only another expression for knowing a thing perfectly, 
or as well as possible. No one, indeed, can doubt of 
this, unless he thinks that an idea is something lifeless, 
like a picture on a panel, and not a mode of thinking 
namely, the very act of understanding. And who, I ask, 
can know that he understands anything, unless he do 
first understand it ? In other words, who can know that 
he is sure of a thing, unless he be first sure of that 
thing ? Further, what can there be more clear, and more 
certain, than a true idea as a standard of truth ? Even 
as light displays both itself and darkness, so is truth a 
standard both of itself and of falsity. 

I think I have thus sufficiently answered these ques 
tions namely, if a true idea is distinguished from a 
false idea, only in so far as it is said to agree with its 
object, a true idea has no more reality or perfection 
than a false idea (since the two are only distinguished 
by an extrinsic mark); consequently, neither will a man 
who has true ideas have any advantage over him who 
has only false ideas. Further, how comes it that men 
have false ideas ? Lastly, how can any one be sure, that 
he has ideas which agree with their objects ? These 
questions, I repeat, I have, in my opinion, sufficiently 
answered. The difference between a true idea and a 
false idea is plain: from what was said in II. xxxv., the 
former is related to the latter as being is to not-being. 
The causes of falsity I have set forth very clearly in II. 
xix. and II. xxxv. with the note. From what is there 
stated, the difference between a man who has true ideas, 
and a man who has only false ideas, is made apparent. 
As for the last question as to how a man can be sure 



ii 4 THE ETHICS 

that he has ideas that agree with their objects, I have 
just pointed out, with abundant clearness, that his knowl 
edge arises from the simple fact, that he has an idea 
which corresponds with its object in other words, that 
truth is its own standard. We may add that our mind, 
in so far as it perceives things truly, is part of the infinite 
intellect of God (II. xi. Coroll.); therefore, the clear and 
distinct ideas of the mind are as necessarily true as the 
ideas of God. 

PROP. XLIV. It is not in the nature of reason to regard 
things as contingent, but as necessary. 

Proof. It is in the nature of reason to perceive things 
truly (II. xli.), namely (I. Ax. vi.), as they are in them 
selves that is (I. xxix.), not as contingent, but as neces 
sary. Q.E.D. 

Corollary I. Hence it follows, that it is only through 
our imagination that we consider things, whether in 
respect to the future or the past, as contingent. 

Note. How this way of looking at things arises, I will 
briefly explain. We have shown above (II. xvii. and 
Coroll.) that the mind always regards things as present 
to itself, even though they be not in existence, until some 
causes arise which exclude their existence and presence. 
Further (II. xviii.), we showed that, if the human body 
has once been affected by two external bodies simul 
taneously, the mind, when it afterward imagines one of 
the said external bodies, will straightway remember the 
other that is, it will regard both as present to itself, 
unless there arise causes which exclude their existence 
and presence. Further, no one doubts that we imagine 
time, from the fact that we imagine bodies to be moved 
some more slowly than others, some more quickly, some 
at equal speed. Thus, let us suppose that a child yes 
terday saw Peter for the first time in the morning, Paul 
at noon, and Simon in the evening; then that to-day he 
again sees Peter in the morning. It is evident, from 
II. Prop, xviii., that, as soon as he sees the morning light, 
he will imagine that the sun will traverse the same parts 
of the sky, as it did when he saw it on the preceding 
day; in other words, he will imagine a complete day, 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 115 

and, together with his imagination of the morning, he 
will imagine Peter; with noon, he will imagine Paul; 
and with evening, he will imagine Simon that is, he 
will imagine the existence of Paul and Simon in relation 
to a future time ; on the other hand, if he sees Simon in 
the evening, he will refer Peter and Paul to a past time, 
by imagining them simultaneously with the imagination 
of a past time. If it should at any time happen, that on 
some other evening the child should see James instead 
of Simon, he will, on the following morning, associate 
with his imagination of evening sometimes Simon, some 
times James, not both together: for the child is supposed 
to have seen, at evening, one or other of them, not 
both together. His imagination will therefore waver; 
and, with the imagination of future evenings, he will 
associate first one, then the other that is, he will 
imagine them in the future, neither of them as certain, 
but both as contingent. This wavering of the imagina 
tion will be the same, if the imagination be concerned 
with things w r hich we thus contemplate, standing in rela 
tion to time past or time present: consequently, we may 
imagine things as contingent, whether they be referred 
to time present, past, or future. 

Corollary I L It is in the nature of reason to perceive 
things under a certain form of eternity (sub quddam 
cetcrn it at is specie) . 

Proof. It is in the nature of reason to regard things, 
not as contingent, but as necessary (II. xliv.). Reason 
perceives this necessity of things (II. xli.) truly that is 
(I. Ax. vi.), as it is in itself. But (I. xvi.) this necessity 
of things is the very necessity of the eternal nature of 
God; therefore, it is in the nature of reason to regard 
things under this form of eternity. We may add that the 
bases of reason are the notions (II. xxxviii.) which 
answer to things common to all, and which (II 
xxxvii.) do not answer to the essence of any par 
ticular thing: which must therefore be conceived with 
out any relation to time, under a certain form of 
eternity. 

PROP. XLV. Every idea of everybody, or of every par- 



n6 THE ETHICS 

ticular thing actually existing, necessarily involves the 
eternal and infinite essence of God. 

Proof. The idea of a particular thing actually existing 
necessarily involves both the existence and the essence of 
the said thing (II. viii.). Now particular things cannot 
be conceived without God (I. xv.); but, inasmuch as 
(II. vi. ) they have God for their cause, in so far as he is 
regarded under the attribute of which the things in 
question are modes, their ideas must necessarily involve 
(I. Ax. iv.) the conception of the attribute of those 
ideas that is (I. vi.), the eternal and infinite essence 
of God. Q.E.D. 

Note. By existence I do not here mean duration that 
is, existence in so far as it is conceived abstractedly, and 
as a certain form of quantity. I am speaking of the very 
nature of existence, which is assigned to particular things, 
because they follow in infinite numbers and in infinite 
ways from the eternal necessity of God s nature (I. xvi.). 
I am speaking, I repeat, of the very existence of particur 
lar things, in so far as they are in God. For although 
each particular thing be conditioned by another particular 
thing to exist in a given way, yet the force whereby each 
particular thing perseveres in existing follows from the 
eternal necessity of God s nature (cf. I. xxiv., Coroll.). 

PROP. XLVI. The knowledge of the eternal and infinite 
essence of God which every idea involves is adequate and 
perfect. 

Proof. The proof of the last proposition is universal; 
and whether a thing be considered as a part or a whole, 
the idea thereof, whether of the whole or of a part (by 
the last Prop.), will involve God s eternal and infinite 
essence. Wherefore, that, which gives knowledge of 
the eternal and infinite essence of God, is common 
to all, and is equally in the part and in the whole; 
therefore (II. xxxviii.) this knowledge will be ade 
quate. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XL VI I. The human mind has an adequate knowl 
edge of the eternal and infinite essence of God. 

Proof. The human mind has ideas (II. xxii.) from 
which (II. xxiii.) it perceives itself and its own body 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 117 

(II. xix.) and external bodies (II. xvi. Coroll. I. and II. 
xvii.) as actually existing; therefore (II. xlv. xlvi.) it 
has an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite 
essence of God. Q.E.D. 

Note. Hence we see, that the infinite essence and the 

eternity of God are known to all. Now as all things are 
in God, and are conceived through God, we can from this 
knowledge infer many things, which we may adequately 
know, and we may form that third kind of knowledge of 
which we spoke in the note to II. xl., and of the excel 
lence and use of which we shall have occasion to speak in 
Part V. Men have not so clear a knowledge of God as 
they have of general notions, because they are unable to 
imagine God as they do bodies, and also because they have 
associated the name of God with images of things that they 
are in the habit of seeing, as indeed they can hardly avoid 
doing, being, as they are, men, and continually affected by 
external bodies. Many errors, in truth, can be traced to 
this head, namely, that we do not apply names to things 
rightly. For instance, when a man says that the lines 
drawn from the centre of a circle to its circumference are 
not equal, he then, at all events, assuredly attaches a 
meaning to the word circle different from that assigned by 
mathematicians. So again, when men make mistakes in 
calculation, they have one set of figures in their mind, and 
another on the paper. If we could see into their minds, 
they do not make a mistake ; they seem to do so, because 
we think that they have the same numbers in their mind 
as they have on the paper. If this were not so, we should 
not believe them to be in error, any more than I thought 
that a man was in error, whom I lately heard exclaiming 
that his entrance hall had flown into a neighbor s hen, 
for his meaning seemed to me sufficiently clear. Very 
many controversies have arisen from the fact, that men do 
not rightly explain their meaning, or do not rightly inter 
pret the meaning of others. For, as a matter of fact, as 
they flatly contradict themselves, they assume now one 
side, now another, of the argument, so as to oppose the 
opinions, which they consider mistaken and absurd in their 
opponents. 



n8 THE ETHICS 

PROP. XLVIII. In the mind there is no absolute or 
free will ; but the mind is determined to wish this or that 
by a cause, which has also been determined by another 
cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to 
infinity. 

Proof. The mind is a fixed and definite mode of thought 
(II. xi.), therefore it cannot be the free cause of its actions 
(I. xvii. Coroll. ii.); in other words it cannot have an ab 
solute faculty of positive or negative volition; but (by I. 
xxviii.) it must be determined by a cause, which has also 
been determined by another cause, and this last by another 
etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. In the same way it is proved, that there is in 
the mind no absolute faculty of understanding, desiring, 
loving, etc. Whence it follows that these and similar 
faculties are either entirely fictitious, or are merely ab 
stract or general terms, such as we are accustomed to put 
together from particular things. Thus the intellect and 
the will stand in the same relation to this or that idea, 
or this or that volition, as (< lapidity to this or that stone, 
or as man to Peter and Paul. The cause which leads 
men to consider themselves free has been set forth in the 
Appendix to Part I. But, before I proceed further, I 
would here remark that, by the will to affirm and decide, 
I mean the faculty, not the desire. I mean, I repeat, the 
faculty, whereby the mind affirms or denies what is true 
or false, not the desire, wherewith the mind wishes for or 
turns away from any given thing. After we have proved, 
that these faculties of ours are general notions, which 
cannot be distinguished from the particular instances on 
which they are based, we must inquire whether volitions 
themselves are anything besides the ideas of things. We 
must inquire, I say, whether there is in the mind any 
affirmation or negation beyond that, which the idea, in so 
far as it is an idea, involves. On which subject see the 
following proposition, and II. Def. iii., lest the idea of 
pictures should suggest itself. For by ideas I do not 
mean images such as are formed at the back of the 
eye, or in the midst of the brain, but the conceptions 
of thought. 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 119 

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

Proof. There is in the mind no absolute faculty of 
positive or negative volition, but only particular volitions, 
namely, this or that affirmation, and this or that negation. 
Now let us conceive a particular volition, namely the mode 
of thinking whereby the mind affirms, that the three in 
terior angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. 
This affirmation involves the conception or idea of a 
triangle, that is, without the idea of a triangle it cannot 
be conceived. It is the same thing to say, that the con 
cept A must involve the concept B, as it is to say, that 
A cannot be conceived without B. Further, this affirma 
tion cannot be made (II. Ax. Hi) without the idea of a 
triangle. Therefore, this affirmation can neither be nor 
be conceived, without the idea of a triangle. Again, this 
idea of a triangle must involve this same affirmation, 
namely, that its three interior angles are equal to two 
right angles. Wherefore, and vice versa, this idea of a 
triangle can neither be nor be conceived without this 
affirmation, therefore, this affirmation belongs to the 
essence of the idea of a triangle, and is nothing besides. 
What we have said of this volition ( inasmuch as we 
have selected it at random) may be said of any other 
volition, namely, that it is nothing but an idea. Q. E.D. 

Corollary. Will and understanding are one and the 
same. 

Proof. Will and understanding are nothing beyond the 
individual volitions and ideas (II. xlviii. and note). But 
a particular volition and a particular idea are one and 
the same (by the foregoing Prop.); therefore, will and 
understanding are one and the same. Q.E.D. 

Note. We have thus removed the cause which is com 
monly assigned for error. For we have shown above, 
that falsity consists solely in the privation of knowledge 
involved in ideas which are fragmentary and confused. 
Wherefore a false idea, inasmuch as it is false, does not 
involve certainty. When we say, then, that a man acqui 
esces in what is false, and that he has no doubts on the 



THE ETHICS 

subject, we do not say that he is certain, but only that he 
does not doubt, or that he acquiesces in what is false, 
inasmuch as there are no reasons, which should cause his 
imagination to waver (see II. xliv. note). Thus, although 
the man be assumed to acquiesce in what is false, we 
shall never say that he is certain. For by certainty we 
mean something positive (II. xliii. and note), not merely 
the absence of doubt. 

However, in order that the foregoing proposition may 
be fully explained, I will draw attention to a few addi 
tional points, and I will furthermore answer the objec 
tions which may be advanced against our doctrine. Lastly, 
in order to remove every scruple, I have thought it worth 
while to point out some of the advantages, which follow 
therefrom. I say some, for they will be better appre 
ciated from what we shall set forth in the fifth part. 

I begin, then, with the first point, and warn my readers 
to make an accurate distinction between an idea, or con 
ception of the mind and the images of things which we 
imagine. It is further necessary that they should distin 
guish between idea and words, whereby we signify things. 
These three namely, images, words, and ideas are by 
many persons either entirely confused together, or not dis 
tinguished with sufficient accuracy or care, and hence 
people are generally in ignorance, how absolutely neces 
sary is a knowledge of this doctrine of the will, both 
for philosophic purposes and for the wise ordering of life. 
Those who think that ideas consist in images which are 
formed in us by contact with external bodies, persuade 
themselves that the ideas of those things, whereof we 
can form no mental picture, are not ideas, but only fig 
ments, which we invent by the free decree of our will; 
they thus regard ideas as though they were inanimate 
pictures on a panel, and filled with this misconception, 
do not see that an idea, inasmuch as it is an idea, involves 
an affirmation or negation. Again, those who confuse 
words with ideas, or with the affirmation which an idea 
involves, think that they can wish something contrary to 
what they feel, affirm, or deny. This misconception will 
easily be laid aside by one who reflects on the nature of 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 121 

knowledge, and seeing that it in no wise involves the 
conception of extension, will therefore clearly understand, 
that an idea (being a mode of thinking) does not con 
sist in the image of anything, nor in words. The essence 
of words and images is put together by bodily motions, 
which in no wise involve the conception of thought. 

These few words on this subject will suffice: I will 
therefore pass on to consider the objections which may 
be raised against our doctrine. Of these, the first is ad 
vanced by those, who think that the will has a wider 
scope than the understanding, and that therefore it is 
different therefrom. The reason for their holding the 
belief, that the will has wider scope than the understand 
ing, is that they assert, that they have no need of an in 
crease in their faculty of assent, that is of affirmation 
or negation, in order to assent to an infinity of things 
\vhich we do not perceive, but that they have need of an 
increase in their faculty of understanding. The will is 
thus distinguished from the intellect, the latter being 
finite and the former infinite. Secondly, it may be objected 
that experience seems to teach us especially clearly, that we 
are able to suspend our judgment before assenting to 
things which we perceive, this is confirmed by the fact 
that no one is said to be deceived; in so far as he per 
ceives anything, but only in so far as he assents or dis 
sents. 

For instance, he who feigns a winged horse, does not 
therefore admit that a winged horse exists; that is, he 
is not deceived, unless he admits in addition that a 
winged horse does exist. Nothing therefore seems to be 
taught more clearly by experience, than that the will or 
faculty of assent is free and different from the faculty 
of understanding. Thirdly, it may be objected that one 
affirmation does not apparently contain more reality than 
another; in other words, that we do not seem to need 
for affirming, that what is true is true, any greater power 
than for affirming, that what is false is true. We have, 
however, seen that one idea has more reality or perfection 
than another, for as objects are some more excellent than 
others, so also are the ideas of them some more excel- 



122 THE ETHICS 

lent than others ; this also seems to point to a difference 
between the understanding and the will. Fourthly, it 
may be objected, if man does not act from free will, 
what will happen if the incentives to action are equally 
balanced as in the case of Buridan s ass ? Will he per 
ish of hunger and thirst ? If I say that he would, I shall 
seem to have in my thoughts an ass or the statue of a 
man rather than actual man. If I say that he would not, 
he would then determine his own action, and would con 
sequently possess the faculty of going and doing whatever 
he liked. Other objections might also be raised, but, as 
I am not bound to put in evidence everything that any 
one may dream, I will only set myself to the task of re 
futing those I have mentioned, and that as briefly as 
possible. 

To the FIRST objection I answer, that I admit that the 
will has a wider scope than the understanding, if by the 
understanding be meant only clear and distinct ideas; 
but I deny that the will has a wider scope than the per 
ceptions, and the faculty of forming conceptions; nor do 
I see why the faculty of volition should be called infinite, 
any more than the faculty of feeling: for, as we are 
able by the same faculty of volition to affirm an infinite 
number of things (one after the other, for we cannot 
affirm an infinite number simultaneously), so also can 
we, by the same faculty of feeling, feel or perceive ( in 
succession ) an infinite number of bodies. If it be said 
that there is an infinite number of things which we can 
not perceive, I answer, that we cannot attain to such 
things by any thinking, nor, consequently, by any faculty 
of volition. But, it may still be urged, if God wished 
to bring it about that we should perceive them, he would 
be obliged to endow us with a greater faculty of per 
ception, but not a greater faculty of volition than we 
have already. This is the same as to say that, if God 
wished to bring it about that we should understand an 
infinite number of other entities, it would be necessary 
for him to give us a greater understanding, but not a 
more universal idea of entity than that which we have 
already, in order to grasp such infinite entities. We have 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 123 

shown that will is a universal entity or idea, whereby we 
explain all particular volitions in other words, that 
which is common to all such volitions. 

As, then, our opponents maintain that this idea, com 
mon or universal to all volitions, is a faculty, it is little 
to be wondered at that they assert, that such a faculty 
extends itself into the infinite, beyond the limits of the 
understanding: for what is universal is predicated alike 
of one, of many, and of an infinite number of indi 
viduals. 

To the SECOND objection I reply by denying, that we 
have a free power of suspending our judgment; for, 
when we say that any one suspends his judgment, we 
merely mean that he sees, that he does not perceive the 
matter in question adequately. Suspension of judg 
ment is, therefore, strictly speaking, a perception, and 
not free will. In order to illustrate the point, let us sup 
pose a boy imagining a horse, and perceiving nothing 
else. Inasmuch as this imagination involves the existence 
of the horse (II. xvii. Coroll.), and the boy does not per 
ceive anything which would exclude the existence of the 
horse, he will necessarily regard the horse as present; he 
will not be able to doubt of its existence, although he 
be not certain thereof. We have daily experience of such 
a state of things in dreams; and I do not suppose that 
there is any one, who would maintain that, while he is 
dreaming, he has the free power of suspending his 
judgment concerning the things in his dream, and 
bringing it about that he should not dream those things, 
which he dreams that he sees; yet it happens, notwith 
standing, that even in dreams we suspend our judgment, 
namely, when we dream that we are dreaming. 

Further, I grant that no one can be deceived, so far 
as actual perception extends that is, I grant that the 
mind s imaginations, regarded in themselves, do not in 
volve error (II. xvii., note); but I deny, that a man does 
not, in the act of perception, make any affirmation. For 
what is the perception of a winged horse, save affirming 
that a horse has wings ? If the mind could perceive 
nothing else but the winged horse, it would regard the 



I2 4 THE ETHICS 

same as present to itself; it would have no reasons for 
doubting its existence, nor any faculty of dissent, unless 
the imagination of a winged horse be joined to an idea 
which precludes the existence of the said horse, or un 
less the mind perceives that the idea which it possesses 
of a winged horse is inadequate, in which case it will 
either necessarily deny the existence of such a horse, or 
will necessarily be in doubt on the subject. 

I think that I have anticipated my answer to the THIRD 
objection, namely, that the will is something universal 
which is predicated of all ideas, and that it only signi 
fies that which is common to all ideas, namely an 
affirmation, whose adequate essence must, therefore in 
so for as it is thus conceived in the abstract, be in every 
idea, and be, in this respect alone, the same in all, not 
m so far as it is considered as constituting the idea s 
essence: for, in this respect, particular affirmations differ 
one from the other, as much as do ideas. For instance, 
the affirmation which involves the idea of a circle 
differs from that which involves the idea of a triangle 
as much as the idea of a circle differs from the idea of 
a triangle. 

Further, I absolutely deny, that we are in need of an 
equal power of thinking, to affirm that that which is 
true is true, and to affirm that that which is false is 
true. These two affirmations, if we regard the mind 
are in the same relation to one another as being and 
not being; for there is nothing positive in ideas, which 
constitutes the actual reality of falsehood ( II. xxxv. note 
and xlvii. note). 

We must therefore conclude that we are easily de 
ceived, when we confuse universals with singulars, and 
the entities of reason and abstractions with realities. 
As for the FOURTH objection, I am quite ready to admit, 
that a man placed in the equilibrium described (namely, 
as perceiving nothing but hunger and thirst, a certain 
food and a certain drink, each equally distant from him) 
would die of hunger and thirst. If I am asked, whether 
such an one should not rather be considered an ass than 
a man ; I answer, that I do not know, neither do I know 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MIND 125 

how a man should be considered, who hangs himself, 
or how we should consider children, fools, madmen, etc. 
It remains to point out the advantages of a knowledge 
of this doctrine as bearing on conduct, and this may be easily 
gathered from what has been said. The doctrine is good. 

1. Inasmuch as it teaches us to act solely according to 
the decree of God, and to be partakers in the Divine 
nature, and so much the more, as we perform more per 
fect actions and more and more understand God. Such 
a doctrine not only completely tranquillizes our spirit, but 
also shows us where our highest happiness and blessed 
ness is, namely, solely in the knowledge of God, whereby 
we are led to act only as love and piety shall bid us. 
We may thus clearly understand, how far astray from a 
true estimate of virtue are those who expect to be deco 
rated by God with high rewards for their virtue, and their 
best actions, as for having endured the direst slavery; as 
if virtue and the service of God were not in itself happi 
ness and perfect freedom. 

2. Inasmuch as it teaches us, how we ought to conduct 
ourselves with respect to the gifts of fortune, or matters 
which are not in our own power, and do not follow from 
our nature. For it shows us that we should await and 
endure fortune s smiles or frowns with an equal mind, 
seeing that all things follow from the eternal decree of 
God by the same necessity, as it follows from the essence 
of a triangle, that the three angles are equal to two right 
angles. 

3. This doctrine raises social life, inasmuch as it teaches 
us to hate no man, neither to despise, to deride, to envy, 
or to be angry with any. Further, as it tells us that 
each should be content with his own, and helpful to his 
neighbor, not from any womanish pity, favor, or super 
stition, but solely by the guidance of reason, accord 
ing as the time and occasion demand, as I will show in 
Part III. 

4. Lastly, this doctrine confers no small advantage on 
the commonwealth ; for it teaches how citizens should be 
governed and led, not so as to become slaves, but so that. 
they may freely do whatsoever things are best. 



126 THE ETHICS 

I have thus fulfilled the promise made at the begin 
ning of this note, and I thus bring the second part of my 
treatise to a close. I think I have therein explained the 
nature and properties of the human mind at sufficient 
length, and, considering the difficulty of the subject, with 
sufficient clearness. I have laid a foundation, whereon 
may be raised many excellent conclusions of the highest 
utility and most necessary to be known, as will, in what 
follows, be partly made plain. 



PART III. 

ON THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE 
EMOTIONS. 

MOST writers on the emotions and on human conduct 
seem to be treating rather of matters outside nature than 
of natural phenomena following nature s general laws. 
They appear to conceive man to be situated in nature as 
a kingdom within a kingdom: for they believe that he 
disturbs rather than follows nature s order, that he has 
absolute control over his actions, and that he is deter 
mined solely by himself. They attribute human infirmities 
and fickleness, not to the power of nature in general, but 
to some mysterious flaw in the nature of man, which 
accordingly they bemoan, deride, despise, or, as usually 
happens, abuse : he, who succeeds in hitting off the weak 
ness of the human mind more eloquently or more acutely 
than his fellows is looked upon as a seer. Still there has 
been no lack of very excellent men (to whose toil and 
industry I confess myself much indebted ), who have written 
many noteworthy things concerning the right way of life, 
and have given much sage advice to mankind. But no 
one, so far as I know, has defined the nature and strength 
of the emotions, and the power of the mind against them 
for their restraint. 

I do not forget, that the illustrious Descartes, though 
he believed, that the mind has absolute power over its 
actions, strove to explain human emotions by their primary 
causes, and, at the same time, to point out a way, by 
which the mind might attain to absolute dominion over 
them. However, in my opinion, he accomplishes nothing 
beyond a display of the acuteness of his own great 
intellect, as I will show in the proper place. For the 
present I wish to revert to those, who would rather 

(127) 



128 THE ETHICS 

abuse or deride human emotions than understand them. 
Such persons will doubtless think it strange that I should 
attempt to treat of human vice and folly geometrically, 
and should wish to set forth with rigid reasoning those 
matters which they cry out against as repugnant to 
reason, frivolous, absurd, and dreadful. However, such 
is my plan. Nothing comes to pass in nature, which can 
be set down to a flaw therein; for nature is always the 
same, and everywhere one and the same in her efficacy 
and power of action ; that is, nature s laws and ordinances, 
whereby all things come to pass and change from one 
form to another, are everywhere and always the same; 
so that there should be one and the same method of 
understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, 
through nature s universal laws and rules. Thus the 
passions of hatred, anger, envy, and so on, considered 
in themselves, follow from this same necessity and 
efficacy of nature; they answer to certain definite causes, 
through which they are understood, and possess certain 
properties as worthy of being known as the properties 
of anything else, whereof the contemplation in itself 
affords us delight. I shall, therefore, treat of the nature 
and strength of the emotions according to the same 
method, as I employed heretofore in my investigations 
concerning God and the mind. I shall consider human 
actions and desires in exactly the same manner, as 
though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids. 

DEFINITIONS. 

I. By an ADEQUATE cause, I mean a cause through which 
its effect can be clearly and distinctly perceived. By an 
INADEQUATE or partial cause, I mean a cause through 
which, by itself, its effect cannot be understood. 

II. I say that we ACT when anything takes place, either 
within us or externally to us, whereof we are the adequate 
cause ; that is ( by the foregoing definition ) when through 
our nature something takes place within us or externally 
to us, which can through our nature alone be clearly 
and distinctly understood. On the other hand, I say that 
we are passive as regards something when that something 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 129 

takes place within us, or follows from our nature exter 
nally, we being only the partial cause. 

III. By EMOTION I mean the modifications of the body, 
whereby the active power of the said body is increased 
or diminished, aided or constrained, and also the ideas 
of such modifications. 

N. B. If we can be the adequate cause of any of these 
modifications, I then call the emotion an activity, other 
wise I call it a passion, or state wherein the mind is 
passive. 

POSTULATES. 

I. The human body can be affected in many ways, 
whereby its power of activity is increased or diminished, 
and also in other ways which do not render its power of 
activity either greater or less. 

N. B. This postulate or axiom rests on Postulate i. and 
Lemmas v. and vii., which see after II. xiii. 

II. The human body can undergo many changes, and, 
nevertheless, retain the impressions or traces of objects 
(cf. II. Post, v.) and, consequently, the same images of 
things (see note II. xvii.). 

PROP. I. Our mind is in certain cases active, and in 
certain cases passive. In so far as it has adequate ideas 
it is necessarily active, and in so far as it has inadequate 
ideas, it is necessarily passive. 

Proof. In every human mind there are some adequate 
ideas, and some ideas that are fragmentary and confused 
(II. xl. note). Those ideas which are adequate in the 
mind are adequate also in God, inasmuch as he con 
stitutes the essence of the mind (II. xl. Coroll.), and 
those which are inadequate in the mind are likewise (by 
the same Coroll.) adequate in God, not inasmuch as he 
contains in himself the essence of the given mind alone, 
but as he, at the same time, contains the minds of other 
things. Again, from any given idea some effect must 
necessarily follow ( I. 36 ) ; of this effect God is the ade 
quate cause (III. Def. i.) not inasmuch as he is infinite, 
but inasmuch as he is conceived as affected by the given 
idea (II. ix.). But of that effect whereof God is the 
cause, inasmuch as he is affected by an idea which is ade- 
9 



130 THE ETHICS 

quate in a given mind, of that effect, I repeat, the mind 
in question is the adequate cause (II. xi. Coroll.). 
Therefore our mind, in so far as it has adequate ideas 
(III. Def. ii.), is in certain cases necessarily active; this 
was our first point. Again, whatsoever necessarily fol 
lows from the idea which is adequate in God, not by 
virtue of his possessing in himself the mind of one man 
only, but by virtue of his containing, together with the 
mind of that one man, the minds of other things also, 
of such an effect (II. xi. Coroll.) the mind of the given 
man is not an adequate, but only a partial cause; thus 
(III. Def. ii.) the mind, inasmuch as it has inadequate 
ideas, is in certain cases necessarily passive ; this was our 
second point. Therefore our mind, etc. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that the mind is more or 
less liable to be acted upon, in proportion as it posses 
ses inadequate ideas, and contrariwise, is more or less ac 
tive in proportion as it possesses adequate ideas. 

PROP. II. Body cannot determine mind to think, neither 
can mind determine body to motion or rest or any state 
different from these, if such there be. 

Proof. All modes of thinking have for their cause 
God, by virtue of his being a thinking thing, and not by 
virtue of his being displayed under any other attribute 
(II. vi.). That, therefore, which determines the mind 
to thought is a mode of thought, and not a mode of ex 
tension; that is (II. Def. i.), it is not body. This was 
our first point. Again, the motion and rest of a body 
must arise from another body, which has also been de 
termined to a state of motion or rest by a third body, 
and absolutely everything which takes place in a body 
must spring from God, in so far as he is regarded as 
affected by some mode of extension, and not by some 
mode of thought (II. vi.); that is, it cannot spring from 
the mind, which is a mode of thought. This was our 
second point. Therefore body cannot determine mind, 
etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. This is made more clear by what was said in 
the note to II. vii., namely, that mind and body are one 
and the same thing, conceived first under the attribute 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 131 

of thought, secondly, tinder the attribute of extension. 
Thus it follows that the order or concatenation of things 
is identical, whether nature be conceived under the one 
attribute or the other; consequently the order of states 
of activity and passivity in our body is simultaneous in 
nature with the order of states of activity and passivity 
in the mind. The same conclusion is evident from the 
manner in which we proved II. xii. 

Nevertheless, though such is the case, and though 
there be no further room for doubt, I can scarcely be 
lieve, until the fact is proved by experience, that men 
can be induced to consider the question calmly and fairly, 
so firmly are they conceived that it is merely at the bid 
ding of the mind that the body is set in motion or at 
rest, or performs a variety of actions depending solely on 
the mind s will or the exercise of thought. However, no 
one has hitherto laid down the limits to the powers of 
the body, that is, no one has as yet been taught by ex 
perience what the body can accomplish solely by the 
laws of nature, in so far as she is regarded as extension. 
No one hitherto has gained such an accurate knowledge 
of the bodily mechanism, that he can explain all its 
functions; nor need I call attention to the fact that 
many actions are observed in the lower animals, which 
far transcend human sagacity, and that somnambulists 
do many things in their sleep, which they would not 
venture to do when awake: these instances are enough 
to show, that the body can by the sole laws of its nature 
do many things which the mind wonders at. 

Again, no one knows how or by what means the mind 
moves the body, nor how many various degrees of 
motion it can impart to the body, nor how quickly it can 
move it. Thus, when men say that this or that physical 
action has its origin in the mind, which latter has 
dominion over the body, they are using words without 
meaning, or are confessing in specious phraseology that 
they are ignorant of the cause of the said action, and do 
not wonder at it. 

But, they will say, whether we know or do not know 
the means whereby the mind acts on the body, we have, 



132 THE ETHICS 

at any rate, experience of the fact that unless the human 
mind is in a fit state to think, the body remains inert. 
Moreover, we have experience, that the mind alone can 
determine whether we speak or are silent, and a variety 
of similar states which, accordingly, we say depend on 
the mind s decree. But, as to the first point, I ask such 
objectors, whether experience does not also teach, that if 
the body be inactive the mind is simultaneously unfitted 
for thinking ? For when the body is at rest in sleep, 
the mind simultaneously is in a state of torpor also, and 
has no power of thinking, such as it possesses when the 
body is awake. Again, I think everyone s experience 
will confirm the statement, that the mind is not at all 
times equally fit for thinking on a given subject, but 
according as the body is more or less fitted for being 
stimulated by the image of this or that object, so also is 
the mind more or less fitted for contemplating the said 
object. 

But, it will be urged, it is impossible that solely from 
the laws of nature considered as extended substance, we 
should be able to deduce the causes of buildings, pictures, 
and things of that kind, which are produced only by 
human art; nor would the human body> unless it were 
determined and led by the mind, be capable of building 
a single temple. However, I have just pointed out that 
the objectors cannot fix the limits of the body s power, 
or say what can be concluded from a consideration of its 
sole nature, whereas they have experience of many things 
being accomplished solely by the laws of nature, which 
they would never have believed possible except under 
the direction of mind: such are the actions performed by 
somnambulists while asleep, and wondered at by their 
performers when awake. I would further call attention 
to the mechanism of the human body which far sur 
passes in complexity all that has been put together by 
human art, not to repeat what I have already shown, 
namely, that from nature, under whatever attribute she 
be considered, infinite results follow. As for the second 
objection, I submit that the world would be much hap 
pier, if men were as fully able to keep silence as they 



NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE EMOTIONS 133 

are to speak. Experience abundantly shows that men 
can govern anything more easily than their tongues, and 
restrain anything more easily than their appetites ; whence 
it comes about that many believe, that we are only free 
in respect to objects which we moderately desire, be 
cause our desire for such can easily be controlled by 
the thought of something else frequently remembered, 
but that we are by no means free in respect to what 
we seek with violent emotion, for our desire cannot 
then be allayed with the remembrance of anything 
else. However, unless such persons had proved by 
experience that we do many things which we afterward 
repent of, and again that we often, when assailed by con 
trary emotions, see the better and follow the worse, there 
would be nothing to prevent their believing that we are 
free in all things. Thus an infant believes that of its 
own free will it desires milk, an angry child believes that 
it freely desires vengeance, a timid child believes that it 
freely desires to run away; further, a drunken man be 
lieves that he utters from the free decision of his mind 
words which, when he is sober, he would willingly have 
withheld : thus, too, a delirious man, a garrulous woman, 
a child, and others of like complexion, believe that they 
speak from the free decision of their mind, when they are 
in reality unable to restrain their impulse to talk. Experi 
ence teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men 
believe themselves to be free, simply because they are 
conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes 
whereby those actions are determined ; and, further, it is 
plain that the dictates of the mind are but another name 
for the appetites, and therefore vary according to the 
varying state of the body. Every one shapes his actions 
according to his emotion, those who are assailed by con 
flicting emotions know not what they wish ; those who are 
not attacked by any emotion are readily swayed this way 
or that. All these considerations clearly show that a 
mental decision and a bodily appetite, or determined 
state, are simultaneous, or rather are one and the same 
thing, which we call decision, when it is regarded under 
and explained through the attribute of thought, and a 



134 THE ETHICS 

conditioned state, when it is regarded tinder the attribute 
of extension, and deduced from the laws of motion and 
rest. This will appear yet more plainly in the sequel. 
For the present I wish to call attention to another point, 
namely, that we cannot act by the decision of the mind, 
unless we have a remembrance of having done so. For 
instance, we cannot say a word without remembering that 
we have done so. Again, it is not within the free power 
of the mind to remember or forget a thing at will. There 
fore the freedom of the mind must in any case be limited 
to the power of uttering or not uttering something which 
it remembers. But when we dream that we speak, we 
believe that we speak from a free decision of the mind, 
yet we do not speak, or, if we do, it is by a spontaneous 
motion of the body. Again, we dream that we are con 
cealing something, and we seem to act from the same 
decision of the mind as that, whereby we keep silence 
when awake concerning something we know. Lastly, we 
dream that from the free decision of our mind we do 
something, which we should not dare to do when awake. 

Now I should like to know whether there be in the 
mind two sorts of decisions, one sort illusive, and the 
other sort free ? If our folly does not carry us so far as 
this, we must necessarily admit, that the decision of the 
mind which is believed to be free, is not distinguishable 
from the imagination or memory, and is nothing more 
than the affirmation, which an idea, by virtue of being 
an idea, necessarily involves ( II. xlix.). Wherefore these 
decisions of the mind arise in the mind by the same 
necessity, as the ideas of things actually existing. There 
fore, those who believe, that they speak or keep silence or 
act in any way from the free decision of their mind, 
do but dream with their eyes open. 

PROP. III. The activities of the mind arise solely from 
adequate ideas; the passive states of the mind depend 
solely on inadequate ideas. 

Proof. The first element, which constitutes the essence 
of the mind, is nothing else but the idea of the actually 
existent body (II. xi. and xiii.), which (II. xv.) is com 
pounded of many other ideas, whereof some are adequate 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 135 

and some inadequate (II. xxix. Coroll., II. xxxviii Coroll.). 
Whatsoever therefore follows from the nature of mind, 
and has mind for its proximate cause, through which it 
must be understood, must necessarily follow either from 
an adequate or from an inadequate idea. But in so far 
as the mind (III. i.) has inadequate ideas, it is necessarily 
passive : wherefore the activities of the mind follow solely 
from adequate ideas, and accordingly the mind is only 
passive in so far as it has inadequate ideas. Q.E.D. 

Note. Thus we see, that passive states, are not attrib 
uted to the mind, except in so far as it contains some 
thing involving negation, or in so far as it is regarded as 
a part of nature which cannot be clearly and distinctly 
perceived through itself without other parts : I could thus 
show, that passive states are attributed to individual 
things in the same way that they are attributed to 
the mind, and that they cannot otherwise be perceived, 
but my purpose is solely to treat of the human mind. 

PROP. IV. Nothing can be destroyed, except by a cause 
external to itself. 

Proof. This proposition is self-evident, for the defini 
tion of anything affirms the essence of that thing, but 
does not negative it; in other words, it postulates the 
essence of the thing, but does not take it away. So long 
therefore as we regard only the thing itself, without 
taking into account external causes, we shall not be able 
to find in it anything which could destroy it. Q.E.D. 

PROP. V. Things are naturally contrary, that is, cannot 
exist in the same object, in so far as one is capable of 
destroying the other. 

Proof. If they could agree together or coexist in the 
same object, there would then be in the said object 
something which could destroy it; but this, by the fore 
going proposition, is absurd; therefore things, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. VI. Everything, in so far as it is in itself, 
endeavors to persist in its own being. 

Proof. Individual things are modes whereby the attri 
butes of God are expressed in a given determinate man 
ner (I. xxv. Coroll.), that is (I. xxxiv.), they are things 
which express in a given determinate manner the power 



136 THE ETHICS 

of God, whereby God is and acts; now no thing contains 
in itself anything whereby it can be destroyed, or which 
can take away its existence (III. iv.); but contrariwise 
it is opposed to all that could take away its existence 
(III. v.). Therefore, in so far as it can, and in so far 
as it is in itself, it endeavors to persist in its own being. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. VII. The endeavor, wherewith everything en 
deavors to persist in its own being, is nothing else but 
the actual essence of the thing in question. 

Proof. From the given essence of anything certain 
consequences necessarily follow (I. xxxvi. ), nor have 
things any power save such as necessarily follows from 
their nature as determined ( I. xxix. ) ; wherefore the 
power of any given thing, or the endeavor whereby, 
either alone or with other things, it acts, or endeavors 
to act, that is (III. vi.), the power or endeavor, where 
with it endeavors to persist in its own being, is nothing 
else but the given or actual essence of the thing in 
question. Q. E. D. 

PROP. VIII. The endeavor, whereby a thing endeavors 
to persist in its being, involves no finite time, but an 
indefinite time. 

Proof. If it involved a limited time, which should 
determine the duration of the thing, it would then follow 
solely from that power whereby the thing exists, that the 
thing could not exist beyond the limits of that time, but 
that it must be destroyed; but this (III. iv.) is absurd. 
Wherefore the endeavor wherewith a thing exists involves 
no definite time; but, contrariwise, since (III. iv.) it will, 
by the same power whereby it already exists, always con 
tinue to exist, unless it be destroyed by some external 
cause, this endeavor involves an indefinite time. 

PROP. IX. The mind, both in so far as it has clear and 
distinct ideas, and also in so far as it has confused ideas, 
endeavors to persist in its being for an indefinite period, 
and of this endeavor it is conscious. 

Proof. The essence of the mind is constituted by ade 
quate and inadequate ideas (III. iii); therefore (III. vii.), 
both in so far as it possesses the former, and in so far as 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 137 

it possesses the latter, it endeavors to persist in its own 
being, and that for an indefinite time (III. viii.). Now 
as the mind (II. xxiii.) is necessarily conscious of itself 
through the ideas of the modifications of the body, the 
mind is therefore (III. vii.) concious of its own en 
deavor. 

Note. This endeavor, when referred solely to the mind, 
is called WILL, when referred to the mind and body in 
conjunction it is called APPETITE; it is, in fact, nothing 
else but man s essence, from the nature of which neces 
sarily follow all those results which tend to its preserva 
tion ; and which man has thus been determined to perform. 

Further, between appetite and desire there is no differ 
ence, except that the term desire is generally applied to 
men, in so far as they are conscious of their appetite, and 
may accordingly be thus defined: DESIRE is APPETITE WITH 
CONSCIOUSNESS THEREOF. It is thus plain from what has 
been said, that in no case do we strive for, wish for, long 
for, or desire anything, because we deem it to be good, 
but on the other hand we deem a thing to be good, because 
we strive for it, wish for it, long for it, or desire it. 

PROP. X. An idea, which excludes the existence of our 
body, cannot be postulated in our mind, but is contrary 
thereto. 

Proof. Whatsoever can destroy our body, cannot be 
postulated therein (III. v.). Therefore, neither can the 
idea of such a thing occur in God, in so far as he has 
the idea of our body (II. ix. Coroll.); that is (II. xi.xiii.), 
the idea of that thing cannot be postulated as in our 
mind, but contrariwise, since (II. xi. xiii.,) the first ele 
ment, that constitutes the essence of the mind, is the 
idea of the human body as actually existing, it follows 
that the first and chief endeavor of our mind is the en 
deavor to affirm the existence of our body ; thus, an idea, 
which negatives the existence of our body, is contrary to 
our mind, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XI. Whatsoever increases or diminishes, helps or 
hinders the power of activity in our body, the idea there 
of increases or diminishes, helps or hinders the power of 
thought in our mind. 



138 THE ETHICS 

Proof. This proposition is evident from II. vii. or 
from II. xiv. 

Note. Thus we see, that 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 fol 
lowing propositions I shall signify A PASSIVE STATE 

WHEREIN THE MIND PASSES TO A GREATER PERFECTION. By 

PAIN I shall signify A PASSIVE STATE WHEREIN THE MIND 
PASSES TO A LESSER PERFECTION. Further, the emotion of 
pleasure in reference to the body and mind together I shall 
call STIMULATION (titUlatio) or MERRIMENT (hilaritas), the 
emotion of pain in the same relation I shall call SUFFERING 
or MELANCHOLY. But we must bear in mind, that stimu 
lation and suffering are attributed to man, when one 
part of his nature is more affected than the rest, merri 
ment and melancholy, when all parts are alike affected. 
What I mean by desire I have explained in the note to 
Prop. ix. 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. But, before I 
go further, I should like here to explain at greater 
length Prop. x. of this part, in order that we may clearly 
understand how one idea is contrary to another. In the 
note to II. xvii. we showed that the idea, which consti 
tutes the essence of mind, involves the existence of 
body, so long as the body itself exists. Again, it follows 
from what we have pointed out in the Coroll. to II. viii., 
that the present existence of our mind depends solely on 
the fact, that the mind involves the actual existence of 
the body. Lastly, we showed (II. xvii. xviii. and note) 
that the power of the mind, whereby it imagines and 
remembers things, also depends on the fact, that it in 
volves the actual existence of the body. Whence it 
follows, that the present existence of the mind and its 
power of imagining are removed, as soon as the mind 
ceases to affirm the present existence of the body. Now 
the cause, why the mind ceases to affirm this existence 
of the body, cannot be the mind itself (III. iv.), nor 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 139 

again the fact that the body ceases to exist. For (by II. 
vi.) the cause, why the mind affirms the existence of 
the body, is not that the body began to exist ; therefore, 
for the same reason, it does not cease to affirm the 
existence of the body, because the body ceases to exist ; 
but (II. xvii.) this result follows from another idea, 
which excludes the present existence of our body and, 
consequently of our mind, and which is therefore con 
trary to the idea constituting the essence of our mind. 

PROP. XII. The mind, as far as it can, endeavors to 
conceive those things, which increase or help the power 
of activity in the body. 

Proof. So long as the human body is affected in a 
mode, which involves the nature of any external body, 
the human mind will regard that external body as pres 
ent (II. xvii.), and consequently (II. vii.), so long as the 
human mind regards an external body as present, that 
is (II. xvii. note), conceives it, the human body is affected 
in a mode, which involves the nature of the said external 
body; thus so long as the mind conceives things, which 
increase or help the power of activity in our body, the 
body is affected in modes which increase or help its 
power of activity (III. Post, i.); consequently (III. xi.) 
the mind s power of thinking is for that period increased 
or helped. Thus (III. vi. ix.) the mind, as far as it can, 
endeavors to imagine such things. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XIII. When the mind conceives things which 
diminish or hinder the body s power of activity, it 
endeavors, as far as possible, to remember things which 
exclude the existence of the first-named things. 

Proof. So long as the mind conceives anything of the 
kind alluded to, the power of the mind and body is 
diminished or constrained (cf. III. xii. Proof); neverthe 
less it will continue to conceive it, until the mind con 
ceives something else, which excludes the present existence 
thereof (II. xvii.); that is (as I have just shown), the 
power of the mind and of the body is diminished, or 
constrained, until the mind conceives something else, 
which excludes the existence of the former thing 
conceived: therefore the mind (III. ix.), as far as it 



140 THE ETHICS 

can, will endeavor to conceive or remember the latter. 
Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that the mind shrinks 
from conceiving those things, which diminish or constrain 
the power of itself and of the body. 

Note. From what has been said we may clearly under 
stand the nature of Love and Hate. LOVE is nothing 
else but PLEASURE ACCOMPANIED BY THE IDEA OF AN EXTER 
NAL CAUSE: HATE is nothing else but PAIN ACCOMPANIED 

BY THE IDEA OF AN EXTERNAL CAUSE. We further SCC, 

that he who loves necessarily endeavors to have, and to 
keep present to him, the object of his love; while he 
who hates endeavors to remove and destroy the object 
of his hatred. But I will treat of these matters at more 
length hereafter. 

PROP. XIV. If the mind has once been affected by two 
emotions at the same time, it will, whenever it is after 
ward affected by one of the two, be also affected by the 
other. 

Proof. If the human body has once been affected by 
two bodies at once, whenever afterward the mind con 
ceives one of them, it will straightway remember the 
other also (II. xviii.). But the mind s conceptions indi 
cate rather the emotions of our body than the nature of 
external bodies (II. xvi. Coroll. ii.); therefore, if the body, 
and consequently the mind (III. Def. iii.) has been once 
affected by two emotions at the same time, it will, when 
ever it is afterward affected by one of the two, be also 
affected by the other. 

PROP. XV. Anything can accidentally be the cause of 
pleasure, pain, or desire. 

Proof. Let it be granted that the mind is simultane 
ously affected by two emotions, of which one neither 
increases nor diminishes its power of activity, and the 
other does either increase or diminish the said power 
(III. Post. i.). From the foregoing proposition it is evi 
dent that, whenever the mind is afterward affected by 
the former, through its true cause, which (by hypothesis) 
neither increases nor diminishes its power of action, it 
will be at the same time affected by the latter, which 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 141 

does increase or diminish its power of activity, that is 
(III. xi. note), it will be affected with pleasure or pain. 
Thus the former of the two emotions will, not through 
itself, but accidentally, be the cause of pleasure or 
pain. In the same way also it can be easily shown, 
that a thing may be accidentally the cause of desire. 
Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Simply from the fact that we have re 
garded a thing with the emotion of pleasure or pain, 
though that thing be not the efficient cause of the emo 
tion, we can either love or hate it. 

p roo f. For from this fact alone it arises (III. xiv.), 
that the mind afterward conceiving the said thing is 
affected with the emotion of pleasure or pain, that is 
(III. xi. note), according as the power of the mind and 
body may be increased or diminished, etc. ; and conse 
quently (III. xii.), according as the mind may desire or 
shrink from the conception of it (III. xiii. Coroll.), in 
other words (III. xiii. note), according as it may love or 
hate the same. Q.E.D. 

Note. Hence we understand how it may happen, that 
we love or hate a thing without any cause for our emo 
tion being known to us; merely, as the phrase is, from 
SYMPATHY or ANTIPATHY. We should refer to the same 
category those objects, which affect us pleasurably or 
painfully, simply because they resemble other objects 
which affect us in the same way. This I will show in 
the next proposition. I am aware that certain authors, who 
were the first to introduce these terms <( sympathy and 
(< antipathy, w wished to signify thereby some occult 
qualities in things; nevertheless I think we may be per 
mitted to use the same terms to indicate known or man 
ifest qualities. 

PROP. XVI. Simply from the fact that we conceive that 
a given object has some point of resemblance with another 
object which is wont to affect the mind pleasurably or 
painfully, although the point of resemblance be not the 
efficient cause of the said emotions, we shall still regard 
the first-named object with love or hate. 

Proof. The point of resemblance was in the object (by 



H2 THE ETHICS 

hypothesis), when we regarded it with pleasure or pain, 
thus (III. xiv.), when the mind is affected by the image 
thereof, it will straightway be affected by one or the other 
emotion, and consequently the thing, which we perceive 
to have the same point of resemblance, will be acci 
dentally (III. xv.) a cause of pleasure or pain. Thus 
( by the foregoing Corollary), although the point in which 
the two objects resemble one another be not the efficient 
cause of the emotion, we shall still regard the first-named 
object with love or hate. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XVII. If we conceive that a thing which is 
wont to affect us painfully, has any point of resemblance 
with another thing which is wont to affect us with an 
equally strong emotion of pleasure, we shall hate the 
first-named thing, and at the same time we shall love it. 
Proof. The given thing is (by hypothesis) in itself a 
cause of pain, and (III. xiii. note), in so far as we im 
agine it with this emotion, we shall hate it: further, 
inasmuch as we conceive that it has some point of resem 
blance to something else, which is wont to affect us with 
an equally strong emotion of pleasure, we shall with an 
equally strong impulse of pleasure love it (III. xvi.); 
thus we shall both hate and love the same thing. Q.E.D. 
Note. This disposition of the mind, which arises from 
two contrary emotions, is called VACILLATION; it stands to 
the emotions in the same relation as doubt does to the 
imagination ( II. xliv. note ) ; vacillation and doubt do not 
differ one from the other except as greater differs from 
less. But we must bear in mind that I have deduced 
this vacillation from causes, which give rise through them 
selves to one of the emotions, and to the other acciden 
tally. I have done this, in order that they might be more 
easily deduced from what went before ; but I do not deny 
that vacillation of the disposition generally arises from 
an object, which is the efficient cause of both emotions. 
The human body is composed (II. Post, i.) of a variety 
of individual parts of different nature, and may therefore 
(Ax. i. after Lemma iii. after II. xiii.) be affected in a 
variety of different ways by one and the same body; and 
contrariwise, as one and the same thing- can be affected 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 143 

in many ways, it can also in many different ways affect 
one and the same part of the body. Hence we can easily 
conceive, that one and the same object may be the cause 
of many and conflicting emotions. 

PROP. XVIII. A man is as much affected pleasurably 
or painfully by the image of a thing past or future as 
by the image of a thing present. 

Proof. So long as a man is affected by the image of 
anything, he will regard that thing as present, even though 
it be non-existent (II. xvii. and Coroll.), he will not con 
ceive it as past or future, except in so far as its image 
is joined to the image of time past or future ( II. xliv. 
note). Wherefore the image of a thing, regarded in 
itself alone, is identical, whether it be referred to time 
past, time future, or time present; that is (II. xvi. Coroll.), 
the disposition or emotion of the body is identical, 
whether the image be of a thing past, future, or pres 
ent. Thus the emotion of pleasure or pain is the same, 
whether the image be of a thing past or future. Q.E.D. 

Note L I call a thing past or future, according as 
we either have been or shall be affected thereby. For 
instance, according as we have seen it, or are about to 
see it, according as it has recreated us, or will recreate 
us, according as it has harmed us, or will harm us. For, 
as we thus conceive it, we affirm its existence; that is, 
the body is affected by no emotion which excludes the 
existence of the thing, and therefore (II. xvii.) the body 
is affected by the image of the thing, in the same way 
as if the thing were actually present. However, as 
it generally happens that those, who have had many ex 
periences, vacillate, so long as they regard a thing as 
future or past, and are usually in doubt about its issue 
(II. xliv. note) ; it follows that the emotions which arise 
from similar images of things are not so constant, but 
are generally disturbed by the images of other things, 
until men become assured of the issue. 

Note IL From what has just been said, we under 
stand what is meant by the terms Hope, Fear, Confi 
dence, Despair, Joy, and Disappointment. HOPE is noth 
ing else but an inconstant pleasure, arising from the 



144 THE ETHICS 

image of something future or past, whereof we do not 
yet know the issue. FEAR on the other hand, is an in 
constant pain also arising from the image of something 
concerning which we are in doubt. If the element of 
doubt be removed from these emotions, hope becomes 
CONFIDENCE and fear becomes DESPAIR. In other words, 
PLEASURE or PAIN arising from the image of something 
concerning which we have hoped or feared. Again, JOY 
is PLEASURE arising from the image of something past 
whereof we doubted the issue. DISAPPOINTMENT is the 
PAIN opposed to JOY. 

PROP. XIX. He who conceives that the object of his 
love is destroyed will feel pain ; if he conceives that it is 
preserved he will feel pleasure. 

Proof. The mind, as far as possible, endeavors to 
conceive those things which increase or help the body s 
power of activity (III. xii.); in other words (III. xii. 
note), those things which it loves. But conception is 
helped by those things which postulate the existence of 
a thing, and contrariwise is hindered by those which 
exclude the existence of a thing (II. xvii.); therefore the 
images of things, which postulate the existence of an 
object of love, help the mind s endeavor to conceive the 
object of love, in other words (III. xi. note), affect the 
mind pleasurably; contrariwise those things, which 
exclude the existence of an object of love, hinder the 
aforesaid mental endeavor; in other words, affect the 
mind painfully. He, therefore, who conceives that 
the object of his love is destroyed will feel pain, etc. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XX. He who conceives that the object of his 
hate is destroyed will feel pleasure. 

Proof. The mind (III. xiii.) endeavors to conceive 
those things, which exclude the existence of things 
whereby the body s power of activity is diminished or 
constrained; that is (III. xiii. note), it endeavors to 
conceive such things as exclude the existence of what 
it hates; therefore the image of a thing, which excludes 
the existence of what the mind hates, helps the aforesaid 
mental effort, in other words (III. xi. note), affects the 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 145 

mind pleasurably. Thus he who conceives that the object 
of his hate is destroyed will feel pleasure. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXI. He who conceives that the object of 
his love is affected pleasurably or painfully, will him 
self be affected pleasurably or painfully; and the one 
or the other emotion will be greater or less in the 
lover according as it is greater or less in the thing 
loved. 

Proof. The images of things (as we showed in III. 
xix.) which postulate the existence of the object of love, 
help the mind s endeavor to conceive the said object. 
But pleasure postulates the existence of something feel 
ing pleasure, so much the more in proportion as the 
emotion of pleasure is greater; for it is (III. xi. note) a 
transition to a greater perfection; therefore the image 
of pleasure in the object of love helps the mental en 
deavor of the lover; that is, it affects the lover pleasurably, 
and so much the more, in proportion as this emotion 
may have been greater in the object of love. This was 
our first point. Further, in so far as a thing is affected 
with pain, it is to that extent destroyed, the extent 
being in proportion to the amount of pain (III. xi. 
note); therefore (III. xix.) he who conceives, that the 
object of his love is affected painfully, will himself be 
affected painfully, in proportion as the said emotion is 
greater or less in the object of love. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXII. If we conceive that anything pleasurably 
affects some object of our love, we shall be affected 
with love toward that thing. Contrariwise, if we con 
ceive that it affects an object of our love painfully, we 
shall be affected with hatred toward it. 

Proof. He, who affects pleasurably or painfully the 
object of our love, affects us also pleasurably or pain 
fully that is, if we conceive the loved object as af 
fected with the said pleasure or pain (III. xxi.). But 
this pleasure or pain is postulated to come to us accom 
panied by the idea of an external cause; therefore (III. 
xiii. note), if we conceive that any one affects an object 
of our love pleasurably or painfully, we shall be affected 
with love or hatred toward him. Q.E.D. 



i 4 6 THE ETHICS 

Note. Prop. xxi. explains to us the nature of PITY, 
which we may define as PAIN ARISING FROM ANOTHER S 
HURT. What term we can use for pleasure arising from 
another s gain, I know not. 

We will call the LOVE TOWARD HIM WHO CONFERS A 

BENEFIT ON ANOTHER, APPROVAL; and the HATRED TOWARD 
HIM WHO INJURES ANOTHER, W6 will Call INDIGNATION. 

We must further remark, that we not only feel pity for 
a thing which we have loved (as shown in III. xxi.), 
but also for a thing which we have hitherto regarded 
without emotion, provided that we deem that it resembles 
ourselves (as I will show presently). Thus, we bestow 
approval on one who has benefited anything resembling 
ourselves, and, contrariwise, are indignant with him who 
has done it an injury. 

PROP. XXIII. He who conceives, that an object of 
his hatred is painfully affected, will feel pleasure. Con 
trariwise, if he thinks that the said object is pleasurably 
affected, he will feel pain. Each of these emotions will 
be greater or less, according as its contrary is greater or 
less in the object of hatred. 

Proof. In so far as an object of hatred is painfully 
affected, it is destroyed to an extent proportioned to the 
strength of the pain (III. xi. note). Therefore, he 
(III. xx.) who conceives, that some object of his hatred 
is painfully affected, will feel pleasure to an extent pro 
portioned to the amount of pain he conceives in the 
object of his hatred. This was our first point. Again, 
pleasure postulates the existence of the pleasurably 
affected thing (III. xi. note), in proportion as the pleasure 
is greater or less. If anyone imagines that an object of 
his hatred is pleasurably affected, this conception (III. 
xiii.) will hinder his own endeavor to persist; in other 
words (III. xi. note), he who hates will be painfully 
affected. Q.E.D. 

Note. This pleasure can scarcely be felt unalloyed, 
and without any mental conflict. For (as I am about 
to show in Prop, xxvii.), in so far as a man conceives 
that something similar to himself is affected by pain, 
he will himself be affected in like manner; and he will 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 147 

have the contrary emotion in contrary circumstances. But 
here we are regarding hatred only. 

PROP. XXIV. If we conceive that anyone pleasurably 
affects an object of our hate, we shall feel hatred toward 
him also. If we conceive that he painfully affects the 
said object, we shall feel love toward him. 

Proof. This proposition is proved in the same way as 
III. xxii., which see. 

Note. These and similar emotions of hatred are attrib 
utable to ENVY, which, accordingly, is nothing else but 
HATRED, IN SO FAR AS IT IS REGARDED AS DISPOSING A MAN 
TO REJOICE IN ANOTHER S HURT, AND TO GRIEVE AT AN 
OTHER S ADVANTAGE. 

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

Proof. That, which we conceive to affect an object of 
our love pleasurably or painfully, affects us also pleasur 
ably or painfully (III. xxi.). But the mind (III. xii.) 
endeavors, as far as possible, to conceive those things 
which affect us pleasurably; in other words (II. xvii. and 
Coroll.), it endeavors to regard them as present. And, 
contrariwise (III. xiii.), it endeavors to exclude the exist 
ence of such things as affect us painfully; therefore, we 
endeavor to affirm concerning ourselves, and concerning 
the loved object, whatever we conceive to affect ourselves, 
or the loved object pleasurably. Q.E.D. 

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

Proof. This proposition follows from III. xxiii., as the 
foregoing proposition followed from III. xxi. 

Note. Thus we see that it may readily happen, that a 
man may easily think too highly of himself, or a loved 
object, and, contrariwise, too meanly of a hated object. 



I 4 8 THE ETHICS 

This feeling is called PRIDE, in reference to the man who 
thinks too highly of himself, and is a species of madness, 
wherein a man dreams with his eyes open, thinking that 
he can accomplish all things that fall within the scope of 
his conception, and thereupon accounting them real, and 
exulting in them, so long as he is unable to conceive 
anything which excludes their existence, and determines 
his own power of action. PRIDE, therefore, is PLEASURE 

SPRINGING FROM A MAN THINKING TOO HIGHLY OF HIMSELF. 

Again, the PLEASURE WHICH ARISES FROM A MAN THINKING 
TOO HIGHLY OF ANOTHER is called OVER-ESTEEM. Whereas 

the PLEASURE WHICH ARISES FROM THINKING TOO LITTLE OF 

A MAN is called DISDAIN. 

PROP. XXVII. By the very fact that we conceive a 
thing, which is like ourselves, and which we have not 
regarded with any emotion, to be affected with any emo 
tion, we are ourselves affected with a like emotion 
(affectus). 

Proof. The images of things are modifications of the 
human body, whereof the ideas represent external bodies 
as present to us (II. xvii.); in other words (II. x.), 
whereof the ideas involve the nature of our body, and, 
at the same time, the nature of external bodies as pres 
ent. If, therefore, the nature of the external body be 
similar to the nature of our body, then the idea which 
we form of the external body will involve a modification 
of our own body similar to the modification of the ex 
ternal body. Consequently, if we conceive anyone similar 
to ourselves as affected by any emotion, this conception 
will express a modification of our body similar to that 
emotion. Thus, from the fact of conceiving a thing like 
ourselves to be affected with any emotion, we are our 
selves affected with a like emotion. If, however, we hate 
the said thing like ourselves, we shall, to that extent, 
be affected by a contrary, and not similar, emotion. 
Q.E.D. 

j^ote L This imitation of emotions, when it is re 
ferred to pain, is called COMPASSION (cf. III. xxii. note); 
when it is referred to desire, it is called EMULATION, 
which is nothing else but THE DESIRE OF ANYTHING 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 149 

ENGENDERED IN US BY THE FACT THAT WE CONCEIVE THAT 
OTHERS HAVE THE LIKE DESIRE. 

Corollary I. If we conceive that anyone, whom we 
have hitherto regarded with no emotion, pleasurably af 
fects something similar to ourselves, we shall be affected 
with love toward him. If, on the other hand, we con 
ceive that he painfully affects the same, we shall be 
affected with hatred toward him. 

Proof. This is proved from the last proposition in the 
same manner as III. xxii. is proved from III. xxi. 

Corollary II. We cannot hate a thing which we pity, 
because its misery affects us painfully. 

Proof. If we could hate it for this reason, we should 
rejoice in its pain, which is contrary to the hypothesis. 

Corollary III. We seek to free from misery, as far as 
we can, a thing which we pity. 

Proof. That, which painfully affects the object of our 
pity, affects us also with similar pain (by the foregoing 
proposition ) ; therefore, we shall endeavor to recall every 
thing which removes its existence, or which destroys it 
(cf. III. xiii); in other words (III. ix. note), we shall 
desire to destroy it, or we shall be determined for its 
destruction; thus, we shall endeavor to free from misery 
a thing which we pity. Q. E.D. 

Note II. This will or appetite for doing good, which 
arises from pity of the thing whereon we would confer a 
benefit, is called BENEVOLENCE, and is nothing else but 
DESIRE ARISING FROM COMPASSION. Concerning love or hate 
toward him who has done good or harm to something, 
which we conceive to be like ourselves, see III. xxii. 
note. 

PROP. XXVIII. We endeavor to bring about whatso 
ever we concede to conduce to pleasure ; but we endeavor 
to remove or destroy whatsoever we conceive to be truly 
repugnant thereto, or to conduce to pain. 

Proof. We endeavor, as far as possible, to conceive 
that which we imagine to conduce to pleasure (III. xii.); 
in other words (II. xvii.) we shall endeavor to conceive 
it as far as possible as present or actually existing. But 
the endeavor of the mind, or the mind s power of thought, 



ISO THE ETHICS 

is equal to and simultaneous with, the endeavor of the 
body, or the body s power of action. (This is clear from 
II. vii. Coroll. and II. xi. Coroll.) Therefore we make 
an absolute endeavor for its existence, in other words 
(which by III. ix. note come to the same thing) we 
desire and strive for it; this was our first point. Again, 
if we conceive that something, which we believe to be 
the cause of pain, that is (III. xiii. note), which we hate, 
is destroyed, we shall rejoice (III. xx.). We shall, there 
fore ( by the first part of this proof ), endeavor to destroy 
the same, or (III. xiii.) to remove it from us, so that 
we may not regard it as present; this was our second 
point. Wherefore whatsoever conduces to pleasure, etc. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIX. We shall also endeavor to do whatsoever 
we conceive men* to regard with pleasure, and contrari 
wise we shall shrink from doing that which we conceive 
men to shrink from. 

Proof. From the fact of imagining, that men love or 
hate anything, we shall love or hate the same thing (III. 
xxvii.). That is (III. xiii. note), from this mere fact we 
shall feel pleasure or pain at the thing s presence. And 
so we shall endeavor to do whatever we conceive men to 
love or regard with pleasure, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. This endeavor to do a thing or leave it undone, 
solely in order to please men, we call AMBITION, especially 
when we so eagerly endeavor to please the vulgar, that 
we do or omit certain things to our own or another s 
hurt: in other cases it is generally called KINDLINESS. 
Furthermore I give the name of PRAISE to the PLEAS 
URE, WITH WHICH WE CONCEIVE THE ACTION OF ANOTHER, 
WHEREBY HE HAS ENDEAVORED TO PLEASE US; but of 
BLAME tO the PAIN WHEREWITH WE FEEL AVERSION TO 
HIS ACTION. 

PROP. XXX. If anyone has done something which he 
conceives as affecting other men pleasurably, he will be 
affected by pleasure, accompanied by the idea of himself 
as cause; in other words, he will regard himself with 

* N. B. By men in this and the following propositions, I mean 
men whom we regard without any particular emotion. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 151 

pleasure. On the other hand, if he has done anything 
which he conceives as affecting others painfully, he will 
regard himself with pain. 

Proof. He who conceives, that he affects others with 
pleasure or pain, will, by that very fact, himself be 
affected with pleasure or pain (III. xxvii.), but, as a 
man, (II. xix. and xxiii.) is conscious of himself through 
the modifications whereby he is determined to action, it 
follows that he who conceives, that he affects others 
pleasurably, will be affected with pleasure accompanied 
by the idea of himself as cause; in other words, will re 
gard himself with pleasure. And so mutatis mutandis in 
the case of pain. Q.E.D. 

Note. As love (III. xiii.) is pleasure accompanied by 
the idea of an external cause, and hatred is pain accom 
panied by the idea of an external cause ; the pleasure and 
pain in question will be a species of love and hatred. 
But, as the terms love and hatred are used in reference 
to external objects, we will employ other names for the 
emotions now under discussion : pleasure accompanied by 
the idea of an external cause we will style HONOR, and 
the emotion contrary thereto we will style SHAME : I mean 
in such cases as where pleasure or pain arises from a 
man s belief, that he is being praised or blamed: other 
wise pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external 
cause is called SELF-COMPLACENCY, and its contrary pain 
is called REPENTANCE. Again, as it may happen (II. xvii. 
Coroll.) that the pleasure, wherewith a man conceives 
that he affects others, may exist solely in his own imagi 
nation, and as (III. xxv.) everyone endeavors to conceive 
concerning himself that which he conceives will affect him 
with pleasure, it may easily come to pass that a vain man 
may be proud and may imagine that he is pleasing to 
all, when in reality he may be an annoyance to all. 

PROP. XXXI. If we conceive that anyone loves, desires, 
or hates anything which we ourselves love, desire, or hate, 
we shall thereupon regard the thing in question with more 
steadfast love, etc. On the contrary, if we think that 
anyone shrinks from something that we love, we shall 
undergo vacillation of soul. 



152 THE ETHICS 

Proof. From the mere fact of conceiving that anyone 
loves anything we shall ourselves love that thing ( III. 
xxvii.): but we are assumed to love it already; there is, 
therefore, a new cause of love, whereby our former 
emotion is fostered; hence we shall thereupon love it 
more steadfastly. Again, from the mere fact of conceiv 
ing that anyone shrinks from anything, we shall ourselves 
shrink from that thing (III. xxvii.). If we assume that 
we at the same time love it, we shall then simultaneously 
love it and shrink from it; in other words, we shall be 
subject to vacillation (III. xvii. note). Q.E.D. 

Corollary. From the foregoing, and also from III. 
xxviii. it follows that everyone endeavors, as far as pos 
sible, to cause others to love what he himself loves, and 
to hate what he himself hates: as the poet says: (< As 
lovers let us share every hope and every fear : iron-hearted 
were he who should love what the other leaves.* 

Note. This endeavor to bring it about, that our own 
likes and dislikes should meet with universal approval, is 
really ambition (see III. xxix. note) ; wherefore we see 
that every one by nature desires (appetere), that the rest 
of mankind should live according to his own individual 
disposition: when such a desire is equally present in all, 
every one stands in every one else s way, and in wishing 
to be loved or praised by all, all become mutually hate 
ful. 

PROP. XXXII. If we conceive that any one takes delight 
in something, which only one person can possess, we shall 
endeavor to bring it about that the man in question shall 
not gain possession thereof. 

Proof. From the mere fact of our conceiving that an 
other person takes delight in a thing (III. xxvii. and 
Coroll.) we shall ourselves love that thing and desire to 
take delight therein. But we assumed that the pleasure 
in question would be prevented by another s delight in its 
object; we shall, therefore, endeavor to prevent his posses 
sion thereof (III. xxviii.). Q.E.D. 

Note. We thus see that man s nature is generally so 
constituted, that he takes pity on those who fare ill, and 
envies those who fare well with an amount of hatred 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 153 

proportioned to his own love for the goods in their posses 
sion. Further, we see that from the same property of 
human nature, whence it follows that men are merciful, 
it follows also that they are envious and ambitious. 
Lastly, if we make appeal to Experience, we shall find that 
she entirely confirms what we have said ; more especially 
if we turn our attention to the first years of our life. We 
find that children, whose body is continually, as it were, 
in equilibrium, laugh or cry simply because they see 
others laughing or crying; moreover, they desire forth 
with to imitate whatever they see others doing, and to 
possess themselves whatever they conceive as delighting 
others : inasmuch as the images of things are, as we have 
said, modifications of the human body, or modes wherein 
the human body is affected and disposed by external 
causes to act in this or that manner. 

PROP. XXXIII. When we love a thing similar to our 
selves we endeavor, as far as we can, to bring about that 
it should love us in return. 

Proof. That which we love we endeavor, as far as we 
can, to conceive in preference to anything else (III. xii.). 
If the thing be similar to ourselves, we shall endeavor to 
affect it pleasurably in preference to anything else (III. 
xxix.). In other words, we shall endeavor, as far as we 
can, to bring it about, that the thing should be affected 
with pleasure, accompanied by the idea of ourselves, 
that is (III. xiii. note) that it should love us in return. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXIV. The greater the emotion with which we 
conceive a loved object to be affected toward us, the 
greater will be our complacency. 

Proof. We endeavor (III. xxxiii.), as far as we can, 
to bring about, that what we love should love us in re 
turn ; in other words, that what we love should be affected 
with pleasure accompanied by the idea of ourself as 
cause. Therefore, in proportion as the loved object is 
more pleasurably affected because of us, our endeavor 
will be assisted that is (III. xi. and note) the greater 
will be our pleasure. But when we take pleasure in the 
fact, that we pleasurably affect something similar to our- 



154 THE ETHICS 

selves, we regard ourselves with pleasure (III. 30); 
therefore the greater the emotion with which we con 
ceive a loved object to be affected, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXV. If any one conceive, that an object of his 
love joins itself to another with closer bonds of friend 
ship than he himself has attained to, he will be affected 
with hatred toward the loved object and with envy 
toward his rival. 

Proof. In proportion as a man thinks that a loved 
object is well affected toward him, will be the strength 
of his self-approval (by the last Prop.), that is (III. xxx. 
note), of his pleasure; he will, therefore (III. xxviii.), en 
deavor, as far as he can, to imagine the loved object as 
most closely bound to him: this endeavor or desire will 
be increased, if he thinks that some one else has a similar 
desire (III. xxxi.). But this endeavor or desire is assumed 
to be checked by the image of the loved object in con 
junction with the image of him whom the loved object has 
joined to itself; therefore (III. xi. note) he will for that 
reason be affected with pain, accompanied by the idea of 
the loved object as a cause in conjunction with the image 
of his rival; that is, he will be (III. xiii.) affected with 
hatred toward the loved object and also toward his rival 
(III. xv. Coroll.), which latter he will envy as enjoying the 
beloved object. Q.E.D. 

Note. This hatred toward an object of love joined with 
envy is called JEALOUSY, which accordingly is nothing else 
but a wavering of the disposition arising from combined 
love and hatred, accompanied by the idea of some rival 
who is envied. Further, this hatred toward the object of 
love will be greater, in proportion to the pleasure which 
the jealous man had been wont to derive from the recip 
rocated love of the said object; and also in proportion to 
the feelings he had previously entertained toward his 
rival. If he had hated him, he will forthwith hate the 
object of his love, because he conceives it is pleasurably 
affected by one whom he himself hates : and also because 
he is compelled to associate the image of his loved one 
with the image of him whom he hates. This condition 
generally comes into play in the case of love for a woman : 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 155 

for he who thinks, that a woman whom he loves prosti 
tutes herself to another, will feel pain, not only because 
his own desire is restrained, but also because, being com 
pelled to associate the image of her he loves with the 
parts of shame and the excreta of another, he therefore 
shrinks from her. 

We must add, that a jealous man is not greeted by his 
beloved with the same joyful countenance as before, 
and this also gives him pain as a lover, as I will now 
show. 

PROP. XXXVI. He who remembers a thing, in which he 
has once taken delight, desires to possess it under the 
same circumstances as when he first took delight therein. 

Proof. Everything, which a man has seen in conjunc 
tion with the object of his love, will be to him accident 
ally a cause of pleasure (III. xv.); he will, therefore, 
desire to possess it in conjunction with that wherein he 
has taken delight; in other words, he will desire to pos 
sess the object of his love under the same circumstances 
as when he first took delight therein. Q. E.D. 

Corollary. A lover will, therefore, feel pain if one of 
the aforesaid attendant circumstances be missing. 

Proof. For, in so far as he finds some circumstances 
to be missing, he conceives something which excludes its 
existence. As he is assumed to be desirous for love s 
sake of that thing or circumstance (by the last Prop.), 
he will, in so far as he conceives it to be missing, feel 
pain (III. xix.). Q.E.D. 

Note. This pain, in so far as it has reference to the 
absence of the object of love, is called REGRET. 

PROP. XXXVII. Desire arising through pain or pleas 
ure, hatred or love, is greater in proportion as the emo 
tion is greater. 

Proof. Pain diminishes or constrains man s power of 
activity (III. xi. note), in other words (III. vii.), di 
minishes or constrains the effort, wherewith he endeavors 
to persist in his own being; therefore (III. v.) it is con 
trary to the said endeavor: thus all the endeavors of a 
man affected by pain are directed to removing that pain. 
But (by the definition of pain), in proportion as the 



156 THE ETHICS 

pain is greater, so also is it necessarily opposed to a 
greater part of man s power of activity; therefore the 
greater the pain, the greater the power of activity em 
ployed to remove it; that is, the greater will be the 
desire or appetite in endeavoring to remove it. Again, 
since pleasure (III. xi. note) increases or aids a man s 
power of activity, it may easily be shown in like man 
ner, that a man affected by pleasure has no desire 
further than to preserve it, and his desire will be in pro 
portion to the magnitude of the pleasure. 

Lastly, since hatred and love are themselves emotions 
of pain and pleasure, it follows in like manner that the 
endeavor, appetite, or desire, which arises through ha 
tred or love, will be greater in proportion to the hatred 
or love. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXVIII. If a man has begun to hate an ob 
ject of his love, so that love is thoroughly destroyed, he 
will, causes being equal, regard it with more hatred 
than if he had never loved it, and his hatred will be in 
proportion to the strength of his former love. 

Proof. It a man begins to hate that which he had 
loved, more of his appetites are put under restraint than 
if he had never loved it. For love is a pleasure (III. 
xiii. note ) which a man endeavors as far as he can to 
render permanent (III. xxviii.); he does so by regarding 
the object of his love as present, and by affecting it as 
far as he can pleasurably; this endeavor is greater in 
proportion as the love is greater, and so also is the 
endeavor to bring about that the beloved should return 
his affection (III. xxxiii.). Now these endeavors are con 
strained by hatred toward the object of love (III. xiii. 
Coroll. and III. xxiii.); wherefore the lover (III. xi. note) 
will for this cause also be affected with pain, the more 
so in proportion as his love has been greater; that is, in 
addition to the pain caused by hatred, there is a pain 
caused by the fact that he has loved the object; where 
fore the lover will regard the beloved with greater pain, 
or in other words, will hate it more than if he had never 
loved it, and with the more intensity in proportion as his 
former love was greater. Q.E.D. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 157 

PROP. XXXIX. He who hates anyone will endeavor to 
do him an injury, unless he fears that a greater injury 
will thereby accrue to himself; on the other hand, he 
who loves anyone will, by the same law, seek to benefit 
him. 

Proof. To hate a man is (III. xiii. note) to conceive 

him as a cause of pain; therefore he who hates a man 
will endeavor to remove or destroy him. But if anything 
more painful, or, in other words, a greater evil, should 
accrue to the hater thereby and if the hater thinks he 
can avoid such evil by not carrying out the injury, 
which he planned against the object of his hate he 
will desire to abstain from inflicting that injury (III. 
xxviii.), and the strength of his endeavor (III. xxxvii.), 
will be greater than his former endeavor to do injury, 
and will therefore prevail over it, as we asserted. The 
second part of this proof proceeds in the same manner. 
Wherefore he who hates another, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. By GOOD I here mean every kind of pleasure, 
and all that conduces thereto, especially that which satis 
fies our longings, whatsoever they may be. By EVIL, I 
mean every kind of pain, especially that which frustrates 
our longings. For I have shown (III. ix. note) that we 
in no case desire a thing because we deem it good, but, 
contrariwise, we deem a thing good because we desire 
it : consequently we deem evil that which we shrink from ; 
every one, therefore, according to his particular emotions, 
judges or estimates what is good, what is bad, what is 
better, what is worse, lastly, what is best, and what is 
worst. Thus a miser thinks that abundance of money is 
the best, and want of money the worst; an ambitious 
man desires nothing so much as glory, and fears nothing 
so much as shame. To an envious man nothing is more 
delightful than another s misfortune, and nothing more 
painful than another s success. So every man, according 
to his emotions, judges a thing to be good or bad, useful 
or useless. The emotion, which induces a man to turn 
from that which he wishes, or to wish for that which he 
turns from, is called TIMIDITY, which may accordingly be 
defined as THE FEAR WHEREBY A MAN is INDUCED TO AVOID 



158 THE ETHICS 

AN EVIL WHICH HE REGARDS AS FUTURE BY ENCOUNTERING 

A LESSER EVIL (III. xxviii.). But if the evil which he 
fears be shame, timidity becomes BASHFULNESS. Lastly, 
if the desire to avoid a future evil be checked by the 
fear of another evil, so that the man knows not which 
to choose, fear becomes CONSTERNATION, especially if both 
the evils feared be very great. 

PROP. XL. He, who conceives himself to be hated by 
another, and believes that he has given him no cause 
for hatred, will hate that other in return. 

Proof. He who conceives another as affected with 
hatred, will thereupon be affected himself with hatred 
(III. xxvii.), that is, with pain, accompanied by the idea 
of an external cause. But, by the hypothesis, he con 
ceives no cause for this pain except him who is his enemy ; 
therefore, from conceiving that he is hated by some one, 
he will be affected with pain, accompanied by the idea 
of his enemy ; in other words, he will hate his enemy in 
return. Q.E.D. 

Note. He who thinks that he has given just cause for 
hatred will (III. xxx. and note) be affected with shame ; 
but this case ( III. xxv. ) rarely happens. This recipro 
cation of hatred may also arise from the hatred, which 
follows an endeavor to injure the object of our hate ( III. 
xxxix. ). He therefore who conceives that he is hated 
by another will conceive his enemy as the cause of some 
evil or pain; thus he will be affected with pain or fear, 
accompanied by the idea of his enemy as cause ; in other 
words, he will be affected with hatred toward his enemy, 
as I said above. 

Corollary I. He who conceives, that one whom he 
loves hates him, will be a prey to conflicting hatred and 
love. For, in so far as he conceives that he is an object 
of hatred, he is determined to hate his enemy in return. 
But, by the hypothesis, he nevertheless loves him : where 
fore he will be a prey to conflicting hatred and love. 

Corollary II. If a man conceives that one, whom he 
has hitherto regarded without emotion, has done him any 
injury from motives of hatred, he will forthwith seek to 
repay the injury in kind. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 159 

Proof. He who conceives, that another hates him, will 
(by the last proposition) hate his enemy in return, and 
(III. xxvi. ) will endeavor to recall everything which can 
affect him painfully ; he will moreover, endeavor to do him 
an injury (III. xxxix. ). Now the first thing of this sort 
which he conceives is the injury done to himself; he will, 
therefore, forthwith endeavor to repay it in kind. Q. E. D. 

Note. The endeavor to injure one whom we hate is 
called ANGER; the endeavor to repay in kind injury done 
to ourselves is called REVENGE. 

PROP. XLI. If any one conceives that he is loved by 
another, and believes that he has given no cause for such 
love, he will love that other in return. (cf. III. xv. 
Coroll., and III. xvi. ). 

Proof. This proposition is proved in the same way as 
the preceding one. See also the note appended thereto. 

Note. If he believes that he has given just cause for 
the love, he will take pride therein (III. xxx. and note); 
this is what most often happens (III. xxv. ), and we said 
that its contrary took place whenever a man conceives 
himself to be hated by another. ( See note to preceding 
proposition). This reciprocal love, and consequently the 
desire of benefiting him who loves us (III. xxxix.), 
and who endeavors to benefit us, is called GRATITUDE 
or THANKFULNESS. It thus appears that men are much 
more prone to take vengeance than to return benefits. 

Corollary. He who imagines, that he is loved by 
one whom he hates, will be a prey to conflicting hatred 
and love. This is proved in the same way as the first 
corollary of the preceding proposition. 

Note. If hatred be the prevailing emotion, he will 
endeavor to injure him who loves him; this emotion 
is called cruelty, especially if the victim be believed 
to have given no ordinary cause for hatred. 

PROP. XLII. He who has conferred a benefit on any 
one from motives of love or honor will feel pain, if 
he sees that the benefit is received without gratitude. 

Proof. When a man loves something similar to him 
self, he endeavors, as far as he can, to bring it about that 
he should be loved thereby in return ( III. xxxiii.). There- 



160 THE ETHICS 

fore he who has conferred a benefit confers it in obedK 
ence to the desire, which he feels of being loved in return-, 
that is ( III. xxxiv,) from the hope of honor or (III. xxx. 
note ) pleasure ; hence he will endeavor, as far as he can, 
to conceive this cause of honor, or to regard it as actually 
existing. But, by the hypothesis, he conceives something 
else, which excludes the existence of the said cause of 
honor : wherefore he will thereat feel pain ( III. xix. ) 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLIII. Hatred is increased by being reciprocated, 
and can on the other hand be destroyed by love. 

Proof. He who conceives, that an object of his hate 
hates him in return, will thereupon feel a new hatred, 
while the former hatred ( by hypothesis ) still remains 
(III. xl.). But if on the other hand, he conceives that 
the object of hate loves him, he will to this extent (III. 
xxxviii.) regard himself with pleasure, and (III. xxix.) 
will endeavor to please the cause of his emotion. In other 
words, he will endeavor not to hate him (III. xli.), and 
not to affect him painfully; this endeavor (III. xxxvii. ) 
will be greater or less in proportion to the emotion from 
which it arises. Therefore, if it be greater than that 
which arises from hatred, and through which the man 
endeavors to affect painfully the thing which he hates, 
it will get the better of it and banish the hatred from, 
his mind. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLIV. Hatred which is completely vanquished 
by love passes into love: and love is thereupon greater 
than if hatred had not preceded it. 

Proof. The proof proceeds in the same way as Prop, 
xxxviii. of this Part: for he who begins to love a thing, 
which he was wont to hate or regard with pain, from the 
very fact of loving feels pleasure. To this pleasure 
involved in love is added the pleasure arising from aid 
given to the endeavor to remove the pain involved in 
hatred (III. xxxvii.), accompanied by the idea of the 
former object of hatred as cause. 

Note. Though this be so, no one will endeavor to 
hate anything, or to be affected with pain for the sake 
of enjoying this greater pleasure; that is, no one will 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 161 

desire that he should be injured, in the hope of recover 
ing from the injury, nor long to be ill for the sake of 
getting well. For every one will always endeavor to per 
sist in his being, and to ward off pain as far as he can. 
If the contrary is conceivable, namely, that a man should 
desire to hate some one, in order that he might love him 
the more thereafter, he will always desire to hate him. 
For the strength of the love is in proportion to the 
strength of the hatred, wherefore the man would desire, 
that the hatred be continually increased more and more, 
and, for a similar reason, he would desire to become 
more and more ill, in order that he might take greater 
pleasure in being restored to health; in such a case he 
would always endeavor to be ill, which (III. vi.) is ab 
surd. 

PROP. XLV. If a man conceives, that any one similar 
to himself hates anything also similar to himself, which 
he loves, he will hate that person. 

Proof. The beloved object feels reciprocal hatred 
toward him who hates it (III. xl.) ; therefore the lover, in 
conceiving that any one hates the beloved object, conceives 
the beloved thing as affected by hatred, in other words 
(III. xiii.), by pain; consequently he is himself affected 
by pain accompanied by the idea of the hater of the be 
loved thing as cause ; that is, he will hate him who hates 
anything which he himself loves (III. xiii. note). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLVI. If a man has been affected pleasurably or 
painfully by any one, of a class or nation different from 
his own, and if the pleasure or pain has been accompan 
ied by the idea of the said stranger as cause, under the 
general category of the class or nation : the man will feel 
love or hatred not only to the individual stranger, but 
also to the whole class or nation whereto he belongs. 

Proof. This is evident from III. xvi. 

PROP. XLVIL Joy arising from the fact, that anything 
we hate is destroyed, or suffers other injury, is never 
unaccompanied by a certain pain in us. 

Proof. This is evident from III. xxvii. For in so far 
as we conceive a thing similar to ourselves to be affected 
with pain, we ourselves feel pain. 
ii 



162 THE ETHICS 

Note. This proposition can also be proved from the 
Corollary to II. xvii. Whenever we remember anything, 
even if it does not actually exist, we regard it only as 
present and the body is affected in the same manner; 
wherefore, in so far as the remembrance of the thing is 
strong, a man is determined to regard it with pain; this 
determination, while the image of the thing in question 
lasts, is indeed checked by the remembrance of other 
things excluding the existence of the aforesaid thing, but 
is not destroyed: hence, a man only feels pleasure in so 
far as the said determination is checked: for this reason 
the joy arising from the injury done to what we hate is 
repeated, every time we remember that object of hatred. 
For, as we have said, when the image of the thing in 
question is aroused, inasmuch as it involves the thing s 
existence, it determines the man to regard the thing 
with the same pain as he was wont to do, when it actually 
did exist. However, since he has joined to the image 
of the thing other images, which exclude its existence, 
this determination to pain is forthwith checked, and the 
man rejoices afresh as often as the repetition takes place. 
This is the cause of men s pleasure in recalling past 
evils, and delight in narrating dangers from which they 
have escaped. For when men conceive a danger, they 
conceive it as still future, and are determined to fear it ; 
this determination is checked afresh by the idea of free 
dom, which became associated with the idea of the 
danger when they escaped therefrom: this renders them 
secure afresh: therefore they rejoice afresh. 

PROP. XL VII I. Love or hatred toward, for instance, 
Peter is destroyed, if the pleasure involved in the former, 
or the pain involved in the latter emotion, be associated 
with the idea of another cause: and will be diminished 
in proportion as we conceive Peter not to have been the 
sole cause of either emotion. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from the mere defini 
tion of love and hatred (III. xiii. note). For pleasure is 
called love toward Peter, and pain is called hatred toward 
Peter, simply in so far as Peter is regarded as the cause 
of one emotion or the other. When this condition of 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 163 

causality is either wholly or partly removed, the emo 
tion toward Peter also wholly or in part vanishes. Q.E.D. 
PROP. XLIX. Love or hatred toward a thing, which 
we conceive to be free, must, other conditions being- sim 
ilar, be greater than if it were felt toward a thing- act 
ing by necessity. 

Proof. A thing which we conceive as free must (I. Def. 
vii.) be perceived through itself without anything else. 
If, therefore, we conceive it as the cause of pleasure or 
pain, we shall therefore (III. xiii. note) love it or hate it, 
and shall do so with the utmost love or hatred that can 
arise from the given emotion. But if the thing which 
causes the emotion be conceived as acting by necessity, 
we shall then (by the same Def. vii. Part i.) conceive 
it not as the sole cause, but as one of the causes of the 
emotion, and therefore our love or hatred toward it will 
be less. Q.E.D. 

- Hence it follows, that men, thinking themselves 
to be free, feel more love or hatred toward one another 
than toward anything else : to this consideration we must 
add the imitation of emotions treated of in III. xxvii. 
xxxiv. xl. and xliii. 

PROP. L. Anything whatever can be, accidentally, a 
cause of hope or fear. 

Proof. --This proposition is proved in the same way 
as III. xv., which see, together with the note to III. 
xviii. 

Note. Things which are accidently the causes of hope 
or fear are called good or evil omens. Now, in so far 
as such omens are the cause of hope or fear, they are 
(by the definitions of hope and fear given in III. xviii. 
note) the causes also of pleasure and pain; consequently 
we, to this extent, regard them with love or hatred, and 
endeavor either to invoke them as means toward that 
which we hope for, or to remove them as obstacles, or 
causes of that which we fear. It follows, further, from 
III. xxv., that we are naturally so constituted as to be 
lieve readily in that which we hope for, and with diffi 
culty in that which we fear; moreover, we are apt to 
estimate such objects above or below their true value. 



164 THE ETHICS 

Hence there have arisen superstitions, whereby men are 
everywhere assailed. However, I do not think it worth 
while to point out here the vacillations springing from 
hope and fear; it follows from the definition of these 
emotions, that there can be no hope without fear, and 
no fear without hope, as I will duly explain in the proper 
place. Further, in so far as we hope for or fear anything, 
we regard it with love or hatred ; thus everyone can apply 
by himself to hope and fear what we have said concerning 
love and hatred. 

PROP. LI. Different men may be differently affected by 
the same object, and the same man may be differently 
affected at different times by the same object. 

Proof. The human body is affected by external bodies 
in a variety of ways (II. Post. iii.). Two men may 
therefore be differently affected at the same time, and 
therefore (by Ax. i. after Lemma iii. after II. xiii.) may 
be differently affected by one and the same object. 
Further (by the same Post.) the human body can be 
affected sometimes in one way, sometimes in another; 
consequently (by the same Axiom) it may be differently 
affected at different times by one and the same object. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. We thus see that it is possible, that what one 
man loves another may hate, and that what one man 
fears another may not fear; or, again, that one and the 
same man may love what he once hated, or may be bold 
where he once was timid, and so on. Again, as every 
one judges according to his emotions what is good, what 
bad, what better, and what worse (III. xxxix. note), it 
follows that men s judgments may vary no less than their 
emotions,* hence when we compare some with others, we 
distinguish them solely by the diversity of their emo 
tions, and style some intrepid, others timid, others by 
some other epithet. For instance, I shall call a man 
INTREPID, if he despises an evil which I am accustomed 
to fear; if I further take into consideration, that, in his 
desire to injure his enemies and to benefit those whom 

*This is possible, though the human mind is part of the divine 
intellect, as I have shown in II. xiii. note. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 165 

he loves, he is not restrained by the fear of an evil 
which is sufficient to restrain me, I shall call him DARING. 
Again, a man will appear TIMID to me, if he fears an evil 
which I am accustomed to despise ; and if I further take 
into consideration that his desire is restrained by the fear 
of an evil, which is not sufficient to restrain me, I shall 
say that he is COWARDLY; and in like manner will every 
one pass judgment. 

Lastly, from this inconstancy in the nature of human 
judgment, inasmuch as a man often judges of things 
solely by his emotions, and inasmuch as the things which 
he believes cause pleasure or pain, and therefore endeav 
ors to promote or prevent, are often purely imaginary, not 
to speak of the uncertainty of things alluded to in III. 
xxviii. ; we may readily conceive that a man may be at 
one time affected with pleasure, and at another with pain, 
accompanied by the idea of himself as cause. Thus we 
can easily understand what are REPENTANCE and SELF- 
COMPLACENCY. REPENTANCE is PAIN, ACCOMPANIED BY THE 

IDEA OF ONE S SELF AS CAUSE; SELF-COMPLACENCY IS PLEAS 
URE, ACCOMPANIED BY THE IDEA OF ONE S SELF AS CAUSE, 

and these emotions are most intense because men believe 
themselves to be free (III. xlix.). 

PROP. LII. An object which we have formerly seen in 
conjunction with others, and which we do not conceive 
to have any property that is not common to many, will 
not be regarded by us for so long, as an object which 
we conceive to have some property peculiar to itself. 

Proof. As soon as we conceive an object which we 
have seen in conjunction with others, we at once remem 
ber those others (II. xviii. and note), and thus we pass 
forthwith from the contemplation of one object to the 
contemplation of another object. And this is the case 
with the object, which we conceive to have no property 
that is not common to many. For we thereupon assume 
that we are regarding therein nothing, which we have 
not before seen in conjunction with other objects. But 
when we suppose that we conceive in an object some 
thing special, which we have never seen before, we must 
needs say that the mind, while regarding that object, 



i66 THE ETHICS 

has in itself nothing which it can fall to regarding in 
stead thereof; therefore it is determined to the contempla 
tion of that object only. Therefore an object, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. This mental modification, or imagination of a 
particular thing, in so far as it is alone in the 
mind, is called WONDER ; but if it be exited by an object 
of fear, it is called CONSTERNATION, because wonder at 
an evil keeps a man so engrossed in the simple contem 
plation thereof, that he has no power to think of any 
thing else whereby he might avoid the evil. If, how 
ever, the object of wonder be a man s prudence, indus 
try, or anything of that sort, inasmuch as the said man 
is thereby regarded as far surpassing ourselves, wonder 
is called VENERATION; otherwise, if a man s anger, envy, 
etc., be what we wonder at, the emotion is called HOR 
ROR. Again, if it be the prudence, industry, or what 
not, of a man we love, that we wonder at, our love will 
on this account be the greater (III. xii.), and when 
joined to wonder or veneration is called DEVOTION. We 
may in like manner conceive hatred, hope, confidence, 
and the other emotions, as associated with wonder; and 
we should thus be able to deduce more emotions than 
those which have obtained names in ordinary speech. 
Whence it is evident, that the names of the emotions 
have been applied in accordance rather with their ordi 
nary manifestations than with an accurate knowledge of 
their nature. 

To wonder is opposed CONTEMPT, which generally 
arises from the fact that, because we see someone won 
dering at, loving, or fearing something, or because some 
thing, at first sight, appears to be like things, which we 
ourselves wonder at, love, fear, etc., we are, in conse 
quence (III. xv. Coroll. and iii. xxvii.), determined to 
wonder at, love, or fear that thing. But if from the 
presence, or more accurate contemplation of the said 
thing, we are compelled to deny concerning it all that 
can be the cause of wonder, love, fear, etc., the mind, 
then, by the presence of the thing, remains determined 
to think rather of those qualities which are not in it, 
than of those which are in it; whereas, on the other 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 167 

hand, the presence of the object would cause it more 
particularly to regard that which is therein. As devo 
tion springs from wonder at a thing which we love, so 
does DERISION spring from contempt of a thing which 
we hate or fear, and SCORN from contempt of folly, as 
veneration from wonder at prudence. Lastly, we can 
conceive the emotions of love, hope, honor, etc., in associa 
tion with contempt, and can thence deduce other emo 
tions, which are not distinguished one from another by 
any recognized name. 

PROP. LIIL When the mind regards itself and its own 
power of activity, it feels pleasure; and that pleasure is 
greater in proportion to the distinctness wherewith it 
conceives itself and its own power of activity. 

Proof. A man does not know himself except through 
the modifications of his body, and the ideas thereof (II. 
xix. and xxiii.). When, therefore, the mind is able to 
contemplate itself, it is thereby assumed to pass to a 
greater perfection, or (III. xi. note) to feel pleasure ; and 
the pleasure will be greater in proportion to the distinct 
ness, wherewith it is able to conceive itself and its own 
power of activity. Q. E.D. 

Corollary. This pleasure is fostered more and more, 
in proportion as a man conceives himself to be praised 
by others. For the more he conceives himself as praised 
by others, the more he will imagine them to be affected 
with pleasure, accompanied by the idea of himself (III. 
xxix. note); thus he is (III. xxvii.) himself affected with 
greater pleasure, accompanied by the idea of himself. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. LIV. The mind endeavors to conceive only such 
things as assert its power of activity. 

Proof. The endeavor or power of the mind is the 
actual essence thereof (III. vii.); but the essence of the 
mind obviously only affirms that which the mind is and 
can do ; not that which it neither is nor can do ; therefore 
the mind endeavors to conceive only such things as assert 
or affirm its power of activity. Q.E.D. 

PROP. LV. When the mind contemplates its own weak 
ness, it feels pain thereat. 



168 THE ETHICS 

Proof. The essence of the mind only affirms that 
which the mind is, or can do; in other words, it is the 
mind s nature to conceive only such things as assert its 
power of activity (last Prop.). Thus, when we say that 
the mind contemplates its own weakness, we are merely 
saying that while the mind is attempting to conceive 
something which asserts its power of activity, it is 
checked in its endeavor in other words (III. xi. 
note), it feels pain. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. This pain is more and more fostered, if a 
man conceives that he is blamed by others ; this may be 
proved in the same way as the corollary to III. liii. 

Note. This pain, accompanied by the idea of our own 
weakness, is called HUMILITY; the pleasure, which springs 
from the contemplation of ourselves, is called SELF-LOVE 
or SELF-COMPLACENCY. And inasmuch as this feeling is 
renewed as often as a man contemplates his own virtues, 
or his own power of activity, it follows that every one is 
fond of narrating his own exploits, and displaying the 
force both of his body and mind, and also that for this 
reason, men are troublesome one to another. Again, it 
follows that men are naturally envious (III. xxiv. note, 
and III. xxxii. note), rejoicing in the shortcomings of 
their equals, and feeling pain at their virtues. For when 
ever a man conceives his own actions, he is affected 
with pleasure (III. liii.), in proportion as his actions dis 
play more perfection, and he conceives them more dis 
tinctly that is (II. xl. note), in proportion as he can 
distinguish them from others, and regard them as some 
thing special. Therefore, a man will take most pleasure 
in contemplating himself, when he contemplates some 
quality which he denies to others. But, if that which he 
affirms of himself be attributable to the idea of man or 
animals in general, he will not be so greatly pleased ; he 
will, on the contrary, feel pain, if he conceives that his 
own actions fall short when compared with those of 
others. This pain (III. xxviii.) he will endeavor to re 
move, by putting a wrong construction on the actions of 
his equals, or by, as far as he can, embellishing his 
own. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 169 

It is thus apparent that men are naturally prone to 
hatred and envy, which latter is fostered by their edu 
cation. For parents are accustomed to incite their chil 
dren to virtue solely by the spur of honor and envy. 
But, perhaps, some will scruple to assent to what I have 
said, because we not seldom admire men s virtues, and 
venerate their possessors. In order to remove such 
doubts, I append the following corollary. 

Corollary. No one envies the virtue of anyone who 
is not his equal. 

Proof. Envy is a species of hatred (III. xxiv. note) or 
(III. xiii. note) pain, that is (III. xi. note), a modification 
whereby a man s power of activity, or endeavor toward 
activity, is checked. But a man does not endeavor or 
desire to do anything, which cannot follow from his 
nature as it is given ; therefore a man will not desire any 
power of activity or virtue (which is the same thing) to 
be attributed to him, that is appropriate to another s 
nature and foreign to his own; hence his desire cannot 
be checked, nor he himself pained by the contemplation 
of virtue in some one unlike himself, consequently he 
cannot envy such an one. But he can envy his equal, 
who is assumed to have the same nature as himself. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. When, therefore, as we said in the note to III. 
Hi., we venerate a man, through wonder at his prudence, 
fortitude, etc., we do so, because we conceive those quali 
ties 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. 

PROP. LVI. There are as many kinds of pleasure, of 
pain, of desire, and of every emotion compounded of 
these, such as vacillations of spirit, or derived from these, 
such as love, hatred, hope, fear, etc., as there are kinds 
of objects whereby we are affected. 

Proof. Pleasure and pain, and consequently the emo 
tions compounded thereof, or derived therefrom, are 
passions, or passive states (III. xi. note); now we are 
necessarily passive (III. i.), in so far as we have inade 
quate ideas ; and only in so far as we have such ideas are 



i;o THE ETHICS 

we passive (III. iii.); that is, we are only necessarily 
passive (II. xl. note), in so far as we conceive, or (II. 
xvii. and note) in so far as we are affected by an emo 
tion, which involves the nature of our own body, and 
the nature of an external body. Wherefore the nature 
of every passive state must necessarily be so explained, 
that the nature of the object whereby we are affected 
be expressed. Namely, the pleasure, which arises from, 
say, the object A, involves the nature of that object A, 
and the pleasure, which arises from the object B, involves 
the nature of the object B; wherefore these two pleas 
urable emotions are by nature different, inasmuch as the 
causes whence they arise are by nature different. So 
again the emotion of pain, which arises from one object, 
is by nature different from the pain arising from another 
object, and, similarly, in the case of love, hatred, hope, 
fear, vacillation, etc. 

Thus, there are necessarily as many kinds of pleasure, 
pain, love, hatred, etc., as there are kinds of objects 
whereby we are affected. Now desire is each man s es 
sence or nature, in so far as it is conceived as determined 
to a particular action by any given modification of itself 
(III. ix. note) ; therefore, according as a man is affected 
through external causes by this or that kind of pleasure, 
pain, love, hatred, etc., in other words, according as his 
nature is disposed in this or that manner, so will his 
desire be of one kind or another, and the nature of one 
desire must necessarily differ from the nature of another 
desire, as widely as the emotions differ, wherefrom each 
desire arose. Thus there are as many kinds of desire, 
as there are kinds of pleasure, pain, love, etc., conse 
quently (by what has been shown) there are as many 
kinds of desire, as there are kinds of objects whereby 
we are affected. Q.E.D. 

Note. Among the kinds of emotions, which, by the 
last proposition, must be very numerous, the chief are 

LUXURY, DRUNKENNESS, LUST, AVARICE, and AMBITION, being 

merely species of love or desire, displaying the nature 
of those emotions in a manner varying according to the 
object, with which they are concerned. For by luxury, 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 171 

drunkenness, lust, avarice, ambition, etc., we simply 
mean the immoderate love of feasting, drinking 1 , venery, 
riches, and fame. Furthermore, these emotions, in so far 
as we distinguish them from others merely by the objects 
wherewith they are concerned, have no contraries. For 
TEMPERANCE, SOBRIETY, and CHASTITY, which we are wont 
to oppose to luxury, drunkenness, and lust, are not emo 
tions or passive states, but indicate a power of the mind 
which moderates the last named emotions. However, I 
cannot here explain the remaining kinds of emotions (see 
ing that they are as numerous as the kinds of objects), 
nor, if I could, would it be necessary. It is sufficient 
for our purpose, namely, to determine the strength of 
the emotions, and the mind s power over them, to have 
a general definition of each emotion. It is sufficient, I 
repeat, to understand the general properties of the emo 
tions and the mind, to enable us to determine the quality 
and extent of the mind s power in moderating and check 
ing the emotions. Thus, though there is a great difference 
between various emotions of love, hatred, or desire, for in 
stance between love felt toward children, and love felt 
toward a wife, there is no need for us to take cognizance 
of such differences, or to track out further the nature and 
origin of the emotions. 

PROP. LVII. Any emotion of a given individual differs 
from the emotion of another individual, only in so far 
as the essence of the one individual differs from the essence 
of the other. 

Proof. This proposition is evident from Ax. i. (which 
see after Lemma iii. Prop. xiii. Part ii.). Nevertheless, 
we will prove it from the nature of the three primary 
emotions. 

All emotions are attributable to desire, pleasure, or 
pain, as their definitions above given show. But desire is 
each man s nature or essence (III. ix. note); therefore 
desire in one individual differs from desire in another 
individual, only in so far as the nature or essence of the 
one differs from the nature or essence of the other. 
Again, pleasure and pain are passive states or passions, 
whereby every man s power or endeavor to persist in his 



THE ETHICS 



being is increased or diminished, helped or hindered 
(III. xi. and note). But by the endeavor to persist in its 
being, in so far as it is attributable to mind and body in 
conjunction, we mean appetite and desire (III. i x . note); 
therefore pleasure and pain are identical with desire or 
appetite, in so far as by external causes they are in- 
increased or diminished, helped or hindered, in other 
words, they are every man s nature ; wherefore the pleasure 
and pain felt by one man differ from the pleasure and 
pain felt by another man, only in so far as the nature 
or essence of the one man differs from the essence of the 
other; consequently, any emotion of one individual only 
differs, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. Hence it follows, that the emotions of the 
animals which are called irrational (for after learning 
the origin of mind we cannot doubt that brutes feel), 
differ only from man s emotions, to the extent that brute 
nature differs from human nature. Horse and man are 
alike carried away by the desire of procreation; but the 
desire of the former is equine, the desire of the latter is 
human. So also the lusts and appetites of insects, fishes, 
and birds must needs vary accoiding to the several na 
tures. Thus, although each individual lives content and 
rejoices in that nature belonging to him wherein he has 
his being, yet the life, wherein each is content and re 
joices, is nothing else but the idea, or soul, of the said 
individual, and hence the joy of one differs only in nature 
from the joy of another, to the extent that the essence 
of one differs from the essence of another. Lastly, it 
follows from the foregoing proposition, that there is no 
small difference between the joy which actuates, say, a 
drunkard, and the joy possessed by a philosopher, as I 
just mention here by the way. Thus far I have treated 
of the emotions attributable to man, in so far as he is 
passive. It remains to add a few words on those attrib 
utable to him in so far as he is active. 

PROP. LVIII. Besides pleasure and desire, which are 
passivities or passions, there are other emotions derived 
from pleasure and desire, which are attributable to us in 
so far as we are active. 



ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE EMOTIONS 173 

Proof. When the mind conceives itself and its power 
of activity, it feels pleasure (III. liii.): now the mind 
necessarily contemplates itself, when it conceives a true 
or adequate idea (II. xliii). But the mind does conceive 
certain adequate ideas (II. xl. note 2). Therefore, it 
feels pleasure in so far as it conceives adequate ideas; 
that is, in so far as it is active (III. i). Again, the 
mind, both in so far as it has clear and distinct ideas, 
and in so far as it has confused ideas, endeavors to per 
sist in its own being (III. ix.); but by such an endeavor 
we mean desire (by the note to the same Prop.); there 
fore, desire is also attributable to us, in so far as we 
understand, or (III. i.) in so far as we are active. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. LIX. Among all the emotions attributable to the 
mind as active, there are none which cannot be referred 
to pleasure or pain. 

Proof. All emotions can be referred to desire, pleasure, 
or pain, as their definitions, already given, show. Now 
by pain we mean that the mind s power of thinking is 
diminished or checked (III. xi. and note); therefore, in 
so far as the mind feels pain, its power of understanding, 
that is, of activity, is diminished or checked (III. i.); 
therefore, no painful emotions can be attributed to the 
mind in virtue of its being active, but only emotions 
of pleasure and desire, which (by the last Prop.) are 
attributable to the mind in that condition. Q.E.D. 

Note. All actions following from emotion, which are 
attributable to the mind in virtue of its understanding, 
I set down to STRENGTH OF CHARACTER (fortitudo), which 
I divide into COURAGE (animositas) and HIGH-MINDEDNESS 
(generositas). By COURAGE I mean THE DESIRE WHEREBY 

EVERY MAN STRIVES TO PRESERVE HIS OWN BEING IN AC 
CORDANCE SOLELY WITH THE DICTATES OF REASON. By 
HIGH-MINDEDNESS I mean THE DESIRE WHEREBY EVERY MAN 
ENDEAVORS, SOLELY UNDER THE DICTATES OF REASON, TO 
AID OTHER MEN AND TO UNITE THEM TO HIMSELF IN FRIEND 
SHIP. Those actions, therefore, which have regard solely 
to the good of the agent I set down to courage, those 
which aim at the good of others I set down to high- 



*74 THE ETHICS 

mindedness. Thus temperance, sobriety, and presence 
of mind in danger, etc., are varieties of courage; courtesy, 
mercy, etc., are varieties of high-mindedness. 

I think I have thus explained, and displayed through 
their primary causes the principal emotions and vacillations 
of spirit, which arise from the combination of the three 
primary emotions, to wit, desire, pleasure, and pain. It is 
evident from what I have said, that we are in many ways 
driven about by external causes, and that like waves of the 
sea driven by contrary winds we toss to and fro unwitting 
of the issue and of our fate. But I have said, that I have 
only set forth the chief conflicting emotions, not all that 
might be given. For, by proceeding in the same way as 
above, we can easily show that love is united to repentance, 
scorn, shame, etc. I think everyone will agree from what 
has been said, that the emotions may be compounded one 
with another in so many ways, and so many variations may 
arise therefrom, as to exceed all possibility of computation. 
However, for my purpose, it is enough to have enumerated 
the most important; to reckon up the rest which I have 
omitted would be more curious than profitable. It remains 
to remark concerning love, that it very often happens that 
while we are enjoying a thing which we longed for, the 
body, from the act of enjoyment, acquires a new disposi 
tion, whereby it is determined in another way, other images 
of things are aroused in it, and the mind begins to con 
ceive and desire something fresh. For example, when we 
conceive something which generally delights us with its 
flavor, we desire to enjoy, that is, to eat it. But whilst 
we are thus enjoying it, the stomach is filled and the body 
is otherwise disposed. If, therefore, when the body is thus 
otherwise disposed, the image of the food which is present 
be stimulated, and consequently the endeavor or desire to 
eat it be stimulated also, the new disposition of the body 
will feel repugnance to the desire or attempt, and conse 
quently the presence of the food which we formerly longed 
for will become odious. This revulsion of feeling is called 
SATIETY or weariness. For the rest, I have neglected the 
outward modifications of the body observable in emotions, 
such, for instance, as trembling, pallor, sobbing, laughter^ 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 175 

etc., for these are attibutable to the body only, without 
any reference to the mind. Lastly, the definitions of the 
emotions require to be supplemented in a few points; I 
will therefore repeat them, interpolating such observations 
as I think should here and there be added. 

DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS. 

I. DESIRE is the actual essence of man, in so far as it 
is conceived, as determined to a particular activity by 
some given modification of itself. 

Explanation. We have said above, in the note to Prop, 
ix. of this part, that desire is appetite, with consciousness 
thereof; further, that appetite is the essence of man, in 
so far as it is determined to act in a way tending to pro 
mote its own persistence. But, in the same note, I also 
remarked that, strictly speaking, I recognize no distinc 
tion between appetite and desire. For whether a man 
be conscious of his appetite or not, it remains one and 
the same appetite. Thus, in order to avoid the appear 
ance of tautology, I have refrained from explaining desire 
by appetite ; but I have taken care to define it in such a 
manner, as to comprehend, under one head, all those 
endeavors of human nature, which we distinguish by the 
terms appetite, will, desire, or impulse. I might, indeed, 
have said, that desire is the essence of man, in so far 
as it is conceived as determined to a particular activity; 
but from such a definition (cf. II. xxiii.) it would not 
follow that the mind can be conscious of its desire or 
appetite. Therefore, in order to imply the cause of such 
consciousness, it was necessary to add, IN so FAR AS IT is 

DETERMINED BY SOME GIVEN MODIFICATION, etc. For, by a 

modification of man s essence, we understand every dis 
position of the said essence, whether such disposition be 
innate, or whether it be conceived solely under the 
attribute of thought, or solely under the attribute of 
extension, or whether, lastly, it be referred simultane 
ously to both these attributes. By the term desire, then, 
I here mean all man s endeavors, impulses, appetites, and 
volitions, which vary according to each man s disposition, 
and are, therefore, not seldom opposed one to another, 



i?6 THE ETHICS 

according as a man is drawn in different directions, and 
knows not where to turn. 

II. PLEASURE is the transition of a man from a less to 
a greater perfection. 

III. PAIN is the transition of a man from a greater to 
a less perfection. 

Explanation. I say transition: for pleasure is not per 
fection itself. For, if man were born with the perfection 
to which he passes, he would possess the same, without 
the emotion of pleasure. This appears more clearly from 
the consideration of the contrary emotion, pain. No one 
can deny that pain consists in the transition to a less 
perfection and not in the less perfection itself : for a man 
cannot be pained, in so far as he partakes of perfection 
of any degree. Neither can we say that pain consists 
in the absence of a greater perfection. For absence is 
nothing, whereas the emotion of pain is an activity; 
wherefore this activity can only be the activity of transi 
tion from a greater to a less perfection in other words, it 
is an activity whereby a man s power of action is lessened 
or constrained (cf. III. xi. note). I pass over the defini 
tions of merriment, stimulation, melancholy, and grief, 
because these terms are generally used in reference to 
the body, and are merely kinds of pleasure or pain. 

IV. WONDER is the conception ( imaginatio ) of any 
thing, wherein the mind comes to a stand, because the 
particular concept in question has no connection with 
other concepts (cf. III. Hi. and note). 

Explanation. In the note to II. xviii. we showed the 
reason why the mind, from the contemplation of one 
thing, straightway falls to the contemplation of another 
thing, namely, because the images of the two things are 
so associated and arranged, that one follows the other. 
This state of association is impossible, if the image of the 
thing be new; the mind will then be at a stand in the 
contemplation thereof, until it is determined by other 
causes to think of something else. 

Thus the conception of a new object, considered in 
itself, is of the same nature as other conceptions; hence, I 
do not include wonder among the emotions, nor do I see 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 177 

why I should so include it, inasmuch as this distraction 
of the mind arises from no positive cause drawing away 
the mind from other objects, but merely from the absence 
of a cause, which should determine the mind to pass from 
the contemplation of one object to the contemplation of 
another. 

I, therefore, recognize only three primitive or primary 
emotions (as I said in the note to III. xi.), namely, 
pleasure, pain, and desire. I have spoken of wonder, 
simply because it is customary to speak of certain emo 
tions springing from the three primitive ones by different 
names, when they are referred to the objects of our 
wonder. I am led by the same motive to add a definition 
of contempt. 

V. CONTEMPT is the conception of anything which 
touches the mind so little, that its presence leads the 
mind to imagine those qualities which are not in it, 
rather than such as are in it (cf. III. Hi. note). 

The definitions of veneration and scorn I here pass over, 
for I am not aware that any emotions are named after 
them. 

VI. LOVE is pleasure, accompanied by the idea of an 
external cause. 

. Explanation. This definition explains sufficiently clearly 
the essence of love ; the definition given by those authors 
who say that love is THE LOVER S WISH TO UNITE HIMSELF 
TO THE LOVED OBJECT expresses a property, but not the 
essence of love ; and, as such authors have not sufficiently 
discerned love s essence, they have been unable to acquire 
a true conception of its properties, accordingly their defi 
nition is on all hands admitted to be very obscure. It 
must, however, be noted, that when I say that it is a 
property of love, that the lover should wish to unite 
himself to the beloved object, I do not here mean by 
WISH consent, or conclusion, or a free decision of the 
mind (for I have shown such, in II. xlviii. to be fic 
titious); neither do I mean a desire of being united to 
the loved object when it is absent, or of continuing in 
its presence when it is at hand ; for love can be conceived 
without either of these desires; but by WISH I mean the 



178 THE ETHICS 

contentment, which is in the lover, on account of the 
presence of the beloved object, whereby the pleasure of 
the lover is strengthened, or at least maintained. 

VII. HATRED is pain, accompanied by the idea of an 
external cause. 

Explanation. These observations are easily grasped 
after what has been said in the explanation of the pre 
ceding definition (cf. also III. xiii. note). 

VIII. INCLINATION is pleasure accompanied by the idea 
of something which is accidentally a cause of pleasure. 

IX. AVERSION is pain, accompanied by the idea of some 
thing which is accidentally the cause of pain (cf. III. xv. 
note). 

X. DEVOTION is love toward one whom we admire. 
Explanation. Wonder (admiratio) arises (as we have 

shown, III. lii.) from the novelty of a thing. If, there 
fore, it happens that the object of our wonder is often 
conceived by us, we shall cease to wonder at it ; thus we 
see, that the emotion of devotion readily degenerates into 
simple love. 

XL DERISION is pleasure arising from our conceiving 
the presence of a quality, which we despise, in an object 
which we hate. 

Explanation. In so far as we despise a thing which 
we hate, we deny existence thereof (III. lii. note), and 
to that extent rejoice (III. xx.). But since we assume 
that man hates that which he derides, it follows that the 
pleasure in question is not without alloy (cf. III. xlvii. 
note). 

XII. HOPE is an inconstant pleasure, arising from the 
idea of something past or future, whereof we to a certain 
extent doubt the issue. 

XIII. FEAR is an inconstant pain arising from the idea 
of something past or future, whereof we to a certain 
extent doubt the issue (cf. III. xviii. note). 

Explanation. From these definitions it follows, that 
there is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear un- 
mingled with hope. For he, who depends on hope and 
doubts concerning the issue of anything, is assumed to 
conceive something, which excludes the existence of the 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 179 

said thing- in the future; therefore he, to this extent, 
feels pain (cf. III. xix.); consequently while dependent 
on hope, he fears for the issue. Contrariwise he, who 
fears, in other words doubts, concerning the issue of 
something which he hates, also conceives something which 
excludes the existence of the thing in question; to this 
extent he feels pleasure, and consequently to this extent 
he hopes that it will turn out as he desires (III. xx.). 

XIV. CONFIDENCE is pleasure arising from the idea of 
something past or future, wherefrom all cause of doubt 
has been removed. 

XV. DESPAIR is pain arising from the idea of some 
thing past or future, wherefrom all cause of doubt has 
been removed. 

Explanation. Thus confidence springs from hope, and 
despair from fear, when all cause for doubt as to the issue 
of an event has been removed: this comes to pass, because 
man conceives something past or future as present and 
regards it as such, or else because he conceives other 
things, which exclude the existence of the causes of his 
doubt. For, although we can never be absolutely certain 
of the issue of any particular event (II. xxxi. Coroll.), 
it may nevertheless happen that we feel no doubt con 
cerning it. For we have shown, that to feel no doubt 
concerning a thing is not the same as to be quite certain 
of it (II. xlix. note). Thus it may happen that we are 
affected by the same emotion of pleasure or pain con 
cerning a thing past or future, as concerning the 
conception of a thing present; this I have already 
shown in III. xviii. to which, with its note, I refer the 
reader. 

XVI. JOY is pleasure accompanied by the idea of some 
thing past, which has had an issue beyond our hope. 

XVII. DISAPPOINTMENT is pain accompanied by the idea 
of something past, which has had an issue contrary to 
our hope. 

XVIII. PITY is pain accompanied by the idea of evil, 
which has befallen some one else whom we conceive to 
be like ourselves (cf. III. xxii. note, and III. xxvii. note). 

Explanation. Between pity and sympathy (mis eric or dia) 



!8o THE ETHICS 

there seems to be no difference, unless perhaps that the 
former term is used in reference to a particular action, 
and the latter in reference to a disposition. 

XIX. APPROVAL is love toward one who has done good 
to another. 

XX. INDIGNATION is hatred toward one who has done 
evil to another. 

Explanation. I am aware that these terms are employed 
in senses somewhat different from those usually assigned. 
But my purpose is to explain, not the meaning of words, 
but the nature of things. I therefore make use of such 
terms, as may convey my meaning without any violent 
departure from their ordinary signification. One state 
ment of my method will suffice. As for the cause of the 
above named emotions see III, xxvii. Coroll. i., and III. 
xxii. note. 

XXI. PARTIALITY is thinking too highly of any one because 
of the love we bear him. 

XXII. DISPARAGEMENT is thinking too meanly of any one, 
because we hate him. 

Explanation. Thus partiality is an effect of love and 
disparagement an effect of hatred: so that PARTIALITY may 
also be defined as love, in so far as it induces a man to 
think too highly of a beloved object. Contrariwise, DIS 
PARAGEMENT may be defined as hatred, in so far as it 
induces a man to think too meanly of a hated object. 
cf. III. xx vi. note. 

XXIII. ENVY is hatred, in so far as it induces a man 
to be pained by another s good fortune, and to rejoice in 
another s evil fortune. 

Explanation. Envy is generally opposed to sympathy, 
which, by doing some violence to the meaning of the 
word, may therefore be thus defined: 

XXIV. SYMPATHY (mis eric or dia) is love, in so far as it 
induces a man to feel pleasure at another s good fortune, 
and pain at another s evil fortune. 

Explanation. Concerning envy see the notes to III. 
xxiv. and xxxii. These emotions also arise from pleasure 
or pain accompanied by the idea of something external, 
as cause either in itself or accidentally. I now pass on 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 181 

to other emotions, which are accompanied by the idea of 
something within as a cause. 

XXV. SELF-APPROVAL is pleasure arising from a man s 
contemplation of himself and his own power of action. 

XXVI. HUMILITY is pain arising from a man s con 
templation of his own weakness of body or mind. 

Explanation. Self-complacency is opposed to humility, 
in so far as we thereby mean pleasure arising from a 
contemplation of our own power of action ; but, in so far 
as we mean thereby pleasure accompanied by the idea 
of any action which we believe we have performed by the 
free decision of our mind, it is opposed to repentance, 
w r hich we may thus define: 

XXVII. REPENTANCE is pain accompanied by the idea 
of some action, which we believe we have performed by 
the free decision of our mind. 

Explanation. The causes of these emotions we have 
set forth in III. li. note, and in III. liii. liv. Iv. and note. 
Concerning the free decision of the mind, see II. xxxv. 
note. This is perhaps the place to call attention to the 
fact that it is nothing wonderful that all those actions, 
which are commonly called WRONG, are followed by pain, 
and all those, which are called RIGHT, are followed by 
pleasure. We can easily gather, from what has been said, 
that this depends in great measure on education. Parents, 
by reprobating the former class of actions, and by fre 
quently chiding their children because of them, and also 
by persuading to and praising the latter class, have brought 
it about that the former should be associated with pain 
and the latter with pleasure. This is confirmed by ex 
perience. For custom and religion are not the same 
among all men, but that which some consider sacred 
others consider profane, and what some consider honor 
able others consider disgraceful. According as each man 
has been educated, he feels repentance for a given action 
or glories therein. 

XXVIII. PRIDE is thinking too highly of one s self from 
self-love. 

Explanation. Thus pride is different from partiality, 
for the latter term is used in reference to an external 



182 THE ETHICS 

object, but pride is used of a man thinking too highly of 
himself. However, as partiality is the effect of love, so 
is pride the effect or property of SELF-LOVE, which may 
therefore be thus defined, LOVE OF SELF OR SELF-APPROVAL, 

IN SO FAR AS IT LEADS A MAN TO THINK TOO HIGHLY OF 

HIMSELF. To this emotion there is no contrary. For no 
one thinks too meanly of himself because of self -hatred; 
I say that no one thinks too meanly of himself, in so far 
as he conceives that he is incapable of doing this or that. 
For whatsoever a man imagines that he is incapable of 
doing, he imagines this of necessity, and by that notion 
he is so disposed, that he really cannot do that which he 
conceives that he cannot do. For, so long as he con 
ceives that he cannot do it, so long is he not determined 
to do it, and consequently so long is it impossible for 
him to do it. However, if we consider such matters as 
only depend on opinion, we shall find it conceivable that 
a man may think too meanly of himself; for it may hap 
pen, that a man, sorrowfully regarding his own weakness, 
should imagine that he is despised by all men, while the 
rest of the world are thinking of nothhig less than of de 
spising him. Again, a man may think too meanly of 
himself, if he deny of himself in the present something 
in relation to a future time of which he is uncertain. 
As, for instance, if he should say that he is unable to 
form any clear conceptions, or that he can desire and do 
nothing but what is wicked and base, etc. We may also 
say, that a man thinks too meanly of himself, when we 
see him from excessive fear of shame refusing to do 
things which others, his equals, venture. We can, 
therefore, set down as a contrary to pride an emotion 
which I will call self-abasement, for as from self- 
complacency springs pride, so from humility springs self- 
abasement, which I will accordingly, thus define: 

XXIX. SELF-ABASEMENT is thinking too meanly of one s 
self by reason of pain. 

Explanation. We are nevertheless generally accus 
tomed to oppose pride to humility, but in that case we 
pay more attention to the effect of either emotion than 
to its nature. We are wont to call PROUD the man who 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 183 

boasts too much (III, xxx. note), who talks of nothing 
but his own virtues and other people s faults, who wishes 
to be first ; and lastly who goes through life with a style 
and pomp suitable to those far above him in station. On 
the other hand, we call HUMBLE the man who too often 
blushes, who confesses his faults, who sets forth other 
men s virtues, and who, lastly, walks with bent head and 
is negligent of his attire. However, these emotions, 
humility and self-abasement, are extremely rare. For 
human nature, considered in itself, strives against them 
as much as it can (see III. xiii. liv.); hence those, who 
are believed to be most self -abased and humble, are gen 
erally in reality the most ambitious and envious. 

XXX. HONOR is pleasure accompanied by the idea of 
some action of our own, which we believe to be praised 
by others. 

XXXI. SHAME is pain accompanied by the idea of some 
action of our own, which we believe to be blamed by 
others. 

Explanation. On this subject see the note to III. xxx. 
But we should here remark the difference which exists 
between shame and modesty. Shame is the pain follow 
ing the deed whereof we are ashamed. Modesty is the 
fear or dread of shame, which restrains a man from 
committing a base action. Modesty is usually opposed 
to shamelessness, but the latter is not an emotion, as I 
will duly show; however, the names of the emotions (as 
I have remarked already) have regard rather to their 
exercise than to their nature. 

I have now fulfilled my task of explaining the emo 
tions arising from pleasure and pain. I therefore proceed 
to treat of those which I refer to desire. 

XXXII. REGRET is the desire or appetite to possess 
something, kept alive by the remembrance of the said 
thing, and at the same time constrained by the remem 
brance of other things which exclude the existence of it. 

Explanation. When we remember a thing, we are by 
that very fact, as I have already said more than once, dis 
posed to contemplate it with the same emotion as if it 
were something present ; but this disposition or endeavor, 



184 THE ETHICS 

while we are awake, is generally checked by the images 
of things which exclude the existence of that which we 
remember. Thus when we remember something which 
affected us with a certain pleasure, we by that very fact 
endeavor to regard it with the same emotion of pleasure 
as though it were present, but this endeavor is at once 
checked by the remembrance of things which exclude the 
existence of the thing in question. Wherefore, regret is, 
strictly speaking, a pain opposed to that pleasure, which 
arises from the absence of something we hate (cf. III. 
xlvii. note). But, as the name regret seems to refer to 
desire, I set this emotion down, among the emotions 
springing from desire. 

XXXIII. EMULATION is the desire of something, engen 
dered in us by our conception that others have the same 
desire. 

Explanation. He who runs away, because he sees others 
running away, or he who fears, because he sees others in 
fear; or again, he who, on seeing that another man has 
burnt his hand, draws toward him his own hand, and 
moves his body as though his own hand were burnt; such 
an one can be said to imitate another s emotion, but not to 
emulate him ; not because the causes of emulation and imi 
tation are different, but because it has become customary 
to speak of emulation only in him, who imitates that which 
we deem to be honorable, useful, or pleasant. As to the 
cause of emulation, cf. III. xxvii. and note. The reason 
why this emotion is generally coupled with envy may be 
seen from III. xxxii. and note. 

XXXIV. THANKFULNESS or GRATITUDE is the desire or 
zeal springing from love, whereby we endeavor to benefit 
him, who with similar feelings of love has conferred a 
benefit on us. Cf. III. xxxix. note and xl. 

XXXV. BENEVOLENCE is the desire of benefiting one 
whom we pity. Cf. III. xxvii. note. 

XXXVI. ANGER is the desire, whereby through hatred 
we are induced to injure one whom we hate, III. xxxix. 

XXXVII. REVENGE is the desire whereby we are induced, 
through mutual hatred, to injure one who, with similar 
feelings, has injured us. (See III. xl. Coroll. ii. and note.) 



DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 185 

XXXVIII. CRUELTY or SAVAGENESS is the desire, where 
by a man is impelled to injure one whom we love or 
pity. 

Explanation. To cruelty is opposed clemency, which 
is not a passive state of the mind, but a power whereby 
man restrains his anger and revenge. 

XXXIX. TIMIDITY is the desire to avoid a greater evil, 
which we dread, by undergoing a lesser evil. Cf. III. 
xxxix. note. 

XL. DARING, is the desire, whereby a man is set on to do 
something dangerous which his equals fear to attempt. 

XLI. COWARDICE is attributed to one, whose desire is 
checked by the fear of some danger which his equals 
dare to encounter. 

Explanation. Cowardice is, therefore, nothing else but 
the fear of some evil, which most men are wont not to 
fear ; hence I do not reckon it among the emotions spring 
ing from desire. Nevertheless, I have chosen to explain 
it here, because, in so far as we look to the desire, it is 
truly opposed to the emotion of daring. 

XLII. CONSTERNATION is attributed to one, whose de 
sire of avoiding evil is checked by amazement at the 
evil which he fears. 

Explanation. Consternation is, therefore, a species of 
cowardice. But, inasmuch as consternation arises from a 
double fear, it may be more conveniently defined as a 
fear which keeps a man so bewildered and wavering, 
that he is not able to remove the evil. I say bewildered, 
in so far as we understand his desire of removing the 
evil to be constrained by his amazement. I say waver 
ing, in so far as we understand the said desire to be 
constrained by the fear of another evil, which equally 
torments him: whence it comes to pass that he knows 
not, which he may avert of the two. On this subject, 
see III. xxxix. note, and III. lii. note. Concerning 
cowardice and daring, see III. li. note. 

XLIII. COURTESY, or DEFERENCE (humanitas seu modes- 
tia), is the desire of acting in a way that should please 
men, and refraining from that which should displease 
them. 



186 THE ETHICS 

XLIV. AMBITION is the immoderate desire of power. 
Explanation, Ambition is the desire, whereby all the 
emotions (cf. III. xxvii. and xxxi.) are fostered and 
strengthened; therefore this emotion can with difficulty 
be overcome. For, so long as a man is bound by any 
desire, he is at the same time necessarily bound by this. 
"The best men, says Cicero, <( are especially led by 
honor. Even philosophers, when they write a book con 
temning honor, sign their names there to, and so on. 

XLV. LUXURY is excessive desire, or even love of liv 
ing sumptuously. 

XLVI. INTEMPERANCE is the excessive desire and love 
of drinking. 

XLVII. AVARICE is the excessive desire and love of 
riches. 

XLVIII. LUST is desire and love in the matter of sex 
ual intercourse. 

Explanation. Whether this desire be excessive or not, 
it is still called lust. These last five emotions (as I have 
shown in III. Ivi.) have no contraries. For deference is 
a species of ambition. Cf. III. xxix. note. 

Again, I have already pointed out, that temperance, 
sobriety and chastity indicate rather a power than a 
passivity of the mind. It may, nevertheless, happen, 
that an avaricious, an ambitious, or a timid man may ab 
stain from excess in eating, drinking, or sexual indul 
gence, yet avarice, ambition, and fear are not contraries 
to luxury, drunkenness, and debauchery. For an avari 
cious man is often glad to gorge himself with food and drink 
at another man s expense. An ambitious man will re 
strain himself in nothing, so long as he thinks his in 
dulgences are secret; and if he lives among drunkards 
and debauchees, he will, from the mere fact of being 
ambitious, be more prone to those vices. Lastly, a timid 
man does that which he would not. For though an av 
aricious man should, for the sake of avoiding death, cast 
his riches into the sea, he will none the less remain 
avaricious; so, also, if a lustful man is downcast, because 
he cannot follow his bent, he does not, on the ground 
of abstention, cease to be lustful. In fact, these emo- 



GENERAL DEFINITIONS OF THE EMOTIONS 187 

tions are not so much concerned with the actual feasting, 
drinking, etc., as with the appetite and love of such. 
Nothing, therefore, can be opposed to these emotions, 
but high-mindedness and valor, whereof I will speak 
presently. 

The definitions of jealousy and other waverings of the 
mind I pass over in silence, first, because they arise 
from the compounding of the emotions already described ; 
secondly, because many of them have no distinctive names, 
which shows that it is sufficient for practical purposes 
to have merely a general knowledge of them. However, 
it is established from the definitions of the emotions, 
which we have set forth, that they all spring from de 
sire, pleasure, or pain, or rather, that there is nothing 
besides these three ; wherefore each is wont to be called 
by a variety of names in accordance with its various rela 
tions and extrinsic tokens. If we now direct our attention 
to these primitive emotions, and to what has been said 
concerning the nature of the mind, we shall be able thus 
to define the emotions, in so far as they are referred to 
the mind only. 

GENERAL DEFINITION OF THE EMOTIONS. 

Emotion, which is called a passivity of the soul, is a 
confused idea, whereby the mind affirms concerning its 
body, or any part thereof, a force for existence (exist endi 
vis) greater or less than before, and by the presence of 
which the mind is determined to think of one thing 
rather than another. 

Explanation. I say, first, that emotion or passion of 
the soul is A CONFUSED IDEA. For we have shown that 
the mind is only passive, in so far as it has inadequate 
or confused ideas. (III. iii.) I say, further, WHEREBY 

THE MIND AFFIRMS CONCERNING ITS BODY OR ANY PART 
THEREOF A FORCE FOR EXISTENCE GREATER THAN BEFORE. 

For all the ideas of bodies, which we possess, denote 
rather the actual disposition of our own body (II. xvi. 
Coroll. ii.) than the nature of an external body. But 
the idea which constitutes the reality of an emotion 
must denote or express the disposition of the body, or of 



i88 THE ETHICS 

some part thereof, which is possessed by the body, or 
some part thereof, because its power of action or force 
for existence is increased or diminished, helped or hin 
dered. But it must be noted that, when I say A GREATER 
OR LESS FORCE FOR EXISTENCE than before, I do not 
mean that the mind compares the present with the past 
disposition of the body, but that the idea which consti 
tutes the reality of an emotion affirms something of the 
body, which, in fact, involves more or less of reality 
than before. 

And inasmuch as the essence of mind consists in the 
fact (II. xi. xiii.), that it affirms the actual existence of 
its own body, and inasmuch as we understand by per 
fection the very essence of a thing, it follows that the 
mind passes to greater or less perfection, when it hap 
pens to affirm concerning its own body, or any part 
thereof, something involving more or less reality than 
before. 

When, therefore, I said above that the power of the 
mind is increased or diminished, I merely meant that the 
mind had formed of its own body, or of some part 
thereof, an idea involving more or less of reality, than 
it had already affirmed concerning its own body. For 
the excellence of ideas, and the actual power of think 
ing are measured by the excellence of the object. Lastly, 
I have added BY THE PRESENCE OF WHICH THE MIND is 

DETERMINED TO THINK OF ONE THING RATHER THAN AN 
OTHER, so that, besides the nature of pleasure and pain, 
which the first part of the definition explains, I might 
also express the nature of desire. 



PART IV. 

OF HUMAN BONDAGE, OR THE STRENGTH OF 
THE EMOTIONS. 

PREFACE. 

HUMAN infirmity in moderating and checking the emo 
tions I name bondage ; for, when a man is a prey to his 
emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the 
mercy of fortune: so much so, that he is often com 
pelled, while seeing that which is better for him, to fol 
low that which is worse. Why this is so, and what is 
good or evil in the emotions, I propose to show in this 
part of my treatise. But, before I begin, it would ^be 
well to make a few prefatory observations on perfection 
and imperfection, good and evil. 

When a man has purposed to make a given thing, 
and has brought it to perfection, his work will be pro 
nounced perfect, not only by himself, but by everyone 
who rightly knows, or thinks that he knows, the inten 
tion and aim of its author. For instance, suppose 
anyone sees a work (which I assume to be not yet com 
pleted) and knows that the aim of the author of that 
work is to build a house, he will call the work imper 
fect; he will, on the other hand, call it perfect, as soon 
as he sees that it is carried through to the end, which 
its author had purposed for it. But if a man sees a 
work, the like whereof he has never seen before, and if 
he knows not the intention of the artificer, he plainly 
cannot know, whether that work be perfect or imper 
feet. Such seems to be the primary meaning of these 

terms. 

But, after men began to form general ideas, to think 
out types of houses, buildings, towers, etc., and to prefer 

(189) 



190 THE ETHICS 

certain types to others, it came about, that each man 
called perfect that which he saw agree with the general 
idea he had formed of the thing in question, and called 
imperfect that which he saw agree less with his own 
preconceived type, even though it had evidently been 
completed in acordance with the idea of its artificer. 
This seems to be the only reason for calling natural 
phenomena, which, indeed, are not made with human 
hands, perfect or imperfect: for men are wont to form 
general ideas of things natural, no less than of things 
artificial, and such ideas they hold as types, believing 
that Nature (who they think does nothing without an 
object) has them in view, and has set them as types 
before herself. Therefore, when they behold something 
in Nature, which does not wholly conform to the pre 
conceived type which they have formed of the thing in 
question, they say that Nature has fallen short or has 
blundered, and has left her work incomplete. Thus we 
see that men are wont to style natural phenomena per 
fect or imperfect rather from their own prejudices, than 
from true knowledge of what they pronounce upon. 

Now we showed in the appendix to Part I., that 
nature does not work with an end in view. For the 
eternal and infinite being, which we call God or nature, 
acts by the same necessity as that whereby it exists. 
For we have shown that by the same necessity 
of its nature, whereby it exists, it likewise works (I. 
xvi.). The reason or cause why God or nature exists, 
and the reason why he acts, are one and the same. 
Therefore, as he does not exist for the sake of an end, 
so neither does he act for the sake of an end; of his 
existence and of his action there is neither origin nor 
end. Wherefore, a cause which is called final is nothing 
else but human desire, in so far as it is considered as 
the origin or cause of anything. For example, when we 
say that to be inhabited is the final cause of this or that 
house, we mean nothing more than that a man, conceiv 
ing the convenience of household life, had a desire to 
build a house. Wherefore, the being inhabited, in so 
far as it is regarded as a final cause, is nothing else but 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 



191 



this particular desire, which is really the efficient cause; 
it is regarded as the primary cause, because men are 
generally ignorant of the causes of their desires. They 
are, as I have often said already, conscious of their own 
actions and appetites, but ignorant of the causes whereby 
they are determined to any particular desire. Therefore, 
the common saying that nature sometimes falls short, or 
blunders, and produces things which are imperfect, I set 
down among the glosses treated of in the appendix to 
Part I. Perfection and imperfection, then, are in reality 
merely modes of thinking, or notions which we form 
from a comparison among one another of individuals of 
the same species; hence I said above (II. Def. vi.), that 
by reality and perfection I mean the same thing. For 
we are wont to refer all the individual things in nature 
to one genus, which is called the highest genus, namely, 
to the category of being, whereto absolutely all individ 
uals in nature belong. Thus, in so far as we refer the 
individuals in nature to this category, and comparing 
them one with another, find that some possess more of 
being or reality than others, we, to this extent, say that 
some are more perfect than others. Again, in so far as 
we attribute to them anything implying negation as 
term, end, infirmity, etc., we, to this extent, call them 
imperfect, because they do not affect our mind so much 
as the things which we call perfect, not because they 
have any intrinsic deficiency, or because nature has 
blundered. For nothing lies within the scope of a thing s 
nature, save that which follows from the necessity of 
the nature of its efficient cause, and whatsoever follows 
from the necessity of the nature of its efficient cause 
necessarily comes to pass. 

As for the terms GOOD and BAD, they indicate no pos 
itive quality in things regarded in themselves, but are 
merely modes of thinking, or notions which we form 
from the comparison of things one with another. Thus 
one and the same thing can be at the same time good, 
bad, and indifferent. For instance, music is good for 
him that is melancholy, bad for him that mourns; for 
him that is deaf, it is neither good nor bad. 



i 9 2 THE ETHICS 

Nevertheless, though this be so, the terms should still 
be retained. For, inasmuch as we desire to form an 
idea of man as a type of human nature which we may 
hold in view, it will be useful for us to retain the terms 
in question, in the sense I have indicated. 

In what follows, then, I shall mean by "good" that 
which we certainly know to be a means of approaching 
more nearly to the type of human nature, which we 
have set before ourselves ; by <( bad, that which we cer 
tainly know to be a hindrance to us in approaching the 
said type. Again, we shall say that men are more per 
fect, or more imperfect, in proportion as they approach 
more or less nearly to the said type. For it must be 
specially remarked that, when I say that a man passes 
from a lesser to a greater perfection, or vice versd, I do 
not mean that he is changed from one essence or real 
ity to another; for instance, a horse would be as com 
pletely destroyed by being changed into a man, as by 
being changed into an insect. What I mean is, that we 
conceive the thing s power of action, in so far as this is 
understood by its nature, to be increased or diminished. 
Lastly, by perfection in general I shall, as I have said, 
mean reality in other words, each thing s essence, in so 
far as it exists, and operates in a particular manner, and 
without paying any regard to its duration. For no given 
thing can be said to be more perfect, because it has 
passed a longer time in existence. The duration of 
things cannot be determined by their essence, for the 
essence of things involves no fixed and definite period 
of existence; but everything, whether it be more perfect 
or less perfect, will always be able to persist in exist 
ence with the same force wherewith it began to exist; 
wherefore, in this respect, all things are equal. 

DEFINITIONS. 

I. By GOOD I mean that which we certainly know to be 
useful to us. 

II. By EVIL I mean that which we certainly know to 
be a hindrance to us in the attainment of any good. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 193 

( Concerning these terms see the foregoing preface 
toward the end.) 

III. Particular things I call CONTINGENT in so far as, 
while regarding their essence only, we find nothing 
therein, which necessarily asserts their existence or ex 
cludes it. 

IV. Particular things I call POSSIBLE in so far as, while 
regarding the causes whereby they must be produced, we 
know not, whether such causes be determined for pro 
ducing them. 

(In I. xxxiii. note i., I drew no distinction between 
possible and contingent, because there was in that place 
no need to distinguish them accurately.) 

V. By CONFLICTING EMOTIONS I mean those which draw 
a man in different directions, though they are of the 
same kind, such as luxury and avarice, which are both 
species of love, and are contraries, not by nature, but by 
accident. 

VI. What I mean by emotion felt toward a thing, 
future, present, and past, I explained in III. xviii., notes 
i. and ii., which see. 

( But I should here also remark, that we can only dis 
tinctly conceive distance of space or time up to a certain 
definite limit; that is, all objects distant from us more 
than two hundred feet, or whose distance from the place 
where we are exceeds that which we can distinctly 
conceive, seem to be an equal distance from us, and 
all in the same plane; so also objects, whose time 
of existing is conceived as removed from the pres 
ent by a longer interval than we can distinctly con 
ceive, seem to be all equally distant from the present, 
and are set down, as it were, to the same moment of 
time.) 

VII. By an END, for the sake of which we do some 
thing, I mean a desire. 

VIII. By VIRTUE (virtus} and POWER I mean the same 
thing; that is ( III. vii.), virtue, in so far as it is referred 
to man, is a man s nature or essence, in so far as it has 
the power of effecting what can only be understood by 
the laws of that nature. 

13 



I 9 4 THE ETHICS 

AXIOM. 

There is no individual thing in nature, than which 
there is not another more powerful and strong. Whatso 
ever thing be given, there is something stronger whereby 
it can be destroyed. 

PROP. I. No positive quality possessed by a false idea 
is removed by the presence of what is true, in virtue of 
its being true. 

Proof. Falsity consists solely in the privation of knowl 
edge which inadequate ideas involve (II. xxxv.), nor 
have they any positive quality on account of which 
they are called false (II. xxxiii.); contrariwise, in so 
far as they are referred to God, they are true ( II. xxxii.). 
Wherefore, if the positive quality possessed by a false 
idea were removed by the presence of what is true, in 
virtue of its being true, a true idea would then be 
removed by itself, which ( IV. iii. ) is absurd. There 
fore, no positive quality possessed by a false idea, etc. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition is more clearly understood from 
II. xvi. Coroll. ii. For imagination is an idea, which indi 
cates rather the present disposition of the human body 
than the nature of the external body ; not indeed distinctly, 
but confusedly; whence it comes to pass, that the mind is 
said to err. For instance, when we look at the sun, we 
conceive that it is distant from us about two hundred feet ; 
in this judgment we err, so long as we are in ignorance of 
its true distance; when its true distance is known, the 
error is removed, but not the imagination; or, in other 
words, the idea of the sun, which only explains the nature 
of that luminary, in so far as the body is affected thereby: 
wherefore, though we know the real distance, we shall still 
nevertheless imagine the sun to be near us. For, as we 
said in II. xxxv. note, we do not imagine the sun to be so 
near us, because we are ignorant of its true distance, but 
because the mind conceives the magnitude of the sun to 
the extent that the body is affected thereby. Thus, when 
the rays of the sun falling on the surface of water are re 
flected into our eyes, we imagine the sun as if it were in 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 195 

the water, though we are aware of its real position; and 
similarly other imaginations, wherein the mind is deceived, 
whether they indicate the natural disposition of the body, 
or that its power of activity is increased or diminished, are 
not contrary to the truth, and do not vanish at its pres 
ence. It happens indeed that, 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, as I have shown in II. xvii. 

PROP. II. We are only passive, in so far as we are a part 
of Nature, which cannot be conceived by itself without 
other parts. 

Proof. We are said to be passive, when something 
arises in us, whereof we are only a partial cause (III. 
Def. ii.), that is (III. Def. i.), something which cannot 
be deduced solely from the laws of our nature. We are 
passive therefore, in so far as we are a part of Nature, 
which cannot be conceived by itself without other parts. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. III. The force whereby a man persists in exist 
ing is limited, and is infinitely surpassed by the power 
of external causes. 

Proof. This is evident from the axiom of this part. 
For, when man is given, there is something else say A 
more powerful; when A is given, there is something 
else say B more powerful than A, and so on to in 
finity; thus the power of man is limited by the power of 
some other thing, and is infinitely surpassed by the power 
of external causes. Q.E.D. 

PROP. IV. It is impossible, that man should not be a 
part of Nature, or that he should be capable of under 
going no changes, save such as can be understood through 
his nature only as their adequate cause. 

Proof. The power, whereby each particular thing, and 
consequently man, preserves his being, is the power of 



196 THE ETHICS 

God or of Nature (I. xxiv. Coroll.); not in so far as it is 
infinite, but in so far as it can be explained by the actual 
human essence (III. vii.). Thus the power of man, in so 
far as it is explained through his own actual essence, is 
a part of the infinite power of God or Nature, in other 
words, of the essence thereof (I. xxxiv.). This was our 
first point. Again, if it were possible, that man should 
undergo no changes save such as can be understood 
solely through the nature of man, it would follow that 
he would not be able to die, but would always necessarily 
exist ; this would be the necessary consequence of a cause 
whose power was either finite or infinite; namely, either 
of man s power only, inasmuch as he would be capable 
of removing from himself all changes which could spring 
from external causes or of the infinite power of Nature, 
whereby all individual things would be so ordered, that 
man should be incapable of undergoing any changes save 
such as tended toward his own preservation. But the 
first alternative is absurd (by the last Prop., the proof 
of which is universal, and can be applied to all indi 
vidual things). Therefore, if it be possible, that man 
should not be capable of undergoing any changes, save 
such as can be explained solely through his own nature, 
and consequently that he must always (as we have shown) 
necessarily exist; such a result must follow from the in 
finite power of God, and consequently (I. xvi.) from the 
necessity of the divine nature, in so far as it is regarded 
as affected by the idea of any given man, the whole 
order of nature as conceived under the attributes of ex 
tension and thought must be deducible. It would there 
fore follow (I. xxi.) that man is infinite, which (by the 
first part of this proof ) is absurd. It is, therefore, im 
possible that man should not undergo any changes save 
those whereof he is the adequate cause. Q. E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that man is necessarily 
always a prey to his passions, that he follows and obeys 
the general order of nature, and that he accommodates 
himself thereto, as much as the nature of things demands. 

PROP. V. The power and increase of every passion, and 
its persistence in existing are not defined by the power, 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 197 

whereby we ourselves endeavor to persist in existing, but 
by the power of an external cause compared with our own. 

Proof. The essence of a passion cannot be explained 
through our essence alone (III. Def. i. and ii.), that is 
(III. vii.), the power of a passion cannot be defined by 
the power, whereby we ourselves endeavor to persist in 
existing, but (as is shown in II. xvi.) must necessarily be 
defined by the power of an external cause compared with 
our own. Q. E.D. 

PROP. VI. The force of any passion or emotion can 
overcome the rest of a man s activities or power, so that 
the emotion becomes obstinately fixed to him. 

Proof. The force and increase of any passion and its 
persistence in existing are defined by the power of an 
external cause compared with our own (by the foregoing 
Prop.); therefore (IV. iii.) it can overcome a man s power, 
etc. Q. E. D. 

PROP. VII. An emotion can only be controlled or de 
stroyed by another emotion contrary thereto, and with more 
power for controlling emotion. 

Proof. Emotion, in so far as it is referred to the mind, 
is an idea, whereby the mind affirms of its body a greater 
or less force of existence than before (cf. the General Defi 
nition of the Emotions at the end of Part III.). When, 
therefore, the mind is assailed by any emotion, the body 
is at the same time affected with a modification whereby 
its power of activity is increased or diminished. Now, 
this modification of the body (IV. v.) receives from its 
cause the force for persistence in its being; which force 
can only be checked or destroyed by a bodily cause (II. vi.), 
in virtue of the body being affected with a modifi 
cation contrary to (III. v.) and stronger than itself 
(IV. Ax.); wherefore (II. xii.) the mind is affected by the 
idea of a modification contrary to and stronger than the 
former modification, in other words (by the General Defi 
nition of the Emotions) the mind will be affected by an 
emotion contrary to and stronger than the former emotion, 
which will exclude or destroy the existence of the former 
emotion; thus an emotion cannot be destroyed nor con 
trolled except by a contrary and stronger emotion. Q. E. D. 



198 THE ETHICS 

Corollary. An emotion, in so far as it is referred to 
the mind, can only be controlled or destroyed through 
an idea of a modification of the body contrary to, and 
stronger than, that which we are undergoing. For the 
emotion which we undergo can only be checked or de 
stroyed by an emotion contrary to, and stronger than, 
itself; in other words (by the General Definition of the 
Emotions), only by an idea of a modification of the body 
contrary to, and stronger than, the modification which 
we undergo. 

PROP. VIII. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing 
else but the emotions of pleasure or pain, in so far as we 
are conscious thereof. 

Proof. We call a thing good or evil, when it is of 
service or the reverse in preserving our being (IV. Def. i. 
and ii.), that is (III. vii.), when it increases or dimin 
ishes, helps or hinders, our power of activity. Thus, in 
so far as we perceive that a thing affects us with pleas 
ure or pain, we call it good or evil; wherefore the knowl 
edge of good and evil is nothing else but the idea of the 
pleasure or pain, which necessarily follows from that 
pleasurable or painful emotion (II. xxii.). But this idea 
is united to the emotion in the same way as mind is 
united to body (II. xxi.); that is, there is no real dis 
tinction between this idea and the emotion or idea of 
the modification of the body, save in conception only. 
Therefore the knowledge of good and evil is nothing else 
but the emotion, in so far as we are conscious thereof. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. IX. An emotion whereof we conceive the cause 
to be with us at the present time, is stronger than if we 
did not conceive the cause to be with us. 

Proof. Imagination or conception is the idea, by which 
the mind regards a thing as present (II. xvii. note), but 
which indicates the disposition of the mind rather than 
the nature of the external thing (II. xvi. Coroll. ii.). An 
emotion is therefore a conception, in so far as it indi 
cates the disposition of the body. But a conception (by 
II. xvii.) is stronger, so long as we conceive nothing 
which excludes the present existence of the external 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 199 

object; wherefore an emotion is also stronger or more 
intense, when we conceive the cause to be with us at the 
present time, than when we do not conceive the cause 
to be with us. Q.E.D. 

AW^. When I said above in III. xviii. that we are 
affected by the image of what is past or future with the 
same emotion as if the thing conceived were present, I 
expressly stated that this is only true in so far as we 
look solely to the image of the thing in question itself; 
for the thing s nature is unchanged, whether we have 
conceived it or not; I did not deny that the image 
becomes weaker, when we regard as present to us other 
things which exclude the present existence of the future 
object; I did not expressly call attention to the fact, 
because I purposed to treat of the strength of the emo 
tions in this part of my work. 

Corollary. The image of something past or future, 
that is, of a thing which we regard as in relation to 
time past or time future, to the exclusion of time pres 
ent, is, when other conditions are equal, weaker than 
the image of something present; consequently an emo 
tion felt toward what is past or future is less intense, 
other conditions being equal, than an emotion felt toward 
something present. 

PROP. X. Toward something future, which we conceive 
as close at hand, we are affected more intensely, than if 
we conceive that its time for existence is separated from 
the present by a longer interval; so too by the remem 
brance of what we conceive to have not long passed 
away we are affected more intensely, than if we conceive 
that it has long passed away. 

p roo f, In so far as we conceive a thing as close at 
hand, or not long passed away, we conceive that which 
excludes the presence of the object less, than if its period 
of future existence were more distant from the present, 
or if it had long passed away (this is obvious); there 
fore (by the foregoing Prop.) we are, so far, more 
intensely affected toward it. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. From the remarks made in Def. vi. of this 
part it follows that, if objects are separated from the 



200 THE ETHICS 

present by a longer period than we can define in 
conception, though their dates of occurrence be widely 
separated one from the other, they all affect us equally 
faintly. 

PROP. XI. An emotion toward that which we conceive 
as necessary is, when other conditions are equal, more 
intense than an emotion toward that which is possible, 
or contingent, or non-necessary. 

Proof. In so far as we conceive a thing to be neces 
sary, we, to that extent, affirm its existence; on the 
other hand we deny a thing s existence, in so far as we 
conceive it not to be necessary (I. xxxiii. note i.); where 
fore (IV. ix.) an emotion toward that which is necessary 
is, other conditions being equal, more intense than an 
emotion toward that which is non-necessary. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XII. An emotion toward a thing, which we know 
not to exist at the present time, and which we conceive 
as possible, is more intense, other conditions being equal, 
than an emotion toward a thing contingent. 

Proof. In so far as we conceive a thing as contingent, 
we are affected by the conception of some further thing, 
which would assert the existence of the former (IV. Def. 
iii.) ; but, on the other hand, we (by hypothesis) conceive 
certain things which exclude its present existence. But, 
in so far as we conceive a thing to be possible in the 
future, we thereby conceive things which assert its exist 
ence (IV. iv.), that is (III. xviii.), things which promote 
hope or fear: wherefore an emotion toward something 
possible is more vehement. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. An emotion toward a thing, which we know 
not to exist in the present, and which we conceive as con 
tingent, is far fainter than if we conceive the thing to be 
present with us. 

Proof. Emotion toward a thing, which we conceive 
to exist, is more intense than it would be, if we con 
ceived the thing as future (IV. ix. Coroll.), and is much 
more vehement, than if the future time be conceived as 
far distant from the present (IV. x.). Therefore an 
emotion toward a thing, whose period of existence we 
conceive to be far distant from the present, is far fainter, 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 201 

than if we conceive the thing as present ; it is, neverthe 
less, more intense, than if we conceived the thing 
as contingent, wherefore an emotion toward a thing, 
which we regard as contingent, will be far fainter, 
than if we conceived the thing to be present with us. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XIII. Emotion toward a thing contingent, 
which we know not to exist in the present, is, other con 
ditions being equal, fainter than an emotion toward a 
thing past. 

Proof. In so far as we conceive a thing as contingent, 
we are not affected by the image of any other thing, 
which asserts the existence of the said thing ( IV. Def . 
iii.), but, on the other hand (by hypothesis), we con 
ceive certain things excluding its present existence. But, 
in so far as we conceive it in relation to time past, we 
are assumed to conceive something, which recalls the 
thing to memory, or excites the image thereof ( II. xviii. 
and note), which is so far the same as regarding it 
as present (II. xvii. Coroll.). Therefore (IV. ix.) an 
emotion toward a thing contingent, which we know does 
not exist in the present, is fainter, other conditions being 
equal, than an emotion toward a thing past. Q. E. D. 

PROP. XIV. A true knowledge of good and evil cannot 
check any emotion by virtue of being true, but only in so 
far as it is considered as an emotion. 

Proof. An emotion is an idea, whereby the mind 
affirms of its body a greater or less force of existing than 
before ( by the General Definition of the Emotions ) ; there 
fore it has no positive quality, which can be destroyed 
by the presence of what is true ; consequently the knowl 
edge of good and evil cannot, by virtue of being true, 
restrain any emotion. But, in so far as such knowledge 
is an emotion (IV. viii.), if it have more strength for 
restraining emotion, it will to that extent be able to 
restrain the given emotion. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XV. Desire arising from the knowledge of good 
and bad can be quenched or checked by many of the 
other desires arising from the emotions whereby we are 
assailed. 



202 THE ETHICS 

Proof. From the true knowledge of good and evil, in 
so far as it is an emotion, necessarily arises desire (Def. 
of the Emotions, i.), the strength of which is propor 
tioned to the strength of the emotion wherefrom it arises 
(III. xxxvii.). But, inasmuch as this desire arises (by 
hypothesis) from the fact of our truly understanding 
anything, it follows that it is also present with us, in so 
far as we are active (III. i.), and must therefore be 
understood through our essence only (III. Def. ii.); con 
sequently (III. vii.) its force and increase can be denned 
solely by human power. Again, the desires arising from 
the emotions whereby we are assailed are stronger, in 
proportion as the said emotions are more vehement; 
wherefore their force and increase must be defined solely 
by the power of external causes, which, when compared 
with our own power, indefinitely surpass it (IV. iii.); 
hence the desires arising from like emotions may be more 
vehement, than the desire which arises from a true 
knowledge of good and evil, and may, consequently, con 
trol or quench it. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XVI. Desire arising from the knowledge of good 
and evil, in so far as such knowledge regards what is 
future, may be more easily controlled or quenched, than 
the desire for what is agreeable at the present moment. 

Proof. Emotion toward a thing, which we conceive 
as future, is fainter than emotion toward a thing that is 
present (IV. ix. Coroll.). But desire, which arises from 
the true knowledge of good and evil, though it be con 
cerned with things which are good at the moment, can 
be quenched or controlled by any headstrong desire (by 
the last Prop., the proof whereof is of universal applica 
tion). Wherefore desire arising from such knowledge, 
when concerned with the future, can be more easily 
controlled or quenched, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XVII. Desire arising from the true knowledge 
of good and evil, in so far as such knowledge is con 
cerned with what is contingent, can be controlled far 
more easily still, than desire for things that are present. 

Proof. This proposition is proved in the same way as 
the last proposition from IV. xii. Coroll. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 203 

Note. I think I have now shown the reason, why men 
are moved by opinion more readily than by true reason, 
why it is that the true knowledge of good and evil stirs 
up conflicts in the soul, and often yields to every kind 
of passion. This state of things gave rise to the exclama 
tion of the poet: 

The better path I gaze at and approve, 
The worse I follow. 

Ecclesiastes seems to have had the same thought in his 
mind, when he says, <( He who increaseth knowledge in- 
creaseth sorrow. >J I have not written the above with the 
object of drawing the conclusion, that ignorance is more 
excellent than knowledge, or that a wise man is on a par 
with a fool in controlling his emotions, but because it is 
necessary to know the power and the infirmity of our 
nature, before we can determine what reason can do in 
restraining the emotions, and what is beyond her power. 
I have said, that in the present part I shall merely treat 
of human infirmity. The power of reason over the emo 
tions I have settled to treat separately. 

PROP. XVIII. Desire arising from pleasure is, other con 
ditions being equal, stronger than desire arising from pain. 

Proof. Desire is the essence of a man (Def. of the 
Emotions, i. ), that is, the endeavor whereby a man en 
deavors to persist in his own being. Wherefore desire 
arising from pleasure is, by the fact of pleasure being 
felt, increased or helped; on the contrary, desire arising 
from pain is, by the fact of pain being felt, diminished 
or hindered ; hence the force of desire arising from pleas 
ure must be defined by human power together with 
the power of an external cause, whereas desire arising 
from pain must be defined by human power only. Thus 
the former is the stronger of the two. Q.E.D. 

Note. In these few remarks I have explained the 
causes of human infirmity and inconstancy, and shown 
why men do not abide by the precepts of reason. It 
now remains for me to show what course is marked out 
for us by reason, which of the emotions are in harmony 
with the rules of human reason, and which of them are 



204 THE ETHICS 

contrary thereto. But, before I begin to prove my propo 
sitions in detailed geometrical fashion, it is advisable to 
sketch them briefly in advance, so that every one may 
more readily grasp my meaning. 

As reason makes no demands contrary to nature, it 
demands that every man should love himself, should 
seek that which is useful to him I mean, that which is 
really useful to him, should desire everything which 
really brings man to greater perfection, and should, each 
for himself, endeavor as far as he can to preserve his 
own being. This is as necessarily true, as that a whole 
is greater than its part. (Cf. III. iv.) 

Again, as virtue is nothing else but action in accord 
ance with the laws of one s own nature (IV. Def. viii.), 
and as no one endeavors to preserve his own being, ex 
cept in accordance with the laws of his own nature, it 
follows, FIRST, that the foundation of virtue is the en 
deavor to preserve one s own being, and that happiness 
consists in man s power of preserving his own being; 
SECONDLY, that virtue is to be desired for its own sake, and 
that there is nothing more excellent or more useful to us, 
for the sake of which we should desire it ; THIRDLY and lastly, 
that suicides are weak-minded, and are overcome by exter 
nal causes repugnant to their nature. Further, it follows 
from Postulate iv, Part II., that we can never arrive at 
doing without all external things for the preservation of 
our being or living, so as to have no relations with 
things which are outside ourselves. Again, if we con 
sider our mind, we see that our intellect would be more 
imperfect, if mind were alone, and could understand 
nothing besides itself. There are, then, many things 
outside ourselves, which are useful to us, and are, there 
fore, to be desired. Of such none can be discerned more 
excellent, than those which are in entire agreement with 
our nature. For if, for example, two individuals of en 
tirely the same nature are united, they form a combina 
tion twice as powerful as either of them singly. 

Therefore, to man there is nothing more useful than 
man nothing, I repeat, more excellent for preserving 
their being can be wished for by men, than that all should 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 205 

so in all points agree, that the minds and bodies of all 
should form, as it were, one single mind and one single 
body, and that all should, with one consent, as far as they 
are able, endeavor to preserve their being, and all with 
one consent seek what is useful to them all. Hence, men 
who are governed by reason that is, who seek what is 
useful to them in accordance with reason desire for 
themselves nothing, which they do not also desire for the 
rest of mankind, and, consequently, are just, faithful, and 
honorable in their conduct. 

Such are the dictates of reason, which I purposed thus 
briefly to indicate, before beginning to prove them in 
greater detail. I have taken this course in order, if pos 
sible, to gain the attention of those who believe, that the 
principle that every man is bound to seek what is useful 
for himself is the foundation of impiety, rather than of 
piety and virtue. 

Therefore, after briefly showing that the contrary is the 
case, I go on to prove it by the same method, as that 
whereby I have hitherto proceeded. 

PROP. XIX. Every man, by the laws of his nature, 
necessarily desires or shrinks from that which he deems 
to be good or bad. 

Proof. The knowledge of good and evil is (IV. viii.) 
the emotion of pleasure or pain, in so far as we are con 
scious thereof; therefore, every man necessarily desires 
what he thinks good, and shrinks from what he thinks 
bad. Now this appetite is nothing else but man s nature 
or essence (cf. the Def. of Appetite, III. ix. note, and 
Def. of the Emotions, i.). Therefore, every man, solely 
by the laws of his nature, desires the one, and shrinks 
from the other, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XX. The more every man endeavors, and is able 
to seek what is useful to him in other words, to pre 
serve his own being the more is he endowed with vir 
tue ; on the contrary, in proportion as a man neglects to 
seek what is useful to him, that is, to preserve his own 
being, he is wanting in power. 

Proof. Virtue is human power, which is defined solely 
by man s essence (IV. Def. viii.), that is, which is defined 



206 THE ETHICS 

solely by the endeavor made by man to persist in his own 
being. Wherefore, the more a man endeavors, and is able 
to preserve his own being, the more is he endowed with 
virtue, and, consequently (III. iv. and vi.), in so far as a 
man neglects to preserve his own being, he is wanting in 
power. Q. E. D. 

Note. No one, therefore, neglects seeking his own good 
or preserving his own being, unless he be overcome by 
causes external and foreign to his nature. No one, I say, 
from the necessity of his own nature, or otherwise than 
under compulsion from external causes, shrinks from food, 
or kills himself; which latter may be done in a variety 
of ways. A man, for instance, kills himself under the 
compulsion of another man, who twists round his right 
hand, wherewith he happened to have taken up a sword, 
and forces him to turn the blade against his own heart; 
or, again, he may be compelled, like Seneca, by a 
tyrant s command, to open his own veins that is, to 
escape a greater evil by incurring a lesser; or, lastly, 
latent external causes may so disorder his imagination, and 
so affect his body, that it may assume a nature contrary 
to its former one, and whereof the idea cannot exist in 
the mind (III. x.). But that a man, from the necessity 
of his own nature, should endeavor to become non-exist 
ent, is as impossible as that something should be made 
out of nothing, as every one will see for himself, after a 
little reflection. 

PROP. XXI. No one can desire to be blessed, to act 
rightly and to live rightly, without at the same time wish 
ing to be, to act, and to live in other words, to actually 
exist. 

Proof. The proof of this proposition, or rather the 
proposition itself, is self-evident, and is also plain from 
the definition of desire. For the desire of living, acting, 
etc., blessedly or rightly, is (Def. of the Emotions, i.) 
the essence of man that is (III. vii.), the endeavor 
made by every one to preserve his own being. There 
fore, no one can desire, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXII. No virtue can be conceived as prior to 
this endeavor to preserve one s own being. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 207 

Proof. The effort for self-preservation is the essence 
of a thing (III. vii.); therefore, if any virtue could be 
conceived as prior thereto, the essence of a thing would 
have to be conceived as prior to itself, which is obvi 
ously absurd. Therefore no virtue, etc. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. The effort for self-preservation is the first 
and only foundation of virtue. For prior to this princi 
ple nothing can be conceived, and without it no virtue 
can be conceived. 

PROP. XXIII. Man, in so far as he is determined to a 
particular action because he has inadequate ideas, cannot 
be absolutely said to act in obedience to virtue; he can 
only be so described, in so far as he is determined for 
the action because he understands. 

Proof. In so far as a man is determined to an action 
through having inadequate ideas, he is passive (III. i.), 
that is (III. Def. i. and iii.), he does something, which 
cannot be perceived solely through his essence, that is 
(by IV. Def. viii.), which does not follow from his vir 
tue. But, in so far as he is determined for an action 
because he understands, he is active; that is, he does 
something, which is perceived through his essence alone, 
or which adequately follows from his virtue. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIV. 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. 

Proof. To act absolutely in obedience to virtue is 
nothing else but to act according to the laws of one s 
own nature. But we only act, in so far as we under 
stand (III. iii.): therefore to act in obedience to virtue is 
in us nothing else but to act, to live, or to preserve one s 
being in obedience to reason, and that on the basis of 
seeking what is useful for us (IV. xxii. Coroll.). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXV. No one wishes to preserve his being for 
the sake of anything else. 

Proof. The endeavor, wherewith everything endeavors 
to persist in its being, is defined solely by the essence 
of the thing itself (III. vii.); from this alone, and not 



208 THE ETHICS 

from the essence of anything else, it necessarily follows 
(III. vi.) that everyone endeavors to preserve his being. 
Moreover, this proposition is plain from IV. xxii. Coroll., 
for if a man should endeavor to preserve his being for 
the sake of anything else, the last-named thing would 
obviously be the basis of virtue, which, by the foregoing 
corollary, is absurd. Therefore no one, etc. Q. E.D. 

PROP. XXVI. Whatsoever we endeavor in obedience to 
reason is nothing further than to understand; neither 
does the mind, in so far as it makes use of reason, judge 
anything to be useful to it, save such things as are con 
ducive to understanding. 

Proof. The effort for self-preservation is nothing else 
but the essence of the thing in question (III. vii.), 
which, in so far as it exists such as it is, is conceived to 
have force for continuing in existence (III. vi.) and 
doing such things as necessarily follow from its given 
nature (see the Def. of Appetite, III. ix. note). But 
the essence of reason is naught else but our mind, in 
so far as it clearly and distinctly understands (see the 
definition in II. xl. note ii.); therefore (II. xl.) whatso 
ever we endeavor in obedience to reason is nothing else 
but to understand. Again, since this effort of the mind 
wherewith the mind endeavors, in so far as it reasons, 
to preserve its own being is nothing else but under 
standing; this effort at understanding is (IV. xxii. 
Coroll.) the first and single basis of virtue, nor shall we 
endeavor to understand things for the sake of any 
ulterior object (IV. xxv.); on the other hand, the mind, 
in so far as it reasons, will not be able to conceive any 
good for itself, save such things as are conducive to 
understanding. 

PROP. XXVII. We know nothing to be certainly good 
or evil, save such things as really conduce to understand 
ing, or such as are able to hinder us from understanding. 

Proof. The mind, in so far as it reasons, desires nothing 
beyond understanding, and judges nothing to be useful 
to itself, save such things as conduce to understanding 
(by the foregoing Prop.). But the mind (II. xli. xliii. 
and note) cannot possess certainty concerning anything, 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 209 

except in so far as it has adequate ideas, or (what by II. 
xl. note, is the same thing) in so far as it reasons. 
Therefore we know nothing to be good or evil save such 
things as really conduce, etc. Q. E.D. 

PROP. XXVIII. The mind s highest good is the knowl 
edge of God, and the mind s highest virtue is to know 
God. 

Proof. The mind is not capable of understanding any 
thing higher than God, that is (I. Def. vi.), than a Being 
absolutely infinite, and without which (I. xv.) nothing 
can either be or be conceived; therefore (IV. xxvi. and 
xxvii.), the mind s highest utility or (IV. Def. i.) good 
is the knowledge of God. Again, the mind is active only 
in so far as it understands, and only to the same extent 
can it be said absolutely to act virtuously. The mind s 
absolute virtue is therefore to understand. Now, as we 
have already shown, the highest that the mind can under 
stand is God; therefore the highest virtue of the mind is 
to understand or to know God. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIX. No individual thing, which is entirely 
different from our own nature, can help or check our 
power of activity, and absolutely nothing can do us good 
or harm, unless it has something in common with our 
nature. 

Proof. The power of every individual thing, and con 
sequently the power of man, whereby he exists and 
operates, can only be determined by an individual thing 
(I. xxviii.), whose nature (II. vi.) must be understood 
through the same nature as that, through which human 
nature is conceived. Therefore our power of activity, 
however it be conceived, can be determined and conse 
quently helped or hindered by the power of any other 
individual thing, which has something in common with 
us, but not by the power of anything, of which the 
nature is entirely different from our own; and since we 
call good or evil that which is the cause of pleasure or 
pain (IV. viii.), that is (III. xi. note), which increases 
or diminishes, helps or hinders, our power of activity; 
therefore, that which is entirely different from our 
nature can neither be to us good nor bad. Q.E.D. 
14 



210 THE ETHICS 

PROP. XXX. A thing cannot be bad for us through 
the quality which it has in common with our nature, 
but it is bad for us in so far as it is contrary to our 
nature. 

Proof. We call a thing bad when it is the cause of 
pain (IV. viii.), that is (by the Def., which see in III. 
xi. note ), when it diminishes or checks our power of action. 
Therefore, if anything were bad for us through that 
quality which it has in common with our nature, it 
would be able itself to diminish or check that which it 
has in common with our nature, which ( III. iv.) is ab 
surd. Wherefore nothing can be bad for us through 
that quality which it has in common with us, but, on 
the other hand, in so far as it is bad for us, that is (as 
we have just shown), in so far as it can diminish 
or check our power of action, it is contrary to our nature. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXI. In so far as a thing is in harmony with 
our nature, it is necessarily good. 

Proof. In so far as a thing is in harmony with our 
nature, it cannot be bad for it. It will therefore neces 
sarily be either good or indifferent. If it be assumed 
that it be neither good nor bad, nothing will follow from 
its nature (IV. Def. i.), which tends to the preservation 
of our nature, that is (by the hypothesis), which tends 
to the preservation of the thing itself; but this (III. vi.) 
is absurd; therefore, in so far as a thing is in harmony 
with our nature, it is necessarily good. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows, that, in proportion as a 
thing is in harmony with our nature, so is it more use 
ful or better for us, and vice versd, in proportion as a 
thing is more useful for us, so is it more in harmony 
with our nature. For, in so far as it is not in harmony 
with our nature, it will necessarily be different there 
from or contrary thereto. If different, it can neither be 
good nor bad (IV. xxix.); if contrary, it will be con 
trary to that which is in harmony with our nature, that 
is, contrary to what is good in short, bad. Nothing, 
therefore, can be good, except in so far as it is in har 
mony with our nature; and hence a thing is useful, in 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 211 

proportion as it is in harmony with our nature, and vice 
versd. Q. E. D. 

PROP. XXXII. In so far as men are a prey to passion, 
they cannot, in that respect, be said to be naturally in 
harmony. 

Proof. Things, which are said to be in harmony 
naturally, are understood to agree in power (III. vii.), 
not in want of power or negation, and consequently 
not in passion (III. iii. note); wherefore men, in so far 
as they are a prey to their passions, cannot be said to 
be naturally in harmony. Q. E.D. 

Note. This is also self-evident; for, if we say that 
white and black agree only in the fact that neither is 
red, we absolutely affirm that they do not agree in any 
respect. So, if we say that a man and a stone agree 
only in the fact that both are finite wanting in power, 
not existing by the necessity of their own nature, or, 
lastly, indefinitely surpassed by the power of external 
causes we should certainly affirm that a man and a stone 
are in no respect alike; therefore, things which agree 
only in negation, or in qualities which neither pos 
sess, really agree in no respect. 

PROP. XXXIII. Men can differ in nature, in so far as 
they are assailed by those emotions, which are passions, 
or passive states; and to this extent one and the same 
man is variable and inconstant. 

Proof. The nature or essence of the emotions cannot 
be explained solely through our essence or nature (III. 
Def. i. ii.), but it must be defined by the power, that 
is (III. vii.), by the nature of external causes in com 
parison with our own; hence it follows, that there are 
as many kinds of each emotion as there are external 
objects whereby we are affected (III. Ivi.), and that men 
may be differently affected by one and the same object 
(III. li.), and to this extent differ in nature; lastly, that 
one and the same man may be differently affected toward 
the same object, and may therefore be variable and in 
constant. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXIV. In so far as men are assailed by emotions 
which are passions, they can be contrary one to another. 



212 THE ETHICS 

Proof. A man, for instance Peter, can be the cause 
of Paul s feeling pain, because he (Peter) possesses 
something similar to that which Paul hates (III. xvi.), 
or because Peter has sole possession of a thing which 
Paul also loves (III. xxxii. and note), or for other causes 
(of which the chief are enumerated in III. Iv. note); it 
may therefore happen that Paul should hate Peter (Def. 
of Emotions, vii.), consequently it may easily happen 
also, that Peter should hate Paul in return, and that each 
should endeavor to do the other an injury (III. xxxix.), 
that is (IV. xxx.), that they should be contrary one to 
another. But the emotion of pain is always a passion 
or passive state (III. lix.); hence men, in so far as they 
are assailed by emotions which are passions, can be con 
trary one to another. Q.E.D. 

Note. I said that Paul may hate Peter, because he 
conceives that Peter possesses something which he ( Paul ) 
also loves; from this it seems at first sight, to follow, 
that these two men, through both loving the same thing, 
and, consequently, through agreement of their respective 
natures, stand in one another s way; if this were so, 
Props, xxx. and xxxi. of this Part would be untrue. But 
if we give the matter our unbiased attention, we shall 
see that the discrepancy vanishes. For the two men are 
not in one another s way in virtue of the agreement of 
their natures, that is, through both loving the same thing, 
but in virtue of one differing from the other. For, in so 
far as each loves the same thing, the love of each is 
fostered thereby (III. xxxi.) that is (Def. of the Emo 
tions, vi.) the pleasure of each is fostered thereby. 
Wherefore it is far from being the case, that they are 
at variance through both loving the same thing, and 
through the agreement in their natures. The cause for 
their opposition lies, as I have said, solely in the fact 
that they are assumed to differ. For we assume that 
Peter has the idea of the loved object as already in his 
possession, while Paul has the idea of the loved object 
as lost. Hence the one man will be affected with pleas 
ure, the other will be affected with pain, and thus they 
will be at variance one with another. We can easily 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 213 

show in like manner, that all other causes of hatred de 
pend solely on differences, and not on the agreement 
between men s natures. 

PROP. XXXV. In so far only as men live in obedience 
to reason, do they always necessarily agree in nature. 

Proof. In so far as men are assailed by emotions that 
are passions, they can be different in nature (IV. xxxiii.), 
and at variance one with another. But men are only 
said to be active, in so far as they act in obedience to 
reason (III. iii.); therefore, whatsoever follows from 
human nature in so far as it is denned by reason must 
(III. Def. ii.) be understood solely through human nature 
as its proximate cause. But, since every man by the 
laws of his nature desires that which he deems good, 
and endeavors to remove that which he deems bad 
(IV. xix.); and further, since that which we, in accord 
ance with reason, deem good or bad, necessarily is good 
or bad (II. xli.); it follows that men, in so far as they 
live in obedience to reason, necessarily do only such 
things as are necessarily good for human nature, and 
consequently for each individual man (IV. xxxi. Coroll.); 
in other words, such things as are in harmony with 
each man s nature. Therefore, men in so far as they 
live in obedience to reason, necessarily live always in 
harmony one with another. Q. E.D. 

Corollary!. There is no individual thing in nature, 
which is more useful to man, than a man who lives in 
obedience to reason. For that thing is to man most 
useful, which is most in harmony with his nature ( IV. 
xxxi. Coroll.); that is, obviously, man. But man acts 
absolutely according to the laws of his nature, when he 
lives in obedience to reason (III. Def. ii.), and to this 
extent only is always necessarily in harmony with the 
nature of another man (by the last Prop.); wherefore 
among individual things nothing is more useful to man, 
than a man who lives in obedience to reason. Q.E.D. 

Corollary II. As every man seeks most that which is 
useful to him, so are men most useful one to another. 
For the more a man seeks what is useful to him and 
endeavors to preserve himself, the more is he endowed 



214 THE ETHICS 

with virtue (IV. xx.), or, what is the same thing (IV. 
Def. viii.), the more is he endowed with power to act 
according to the laws of his own nature, that is to live in 
obedience to reason. But men are most in natural har 
mony, when they live in obedience to reason ( by the last 
Prop.); therefore (by the foregoing Coroll.) men will be 
most useful one to another, when each seeks most that 
which is useful to him. Q.E.D. 

Note. What we have just shown is attested by expe 
rience so conspicuously, that it is in the mouth of nearly 
everyone : (< Man is to man a God. Yet it rarely hap 
pens that men live in obedience to reason, for things are 
so ordered among them, that they are generally envious 
and troublesome one to another. Nevertheless they are 
scarcely able to lead a solitary life, so that the definition 
of man as a social animal has met with general assent; 
in fact, men do derive from social life much more con 
venience than injury. Let satirists then laugh their fill 
at human affairs, let theologians rail, and let misan 
thropes praise to their utmost the life of untutored 
rusticity, let them heap contempt on men and praises 
on beasts; when all is said, they will find that men can 
provide for their wants much more easily by mutual 
help, and that only by uniting their forces can they 
escape from the dangers that on every side beset them: 
not to say how much more excellent and worthy of our 
knowledge it is, to study the actions of men than the 
actions of beasts. But I will treat of this more at length 
elsewhere. 

PROP. XXXVI. The highest good of those who follow 
virtue is common to all, and therefore all can equally 
rejoice therein. 

Proof. To act virtuously is to act in obedience with 
reason (IV. xxiv.), and whatsoever we endeavor to do in 
obedience to reason is to understand (IV. xxvi.); there 
fore (IV. xxviii.) the highest good for those who follow 
after virtue is to know God; that is (II. xlvii. and note) 
a good which is common to all and can be possessed by 
all men equally, in so far as they are of the same nature. 
Q.E.D. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 215 

. Some one may ask how it would be, if the high 
est good of those who follow after virtue were not com 
mon to all? Would it not then follow, as above (IV. 
xxxiv.), that men living in obedience to reason, that is (IV. 
xxxv.), men in so far as they agree in nature, would be 
at variance one with another? To such an inquiry I 
make answer, that it follows not accidentally but from 
the very nature of reason, that man s highest good is 
common to all, inasmuch as it is deduced from the very 
essence of man, in so far as defined by reason ; and that 
a man could neither be, nor be conceived without the 
power of taking pleasure in this highest good. For it 
belongs to the essence of the human mind (II. xlvii.), to 
have an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite 
essence of God. 

PROP. XXXVII. The good which every man, who fol 
lows after virtue, desires for himself he will also desire 
for other men, and so much the more, in proportion as 
he has a greater knowledge of God. 

Proof. Men, in so far as they live in obedience to 
reason, are most useful to their fellow men (IV. xxxv., 
Coroll. i.); therefore (IV. xix.), we shall in obedience to 
reason necessarily endeavor to bring about that men 
should live in obedience to reason. But the good which 
every man, in so far as he is guided by reason, or, in 
other words, follows after virtue, desires for himself, is 
to understand (IV. xxvi.); wherefore the good, which 
each follower of virtue seeks for himself, he will desire 
also for others. Again, desire, in so far as it is referred 
to the mind, is the very essence of the mind (Def. of the 
Emotions, i.); now the essence of the mind consists in 
knowledge (II. xi.), which involves the knowledge of God 
(II. xlvii.) and without it (I. xv.), can neither be, nor 
be conceived; therefore, in proportion as the mind s 
essence involves a greater knowledge of God, so also 
will be greater the desire of the follower of virtue, that 
other men should possess that which he seeks as good for 
himself. Q.E.D. 

Another Proof. The good, which a man desires for him 
self and loves, he will love more constantly, if he sees that 



216 THE ETHICS 

others love it also (III. xxxi.); he will therefore endeavor 
that others should love it also ; and as the good in question 
is common to all, and therefore all can rejoice therein, he 
will endeavor, for the same reason, to bring- about that 
all should rejoice therein, and this he will do the more 
(III. xxxvii.), in proportion as his own enjoyment of the 
good is greater. 

Note I. He who, guided by emotion only, endeavors to 
cause others to love what he loves himself, and to make 
the rest of the world live according to his own fancy, acts 
solely by impulse, and is, therefore, hateful, especially to 
those who take delight in something different, and accord 
ingly study and, by similar impulse, endeavor to make 
men live in accordance with what pleases themselves. 
Again, as the highest good sought by men under the 
guidance of emotion is often such, that it can only be 
possessed by a single individual, it follows that those who 
love it are not consistent in their intentions, but, while they 
delight to sing its praises, fear to be believed. But he, who 
endeavors to lead men by reason, does not act by impulse 
but courteously and kindly, and his intention is always 
consistent. Again, whatsoever we desire and do, whereof 
we are the cause in so far as we possess the idea of God, or 
know God, I set down to RELIGION. The desire of well 
doing, which is engendered by a life according to reason, I 
call PIETY. Further, the desire, whereby a man living 
according to reason is bound to associate others with him 
self in friendship, I call HONOR; by HONORABLE I mean that 
which is praised by men living according to reason, and by 
BASE I mean that which is repugnant to the gaining of 
friendship. I have also shown in addition what are the 
foundations of a state; and the difference between true 
virtue and infirmity may be readily gathered from what I 
have said; namely, that true virtue is nothing else but 
living in accordance with reason ; while infirmity is noth 
ing else but man s allowing himself to be led by things 
which are external to himself, and to be by them deter 
mined to act in a manner demanded by the general dis 
position of things rather than by his own nature considered 
solely in itself. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 217 

Such are the matters which I engaged to prove in Prop, 
xviii. of this Part, whereby it is plain that the law against 
the slaughtering of animals is founded rather on vain 
superstition and womanish pity than on sound reason. 
The rational quest of what is useful to us further teaches 
us the necessity of associating ourselves with our fellow- 
men, but not with beasts, or things, whose nature is 
different from our own ; we have the same rights in respect 
to them as they have in respect to us. Nay, as every 
one s right is defined by his virtue, or power, men have 
far greater rights over beasts than beasts have over men. 
Still I no not deny that beasts feel: what I deny is, that 
we may not consult our own advantage and use them as 
we please, treating them in the way which best suits us ; 
for their nature is not like ours, and their emotions are 
naturally different from human emotions (III. Ivii. note). 
It remains for me to explain what I mean by just and 
unjust, sin and merit. On these points see the following 
note. 

Note II. In the Appendix to Part I. I undertook to 
explain praise and blame, merit and sin, justice and in 
justice. 

Concerning praise and blame I have spoken in III. 
xxix. note; the time has now come to treat of the re 
maining terms. But I must first say a few words con 
cerning man in the state of nature and in society. 

Even man exists by sovereign natural right, and, con 
sequently, by sovereign natural right performs those 
actions which follow from the necessity of his own nature ; 
therefore by sovereign natural right every man judges 
what is good and what is bad, takes care of his own ad 
vantage according to his own disposition ( IV. xix. and 
xx.), avenges the wrongs done to him (III. xl. Coroll. ii.), 
and endeavors to preserve that which he loves and to 
destroy that which he hates (III. xxviii.). Now, if men 
lived under the guidance of reason, everyone would re 
main in possession of this his right, without any injury 
being done to his neighbor (IV. xxxv. Coroll. i.). But 
seeing that they are a prey to their emotions, which far 
surpass human power or virtue (IV. vi.), they are often 



218 THE ETHICS 

drawn in different directions, and being at variance one 
with another (IV. xxxiii. xxxiv.), stand in need of mutual 
help (IV. xxxv. note). Wherefore, in order that men 
may live together in harmony, and may aid one another, 
it is necessary that they should forego their natural right, 
and, for the sake of security, refrain from all actions 
which can injure their fellow-men. The way in which 
this end can be attained, so that men who are necessarily 
a prey to their emotions (IV. iv. Coroll.), inconstant, and 
diverse, should be able to render each other mutually 
secure, and feel mutual trust, is evident from IV. vii. 
and III. xxxix. It is there shown, that an emotion can 
only be restrained by an emotion stronger than, and 
contrary to itself, and that men avoid inflicting injury 
through fear of incurring a greater injury themselves. 

On this law society can be established, so long as it 
keeps in its own hand the right, possessed by everyone, 
of avenging injury, and pronouncing on good and evil; 
and provided it also possesses the power to lay down a 
general rule of conduct, and to pass laws sanctioned, not by 
reason, which is powerless in restraining emotion, but by 
threats (IV. xvii. note). Such a society established with 
laws and the power of preserving itself is called a STATE, 
while those who live under its protection are called CITI 
ZENS. We may readily understand that there is in the 
state of nature nothing, which by universal consent is 
pronounced good or bad; for in the state of nature every 
one thinks solely of his own advantage, and according 
to his disposition, with reference only to his individual 
advantage, decides what is good or bad, being bound by 
no law to anyone besides himself. 

In the state of nature, therefore, sin is inconceivable; 
it can only exist in a state, where good and evil are pro 
nounced on by common consent, and where everyone is 
bound to obey the State authority. SIN, then, is nothing 
else but disobedience, which is therefore punished by the 
right of the State only. Obedience, on the other hand, is 
set down as MERIT, inasmuch as a man is thought worthy 
of merit, if he takes delight in the advantages which a 
State provides. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 219 

Again, in the state of nature, no one is by common con 
sent master of anything, nor is there anything in nature, 
which can be said to belong to one man rather than an 
other: all things are common to all. Hence, in the state 
of nature, we can conceive no wish to render to every 
man his own, or to deprive a man of that which belongs 
to him; in other words, there is nothing in the state of 
nature answering to justice and injustice. Such ideas are 
only possible in a social state, when it is decreed by 
common consent what belongs to one man and what to 
another. 

From all these considerations it is evident, that justice 
and injustice, sin and merit, are extrinsic ideas, and not 
attributes which display the nature of the mind. But I 
have said enough. 

PROP. XXXVIII. Whatsoever disposes the human body, 
so as to render it capable of being affected in an increased 
number of ways, or of affecting external bodies in an in 
creased number of ways, is useful to man; and is so, in 
proportion as the body is thereby rendered more capable 
of being affected or affecting other bodies in an increased 
number of ways; contrariwise, whatsoever renders the 
body less capable in this respect is hurtful to man. 

Proof. Whatsoever thus increases the capabilities of 
the body increases also the mind s capability of percep 
tion (II. xiv. ); therefore, whatsoever thus disposes the 
body and thus renders it capable, is necessarily good or 
useful ( IV. xxvi. xxvii. ) ; and is so in proportion to the 
extent to which it can render the body capable ; contrari 
wise (II. xiv., IV. xxvi. xxvii.), it is hurtful, if it ren 
ders the body in this respect less capable. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXIX. Whatsoever brings about the preserva 
tion of the proportion of motion and rest, which the parts 
of the human body mutually possess, is good; contrari 
wise, whatsoever causes a change in such proportion is 
bad. 

Proof. The human body needs many other bodies for 
its preservation (II. Post. iv. ). But that which consti 
tutes the specific reality (forma) of a human body is, 
that its parts communicate their several motions one to 



220 THE ETHICS 

another in a certain fixed proportion ( Def . before Lemma 
iv. after II. xiii. ). Therefore, whatsoever brings about 
the preservation of the proportion between motion and 
rest, which the parts of the human body mutually pos 
sess, preserves the specific reality of the human body, 
and consequently renders the human body capable of being- 
affected in many ways and of affecting external bodies in 
many ways; consequently it is good (by the last Prop.). 
Again, whatsoever brings about a change in the aforesaid 
proportion causes the human body to assume another 
specific character, in other words (see Preface to this 
Part toward the end, though the point is indeed self- 
evident), to be destroyed, and consequently totally incapa 
ble of being affected in an increased number of ways; 
therefore it is bad. Q.E.D. 

Note. The extent to which such causes can injure or 
be of service to the mind will be explained in the Fifth 
Part. But I would here remark that I consider that a body 
undergoes death, when the proportion of motion and rest 
which obtained mutually among its several parts is changed. 
For I do not venture to deny that a human body, while 
keeping the circulation of the blood and other properties, 
wherein the life of the body is thought to consist, may 
none the less be changed into another nature totally differ 
ent from its own. There is no reason, which compels me 
to maintain that a body does not die, unless it becomes a 
corpse ; nay, experience would seem to point to the oppo 
site conclusion. It sometimes happens, that a man under 
goes such changes, that I could hardly call him the same. 
As I have heard tell of a certain Spanish poet, who had 
been seized with sickness, and though he recovered there 
from yet remained so oblivious of his past life, that he 
would not believe the plays and tragedies he had writ 
ten to be his own: indeed, he might have been taken 
for a grown-up child, if he had also forgotten his native 
tongue. If this instance seems incredible, what shall we 
say of infants ? A man of ripe age deems their nature 
so unlike his own, that he can only be persuaded that he too 
has been an infant by the analogy of other men. How 
ever, I prefer to leave such questions undiscussed, lest I 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 221 

should give ground to the superstitious for raising new 
issues. 

PROP. XL. Whatsoever conduces to man s social life, or 
causes men to live together in harmony, is useful, whereas 
whatsoever brings discord into a State is bad. 

Proof. For whatsoever causes men to live together in 
harmony also causes them to live according to reason 
(IV. xxxv.), and is therefore (IV. xxvi. and xxvii.) good, 
and (for the same reason) whatsoever brings about discord 
is bad. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLI. Pleasure in itself is not bad but good: con 
trariwise, pain in itself is bad. 

p roo f^ pleasure (III. xi. and note) is emotion, whereby 
the body s power of activity is increased or helped; pain 
is emotion, whereby the body s power of activity is di 
minished or checked; therefore (IV. xxxviii.) pleasure in 
itself is good, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLII. Mirth cannot be excessive, but is always 
good; contrariwise, Melancholy is always bad. 

Proof. Mirth (see its Def. in III. xi. note) is pleas 
ure, which, in so far as it is referred to the body, con 
sists in all parts of the body being affected equally: that 
is (III. xi.), the body s power of activity is increased 
or aided in such a manner, that the several parts main 
tain their former proportion of motion and rest; there 
fore Mirth is always good (IV. xxxix.), and cannot be 
excessive. But Melancholy (see its Def. in the same 
note to III. xi.) is pain, which, in so far as it is referred 
to the body, consists in the absolute decrease or hind 
rance of the body s power of activity; therefore (IV. 
xxxviii.) it is always bad. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLIII. Stimulation may be excessive and bad; 
on the other hand, grief may be good, in so far as stim 
ulation or pleasure is bad. 

p roo f. Localized pleasure or stimulation (titillatid) is 
pleasure, which, in so far as it is referred to the body, 
consists in one or some of its parts being affected more 
than the rest (see its Def., III. xi. note); the power 
of this emotion may be sufficient to overcome other 
actions of the body (IV. vi.), and may remain obsti 



222 THE ETHICS 

nately fixed therein, thus rendering it incapable of being 
affected in a variety of other ways : therefore (IV. xxxviii. ) 
it may be bad. Again, grief, which is pain, cannot as 
such be good (IV. xli.). But, as its force and increase 
is defined by the power of an external cause compared 
with our own (IV. v.), we can conceive infinite degrees 
and modes of strength in this emotion (IV. iii.); we can, 
therefore, conceive it as capable of restraining stimula 
tion, and preventing its becoming excessive, and hinder 
ing the body s capabilities; thus, to this extent, it will 
be good. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLIV. Love and desire may be excessive. 
Proof. Love is pleasure, accompanied by the idea of 
an external cause (Def. of Emotions, vi.); therefore 
stimulation, accompanied by the idea of an external 
cause is love (III. xi. note); hence love may be exces 
sive. Again, the strength of desire varies in proportion 
to the emotion from which it arises (III. xxxvii.). Now 
emotion may overcome all the rest of men s actions (IV. 
vi.); so, therefore, can desire, which arises from the 
same emotion, overcome all other desires, and become 
excessive, as we showed in the last proposition concerning 
stimulation. 

Note. Mirth, which I have stated to be good, can be 
conceived more easily than it can be observed. For the 
emotions, whereby we are daily assailed, are generally 
referred to some part of the body which is affected more 
than the rest ; hence the emotions are generally excessive, 
and so fix the mind in the contemplation of one object, 
that it is unable to think of others; and although men 
as a rule, are a prey to many emotions and very few 
are found who are always assailed by one and the same 
yet there are cases, where one and the same emotion 
remains obstinately fixed. We sometimes see men so ab 
sorbed in one object, that, although it be not present, 
they think they have it before them; when this is the 
case with a man who is not asleep, we say he is delirious 
or mad; nor are those persons who are inflamed with love, 
and who dream all night and all day about nothing but 
their mistress, or some woman, considered as less mad, 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 223 

for they are made objects of ridicule. But when a miser 
thinks of nothing but gain or money, or when an am 
bitious man thinks of nothing but glory, they are not 
reckoned to be mad, because they are generally harmful, 
and are thought worthy of being hated. But, in reality, 
Avarice, Ambition, Lust, etc., are species of madness, 
though they may not be reckoned among diseases. 

PROP. XLV. Hatred can never be good. 

Proof. When we hate a man, we endeavor to destroy 
him (III. xxxix.), that is (IV. xxxvii.), we endeavor to 
do something that is bad. Therefore, etc. Q.E.D. 

N.B. Here, and in what follows, I mean by hatred 
only hatred toward men. 

Corollary. I. Envy, derision, contempt, anger, revenge, 
and other emotions attributable to hatred, or arising there 
from, are bad; this is evident from III. xxxix. and IV. 
xxxvii. 

Corollary II. Whatsoever we desire from motives of 
hatred is base, and in a state unjust. This also is evi 
dent from III. xxxix., and from the definitions of base 
ness and injustice in IV. xxxvii. note. 

Note. Between derision (which I have in Coroll. I. 
stated to be bad ) and laughter I recognize a great differ 
ence. For laughter, as also jocularity, is merely pleas 
ure ; therefore, so long as it be not excessive, it is in 
itself good (IV. xli.). Assuredly, nothing forbids man to 
enjoy himself, save grim and gloomy superstition. For 
why is it more lawful to satiate one s hunger and thirst 
than to drive away one s melancholy ? I reason, and have 
convinced myself as follows : No deity, nor any one else, 
save the envious, takes pleasure in my infirmity and dis 
comfort, nor sets down to my virtue the tears, sobs, fear, 
and the like, which are signs of infirmity of spirit; on 
the contrary, the greater the pleasure wherewith we are 
affected, the greater the perfection whereto we pass; in 
other words, the more must we necessarily partake of 
the divine nature. Therefore, to make use of what comes 
in our way, and to enjoy it as much as possible (not to 
the point of satiety, for that would not be enjoyment) 
is the part of a wise man. I say it is the part of a wise 



224 THE ETHICS 

man to refresh and recreate himself with moderate and 
pleasant food and drink, and also with perfumes, with the 
soft beauty of growing- plants, with dress, with music, 
with many sports, with theaters, and the like, such as 
every man may make use of without injury to his neigh 
bor. For the human body is composed of very numer 
ous parts, of diverse nature, which continually stand in 
need of fresh and varied nourishment, so that the whole 
body may be equally capable of performing all the actions, 
which follow from the necessity of its own nature; and, 
consequently, so that the mind may also be equally capa 
ble of understanding many things simultaneously. This 
way of life, then, agrees best with our principles, and 
also with general practice; therefore, if there be any 
question of another plan, the plan we have mentioned 
is the best, and in every way to be commended. There 
is no need for me to set forth the matter more clearly 
or in more detail. 

PROP. XLVI. He who lives under the guidance of 
reason, endeavors, as far as possible, to render back 
love, or kindness, for other men s hatred, anger, con 
tempt, etc., toward him. 

Proof. All emotions of hatred are bad (IV. xlv. Cor- 
oll. i.); therefore he who lives under the guidance of 
reason will endeavor, as far as possible, to avoid being 
assailed by such emotions (IV. xix.); consequently, he 
will also endeavor to prevent others being so assailed 
(IV. xxxvii.). But hatred is increased by being 
reciprocated, and can be quenched by love (III. xliii.), 
so that hatred may pass into love (III. xliv.); there 
fore he who lives under the guidance of reason will en 
deavor to repay hatred with love, that is, with kindness. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. He who chooses to avenge wrongs with hatred 
is assuredly wretched. But. he, who strives to conquer 
hatred with love, fights his battle in joy and confidence ; 
he withstands many as easily as one, and has very little 
need of fortune s aid. Those whom he vanquishes yield 
joyfully, not through failure, but through increase in their 
powers ; all these consequences follow so plainly from the 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 225 

mere definitions of love and understanding, that I have 
no need to prove them in detail. 

PROP. XL VI I. Emotions of hope and fear cannot be in 
themselves good. 

Proof. Emotions of hope and fear cannot exist with 
out pain. For fear is pain ( Def . of the Emotions, xiii.), 
and hope (Def. of the Emotions, Explanation xii. and 
xiii.) cannot exist without fear; therefore (IV. xli.) these 
emotions cannot be good in themselves, but only in so 
far as they can restrain excessive pleasure (IV. xliii.). 
Q.E.D. 

Note. We may add, that these emotions show defect 
ive knowledge and an absence of power in the mind ; for 
the same reason confidence, despair, joy, and disappoint 
ment are signs of a want of mental power. For although 
confidence and joy are pleasurable emotions, they never 
theless imply a preceding pain, namely, hope and fear. 
Wherefore the more we endeavor to be guided by reason, 
the less do we depend on hope ; we endeavor to free our 
selves from fear, and, as far as we can, to dominate 
fortune, directing our actions by the sure counsels of 
wisdom. 

PROP. XLVIII. The emotions of over-esteem and dis 
paragement are always bad. 

Proof. These emotions (see Def. of the Emotions, xxi. 
xxii.) are repugnant to reason; and are therefore (IV. 
xxvi. xxvii.) bad. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XLIX. Over-esteem is apt to render its object 
proud. 

Proof. If we see that anyone rates us too highly, for 
love s sake, we are apt to become elated (III xli.), or to 
be pleasurably affected (Def. of the Emotions, xxx. ) ; the 
good which we hear of ourselves we readily believe (III. 
xxv.); and therefore, for love s sake, rate ourselves too 
highly; in other words, we are apt to become proud. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. L. Pity, in a man who lives under the guidance 
of reason, is in itself bad and useless. 

Proof. Pity (Def. of the Emotions, xviii.) is a pain, 
and therefore (IV. xli.) is in itself bad. The good effect 
15 



226 THE ETHICS 



which follows, namely, our endeavor to free the object 
of our pity from misery, is an action which we desire to 
do solely at the dictation of reason (IV. xxxvii.); only 
at the dictation of reason are we able to perform any 
action, which we know for certain to be good (IV. xxvii.); 
thus, in a man who lives under the guidance of reason, 
pity in itself is useless and bad. Q. E.D. 

Note. He who rightly realizes that all things follow 
from the necessity of the divine nature, and come to pass 
in accordance with the eternal laws and rules of nature, 
will not find anything worthy of hatred, derision, or con 
tempt, nor will he bestow pity on anything, but to the 
utmost extent of human virtue he will endeavor to do 
well, as the saying is, and to rejoice. We may add, that 
he, who is easily touched with compassion, and is moved 
by another s sorrow or tears, often does something which 
he afterward regrets; partly because we can never be 
sure that an action caused by emotion is good, partly 
because we are easily deceived by false tears. I am in 
this place expressly speaking of a man living under the 
guidance of reason. He who is moved to help others 
neither by reason nor by compassion, is rightly styled 
inhuman, for (III. xxvii.) he seems unlike a man. 

PROP. LI. Approval is not repugnant to reason, but can 
agree therewith and arise therefrom. 

Proof. Approval is love toward one who has done 
good to another (Def. of the Emotions, xix.); therefore 
it may be referred to the mind, in so far as the latter 
is active (III. lix.), that is (III. iii.) in so far as it under 
stands; therefore, it is in agreement with reason, etc 
Q.E.D. 

Another Proof. He who lives under the guidance of 
reason, desires for others the good which he seeks for 
himself (IV. xxxvii.); wherefore from seeing someone 
doing good to his fellow his own endeavor to do good is 
aided; in other words he will feel pleasure (III. xi. note) 
accompanied by the idea of the benefactor. Therefore 
he approves of him. Q.E.D. 

Note. Indignation as we denned it (Def. of the Emo 
tions, xx.) is necessarily evil (IV. xlv.); we may, how- 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 227 

ever, remark that, when the sovereign power for the sake 
of preserving peace punishes a citizen who has injured 
another, it should not be said to be indignant with the 
criminal, for it is not incited by hatred to ruin him, it 
is led by a sense of duty to punish him. 

PROP. LII. Self-approval may arise from reason, and 
that which arises from reason is the highest possible. 

Proof. Self -approval is pleasure arising from a man s 
contemplation of himself and his own power of action 
(Def. of the Emotions, xxv.). But a man s true power 
of action or virtue is reason herself (III. iii.), as the said 
man clearly and distinctly contemplates her (II. xl. xliii.); 
therefore self-approval arises from reason. Again, when 
a man is contemplating himself, he only perceives clearly 
and distinctly or adequately, such things as follow from 
his power of action (III. Def. ii.), that is (III. iii.), from 
his power of understanding; therefore in such contem 
plation alone does the highest possible self-approval arise. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. Self -approval is in reality the highest object for 
which we can hope. For (as we showed in IV. xxv.) no 
one endeavors to preserve his being for the sake of any 
ulterior object, and, as this approval is more and more 
fostered and strengthened by praise (III. liii. Coroll.), and 
on the contrary (III. Iv. Coroll.) is more and more dis 
turbed by blame, fame becomes the most powerful of 
incitements to action, and life under disgrace is almost 
unendurable. 

PROP. LIII. Humility is not a virtue, or does not arise 
from reason. 

Proof. Humility is pain arising from a man s contem 
plation of his own infirmities (Def. of the Emotions, xxvi.). 
But, in so far as a man knows himself by true reason, he 
is assumed to understand his essence, that is, his power 
(III. vii.). Wherefore, if a man in self-contemplation per 
ceives any infirmity in himself, it is not by virtue of his 
understanding himself, but (III. Iv.) by virtue of his power 
of activity being checked. But, if we assume that a man 
perceives his own infirmity by virtue of understanding 
something stronger than himself, by the knowledge of 



228 THE ETHICS 

which he determines his own power of activity, this is the 
same as saying that we conceive that a man understands 
himself distinctly ( IV. xxvi.), because his power of activity 
is aided. Wherefore humility, or the pain which arises 
from a man s contemplation of his own infirmity, does not 
arise from the contemplation or reason, and is not a virtue 
but a passion. Q. E.D. 

PROP. LIV. Repentance is not a virtue, or does not 
arise from reason; but he who repents of an action is 
doubly wretched or infirm. 

Proof. The first part of this proposition is proved 
like the foregoing one. The second part is proved from 
the mere definition of the emotion in question (Def. of 
the Emotions, xxvii.). For the man allows himself to 
be overcome, first, by evil desires; secondly, by pain. 

Note. As men seldom live under the guidance of 
reason, these two emotions, namely, Humility and Re 
pentance, as also Hope and Fear, bring more good than 
harm; hence, as we must sin, we had better sin in that 
direction. For, if all men who are a prey to emotion 
were all equally proud, they would shrink from noth 
ing, and would fear nothing; how then could they be 
joined or linked together in bonds of union ? The crowd 
plays the tyrant, when it is not in fear; hence we need 
not wonder that the prophets, who consulted the good, 
not of a few, but of all, so strenuously commended Humil 
ity, Repentance, and Reverence. Indeed, those who are 
a prey to these emotions may be led much more easily 
than others to live under the guidance of reason, that is, 
to become free and to enjoy the life of the blessed. 

PROP. LV. Extreme pride or dejection indicates extreme 
ignorance of self. 

Proof. This is evident from Def. of the Emotions, 
xxviii. and xxix. 

PROP. LVI. Extreme pride or dejection indicates ex 
treme infirmity of spirit. 

Proof. The first foundation of virtue is self-preserva 
tion (IV. xxii. Coroll.) under the guidance of reason (IV. 
xxiv.). He, therefore, who is ignorant of himself, is 
ignorant of the foundation of all virtues, and conse- 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 229 

quently of all virtues. Again, to act virtuously is merely 
to act under the guidance of reason (IV. xxiv.): now he, 
that acts under the guidance of reason, must necessarily 
know that he so acts (II. xliii.). Therefore, he who is 
in extreme ignorance of himself, and consequently of all 
virtues, acts least in obedience to virtue; in other words 
(IV. Def. viii.), is most infirm of spirit. Thus extreme 
pride or dejection indicates extreme infirmity of spirit. 
Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it most clearly follows, that the proud 
and the dejected specially fall a prey to the emotions. 

Note. Yet dejection can be more easily corrected than 
pride ; for the latter being a pleasurable emotion, and the 
former a painful emotion, the pleasurable is stronger than 
the painful (IV. xviii.). 

PROP. LVII. The proud man delights in the company 
of flatterers and parasites, but hates the company of the 
high-minded. 

Proof. Pride is pleasure arising from a man s over- 
estimation of himself ( Def. of the Emotions, xxviii. and 
vi.); this estimation the proud man will endeavor to 
foster by all the means in his power (III. xiii. note); he 
will therefore delight in the company of flatterers and 
parasites (whose character is too well known to need 
definition here), and will avoid the company of high- 
minded men, who value him according to his deserts. 
Q.E.D. 

Note. It would be too long a task to enumerate here 
all the evil results of pride, inasmuch as the proud are a 
prey to all the emotions, though to none of them less 
than to love and pity. I cannot, however, pass over in 
silence the fact, that a man may be called proud from 
his under-estimation of other people ; and, therefore, pride 
in this sense may be defined as pleasure arising from the 
false opinion, whereby a man may consider himself 
superior to his fellows. The dejection, which is the 
opposite quality to this sort of pride, may be defined as 
pain arising from the false opinion, whereby a man may 
think himself inferior to his fellows. Such being the 
case, we can easily see that a proud man is necessarily 



230 THE ETHICS 

envious (III. xli. note), and only takes pleasure in the 
company, who fool his weak mind to the top of his bent, 
and make him insane instead of merely foolish. 

Though dejection is the emotion contrary to pride, yet 
is the dejected man very near akin to the proud man. 
For, inasmuch as his pain arises from a comparison be 
tween his own infirmity and other men s power or virtue, 
it will be removed, or, in other words, he will feel pleas 
ure, if his imagination be occupied in contemplating 
other men s faults ; whence arises the proverb, <( The un 
happy are comforted by finding fellow-sufferers." Con 
trariwise, he will be the more pained in proportion as 
he thinks himself inferior to others; hence none are so 
prone to envy as the dejected, they are specially keen 
in observing men s actions, with a view to fault-finding 
rather than correction, in order to reserve their praises 
for dejection, and to glory therein, though all the time 
with a dejected air. These effects follow as necessarily 
from the said emotion, as it follows from the nature of 
a triangle, that the three angles are equal to two right 
angles. I have already said that I call these and similar 
emotions bad, solely in respect to what is useful to man. 
The laws of nature have regard to nature s general or 
der, whereof man is but a part. I mention this, in pass 
ing, lest any should think that I have wished to set forth 
the faults and irrational deeds of men rather than the 
nature and properties of things. For, as I said in the 
preface to the third Part, I regard human emotions and 
their properties as on the same footing with other nat 
ural phenomena. Assuredly human emotions indicate 
the power and ingenuity of nature, if not of human 
nature, quite as fully as other things which we admire, 
and which we delight to contemplate. But I pass on to 
note those qualities in the emotions, which bring advan 
tage to man, or inflict injury upon him. 

PROP. LVIII. Honor (gloria) is not repugnant to 
reason, but may arise therefrom. 

Proof. This is evident from Def. of the Emotions, 
xxx., and also from the definition of an honorable man 
(IV. xxxvii. note i.). 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 231 

Note. Empty honor, as it is styled, is self -approval 
fostered only by the good opinion of the populace ; when 
this good opinion ceases there ceases also the self- 
approval, in other words, the highest object of each man s 
love ( IV. Hi. note ) ; consequently he whose honor is 
rooted in popular approval must, day by day, anxiously 
strive, act, and scheme in order to retain his reputation. 
For the populace is variable and inconstant, so that, if a 
reputation be not kept up, it quickly withers away. 
Everyone wishes to catch popular applause for himself, 
and readily represses the fame of others. The object of 
the strife being estimated as the greatest of all good, 
each combatant is seized with a fierce desire to put down 
his rivals in every possible way, till he who at last comes 
out victorious is more proud of having done harm to 
others than of having done good to himself. This sort 
of honor, then, is really empty, being nothing. 

The points to note concerning shame may easily be 
inferred from what was said on the subject of mercy and 
repentance. I will only add that shame, like compassion, 
though not a virtue, is yet good in so far as it shows that 
the feeler of shame is really imbued with the desire to 
live honorably; in the same way as suffering is good, as 
showing that the injured part is not mortified. There 
fore, though a man who feels shame is sorrowful, he is 
yet more perfect than he, who is shameless, and has no 
desire to live honorably. 

Such are the points which I undertook to remark upon 
concerning the emotions of pleasure and pain ; as for the 
desires, they are good or bad according as they spring 
from good or evil emotions. But all, in so far as they 
are engendered in us by emotions wherein the mind is 
passive, are blind (as is evident from what was said in 
IV. xliv. note), and would be useless, if men could easily 
be induced to live by the guidance of reason only, as I 
will now briefly show. 

PROP. LIX. To all the actions, whereto we are deter 
mined by emotion wherein the mind is passive, we can 
be determined without emotion by reason. 

Proof. To act rationally is nothing else (III. Hi. and 



232 THE ETHICS 

Def. ii.) but to perform those actions, which follow from 
the necessity of our nature considered in itself alone. 
But pain is bad, in so far as it diminishes or checks the 
power of action (IV. xli.); wherefore we cannot by pain 
be determined to any action, which we should be unable 
to perform under the guidance of reason. Again, pleas 
ure is bad only in so far as it hinders a man s capability 
for action (IV. xli. xliii.); therefore to this extent we 
could not be determined by it to any action, which we 
could not perform under the guidance of reason. Lastly, 
pleasure, in so far as it is good, is in harmony with 
reason (for it consists in the fact that a man s capability 
for action is increased or aided ) ; nor is the mind passive 
therein, except in so far as a man s power of action is 
not increased to the extent of affording him an ade 
quate conception of himself and his actions ( III. iii. and 
note ). 

Wherefore, if a man who is pleasurably affected be 
brought to such a state of perfection that he gains an 
adequate conception of himself and his own actions, he 
will be equally, nay more, capable of those actions, to 
which he is determined by emotion wherein the mind is 
passive. But all emotions are attributable to pleasure, 
to pain, or to desire (Def. of the Emotions, iv. explana 
tion) ; and desire (Def. of the Emotions, i.) is nothing 
else but the attempt to act; therefore, to all actions, etc. 
Q.E.D. 

Another Proof . A given action is called bad, in so far 
as it arises from one being affected by hatred or any 
evil emotion. But no action, considered in itself 
alone, is either good or bad ( as we pointed out 
in the preface to Part iv.), one and the same action 
being sometimes good, sometimes bad; wherefore to 
the action which is sometimes bad, or arises from 
some evil emotion, we may be led by reason (IV. xix.). 
Q.E.D. 

Note. An example will put this point in a clearer light. 
The action of striking, in so far as it is considered physi 
cally, and in so far as we merely look to the fact that a 
man raises his arm, clenches his fist, and moves his whole 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 233 

arm violently downward, is a virtue or excellence which 
is conceived as proper to the structure of the human body. 
If, then, a man, moved by anger or hatred, is led to clench 
his fist or to move his arm, this result takes place (as we 
showed in Part II.), because one and the same action can 
be associated with various mental images of things ; there 
fore we may be determined to the performance of one and 
the same action by confused ideas, or by clear and distinct 
ideas. Hence it is evident that every desire which springs 
from emotion, wherein the mind is passive, would become 
useless, if men could be guided by reason. Let us now see 
why desire which arises from emotion, wherein the mind 
is passive is called by us blind. 

PROP. LX. Desire arising from a pleasure or pain, that 
is not attributable to the whole body, but only to one or 
certain parts thereof, is without utility in respect to a man 
as a whole. 

Proof. Let it be assumed, for instance, that A, a part 
of a body, is so strengthened by some external cause, 
that it prevails over the remaining parts (IV. vi.). This 
part will not endeavor to do away with its own powers, 
in order that the other parts of the body may perform its 
office ; for this it would be necessary for it to have a force 
or power of doing away with its own powers, which (III. 
vi.) is absurd. The said part, and, consequently, the mind 
also, will endeavor to preserve its condition. Wherefore 
desire arising from a pleasure of the kind aforesaid has 
no utility in reference to a man as a whole. If it be 
assumed, on the other hand, that the part, A, be checked 
so that the remaining parts prevail, it may be proved in 
the same manner that desire arising from pain has no 
utility in respect to a man as a whole. Q.E.D. 

Note. As pleasure is generally (IV. xliv. note) attrib 
uted to one part of the body, we generally desire to pre 
serve our being without taking into consideration our 
health as a whole : to which it may be added, that the de 
sires which have most hold over us (IV. ix.) take account 
of the present and not of the future. 

PROP. LXI. Desire which springs from reason cannot 
be excessive. 



234 THE ETHICS 

Proof. Desire ( Def . of the Emotions, i.) considered 
absolutely in the actual essence of man, in so far as it 
is conceived as in any way determined to a particular 
activity by some given modification of itself. Hence de 
sire, which arises from reason, that is, (III. iii.), which 
is engendered in us in so far as we act, is the actual es 
sence or nature of man, in so far as it is conceived as 
determined to such activites as are adequately conceived 
through man s essence only (III. Def. ii.). Now, if such 
desire could be excessive, human nature considered in 
itself alone would be able to exceed itself, or would be 
able to do more than it can, a manifest contradiction. 
Therefore, such desire cannot be excessive. Q.E.D. 

PROP. LXII. In so far as the mind conceives a thing 
under the dictates of reason, it is affected equally, whether 
the idea be of a thing future, past, or present. 

Proof. Whatsoever the mind conceives under the 
guidance of reason, it conceives under the form of eter 
nity or necessity (II. xliv. Coroll. ii.), and is therefore 
affected with the same certitude (II. xliii. and note). 
Wherefore, whether the thing be present, past, or future, 
the mind conceives it under the same necessity and is 
affected with the same certitude; and whether the idea 
be of something present, past, or future, it will in all 
cases be equally true (II. xli.); that is, it will always 
possess the same properties of an adequate idea (II. Def. 
iv.); therefore, in so far as the mind conceives things 
under the dictates of reason, it is affected in the same 
manner, whether the idea be of a thing future, past, or 
present. Q.E.D. 

Note. If we could possess an adequate knowledge of 
the duration of things, and could determine by reason 
their periods of existence, we should contemplate things 
future with the same emotion as things present; and the 
mind would desire as though it were present the good 
which it conceived as future ; consequently it would neces 
sarily neglect a lesser good in the present for the sake 
of a greater good in the future, and would in no wise 
desire that which is good in the present but a source of 
evil in the future, as we shall presently show. However, 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 235 

we can have but a very inadequate knowledge of the 
duration of things (II. xxxi.); and the periods of their 
existence ( II. xliv. note ) we can only determine by imagi 
nation, which is not so powerfully affected by the future 
as by the present. Hence such true knowledge of good 
and evil as we possess is merely abstract or general, and 
the judgment which we pass on the order of things and 
the connection of causes, with a view to determining 
what is good or bad for us in the present, is rather 
imaginary than real. Therefore it is nothing wonderful, 
if the desire arising from such knowledge of good and 
evil, in so far as it looks on into the future, be more read 
ily checked than the desire of things which are agreeable 
at the present time. (Cf. IV. xvi.) 

PROP. LXIII. He who is led by fear, and does good in 
order to escape evil, is not led by reason. 

Proof. All the emotions which are attributable to the 
mind as active, or in other words to reason, are emotions 
of pleasure and desire (III. Hx.); therefore, he who is 
led by fear, and does good in order to escape evil, is 
not led by reason. 

Note. Superstitious persons, who know better how to 
rail at vice than how to teach virtue, and who strive not 
to guide men by reason, but so to restrain them that 
they would rather escape evil than love virtue, have no 
other aim but to make others as wretched as themselves; 
wherefore it is nothing wonderful, if they be generally 
troublesome and odious to their fellow-men. 

Corollary. Under desire which springs from reason, 
we seek good directly, and shun evil indirectly. 

Proof. Desire which springs from reason can only 
spring from a pleasurable emotion, wherein the mind is 
not passive (III. lix.), in other words, from a pleasure 
which cannot be excessive (IV. Ixi.), and not from pain; 
wherefore this desire springs from the knowledge of good, 
not of evil (IV. viii.); hence, under the guidance of rea 
son we seek good directly and only by implication shun 
evil. Q.E.D. 

Note. This Corollary may be illustrated by the example 
of a sick and a healthy man. The sick man through fear 



236 THE ETHICS 

of death eats what he naturally shrinks from, but the 
healthy man takes pleasure in his food, and thus gets a 
better enjoyment out of life, than if he were in fear of 
death, and desired directly to avoid it. So a judge, who 
condemns a criminal to death, not from hatred or anger, 
but from love of the public well-being, is guided solely 
by reason. 

PROP. LXIV. The knowledge of evil is an inadequate 
knowledge. 

Proof. The knowledge of evil (IV. viii.) is pain, in so 
far as we are conscious thereof. Now pain is the tran 
sition to a lesser perfection (Def. of the Emotions, iii.), 
and therefore cannot be understood through man s nature 
(III. vi. and vii.); therefore it is a passive state (III. 
Def. ii.) which (III. iii.) depends on inadequate ideas; 
consequently the knowledge thereof (II. xxix.), namely, 
the knowlege of evil, is inadequate. Q.E.D. 

Corollary, Hence it follows that, if the human mind 
possessed only adequate ideas, it would form no concep 
tion of evil. 

PROP. LXV. Under the guidance of reason we should 
pursue the greater of two good and the lesser of two evils. 

Proof. A good which prevents our enjoyment of a 
greater good is in reality an evil ; for we apply the terms 
good and bad to things, in so far as we compare them 
one with another (see Preface to this Part) ; therefore, 
evil is in reality a lesser good; hence under the guid 
ance of reason we seek or pursue only the greater good 
and the lesser evil. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. We may, under the guidance of reason, 
pursue the lesser evil as though it were the greater good, 
and we may shun the lesser good, which would be the 
cause of the greater evil. For the evil, which is here 
called the lesser, is really good, and the lesser good is 
really evil, wherefore we may seek the former and shun 
the latter. Q.E.D. 

PROP. LXVI. We may, under the guidance of reason, 
seek a greater good in the future in preference to a lesser 
good in the present, and we may seek a lesser evil in 
the present in preference to a greater evil in the future. 



OF HUMAN BONDAGE 237 

Proof. \i the mind could have an adequate knowledge 
of things future, it would be affected toward what is 
future in the same way as toward what is present (IV. 
Ixii.) ; wherefore, looking merely to reason, as in this 
proposition we are assumed to do, there is no difference, 
whether the greater good or evil be assumed as present, 
or assumed as future; hence (IV. Ixv.) we may seek a 
greater good in the future in preference to a lesser good 
in the present, etc. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. We may, under the guidance of reason, 
seek a lesser evil in the present, because it is the cause 
of a greater good in the future, and we may shun a lesser 
good in the present, because it is the cause of a greater 
evil in the future. This Corollary is related to the fore 
going Proposition as the Corollary to IV. Ixv. is related 
to the said IV. Ixv. 

Note. If these statements be compared with what we 

have pointed out concerning the strength of the emotions 
in this Part up to Prop, xviii., we shall readily see the 
difference between a man, who is led solely by emotion 
or opinion, and a man, who is led by reason. The former, 
whether he will or no, performs actions whereof he is 
utterly ignorant; the latter is his own master and only 
performs such actions, as he knows are of primary im 
portance in life, and therefore chiefly desires; wherefore 
I call the former a slave, and the latter a free man, 
concerning whose disposition and manner of life it will 
be well to make a few observations. 

PROP. LXVII. A free man thinks of death least of all 
things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but 
of life. 

Proof. A free man is one who lives under the guid 
ance of reason, who is not led by fear (IV. Ixiii.), but 
who directly desires that which is good (IV. Ixiii. Cor- 
oll.), in other words (IV. xxiv.), who strives to act, to 
live, and to preserve his being on the basis of seeking 
his own true advantage ; wherefore such an one thinks of 
nothing less than of death, but his wisdom is a medita 
tion of life. Q.E.D. 

PROP. LXVIII. If men were born free, they would, so 



2 38 THE ETHICS 

long as they remained free, form no conception of good 
and evil. 

Proof. I call free him who is led solely by reason; 
he, therefore, who is born free, and who remains free" 
has only adequate ideas; therefore (IV. Ixiv. Coroll.), he 
has no conception of evil, or consequently (good and 
evil being correlative) of good. Q.E.D. 

Note. It is evident, from IV. iv., that the hypothesis 
of this Proposition is false and inconceivable, except in 
so far as we look solely to the nature of man, or rather 
to God; not in so far as the latter is infinite, but only in 
so far as he is the cause of man s existence. 

This, and other matters which we have already proved, 
seem to have been signified by Moses in the history of 
the first man. For in that narrative no other power of 
God is conceived, save that whereby he created man, that 
is, the power wherewith he provided solely for man s ad 
vantage; it is stated that God forbade man, being free, 
to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 
and that, as soon as man should have eaten of it, he 
would straightway fear death rather than desire to live. 
Further, it is written that when man had found a wife, 
who was in entire harmony with his nature, he knew 
that there could be nothing in nature which could be 
more useful to him ; but that after he believed the beasts 
to be like himself, he straightway began to imitate their 
emotions (III. xxvii.), and to lose his freedom; this free 
dom was afterward recovered by the patriarchs, led by 
the spirit of Christ; that is, by the idea of God, whereon 
alone it depends, that man may be free, and desire 
for others the good which he desires for himself, as we 
have shown above (IV. xxxvii.). 

PROP. LXIX. The virtue of a free man is seen to be 
as great, when it declines dangers, as when it overcomes 
them. 

Proof. Emotion can only be checked or removed by an 
emotion contrary to itself, and possessing more power in 
restraining emotion (IV. vii.). But blind daring and fear 
are emotions, which can be conceived as equally great 
( IV. v. and iii.) : hence, no less virtue or firmness is required 



ON HUMAN BONDAGE 239 

in checking daring than in checking fear ( III. lix. note) ; in 
other words (Def. of the Emotions, xl. andxli.),the free 
man shows as much virtue, when he declines dangers, as 
when he strives to overcome them. Q.E.D. 

Corollary, The free man is as courageous in timely 
retreat as in combat; or, a free man shows equal cour 
age or presence of mind, whether he elect to give battle 
or to retreat. 

Note. What courage (animositas) is, and what I mean 
thereby, I explained in III. lix. note. By danger I mean 
everything, which can give rise to any evil, such as pain, 
hatred, discord, etc. 

PROP. LXX. The free man, who lives among the igno 
rant, strives, as far as he can, to avoid receiving favors 
from them. 

Proof. Everyone judges what is good according to his 
disposition ( III. xxxix. note ) ; wherefore an ignorant man, 
who has conferred a benefit on another, puts his own esti 
mate upon it, and, if it appears to be estimated less highly 
by the receiver, will feel pain (III. xlii.). But the free 
man only desires to join other men to him in friendship 
(IV. xxxvii.), not repaying their benefits with others 
reckoned as of like value, but guiding himself and others 
by the free decision of reason, and doing only such things 
as he knows to be of primary importance. Therefore 
the free man, lest he should become hateful to the igno 
rant, or follow their desires rather than reason, will 
endeavor, as far as he can, to avoid receiving their favors. 
Note. I say, AS FAR AS HE CAN. For though men be 
ignorant, yet are they men, and in cases of necessity 
could afford us human aid, the most excellent of all 
things: therefore it is often necessary to accept favors 
from them, and consequently to repay such favors in 
kind; we must, therefore, exercise caution in declining 
favors, lest we should have the appearance of despising 
those who bestow them, or of being, from avaricious 
motives, unwilling to requite them, and so give ground 
for offense by the very fact of striving to avoid it. Thus, 
in declining favors, we must look to the requirements of 
utility and courtesy. 



240 THE ETHICS 

PROP. LXXI. Only free men are thoroughly grateful 
one to another. 

Proof. Only free men are thoroughly useful one to 
another, and associated among themselves by the closest 
necessity of friendship (IV. xxxv. and Coroll. i.) only 
such men endeavor, with mutual zeal of love, to confer 
benefits on each other (IV. xxxvii.), and, therefore, only 
they are thoroughly grateful one to another. Q.E.D. 

Note. The good will, which men who are led by blind 
desire have for one another, is generally a bargaining or 
enticement, rather than pure good will. Moreover, in 
gratitude is not an emotion. Yet it is base, inasmuch as 
it generally shows, that a man is affected by excessive 
hatred, anger, pride, avarice, etc. He who, by reason of 
his folly, knows not how to return benefits, is not un 
grateful, much less he who is not gained over by the 
gifts of a courtesan to serve her lust, or by a thief to 
conceal his thefts, or by any similar persons. Contrari 
wise, such an one shows a constant mind, inasmuch as 
he cannot by any gifts be corrupted, to his own or the 
general hurt. 

PROP. LXXII. The free man never acts fraudulently, 
but always in good faith. 

Proof If it be asked: What should a man s conduct 
be in a case where he could by breaking faith free him 
self from the danger of present death ? Would not his 
plan of self-preservation completely persuade him to de 
ceive ? this may be answered by pointing out that, if 
reason persuaded him to act thus, it would persuade all 
men to act in a similar manner, in which case reason 
would persuade men not to agree in good faith to unite 
their forces, or to have laws in common, that is, not to 
have any general laws, which is absurd. 

PROP. LXXIII. The man who is guided by reason, is 
more free in a State, where he lives under a general 
system of law, than in solitude, where he is independent. 

Proof. The man who is guided by reason, does not 
obey through fear (IV. Ixiii.): but, in so far as he en 
deavors to preserve his being according to the dictates 
of reason, that is (IV. Ixvi. note), in so far as he 



APPENDIX 241 

endeavors to live in freedom, he desires to order his life 
according to the general good (IV. xxxvii.), and conse 
quently (as we showed in IV. xxxvii. note ii.), to live ac 
cording to the laws of his country. Therefore the free 
man, in order to enjoy greater freedom, desires to possess 
the general rights of citizenship. Q.E.D. 

Note. These and similar observations, which we have 
made on man s true freedom, may be referred to strength, 
that is, to courage and nobility of character (III. lix. 
note). I do not think it worth while to prove separately 
all the properties of strength; much less need I show, 
that he that is strong hates no man, is angry with no 
man, envies no man, is indignant with no man, despises 
no man, and least of all things is proud. These propo 
sitions, and all that relate to the true way of life and 
religion, are easily proved from IV. xxxvii. and xlvi. , 
namely, that hatred should be overcome with love, and 
that every man should desire for others the good which 
he seeks for himself. We may also repeat what we drew 
attention to in the note to IV. 1., and in other places; 
namely, that the strong man has ever first in his thoughts, 
that all things follow from the necessity of the divine 
nature; so that whatsoever he deems to be hurtful and 
evil, and whatsoever, accordingly, seems to him impious, 
horrible, unjust, and base, assumes that appearance owing 
his own disordered, fragmentary, and confused view of 
the universe. Wherefore he strives before all things to 
conceive things as they really are, and to remove the 
hindrances to true knowledge, such as are hatred, anger, 
envy, derision, pride, and similar emotions, which I have 
mentioned above. Thus he endeavors, as we said before, 
as far as in him lies, to do good, and to go on his way 
rejoicing. How far human virtue if capable of attaining 
to such a condition, and what its powers may be, I will 
prove in the following Part. 

APPENDIX. 

WHAT I have said in this Part concerning the right 
way of life has not been arranged, so as to admit of 
being seen at one view, but has been set forth piece- 
16 



242 THE ETHICS 

meal, according as I thought each proposition could most 
readily be deduced from what preceded it. I propose, 
therefore, to rearrange my remarks and to bring them 
under leading heads. 

I. All our endeavors or desires so follow from the ne 
cessity of our nature, that they can be understood either 
through it alone, as their proximate cause, or by virtue 
of our being a part of nature, which cannot be adequately 
conceived through itself without other individuals. 

II. Desires, which follow from our nature in such a 
manner, that they can be understood through it alone, 
are those which are referred to the mind, in so far as 
the latter is conceived to consist of adequate ideas: the 
remaining desires are only referred to the mind, in so 
far as it conceives things inadequately, and their force 
and increase are generally defined not by the power of 
man, but by the power of things external to us: where 
fore the former are rightly called actions, the latter pas 
sions, for the former always indicate our power, the 
latter, on the other hand, show our infirmity and frag 
mentary knowledge. 

III. Our actions, that is, those desires which are defined 
by man s power or reason, are always good. The rest 
may be either good or bad. 

IV. Thus in life it is before all things useful to per 
fect the understanding, or reason, as far as we can, 
and in this alone man s highest happiness or blessed 
ness consists, indeed blessedness is nothing else but 
the contentment of spirit, which arises from the intuitive 
knowledge of God: now, to perfect the understanding 
is nothing else but to understand God, God s attributes, 
and the actions which follow from the necessity of 
his nature. Wherefore of a man, who is led by rea 
son, the ultimate aim or highest desire, whereby he 
seeks to govern all his fellows, is that whereby he is 
brought to the adequate conception of himself and of 
all things within the scope of his intelligence. 

V. Therefore, without intelligence there is not rational 
life : and things are only good in so far as they aid man 
in his enjoyment of the intellectual life, which is defined 



APPENDIX 243 

by intelligence. Contrariwise, whatsoever things hinder 
man s perfecting of his reason, and capability to enjov 
the rational life, are alone called evil. 

VI. As all things whereof man is the efficient cause are 
necessarily good, no evil can befall man except through 
external causes; namely, by virtue of man being a part 
of universal nature, whose laws human nature is compelled 
to obey, and to conform to in almost infinite ways. 

VII. It is impossible, that man should not be a part of 
nature, or that he should not follow her general order; 
but if he be thrown among individuals whose nature is 
in harmony with his own, his power of action will thereby 
be aided and fostered, whereas, if he be thrown among 
such as are but very little in harmony with his nature, 
he will hardly be able to accommodate himself to them 
without undergoing a great change himself. 

VIII. Whatsoever in nature we deem to be evil, or to 
be capable of injuring our faculty for existing and enjoy 
ing the rational life, we may endeavor to remove in 
whatever way seems safest to us ; on the other hand, what 
soever we deem to be good or useful for preserving our 
being, and enabling us to enjoy the rational life, we may 
appropriate to our use and employ as we think best. 
Every one without exception may, by sovereign right of na 
ture, do whatsoever he thinks will advance his own interest. 

IX. Nothing can be in more harmony with the nature 
of any given thing than other individuals of the same 
species; therefore (cf. vii.) for man in the preservation 
of his being and the enjoyment of the rational life there 
is nothing more useful than his fellow-man who is led 
by reason. Further, as we know not anything among 
individual things which is more excellent than a man led 
by reason, no man can better display the power of his 
skill and disposition, than in so training men, that they 
come at last to live under the dominion of their own 
reason. 

X. In so far as men are influenced by envy or any 
kind of hatred, one toward another, they are at vari 
ance, and are therefore to be feared in proportion, as 
they are more powerful than their fellows. 



244 THE ETHICS 

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

XII. It is before all things useful to men to associate 
their ways of life, to bind themselves together with such 
bonds as they think most fitted to gather them all into 
unity, and generally to do whatsoever serves to strengthen 
friendship. 

XIII. But for this there is need of skill and watchful 
ness. For men are diverse (seeing that those who live 
under the guidance of reason are few), yet are they gen 
erally envious and more prone to revenge than to sym 
pathy. No small force of character is therefore required 
to take every one as he is, and to restrain one s self from 
imitating the emotions of others. But those who carp 
at mankind, and are more skilled in railing at vice than 
in instilling virtue, and who break rather than strengthen 
men s dispositions, are hurtful both to themselves and 
others. Thus many from too great impatience of spirit, 
or from misguided religious zeal, have preferred to live 
among brutes rather than among men ; as boys or youths, 
who cannot peaceably endure the chidings of their parents, 
will enlist as soldiers and choose the hardships of war 
and the despotic discipline in preference to the comforts 
of home and the admonitions of their father: suffering 
any burden to be put upon them, so long as they may 
spite their parents. 

XIV. Therefore, although men are generally governed 
in everything by their own lusts, yet their association in 
common brings many more advantages than drawbacks. 
Wherefore it is better to bear patiently the wrongs they 
may do us, and to strive to promote whatsoever serves 
to bring about harmony and friendship. 

XV. Those things, which beget harmony, are such as are 
attributable to justice, equity, and honorable living. 
For men brook ill not only what is unjust or iniquitous, 
but also what is reckoned disgraceful, or that a man 
should slight the received customs of their society. For 
winning love those qualities are especially necessary which 
have regard to religion and piety (cf. IV. xxxvii. notes, 
i. ii. ; xlvi. note; and Ixxiii. note). 



APPENDIX 245 

XVI. Further, harmony is often the result of fear; but 
such harmony is insecure. Further, fear arises from 
infirmity of spirit, and moreover belongs not to the exer 
cise of reason: the same is true of compassion, though 
this latter seems to bear a certain resemblance to 
piety. 

XVII. Men are also gained over by liberality, especially 
such as have not the means to buy what is necessary to 
sustain life. However, to give aid to every poor man is 
far beyond the power and the advantage of any private 
person. For the riches of any private person are wholly 
inadequate to meet such a call. Again, an individual 
man s resources of character are too limited for him to 
be able to make all men his friends. Hence providing 
for the poor is a duty, which falls on the State as a 
whole, and has regard only to the general advantage. 

XVIII. In accepting favors, and in returning gratitude 
our duty must be wholly different (cf. IV. Ixx. note; 
Ixxi. note). 

XIX. Again, meretricious love, that is, the lust of gen 
eration arising from bodily beauty, and generally every 
sort of love, which owns anything save freedom of soul 
as its cause, readily passes into hate ; unless indeed, what 
is worse, it is a species of madness; and then it promotes 
discord rather than harmony (cf. III. xxxi. Coroll.). 

XX. As concerning marriage, it is certain that this is 
in harmony with reason, if the desire for physical union 
be not engendered solely by bodily beauty, but also by 
the desire to beget children and to train them up wisely ; 
and moreover, if the love of both, to wit, of the man and 
of the woman, is not caused by bodily beauty only, but 
also by freedom of soul. 

XXI. Furthermore, flattery begets harmony; but only 
by means of the vile offense of slavishness or treachery. 
None are more readily taken with flattery than the proud, 
who wish to be first, but are not. 

XXII. There is in abasement a spurious appearance of 
piety and religion. Although abasement is the opposite 
to pride, yet is he that abases himself most akin to the 
proud (IV. Ivii. note). 



246 THE ETHICS 

XXIII. Shame also brings about harmony, but only 
in such matters as cannot be hid. Further, as shame is 
a species of pain, it does not concern the exercise of 
reason. 

XXIV. The remaining emotions of pain toward men 
arc directly opposed to justice, equity, honor, piety, and 
religion ; and, although indignation seems to bear a certain 
resemblance to equity, yet is life but lawless, where every 
man may pass judgment on another s deeds, and vindi 
cate his own or other men s rights. 

XXV. Correctness of conduct (modestia), that is, the 
desire of pleasing men which is determined by reason, is 
attributable to piety (as we said in IV. xxxvii, note i.). 
But, if it spring from emotion, it is ambition, or the desire 
whereby men, under the false cloak of piety, generally 
stir up discords and seditions. For he who desires to aid 
his fellows either in word or in deed so that they may 
together enjoy the highest good, he, I say, will before all 
things, strive to win them over with love: not to draw 
them into admiration, so that a system may be called 
after his name, nor to give any cause for envy. Further, 
in his conversation, he will shrink from talking of men s 
faults, and will be careful to speak but sparingly of human 
infirmity; but he will dwell at length on human virtue 
or power, and the way whereby it may be perfected. 
Thus will men be stirred not by fear, nor by aversion, 
but only by the emotion of joy, to endeavor, so far as in 
them lies, to live in obedience to reason. 

XXVI. Besides men, we know of no particular thing 
in nature in whose mind we may rejoice, and whom we 
can associate with ourselves in friendship or any sort of fel 
lowship ; therefore, whatsoever there be in nature besides 
man, a regard for our advantage does not call on us to 
preserve, but to preserve or destroy according to its 
various capabilities, and to adapt to our use as best we 
may. 

XXVII. The advantage which we derive from things 
external to us, besides the experience and knowledge 
which we acquire from observing them, and from recom- 
bining their elements in different forms, is principally the 



APPENDIX 247 

preservation of the body; from this point of view, those 
things are most useful which can so feed and nourish 
the body, that all its parts may rightly fulfil their func 
tions. For, in proportion as the body is capable of being 
affected in a greater variety of ways, and of affecting 
external bodies in a great number of ways, so much the 
more is the mind capable of thinking ( IV. xxxviii. xxxix.). 
But there seem to be very few things of this kind in 
nature; wherefore for the due nourishment of the body 
we must use many foods of diverse nature. For the 
human body is composed of very many parts of dif 
ferent nature, which stand in continual need of va 
ried nourishment, so that the whole body may be equally 
capable of doing everything that can follow from 
its own nature, and consequently that the mind also 
may be equally capable of forming many percep 
tions. 

XXVIII. Now for providing these nourishments the 
strength of each individual would hardly suffice, if men 
did not lend one another mutual aid. But money has 
furnished us with a token for everything: hence it is 
with the notion of money, that the mind of the multitude 
is chiefly engrossed : nay, it can hardly conceive any kind 
of pleasure, which is not accompanied with the idea of 
money as cause. 

XXIX. This result is the fault only of those, who seek 
money, not from poverty or to supply their necessary 
wants, but because they have learned the arts of gain, 
wherewith they bring themselves to great splendor. Cer 
tainly they nourish their bodies, according to custom, 
but scantily, believing that they lose as much of their 
wealth as they spend on the preservation of their body. 
But they who know the true use of money, and who fix 
the measure of wealth solely with regard to their actual 
needs, live content with little. 

XXX. As, therefore, those things are good which assist 
the various parts of the body, and enable them to per 
form their functions; and as pleasure consists in an 
increase of, or aid to, man s power, in so far as he is 
composed of mind and body; it follows that all those 



248 THE ETHICS 

things which bring pleasure are good. But seeing that 
things do not work with the object of giving us pleasure, 
and that their power of action is not tempered to suit 
our advantage, and lastly, that pleasure is generally 
referred to one part of the body more than to the other 
parts; therefore most emotions of pleasure (unless 
reason and watchfulness be at hand), and conse 
quently the desires arising therefrom, may become 
excessive. Moreover we may add that emotion 
leads us to pay most regard to what is agreeable in 
the present, nor can we estimate what is future 
with emotions equally vivid. ( IV. xliv. note, and Ix. 
note.) 

XXXI. Superstition, on the other hand, seems to ac 
count as good all that brings pain, and as bad all that 
brings pleasure. However, as we have said above (IV. xlv. 
note), none but the envious take delight in my infirmity 
and trouble. For the greater the pleasure whereby we 
are affected, the greater is the perfection whereto we 
pass, and consequently the more do we partake of the 
divine nature; no pleasure can ever be evil, which is 
regulated by a true regard for our advantage. But con 
trariwise he, who is led by fear and does good only to avoid 
evil, is not guided by reason. 

XXXII. But human power is extremely limited, and is 
infinitely surpassed by the power of external causes; we 
have not, therefore, an absolute power of shaping to our 
use those things which are without us. Nevertheless, we 
shall bear with an equal mind all that happens to us in 
contravention to the claims of our own advantage, so long 
as we are conscious, that we have done our duty, and that 
the power which we possess is not sufficient to enable 
us to protect ourselves completely ; remembering that we 
are a part of universal nature, and that we follow her 
order. If we have a clear and distinct understanding of 
this, that part of our nature which is defined by intelli 
gence, in other words the better part of ourselves, will 
assuredly acquiesce in what befalls us, and in such 
acquiescence will endeavor to persist. For, in so 
far as we are intelligent beings, we cannot desire 



APPENDIX 249 

anything save that which is necessary, nor yield ab 
solute acquiescence to anything, save to that which is 
true; wherefore, in so far as we have a right under 
standing of these things, the endeavor of the better part 
of ourselves is in harmony with the order of nature as a 
whole. 



PART V. 

OF THE POWER OF THE UNDERSTANDING, 
OR OF HUMAN FREEDOM. 

PREFACE. 

AT LENGTH I pass to the remaining portion of my Ethics, 
which is concerned with the way leading to freedom, I 
shall therefore treat therein of the power of the reason, 
showing how far the reason can control the emotions, and 
what is the nature of Mental Freedom or Blessedness ; we 
shall then be able to see, how much more powerful the 
wise man is than the ignorant. It is no part of my de 
sign to point out the method and the means whereby the 
understanding may be perfected, nor to show the skill 
whereby the body may be so tended as to be capable of 
the due performance of its functions. The latter question 
lies in the province of Medicine, the former in the prov 
ince of Logic. Here, therefore, I repeat, I shall treat only 
of the power of the mind, or of reason ; and I shall mainly 
show the extent and nature of its dominion over the 
emotions, for their control and moderation. That we do 
not possess absolute dominion over them, I have already 
shown. Yet the Stoics have thought, that the emotions de 
pended absolutely on our will, and that we could absolutely 
govern them. But these philosophers were compelled, by 
the protest of experience, not from their own principles, 
to confess, that no slight practice and zeal is needed to 
control and moderate them : and this someone endeavored 
to illustrate by the example (if I remember rightly) of two 
dogs, the one a house dog and the other a hunting dog. 
For by long training it could be brought about, that the 
house dog should become accustomed to hunt, and the 
hunting dog to cease from running after hares. To this 
(250) 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 251 

opinion Descartes not a little inclines. For he maintained, 
that the soul or mind is specially united to a particular 
part of the brain, namely, to that part called the pineal 
gland, by the aid of which the mind is enabled to feel 
all the movements which are set going in the body, and 
also external objects, and which the mind by a simple 
act of volition can put in motion in various ways. He 
asserted, that this gland is so suspended in the midst 
of the brain, that it could be moved by the slightest 
motion of the animal spirits: further, that this gland 
is suspended in the midst of the brain in as many 
different manners, as the animal spirits can impinge 
thereon ; and, again, that as many different marks 
are impressed on the said gland, as there are different 
external objects which impel the animal spirits toward 
it; whence it follows, that if the will of the soul sus 
pends the gland in a position, wherein it has already 
been suspended once before by the animal spirits driven 
in one way or another, the gland in its turn reacts on 
the said spirits, driving and determining them to the 
condition wherein they were, when repulsed before by a 
similar position of the gland. He further asserted, that 
every act of mental volition is united in nature to a cer 
tain given motion of the gland. For instance, whenever 
anyone desires to look at a remote object, the act of 
volition causes the pupil of the eye to dilate, whereas, if 
the person in question had only thought of the dilatation 
of the pupil, the mere wish to dilate it would not have 
brought about the result, inasmuch as the motion of the 
gland, which serves to impel the animal spirits toward 
the optic nerve in a way which would dilate or contract 
the pupil, is not associated in nature with the wish to 
dilate or contract the pupil, but with the wish to look 
at remote or very near objects. Lastly, he maintained 
that, although every motion of the aforesaid gland seems 
to have been united by nature to one particular thought 
out of the whole number of our thoughts from the very 
beginning of our life, yet it can nevertheless become 
through habituation associated with other thoughts; this 
he endeavors to prove in the (< Passions de 1 ame," I. 50. 



252 THE ETHICS 

He thence concludes, that there is no soul so weak, that it 
cannot, under proper directions, acquire absolute power 
over its passions. For passions as defined by him are 
<( perceptions, or feelings, or disturbances of the soul, 
which are referred to the soul as species, and which (mark 
the expression) are produced, preserved, and strengthened 
through some movement of the spirits. }> ( (< Passions de 
Tame," I. 27.) But seeing that we can join any motion 
of the gland, or consequently of the spirits, to any voli 
tion, the determination of the will depends entirely on 
our own powers; if, therefore, we determine our will 
with sure and firm decisions in the direction to which 
we wish our actions to tend, and associate the motions of the 
passions which we wish to acquire with the said decisions, 
we shall acquire an absolute dominion over our passions. 
Such is the doctrine of this illustrious philosopher (in so 
far as I gather it from his own words) ; it is one which, 
had it been less ingenious, I could hardly believe to 
have proceeded from so great a man. Indeed, I am 
lost in wonder, that a philosopher, who had stoutly as 
serted, that he would draw no conclusions which do not 
follow from self-evident premises, and would affirm noth 
ing which he did not clearly and distinctly perceive, and 
who had so often taken to task the scholastics for wishing 
to explain obscurities through occult qualities, could 
maintain a hypothesis, beside which occult qualities are 
commonplace. What does he understand, I ask, by the 
union of the mind and the body ? What clear and dis 
tinct conception has he got of thought in most intimate 
union with a certain particle of extended matter ? Truly 
I should like him to explain this union through its prox 
imate cause. But he had so distinct a conception of 
mind being distinct from body, that he could not assign 
any particular cause of the union between the two, or 
of the mind itself, but was obliged to have recourse to the 
cause of the whole universe, that is to God. Further, I 
should much like to know what degree of motion the mind 
can impart to this pineal gland and with what force can it 
hold it suspended ? For I am in ignorance, whether this 
gland can be agitated more slowly or more quickly by 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 253 

the mind than by the animal spirits, and whether the 
motions of the passions, which we have closely united 
with firm decisions, cannot be again disjoined therefrom 
by physical causes; in which case it would follow that, 
although the mind firmly intended to face a given danger, 
and had united to this decision the motions of boldness, 
yet at the sight of the danger the gland might become 
suspended in a way, which would preclude the mind 
thinking of anything except turning away. In truth, as 
there is no common standard of volition and motion, so 
is there no comparison possible between the powers of 
the mind and the power or strength of the body; conse 
quently the strength of one cannot in anywise be deter 
mined by the strength of the other. We may also add, 
that there is no gland discoverable in the midst of the 
brain, so placed that it can thus easily be set in motion 
in so many ways, and also that all the nerves are not 
prolonged so far as the cavities of the brain. Lastly, I 
omit all the assertions which he makes concerning the will 
and its freedom, inasmuch as I have abundantly proved 
that his premises are false. Therefore, since the power 
of the mind, as I have shown above, is denned by the 
understanding only, we shall determine solely by the 
knowledge of the mind the remedies against the emo 
tions, which I believe all have had experience of, but 
do not accurately observe or distinctly see, and from the 
same basis we shall deduce all those conclusions, which 
have regard to the mind s blessedness. 

AXIOMS. 

I. If two contrary actions be started in the same sub 
ject, a change must necessarily take place, either in both, 
or in one of the two, and continue until they cease to 
be contrary. 

II. The power of an affect is denned by the power of 
its cause, in so far as its essence is explained or defined 
by the essence of its cause. 

(This axiom is evident from III. vii.) 
PROP. I. Even as thoughts and the ideas of things are 
arranged and associated in the mind, so are the modifi- 



254 THE ETHICS 

cations of the body or the images of things precisely 
in the same way arranged and associated in the body. 

Proof. The order and connection of ideas is the same 
(II. vii.) as the order and connection of things, and vice 
versa the order and connection of things is the same 
(II. vi. Coroll. and vii.) as the order and connection of 
ideas. Wherefore, even as the order and connection of 
ideas in the mind takes place according to the order and 
association of modifications of the body (II. xviii.), so 
vice versd (III. ii.) the order and connection of modifica 
tions of the body takes place in accordance with the 
manner, in which thoughts and the ideas of things are 
arranged and associated in the mind. Q.E.D. 

PROP. II. If we remove a disturbance of the spirit, 
or emotion, from the thought of an external cause, and 
unite it to the other thoughts, then will the love or 
hatred toward that external cause, and also the vacilla 
tions of spirit which arise from these emotions, be 
destroyed. 

Proof. That, which constitutes the reality of love or 
hatred, is pleasure or pain, accompanied by the idea of 
an external cause (Def. of the Emotions, vi. vii.); where 
fore, when this cause is removed, the reality of love or 
hatred is removed with it; therefore these emotions and 
those which arise therefrom are destroyed. Q. E. D. 

PROP. III. An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to 
be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct 
idea thereof. 

Proof. An emotion, which is a passion, is a confused 
idea (by the general Def. of the Emotions.). If, there 
fore, we form a clear and distinct idea of a given emo 
tion, that idea will only be distinguished from the emotion, 
in so far as it is referred to the mind only, by reason 
(II. xxi. and note); therefore (III. iii.) the emotion will 
cease to be a passion. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. An emotion therefore, becomes more under 
our control, and the mind is less passive in respect to 
it, in proportion as it is mere known to us. 

PROP. IV. There is no modification of the body, whereof 
we cannot form some clear and distinct conception. 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 255 

Proof. Properties which are common to all things can 
only be conceived adeqately (II. xxxviii.); therefore (II. 
xii. and Lemma ii. after II. xiii.) there is no modification 
of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and 
distinct conception. Q. E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that there is no emotion, 
whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct concep 
tion. For an emotion is the idea of a modification of 
the body (by the general Def. of the Emotions), and 
must therefore (by the preceding Prop.) involve some 
clear and distinct conception. 

Note. Seeing that there is nothing which is not fol 
lowed by an effect (I. xxxvi.), and that we clearly and 
distinctly understand whatever follows from an idea, 
which in us is adequate (II. xl.), it follows that every 
one has the power of clearly and distinctly understanding 
himself and his emotions, if not absolutely, at any rate 
in part, and consequently of bringing it about, that he 
should become less subject to them. To attain this 
result, therefore, we must chiefly direct our efforts to 
acquiring, as far as possible, a clear and distinct knowl 
edge of every emotion, in order that the mind may thus, 
through emotion, be determined to think of those things 
which it clearly and distinctly perceives, and wherein it 
fully acquiesces : and thus that the emotion itself may be 
separated from the thought of an external cause, and 
may be associated with true thoughts; whence it will 
come to pass, not only that love, hatred, etc., will be 
destroyed (V. ii.), but also that the appetites or desires, 
which are wont to arise from such emotion, will become 
incapable of being excessive (IV. Ixi.). For it must be 
especially remarked, that the appetite through which a 
man is said to be active, and that through which he is 
said to be passive is one and the same. For instance, 
we have shown that human nature is so constituted, that 
everyone desires his fellow-men to live after his own 
fashion (III. xxxi. note); in a man, who is not guided 
by reason, this appetite is a passion which is called am 
bition, and does not greatly differ from pride; whereas 
in a man, who lives by the dictates of reason, it is an 



256 THE ETHICS 

activity or virtue which is called piety ( IV. xxxvii. note 
i. and second proof). In like manner all appetites or 
desires are only passions, in so far as they spring* from 
inadequate ideas; the same results are accredited to virtue, 
when they are aroused or generated by adequate ideas. 
For all desires, whereby we are determined to any 
given action, may arise as much from adequate as from 
inadequate ideas (IV. lix.). Than this remedy for the 
emotions (to return to the point from which I started), 
which consists in a true knowledge thereof, nothing 
more excellent, being within our power, can be devised. 
For the mind has no other power save that of thinking 
and of forming adequate ideas, as we have shown above 
(III. iii.). 

PROP. V. An emotion toward a thing, which we con 
ceive simply, and not as necessary, or as contingent, or 
as possible, is, other conditions being equal, greater than 
any other emotion. 

Proof. An emotion toward a thing, which we conceive 
to be free, is greater than one toward what we conceive to 
be necessary (III. xlix.), and, consequently, still greater 
than one toward what we conceive as possible, or con 
tingent (IV. xi.). But to conceive a thing as free can be 
nothing else than to conceive it simply, while we are in 
ignorance of the causes whereby it has been determined 
to action (II. xxxv. note) ; therefore, an emotion toward 
a thing which we conceive simply is, other conditions 
being equal, greater than one, which we feel toward 
what is necessary, possible, or contingent, and, conse 
quently, it is the greatest of all. Q.E.D. 

PROP. VI. The mind has greater power over the emo 
tions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it under 
stands all things as necessary. 

Proof. The mind understands all things to be neces 
sary (I. xxix.) and to be determined to existence and 
operation by an infinite chain of causes; therefore (by 
the foregoing Proposition), it thus far brings it about, 
that it is less subject to the emotions arising therefrom, 
and (III. xlviii.) feels less emotion toward the things 
themselves. Q.E.D. 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 257 

Note. The more this knowledge, that things are nec 
essary, is applied to particular things, which we conceive 
more distinctly and vividly, the greater is the power of 
the mind over the emotions, as experience also testifies. 
For we see, that the pain arising from the loss of any 
good is mitigated, as soon as the man who has lost it 
perceives, that it could not by any means have been 
preserved. So also we see that no one pities an infant, 
because it cannot speak, walk, or reason, or lastly, be 
cause it passes so many years, as it were, in unconscious 
ness. Whereas, if most people were born full-grown 
and only one here and there as an infant, every one 
would pity the infants; because infancy would not then 
be looked on as a state natural and necessary, but as a 
fault or delinquency in Nature ; and we may note several 
other instances of the same sort. 

PROP. VII. Emotions which are aroused or spring from 
reason, if we take account of time, are stronger than 
those, which are attributable to particular objects that 
we regard as absent. 

Proof. We do not regard a thing as absent, by reason 
of the emotion wherewith we conceive it, but by reason 
of the body being affected by another emotion excluding 
the existence of the said thing (II. xvii.). Wherefore, 
the emotion, which is referred to the thing which we 
regard as absent, is not of a nature to overcome the rest 
of a man s activities and power (IV. vi.), but is, on the 
contrary, of a nature to be in some sort controlled by 
the emotions, which exclude the existence of its external 
cause (IV. ix.). But an emotion which springs from 
reason is necessarily referred to the common properties 
of things (see the Def. of Reason in II. xl. note ii.), 
which we always regard as present (for there can be 
nothing to exclude their present existence), and which 
we always conceive in the same manner (II. xxxviii.). 
Wherefore an emotion of this kind always remains the 
same; and consequently (V. Ax. i.) emotions, which are 
contrary thereto and are not kept going by their external 
causes, will be obliged to adapt themselves to it more 
and more until they are no longer contrary to it ; to this 
17 



258 THE ETHICS 

extent the emotion which springs from reason is more 
powerful. Q.E.D. 

PROP. VIII. An emotion is stronger in proportion to 
the number of simultaneous concurrent causes whereby 
it is aroused. 

Proof. Many simultaneous causes are more powerful 
than a few (III. vii.): therefore (IV. v.), in proportion 
to the increased number of simultaneous causes whereby 
it is aroused, an emotion becomes stronger. Q.E.D. 

Note. This proposition is also evident from V. Ax. ii. 

PROP. IX. An emotion, which is attributable to many 
and diverse causes which the mind regards as simulta 
neous with the emotion itself, is less hurtful, and we are 
less subject thereto and less affected toward each of its 
causes, than if it were a different and equally powerful 
emotion attributable to fewer causes or to a single cause. 

Proof. An emotion is only bad or hurtful, in so far 
as it hinders the mind from being able to think (IV. 
xxvi. xxvii.); therefore, an emotion, whereby the mind 
is determined to the contemplation of several things at 
once, is less hurtful than another equally powerful emo 
tion, which so engrosses the mind in the single contem 
plation of a few objects or of one, that it is unable to 
think of anything else; this was our first point. Again, 
as the mind s essence in other words, its power (III. vii.), 
consists solely in thought (II. xi.), the mind is less pas 
sive in respect to an emotion, which causes it to think 
of several things at once, than in regard to an equally 
strong emotion, which keeps it engrossed in the contem 
plation of a few or of a single object: this was our 
second point. Lastly, this emotion (III. xlviii.), in so far 
as it is attributable to several causes, is less powerful in 
regard to each of them. Q.E.D. 

PROP. X. So long as we are not assailed by emotions 
contrary to our nature, we have the power of arranging 
and associating the modifications of our body according 
to the intellectual order. 

Proof. --The emotions, which are contrary to our nature, 
that is (IV. xxx.), which are bad, are bad in so far as 
they impede the mind from understanding (IV. xxvii.). 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 259 

So long, therefore, as we are not assailed by emotions 
contrary to our nature, the mind s power, whereby it 
endeavors to understand things (IV. xxvi.), is not im 
peded, and therefore it is able to form clear and distinct 
ideas and to deduce them one from another (II. xl. note 
ii. and xlvii. note ) ; consequently we have in such cases 
the power of arranging and associating the modifications 
of the body according to the intellectual order. Q.E.D. 
Note. By this power of rightly arranging and asso 
ciating the bodily modifications we can guard ourselves 
from being easily affected by evil emotions. For (V. vii.) 
a greater force is needed for controlling the emotions, 
when they are arranged and associated according to the 
intellectual order, than when they are uncertain and 
unsettled. The best we can do, therefore, so long as we 
do not possess a perfect knowledge of our emotions, is to 
frame a system of right conduct, or fixed practical pre 
cepts, to commit it to memory, and to apply it forthwith 
to the particular circumstances which now and again meet 
us in life, so that our imagination may become fully 
imbued therewith, and that it may be always ready to 
our hand. For instance, we have laid down among the 
rules of life (IV. xlvi. and note), that hatred should be 
overcome with love or high-mindedness, and not requited 
with hatred in return. Now, that this precept of reason 
may be always ready to our hand in time of need, we 
should often think over and reflect upon the wrongs 
generally committed by men, and in what manner and 
way they may be best warded off by high-mindedness: 
we shall thus associate the idea of wrong with the idea 
of this precept, which accordingly will always be ready 
for use when a wrong is done to us (II. xviii.). If we 
keep also in readiness the notion of our true advantage, 
and of the good which follows from mutual friendships, 
and common fellowships; further, if we remember that 
complete acquiescence is the result of the right way of 
life (IV. Hi.), and that men, no less than everything else, 
act by the necessity of their nature : in such case I say the 
wrong, or the hatred, which commonly arises therefrom, 
will engross a very small part of our imagination and w T ill 



260 THE ETHICS 

be easily overcome ; or, if the anger which springs from a 
grievous wrong be not overcome easily, it will neverthe 
less be overcome, though not without a spiritual conflict, 
far sooner than if we had not thus reflected on the sub 
ject beforehand. As is indeed evident from V. vi. vii. 
viii. We should, in the same way, reflect on courage as 
a means of overcoming fear; the ordinary dangers of life 
should frequently be brought to mind and imagined, to 
gether with the means whereby through readiness of 
resource and strength of mind we can avoid and over 
come them. But we must note, that in arranging 
our thoughts and conceptions we should always bear in 
mind that which is good in every individual thing ( IV. 
Ixiii. Coroll. and III. Hx.), in order that we may always 
be determined to action by an emotion of pleasure. For 
instance, if a man sees that he is too keen in the pursuit 
of honor, let him think over its right use, the end for 
which it should be pursued, and the means whereby he 
may attain it. Let him not think of its misuse, and 
its emptiness, and the fickleness of mankind, and the like, 
whereof no man thinks except through a morbidness of 
disposition; with thoughts like these do the most ambi 
tious most torment themselves, when they despair of 
gaining the distinctions they hanker after, and in thus 
giving vent to their anger would fain appear wise. 
Wherefore it is certain that those, who cry out the loud 
est against the misuse of honor and the vanity of the 
world, are those who most greedily covet it. This is not 
peculiar to the ambitious, but is common to all who are 
ill-used by fortune, and who are infirm in spirit. For a 
poor man also, who is miserly, will talk incessantly of the 
misuse of wealth and of the vices of the rich; whereby 
he merely torments himself, and shows the world that he 
is intolerant, not only of his own poverty, but also of 
other people s riches. So, again, those who have been 
ill received by a woman they love think of nothing but 
the inconstancy, treachery and other stock faults of the 
fair sex; all of which they consign to oblivion, directly 
they are again taken into favor by their sweetheart. 
Thus he who would govern his emotions and appetite 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 261 

solely by the love of freedom strives, as far as he can, 
to gain a knowledge of the virtues and their causes, and 
to fill his spirit with the joy which arises from the true 
knowledge of them : he will in no wise desire to dwell on 
men s faults, or to carp at his fellows, or to revel in a 
false show of freedom. Whosoever will diligently observe 
and practice these precepts (which indeed are not diffi 
cult) will verily, in a short space of time, be able for the 
most part to direct his actions according to the command 
ments of reason. 

PROP. XL In proportion as a mental image is referred 
to more objects, so is it more frequent, or more often 
vivid, and occupies the mind more. 

Proof. In proportion as a mental image or an emotion 
is referred to more objects, so are there more causes 
whereby it can be aroused and fostered, all of which ( by 
hypothesis ) the mind contemplates simultaneously in as 
sociation with the given emotion; therefore the emotion 
is mofe frequent, or is more often in full vigor, and 
(V. viii.) occupies the mind more. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XII. The mental images of things are more 
easily associated with the images referred to things 
which we clearly and distinctly understand, than with 
others. 

Proof. Things, which we clearly and distinctly under 
stand, are either the common properties of things or de 
ductions therefrom (see Def. of Reason, II. xl. note 
ii.), and are consequently (by the last Prop.) more 
often aroused in us. Wherefore it may more readily 
happen, that we should contemplate other things in con 
junction with these than in conjunction with something 
else, and consequently (II. xviii.) that the images of the 
said things should be more often associated with the 
images of these than with the images of something else. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XIII. A mental image is more often vivid, in 
proportion as it is associated with a greater number of 
other images. 

Proof. In proportion as an image is associated with 
a greater number of other images, so ( II. xviii.) 



262 THE ETHICS 

are there more causes whereby it can be aroused. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XIV. The mind can bring it about, that all 
bodily modifications or images of things may be referred 
to the idea of God. 

Proof. There is no modification of the body, whereof 
the mind may not form some clear and distinct concep 
tion (V. iv.); wherefore it can bring it about, that they 
should all be referred to the idea of God (I. xv.). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XV. He who clearly and distinctly understands 
himself and his emotions loves God, and so much the 
more in proportion as he more understands himself and 
his emotions. 

Proof. He who clearly and distinctly understands him 
self and his emotions feels pleasure (III. liii.), and this 
pleasure is (by the last Prop.) accompanied by the idea 
of God; therefore (Def. of the Emotions, vi.) such an one 
loves God, and (for the same reason) so much the more 
in proportion as he more understands himself and his 
emotions. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XVI. This love toward God must hold the chief 
place in the mind. 

Proof. For this love is associated with all the modifi 
cations of the body (V. xiv.) and is fostered by them all 
(V. xv.); therefore (V. xi.), it must hold the chief place 
in the mind. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XVII. God is without passions, neither is he 
affected by any emotion of pleasure or pain. 

Proof. All ideas, in so far as they are referred to God, 
are true (II. xxxii.), that is (II. Def. iv.) adequate; and 
therefore (by the General Def. of the Emotions) God is 
without passions. Again, God cannot pass either to a 
greater or to a lesser perfection (I. xx. Coroll. ii.); there 
fore (by Def. of the Emotions, ii. iii.), he is not affected 
by any emotion of pleasure or pain. 

Corollary. Strictly speaking, God does not love or hate 
anyone. For God (by the foregoing Prop.) is not affected 
by any emotion of pleasure or pain, consequently ( Def. of 
the Emotions, vi. vii.) he does not love or hate anyone. 

Prop. XVIII. No one can hate God. 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 263 

Proof. The idea of God which is in us is adequate and 
perfect (II. xlvi. xlvii.); wherefore, in so far as we con 
template God, we are active (III. iii.) ; consequently 
(III. lix.) there can be no pain accompanied by the idea 
of God, in other words (Def. of the Emotions, vii.), no 
one can hate God. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Love toward God cannot be turned into 
hate. 

Note. It maybe objected that, as we understand God as 

the cause of all things, we by that very fact regard God 
as the cause of pain. But I make answer, that, in so far 
as we understand the causes of pain, it to that extent 
(V. iii) ceases to be a passion, that is, it ceases to be 
pain (III. lix.); therefore, in so far as we understand God 
to be the cause of pain, we to that extent feel pleasure. 

PROP. XIX. He, who loves God, cannot endeavor that 
God should love him in return. 

Proof. For if a man should so endeavor, he would 
desire (V. xvii. Coroll.) that God, whom he loves, should 
not be God, and consequently he would desire to feel 
pain (III. xix.); which is absurd (III. xxviii.). There 
fore, he who loves God, etc. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XX. This love toward God cannot be stained by 
by the emotion of envy or jealousy: contrariwise, it is 
the more fostered, in proportion as we conceive a greater 
number of men to be joined to God by the same bond 
of love. 

Proof. This love toward God is the highest good 

which we can seek for under the guidance of reason 
(IV. xxviii.), it is common to all men (IV. xxxvi.), and 
we desire that all should rejoice therein (IV. xxxvii.) ; 
therefore (Def. of the Emotions, xxiii.), it cannot be 
stained by the emotion of envy, nor by the emotion of 
jealousy (V. xviii. see Def. of Jealousy, III. xxxv. note) ; 
but, contrariwise, it must needs be the more fostered, 
in proportion as we conceive a greater number of men 
to rejoice therein. Q.E.D. 

Note. We can in the same way show, that there is 
no emotion directly contrary to this love, whereby this 
love can be destroyed; therefore we may conclude, that 



26 4 THE ETHICS 

this love toward God is the most constant of all the emo 
tions, and that, in so far as it is referred to the body 
it cannot be destroyed unless the body be destroyed also 
As to its nature, in so far as it is referred to the mind 
only, we shall presently inquire. 

I have now gone through all the remedies against the 
emotions, or all that the mind, considered in itself alone 
can do against them. Whence it appears that the mind s 
power over the emotions consists: 

I. In the actual knowledge of the emotions (V iv 
note). 

II. In the fact that it separates the emotions from the 
thought of an external cause, which we conceive con- 
fusedly (V. ii. and iv. note). 

III. In the fact, that, in respect to time, the emotions 
referred to things, which we distinctly understand sur 
pass those referred to what we conceive in a confused 
and fragmentary manner (V. vii.). 

IV. In the number of causes whereby those modifica 
tions* are fostered, which have regard to the common 
properties of things or to God (V. ix. xi.). 

V. Lastly, in the order wherein the mind can arrange 
and associate, one with another, its own emotions (V. x 
note and xii. xiii. xiv.). 

But in order that this power of the mind over the 
emotions may be better understood, it should be specially 

bserved that the emotions are called by us strong when 
we compare the emotion of one man with the emotion of 
another, and see that one man is more troubled than 
another by the same emotion; or when we are comparing 
the various emotions of the same man one with another 
and find that he is more affected or stirred by one emo 
tion than by another. For the strength of every emotion 
defined by a comparison of our own power with the 
power of an external cause. Now the power of the mind 
is defined by knowledge only, and its infirmity or passion 
is defined by the privation of knowledge only: it there- 
ore follows, that that mind is most passive, whose great- 

t part is made up of inadequate ideas, so that it may 

* Affectiones. Camerer reads a^r/aw emotions. 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 265 

be characterized more readily by its passive states than 
by its activities: on the other hand, that mind is most 
active, whose greatest part is made up of adequate ideas, 
so that, although it may contain as many inadequate 
ideas as the former mind, it may yet be more easily 
characterized by ideas attributable to human virtue, than 
by ideas which tell of human infirmity. Again, it must 
be observed, that spiritual unhealthiness and misfortunes 
can generally be traced to excessive love for something 
which is subject to many variations, and which we can 
never become masters of. For no one is solicitous 
or anxious about anything, unless he loves it; neither 
do wrongs, suspicions, enmities, etc., arise, except in 
regard to things whereof no one can be really mas 
ter. 

We may thus readily conceive the power which clear 
and distinct knowledge, and especially that third kind of 
knowledge (II. xlvii. note), founded on the actual knowl 
edge of God, possesses over the emotions; if it does not 
absolutely destroy them, in so far as they are passions 
(V. iii. and iv. note); at any rate, it causes them to 
occupy a very small part of the mind (V. xiv.). Fur 
ther, it begets a love toward a thing immutable and 
eternal (V. xv.), whereof we may really enter into pos 
session (II. xlv.); neither can it be defiled with those 
faults which are inherent in ordinary love; but it may 
grow from strength to strength, and may engross the 
greater part of the mind, and deeply penetrate it. 

And now I have finished with all that concerns this 
present life ; for, as I said in the beginning of this note, 
I have briefly described all the remedies against the emo 
tions. And this every one may readily have seen for him 
self, if he has attended to what is advanced in the pres 
ent note, and also to the definitions of the mind and its 
emotions, and, lastly to Propositions i. and iii. of Part 
III. It is now, therefore, time to pass on to those mat 
ters, which appertain to the duration of the mind, with 
out relation to the body. 

PROP. XXI. The mind can only imagine anything, or 
remember what is passed, while the body endures. 



266 THE ETHICS 

Proof. The mind does not express the actual exist 
ence of its body, nor does it imagine the modifications 
of the body as actual, except while the body endures 
(II. viii. Coroll.); and, consequently, (II. xxvi.), it does 
not imagine anybody as actually existing, except while 
its own body endures. Thus it cannot imagine anything 
(for Def. of Imagination, see II. xvii. note), or re 
member things past, except while the body endures (see 
Def. of Memory, II. xviii. note). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXII. Nevertheless in God there is necessarily 
an idea, which expresses the essence of this or that 
human body under the form of eternity. 

Proof. God is the cause, not only of the existence of 
this or that human body, but also of its essence (I. 
xxv.). This essence, therefore, must necessarily be con 
ceived through the very essence of God (I. Ax. iv.), and 
be thus conceived by a certain eternal necessity (I. xvi.); 
and this conception must necessarily exist in God (II. 
iii.). Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIII. The human mind cannot be absolutely 
destroyed with the body, but there remains of it some 
thing which is eternal. 

Proof. There is necessarily in God a concept or idea, 
which expresses the essence of the human body (last 
Prop.), which, therefore, is necessarily something apper 
taining to the essence of the human mind (II. xiii.). 
But we have not assigned to the human mind any 
duration, definable by time, except in so far as it 
expresses the actual existence of the body, which is 
explained through duration, and may be defined by time 
that is (II. viii. Coroll.), we do not assign to it dura 
tion, except while the body endures. Yet, as there is 
something, notwithstanding, which is conceived by a 
certain eternal necessity through the very essence of God 
(last Prop.); this something, which appertains to the 
essence of the mind, will necessarily be eternal. Q.E.D. 

Note. This idea, which expresses the essence of the 
body under the form of eternity, is, as we have said, a 
certain mode of thinking, which belongs to the essence 
of the mind, and is necessarily eternal. Yet it is not 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 267 

possible that we should remember that we existed before 
our body, for our body can bear no trace of such exist 
ence, neither can eternity be defined in terms of time, 
or have any relation to time. But, notwithstanding, we 
feel and know that we are eternal. For the mind feels 
those things that it conceives by understanding, no less 
than those things that it remembers. For the eyes of 
the mind, whereby it sees and observes things, are none 
other than proofs. Thus, although we do not remember 
that we existed before the body, yet we feel that our 
mind, in so far as it involves the essence of the body, 
under the form of eternity, is eternal, and that thus its 
existence cannot be denned in terms of time, or explained 
through duration. Thus our mind can only be said to 
endure, and its existence can only be defined by a fixed 
time, in so far as it involves the actual existence of the 
body. Thus far only has it the power of determining 
the existence of things by time, and conceiving them 
under the category of duration. 

PROP. XXIV. The more we understand particular 
things, the more do we understand God. 

Proof. This is evident from I. xxv. Coroll. 

PROP. XXV. The highest endeavor of the mind, and the 
highest virtue is to understand things by the third kind 
of knowledge. 

p roo f. The third kind of knowledge proceeds from an 
adequate idea of certain attributes of God to an ade 
quate knowledge of the essence of things (see its defini 
tion II. xl. note ii.) ; and, in proportion as we understand 
things more in this way, we better understand God (by 
the last Prop.); therefore (IV. xxviii.) the highest virtue 
of the mind, that is (IV. Def. viii.) the power, or 
nature, or (III. vii.) highest endeavor of the mind, 
is to understand things by the third kind of knowledge. 
Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXVI. In proportion as the mind is more 
capable of understanding things by the third kind of 
knowledge, it desires more to understand things by that kind. 

Proof This is evident. For, in so far as we conceive 
the mind to be capable of conceiving things by this kind 



268 THE ETHICS 

of knowledge, we, to that extent, conceive it as deter 
mined thus to conceive things; and consequently (Def. 
of the Emotions, i.), the mind desires so to do, in pro 
portion as it is more capable thereof. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXVII. From this third kind of knowledge 
arises the highest possible mental acquiescence. 

Proof. The highest virtue of the mind is to know 
God (IV. xxviii.), or to understand things by the third 
kind of knowledge (V. xxv.), and this virtue is greater 
in proportion as the mind knows things more by the 
said kind of knowledge (V. xxiv.): consequently, he who 
knows things by this kind of knowledge passes to the 
summit of human perfection, and is therefore (Def. of 
the Emotions, ii.) affected by the highest pleasure, such 
pleasure being accompanied by the idea of himself and 
his own virtue: thus (Def. of the Emotions, xxv.), from 
this kind of knowledge arises the highest possible 
acquiescence. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXVIII. The endeavor or desire to know things 
by the third kind of knowledge cannot arise from the 
first, but from the second kind of knowledge. 

Proof. This proposition is self-evident. For whatso 
ever we understand clearly and distinctly, we understand 
either through itself, or through that which is conceived 
through itself; that is, ideas which are clear and distinct 
in us, or which are referred to the third kind of knowl 
edge (II. xl. noteii.) cannot follow from ideas that are 
fragmentary aud confused, and are referred to knowledge 
of the first kind, but must follow from adequate ideas, 
or ideas of the second and third kind of knowledge; 
therefore (Def. of the Emotions, i.), the desire of know 
ing things by the third kind of knowledge cannot arise 
from the first, but from the second kind. Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXIX. Whatsoever the mind understands under 
the form of eternity, it does not understand by virtue of 
conceiving the present actual existence of the body, but 
by virtue of conceiving the essence of the body under 
the form of eternity. 

Proof. In so far as the mind conceives the present 
existence of its body, it to that extent conceives duration 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 269 

which can be determined by time, and to that extent 
only has it the power of conceiving things in relation to 
time (V. xxi. II. xxvi.). But eternity cannot be explained in 
terms of duration (I. Def. viii. and explanation). There 
fore to this extent the mind has not the power of con 
ceiving things under the form of eternity, but it possesses 
such power, because it is of the nature of reason to con 
ceive things under the form of eternity (II. xliv. Coroll. 
ii.), and also because it is of the nature of the mind to 
conceive the essence of the body under the form of 
eternity (V. xxiii.), for besides these two there is nothing 
which belongs to the essence of mind (II. xiii.). There 
fore this power of conceiving things under the form of 
eternity only belongs to the mind in virtue of the mind s 
conceiving the essence of the body under the form of 
eternity. Q.E.D. 

Note. Things are conceived by us as actual in two 
ways: either as existing in relation to a given time and 
place, or as contained in God and following from the 
necessity of the divine nature. Whatsoever we conceive 
in this second way as true or real, we conceive under the 
form of eternity, and their ideas involve the eternal and 
infinite essence of God, as we showed in II. xlv. and note, 
which see. 

PROP. XXX. Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and 
the body under the form of eternity, has to that extent 
necessarily a knowledge of God, and knows that it is in 
God, and is conceived through God. 

Proof. Eternity is the very essence of God, in so far 
as this involves necessary existence (I. Def. viii.). There 
fore to conceive things under the form of eternity, is to 
conceive things in so far as they are conceived through 
the essence of God as real entities, or in so far as they 
involve existence through the essence of God; wherefore 
our mind, in so far as it conceives itself and the body 
under the form of eternity, has to that extent necessarily 
a knowledge of God, and knows, etc Q.E.D. 

PROP. XXXI. The third kind of knowledge depends on 
the mind, as its formal cause, in so far as the mind 
itself is eternal. 



270 THE ETHICS 

Proof. The mind does not conceive anything under 
the form of eternity, except in so far as it conceives its 
own body under the form of eternity (V. xxix.); that is, 
except in so far as it is eternal (V. xxi. xxiii.); therefore 
(by the last Prop.), in so far as it is eternal, it possesses 
the knowledge of God, which knowledge is necessarily 
adequate (II. xlvi.); hence the mind, in so far as it is 
eternal, is capable of knowing everything which can 
follow from this given knowledge of God (II. xl.), in 
other words, of knowing things by the third kind of 
knowledge (see Def. in II. xl. note ii.), whereof accord 
ingly the mind (III. Def. i.), in so far as it is eternal, 
is the adequate or formal cause of such knowledge 
Q.E.D. 

Note. In proportion, therefore, as a man is more 
potent in this kind of knowledge, he will be more com 
pletely conscious of himself and of God ; in other words, 
he will be more perfect and blessed, as will appear 
more clearly in the sequel. But we must here observe 
that, although we are already certain that the mind is 
eternal, in so far as it conceives things under the form 
of eternity, yet, in order that what we wish to show 
may be more readily explained and better understood, 
we will consider the mind itself, as though it had just 
begun to exist and to understand things under the 
form of eternity, as indeed we have done hitherto; this 
we may do without any danger of error, so long as we 
are careful not to draw any conclusion, unless our 
premises are plain. 

PROP. XXXII. Whatsoever we understand by the third 
kind of knowledge, we take delight in, and our delight is 
accompanied by the idea of God as cause. 

Proof. From this kind of knowledge arises the highest 
possible mental acquiescence, that is (Def. of the Emotions, 
xxv.), pleasure, and this acquiescence is accompanied by 
the idea of the mind itself (V. xxvii.), and consequently 
(V. xxx.) the idea also of God as cause. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. From the third kind of knowledge neces 
sarily arises the intellectual love of God. From this kind 
of knowledge arises pleasure accompanied by the idea of 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 271 

God as cause, that is ( Def. of the Emotions, vi.), the love 
of God; not in so far as we imagine him as present (V. 
xxix.), but in so far as we understand him to be eternal; 
this is what I call the intellectual love of God. 

PROP. XXXIII. The intellectual love of God, which 
arises from the third kind of knowledge, is eternal. 

Proof. The third kind of knowledge is eternal (V. 
xxxi. I. Ax. iii.); therefore (by the same Axiom), the love 
which arises therefrom is also necessarily eternal. Q.E.D. 

Note. Although this love toward God has (by the fore 
going Prop.) no beginning, it yet possesses all the per 
fections of love, just as though it had arisen as we feigned 
in the Corollary of the last Proposition. Nor is there 
here any difference, except that the mind possesses as 
eternal those same perfections which we feigned to ac 
crue to it, and they are accompanied by the idea of God 
as eternal cause. If pleasure consists in the transition 
to a greater perfection, assuredly blessedness must con 
sist in the mind being endowed with perfection itself. 

PROP. XXXIV. The mind is, only while the body en 
dures, subject to those emotions which are attributable to 
passions. 

Proof. Imagination is the idea wherewith the mind 
contemplates a thing as present (II. xvii. note); yet this 
idea indicates rather the present disposition of the human 
body than the nature of the external thing (II. xvi. Coroll. 
ii.). Therefore emotion (see General Def. of Emotions) 
is imagination, in so far as it indicates the present dis 
position of the body; therefore (V. xxi.) the mind is, 
only while the body endures, subject to emotions which 
are attributable to passions. Q.E.D. 

Corollary. Hence it follows that no love save intel 
lectual love is eternal. 

Note. If we look to men s general opinion, we shall 
see that they are indeed conscious of the eternity of 
their mind, but that they confuse eternity with duration, 
and ascribe it to the imagination or the memory which they 
believe to remain after death. 

PROP. XXXV. God loves himself with an infinite intel 
lectual love. 



272 THE ETHICS 

Proof. God is absolutely infinite (I. Def. vi.), that is 
(II. Def, vi.), the nature of God rejoices in infinite per 
fection; and such rejoicing is (II. iii.) accompanied by 
the idea of himself, that is (I. xi. and Def. i.), the idea 
of his own cause : now this is what we have ( in V. xxxii. 
Coroll.) described as intellectual love. 

PROP. XXXVI. The intellectual love of the mind toward 
God is that very love of God whereby God loves himself, 
not in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he can 
be explained through the essence of the human mind 
regarded under the form of eternity; in other words, the 
intellectual love of the mind toward God is part of the 
infinite love wherewith God loves himself. 

Proof. This love of the mind must be referred to the 
activities of the mind (V. xxxii. Coroll. and III. iii.); it 
is itself, indeed, an activity whereby the mind regards 
itself accompanied by the idea of God as cause (V. xxxii. 
and Coroll.); that is (I. xxv. Coroll. and II. xi. Coroll.) 
an activity whereby God, in so far as he can be explained 
through the human mind, regards himself accompanied 
by the idea of himself; therefore (by the last Prop.), 
this love of the mind is part of the infinite love where 
with God loves himself. Q.E.D. 

Corollary- Hence it follows that God, in so far as he 
loves himself, loves man, and consequently, that the 
love of God toward men, and the intellectual love of the 
mind toward God are identical. 

Note. From what has been said we clearly understand, 
wherein our salvation, or blessedness, or freedom, con 
sists: namely, in the constant and eternal love toward 
God, or in God s love toward men. This love or blessed 
ness is, in the Bible, called Glory, and not undeservedly. 
For whether this love be referred to God or to the mind, it 
may rightly be called acquiescence of spirit, which (Def. 
of the Emotions, xxv. xxx.) is not really distinguished 
from glory. In so far as it is referred to God, it is (V. 
xxxv ) pleasure, if we may still use that term, accom 
panied by the idea of itself, and, in so far as it is referred 
to the mind, it is the same (V. xxvii.). 

Again, since the essence of our mind consists solely in 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 273 

knowledge, whereof the beginning and the foundation is 
God (I. xv. and II. xlvii. note), it becomes clear to us, 
in what manner and way our mind, as to its essence and 
existence, follows from the divine nature and constantly 
depends on God. I have thought it worth while here to 
call attention to this, in order to show by this example 
how the knowledge of particular things, which I have 
called intuitive or of the third kind (II. xl. note ii.), is 
potent, and more powerful than the universal knowledge, 
which I have styled knowledge of the second kind. For, 
although in Part I. I showed in general terms, that all 
things (and consequently, also, the human mind) depend 
as to their essence and existence on God, yet that demon 
stration, though legitimate and placed beyond the chances 
of doubt, does not affect our mind so much, as when the 
same conclusion is derived from the actual essence of 
some particular thing, which we say depends on God. 

PROP. XXXVII. There is nothing in nature, which is 
contrary to this intellectual love, or which can take it 
away. 

Proof. This intellectual love follows necessarily from 
the nature of the mind, in so far as the latter is regarded 
through the nature of God as an eternal truth (V. xxxiii. 
and xxix.). If, therefore, there should be anything 
which would be contrary to this love, that thing would 
be contrary to that which is true; consequently, that, 
which should be able to take away this love, would cause 
that which is true to be false; an obvious absurdity. 
Therefore there is nothing in nature which, etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. The Axiom of Part IV. has reference to partic 
ular things, in so far as they are regarded in relation 
to a given time and place: of this, I think, no one can 
doubt. 

PROP. XXXVIII. In proportion as the mind understands 
more things by the second and third kind of knowledge, 
it is less subject to those emotions which are evil, and 
stands in less fear of death. 

Proof. The mind s essence consists in knowledge (II. 
xi.); therefore, in proportion as the mind understands 
more things by the second and third kinds of knowledge, 
18 



274 THE ETHICS 

the greater will be the part of it that endures (V. xxix. 
and xxiii.), and, consequently (by the last Prop.), the 
greater will be the part that is not touched by the emo 
tions, which are contrary to our nature, or in other words, 
evil (IV. xxx.). Thus, in proportion as the mind under 
stands more things by the second and third kinds of 
knowledge, the greater will be the part of it, that remains 
unimpaired, and, consequently, less subject to emotions, 
etc. Q.E.D. 

Note. Hence we understand that point which I touched 
on in IV. xxxix. note, and which I promised to explain 
in this Part; namely, that death becomes less hurtful, in 
proportion as the mind s clear and distinct knowledge is 
greater, and, consequently, in proportion as the mind 
loves God more. Again, since from the third kind of 
knowledge arises the highest possible acquiescence (V. 
xxvii.), it follows that the human mind can attain to 
being of such a nature, that the part thereof which we 
have shown to perish with the body (V. xxi.) should be 
of little importance when compared with the part which 
endures. But I will soon treat of the subject at greater 
length. 

PROP. XXXIX. He, who possesses a body capable of 
the greatest number of activities, possesses a mind whereof 
the greatest part is eternal. 

Proof. He, who possesses a body capable of the great 
est number of activities, is least agitated by those emo 
tions which are evil (IV. xxxviii.) that is (IV. xxx.), by 
those emotions which are contrary to our nature; there 
fore (V. x.), he possesses the power of arranging and 
associating the modifications of the body according to the 
intellectual order, and, consequently, of bringing it about, 
that all the modifications of the body should be referred 
to the idea of God ; whence it will come to pass that (V. 
xv.) he will be affected with love toward God, which 
(V. xvi.) must occupy or constitute the chief part of the 
mind; therefore (V. xxxiii.), such a man will possess a 
mind whereof the chief part is eternal. Q.E.D. 

Note. Since human bodies are capable of the greatest 
number of activities, there is no doubt but that they 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 275 

may be of such a nature, that they may be referred to 
minds possessing a great knowledge of themselves and 
of God, and whereof the greatest or chief part is eternal, 
and, therefore, that they should scarcely fear death. But, 
in order that this may be understood more clearly, we 
must here call to mind, that we live in a state of per 
petual variation, and, according as we are changed for 
the better or the worse, we are called happy or un 
happy. 

For he, who, from being an infant or a child, becomes 
a corpse, is called unhappy; whereas it is set down to 
happiness, if we have been able to live through the 
whole period of life with a sound mind in a sound body. 
And, in reality, he, who, as in the case of an infant or 
a child, has a body capable of very few activities, and 
depending, for the most part, on external causes, has a 
mind which, considered in itself alone, is scarcely con 
scious of itself, or of God, or of things ; whereas, he, who 
has a body capable of very many activities, has a mind 
which, considered in itself alone, is highly conscious of 
itself, of God, and of things. In this life, therefore, we 
primarily endeavor to bring it about, that the body of a 
child, in so far as its nature allows and conduces thereto, 
may be changed into something else capable of very 
many activities, and referable to a mind which is highly 
conscious of itself, of God, and of things; and we desire 
so to change it, that what is referred to its imagination 
and memory may become insignificant, in comparison 
with its intellect, as I have already said in the note to 
the last Proposition. 

PROP. XL. In proportion as each thing possesses more 
of perfection, so is it more active, and less passive ; and, 
vice versd, in proportion as it is more active, so is it more 
perfect. 

Proof. In proportion as each thing is more perfect, 
it possesses more of reality (II. Def. vi.), and, conse 
quently (III. iii. and note), it is to that extent more 
active and less passive. This demonstration may be re 
versed, and thus prove that, in proportion as a thing is 
more active, so is it more perfect. Q.E.D. 



276 THE ETHICS 

Corollary. Hence it follows that the part of the mind 
which endures, be it great or small, is more perfect than 
the rest. For the eternal part of the mind (V. xxiii. 
xxix.) is the understanding, through which alone we are 
said to act (III. iii.); the part which we have shown to 
perish is the imagination (V. xxi.), through which only 
we are said to be passive (III. iii. and general Def. of 
the Emotions); therefore, the former, be it great or 
small, is more perfect than the latter. Q.E.D. 

Note. Such are the doctrines which I had purposed 
to set forth concerning the mind, in so far as it is re 
garded without relation to the body; whence, as also from 
I. xxi. and other places, it is plain that our mind, in so 
far as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking, 
which is determined by another eternal mode of thinking, 
and this other by a third, and so on to infinity ; so that 
all taken together at once constitute the eternal and in 
finite intellect of God. 

PROP. XLJ. Even if we did not know that our mind is 
eternal, we should still consider as of primary importance 
piety and religion, and generally all things which, in 
Part. IV., we showed to be attributable to courage and 
high-mindedness. 

Proof. The first and only foundation of virtue, or the 
rule of right living is (IV. xxii. Coroll. and xxiv.) seek 
ing one s own true interest. Now, while we determined 
what reason prescribes as useful, we took no account of 
the mind s eternity, which has only become known to us 
in this Fifth Part. Although we were ignorant at that 
time that the mind is eternal, we nevertheless stated that 
the qualities attributable to courage and high-minded- 
ness are of primary importance. Therefore, even if we 
were still ignorant of this doctrine, we should yet put 
the aforesaid precepts of reason in the first place. Q. E. D. 

Note. The general belief of the multitude seems to 
be different. Most people seem to believe that they are 
free, in so far as they may obey their lusts, and that 
they cede their rights, in so far as they are bound to 
live according to the commandments of the divine law. 
They therefore believe that piety, religion, and generally, 



OF HUMAN FREEDOM 277 

all things attributable to firmness of mind, are burdens, 
which, after death, they hope to lay aside, and to re 
ceive the reward for their bondage, that is, for their 
piety and religion; it is not only by this hope, but also, 
and chiefly, by the fear of being horribly punished after 
death, that they are induced to live according to the di 
vine commandments, so far as their feeble and infirm 
spirit will carry them. 

If men had not this hope and this fear, but believed 
that the mind perishes with the body, and that no hope 
of prolonged life remains for the wretches who are 
broken down with the burden of piety, they would re 
turn to their own inclinations, controlling everything in 
accordance with their lusts, and desiring to obey fortune 
rather than themselves. Such a course appears to me 
not less absurd than if a man, because he does not be 
lieve that he can by wholesome food sustain his body 
for ever, should wish to cram himself with poisons and 
deadly fare; or if, because he sees that the mind is not 
eternal or immortal, he should prefer to be out of his 
mind altogether, and to live without the use of reason; 
these ideas are so absurd as to be scarcely worth refuting. 

PROP. XLII. Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, 
but virtue itself; neither do we rejoice therein, because 
we control our lusts, but contrariwise, because we rejoice 
therein, we are able to control our lusts. 

Proof. Blessedness consists in love toward God (V. 
xxxvi. and note), which love springs from the third kind 
of knowledge ( V. xxxii. Coroll. ) ; therefore this love ( III. 
iii. lix. ) must be referred to the mind, in so far as the 
latter is active ; therefore ( IV. Def . viii. ) it is virtue it 
self. This was our first point. Again, in proportion as 
the mind rejoices more in this divine love or blessedness, 
so does it the more understand ( V. xxxii. ) ; that is ( V. 
iii. Coroll. ), so much the more power has it over the 
emotions, and ( V. xxxviii. ) so much the less is it sub 
ject to those emotions which are evil; therefore, in pro 
portion as the mind rejoices in this divine love or 
blessedness, so has it the power of controlling lusts. And, 
since human power in controlling the emotions consists 



278 THE ETHICS 

solely in the understanding, it follows that no one re 
joices in blessedness, because he has controlled his lusts, 
but, contrariwise, his power of controlling his lusts arises 
from this blessedness itself. Q.E.D. 

Note. I have thus completed all I wished to set forth 
touching the mind s power over the emotions and the 
mind s freedom. Whence it appears, how potent is the 
wise man, and how much he surpasses the ignorant man, 
who is driven only by his lusts. For the ignorant man 
is not only distracted in various ways by external causes 
without ever gaining the true acquiescence of his spirit, 
but moreover lives, as it were unwitting of himself, and 
of God, and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, 
ceases also to be. 

Whereas the wise man, in so far as he is regarded as 
such, is scarcely at all disturbed in spirit, but, being 
conscious of himself, and of God, and of things, by a 
certain eternal necessity, never ceases to be, but always 
possesses true acquiescence of his spirit. 

If the way which I have pointed out as leading to this 
result seems exceedingly hard, it may nevertheless be 
discovered. Needs must it be hard, since it is so seldom 
found. How would it be possible, if salvation were ready 
to our hand, and could without great labor be found, 
that it should be by almost all men neglected ? But all 
things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. 



CORRESPONDENCE. 



LETTER I. (I.*) 
HENRY OLDENBURG TO B. DE SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg, after complimenting Spinoza, asks him to enter into a 
philosophical correspondence.] 

ILLUSTRIOUS SIR, AND MOST WORTHY FRIEND, So pain 
ful to me was the separation from you the other day 
after our meeting in your retreat at Rhijnsburg, that it 
is my first endeavor, now that I am returned to Eng 
land, to renew, as far as is possible by correspondence, 
my intercourse with you. Solid learning, conjoined with 
courtesy and refinement of manners (wherewith both 
nature and art have most amply endowed you), carries 
with it such charms as to command the love of every 
honorable and liberally-educated man. Let us then, most 
excellent sir, join hands in sincere friendship, and let us 
foster the feeling with every zealous endeavor and kind 
office in our power. Whatever my poor means can fur 
nish I beg you to look on as your own. Allow me in 
return to claim a share in the riches of your talents, as 
I may do without inflicting any loss on yourself. 

We conversed at Rhijnsburg of God, of extension, of 
infinite thought, of the differences and agreements be 
tween these, of the nature of the connection between the 
human soul and body, and further, of the principles of 
the Cartesian and Baconian philosophies. 

But, as we then spoke of these great questions merely 
cursorily and by the way, and as my mind has been not 
a little tormented with them since, I will appeal to the 

* The number of each letter as arranged in Van Vloten s edition is 
given in parentheses. 

(279) 



280 SPINOZA S [LETTER II. 

rights of our newly cemented friendship, and most 
affectionately beg you to give me at somewhat greater 
length your opinion on the subjects I have mentioned. 
On two points especially I ask for enlightenment, if I 
may presume so far ; FIRST : In what do you place the 
true distinction between thought and matter ? SECONDLY : 
What do you consider to be the chief defects in the Car 
tesian and Baconian philosophies, and how do you think 
they might best be removed, and something more sound 
substituted ? The more freely you write to me on these 
and similar subjects, the more closely will you tie the 
bonds of our friendship, and the stricter will be the obli 
gation laid on me to repay you, as far as possible, with 
similar services. 

There is at present in the press a collection of physio 
logical discourses written by an Englishman of noble 
family and distinguished learning.* They treat of the 
nature and elasticity of the air, as proved by forty-three 
experiments ; also of its fluidity, solidity, and other anal 
ogous matters. As soon as the work is published, I 
shall make a point of sending it to you by any friend 
who may be crossing the sea. Meanwhile, farewell, and 
remember your friend, who is 

Yours, in all affection and zeal, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 

LONDON, 16-26 Aug., 1661. 



LETTER II. (II.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 



[Answer to Letter I. Spinoza defines ^God,^ and <( attribute, and 
sends definitions, axioms, and first four propositions of Book I. 
of Ethics. Some errors of Bacon and Descartes discussed.] 

ILLUSTRIOUS SIR, How pleasant your friendship is to 
me, you may yourself judge, if your modesty will allow 
you to reflect on the abundance of your own excellences. 

* Robert Boyle. 



LETTER II.] CORRESPONDENCE 281 

Indeed the thought of these makes me seem not a little 
bold in entering into such a compact, the more so when 
I consider that between friends all things, and especially 
things spiritual, ought to be in common. However, this 
must lie at the charge of your modesty and kindness 
rather than of myself. You have been willing to lower 
yourself through the former and to fill me with the 
abundance of the latter, till I am no longer afraid to 
accept the close friendship, which you hold out to me, 
and which you deign to ask of me in return; no effort 
on my part shall be spared to render it lasting. 

As for my mental endowments, such as they are, I 
would willingly allow you to share them, even though I 
knew it would be to my own great hindrance. But this 
is not meant as an excuse for denying to you what you 
ask by the rights of friendship. I will therefore en 
deavor to explain my opinions on the topics you touched 
on; though I scarcely hope, unless your kindness inter 
vene, that I shall thus draw the bonds of our friendship 
closer. 

I will then begin by speaking briefly of God, whom 
I define as a Being consisting in infinite attributes, 
whereof each is infinite or supremely perfect, after its 
kind. You must observe that by attribute I mean every 
thing, which is conceived through itself and in itself, so 
that the conception of it does not involve the conception 
of anything else. For instance, extension is conceived 
through itself and in itself, but motion is not. The lat 
ter is conceived through something else, for the conception 
of it implies extension. 

That the definition above given of God is true appears 
from the fact, that by God we mean a Being supremely 
perfect and absolutely infinite. That such a Being exists 
may easily be proved from the definition; but as this is 
not the place for such proof, I will pass it over. What I 
am bound here to prove, in order to satisfy the first inquiry 
of my distinguished questioner, are the following conse 
quences : FIRST, that in the universe there cannot exist two 
substances without their differing utterly in essence; 
SECONDLY, that substance cannot be produced or created 



282 SPINOZA S [LETTER II. 

existence pertains to its actual essence; THIRDLY, that all 
substance must be infinite or supremely perfect after its kind. 

When these points have been demonstrated, my dis 
tinguished questioner will readily perceive my drift, if he 
reflects at the same time on the definition of God. In 
order to prove them clearly and briefly, I can think of 
nothing better than to submit them to the bar of your 
judgment proved in the geometrical method.* I therefore 
enclose them separately and await your verdict upon 
them. 

Again, you ask me what errors I detect in the Carte 
sian and Baconian philosophies. It is not my custom to 
expose the errors of others, nevertheless I will yield to 
your request. The first and the greatest error is, that 
these philosophers have strayed so far from the knowledge 
of the first cause and origin of all things; the second is, 
that they did not know the true nature of the human 
mind; the third, that they never grasped the true cause 
of error. The necessity for correct knowledge on these 
three points can only be ignored by persons completely 
devoid of learning and training. 

That they have wandered astray from the knowledge 
of the first cause, and of the human mind, may easily be 
gathered from the truth of the three propositions given 
above ; I therefore devote myself entirely to the demon 
stration of the third error. Of Bacon I shall say very 
little, for he speaks very confusedly on the point, and 
works out scarcely any proofs: he simply narrates. In 
the first place he assumes that the human intellect is 
liable to err, not only through the fallibility of the senses, 
but also solely through its own nature, and that it frames 
its conceptions in accordance with the analogy of its own 
nature, not with the analogy of the universe, so that it is 
like a mirror receiving rays from external objects un 
equally, and mingling its own nature with the nature of 
things, etc. 

Secondly, that the human intellect is, by reason of its 
own nature, prone to abstractions; such things as are in 
flux it feigns to be constant, etc. 

*The allusion is to Eth. I., Beginning Prop. iv. 



LETTER III.] CORRESPONDENCE 283 

Thirdly, that the human intellect continually aug 
ments, and is unable to come to a stand or to rest con 
tent. The other causes which he assigns may all be 
reduced to the one Cartesian principle, that the human 
will is free and more extensive than the intellect, or, as 
Verulam himself more confusedly puts it, that <( the 
understanding is not a dry light, but receives infusion 
from the will." (We may here observe that Verulam 
often employs (< intellect w as synonymous with mind, 
differing in this respect from Descartes.) This cause, 
then, leaving aside the others as unimportant, I shall 
show to be false; indeed its falsity would be evident to 
its supporters, if they would consider, that will in general 
differs from this or that particular volition in the same 
way as whiteness differs from this or that white object, 
or humanity from this or that man. It is, therefore, as 
impossible to conceive, that will is the cause of a given 
volition, as to conceive that humanity is the cause of 
Peter and Paul. 

Hence, as will is merely an entity of the reason, and 
cannot be called the cause of particular volitions, and as 
some cause is needed for the existence of such volitions, 
these latter cannot be called free, but are necessarily such 
as they are determined by their causes ; lastly, according 
to Descartes, errors are themselves particular volitions; 
hence it necessarily follows that errors, or, in other words, 
particular volitions, are not free, but are determined by 
external causes, and in nowise by the will. This is what 
I undertook to prove. 



LETTER III. (III.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg propounds several questions concerning God and his 
existence, thought, and the axioms of Eth. I. He also informs 
Spinoza of a philosophical society, and promises to send Boyle s 
book.] 

MOST EXCELLENT FRIEND, Your learned letter has been 
delivered to me, and read with great pleasure. 



24 SPINOZA S [LETTER III. 

I highly approve of your geometrical method of proof, 
but I must set it down to my dullness, that I cannot 
follow with readiness what you set forth with such 
accuracy. Suffer me, then, I beg, to expose the slow 
ness of my understanding, while I put the following 
questions, and beg of you to answer them. 

First. Do you clearly and indisputably understand 
solely from the definition you have given of God, that 
such a Being exists? For my part, when I reflect that 
definitions contain only the conceptions formed by our 
minds, and that our mind forms many conceptions of 
things which do not exist, and is very fertile in multi 
plying and amplifying what it has conceived, I do not 
yet see, that from the conception I have of God I can 
infer God s existence. I am able by a mental combina 
tion of all the perfections I perceive in men, in animals, 
in vegetables, in minerals, etc., to conceive and to form 
an idea of some single substance uniting in itself all 
such excellences ; indeed my mind is able to multiply and 
augment such excellences indefinitely; it may thus figure 
forth for itself a most perfect and excellent Being, but 
there would be no reason thence to conclude that such a 
Being actually exists. 

Secondly. I wish to ask, whether you think it unques 
tionable, that body cannot be limited by thought, or 
thought by body; seeing that it still remains undecided, 
what thought is, whether it be a physical motion or a 
spiritual act quite distinct from body ? 

Thirdly. Do you reckon the axioms, which you have 
sent to me, as indemonstrable principles known by the 
light of nature and needing no proof ? Perhaps the first 
is of this nature, but I do not see how the other three 
can be placed in a like category. The second assumes 
that nothing exists in the universe save substances and 
accidents, but many persons would say that time and 
place cannot be classed either as one or the other. Your 
third axiom, that THINGS HAVING DIFFERENT ATTRIBUTES 
HAVE NO QUALITY IN COMMON, is so far from being clear to 
me, that its contrary seems to be shown in the whole uni 
verse. All things known to us agree in certain respects 



LETTER III.] CORRESPONDENCE 285 

and differ in others. Lastly, your fourth axiom, that 

WHEN THINGS HAVE NO QUALITY IN COMMON, ONE CANNOT BE 

PRODUCED BY ANOTHER, is not so plain to my groping in 
telligence as to stand in need of no further illumination. 
God has nothing actually in common with created things, 
yet nearly all of us believe him to be their cause. 

As you see that in my opinion your axioms are not 
established beyond all the assaults of doubt, you will 
readily gather that the propositions you have based upon 
them do not appear to me absolutely firm. The more I 
reflect upon them, the more are doubts suggested to my 
mind concerning them. 

As to the first, I submit that two men are two sub 
stances with the same attribute, inasmuch as both are 
rational ; whence I infer that there can be two substances 
with the same attribute. 

As to the second, I opine that, as nothing can be its 
own cause, it is hardly within the scope of our intellect 
to pronounce on the truth of the proposition, that SUB 
STANCE CANNOT BE PRODUCED EVEN BY ANY OTHER SUBSTANCE. 

Such a proposition asserts all substances to be self-caused, 
and all and each to be independent of one another, thus 
making so many gods, and therefore denying the first 
cause of all things. This, I willingly confess, I cannot 
understand, unless you will be kind enough to explain your 
theory on this sublime subject somewhat more fully and 
simply, informing me what may be the origin and mode 
of production of substances, and the mutual interdepend 
ence and subordination of things. I most strenuously beg 
and conjure you by that friendship which we have entered 
into, to answer me freely and faithfully on these points; 
you may rest assured, that everything which you think fit 
to communicate to me will remain untampered with and 
safe, for I will never allow anything to become public 
through me to your hurt or disadvantage. In our philo 
sophical society we proceed diligently as far as opportu 
nity offers with our experiments and observations, lingering 
over the compilation of the history of mechanic arts, with 
the idea that the forms and qualities of things can best 
be explained from mechanical principles, and that all 



286 SPINOZA S [LETTER IV. 

natural effects can be produced through motion, shape, 
and consistency, without reference to inexplicable forms 
or occult qualities, which are but the refuge of ignorance. 
I will send the book I promised, whenever the Dutch 
Ambassadors send (as they frequently do) a messenger to 
the Hague, or whenever some other friend whom I can 
trust goes your way. I beg you to excuse my prolixity 
and freedom, and simply ask you to take in good part, as 
one friend from another, the straightforward and unpol 
ished reply I have sent to your letter, believing me to be 
without deceit or affectation, 

Yours most faithfully, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 
LONDON, 27 Sept., 1661. 



LETTER IV. (IV.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[Spinoza answers some of Oldenburg s questions and doubts, but has 
not time to reply to all, as he is just setting out for Amsterdam.] 

ILLUSTRIOUS SIR: As I was starting for Amsterdam, 
where I intend staying for a week or two, I received your 
most welcome letter, and noted the objections you raise 
to the three propositions I sent you. Not having time to 
reply fully, I will confine myself to these three. 

To the first I answer, that not from every definition 
does the existence of the thing defined follow, but only 
(as I showed in a note appended to the three proposi 
tions) from the definition or idea of an attribute, that is 
(as I explained fully in the definition given of God) of 
a thing conceived through and in itself. The reason for 
this distinction was pointed out, if I mistake not, in the 
above-mentioned note sufficiently clear at any rate for 
a philosopher, who is assumed to be aware of the differ 
ence between a fiction and a clear and distinct idea, and 
also of the truth of the axiom that every definition or 
clear and distinct idea is true. When this has been duly 



LETTER IV.] CORRESPONDENCE 287 

noted, I do not see what more is required for the solu 
tion of your first question. 

I therefore proceed to the solution of the second, 
wherein you seem to admit that, if thought does not 
belong to the nature of extension, then extension will 
not be limited by thought; your doubt only involves the 
example given. But observe, I beg, if we say that exten 
sion is not limited by extension but by thought, is not 
this the same as saying that extension is not infinite 
absolutely, but only as far as extension is concerned, in 
other words, infinite after its kind? But you say: per 
haps thought is a corporeal action : be it so, though I by 
no means grant it: you, at any rate, will not deny that 
extension, in so far as it is extension, is not thought, and 
this is all that is required for explaining my definition 
and proving the third proposition. 

Thirdly. You proceed to object, that my axioms ought 
not to be ranked as universal notions. I will not dispute 
this point with you; but you further hesitate as to their 
truth, seeming to desire to show that their contrary is 
more probable. Consider, I beg, the definition which I 
gave of substance and attribute, for on that they all 
depend. When I say that I mean by substance that 
which is conceived through and in itself; and that I 
mean by modification or accident that, which is in some 
thing else, and is conceived through that wherein it is, 
evidently it follows that substance is by nature prior to 
its accidents. For without the former the latter can 
neither be nor be conceived. Secondly, it follows that, 
besides substances and accidents, nothing exists really or 
externally to the intellect. For everything is conceived 
either through itself or through something else, and the 
conception of it either involves or does not involve the 
conception of something else. Thirdly, it follows that 
things which possess different attributes have nothing in 
common. For by attribute I have explained that I mean 
something, of which the conception does not involve the 
conception of anything else. Fourthly, and lastly, it fol 
lows that, if two things have nothing in common, one 
cannot be the cause of the other. For, as there would 



288 SPINOZA S [LETTER V. 

be nothing- in common between the effect and the cause, 
the whole effect would spring from nothing. As for your 
contention that God has nothing actually in common with 
created things, I have maintained the exact opposite in 
my definition. I said that God is a being consisting of in 
finite attributes, whereof each one is infinite or supremely 
perfect after its kind. With regard to what you say con 
cerning my first proposition, I beg 1 you, my friend, to 
bear in mind, that men are not created, but born, and 
that their bodies already exist before birth, though 
under different forms. You draw the conclusion, wherein 
I fully concur, that, if one particle of matter be annihi 
lated, the whole of extension would forthwith vanish. 
My second proposition does not make many gods but 
only one, to wit, a Being consisting of infinite attributes, 
etc. 



LETTER V. (V.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg sends Boyle s book, and laments that Spinoza has not 
been able to answer all his doubts.] 

MOST RESPECTED FRIEND i Please accept herewith the 
book I promised you, and write me in answer your 
opinion on it, especially on the remarks about nitre, and 
about fluidity, and solidity. I owe you the warmest 
thanks for your learned second letter, which I received 
to-day, but I greatly grieve that your journey to Amster 
dam prevented you from answering all my doubts. I beg 
you will supply the omission, as soon as you have leisure. 
You have much enlightened me in your last letter, but 
have not yet dispelled all my darkness; this result will, 
I believe, be happily accomplished, when you send me 
clear and distinct information concerning the first origin 
of things. Hitherto I have been somewhat in doubt as 
to the cause from which, and the manner in which things 
took their origin; also, as to what is the nature of their 
connection with the first cause, if such there be. All 



LETTER VII.] CORRESPONDENCE 289 

that I hear or read on the subject seems inconclusive. 
Do you then, my very learned master, act, as it were, as 
my torch-bearer in the matter. You will have no reason 
to doubt my confidence and gratitude. Such is the earn 
est petition of Yours most faithfully, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 



LETTER VI. (VI.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[Containing detailed criticisms by Spinoza of Robert Boyle s book.] 

Omitted. 

LETTER VII. (VII.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[After thanking Spinoza, in the name of himself and Boyle, Olden 
burg mentions the foundation of the Royal Society, and begs his 
correspondent to publish his theological and philosophical works.] 



The body of philosophers which I formerly mentioned 
to you has now, by the king s grace, been constituted as 
a Royal Society, and furnished with a public charter, 
whereby distinguished privileges are conferred upon it, 
and an excellent prospect afforded of endowing it with 
the necessary revenues. 

I would by all means advise you not to begrudge to 
the learned those works in philosophy and theology, 
which you have composed with the talent that distin 
guishes you. Publish them, I beg, whatever be the ver 
dict of petty theologians. Your country is free; the 
course of philosophy should there be free also. Your own 
prudence will, doubtless suggest to you, that your ideas 
and opinions should be put forth as quietly as possible. 
19 



290 SPINOZA S [LETTER VIII. 

For the rest, commit the issue to fortune* Come, then, 
good sir, cast away all fear of exciting against you the 
pigmies of our time. Long enough have we sacrificed 
to ignorance and pedantry. Let us spread the sails of 
true knowledge, and explore the recesses of nature more 
thoroughly than heretofore. Your meditations can, I take 
it, be printed in your country with impunity; nor need 
any scandal among the learned be dreaded because of 
them. If these be your patrons and supporters (and I 
warrant me you will find them so), why should you 
dread the carping of ignorance ? I will not let you go, 
my honored friend, till I have gained my request; nor 
will I ever, so far as in me lies, allow thoughts of such 
importance as yours to rest in eternal silence. I earn 
estly beg you to communicate to me, as soon as you 
conveniently can, your decision in the matter. Perhaps 
events will occur here not unworthy of your knowledge. 
The Society I have mentioned will now proceed more 
strenuously on its course, and, if peace continues on our 
shores, will possibly illustrate the republic of letters 
with some extraordinary achievement. Farewell, excel 
lent sir, and believe me, 

Your most zealous and friendly, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 



LETTER VIII. (XL) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[After further replying to Spinoza s criticisms on Boyle s book, Olden 
burg again exhorts his correspondent to publish.] 



I NOW proceed to the question which has arisen between 
us. First, permit me to ask you whether you have 
finished the important little work, in which you treat 
(< of the origin of things and their dependence on the 
first cause, and of the improvement of our understanding. * 
Truly, my dear sir, I believe nothing more pleasing or 



LETTER IX.] CORRESPONDENCE 291 

acceptable to men of true learning and discrimination 
could possibly be published than such a treatise. This 
is what a man of your talent and disposition should look 
to, far more than the gratification of theologians of our 
time and fashion. The latter have less regard for 
truth than for their own convenience. I, therefore, 
conjure you, by the bond of our friendship, by every 
duty of increasing and proclaiming the truth, not to 
begrudge us, or withhold from us your writings on these 
subjects. If anything of greater importance than I can 
foresee prevents you from publishing the work, I earnestly 
charge you to give me a summary of it by letter. 

Another book is soon to be published by the learned 
Boyle, which I will send you as an exchange. I will add 
papers, which will acquaint you with the whole constitu 
tion of our Royal Society, whereof I, with twenty others, 
am on the Council, and, with one other, am Secretary. 
I have no time to discourse of any further subjects. 
All the confidence which honest intentions can inspire, 
all the readiness to serve, which the smallness of my 
powers will permit, I pledge to you, and am heartily, 

Dear sir, yours wholly, 

H. OLDENBURG. 
LONDON, 3 April, 1663. 



LETTER IX. (XIII.) 

SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[Spinoza informs Oldenburg that he has removed to Rhijnsburg, and 
has spent some time at Amsterdam for the purpose of publishing the 
Principles of Cartesian Philosophy. He then replies to Boyle s 
objections.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, I have at length received your 
long wished for letter, and am at liberty to answer it. 
But, before I do so, I will briefly tell you, what has pre 
vented my replying before. When I removed my house 
hold goods here in April, I set out for Amsterdam. 
While there certain friends asked me to impart to them 
a treatise containing, in brief, the second part of the 



292 SPINOZA S [LETTER IX. 

principles of Descartes treated geometrically, together 
with some of the chief points treated of in metaphysics, 
which I had formerly dictated to a youth, to whom I 
did not wish to teach my own opinions openly. They 
further requested me, at the first opportunity, to compose 
a similar treatise on the first part. Wishing to oblige 
my friends, I at once set myself to the task, which I 
finished in a fortnight, and handed over to them. They 
then asked for leave to print it, which I readily granted 
on the condition that one of them should, under my 
supervision, clothe it in more elegant phraseology, and 
add a little preface warning readers that I do not 
acknowledge all the opinions there set forth as my own, 
inasmuch as I hold the exact contrary to much that is 
there written, illustrating the fact by one or two exam 
ples. All this the friend who took charge of the treatise 
promised to do, and this is the cause for my prolonged 
stay in Amsterdam. Since I returned to this village, I 
have hardly been able to call my time my own, because 
of the friends who have been kind enough to visit me. 
At last, my dear friend, a moment has come, when I 
can relate these occurrences to )^ou, and inform you why 
I allow this treatise to see the light. It may be that on 
this occasion some of those, who hold the foremost 
positions in my country, will be found desirous of seeing 
the rest of my writings, which I acknowledge as my 
own ; they will thus take care that I am enabled to pub 
lish them without any danger of infringing the laws of 
the land. If this be as I think, I shall doubtless publish 
at once; if things fall out otherwise, I would rather be 
silent than obtrude my opinions on men, in defiance of 
my country, and thus render them hostile to me. I 
therefore hope, my friend, that you will not chafe at 
having to wait a short time longer; you shall then receive 
from me either the treatise printed, or the summary of 
it which you ask for. If meanwhile you would like to 
have one or two copies of the work now in the press, I 
will satisfy your wish, as soon as I know of it and of 
means to send the book conveniently. 

[The rest of the letter is taken up with criticisms on Boyle s book.] 



LETTER XIII.A.J CORRESPONDENCE 293 



LETTERS X. XIV.* 

[Contain further correspondence concerning Boyle s book, and kin 
dred subjects.] 



LETTER XIII.A. 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[The place of this letter is between Letters XIII. and XIV. It was 
written apparently in September, 1665. It mentions the plague, which 
was then at its height, the war, and the labors of the Royal Society, 
and especially of Boyle. Then comes the passage here given. The 
letter terminates with references to the comets, and to Huyghens.] 



I see that you are engaged not so much in philosophy 
as in theology, if I may say so. That is, you are record 
ing your thoughts about angels, prophecy, and miracles, 
but you are doing this, perhaps, in a philosophical man 
ner; however that may be, I am certain that the workf 
is worthy of you, and that I am most anxious to have it. 
Since these most difficult times prevent free intercourse, 
I beg at least that you will not disdain to signify to me 
in your next letter J your design and aim in this writing 
of yours. 

Here we are daily expecting news of a second f naval 
battle, unless indeed your fleet has retired into port. 
Virtue, the nature of which you hint is being discussed 
among your friends, belongs to wild beasts not to men. 
For if men acted according to the guidance of reason, 
they would not so tear one another in pieces, as they 

* These letters are numbered by Van Vloten, XIV., XVI., XXV., 
XXVI., XXXI. 

fThe Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. 

\ Spinoza s answer to this letter is not extant. 

| The English fleet twice defeated the Dutch in 1665, on June 3d. 
and Sept 4th. Secundo perhaps means successful,** but this hardly 
agrees with Oldenburg s politeness. [Tn.] 



2 94 SPINOZA S [LETTER XV. 

evidently do. But what is the good of my complaining ? 
Vices will exist while men do; but yet they are not 
continuous, but compensated by the interposition of better 
things. 



LETTER XV. (XXXII.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[Spinoza writes to his friend concerning the reasons which lead us 
to believe, that <( every part of nature agrees with the whole, and 
is associated with all other parts. He also makes a few remarks 
about Huyghens. ] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, For the encouragement to pursue 
my speculations given me by yourself and the distin 
guished R. Boyle, I return you my best thanks. I pro 
ceed as far as my slender abilities will allow me, with 
full confidence in your aid and kindness. When you ask 
me my opinion on the question raised concerning our 
knowledge of the means, whereby each part of nature 
agrees with its whole, and the manner in which it is as 
sociated with the remaining parts, I presume you are 
asking for the reasons which induce us to believe, that 
each part of nature agrees with its whole, and is asso 
ciated with the remaining parts. For as to the means 
whereby the parts are really associated, and each part 
agrees with its whole, I told you in my former letter that 
I am in ignorance. To answer such a question, we should 
have to know the whole of nature and its several parts. 
I will therefore endeavor to show the reason, which led 
me to make the statement; but I will premise that I do 
not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order 
or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can 
things be called beautiful or deformed, ordered or con 
fused. 

By the association of parts, then, I merely mean that 
the laws or nature of one part adapt themselves to the 
laws or nature of another part, so as to cause the least 



LETTER XV.] CORRESPONDENCE 295 

possible inconsistency. As to the whole and the parts, 
I mean that a given number of things are parts of a 
whole, in so far as the nature of each of them is adapted 
to the nature of the rest, so that they all, as far as pos 
sible, agree together. On the other hand, in so far as 
they do not agree, each of them forms, in our mind, a 
separate idea, and is to that extent considered as a whole, 
not as a part. For instance, when the parts of lymph, 
chyle, etc., combine, according to the proportion of the 
figure and size of each, so as to evidently unite, and 
form one fluid, the chyle, lymph, etc., considered under 
this aspect, are part of the blood; but, in so far as we 
consider the particles of lymph as differing in figure 
and size from the particles of chyle, we shall consider 
each of the two as a whole, not as a part. 

Let us imagine, with your permission, a little worm, 
living in the blood, able to distinguish by sight the par 
ticles of blood, lymph, etc., and to reflect on the manner 
in which each particle, on meeting with another particle, 
either is repulsed or communicates a portion of its own 
motion. This little worm would live in the blood, in the 
same way as we live in a part of the universe, and would 
consider each particle of blood, not as a part, but as a 
whole. He would be unable to determine how all the parts 
are modified by the general nature of blood, and are com 
pelled by it to adapt themselves, so as to stand in a fixed 
relation to one another. For, if we imagine that there 
are no causes external to the blood, which could com 
municate fresh movements to it, nor any space beyond 
the blood, nor any bodies whereto the particles of blood 
could communicate their motion, it is certain that the 
blood would always remain in the same state, and its 
particles would undergo no modifications, save those which 
may be conceived as arising from the relations of motion 
existing between the lymph, the chyle, etc. The blood 
would then always have to be considered as a whole, not 
as a part. But, as there exist, as a matter of fact, very 
many causes which modify, in a given manner, the nature 
of the blood, and are, in turn, modified thereby, it follows 
that other motions and other relations arise in the blood, 



296 SPINOZA S [LETTER XV. 

springing not from the mutual relations of its parts only, 
but from the mutual relations between the blood as a whole 
and external causes. Thus the blood comes to be re 
garded as a part, not as a whole. So much for the whole 
and the part. 

All natural bodies can and ought to be considered in the 
same way as we have here considered the blood, for all 
bodies are surrounded by others, and are mutually deter 
mined to exist and operate in a fixed and definite propor 
tion, while the relations between motion and rest in the 
sum total of them, that is, in the whole universe, remain 
unchanged. Hence it follows that each body, in so far 
as it exists as modified in a particular manner, must be 
considered as a part of the whole universe, as agreeing with 
the whole, and associated with the remaining parts. As 
the nature of the universe is not limited, like the nature of 
blood, but is absolutely infinite, its parts are by this nature 
of infinite power infinitely modified, and compelled to 
undergo infinite variations. But, in respect to substance, 
I conceive that each part has a more close union with its 
whole. For, as I said in my first letter* (addressed to 
you while I was still at Rhijnsburg), substance being 
infinite in its nature,! it follows, as I endeavored to show, 
that each part belongs to the nature of substance, and 
without it, can neither be nor be conceived. 

You see, therefore, how and why I think that the human 
body is a part of nature. As regards the human mind, I 
believe that it also is a part of nature; for I maintain 
that there exists in nature an infinite power of thinking, 
which, in so far as it is infinite, contains subjectively the 
whole of nature, and its thoughts proceed in the same 
manner as nature that is, in the sphere of ideas. Further. 
I take the human mind to be identical with this said 
power, not in so far as it is infinite and perceives the 
whole nature, but in so far as it is finite, and per 
ceives only the human body; in this manner, I maintain 
that the human mind is a part of an infinite under 
standing. 

* Letter II. 
f Ethics, I. viii 



LETTER XVI. J CORRESPONDENCE 297 

But to explain, and accurately prove, all these and kin 
dred questions, would take too long, and I do not think 
you expect as much of me at present. I am afraid that I 
may have mistaken your meaning, and given an answer 
to a different question from that which you asked. Please 
inform me on this point. 

You write in your last letter, that I hinted that nearly 
all the Cartesian laws of motion are false. What I said 
was, if I remember rightly, that Huyghens think so ; I 
myself do not impeach any of the laws except the sixth, 
concerning which I think Huyghens is also in error. I 
ask you at the same time to communicate to me the 
experiment made according to that hypothesis in your 
Royal Society; as you have not replied, I infer that you 
are not at liberty to do so. The above-mentioned Huy 
ghens is entirely occupied in polishing lenses. He has 
fitted up for the purpose a handsome workshop, in which 
he can also construct molds. What will be the result I 
know not, nor, to speak the truth, do I greatly care. 
Experience has sufficiently taught me, that the free hand 
is better and more sure than any machine for polishing 
spherical molds. I can tell you nothing certain as yet 
about the success of the clocks or the date of Huyghens s 
journey to France. 



LETTER XVI. (XXXIII.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[After some remarks on Spinoza s last letter, and an account of 
experiments at the Royal Society and at Oxford, Oldenburg men 
tions a report about the return of the Jews to Palestine.] 



But I pass on to politics. Every one here is talking of 
a report that the Jews, after remaining scattered for 
more than two thousand years, are about to return to 
their country. Few here believe in it, but many desire 



2 98 SPINOZA S [LETTER XVII. 

it. Please tell your friend what you hear and think on 
the matter. For my part, unless the news is confirmed 
from trustworthy sources at Constantinople, which is the 
place chiefly concerned, I shall not believe it. I should 
like to know, what the Jews of Amsterdam have heard 
about the matter, and how they are affected by such 
important tidings which, if true, would assuredly seem to 
harbinger the end of the world. . . . Believe me to be 

Yours most zealously, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 
LONDON, 8 Dec., 1665. 

P.S. I will shortly (D.v.) tell you the opinion of our 
philosophers on the recent comets. 



LETTER XVII. (LXI.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg thanks Spinoza for the Tractatus Theoligico-Politicus 
dispatched but not received, and modifies an adverse verdict 
expressed in a former letter (now lost).] 

I WAS unwilling to let pass the convenient opportunity 
offered me by the journey to Holland of the learned Dr. 
Bourgeois, an adherent of the Reformed religion, for 
expressing my thanks a few weeks ago for your treatise 
forwarded to me, but not yet arrived. But I am doubt 
ful whether my letter was duly delivered. I indicated in 
them my opinion on the treatise ; but on deeper and more 
careful inspection I now think that my verdict was hasty. 
Certain arguments seemed to me to be urged at the ex 
pense of religion, as measured by the standard supplied 
by the common run of theologians and the received 
formulas of creeds which are evidently biased. But a 
closer consideration of the whole subject convinced me, 
that you are far from attempting any injury to true 
religion and sound philosophy, but, on the contrary, 
strive to exalt and establish the true object of the 



LETTER XVII I. J CORRESPONDENCE 299 

Christian religion and the divine loftiness of fruitful 
philosophy. 

Now that I believe that this is your fixed purpose, I 
would most earnestly beg you to have the kindness to 
write frequently and explain the nature of what you are 
now preparing and considering with this object to your 
old and sincere friend, who is all eager for the happy 
issue of so lofty a design. I sacredly promise you that 
I will not divulge a syllable to any one, if you enjoin 
silence ; I will only endeavor gently to prepare the minds 
of good and wise men for the reception of those truths, 
which you will some day bring before a wider public, 
and I will try to dispel the prejudices, which have been 
conceived against your doctrines. Unless I am quite mis 
taken, you have an insight deeper than common into the 
nature and powers of the human mind, and its union 
with the human body. I earnestly beg you to favor 
me with your reflections on this subject. Farewell, most 
excellent sir, and favor the devoted admirer of your 
teaching and virtue. HENRY OLDENBURG. 

LONDON, 8 June, 1675.* 



LETTER XVIII. (LXII.) 

OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg rejoices at the renewal of correspondence, and alludes to 
the five books of the Ethics which Spinoza ( in a letter now lost ) had 
announced his intention of publishing.] 

OUR correspondence being thus happily renewed, I 
should be unwilling to fall short of a friend s duty in 
the exchange of letters. I understand from your answer 
delivered to me on July 5, that you intend to publish 
your treatise in five parts. Allow me, I beg, to warn 

*The old edition gives the date 8 Oct., 1665, but this is obviously 
incorrect, as the <( Tractatus Thcologico-Politicus was not published 
till 1670. 



300 SPINOZA S [LETTER XIX. 

you by the sincerity of your affection for me, not to in 
sert any passages which may seem to discourage the 
practice of religion and virtue: especially as nothing is 
more sought after in this degenerate and evil age than 
doctrines of the kind, which seem to give countenance to 
rampant vice. 

However, I will not object to receiving a few copies 
of the said treatise. I will only ask you that, when the 
time arrives, they may be intrusted to a Dutch mer 
chant living in London, who will see that they are for 
warded to me. There is no need to mention, that books 
of the kind in question have been sent to me: if they 
arrive safely to my keeping, I do not doubt that I can 
conveniently dispose of some copies to my friends here 
and there, and can obtain a just price for them. Fare 
well, and when you have leisure write to 

Yours most zealously, 

HENRY OLDENBURG. 

LONDON, 22 July, 1675. 



LETTER XIX. (LXVIII.) 

SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[Spinoza relates his journey to Amsterdam for the purpose of pub 
lishing his Ethics ; he was deterred by the dissuasions of theolo 
gians and Cartesians. He hopes that Oldenburg will inform him 
of some of the objections to the (< Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,^ 
made by learned men, so that they may be answered in notes.] 

DISTINGUISHED AND ILLUSTRIOUS SIR, When I received 
your letter of the 22nd July, I had set out to Amster 
dam for the purpose of publishing the book I had men 
tioned to you. While I was negotiating, a rumor gained 
currency that I had in the press a book concerning God, 
wherein I endeavored to show that there is no God. 
This report was believed by many. Hence certain theo 
logians, perhaps the authors of the rumor, took occasion 
to complain of me before the prince and the magistrates; 



LETTER XX.j CORRESPONDENCE 3^ 

moreover, the stupid Cartesians, being suspected of 
favoring me, endeavored to remove the aspersion by 
abusing everywhere my opinions and writings, a course 
which they still pursue. When I became aware of this 
through trustworthy men, who also assured me that the 
theologians were everywhere lying in wait for me, I 
determined to put off publishing till I saw how things 
were going, and I proposed to inform you of my inten 
tions. But matters seem to get worse and worse, and I 
am still uncertain what to do. Meanwhile I do not like 
to delay any longer answering your letter. I will first 
thank you heartily for your friendly warning, which I 
should be glad to have further explained, so that I may 
know, which are the doctrines which seem to you to be 
aimed against the practice of religion and virtue. If 
principles agree with reason, they are, I take it, also 
most serviceable to virtue. Further, if it be not troub 
ling you too much I beg you to point out the passages 
in the <( Tractatus Theologico-Politicus }> which are objected 
to by the learned, for I want to illustrate that treatise 
with notes, and to remove if possible the prejudices 
conceived against it. Farewell. 



LETTER XX. ( LXXI.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

As I SEE from your last letter, the book you propose 
to publish is in peril. It is impossible not to approve 
your purpose of illustrating and softening down those pas 
sages in the (t Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, >J which have 
given pain to its readers. First I would call attention to 
the ambiguities in your treatment of God and Nature: a 
great many people think you have confused the one with 
the other. Again, you seem to many to take away the 
authority and value of miracles, whereby alone, as nearly 



3 2 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXI. 

all Christians believe, the certainty of the divine revelation 
can be established. 

Again, people say that you conceal your opinion con 
cerning Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the 
only Mediator for mankind, and concerning his incarna 
tion and redemption : they would like you to give a clear 
explanation of what you think on these three subjects. 
If you do this and thus give satisfaction to prudent and 
rational Christians, I think your affairs are safe Fare 
well. 

LONDON, 15 Nov., 1675. 

P.S. Send me a line, I beg, to inform me whether 
this note has reached you safely. 



LETTER XXI. (LXXIII.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, I received on Saturday last your 
very short letter dated i$ib. Nov. In it you merely indi 
cate the points in the theological treatise, which have 
given pain to readers, whereas I had hoped to learn from 
it, what were the opinions which militated against the 
practice of religious virtue, and which you formerly 
mentioned. However, I will speak on the three subjects 
on which you desire me to disclose my sentiments, and 
tell you, first, that my opinion concerning God differs 
widely from that which is ordinarily defended by modern 
Christians. For I hold that God is of all things the 
cause immanent, as the phrase is, not transient. I say 
that all things are in God and move in God, thus agree 
ing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philos 
ophers, though the phraseology may be different; I will 
even venture to affirm that I agree with all the ancient 
Hebrews, in so far as one may judge from their tradi 
tions, though these are in many ways corrupted. The 
supposition of some, that I endeavor to prove in the 



LETTER XXL] CORRESPONDENCE 303 

"Tractatus Theologico-Politicus }) the unity of God and 
Nature (meaning by the latter a certain mass or corpo 
real matter), is wholly erroneous. 

As regards miracles, I am of opinion that the revela 
tion of God can only be established by the wisdom of 
the doctrine, not by miracles, or in other words, by igno 
rance. This I have shown at sufficient length in Chapter 
VI. concerning miracles. I will here only add, that I 
make this chief distinction between religion and super 
stition, that the latter is founded on ignorance, the 
former on knowledge; this, I take it, is the reason why 
Christians are distinguished from the rest of the world, 
not by faith, nor by charity, nor by the other fruits of 
the Holy Spirit, but solely by their opinions, inasmuch 
as they defend their cause, like everyone else, by mira 
cles, that is, by ignorance, which is the source of all 
malice; thus they turn a faith, which may be true, into 
superstition. Lastly, in order to disclose my opinions on 
the third point, I will tell you that I do not think it 
necessary for salvation to know Christ according to the 
flesh : but with regard to the Eternal Son of God, that is, 
the Eternal Wisdom of God, which has manifested itself 
in all things and especially in the human mind, and above 
all in Christ Jesus, the case is far otherwise. For with 
out this no one can come to a state of blessedness, 
inasmuch as it alone teaches, what is true or false, good 
or evil. And, inasmuch as this wisdom was made espe 
cially manifest through Jesus Christ, as I have said, his 
disciples preached it, in so far as it was revealed to them 
through him, and thus showed that they could rejoice in 
that spirit of Christ more than the rest of mankind. 
The doctrines added by certain churches, such as that 
God took upon himself human nature, I have expressly 
said that I do not understand ; in fact, to speak the truth, 
they seem to me no less absurd than would a statement, 
that a circle had taken upon itself the nature of a square. 
This I think will be sufficient explanation of my opin 
ions concerning the three points mentioned. Whether it 
will be satisfactory to Christians you will know better 
than I. Farewell. 



304 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXII. 

LETTER XXII. (LXXIV.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg wishes to be enlightened concerning the doctrine of fatal 
ism, of which Spinoza has been accused. He discourses on man s 
limited intelligence and on the incarnation of the Son of God.] 

As YOU seem to accuse me of excessive brevity, I will 
this time avoid the charge by excessive prolixity. Yon 
expected, I see, that I should set forth those opinions in 
your writings, which seem to discourage the practice of 
religious virtue in your readers. I will indicate the mat 
ter which especially pains them. You appear to set up a 
fatalistic necessity for all things and actions ; if such is con 
ceded and asserted, people aver, that the sinews of all 
laws, of virtue, and of religion, are severed, and that all re 
wards and punishment are vain. Whatsoever can compel, 
or involves necessity, is held also to excuse; therefore 
no one, they think, can be without excuse in the sight 
of God. If we are driven by fate, and all things follow 
a fixed and inevitable path laid down by the hard hand 
of necessity, they do not see where punishment can come 
in. What wedge can be brought for the untying of this 
knot, it is very difficult to say. I should much like to 
know and learn what help you can supply in the matter. 

As to the opinions which you have kindly disclosed to 
me on the three points I mentioned, the following in 
quiries suggest themselves. First, In what sense do you 
take MIRACLES and IGNORANCE to be synonymous and 
equivalent terms, as you appear to think in your last 
letter ? 

The bringing back of Lazarus from the dead, and the 
resurrection from death of Jesus Christ seem to surpass 
all the power of created nature, and to fall within the 
scope of divine power only; it would not be a sign of 
culpable ignorance, that it was necessary to exceed the 
limits of finite intelligence confined within certain bounds. 
But perhaps you do not think it in harmony with the 



LETTER XXIII. ] CORRESPONDENCE 305 

created mind and science, to acknowledge in the uncre 
ated mind and supreme Deity a science and power capa 
ble of fathoming, and bringing to pass events, whose 
reason and manner can neither be brought home nor ex 
plained to us poor human pigmies ? (< We are men w ; it 
appears, that we must <( think everything human akin to 
ourselves. w 

Again, when you say that you cannot understand that 
God really took upon himself human nature, it becomes 
allowable to ask you, how you understand the texts in 
the Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews, whereof the 
first says, (< The Word was made flesh, w * and the other, 
{< For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; 
but he took on him the seed of Abraham. w f Moreover, 
the whole tenor of the Gospel infers, as I think, that 
the only begotten Son of God, the Word (who both was 
God and was with God), showed himself in human na 
ture, and by his passion and death offered up the sacri 
fice for our sins, the price of the atonement. What you 
have to say concerning this without impugning the truth 
of the Gospel and the Christian religion, which I think 
you approve of, I would gladly learn. 

I had meant to write more, but am interrupted by 
friends on a visit, to whom I cannot refuse the duties 
of courtesy. But what I have already put on paper is 
enough, and will perhaps weary you in your philosophiz 
ing. Farewell, therefore, and believe me to be ever an 
admirer of your learning and knowledge. 

LONDON, 16 Dec., 1675. 



LETTER XXIII. (LXXV.) 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[ Spinoza expounds to Oldenburg his views on fate and necessity, 
discriminates between miracles and ignorance, takes the resurrection of 

*John i. 14. 
fHeb. ii. 16. 
20 



3 o6 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIII. 

Christ as spiritual, and deprecates attributing to the sacred writers 
western modes of speech.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR: At last I see what it was that 
you begged me not to publish. However, as it forms 
the chief foundation of everything in the treatise which 
I intended to bring out, I should like briefly to explain 
here in what sense I assert that a fatal necessity presides 
over all things and actions. God I in no wise subject to 
fate: I conceive that all things follow with inevitable 
necessity from the nature of God, in the same way as 
every one conceives that it follows from God s nature that 
God understands himself. This latter consequence all 
admit to follow necessarily from the divine nature, yet 
no one conceives that God is under the compulsion of any 
fate, but that he understands himself quite freely, though 
necessarily. 

Further, this inevitable necessity in things does away 
neither with divine nor human laws. The principles of 
morality, whether they receive from God himself the 
form of laws or institutions, or whether they do not, are 
still divine and salutary; whether we receive the good, 
which flows from virtue and the divine love, as from 
God in the capacity of a judge, or as from the necessity 
of the divine nature, it will in either case be equally 
desirable; on the other hand, the evils following from 
wicked actions and passions are not less to be feared be 
cause they are necessary consequences. Lastly, in our 
actions, whether they be necessary or contingent, we are 
led by hope and fear. 

Men are only without excuse before God, because they 
are in God s power, as clay is in the hands of the potter, 
who from the same lump makes vessels, some to honor, 
some to dishonor. If you will reflect a little on this, 
you will, I doubt not, easily be able to reply to any ob 
jections which may be urged against my opinion, as many 
of my friends have already done. 

I have taken miracles and ignorance as equivalent terms, 
because those, who endeavor to establish God s existence 
and the truth of religion by means of miracles, seek to 
prove the obscure by what is more obscure and completely 



LETTER XXIII.] CORRESPONDENCE 307 

unknown, thus introducing a new sort of argument, the 
reduction, not to the impossible, as the phrase is, but to 
ignorance. But, if I mistake not, I have sufficiently ex 
plained my opinion on miracles in the * Theologico-Political M 
treatise. I will only add here, that if you will reflect on 
the facts; that Christ did not appear to the council, nor 
to Pilate, nor to any unbeliever, but only to the faithful ; 
also that God has neither right hand nor left, but is by 
his essence not in a particular spot, but everywhere ; that 
matter is everywhere the same ; that God does not mani 
fest himself in the imaginary space supposed to be outside 
the world; and lastly, that the frame of the human body 
is kept within due limits solely by the weight of the air; 
you will readily see that this apparition of Christ is not 
unlike that wherewith God appeared to Abraham, when 
the latter saw men whom he invited to dine with him. 
But, you will say, all the Apostles thoroughly believed, 
that Christ rose from the dead and really ascended to 
heaven: I do not deny it. Abraham, too, believed that 
God had dined with him, and all the Israelites believed 
that God descended, surrounded with fire, from heaven to 
Mount Sinai, and there spoke directly with them ; whereas, 
these apparitions or revelations, and many others like 
them, were adapted to the understanding and opinions of 
those men, to whom God wished thereby to reveal his 
will. I therefore conclude, that the resurrection of Christ 
from the dead was in reality spiritual, and that to the 
faithful alone, according to their understanding, it was 
revealed that Christ was endowed with eternity, and had 
risen from the dead (using DEAD in the sense in which 
Christ said, (< let the dead bury their dead"*), giving by 
his life and death a matchless example of holiness. 
Moreover, he to this extent raises his disciples from the 
dead, in so far as they follow the example of his own life 
and death. It would not be difficult to explain the whole 
Gospel doctrine on this hypothesis. Nay, i Cor. ch. xv. 
cannot be explained on any other, nor can Paul s argu 
ments be understood: if we follow the common interpre 
tation, they appear weak and can easily be refuted: not 
"* Matt. viii. 22 ; Luke ix. 60. 



3<>8 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIV. 

to mention the fact, that Christians interpret spiritually 
all those doctrines which the Jews accepted literally. I 
join with you in acknowledging human weakness. But on 
the other hand, I venture to ask you whether we <( human 
pigmies >} possess sufficient knowledge of nature to be able 
to lay down the limits of its force and power, or to say 
that a given thing surpasses that power? No one could 
go so far without arrogance. We may, therefore, without 
presumption explain miracles as far as possible by natural 
causes. When we cannot explain them, nor even prove 
their impossibility, we may well suspend our judgment 
about them, and establish religion, as I have said, solely 
by the wisdom of its doctrines. You think that the texts 
in John s Gospel and in Hebrews are inconsistent with 
what I advance, because you measure oriental phrases by 
the standards of European speech ; though John wrote his 
gospel in Greek, he wrote it as a Hebrew. However this 
may be, do you believe, when Scripture says that God 
manifested himself in a cloud, or that he dwelt in the 
tabernacle, or the temple, that God actually assumed the 
nature of a cloud, a tabernacle, or a temple ? Yet the ut 
most that Christ says of himself, that he is the Temple 
of God,* because, as I said before, God had specially man 
ifested himself in Christ. John, wishing to express the 
same truth more forcibly, said that <( the Word was made 
flesh. w But I have said enough on the subject. 



LETTER XXIV. (LXXVII.) 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg returns to the questions of universal necessity, of miracles, 
and of the literal and allegorical interpretation of Scripture.] 



You hit the point exactly, in perceiving the cause why 
I did not wish the doctrine of the fatalistic necessity of 
* John ii. 19. Cf. Matt. xxvi. 60; Mark xiv. 58. 



LETTER XXIV.J CORRESPONDENCE 309 

all things to be promulgated, lest the practice of virtue 
should thereby be aspersed, and rewards and punishments 
become ineffectual. The suggestions in your last letter 
hardly seem sufficient to settle the matter, or to quiet the 
human mind. For if we men are, in all our actions, 
moral as well as natural, under the power of God, like 
clay in the hands of the potter, with what face can any 
of us be accused of doing this or that, seeing that it was 
impossible for him to do otherwise ? Should we not be 
able to cast all responsibility on God ? Your inflexible 
fate, and your irresistible power, compel us to act in a 
given manner, nor can we possibly act otherwise. Why, 
then, and by what right do you deliver us up to terrible 
punishments, which we can in no way avoid, since you 
direct and carry on all things through supreme necessity, 
according to your good will and pleasure ? When you say 
that men are only inexcusable before God, because they 
are in the power of God, I should reverse the argument, 
and say, with more show of reason, that men are evi 
dently excusable, since they are in the power of God. 
Everyone may plead, <( Thy power cannot be escaped 
from, O God; therefore, since I could not act otherwise, 
I may justly be excused. }) 

Again, in taking miracles and ignorance as equivalent 
terms, you seem to bring within the same limits the 
power of God and the knowledge of the ablest men; 
for God is, according to you, unable to do or pro 
duce anything, for which men cannot assign a 
reason, if they employ all the strength of their facul 
ties. 

Again, the history of Christ s passion, death, burial, 
and resurrection seems to be depicted in such lively and 
genuine colors, that I venture to appeal to your con 
science, whether you can believe them to be allegorical, 
rather than literal, while preserving your faith in the 
narrative ? The circumstances so clearly stated by the 
Evangelists seem to urge strongly on our minds, that: 
the history should be understood literally. I have ven 
tured to touch briefly on these points, and I earnestly 
beg you to pardon me, and answer me as a friend with 



3 10 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXV. 

your usual candor. Mr. Boyle sends you his kind 
regards. I will, another time, tell you what the Royal 
Society is doing. Farewell, and preserve me in your 
affection. 

LONDON, 14 Jan., 1676. 



LETTER XXV. (LXXVIII.) 

Written 7 Feb., 1676. 
SPINOZA TO OLDENBURG. 

[ Spinoza again treats of fatalism. He repeats that he accepts Christ s 
passion, death, and burial literally, but his resurrection spiritually.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, When I said in my former letter 
that we are inexcusable, because we are in the power of 
God, like clay in the hands of the potter, I meant to be 
understood in the sense that no one can bring a com 
plaint against God for having given him a weak nature, 
or infirm spirit. A circle might as well complain to God 
of not being endowed with the properties of a sphere, or 
a child who is tortured, say, with stone, for not being 
given a healthy body, as a man of feeble spirit, because 
God has denied to him fortitude, and the true knowledge 
and love of the Deity, or because he is endowed with so 
weak a nature that he cannot check or moderate his 
desires. For the nature of each thing is only competent 
to do that which follows necessarily from its given cause. 
That every man cannot be brave, and that we can no 
more command for ourselves a healthy body than a 
healthy mind, nobody can deny, without giving the lie 
to experience, as well as to reason. <( But, * you urge, 
(< if men sin by nature, they are excusable w ; but you do 
not state the conclusion you draw, whether that God can 
not be angry with them or that they are worthy of 
blessedness that is, of the knowledge and love of God. 
If you say the former, I fully admit that God cannot be 



LETTER XXV.] CORRESPONDENCE 3*1 

angry, and that all things are done in accordance with 
his will; but I deny that all men ought, therefore, to be 
blessed men may be excusable, and, nevertheless, be 
without blessedness and afflicted in many ways. A horse 
is excusable for being a horse and not a man ; but, never 
theless, he must needs be a horse and not a man. He 
who goes mad from the bite of a dog is excusable, yet 
he is rightly suffocated. Lastly, he who cannot govern 
his desires, and keep them in check with the fear of the 
laws, though his weakness may be excusable, yet he can 
not enjoy with contentment the knowledge and love of 
God, but necessarily perishes. I do not think it neces 
sary here to remind you, that Scripture, when it says 
that God is angry with sinners, and that he is a Judge 
who takes cognizance of human actions, passes sentence 
on them, and judges them, is speaking humanely, and 
in a way adapted to the received opinion of the 
masses, inasmuch as its purpose is not to teach phi 
losophy, nor to render men wise, but to make them 
obedient. 

How, by taking miracles and ignorance as equiva 
lent terms, I reduce God s power and man s knowl 
edge within the same limits, I am unable to discern. 

For the rest, I accept Christ s passion, death and burial 
literally, as you do, but his resurrection I understand 
allegorically. I admit, that it is related by the Evangelists 
in such detail, that we cannot deny that they themselves 
believed Christ s body to have risen from the dead and 
ascended to heaven, in order to sit at the right hand of 
God, or that they believed that Christ might have been 
seen by unbelievers, if they had happened to be at hand, 
in the places where he appeared to his Disciples; but in 
these matters they might, without injury to Gospel teach 
ing, have been deceived, as was the case with other 
prophets mentioned in my last letter. But Paul, to whom 
Christ afterward appeared, rejoices that he knew Christ 
not after the flesh, but after the spirit.* Farewell, hon 
orable Sir, and believe me yours in all affection and 
zea) 

* 2 Cor. v. 16 



3 2 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXV. A. 

LETTER XXV. A. 
OLDENBURG TO SPINOZA. 

[Oldenburg adduces further objections against Spinoza s doctrine 
of necessity and miracles, and exposes the inconsistency of a partial 
allegorization of Scripture.] 

To THE most illustrious Master Benedict de Spinoza 
Henry Oldenburg sends greetings. 

In your last letter,* written to me on the ;th of Feb 
ruary, there are some points which seem to deserve criti 
cism. You say that a man cannot complain, because 
God has denied him the true knowledge of himself, and 
strength sufficient to avoid sins ; forasmuch as to the na 
ture of everything nothing is competent, except that 
which follows necessarily from its cause. But I say, that 
inasmuch as God, the Creator of men formed thereafter 
his own image, which seems to imply in its concept wis 
dom, goodness and power, it appears quite to follow, that 
it is more within the sphere of man s power to have a 
sound mind than to have a sound body. For physical 
soundness of body follows from mechanical causes, but 
soundness of mind depends on purpose and design. You 
add, that men may be inexcusable,! an ^ yet suffer pain 
in many ways. This seems hard at first sight, and what 
you add by way of proof, namely, that a dog J mad from 
having been bitten is indeed to be excused, but yet is 
rightly killed, does not seem to settle the question. For 
the killing of such a dog would argue cruelty, were it 
not necessary in order to preserve other dogs and ani 
mals, and indeed men, from a maddening bite of the 
same kind. 

But if God implanted in man a sound mind, as he is 
able to do, there would be no contagion of vices to be 

* Letter XXV. 

f Surely this is a mistake for excusable. [TR.] 

f See Letter XXV. Oldenburg misunderstands Spinoza s illustra 
tion to mean a dog which goes mad from a bite, instead of he who 
goes mad from the bite of a dog. 



LETTER XXV. A.] CORRESPONDENCE 313 

feared. And, surely, it seems very cruel, that God 
should devote men to eternal, or at least terrible tempo 
rary, torments, for sins which by them could be no 
wise avoided. Moreover, the tenor of all Holy Scripture 
seems to suppose and imply, that man can abstain from 
sins. For it abounds in denunciations, and promises, in 
declarations of rewards and punishments, all of which 
seem to militate against the necessity of sinning, and 
infer the possibility of avoiding punishment. And if 
this were denied, it would have to be said that the 
human mind acts no less mechanically than the human 
body. 

Next, w T hen you proceed to take miracles and ignorance 
to be equivalent, you seem to rely on this foundation, 
that the creature can and should have perfect insight 
into the power and wisdom of the Creator: and that the 
fact is quite otherwise, I have hitherto been firmly per 
suaded. 

Lastly, where you affirm that Christ s passion, death, 
and burial are to be taken literally, but his resurrection 
allegorically, you rely, as far as I can see, on no proof 
at all. Christ s resurrection seems to be delivered in the 
Gospel as literally as the rest. And on this article of 
the Resurrection the whole Christian religion and its 
truth rest, and with its removal Christ s mission and 
heavenly doctrine collapse. It cannot escape you, how 
Christ, after he was raised from the dead, labored to 
convince his Disciples of the truth of the Resurrection 
properly so called. To want to turn all these things 
into allegories is the same thing, as if one were to busy 
one s self in plucking up the whole truth of the Gospel 
history. 

These few points I wished again to submit in the 
interest of my liberty of philosophizing, which I earnestly 
beg you not to take amiss. 

Written in LONDON, u Feb., 1676. 

I will communicate with you shortly on the present 
studies and experiments of the Royal Society, if God 
grant me life and health. 



3*4 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXVI. 

LETTER XXVI. (VIII.) 
SIMON DE VRIES TO SPINOZA. 

[Simon de Vries, a diligent student of Spinoza s writings and philoso 
phy, describes a club formed for the study of Spinoza s MS. con. 
taining some of the matter afterward worked into the Ethics, 
and asks questions about the difficulties felt by members of the 
club.] 

MOST HONORABLE FRIEND: I have for a long time 
wished to be present with you; but the weather and the 
hard winter have not been propitious to me. I sometimes 
complain of my lot, in that we are separated from each 
other by so long a distance. Happy, yes most happy, is 
the fellow-lodger, abiding under the same roof with you, 
who can talk with you on the best of subjects, at dinner, 
at supper, and during your walks. However, though I 
am far apart from you in body, you have been very fre 
quently present to my mind, especially in your writings, 
while I read and turn them over. But as they are not all 
clear to the members of our club, for which reason we have 
begun a fresh series of meetings, and as I would not have 
you think me unmindful of you, I have applied my mind 
to writing this letter. 

As regards our club, the following is its order. One 
of us (that is every one by turn) reads through and, as 
far as he understands it, expounds and also demonstrates 
the whole of your work, according to the sequence and 
order of your propositions. Then, if it happens that on 
any point we cannot satisfy one another, we have resolved 
to make a note of it and write to you, so that, if possi 
ble, it may be made clearer to us, arid that we may be 
able under your guidance to defend the truth against 
those who are superstitiously religious and against the 
Christians, and to withstand the attack of the whole 
world. Well then, since, when we first read through 
and expounded them, the definitions did not all seem 
clear to us, we differed about the nature of definition. 
Next, in your absence we consulted as our authority a 



LETTER XXVI. j CORRESPONDENCE 315 

celebrated mathematician, named Borel: for he makes 
mention of the nature of definition, axiom, and postu 
late, and adduces the opinions of others on the subject. 
But his opinion is as follows: (< Definitions are cited in 
a demonstration as premises. Wherefore it is necessary, 
that they should be accurately known ; otherwise scientific 
or accurate knowledge cannot be attained by their means. M 
And elsewhere he says. (< The primary and most known 
construction or passive quality of a given subject should 
not be chosen rashly, but with the greatest care; if the 
construction or passive quality be an impossibility, no 
scientific definition can be obtained. For instance, if 
any one were to say, let two straight lines enclosing a 
space be called figurals, the definition would be of non- 
existences and impossible: hence ignorance rather than 
knowledge would be deduced therefrom. Again, if the 
construction or passive quality be possible and true, but 
unknown or doubtful to us, the definition will not be 
good. For conclusions arising from what is unknown or 
doubtful are themselves uncertain or doubtful; they there 
fore bring about conjecture or opinion, but not certain 
knowledge. w 

Jacquet seems to dissent from this opinion, for he 
thinks that one may proceed from a false premise directly 
to a true conclusion, as you are aware. Clavius, how 
ever, whose opinion he quotes, thinks as follows : <( Defi 
nitions, w he says, <( are artificial phrases, nor is there any 
need in reasoning that a thing should be defined in a 
particular way; but it is sufficient that a thing defined 
should never be said to agree with another thing, until 
it has been shown that its definition also agrees there 
with. 

Thus, according to Borel, the definition of a given 
thing should consist, as regards its construction or passive 
quality, in something thoroughly known to us and true. 
Clavius, on the other hand, holds that it is a matter of 
indifference, whether the construction or passive quality 
be well known and true, or the reverse ; so long as we 
do not assert, that our definition agrees with anything, 
before it has been proved. 



3 l6 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXVI. 

I should prefer Borel s opinion to that of Clavius. I 
know not which you would assent to, if to either. As 
these difficulties have occurred to me with regard to the 
nature of definition, which is reckoned among- the car 
dinal points of demonstration, and as I cannot free my 
mind from them, I greatly desire, and earnestly beg 
you, when you have leisure and opportunity, to be kind 
enough to send me your opinion on the matter, and at 
the same time to tell me the distinction between axioms 
and definitions. Borel says that the difference is merely 
nominal, but I believe you decide otherwise. 

Further, we cannot make up our minds about the third 
definition.* I adduced to illustrate it, what my master 
said to me at the Hague, to wit, that a thing may be 
regarded in two ways, either as it is in itself, or as it is in 
relation to something else ; as in the case of the intellect, 
for that can be regarded either under the head of 
thought or as consisting in ideas. But we do not see 
the point of the distinction thus drawn. For it seems to 
us, that, if we rightly conceive thought, we must range 
it under the head of ideas; as, if all ideas were removed 
from it, we should destroy thought. As we find the 
illustration of the matter not sufficiently clear, the mat 
ter itself remains somewhat obscure, and we need further 
explanation. 

Lastly, in the third note to the eighth proposition, the 
beginning runs thus: Hence it is plain that, although 
two attributes really distinct be conceived, that is, one 
without the aid of the other, we cannot therefore infer, 
that they constitute two entities or two different sub 
stances. For it belongs to the nature of substance, that 
each of its attributes should be conceived through itself, 
though all the attributes it possesses exist simultaneously 
in it. Here our master seems to assume, that the nature 
of substance is so constituted, that it may have several 
attributes. But this doctrine has not yet been proved, 
unless you refer to the sixth definition, of absolutely 
infinite substance or God. Otherwise, if it be asserted 
that each substance has only one attribute, and I have 
* The third definition of the Ethics, as they now exist. 



LETTER XXVII. J CORRESPONDENCE 317 

two ideas of two attributes. I may rightly infer that, 
where there are two different attributes, there are also 
different substances. On this point also we beg you to 
give a further explanation. Besides I thank you very 
much for your writings communicated to me by P. 
Balling, which have greatly delighted me, especially 
your note on Proposition XIX.* If I can do YOU any 
service here in anything that is within my power, I am 
at your disposal. You have but to let me know. I have 
begun a course of anatomy, and am nearly half through 
with it: when it is finished, I shall begin a course of 
chemistry, and thus under your guidance I shall go 
through the whole of medicine. I leave off, and await 
your answer. Accept the greeting of 

Your most devoted 

S. J. DE VRIES. 
AMSTERDAM, 24 Feb., 1663. 



LETTER XXVII. (IX.) 
SPINOZA TO SIMON DE VRIES. 

[Spinoza deprecates his correspondent s jealousy of Albert Burgh; and 
answers that distinction must be made between different kinds of 
definitions. He explains his opinions more precisely.] 

RESPECTED FRIEND, I have received your long wished- 
for letter, for which, and for your affection toward me, 
I heartily thank you. Your long absence has been no 
less grievous to me than to you; yet in the meantime I 
rejoice that my trifling studies are of profit to you and 
our friends. For thus while you are away, I in my 
absence speak to you. You need not envy my fellow- 
lodger. There is no one who is more displeasing to me, 
nor against whom I have been more anxiously on my 
guard; and therefore I would have you and all my ac 
quaintance warned not to communicate my opinions to 

* There is no note to (< Ethics, w I. xix. As there is nothing to show 
what proposition is intended, the old version suppressed the whole pas 
sage from Besides I thank you to medicine. 



3i8 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXVII. 

him, except when he has come to maturer years. So far 
he is too childish and inconstant, and is fonder of 
novelty than of truth. But I hope, that in a few years 
he will amend these childish faults. Indeed I am almost 
sure of it, as far as I can judge from his nature. And 
so his temperament bids me like him. 

As for the questions propounded in your club, which 
is wisely enough ordered, I see that your difficulties arise 
from not distinguishing between kinds of definition: that 
is, between a definition serving to explain a thing, of 
which the essence only is sought and in question, and a 
definition which is put forward only for purposes of inquiry. 
The former having a definite object ought to be true, the 
latter need not. For instance, if some one asks me for a 
description of Solomon s temple, I am bound to give him 
a true description, unless I want to talk nonsense with 
him. But if I have constructed, in my mind, a temple 
which I desire to build, and infer from the description 
of it that I must buy such and such a site and so many 
thousand stones and other materials, will any sane person 
tell me that I have drawn a wrong conclusion because 
my definition is possibly untrue ? or will anyone ask me 
to prove my definition ? Such a person would simply be 
telling me, that I had not conceived that which I had 
conceived, or be requiring me to prove, that I had con 
ceived that which I had conceived; in fact, evidently 
trifling. Hence a definition either explains a thing, in so 
far as it is external to the intellect, in which case it 
ought to be true and only to differ from a proposition or 
an axiom in being concerned merely with the essences of 
things, or the modifications of things, whereas the latter 
has a wider scope and extends also to eternal truths. Or 
else it explains a thing, as it is conceived or can be con 
ceived by us ; and then it differs from an axiom or prop 
osition, inasmuch as it only requires to be conceived 
absolutely, and not like an axiom as true. Hence a bad 
definition is one which is not conceived. To explain my 
meaning, I will take Borel s example a man saying that 
two straight lines enclosing a space shall be called 
w figurals. M If the man means by a straight line the same 



LETTER XXVII.] CORRESPONDENCE 319 

as the rest of the world means by a curved line, his 
definition is good (for by the definition would be meant 
some such figure as (), or the like); so long- as he does 
not afterward mean a square or other kind of figure. 
But, if he attaches the ordinary meaning to the words 
straight line, the thing is evidently inconceivable, and 
therefore there is no definition. These considerations are 
plainly confused by Borel, to whose opinion you incline. 
I give another example, the one you cite at the end of 
your letter. If I say that each substance has only one 
attribute, this is an unsupported statement and needs 
proof. But, if I say that I mean by substance that which 
consists in only one attribute, the definition will be good, 
so long as entities consisting of several attributes are 
afterward styled by some name other than substance. 
When you say that I do not prove, that substance (or 
being) may have several attributes, you do not perhaps 
pay attention to the proofs given. I adduced two : First, 
<( that nothing is plainer to us, than that every being may 
be conceived by us under some attribute, and that the 
more reality or essence a given being has, the more attri 
butes may be attributed to it. Hence a being absolutely 
infinite must be defined, etc. w Secondly, and I think this 
is the stronger proof of the two, <( the more attributes I 
assign to any being, the more am I compelled to assign 
to it existence ; w in other words, the more I conceive it 
as true. The contrary would evidently result if I were 
feigning a chimera or some such being. 

Your remark that you cannot conceive thought except 
as consisting in ideas, because, when ideas are removed, 
thought is annihilated, springs, I think, from the fact 
that while you a thinking thing, do as you say, you ab 
stract all your thoughts and conceptions. It is no mar 
vel that, when you have abstracted all your thoughts and 
conceptions, you have nothing left for thinking with. On 
the general subject, I think I have shown sufficiently 
clearly and plainly, that the intellect, although infinite, 
belongs to nature regarded as passive rather than nature 
regarded as active (ad naturam naturatam, non vero ad 
naturam naturantem}. 



3 2o SPINOZA S [LETTER XXVIIL 

However, I do not see how this helps toward under 
standing the third definition, nor what difficulty the lat 
ter presents. It runs, if I mistake not, as follows : (< By 
substance I mean that, which is in itself and is con 
ceived through itself ; that is, of which the conception does 
not involve the conception of anything else. By attribute I 
mean the same thing; except that it is called attribute 
with respect to the understanding, which attributes to 
substance the particular nature aforesaid. w This defini 
tion, I repeat, explains with sufficient clearness what I 
wish to signify by substance or attribute. You desire, 
though there is no need, that I should illustrate by an 
example, how one and the same thing can be stamped 
with two names. In order not to seem miserly, I will 
give you two. First, I say that by Israel is meant the 
third patriarch; I mean the same by Jacob, the name 
Jacob being given, because the patriarch in question had 
caught hold of the heel of his brother. Secondly, by a 
colorless surface I mean a surface, which reflects all 
rays of light without altering them. I mean the same 
by a white surface, with this difference, that a surface 
is called white in reference to a man looking at it, etc. 



LETTER XXVIIL (X.) 
SPINOZA TO SIMON DE VRIES. 

[Spinoza, in answer to a letter from De Vries now lost, speaks of the 
experience necessary for proving a definition, and also of eternal 
truths.] 

RESPECTED FRIEND, You ask me if we have need of 
experience, in order to know whether the definition of 
a given attribute is true. To this I answer that we never 
need experience, except in cases when the existence of 
the thing cannot be inferred from its definition, as, for 
instance, the existence of modes (which cannot be inferred 
from their definition) ; experience is not needed, when the 
existence of the things in question is not distinguished from 



LETTER XXIX.] CORRESPONDENCE 321 

their essence, and is therefore inferred from their defini 
tion. This can never be taught us by any experience, 
for experience does not teach us any essences of things; 
the utmost it can do is to set our mind thinking about 
definite essences only. Wherefore, when the existence of 
attributes does not differ from their essence, no experi 
ence is capable of attaining it for us. 

To your further question, whether things and their 
modifications are eternal truths, I answer; Certainly. If 
you ask me, why I do not call them eternal truths, I 
answer, in order to distinguish them, in accordance with 
general usage, from those propositions, which do not make 
manifest any particular thing or modification of a thing ; 
for example, NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING. These and 
such like propositions are, I repeat, called eternal truths 
simply, the meaning merely being, that they have no 
standpoint external to the mind, etc. 



LETTER XXIX. (XII.) 
SPINOZA TO L. M. (LEWIS MEYER). 

DEAREST FRIEND, I have received two letters from 
you, one dated Jan. n, delivered to me by our friend, 
N. N., the other dated March 26, sent by some unknown 
friend to Leyden. They were both most welcome to me, 
especially as I gathered from them, that all goes well 
with you, and that you are often mindful of me. I also 
owe and repay you the warmest thanks for the courtesy 
and consideration, with which you have always been kind 
enough to treat me: I hope you will believe, that I am 
in no less degree devoted to you, as, when occasion offers, 
I will always endeavor to prove, as far as my poor powers 
will admit. As a first proof, I will do my best to answer 
the questions you ask in your letters. You request me 
to tell you, what I think about the Infinite; I will most 
readily do so. 

21 



322 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIX. 

Everyone regards the question of the Infinite as most 
difficult, if not insoluble, through not making a distinc 
tion between that which must be infinite from its very 
nature, or in virtue of its definition, and that which has 
no limits, not in virtue of its essence, but in virtue of 
its cause; and also through not distinguishing between 
that which is called infinite, because it has no limits, and 
that, of which the parts cannot be equalled or expressed 
by any number, though the greatest and least magnitude 
of the whole may be known; and, lastly, through not 
distinguishing between that, which can be understood 
but not imagined, and that which can also be imagined. 
If these distinctions, I repeat, had been attended to, 
inquirers would not have been overwhelmed with such 
a vast crowd of difficulties. They would then clearly 
have understood, what kind of infinite is indivisible and 
possesses no parts; and what kind, on the other hand, 
may be divided without involving a contradiction in 
terms. They would further have understood, what kind 
of infinite may, without solecism, be conceived greater 
than another infinite, and what kind cannot be so con 
ceived. All this will plainly appear from what I am 
about to say. 

However, I will first briefly explain the terms SUBSTANCE, 

MODE, ETERNITY, and DURATION. 

The points to be noted concerning substance are these : 
First, that existence appertains to its essence; in other 
words, that solely from its essence and definition its 
existence follows. This, if I remember rightly, I have 
already proved to you by word of mouth, without the 
aid of any other propositions. Secondly, as a conse 
quence of the above, that substance is not manifold, 
but single: there cannot be two of the same nature. 
Thirdly, every substance must be conceived as in 
finite. 

The modifications of substance I call MODES. Their defi 
nition, in so far as it is not identical with that of sub 
stance, cannot involve any existence. Hence, though they 
exist, we can conceive them as non-existent. From this 
it follows, that, when we are regarding only the essence 



LETTER XXIX. j CORRESPONDENCE 323 

of modes, and not the order of the whole of nature, we 
cannot conclude from their present existence, that they 
will exist or not exist in the future, or that they have 
existed or not existed in the past; whence it is abund 
antly clear, that we conceive the existence of substance 
as entirely different from the existence of modes. 
From this difference arises the distinction between 
ETERNITY and DURATION. DURATION is only applicable to 
the existence of modes; ETERNITY is applicable to the 
existence of substance, that is, the infinite faculty of ex 
istence or being (infinitum existendi sive invitd Latini- 
tate essendi fruitionem). 

From what has been said it is quite clear that when, 
as is most often the case, we are regarding only the es 
sence of modes and not the order of nature, we may 
freely limit the existence and duration of modes without 
destroying the conception we have formed of them; we 
may conceive them as greater or less, or may divide 
them into parts. Eternity and substance, being only 
conceivable as infinite, cannot be thus treated without our 
conception of them being destroyed. Wherefore it is mere 
foolishness, or even insanity, to say that extended sub 
stance is made up of parts or bodies really distinct from 
one another. It is as though one should attempt by the 
aggregation and addition of many circles to make up a 
square, or a triangle, or something of totally different es 
sence. Wherefore the whole heap of arguments, by which 
philosophers commonly endeavor to show that extended 
substance is finite, falls to the ground by its own weight. 
For all such persons suppose, that corporeal substance is 
made up of parts. In the same way, others who have 
persuaded themselves that a line is made up of points, 
have been able to discover many arguments to show that 
a line is not infinitely divisible. If you ask, why we are 
by nature so prone to attempt to divide extended sub 
stance, I answer, that quantity is conceived by us in two 
ways, namely, by abstraction or superficially, as we 
imagine it by the aid of the senses, or as substance, 
which can only be accomplished through the understand 
ing. So that, if we regard quantity as it exists in the 



324 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIX. 

imagination (and this is the more frequent and easy 
method), it will be found to be divisible, finite, com 
posed of parts, and manifold. But, if we regard it as it 
is in the understanding, and the thing be conceived as it is 
in itself (which is very difficult), it will then, as I have 
sufficiently shown you before, be found to be infinite, in 
divisible, and single. 

Again, from the fact that we can limit duration and 
quantity at our pleasure, when we conceive the latter 
abstractedly as apart from substance, and separate the 
former from the manner whereby it flows from things 
eternal, there arise TIME and MEASURE; TIME for the pur 
pose of limiting duration, MEASURE for the purpose of 
limiting quantity, so that we may, as far as is possible, 
the more readily imagine them. Further, inasmuch as 
we separate the modifications of substance from substance 
itself, and reduce them to classes, so that we may, as 
far as is possible, the more readily imagine them, there 
.arises NUMBER, whereby we limit them. Whence it is 
clearly to be seen, that measure, time, and number, are 
merely modes of thinking, or, rather, of imagining. It 
is not to be wondered at, therefore, that all who have 
endeavored to understand the course of nature, by means 
of such notions, and without fully understanding even 
them, have entangled themselves so wondrously, that they 
have at last only been able to extricate themselves by 
breaking through every rule and admitting absurdities 
even of the grossest kind. For there are many things 
which cannot be conceived through the imagination but 
only through the understanding, for instance, substance, 
eternity, and the like; thus, if any one tries to explain 
such things by means of conceptions which are mere aids 
to the imagination, he is simply assisting his imagination 
to run away with him. Nor can even the modes of sub 
stance ever be rightly understood, if we confuse them 
with entities of the kind mentioned, mere aids of the 
reason or imagination. In so doing we separate them 
from substance, and the mode of their derivation from 
eternity, without which they can never be rightly under 
stood. To make the matter yet more clear, take the 



LETTER XXIX.] CORRESPONDENCE 325 

following example : when a man conceives of duration 
abstractedly, and, confusing it with time, begins to divide 
it into parts, he will never be able to understand how 
an hour, for instance, can elapse. For in order that an 
hour should elapse, it is necessary that its half should 
elapse first, and afterward half of the remainder, and 
again half of the half of the remainder, and if you go 
on thus to infinity, subtracting the half of the residue, 
you will never be able to arrive at the end of the hour. 
Wherefore many, who are not accustomed to distinguish 
abstractions from realities, have ventured to assert that 
duration is made up of instants, and so in wishing to 
avoid Charybdis have fallen into Scylla. It is the same 
thing to make up duration out of instants, as it is to 
make number simply by adding up naughts. 

Further, as it is evident from what has been said, that 
neither number, nor measure, nor time, being mere aids 
to the imagination, can be infinite ( for, otherwise, num 
ber would not be number, nor measure measure, nor 
time time ) ; it is hence abundantly evident, why many 
who confuse these three abstractions with realities, through 
being ignorant of the true nature of things, have actu 
ally denied the Infinite. 

The wretchedness of their reasoning may be judged by 
mathematicians, who have never allowed themselves to 
be delayed a moment by arguments of this sort, in the 
case of things which they clearly and distinctly perceive. 
For not only have they come across many things, which 
cannot be expressed by number (thus showing the in 
adequacy of number for determining all things ) ; but also 
they have found many things, which cannot be equalled 
by any number, but surpass every possible number. But 
they infer hence, that such things surpass enumeration, 
not because of the multitude of their component parts, 
but because their nature cannot, without manifest con 
tradiction, be expressed in terms of number. As, for 
instance, in the case of two circles, non-concentric, 
whereof one incloses the other, no number can express 
the inequalities of distance which exist between the two 
circles, nor all the variations which matter in motion in 



326 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIX. 

the intervening space may undergo. This conclusion is 
not based on the excessive size of the intervening space. 
However small a portion of it we take, the inequalities 
of this small portion will surpass all numerical expression. 
Nor, again, is the conclusion based on the fact, as in 
other cases, that we do not know the maximum and the 
minimum of the said space. It springs simply from the 
fact, that the nature of the space between two non-con 
centric circles cannot be expressed in number. There 
fore, he who would assign a numerical equivalent for the 
inequalities in question, would be bound, at the same 
time, to bring about that a circle should not be a cir 
cle. 

The same result would take place to return to my 
subject if one were to wish to determine all the motions 
undergone by matter up to the present, by reducing them 
and their duration to a certain number and time. This 
would be the same as an attempt to deprive corporeal sub 
stance, which we cannot conceive except as existent, of 
its modifications, and to bring about that it should not 
possess the nature which it does possess. All this I could 
clearly demonstrate here, together with many other points 
touched on in this latter, but I deem it superfluous. 

From all that has been said, it is abundantly evident 
that certain things are in their nature infinite, and can 
by no means be conceived as finite; whereas there are 
other things, infinite in virtue of the cause from which 
they are derived, which can, when conceived abstractedly, 
be divided into parts, and regarded as finite. Lastly, 
there are some which are called infinite or, if you prefer, 
indefinite, because they cannot be expressed in number, 
which may yet be conceived as greater or less. It does 
not follow that such are equal, because they are alike 
incapable of numerical expression. This is plain enough, 
from the example given, and many others. 

Lastly, I have put briefly before you the causes of error 
and confusion, which have arisen concerning the question 
of the infinite. I have, if I mistake not, so explained 
them that no question concerning the infinite remains 
untreated, or cannot readily be solved from what I have 



LETTER XXIX. A.] CORRESPONDENCE 327 

said; wherefore, I do not think it worth while to detain 
you longer on the matter. 

But I should like it first to be observed here, that the 
later Peripatetics have, I think, misunderstood the proof 
given by the Ancients who sought to demonstrate the 
existence of God. This, as I find it in a certain Jew 
named Rabbi Ghasdai, runs as follows: <( If there be an 
infinite series of causes, all things which are, are caused. 
But nothing which is caused can exist necessarily in virtue 
of its own nature. Therefore, there is nothing in nature, 
to whose essence existence necessarily belongs. But this 
is absurd. Therefore, the premise is absurd also. w Hence 
the force of the argument lies not in the impossibility 
of an actual infinite or an infinite series of causes; but 
only in the absurdity of the assumption that things, which 
do not necessarily exist by nature, are not conditioned 
for existence by a thing, which does by its own nature 
necessarily exist. 

I would now pass on, for time presses, to your 
second letter: but I shall be able more conveniently to 
reply to its contents, when you are kind enough to pay 
me a visit. I therefore beg that you will come as soon 
as possible; the time for traveling is at hand. Enough. 
Farewell, and keep in remembrance, 

Yours, etc. 

RHIJNSBURG, 20 April, 1663. 



LETTER XXIX. A. 
SPINOZA TO LEWIS MEYER. 

DEAR FRIEND, The preface you sent me by our friend 
De Vries, I now send back to you by the same hand. 
Some few things, as you will see, I have marked in the 
margin; but yet a few remain, which I have judged it 
better to mention to you by letter. First, where on page 
4 y otl gi ye th e reader to know on what occasion I com 
posed the first part; I would have you likewise explain 



328 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXIX.A. 

there, or where you please, that I composed it within a 
fortnight. For when this is explained none will suppose 
the exposition to be so clear as that it cannot be bet 
tered, and so they will not stick at obscurities in this 
and that phrase on which they may chance to stumble. 
Secondly, I would have you explain, that when I prove 
many points otherwise than they be proved by Descartes, 
tis not to amend Descartes, but the better to preserve 
my order, and not to multiply axioms overmuch: and 
that for this same reason I prove many things which by 
Descartes are barely alleged without any proof, and must 
needs add other matters which Descartes let alone. 
Lastly, I will earnestly beseech you, as my especial 
friend, to let be everything you have written toward 
the end against that creature, and wholly strike it out. 
And though many reasons determine me to this request, 
I will give but one. I would fain have all men readily 
believe that these matters are published for the common 
profit of the world, and that your sole motive in bring 
ing out the book is the love of spreading the truth; and 
that it is accordingly all your study to make the work 
acceptable to all, to bid men, with all courtesy to the 
pursuit of genuine philosophy, and to conbult their com 
mon advantage. Which every man will be ready to 
think when he sees that no one is attacked, nor anything 
advanced where any man can find the least offense. 
Notwithstanding, if afterward the person you know of, 
or any other, be minded to display his ill-will, then you 
may portray his life and character, and gain applause by 
it. So I ask that you will not refuse to be patient thus 
far, and suffer yourself to be entreated, and believe me 
wholly bounden to you, and 

Yours with all affection 

B. DE SPINOZA. 
VOORBURG, Aug. 3, 1663. 

Our friend De Vries had promised to take this with him ; 
but seeing he knows not when he will return to you, I 
send it by another hand. 

Along with this I send you part of the scholium to 
Prop, xxvii. Part II. where page 75 begins, that you 



LETTER XXX. J CORRESPONDENCE 329 

may hand it to the printer to be reprinted. The matter 
I send you must of necessity be reprinted, and fourteen 
or fifteen lines added, which may easily be inserted. 



LETTER XXX. (XVII.) 
SPINOZA TO PETER BALLING. 

[Concerning omens and phantoms. The mind may have a confused 
presentiment of the future.] 

BELOVED FRIEND, Your last letter, written, if I mistake 
not, on the 26th of last month, has duly reached me. It 
caused me no small sorrow and solicitude, though the 
feeling sensibly diminished when I reflected on the good 
sense and fortitude, with which you have known how to 
despise the evils of fortune, or rather of opinion, at a 
time when they most bitterly assailed you. Yet my 
anxiety increases daily; I therefore beg and implore you 
by the claims of our friendship, that you will rouse your 
self to write me a long letter. With regard to OMENS, 
of which you make mention in telling me that, while 
your child was still healthy and strong, you heard groans 
like those he uttered when he was ill and shortly after 
ward died, I should judge that these were not real 
groans, but only the effect of your imagination; for you 
say that, when you got up and composed yourself to listen, 
you did not hear them so clearly either as before or as 
afterward, when you had fallen asleep again. This, I 
think, shows that the groans were purely due to the im 
agination, which, when it was unfettered and free, could 
imagine groans more forcibly and vividly than when you 
sat up in order to listen in a particular direction. I think I 
can both illustrate and confirm what I say by another oc 
currence, which befell me at Rhijnsburg last winter. When 
one morning, after the day had dawned, I woke up from a 
very unpleasant dream, the images, which had presented 
themselves to me in sleep, remained before my eyes just 
as vividly as though the things had been real, especially 



330 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXX. 

the image of a certain black and leprous Brazilian whom 
I had never seen before. This image disappeared for 
the most part when, in order to divert my thoughts, I 
cast my eyes on a book, or something else. But, as soon 
as I lifted my eyes again without fixing my attention on 
any particular object, the same image of this same negro 
appeared with the same vividness again and again, until 
the head of it gradually vanished. I say that the same 
thing which occurred with regard to my inward sense 
of sight, occurred with your hearing; but as the causes 
were very different, your case was an omen and mine 
was not. The matter may be clearly grasped by means 
of what I am about to say. The effects of the imagina 
tion arise either from bodily or mental causes. I will 
proceed to prove this, in order not to be too long, solely 
from experience. We know that fevers and other bodily 
ailments are the causes of delirium, and that persons of 
stubborn disposition imagine nothing but quarrels, brawls, 
slaughterings, and the like. We also see that the imagin 
ation is to a certain extent determined by the character 
of the disposition, for, as we know by experience, it 
follows in the tracks of the understanding in every 
respect, and arranges its images and words, just as the 
understanding arranges its demonstrations and connects 
one with another; so that we are hardly at all able to 
say what will not serve the imagination as a basis for 
some image or other. This being so, I say that no 
effects of imagination springing from physical causes can 
ever be omens of future events ; inasmuch as their causes 
do not involve any future events. But the effects of 
imagination, or images originating in the mental dispo 
sition, may be omens of some future event; inasmuch as 
the mind may have a confused presentiment of the 
future. It may, therefore, imagine a future event as 
forcibly and vividly, as though it were present; for 
instance a father (to take an example resembling your 
own) loves his child so much that he and the beloved 
child are, as it were, one and the same. And since (like 
that which I demonstrated on another occasion) there 
must necessarily exist in thought the idea of the essence 



LETTER XXXI.] CORRESPONDENCE 331 

of the child s states and their results, and since the 
father, through his union with his child, is a part of the 
said child, the soul of the father must necessarily par 
ticipate in the ideal essence of the child and his states, 
and in their results, as I have shown at greater length 
elsewhere. 

Again, as the soul of the father participates ideally in 
the consequences of his child s essence, he may (as I 
have said) sometimes imagine some of the said conse 
quences as vividly as if they were present with him, 
provided that the following conditions are fulfilled: I. 
If the occurrence in his son s career be remarkable. II. 
If it be capable of being readily imagined. III. If the 
time of its happening be not too remote. IV. If his 
body be sound, in respect not only of health but of free 
dom from every care or business which could outwardly 
trouble the senses. It may also assist the result, if we 
think of something which generally stimulates similar 
ideas. For instance, if while we are talking with this or 
that man we hear groans, it will generally happen that, 
when we think of the man again, the groans heard when 
we spoke with him will recur to our mind. This, dear 
friend, is my opinion on the question you ask me. I 
have, I confess, been very brief, but I have furnished 
you with material for writing to me on the first oppor 
tunity, etc. 

VOORBURG, 20 July, 1664. 



LETTER XXXI. (XVIII.) 
WILLIAM DE BLYENBERGH TO SPINOZA. 

UNKNOWN FRIEND AND SIR, I have already read sev 
eral times with attention your treatise and its appendix 
recently published. I should narrate to others more be 
comingly than to yourself the extreme solidity I found 



332 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXL 

in it, and the pleasure with which I perused it. But I 
am unable to conceal my feelings from you, because the 
more frequently I study the work with attention, the 
more it pleases me, and I am constantly observing some 
thing which I had not before remarked. However, I 
will not too loudly extol its author, lest I should seem 
in this letter to be a flatterer. I am aware that the gods 
grant all things to labor. Not to detain you too long 
with wondering who I may be, and how it comes to pass 
that one unknown to you takes the great liberty of writ 
ing to you, I will tell you that he is a man who is im 
pelled by his longing for pure and unadulterated truth, 
and desires during this brief and frail life to fix his feet 
in the ways of science, so far as our human faculties 
will allow; one who in the pursuit of truth has no goal 
before his eyes save truth herself; one who by his sci 
ence seeks to obtain as the result of truth neither honor 
nor riches, but simple truth and tranquillity; one who, 
out of the whole circle of truths and sciences, takes de 
light in none more than in metaphysics, if not in all 
branches at any rate in some ; one who places the whole 
delight of his life in the fact, that he can pass in the 
study of them his hours of ease and leisure. But no one, 
I rest assured, is so blessed as yourself, no one has car 
ried his studies so far, and therefore no one has arrived 
at the pitch of perfection which, as I see from your work, 
you have attained. To add a last word, the present writer 
is one with whom you may gain a closer acquaintance, 
if you choose to attach him to you by enlightening 
and interpenetrating, as it were, his halting medita 
tions. 

But I return to your treatise. While I found in it many 
things which tickled my palate vastly, some of them 
proved difficult to digest. Perhaps a stranger ought not 
to report to you his objections, the more so as I know 
not whether they will meet with your approval. This is 
the reason for my making these prefatory remarks, and 
asking you, if you can find leisure in the winter evenings, 
and, at the same time, will be willing to answer the diffi 
culties which I still find in your book, and to forward me 



LETTER XXXI.] CORRESPONDENCE 333 

the result, always under the condition that it does not 
interrupt any occupation of greater importance or pleas 
ure ; for I desire nothing more earnestly than to see the 
promise made in your book fulfilled by a more detailed 
exposition of your opinions. I should have communicated 
to you by word of mouth what I now commit to paper; 
but my ignorance of your address, the infectious disease,* 
and my duties here, prevented me. I must defer the 
pleasure for the present. 

However, in order that this letter may not be quite 
empty, and in the hope that it will not be displeasing to 
you, I will ask you one question. You say in various 
passages in the (< Principia, w and in the <( Metaphysical 
Reflections," either as your own opinion, or as explain 
ing the philosophy of Descartes, that creation and pre 
servation are identical (which is, indeed, so evident to 
those who have considered the question as to be a 
primary notion) ; secondly, that God has not only created 
substances, but also motions in substances in other 
words, that God, by a continuous act of creation preserves, 
not only substances in their normal state, but also the 
motion and the endeavors of substances. God, for in 
stance, not only brings about by his immediate will and 
working (whatever be the term employed), that the soul 
should last and continue in its normal state; but he is 
also the cause of his will determining, in some way, the 
movement of the soul in other words, as God, by a 
continuous act of creation, brings about that things 
should remain in existence, so is he also the cause of 
the movements and endeavors existing in things. In 
fact, save God, there is no cause of motion. It therefore 
follows that God is not only the cause of the substance 
of mind, but also of every endeavor or motion of mind, 
which we call volition, as you frequently say. From this 
statement it seems to follow necessarily, either that there 
is no evil in the motion or volition of the mind, or else 



* The plague, which had prevailed on the Continent during 1664, 
was introduced into London in the very month in which this letter 
was written, perhaps from Holland. 



334 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXI. 

that God directly brings about that evil. For that which 
we call evil comes to pass through the soul, and, conse 
quently, through the immediate influence and concurrence 
of God. For instance, the soul of Adam wishes to eat 
of the forbidden fruit. It follows from what has been 
said above, not only that Adam forms his wish through 
the influence of God, but also, as will presently be shown, 
that through that influence he forms it in that particular 
manner. Hence, either the act forbidden to Adam is not 
evil, inasmuch as God himself not only caused the wish, 
but also the manner of it, or else God directly brought 
about that which we call evil. Neither you nor Descartes 
seem to have solved this difficulty by saying that evil is 
a negative conception, and that, as such, God cannot 
bring it about. Whence, we may ask, came the wish to 
eat the forbidden fruit, or the wish of devils to be equal 
with God? 

For since (as you justly observe) the will is not some 
thing different from the mind, but is only an endeavor 
or movement of the mind, the concurrence of God is as 
necessary to it as to the mind itself. Now the concur 
rence of God, as I gather from your writings, is merely 
the determining of a thing in a particular manner through 
the will of God. It follows that God concurs no less in 
an evil wish, in so far as it is evil, than in a good wish 
in so far as it is good, in other words he determines it. 
For the will of God being the absolute cause of all that 
exists, either in substance or in effort, seems to be also 
the primary cause of an evil wish, in so far as it is evil. 
Again, no exercise of volition takes place in us, that God 
has not known from all eternity. If we say that God 
does not know of a particular exercise of volition, we 
attribute to him imperfection. But how could God gain 
knowledge of it except from his decrees ? Therefore 
his decrees are the cause of our volitions, and hence it 
seems also to follow that either an evil wish is not evil, 
or else that God is the direct cause of the evil and brings 
it about. There is no room here for the theological dis 
tinction between an act and the evil inherent in that act. 
For God decrees the mode of the act no less than the 



LETTER XXXII.] CORRESPONDENCE 335 

act, that is, God not only decreed that Adam should eat, 
but also that he should necessarily eat contrary to the 
command given. Thus it seems on all sides to follow, 
either that Adam s eating contrary to the command was 
not an evil, or else that God himself brought it to 
pass. 

These, illustrious sir, are the questions in your treatise, 
which I am unable at present, to elucidate. Either alter 
native seems to me difficult of acceptance. However, I 
await a satisfactory answer from your keen judgment 
and learning, hoping to show you hereafter how deeply 
indebted I shall be to you. Be assured, illustrious sir, 
that I put these questions from no other motive than the 
desire for truth. I am a man of leisure, not tied to any 
profession, gaining my living by honest trade, and devot 
ing my spare time to questions of this sort. I humbly 
hope that my difficulties will not be displeasing to you. 
If you are minded to send an answer, as I most ardently 
hope, write to, etc, WILLIAM DE BLYENBERGH. 

DORDRECHT, 12 Dec., 1664. 



LETTER XXXII. (XIX.) 
SPINOZA TO BLYENBERGH. 

[Spinoza answers with his usual courtesy the question propounded by 

Blyenbergh. ] 

UNKNOWN FRIEND, I received, at Schiedam, on the 
26th of December, your letter dated the i2th of Decem 
ber, inclosed in another written on the 24th of the same 
month. I gather from it your fervent love of truth, and 
your making it the aim of all your studies. This com 
pelled me, though by no means otherwise unwilling, not 
only to grant your petition by answering all the questions 
you have sent, or may in future send, to the best of 
my ability, but also to impart to you everything in my 
power, which can conduce to further knowledge and sincere 



336 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXII. 

friendship. So far as in me lies, I value, above all other 
things out of my own control, the joining hands of friend 
ship with men who are sincere lovers of truth. I believe 
that nothing in the world, of things outside our own con 
trol, brings more peace than the possibility of affectionate 
intercourse with such men; it is just as impossible that 
the love we bear them can be disturbed (inasmuch as it 
is founded on the desire each feels for the knowledge of 
truth), as that truth once perceived should not be assented 
to. It is, moreover, the highest and most pleasing source 
of happiness derivable from things not under our own 
control. Nothing save truth has power closely to unite 
different feelings and dispositions. I say nothing of the 
very great advantages which it brings, lest I should detain 
you too long on a subject which, doubtless, you know 
already. I have said thus much, in order to show you 
better how gladly I shall embrace this and any future 
opportunity of serving you. 

In order to make the best of the present opportunity, 
I will at once proceed to answer your question. This 
seems to turn on the point (< that it seems to be clear, 
not only from God s providence, which is identical with 
his will, but also from God s co-operation and continu 
ous creation of things, either that there are no such 
things as sin or evil, or that God directly brings sin and 
evil to pass." You do not, however, explain what you 
mean by evil. As far as one may judge from the ex 
ample you give in the predetermined act of volition of 
Adam, you seem to mean by evil the actual exercise of 
volition, in so far as it is conceived as predetermined in 
a particular way, or in so far as it is repugnant to the 
command of God. Hence you conclude ( and I agree with 
you if this be what you mean ) that it is absurd to adopt 
either alternative, either that God brings to pass any 
thing contrary to his own will, or that what is contrary 
to God s will can be good. 

For my own part, I cannot admit that sin and evil 
have any positive existence, far less that anything can 
exist, or come to pass, contrary to the will of God. On the 
contrary, not only do I assert that sin has no positive 



LETTER XXXII.] CORRESPONDENCE 337 

existence, I also maintain that only in speaking improperly, 
or humanly, can we say that we sin against God, as in 
the expression that men offend God. 

As to the first point, we know that whatsoever is, when 
considered in itself without regard to anything else, pos 
sesses perfection, extending in each thing as far as the 
limits of that thing s essence : for essence is nothing else. 
I take for an illustration the design or determined will 
of Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. This design or 
determined will, considered in itself alone, includes per 
fection in so far as it expresses reality ; hence it may be 
inferred that we can only conceive imperfection in things, 
when they are viewed in relation to other things possess 
ing more reality: thus in Adam s decision, so long as we 
view it by itself and do not compare it with other things 
more perfect or exhibiting a more perfect state, we can 
find no imperfection: nay, it may be compared with an 
infinity of other things far less perfect in this respect 
than itself, such as stones, stocks, etc. This, as a matter 
of fact, everyone grants. For we all admire in animals 
qualities which we regard with dislike and aversion in 
men, such as the pugnacity of bees, the jealousy of doves, 
etc- ; these in human beings are despised but are never 
theless considered to enhance the value of animals. This 
being so, it follows that sin, which indicates nothing save 
imperfection, cannot consist in anything that expresses 
reality, as we see in the case of Adam s decision and its 
execution. 

Again, we cannot say that Adam s will is at variance 
with the law of God, and that it is evil because it is 
displeasing to God; for besides the fact that grave im 
perfection would be imputed to God, if we say that any 
thing happens contrary to his will, or that he desires 
anything which he does not obtain, or that his nature 
resembled that of his creatures in having sympathy 
with some things more than others; such an occurrence 
would be at complete variance with the nature of the 
divine will. 

The will of God is identical with his intellect; hence 
the former can no more be contravened than the latter, 

22 



338 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXII. 

in other words, anything which should come to pass 
against his will must be of a nature to be contrary to 
his intellect, such, for instance, as a round square. 
Hence the will or decision of Adam regarded in itself 
was neither evil nor, properly speaking, against the will 
of God: it follows that God may or rather, for the 
reason you call attention to, must be its cause; not in 
so far as it was evil, for the evil in it consisted in the 
loss of the previous state of being which it entailed on 
Adam, and it is certain that loss has no positive exist 
ence, and is only so spoken of in respect to our and not 
God s understanding. The difficulty arises from the fact 
that we give one and the same definition to all the indi 
viduals of a genus, as for instance, all who have the out 
ward appearance of men: we accordingly assume all 
things which are expressed by the same definition to be 
equally capable of attaining the highest perfection possi 
ble for the genus; when we find an individual whose 
actions are at variance with such perfection, we suppose 
.him to be deprived of it, and to fall short of his nature. 
We should hardly act in this way, if we did not hark 
back to the definition and ascribe to the individual a 
nature in accordance with it. But as God does not know 
things through abstraction, or form general definitions 
of the kind above mentioned, and as things have no 
more reality than the divine understanding and power 
have put into them and actually endowed them with, it 
clearly follows that a state of privation can only be 
spoken of in relation to our intellect, not in relation to 
God. 

Thus, as it seems to me, the difficulty is completely 
solved. However, in order to make the way still plainer, 
and remove every doubt, I deem it necessary to answer 
the two following difficulties: First, why Holy Scripture 
says that God wishes for the conversion of the wicked, 
and also why God forbade Adam to eat of the fruit when 
he had ordained the contrary ? Secondly, that it seems 
to follow from what I have said, that the wicked, by 
their pride, avarice, and deeds of desperation, worship 
God in no less degree than the good do by their noble- 



LETTER XXXII.] CORRESPONDENCE 339 

ness, patience, love, etc., inasmuch as both execute God s 
will. 

In answer to the first question, I observe that Scrip 
ture, being chiefly fitted for and beneficial to the multi 
tude, speaks popularly after the fashion of men. For the 
multitude are incapable of grasping sublime conceptions. 
Hence I am persuaded that all matters, which God re 
vealed to the prophets as necessary to salvation, are set 
down in the form of laws. With this understanding, the 
prophets invented whole parables, and represented God 
as a king and a lawgiver, because he had revealed the 
means of salvation and perdition, and was their cause; 
the means which were simply causes they styled laws 
and wrote them down as such; salvation and perdition, 
which are simply effects necessarily resulting from the 
aforesaid means, they described as reward and punish 
ment; framing their doctrines more in accordance with 
such parables than with actual truth. They constantly 
speak of God as resembling a man, as sometimes angry, 
sometimes merciful, now desiring what is future, now 
jealous and suspicious, even as deceived by the devil; 
so that philosophers and all who are above the law, that 
is, who follow after virtue, not in obedience to law, 
but through love, because it is the most excellent of all 
things, must not be hindered by such expressions. 

Thus the command given to Adam consisted solely in 
this, that God revealed to Adam, that eating of the fruit 
brought about death; as he reveals to us, through our 
natural faculties, that poison is deadly. If you ask, for 
what object did he make this revelation, I answer in 
order to render Adam to that extent more perfect in 
knowledge. Hence, to ask God why he had not bestowed 
on Adam a more perfect will, is just as absurd as to ask, 
why the circle has not been endowed with all the proper 
ties of a sphere. This follows clearly from what has been 
said, and I have also proved it in my (< Principles of Carte 
sian Philosophy, }) I. 15. 

As to the second difficulty, it is true that the wicked 
execute after their manner the will of God: but they 
cannot, therefore, be in any respect compared with the 



340 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIII. 

good. The more perfection a thing has, the more does 
it participate in the Deity, and the more does it express 
perfection. Thus, as the good have incomparably more 
perfection than the bad, their virtue cannot be likened 
to the virtue of the wicked, inasmuch as the wicked 
lack the love of God, which proceeds from the knowl 
edge of God, and by which alone we are, according to 
our human understanding, called the servants of God. 
The wicked, knowing not God, are but as instruments 
in the hand of the workman, serving unconsciously, and 
perishing in the using; the good, on the other hand, 
serve consciously, and in serving become more perfect. 

This, Sir, is all I can now contribute to answering 
your question, and I have no higher wish than that it may 
satisfy you. But in case you still find any difficulty, I 
beg you to let me know of that also, to see if I may be 
able to remove it. You have nothing to fear on your side, 
but so long as you are not satisfied, I like nothing better 
than to be informed of your reasons, so that finally the 
truth may appear. I could have wished to write in the 
tongue in which I have been brought up. I should, per 
haps, have been able to express my thoughts better. But 
be pleased to take it as it is, amend the mistakes yourself, 
and believe me, 

Your sincere friend and servant. 

LONG ORCHARD, near AMSTERDAM, 
Jan. 5, 1665. 



LETTER XXXIII. (XX.) 

BLYENBERGH TO SPINOZA. 
(A summary only of this letter is here given. TR.) 

I HAVE two rules in my philosophic inquiries: I. Con 
formity to reason ; II. Conformity to Scripture. I consider 
the second the most important. Examining your letter 
by the first, I observe that your identification of God s 
creative power with his preservative power seems to 



LETTER XXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 341 

involve, either that evil does not exist, or else that God 
brings about evil. If evil be only a term relative to our 
imperfect knowledge, how do you explain the state of a 
man who falls from a state of grace into sin ? If evil 
be a negation, how can we have the power to sin ? If 
God causes an evil act, he must cause the evil as well 
as the act. You say that every man can only act, as he, 
in fact does act. This removes all distinction between 
the good and the wicked. Both, according to you, are 
perfect. You remove all the sanctions of virtue and re 
duce us to automata. Your doctrine, that strictly speak 
ing, we cannot sin against God, is a hard saying. 

[The rest of the letter is taken up with an examina 
tion of Spinoza s arguments in respect to their conformity 
to Scripture.] 

DORDRECHT, 16 Jan., 1665. 



LETTER XXXIV. (XXI.) 
SPINOZA TO BLYENBERGH. 

[Spinoza complains that Blyenbergh has misunderstood him: he sets 
forth his true meaning.] 

VOORBURG, 28 Jan., 1665. 

FRIEND AND SIR: When I read your first letter, I 
thought that our opinions almost coincided. But from 
the second, which was delivered to me on the 2ist of 
this month, I see that the matter stands far otherwise, 
for I perceive that we disagree, not only in remote in 
ferences from first principles, but also in first principles 
themselves ; so that I can hardly think that we can derive 
any mutual instruction from further correspondence. I 
see that no proof, though it be by the laws of proof most 
sound, has any weight with you, unless it agrees with 
the explanation, which either you yourself, or other the 
ologians known to you, attribute to Holy Scripture. How 
ever, if you are convinced that God speaks more clearly 



342 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIV. 

and effectually through Holy Scripture than through the 
natural understanding, which he also has bestowed upon 
us, and with his divine wisdom keeps continually stable 
and uncorrupted, you have valid reasons for making your 
understanding bow before the opinions which you attrib 
ute to Holy Scripture ; I myself could adopt no different 
course. For my own part, as I confess plainly, and with 
out circumlocution, that I do not understand the Script 
ures, though I have spent some years upon them, and 
also as I feel that when I have obtained a firm proof, I 
cannot fall into a state of doubt concerning it, I acquiesce 
entirely in what is commended to me by my understand 
ing, without any suspicion that I am being deceived in 
the matter, or that Holy Scripture, though I do not 
search, could gainsay it : for (( truth is not at variance 
with truth, }> as I have already clearly shown in my ap 
pendix to (< The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy (I 
cannot give the precise reference, for I have not the book 
with me here in the country). But if in any instance I 
found that a result obtained through my natural under 
standing was false, I should reckon myself fortunate, for 
I enjoy life, and try to spend it not in sorrow and sigh 
ing, but in peace, joy, and cheerfulness, ascending from 
time to time a step higher. Meanwhile I know (and this 
knowledge gives me the highest contentment and peace 
of mind), that all things come to pass by the power 
and unchangeable decree of a Being supremely perfect. 
To return to your letter, I owe you many and sincere 
thanks for having confided to me your philosophical 
opinions; but for the doctrines, which you attribute to 
me, and seek to infer from my letter, I return you no 
thanks at all. What ground, I should like to know, has 
my letter afforded you for ascribing to me the opinions: 
that men are like beasts, that they die and perish after 
the manner of beasts, that our actions are displeasing to 
God, etc. ? Perhaps we are most of all at variance on 
this third point. You think, as far as I can judge, that 
God takes pleasure in our actions, as though he were a 
man, who has attained his object, when things fall out 
as he desired. For my part, have I not said plainly 



LETTER XXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 343 

enough, that the good worship God, that in continually 
serving him they become more perfect, and that they 
love God ? Is this, I ask, likening them to beasts, or 
saying that they perish like beasts, or that their actions 
are displeasing to God ? If you had read my letter 
with more attention, you would have clearly perceived, 
that our whole dissension lies in the following alternative : 
Either the perfections which the good receive are im 
parted to them by God in his capacity of God, that is 
absolutely without any human qualities being ascribed to 
him this is what I believe ; or else such perfections are 
imparted by God as a judge, which is what you main 
tain. For this reason you defend the wicked, saying that 
they carry out God s decrees as far as in them lies, and 
therefore serve God no less than the good. But if my 
doctrine be accepted, this consequence by no means 
follows; I do not bring in the idea of God as a judge, 
and, therefore I estimate an action by its intrinsic merits, 
not by the powers of its performer; the recompense which 
follows the action follows from it as necessarily as from 
the nature of a triangle it follows, that the three angles 
are equal to two right angles. This may be understood 
by every one who reflects on the fact, that our highest 
blessedness consists in love toward God, and that such 
love flows naturally from the knowledge of God, which 
is so strenuously enjoined on us. The question may very 
easily be proved in general terms, if we take notice of 
the nature of God s decrees, as explained in my appendix. 
However, I confess that all those, who confuse the divine 
nature with human nature, are gravely hindered from 
understanding it. 

I had intended to end my letter at this point, lest I 
should prove troublesome to you in these questions, the 
discussion of which (as I discover from the extremely 
pious postscript added to your letter) serves you as a 
pastime and a jest, but for no serious use. However, 
that I may not summarily deny your request, I will pro 
ceed to explain further the words privation and negation, 
and briefly point out what is necessary for the elucida 
tion of my former letter. 



344 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIV. 

I say then, first, that PRIVATION is not the act of de 
priving, but simply and merely a state of want, which is 
in itself nothing: it is a mere entity of the reason, a 
mode of thought framed in comparing one thing with 
another. We say, for example, that a blind man is de 
prived of sight, because we readily imagine him as see 
ing, or else because we compare him with others who 
can see, or compare his present condition with his past 
condition when he could see; when we regard the man 
in this way, comparing his nature either with the nature 
of others or with his own past nature, we affirm that 
sight belongs to his nature, and therefore assert that he 
has been deprived of it. But when we are considering 
the nature and decree of God, we cannot affirm privation 
of sight in the case of the aforesaid man any more than 
in the case of a stone; for at the actual time sight lies 
no more within the scope of the man than of the stone; 

SINCE THERE BELONGS TO MAN AND FORMS PART OF HIS NA 
TURE ONLY THAT WHICH IS GRANTED TO HIM BY THE UNDER 
STANDING AND WILL OF GOD. Hence it follows that God 
is no more the cause of a blind man not seeing, than he 
is of a stone not seeing. Not seeing is a pure negation. 

SO ALSO, WHEN WE CONSIDER THE CASE OF A MAN WHO IS 
LED BY LUSTFUL DESIRES, WE COMPARE HIS PRESENT DESIRES 
WITH THOSE WHICH EXIST IN THE GOOD, OR WHICH EXISTED 
IN HIMSELF AT SOME OTHER TIME; WE THEN ASSERT THAT HE 
IS DEPRIVED OF THE BETTER DESIRES, BECAUSE WE CONCEIVE 
THAT VIRTUOUS DESIRES LIE WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS NA 
TURE. THIS WE CANNOT DO, IF WE CONSIDER THE NATURE 
AND DECREE OF GOD. FOR, FROM THIS POINT OF VIEW, VIR 
TUOUS DESIRES LIE AT THAT TIME NO MORE WITHIN THE 
SCOPE OF THE NATURE OF THE LUSTFUL MAN, THAN WITHIN 
THE SCOPE OF THE NATURE OF THE DEVIL OR A STONE. 

Hence, from the latter standpoint the virtuous desire is 
not a privation but a negation. 

Thus PRIVATION is nothing else than denying of a 
thing something, which we think belongs to its nature; 
NEGATION is denying of a thing something, which we do 
not think belongs to its nature. 

We may now see, how Adam s desire for earthly things 



LETTER XXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 345 

was evil from our standpoint, but not from God s. 
Although God knew both the present and the past state 
OF ADAM, HE DID NOT, THEREFORE, REGARD ADAM AS 

DEPRIVED OF HIS PAST STATE, THAT IS, HE DID NOT REGARD 

ADAM S PAST STATE AS WITHIN THE SCOPE OF ADAM S PRES 
ENT NATURE. Otherwise God would have apprehended 
something contrary to his own will, that is, contrary to 
his own understanding. If you quite grasp my meaning 
here and at the same time remember, that I do not 
grant to the mind the same freedom as Descartes does 
-Lfewis] M[eyer] bears witness to this in his preface 
to my book you will preceive that there is not the 
smallest contradiction in what I have said. But I see 
that I should have done far better to have answered you 
in my first letter with the words of Descartes, to the 
effect that we cannot know how our freedom and its con 
sequences agree with the foreknowledge and freedom of 
God (see several passages in my appendix), that, there 
fore, we can discover no contradiction between creation 
by God and our freedom, because we cannot understand 
how God created the universe, nor (what is the same 
thing) how he preserves it. I thought that you had read 
the preface, and that by not giving you my real opinions 
in reply, I should sin against those duties of friendship 
which I cordially offered you. But this is of no con 
sequence. 

Still, as I see that you have not hitherto thoroughly 
grasped Descartes s meaning, I will call your attention to 
the two following points: First, that neither Descartes 
nor I have ever said, that it appertains to our nature to 
confine the will within the limits of the understanding; 
we have only said, that God has endowed us with a de 
termined understanding and an undetermined will, so 
that we know not the object for which he has created 
us. Further, that an undetermined or perfect will of 
this kind not only makes us more perfect, but also, as I 
will presently show you, is extremely necessary for us. 
Secondly: that our freedom is not placed in a certain 
contingency nor in a certain indifference, but in the 
method of affirmation or denial; so that, in proportion 



346 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIV. 

as we are less indifferent in affirmation or denial, so are 
we more free. For instance, if the nature of God be 
known to us, it follows as necessarily from our nature to 
affirm that God exists, as from the nature of a triangle 
it follows, that the three angles are equal to two right 
angles; we are never more free than when we affirm a 
thing in this way. As this necessity is nothing else but 
the decree of God (as I have clearly shown in my appen 
dix), we may hence, after a fashion, understand how we 
act freely and are the cause of our action, though all the 
time we are acting necessarily and according to the de 
cree of God. This, I repeat, we may, after a fashion, 
understand, whenever we affirm something, which we 
clearly and distinctly perceive, but when we assert some 
thing which we do not clearly and distinctly understand, 
in other words, when we allow our will to pass beyond 
the limits of our understanding, we no longer perceive 
the necessity nor the decree of God, we can only see our 
freedom which is always involved in our will; in which 
respect only our actions are called good or evil. If we 
then try to reconcile our freedom with God s decree and 
continuous creation, we confuse that which we clearly 
and distinctly understand with that which we do not 
perceive, and therefore, our attempt is vain. It is, there 
fore, sufficient for us to know that we are free, and that 
we can be so notwithstanding God s decree, and further 
that we are the cause of evil, because an act can only 
be called evil in relation to our freedom. I have said 
thus much for Descartes in order to show that, in the 
question we are considering, his words exhibit no con 
tradiction. 

I will now turn to what concerns myself, and will first 
briefly call attention to the advantage arising from my 
opinion, inasmuch as, according to it, our understanding 
offers our mind and body to God freed from all super 
stition. Nor do I deny that prayer is extremely useful 
to us. For my understanding is too small to determine 
all the means whereby God leads men to the love of 
himself, that is, to salvation. So far is my opinion from 
being hurtful, that it offers to those who are not taken 



LETTER XXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 347 

up with prejudices and childish superstitions, the only 
means for arriving at the highest stage of blessedness. 

When you say that, by making men so dependent on 
God, I reduce them to the likeness of the elements, 
plants or stones, you sufficiently show that you have 
thoroughly misunderstood my meaning, and have con 
fused things which regard the understanding with things 
which regard the imagination. If by your intellect only 
you had perceived what dependence on God means, you 
certainly would not think that things, in so far as they 
depend on God are dead, corporeal, and imperfect (who 
ever dared to speak so meanly of the Supremely Perfect 
Being ?) ; on the contrary, you would understand that for 
the very reason that they depend on God they are per 
fect; so that this dependence and necessary operation 
may best be understood as God s decree, by considering, 
not stocks and plants, but the most reasonable and per 
fect creatures. This sufficiently appears from my second 
observation on the meaning of Descartes, which you 
ought to have looked to. 

I cannot refrain from expressing my extreme astonish 
ment at your remarking, that if God does not punish 
wrong-doing (that is, as a judge does, with a punish 
ment not intrinsically connected with the offense, for 
our whole difference lies in this), what reason prevents 
me from rushing headlong into every kind of wickedness ? 
Assuredly he, who is only kept from vice by the fear 
of punishment (which I do not think of you), is in no 
wise acted on by love, and by no means embraces virtue. 
For my own part, I avoid or endeavor to avoid vice, 
because it is at direct variance with my proper nature and 
would lead me astray from the knowledge and love of God. 

Again, if you had reflected a little on human nature 
and the nature of God s decree (as explained in my 
appendix), and perceived, and known by this time, how 
a consequence should be deduced from its premises, 
before a conclusion is arrived at; you would not so rashly 
have stated that my opinion makes us like stocks, etc. : 
nor would you have ascribed to me the many absurdities 
you conjure up. 



348 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIV. 

As to the two points which you say, before passing on 
to your second rule, that you cannot understand; I answer, 
that the first may be solved through Descartes, who says 
that in observing your own nature you feel that you can 
suspend your judgment. If you say that you do not feel 
that you have at present sufficient force to keep your 
judgment suspended, this would appear to Descartes to be 
the same as saying that we cannot at present see, that 
so long as we exist we shall always be thinking things, 
or retain the nature of thinking things; in fact it would 
imply a contradiction. 

As to your second difficulty, I say with Descartes, 
that if we cannot extend our will beyond the bounds of 
our extremely limited understanding, we shall be most 
wretched it will not be in our power to eat even a crust 
of bread, or to walk a step, or to go on living, for all 
things are uncertain and full of peril. 

I now pass on to your second rule, and assert that I 
believe, though I do not ascribe to Scripture that sort of 
truth which you think you find in it, I nevertheless assign 
to it as great if not greater authority than you do. I am 
far more careful than others not to ascribe to Scripture 
any childish and absurd doctrines, a precaution which de 
mands either a thorough acquaintance with philosophy 
or the possession of divine revelations. Hence I pay very 
little attention to the glosses put upon Scripture by ordinary 
theologians, especially those of the kind who always inter 
pret Scripture according to the literal and outward mean 
ing : I have never, except among the Socinians, found any 
theologian stupid enough to ignore that Holy Scripture 
very often speaks in human fashion of God and expresses 
its meaning in parables; as for the contradiction which 
you vainly (in my opinion) endeavor to show, I think 
you attach to the word parable a meaning different from 
that usually given. For who ever heard, that a man, 
who expressed his opinions in parables, had therefore 
taken leave of his senses ? When Micaiah said to King 
Ahab, that he had seen God sitting on a throne, with 
the armies of heaven standing on the right hand and the 
left, and that God asked his angels which of them would 



LETTER XXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 349 

deceive Ahab, this was assuredly a parable employed by 
the prophet on that occasion (which was not fitted for the 
inculcation of sublime theological doctrines), as sufficiently 
setting forth the message he had to deliver in the name 
of God. We cannot say that he had in anywise taken 
leave of his senses. So also the other prophets of God 
made manifest God s commands to the people in this 
fashion as being the best adapted, though not expressly 
enjoined by God, for leading the people to the primary 
object of Scripture, which, as Christ himself says, is to 
bid men love God above all things, and their neighbor 
as themselves. Sublime speculations have, in my opin 
ion, no bearing on Scripture. As far as I am concerned 
I have never learned or been able to learn any of God s 
eternal attributes from Holy Scripture. 

As to your fifth argument (that the prophets thus made 
manifest the word of God, since truth is not at variance 
with truth), it merely amounts, for those who understand 
the method of proof, to asking me to prove, that Scrip 
ture, as it is, is the true revealed word of God. The 
mathematical proof of this proposition could only be at 
tained by divine revelation. I, therefore, expressed my 
self as follows: <( I BELIEVE, BUT I DO NOT MATHEMATIC 
ALLY KNOW, THAT ALL THINGS REVEALED BY GOD TO THE 

PROPHETS, w etc. Inasmuch as I firmly believe but do not 
mathematically know, that the prophets were the most 
trusted counsellors and faithful ambassadors of God. So 
that in all I have written there is no contradiction, 
though several such may be found among holders of the 
opposite opinion. 

The rest of your letter (to wit the passage where you 
say, (< Lastly, the supremely perfect Being knew bef ore- 
hand, w etc; and again, your objections to the illustration 
from poison, and lastly, the whole of what you say of 
the appendix and what follows) seems to me beside the 
question. 

As regards Lewis Meyer s preface, the points which 
were still left to be proved by Descartes before establishing 
his demonstration of free will, are certainly there set 
forth ; it is added that I hold a contrary opinion, my reasons 



350 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXV. 

for doing so being given. I shall, perhaps, in due time, 
give further explanations. For the present I have no such 
intention. 

I have never thought about the work on Descartes, nor 
given any further heed to it, since it has been translated 
into Dutch. I have my reasons, though it would be tedious 
to enumerate them here. So nothing remains for me but 
to subscribe myself, etc. 



LETTER XXXV. (XXII.) 
BLYENBERGH TO SPINOZA. 

[This letter (extending over five pages) is only given here in brief 

summary. ] 

THE tone of your last letter is very different from that 
of your first. If our essence is equivalent to our state at 
a given time, we are as perfect when sinning as when 
virtuous: God would wish for vice as much as virtue. 
Both the virtuous and the vicious execute God s will 
What is the difference between them ? You say some 
actions are more perfect than others; wherein does this 
perfection consist? If a mind existed so framed, that 
vice was in agreement with the proper nature, why should 
such a mind prefer good to evil? If God makes us all 
that we are, how can we <( go astray B ? Can rational sub 
stances depend on God in any way except lifelessly? 
What is the difference between a rational being s depend 
ence on God, and an irrational being s ? If we have no 
free will, are not our actions God s actions, and our will 
God s will ? I could ask several more questions, but do 
not venture. 

P.S. In my hurry I forgot to insert this question: 
Whether we cannot by foresight avert what would other 
wise happen to us ? 

DORDRECHT, 19 Feb., 1665, 



LETTER XXXVI.] CORRESPONDENCE 351 

LETTER XXXVI. (XXIII.) 
SPINOZA TO BLYENBERGH. 

[Spinoza replies, that there is a difference between the theological 
and the philosophical way of speaking of God and things divine. 
He proceeds to discuss Blyenbergh s questions.] 

VOORBURG, i3th March, 1665. 

FRIEND AND SIR, I have received two letters from you 
this week; the second, dated pth March, only served to 
inform me of the first written on February i9th, and sent 
to me at Schiedam. In the former I see that you com 
plain of my saying, that (< demonstration carried no weight 
with you, w as though I had spoken of my own arguments, 
which had failed to convince you. Such was far from 
my intention. I was referring to your own words, which 
ran as follows : "And if after long investigation it comes 
to pass, that my natural knowledge appears either to be 
at variance with the word (of Scripture), or not suffi 
ciently well, etc. ; the word has so great authority with 
me, that I would rather doubt of the conceptions, which 
I think I clearly perceive, w etc. You see I merely repeat 
in brief your own phrase, so that I cannot think you 
have any cause for anger against me, especially as I 
merely quoted in order to show the great difference 
between our standpoints. 

Again, as you wrote at the end of your letter that 
your only hope and wish is to continue in faith and 
hope, and that all else, which we may become convinced 
of through our natural faculties, is indifferent to you; I 
reflected, as I still continue to do, that my letters could 
be of no use to you, and that I should best consult my 
own interests by ceasing to neglect my pursuits ( which 
I am compelled while writing to you to interrupt) for 
the sake of things which could bring no possible benefit. 
Nor is this contrary to the spirit of my former letter, 
for in that I looked upon you as simply a philosopher, 
who (like not a few who call themselves Christians) 



352 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXVI. 

possesses no touchstone of truth save his natural under 
standing, and not as a theologian. However, you have 
taught me to know better, and have also shown me that 
the foundation, on which I was minded to build up our 
friendship, has not, as I imagined, been laid. 

As for the rest, such are the general accompaniments 
of controversy, so that I would not on that account 
transgress the limits of courtesy: I will, therefore, pass 
over in your second letter, and in this, these and 
similar expressions, as though they had never been 
observed. So much for your taking offense; to show 
you that I have given you no just cause, and, also, 
that I am quite willing to brook contradiction. I now 
turn a second time to answering your objections. 

I maintain, in the first place, that God is absolutely 
and really the cause of all things which have essence, 
whatsoever they may be. If you can demonstrate that 
evil, error, crime, etc., have any positive existence, which 
expresses essence, I will fully grant you that God is the 
cause of crime, evil, error, etc. I believe myself to have 
sufficiently shown, that that which constitutes the reality 
of evil, error, crime, etc., does not consist in anything, 
which expresses essence, and therefore we cannot say 
that God is its cause. For instance, Nero s matricide, in 
so far as it comprehended anything positive, was not a 
crime; the same outward act was perpetrated, and the 
same matricidal intention was entertained by Orestes; 
who, nevertheless, is not blamed at any rate not so 
much as Nero. Wherein, then, did Nero s crime consist? 
In nothing else, but that by his deed he showed himself 
to be ungrateful, unmerciful, and disobedient. Certainly 
none of these qualities express aught of essence, there 
fore, God was not the cause of them, though he was 
the cause of Nero s act and intention. 

Further, I would have you observe, that, while we 
speak philosophically, we ought not to employ theolog 
ical phrases. For, since theology frequently, and not un 
wisely, represents God as a perfect man, it is often 
expedient in theology to say, that God desires a given 
thing, that he is angry at the actions of the wicked, 



LETTER XXXVI.] CORRESPONDENCE 353 

and delights in those of the good. But in philosophy, 
when we clearly perceive that the attributes which make 
men perfect can as ill be ascribed and assigned to God, 
as the attributes which go to make perfect the elephant 
and the ass can be ascribed to man; here I say these 
and similar phrases have no place, nor can we employ 
them without causing extreme confusion in our concep 
tions. Hence, in the language of philosophy, it cannot 
be said that God desires anything of any man, or that 
anything is displeasing or pleasing to him: all these are 
human qualities and have no place in God. 

I would have it observed, that although the actions of 
the good (that is, of those who have a clear idea of God, 
whereby all their actions and their thoughts are deter 
mined) and of the wicked (that is, of those who do not 
possess the idea of God, but only the ideas of earthly 
things, whereby their actions and thotights are deter 
mined), and, in fact, of all things that are, necessarily 
flow from God s eternal laws and decrees; yet they do 
not differ from one another in degree only, but also in 
essence. A mouse no less than an angel, and sorrow no 
less than joy depend on God; yet a mouse is not a kind 
of angel, neither is sorrow a kind of joy. I think I have 
thus answered your objections, if I rightly understand 
them, for I sometimes doubt, whether the conclusions 
which you deduce are not foreign to the proposition you 
are undertaking to prove. 

However, this will appear more clearly, if I answer 
the questions you proposed on these principles. First, 
Whether murder is as acceptable to God as almsgiving? 
Secondly, Whether stealing is as good in relation to God 
as honesty? Thirdly and lastly, Whether if there be a 
mind so framed, that it would agree with, rather than 
be repugnant to its proper nature, to give way to lust, 
and to commit crimes, whether, I repeat, there can be 
any reason given, why such a mind should do good and 
eschew evil ? 

To your first question, I answer, that I do not know, 
speaking as a philosopher, what you mean by the words 
* acceptable to God. w If you ask, whether God does 
23 



354 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXVI. 

not hate the wicked and love the good ? whether God 
does not regard the former with dislike, and the latter 
with favor ? I answer, No. If the meaning of your 
question is: Are murderers and almsgivers equally good 
and perfect ? my answer is again in the negative. To 
your second question, I reply : If, by <( good in relation 
to God," you mean that the honest man confers a favor 
on God, and the thief does him an injury, I answer that 
neither the honest man nor the thief can cause God any 
pleasure or displeasure. If you mean to ask, whether the 
actions of each, in so far as they possess reality, and are 
caused by God, are equally perfect ? I reply that, if we 
merely regard the actions and the manner of their execu 
tion, both may be equally perfect. If you, therefore, 
inquire whether the thief and the honest man are equally 
perfect and blessed? I answer, No. For, by an honest 
man, I mean one who always desires that everyone 
should possess that which is his. This desire, as I prove 
in my (< Ethics }) (as yet unpublished), necessarily derives 
its origin in the pious from the clear knowledge which 
they possess of God and of themselves. As a thief has 
no desire of the kind, he is necessarily without the 
knowledge of God and of himself in other words, with 
out the chief element of our blessedness. If you further 
ask, What causes you to perform a given action, which 
I call virtuous, rather than another ? I reply, that I can 
not know which method, out of the infinite methods at 
his disposal, God employs to determine you to the said 
action. It may be, that God has impressed you with a 
clear idea of himself, so that you forget the world for 
love of him, and love your fellow-men as yourself; it is 
plain that such a disposition is at variance with those 
dispositions which are called bad, and, therefore, could 
not co-exist with them in the same man. 

However, this is not the place to expound all the foun 
dations of my (< Ethics, or to prove all that I have ad 
vanced; I am now only concerned in answering your 
questions, and defending myself against them. 

Lastly, as to your third question, it assumes a con 
tradiction, and seems to me to be, as though one asked: 



LETTER XXXVIII.] CORRESPONDENCE 355 

If it agreed better with a man s nature that he should 
hang- himself, could any reasons be given for his not 
hanging himself ? Can such a nature possibly exist ? If 
so, I maintain (whether I do or do not grant free will), 
that such an one, if he sees that he can live more con 
veniently on the gallows than sitting at his own table, 
would act most foolishly, if he did not hang himself. 
So anyone who clearly saw that, by committing crimes, 
he would enjoy a really more perfect and better life and 
existence, than he could attain by the practice of virtue, 
would be foolish if he did not act on his convictions. 
For, with such a perverse human nature as his, crime 
would become virtue. 

As to the other question, which you add in your post 
script, seeing that one might ask a hundred such in an 
hour, without arriving at a conclusion about any, and 
seeing that you yourself do not press for an answer, I 
will send none. 

I will now only subscribe myself, etc. 



LETTER XXXVII. (XXIV.) 

BLYENBERGH TO SPINOZA. 

f Blyenbergh, who had been to see Spinoza, asks the latter to send him 
a report of their conversation, and to answer five fresh questions. 
(Dordrecht, 27th March, 1665.)] 

Omitted. 



LETTER XXXVIII. (XXVII.) 

SPINOZA TO BLYENBERGH 

[Spinoza declines further correspondence with Blyenbergh, but says he 
will give explanations of certain points by word of mouth. (Voor- 
burg, 3d June, 1665.)] 

FRIEND AND SIR, When your letter, dated 2;th March, 
was delivered to me, I was just starting for Amsterdam. 



35 6 SPINOZA S [LETTER XXXIX. 

I, therefore, after reading half of it, left it at home, to 
be answered on my return: for I thought it dealt only 
with questions raised in our first controversy. However, 
a second perusal showed me, that it embraced a far 
wider subject, and not only asked me for proof of what, 
in my preface to <( Principles of Cartesian Philosophy,* 
I wrote (with the object of merely stating, without prov 
ing or urging my opinion), but also requested me to 
impart a great portion of my "Ethics," which, as every 
one knows, ought to be based on physics and metaphysics. 
For this reason, I have been unable to allow myself to 
satisfy your demands. I wished to await an opportunity 
for begging you, in a most friendly way, by word of 
mouth, to withdraw your request, for giving you my 
reasons for refusal, and for showing that your inquiries 
do not promote the solution of our first controversy, but, 
on the contrary, are for the most part entirely de 
pendent on its previous settlement. So far are they not 
essential to the understanding of my doctrine concerning 
necessity, that they cannot be apprehended, unless the 
latter question is understood first. However, before such 
an opportunity offered, a second letter reached me this 
week, appearing to convey a certain sense of displeasure 
at my delay. Necessity, therefore, has compelled me to 
write you these few words, to acquaint you more fully 
with my proposal and decision. I hope that, when the 
facts of the case are before you, you will, of your own 
accord, desist from your request, and will still remain 
kindly disposed toward me. I, for my part, will, in all 
things, according to my power, prove myself your, etc. 



LETTER XXXIX. 

SPINOZA TO CHRISTIAN HUYGHENS. 

[Treating of the Unity of God.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, The demonstration of the unity 
of God on the ground that his nature involves necessary 



LETTER XXXIX. J CORRESPONDENCE 357 

existence, which you asked for, and I took note of, I have 
been prevented by various business from sending to you 
before. In order to accomplish my purpose, I will pre 
mise : 

I. That the true definition of anything includes noth 
ing except the simple nature of the thing defined. From 
this it follows: 

II. That no definition can involve or express a multi 
tude or a given number of individuals, inasmuch as it 
involves and expresses nothing except the nature of the 
thing as it is in itself. For instance, the definition of a 
triangle includes nothing beyond the simple nature of a 
triangle; it does not include any given number of tri 
angles. In like manner, the definition of the mind as a 
thinking thing, or the definition of God as a perfect being, 
includes nothing beyond the natures of the mind and of 
God, not a given number of minds or gods. 

III. That for everything that exists there must neces 
sarily be a positive cause, through which it exists. 

IV. This cause may be situate either in the nature 
and definition of the thing itself (to wit. because exist 
ence belongs to its nature or necessarily includes it), or 
externally to the thing. 

From these premises it follows, that if any given num 
ber of individuals exists in nature, there must be one or 
more causes, which have been able to produce exactly 
that number of individuals, neither more nor less. If, 
for instance, there existed in nature twenty men ( in order 
to avoid all confusion, I will assume that these all exist 
together as primary entities), it is not enough to investi 
gate the cause of human nature in general, in order to 
account for the existence of these twenty; we must also 
inquire into the reason, why there exist exactly twenty 
men, neither more nor less. For ( by our third hypothesis) 
for each man a reason and a cause must be forthcom 
ing, why he should exist. But this cause (by our second 
and third hypotheses) cannot be contained in the nature 
of man himself; for the true definition of man does not 
involve the number of twenty men. Hence (by our 
fourth hypothesis) the cause for the existence of these 



358 SPINOZA S [LETTER XL. 

twenty men, and consequently for the existence of each 
of them, must exist externally to them. We may thus 
absolutely conclude, that all things, which are conceived 
to exist in the plural number, must necessarily be pro 
duced by external causes and not by the force of their 
own nature. But since ( by our second hypothesis ) neces 
sary existence appertains to the nature of God, his true 
definition must necessarily include necessary existence: 
therefore from his true definition his necessary exist 
ence must be inferred. But from his true definition (as 
I have already demonstrated from our second and third 
hypotheses ) the necessary existence of many gods cannot 
be inferred. Therefore there only follows the existence 
of a single God. Which was to be proved. 

This, distinguished sir, has now seemed to me the best 
method for demonstrating the proposition. I have also 
proved it differently by means of the distinction between 
essence and existence; but bearing in mind the object 
you mentioned to me, I have preferred to send you the 
demonstration given above. I hope it will satisfy you, 
and I will await your reply, meanwhile remaining, etc. 

VOORBURG, 7 Jan. 1666. 



LETTER XL. (XXXV.) 

SPINOZA TO CHRISTIAN HUYGHENS. 

( Further arguments for the unity of God. ) 

DISTINGUISHED SIR: In your last letter, written on 
March 3oth, you have excellently elucidated the point, 
which was somewhat obscure to me in your letter of 
February roth. As I now know your opinion, I will set 
forth the state of the question as you conceive it; whether 
there be only a single being who subsists by his own 
sufficiency or force ? I not only affirm this to be so, but 
also undertake to prove it from the fact, that the nature 
of such a being necessarily involves existence ; perhaps 
it may also be readily proved from the understanding of 



LETTER XL.] CORRESPONDENCE 359 

God (as I set forth, Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, 
I. Prop, i.), or from others of his attributes. Before 
treating of the subject I will briefly show, as prelimi 
naries, what properties must be possessed by a being 
including necessary existence. To wit: 

I. It must be eternal. For if a definite duration be 
assigned to it, it would beyond that definite duration be 
conceived as non-existent, or as not involving necessary 
existence, which would be contrary to its definition. 

II. It must be simple, not made up of parts. For 
parts must in nature and knowledge be prior to the 
whole they compose: this could not be the case with 
regard to that which is eternal. 

III. It cannot be conceived as determinate, but only 
as infinite. For, if the nature of the said being were 
determinate, and conceived as determinate, that nature 
would beyond the said limits be conceived as non-existent, 
which again is contrary to its definition. 

IV. It is indivisible. For if it were divisible, it could 
be divided into parts, either of the same or of different 
nature. If the latter, it could be destroyed and so not 
exist, which is contrary to its definition; if the former, 
each part would in itself include necessary existence, and 
thus one part could exist without others, and consequently 
be conceived as so existing. Hence the nature of the 
being would be comprehended as finite, which, by what 
has been said, is contrary to its definition. Thus we see 
that in attempting to ascribe to such a being any im 
perfection, we straightway fall into contradictions. For, 
whether the imperfection which we wish to assign to the 
said being be situate in any defect, or in limitations pos 
sessed by its nature, or in any change which it might, 
through deficiency of power, undergo from external 
causes, we are always brought back to the contradiction, 
that a nature which involves necessary existence, does not 
exist, or does not necessarily exist. I conclude, there 
fore 

V. That everything, which includes necessary existence, 
cannot have in itself any imperfection, but must express 
pure perfection. 



3 60 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLI. 

VI. Further, since only from perfection can it come 
about, that any being should exist by its own suffi 
ciency and force, it follows that, if we assume a being to 
exist by its own nature, but not to express all per 
fections, we must further suppose that another being 
exists, which does comprehend in itself all perfec 
tions. For, if the less powerful being exists by its own 
sufficiency, how much more must the more powerful so 
exist ? 

Lastly, to deal with the question, I affirm that there 
can only be a single being, of which the existence 
belongs to its nature; such a being which possesses in 
itself all perfections I will call God. If there be any 
being to whose nature existence belongs, such a being 
can contain in itself no imperfection, but must (by 
my fifth premise) express every perfection; therefore, 
the nature of such a being seems to belong to God 
(whose existence we are bound to affirm by Premise VI.), 
inasmuch as he has in himself all perfections and no 
imperfections. Nor can it exist externally to God. For 
if, externally to God, there existed one and the same 
nature involving necessary existence, such nature would 
be twofold; but this, by what we have just shown, is 
absurd. Therefore there is nothing save God, but there is 
a single God, that involves necessary existence, which 
was to be proved. 

Such, distinguished sir, are the arguments I can now 
produce for demonstrating this question. I hope I may 
also demonstrate to you, that I am, etc. 

VOORBURG, 10 April, 1666. 



LETTER XLI. (XXXVI.) 
SPINOZA TO CHRISTIAN HUYGHENS. 

[Further discussion concerning the unity of God. Spinoza asks 
for advice about polishing lenses. (Voorburg, May, 1666.)] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR: I have been by one means or 
another prevented from answering sooner your letter, 



LETTER XLL CORRESPONDENCE 361 

dated May igth. As I gather that you suspend your 
judgment with regard to most of the demonstration I 
sent you (owing, I believe, to the obscurity you find in 
it), I will here endeavor to explain its meaning more 
clearly. 

First, I enumerated four properties, which a being 
existing by its own sufficiency or force must possess. 
These four, and others like them, I reduced in my fifth 
observation to one. Further, in order to deduce all 
things necessary for the demonstration from a single 
premise, I endeavored in my sixth observation to dem 
onstrate the existence of God from the given hypothesis ; 
whence, lastly, taking (as you know) nothing beyond 
the ordinary meaning of the terms, I drew the desired 
conclusion. 

Such, in brief, was my purpose and such my aim. 
I will now explain the meaning of each step singly, 
and will first start with the aforesaid four proper 
ties. 

In the first you find no difficulty, nor is it anything 
but, as in the case of the second, an axiom. By simple 
I merely mean not compound, or not made up of parts dif 
fering in nature or other parts agreeing in nature. This 
demonstration is assuredly universal. 

The sense of my third observation (that if the being 
be thought, it cannot be conceived as limited by thought, 
but only as infinite, and similarly, if it be extension, it 
cannot be conceived as limited by extension) you have 
excellently perceived, though you say you do not per 
ceive the conclusion; this last is based on the fact, that 
a contradiction is involved in conceiving under the cate 
gory of non-existence anything, whose definition in 
cludes or (what is the same thing) affirms existence. 
And since determination implies nothing positive, but 
only a limitation of the existence of the nature conceived 
as determinate, it follows that, that of which the defini 
tion affirms existence, cannot be conceived as deter 
minate. For instance, if the term extension included 
necessary existence, it would be alike impossible to con 
ceive extension without existence and existence without 



362 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLI. 

extension. If this were established, it would be impos 
sible to conceive determinate extension. For, if it be 
conceived as determinate, it must be determined by its 
own nature, that is by extension, and this extension, 
whereby it is determined, must be conceived under the 
category of non-existence, which by the hypothesis is 
obviously a contradiction. In my fourth observation, I 
merely wished to show, that such a being could neither 
be divided into parts of the same nature or parts of a 
different nature, whether those of a different nature in 
volve necessary existence or not. If, I said, we adopt 
the second view, the being- would be destroyed; for 
destruction is merely the resolution of a thing into parts 
so that none of them expresses the nature of the whole; 
if we adopt the first view, we should be in contradiction 
with the first three properties. 

In my fifth observation, I merely asserted, that per 
fection consists in being, and imperfection in the priva 
tion of being. I say the privation ; for although extension 
denies of itself thought, this argues no imperfection in 
it. It would be an imperfection in it, if it were in 
any degree deprived of extension, as it would be, if 
it were determinate; or again, if it lacked duration, 
position, etc. 

My sixth observation you accept absolutely, and yet you 
say, that your whole difficulty remains (inasmuch as 
there may be, you think, several self-existent entities of 
different nature; as for instance thought and extension 
are different and perhaps subsist by their own sufficiency). 
I am, therefore, forced to believe, that you attribute to 
my observation a meaning quite different from the one 
intended by me. I think I can discern your interpreta 
tion of it; however, in order to save time, I will merely 
set forth my own meaning. I say then, as regards my 
sixth observation, that if we assert that anything, which 
is indeterminate and perfect only after its kind, exists by 
its own sufficiency, we must also grant the existence of 
a Being indeterminate and perfect absolutely; such a 
Being I will call God. If, for example, we wish to assert 
that extension or thought (which are each perfect after 



LETTER XLI] CORRESPONDENCE 363 

their kind, that is, in a given sphere of being) exists by 
its own sufficiency, we must grant also the existence of 
God, who is absolutely perfect, that is, of a Being abso 
lutely indeterminate. I would here direct attention to 
what I have just said with regard to the term IMPERFEC 
TION ; namely, that it signifies that a thing is deficient in 
some quality, which, nevertheless, belongs to its nature. 
For instance, extension can only be called imperfect in 
respect of duration, position, or quantity: that is, as not 
enduring longer, as not retaining its position, or as not 
being greater. It can never be called imperfect, because 
it does not think, inasmuch as its nature requires nothing 
of the kind, but consists solely in extension, that is in a 
certain sphere of being. Only in respect to its own 
sphere can it be called determinate or indeterminate, per 
fect or imperfect. Now, since the nature of God is not 
confined to a certain sphere of being, but exists in being, 
which is absolutely indeterminate, so his nature also 
demands everything which perfectly expresses being; 
otherwise his nature would be determinate and de 
ficient. 

This being so, it follows that there can be only one 
Being, namely God, who exists by his own force. If, for 
the sake of an illustration, we assert, that extension 
involves existence, it is, therefore, necessary that it should 
be eternal and indeterminate, and express absolutely no 
imperfection, but perfection. Hence extension will apper 
tain to God, or will be something which in some fashion 
expresses the nature of God, since God is a Being, who 
not only in a certain respect but absolutely is in essence 
indeterminate and omnipotent. What we have here said 
by way of illustration regarding extension must be asserted 
of all that we ascribe a similar existence to. I, therefore, 
conclude as in my former letter, that there is nothing 
external to God, but that God alone exists by his own 
sufficiency. I think I have said enough to show the 
meaning of my former letter; however, of this you will 
be the best judge. . . 

(The rest of the letter is occupied with details about the polishing 
of lenses.) 



364 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLI.A. 

LETTER XLI.A. 

SPINOZA TO ... (MAY OR JUNE, 1665). 

[ Spinoza urges his correspondent to be diligent in studying philosophy, 
promises to send part of the Ethics, and adds some personal 
details.] 

DEAR FRIEND, I do not know whether you have quite 
forgotten me; but there are many circumstances which 
lead me to suspect it. First, when I was setting out on 
my journey, I wished to bid you good-bye ; and, after your 
own invitation, thinking I should certainly find you at 
home, heard that you had gone to The Hague. I return 
to Voorburg, nothing doubting but that you would at 
least have visited me in passing ; but you, forsooth, with 
out greeting your friend, went back home. Three weeks 
have I waited, without getting sight of a letter from you. 
If you wish this opinion of mine to be changed, you may 
easily change it by writing; and you can at the same 
time, point out a means of entering into a correspond 
ence, as we once talked of doing at your house. 

Meanwhile, I should like to ask you, nay I do beg and 
entreat you, by our friendship, to apply yourself to some 
serious work with real study, and to devote the chief 
part of your life to the cultivation of your understanding 
and your soul. Now, while there is time, and before 
you complain of having let time and, indeed, your own 
self slip by. Further, in order to set our correspondence 
on foot, and to give you courage to write to me more 
freely, I would have you know that I have long thought, 
and, indeed, been almost certain, that you are somewhat 
too diffident of your own abilities, and that you are afraid 
of advancing some question or proposal unworthy of a 
man of learning. It does not become me to praise you, 
and expatiate on your talents to your face; but, if you 
are afraid that I shall show your letters to others, who 
will laugh at you, I give you my word of honor, that I 
will religiously keep them, and will show them to no 



LETTER XLII.J CORRESPONDENCE 365 

mortal without your leave. On these conditions, you may 
enter on a correspondence, unless you doubt of my good 
faith, which I do not in the least believe. I want to 
hear your opinion on this in your first letter; and you 
may, at the same time, send me the conserve of red 
roses, though I am now much better. 

After my journey, I was once bled; but the fever did 
not cease, though I was somewhat more active than be 
fore the bleeding, owing, I think, to the change of air; 
but I was two or three times laid up with a tertian. 
This, however, by good diet, I have at length driven 
away, and sent about its business. Where it has gone, 
I know not ; but I am taking care it does not return here. 

As regards the third part of my philosophy, I will 
shortly send it you, if you wish to be its transmitter, or 
to our friend De Vries; and, although I had settled not 
to send any of it, till it was finished, yet as it takes 
longer than I thought, I am unwilling to keep you wait 
ing. I will send up to the eightieth proposition, or 
thereabouts. 

Of English affairs I hear a good deal, but nothing for 
certain. The people continue to be apprehensive, and 
can see no reason, why the fleet should not be despatched ; 
but the matter does not yet seem to be set on foot. I 
am afraid our rulers want to be overwise and prudent; 
but the event will show what they intend, and what they 
will attempt. May the gods turn it all to good. I want 
to know what our people think, where you are, and what 
they know for certain ; but, above all things, I want you 
to believe me, etc. 



LETTER XLII. (XXXVII.) 
SPINOZA TO I. B. 

[Concerning the best method, by which we may safely arrive at the 
knowledge of things.] 

MOST LEARNED SIR AND DEAREST FRIEND, I have not 
been able hitherto to answer your last letter, received 



366 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLII. 

some time back. I have been so hindered by various 
occupations and calls on my time, that I am hardly yet 
free from them. However, as I have a few spare mo 
ments, I do not want to fall short of my duty, but take 
this first opportunity of heartily thanking you for your 
affection and kindness toward me, which you have often 
displayed in your actions, and now also abundantly prove 
by your letter. 

I pass on to your question, which runs as follows: <( Is 
there, or can there be, any method by which we may, 
without hindrance, arrive at the knowledge of the most 
excellent things ? or are our minds, like our bodies, sub 
ject to the vicissitudes of circumstance, so that our thoughts 
are governed rather by fortune than by skill ? I think 
I shall satisfy you, if I show that there must necessarily 
be a method, whereby we are able to direct our clear 
and distinct perceptions, and that our mind is not, 
like our body, subject to the vicissitudes of circum 
stance. 

This conclusion may be based simply on the consider 
ation that one clear and distinct perception, or several 
such together, can be absolutely the cause of another 
clear and distinct perception. Now, all the clear and 
distinct perceptions, which we form, can only arise from 
other clear and distinct perceptions, which are in us; 
nor do they acknowledge any cause external to us. Hence 
it follows that the clear and distinct perceptions, which 
we form, depend solely on our nature, and on its certain 
and fixed laws; in other words, on our absolute power, 
not on fortune that is, not on causes which, although 
also acting by certain and fixed laws, are yet unknown 
to us, and alien to our nature and power. As regards 
other perceptions, I confess that they depend chiefly on 
fortune. Hence clearly appears, what the true method 
ought to be like, and what it ought chiefly to consist in 
namely, solely in the knowledge of the pure under 
standing, and its nature and laws. In order that such 
knowledge may be acquired, it is before all things nec 
essary to distinguish between the understanding and the 
imagination, or between ideas which are true and the 



LETTER XL VI.] CORRESPONDENCE 367 

rest, such as the fictitious, the false, the doubtful, and 
absolutely all which depend solely on the memory. For 
the understanding- of these matters, as far as the method 
requires, there is no need to know the nature of the 
mind through its first cause; it is sufficient to put to 
gether a short history of the mind, or of perceptions, in 
the manner taught by Verulam. 

I think that in these few words I have explained and 
demonstrated the true method, and have, at the same 
time, pointed out the way of acquiring it. It only remains 
to remind you, that all these questions demand assiduous 
study, and great firmness of disposition and purpose. In 
order to fulfil these conditions, it is of prime necessity 
to follow a fixed mode and plan of living, and to set be 
fore one some definite aim. But enough of this for the 
present, etc. 

VOORBURG, 10 June, 1666. 



LETTER XLIII. (XXXVIII.) 
SPINOZA TO I. v. M. 

[ Spinoza solves for his friend an arithmetical problem connected with 
games of chance. (Voorburg, Oct. i, 1666.)] 

Omitted. 



LETTERS XLIV., XLV., XLVI. (XXXIX., XL., XLI.) 
SPINOZA TO I. I. 



XLIV. [Remarks on Descartes s treatise on Optics.] 

XLV. [Remarks on some alchemistic experiments, on the third and 

fourth meditations of Descartes, and on Optics.] 

XLVI. [Remarks on Hydrostatics.] 



3 68 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLVII. 

LETTER XLVII. (XLIV.) 

SPINOZA TO I. I. 

[Spinoza begs his friend to stop the printing of the Dutch version of the 
<( Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.^ Some remarks on a pernicious 
pamphlet, <( Homo Politicus," and on Thales of Miletus.] 

MOST COURTEOUS SIR, When Professor N. N. visited 
me the other day, he told me that my (< Theologico- Politi 
cal Treatise M has been translated into Dutch, and that 
someone whose name he did not know, was about print 
ing it. With regard to this, I earnestly beg you to 
inquire carefully into the business, and, if possible, stop 
the printing. This is the request not only of myself, but 
of many of my friends and acquaintances, who would be 
sorry to see the book placed under an interdict, as it 
undoubtedly would be, if published in Dutch. I do not 
doubt, but that you will do this service to me and the 
cause. 

One of my friends sent me a short time since a pam 
phlet called <( Homo Politicus,* of which I had heard 
much. I have read it, and find it to be the most per 
nicious work which man could devise or invent. Rank 
and riches are the author s highest good; he adapts his 
doctrine accordingly, and shows the means to acquire 
them ; to wit, by inwardly rejecting all religion, and out 
wardly professing whatever best serves his own advance 
ment, also by keeping faith with no one, except in so far 
as he himself is profited thereby. For the rest, to feign, 
to make promises and break them, to lie, to swear falsely, 
and many such like practices call forth his highest praises. 
When I had finished reading the book, I debated whether 
I should write a pamphlet indirectly aimed against its 
author, wherein I should treat of the highest good and 
show the troubled and wretched condition of those who 
are covetous of rank and riches; finally proving by very 
plain reasoning and many examples, that the insatiable 
desire for rank and riches must bring and has brought 
ruin to states. 



LETTER XLIX.J CORRESPONDENCE 369 

How much better and more excellent than the doc 
trines of the aforesaid writer are the reflections of Thales 
of Miletus, appears from the following: All the goods 
of friends, he says, are in common; wise men are the 
friends of the gods, and all things belong to the gods; 
therefore all things belong to the wise. Thus in a single 
sentence this wisest of men accounts himself most rich, 
rather by nobly despising riches than by sordidly seek 
ing them. In other passages he shows that the wise lack 
riches, not from necessity, but from choice. For when 
his friends reproached him with his poverty he answered, 
* Do you wish me to show you, that I could acquire what 
I deem unworthy of my labor, but you so diligently 
seek ? }) On their answering in the affirmative, he hired 
every oil-press in the whole of Greece (for being a dis 
tinguished astrologer he knew that the olive harvest 
would be as abundant as in previous years it had been 
scanty), and sub-let at his own price what he had hired 
for a very small sum, thus acquiring in a single year a 
large fortune, which he bestowed liberally as he had 
gained it industriously, etc. 

THE HAGUE, 17 Feb., 1671. 



LETTER XLVIII. 

[Written by a physician, Lambert de Velthuysen, to Isaac Orobio, and 
forwarded by the latter to Spinoza. It contains a detailed attack on 
the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Its tenor may be sufficiently 
seen from Spinoza s reply. ( Written at Utrecht, January 24th, 1671. ) 
Velthuysen afterward became more friendly to Spinoza, as appears 
from Letter LXXV.] 



LETTER XLIX. 

SPINOZA TO ISAAC OROBIO. 

[A defense of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. (The Hague, 

1671-)] 

MOST LEARNED SIR, You doubtless wonder why I have 
kept you so long waiting. I could hardly bring myself 
24 



370 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLIX. 

to reply to the pamphlet of that person, which you 
thought fit to send me ; indeed I only do so now because 
of my promise. However, in order as far as possible to 
humor my feelings, I will fulfill my engagement in as 
few words as I can, and will briefly show how perversely 
he has interpreted my meaning ; whether through malice 
or through ignorance I cannot readily say. But to the 
matter in hand. 

First he says, (< THAT IT is OF LITTLE MOMENT TO KNOW 

WHAT NATION I BELONG TO, OR WHAT SORT OF LIFE I LEAD. W 

Truly, if he had known, he would not so easily have 
persuaded himself that I teach Atheism. For Atheists 
are wont greedily to covet rank and riches, which I have 
always despised, as all who know me are aware. Again, 
in order to smooth his path to the object he has in view, 
he says that, <( I AM POSSESSED OF NO MEAN TALENTS, w so 
that he may, forsooth, more easily convince his readers, 
that I have knowingly and cunningly with evil intent 
argued for the cause of the deists, in order to discredit 
it. This contention sufficiently shows that he has not 
understood my reasons. For who could be so cunning 
and clever, as to be able to advance under false pre 
tenses so many and such good reasons for a doctrine 
which he did not believe in ? Who will pass for an 
honest writer in the eyes of a man, that thinks one may 
argue as soundly for fiction as for truth ? But after all 
I am not astonished. Descartes was formerly served in 
the same way by Voe t, and the most honorable writers 
are constantly thus treated. 

He goes on to say, (< IN ORDER TO SHUN THE REPROACH 

OF SUPERSTITION, HE SEEMS TO ME TO HAVE THROWN OFF 

ALL RELIGION.* What this writer means by religion and 
what by superstition, I know not. But I would ask, 
whether a man throws off all religion, who maintains 
that God must be acknowledged as the highest good, and 
must, as such, be loved with a free mind ? or, again, that 
the reward of virtue is virtue itself, while the punishment 
of folly and weakness is folly itself ? or, lastly, that every 
man ought to love his neighbor, and to obey the com 
mands of the supreme power ? Such doctrines I have not 



LETTER XLIX.] CORRESPONDENCE 371 

only expressly stated, but have also demonstrated them 
by very solid reasoning. However, I think I see the 
mud wherein this person sticks. He finds nothing in 
virtue and the understanding in themselves to please 
him, but would prefer to live in accordance with his pas 
sions, if it were not for the single obstacle that he fears 
punishment. He abstains from evil actions, and obeys 
the divine commands like a slave, with unwillingness and 
hesitation, expecting as the reward of his bondage to be 
recompensed by God with gifts far more pleasing than 
divine love, and greater in proportion to his dislike to 
goodness and consequent unwillingness to practice it. 
Hence it comes to pass, that he believes that all, who 
are not restrained by this fear, lead a life of license and 
throw off all religion. But this I pass over, and proceed 
to the deduction, whereby he wishes to show, that (< WITH 

COVERT AND DISGUISED ARGUMENTS I TEACH ATHEISM. " The 

foundation of his reasoning is, that he thinks I take away 
freedom from God, and subject him to fate. This is 
flatly false. For I have maintained, that all things fol 
low by inevitable necessity from the nature of God, in 
the same way as all maintain that it follows from the 
nature of God, that he understands himself: no one de 
nies that this latter consequence follows necessarily from 
the divine nature, yet no one conceives that God is 
constrained by any fate; they believe that he under 
stands himself with entire freedom, though necessarily. I 
find nothing here, that cannot be perceived by every 
one; if, nevertheless, my adversary thinks that these 
arguments are advanced with evil intent, what does 
he think of his own Descartes, who asserted that nothing 
is done by us, which has not been pre-ordained by 
God, nay, that we are newly created as it were by 
God every moment, though none the less we act ac 
cording to our own free will ? This, as Descartes himself 
confesses, no one can understand. 

Further, this inevitable necessity in things destroys 
neither divine laws nor human. For moral principles, 
whether they have received from God the form of laws 
or not, are nevertheless divine and salutary. Whether we 



372 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLIX. 

accept the good, which follows from virtue and the divine 
love, as given us by God as a judge, or as emanating from 
the necessity of the divine nature, it is not in either case 
more or less to be desired; nor are the evils which follow 
from evil actions less to be feared, because they follow 
necessarily: finally, whether we act under necessity or 
freedom, we are in either case led by hope and fear. 
Wherefore the assertion is false, (< THAT I MAINTAIN THAT 

THERE IS NO ROOM LEFT FOR PRECEPTS AND COMMANDS. w Or 

as he goes on to say, <( THAT THERE is NO EXPECTATION OF 

REWARD OR PUNISHMENT, SINCE ALL THINGS ARE ASCRIBED TO 
FATE, AND ARE SAID TO FLOW WITH INEVITABLE NECESSITY 
FROM GOD. w 

I do not here inquire, why it is the same, or almost the 
same to say that all things necessarily flow from God, as 
to say that God is universal ; but I would have you observe 
the insinuation which he not less maliciously subjoins, 

<( THAT I WISH THAT MEN SHOULD PRACTICE VIRTUE, NOT BE 
CAUSE OF THE PRECEPTS AND LAW OF GOD, OR THROUGH 
HOPE OF REWARD AND FEAR OF PUNISHMENT, BUT," etc. 

Such a sentiment you will assuredly not find anywhere in 
my treatise: on the contrary, I have expressly stated in 
Chap. IV., that the sum of the divine law (which, as I 
have said in Chap. II. , has been divinely inscribed on our 
hearts), and its chief precept is, to love God as the highest 
good: not, indeed, from the fear of any punishment, for 
love cannot spring from fear; nor for the love of any 
thing which we desire for our own delight, for then we 
should love not God, but the object of our desire. 

I have shown in the same chapter, that God revealed 
this law to the prophets, so that, whether it received from 
God the form of a command, or whether we conceive it 
to be like God s other decrees, which involve eternal 
necessity and truth, it will in either case remain God s 
decree and a salutary principle. Whether I love God in 
freedom, or whether I love him from the necessity of the 
divine decree, I shall nevertheless love God, and shall be 
in a state of salvation. Wherefore, I can now declare 
here, that this person is one of that sort, of whom I have 
said at the end of my preface, that I would rather that 



LETTER XLIX.] CORRESPONDENCE 373 

they utterly neglected my book, than that by misinter 
preting it after their wont, they should become hostile, 
and hinder others without benefiting themselves. 

Though I think I have said enough to prove what I 
intended, I have yet thought it worth while to add a few 
observations namely, that this person falsely thinks, 
that I have in view the axiom of theologians, which 
draws a distinction between the words of a prophet when 
propounding doctrine, and the same prophet when nar 
rating an event. If by such an axiom he means that 
which in Chap. XV. I attributed to a certain R. Jehuda 
Alpakhar, how could he think that I agree with it, when 
in that very chapter I reject it as false ? If he does not 
mean this, I confess I am as yet in ignorance as to what 
he does mean, and, therefore, could not have had it in 
view. 

Again, I cannot see why he says, that all will adopt 
my opinions, who deny that reason and philosophy should 
be the interpreters of Scripture; I have refuted the doc 
trine of such persons, together with that of Maimonides. 

It would take too long to review all the indications he 
gives of not having judged me altogether calmly. I there 
fore pass on to his conclusion where he says, <( THAT I 

HAVE NO ARGUMENTS LEFT TO PROVE, THAT MAHOMET WAS 

NOT A TRUE PROPHET. )J This he endeavors to show from 
my opinions, whereas from them it clearly follows, that 
Mahomet was an impostor, inasmuch as he utterly 
forbids that freedom, which the Catholic religion revealed 
by our natural faculties and by the prophets grants, and 
which I have shown should be granted in its complete 
ness. Even if this were not so, am I, I should like to 
know, bound to show that any prophet is false ? Surely 
the burden lies with the prophets, to prove that they are 
true. But if he retorts that Mahomet also taught the 
divine law, and gave certain signs of his mission, as the 
rest of the prophets did, there is surely no reason why 
he should deny that Mahomet also was a true prophet. 
As regards the Turks and other non -Christian nations; 
if they worship God by the practice of justice and char 
ity toward their neighbor, I believe that they have the 



374 SPINOZA S [LETTER L. 

spirit of Christ, and are in a state of salvation, whatever 
they may ignorantly hold with regard to Mahomet and 
oracles. 

Thus you see, my friend, how far this man has strayed 
from the truth; nevertheless, I grant that he has in 
flicted the greatest injury, not on me, but on himself, in 
asmuch as he has not been ashamed to declare, that 

(< UNDER DISGUISED AND COVERT ARGUMENTS I TEACH 
ATHEISM. w 

I do not think, that you will find any expressions I 
have used against this man too severe. However, if 
there be any of the kind which offend you, I beg you 
to correct them as you shall think fit. I have no dispo 
sition to irritate him, whoever he may be, and to raise 
up by my labors enemies against myself; as this is often 
the result of disputes like the present, I could scarcely 
prevail on myself to reply nor should I have prevailed, 
if I had not promised. Farewell. I commit to your pru 
dence this letter, and myself, who am, etc. 



LETTER L. (L.) 
SPINOZA TO JARIG JELLIS. 

[Of the difference between the political theories of Hobbes and 
Spinoza, of the Unity of God, of the notion of figure, of the book 
of a Utrecht professor against the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. ] 

MOST COURTEOUS SIR, As regards political theories, 
the difference which you inquire about between Hobbes 
and myself, consists in this, that I always preserve natural 
right intact, and only allot to the chief magistrates in 
every state a right over their subjects commensurate 
with the excess of their power over the power of the 
subjects. This is what always takes place in the state 
of nature. 

Again, with regard to the demonstration which I estab 
lish in the appendix to my geometric exposition of Car- 



LETTER L.] CORRESPONDENCE 375 

tesian principles, namely, that God can only with great 
impropriety be called one or single, I answer that a 
thing can only be called one or single in respect of exist 
ence, not in respect of essence. For we do not conceive 
things under the category of numbers, unless they have 
first been reduced to a common genus. For example, he 
who holds in his hand a penny and a crownpiece will 
not think of the twofold number, unless he can call 
both the penny and the crownpiece by one and the same 
name, to wit, coins or pieces of money. In the latter 
case he can say that he holds two coins or pieces of 
money, inasmuch as he calls the crown as well as the 
penny, a coin, or piece of money. Hence, it is evident 
that a thing cannot be called one or single, unless there 
be afterward another thing conceived, which (as has 
been said) agrees with it. Now, since the existence of 
God is his essence, and of his essence we can form no 
general idea, it is certain, that he who calls God one or 
single has no true idea of God, and speaks of him very 
improperly. 

As to the doctrine that figure is negation and not any 
thing positive, it is plain that the whole of matter 
considered indefinitely can have no figure, and that 
figure can only exist in finite and determinate bodies. 
For he who says, that he perceives a figure, merely indi 
cates thereby/ that he conceives a determinate thing, 
and how it is determinate. This determination, there 
fore, does not appertain to the thing according to its 
being, but, on the contrary, is its non-being. As then 
figure is nothing else than determination, and deter 
mination is negation, figure, as has been said, can be 
nothing but negation. 

The book, which a Utrecht professor wrote against 
mine, and which was published after his death, I saw 
lying in a bookseller s window. From the little I then 
read of it, I judged it unworthy of perusal, still less of 
reply. I, therefore, left the book, and its author. With 
an inward smile I reflected, that the most ignorant are 
ever the most audacious and the most ready to rush into 
print. The Christians seem to me to expose their wares 



376 SPINOZA S [LETTER LI. 

for sale like hucksters, who always show first that which 
is worst. The devil is said to be very cunning, but to 
my thinking the tricks of these people are in cunning 
far beyond his. Farewell. 

THE HAGUE, 2 June, 1674. 



LETTER LI. (XLV.) 
GODFREY LEIBNITZ TO SPINOZA. 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, Among your other merits spread 
abroad by fame, I understand that you have remarkable 
skill in optics. I have, therefore, wished to forward my 
essay, such as it is, to you, as I am not likely to find a 
better critic in this branch of learning. The paper, which 
I send you, and which I have styled (( a note on advanced 
optics, >J has been published with a view of more conven 
iently making known my ideas to my friends and the 
curious in such matters. I hear that ... is very 
clever in the same subject, doubtless he is well known 
to you. If you could obtain for me his opinion and 
kind attention, you would greatly increase my obligation 
to you. The paper explains itself. 

I believe you have already received the <( Prodromo * 
of Francis Lana the Jesuit, written in Italian. Some 
remarkable observations on optics are contained in it. 
John Oltius too, a young Swiss very learned in these 
matters, has published <( Physico-Mechanical Reflections 
Concerning Vision ; in which he announces a machine 
for the polishing all kinds of glasses, very simple and 
of universal applicability, and also declares that he has 
discovered a means of collecting all the rays coming 
from different points of an object, so as to obtain an 
equal number of corresponding points, but only under 
conditions of a given distance and form of object. 

My proposal is, not that the rays from all points should 
be collected and rearranged (this is with any object or 



LETTER L1L] CORRESPONDENCE 377 

distance impossible at the present stage of our knowledge) ; 
the result I aim at is the equal collection of rays from 
points outside the optic axis and in the optic axis, so that 
the apertures of glasses could be made of any size desired 
without impairing the distinctness of vision. But this 
must stand according to your skilled verdict. Farewell, 
and believe me, distinguished sir, your obedient servant, 

GODFREY LEIBNITZ, 
J. U. D., Councillor of the Elector of Mainz. 

FRANKFORT. 5 Oct., 1671 (new style). 



LETTER LII. (XLVI.) 

SPINOZA TO LEIBNITZ. 
[Answer to the foregoing letter.] 

MOST LEARNED AND DISTINGUISHED SIR, I have read 
the paper you were kind enough to send me, and return 
you many thanks for the communication. I regret that I 
have not been able quite to follow your meaning, though 
you explain it sufficiently clearly, whether you think that 
there is any cause for making the apertures of the glasses 
small, except that the rays coming from a single point are 
not collected accurately at another single point, but in a 
small area which we generally call the mechanical point, 
and that this small area is greater or less in proportion to 
the size of the aperture. Further, I ask whether the 
lenses which you call pandochae correct this fault, so 
that the mechanical point or small area, on which the rays 
coming from a single point are after refraction collected, 
always preserves the same proportional size, whether the 
aperture be small or large. If so, one may enlarge the 
aperture as much as one likes, and consequently these 
lenses will be far superior to those of any other shape 
known to me ; if not, I hardly see why you praise them so 



37 SPINOZA S [LETTER LII. 

greatly beyond common lenses. For circular lenses have 
everywhere the same axis; therefore, when we employ 
them, we must regard all the points of an object as placed 
in the optic axis; although all the points of the object be 
not at the same distance, the difference arising thence will 
not be perceptible, when the objects are very remote ; be 
cause then the rays coming from a single point would, as 
they enter the glass, be regarded as parallel. I think your 
lenses might be of service in obtaining a more distinct 
representation of all the objects, when we wish to include 
several objects in one view, as we do, when we employ very 
large convex circular lenses. However, I would rather 
suspend my judgment about all these details, till you have 
more clearly explained your meaning, as I heartily beg 
you to do. I have, as you requested, sent the other copy 
of your paper to Mr. . . . He answers, that he has 
at present no time to study it, but he hopes to have leisure 
in a week or two. 

I have not yet seen the <( Prodromo }> of Francis Lana, 
nor the <( Physico-Mechanical Reflections w of John Oltius. 
What I more regret is, that your (( Physical Hypothesis w 
has not yet come to my hands, nor is there a copy for 
sale here at the Hague. The gift, therefore, which you 
so liberally promised me will be most acceptable to me; 
if I can be of use to you in any other matter, you will 
always find me most ready. I hope you will not think it 
too irksome to reply to this short note. 

Distinguished Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

B. DE SPINOZA. 
THE HAGUE, 9 Nov., 1671. 

P.S. Mr. Diemerbroech does not live here. I am, 
therefore, forced to intrust this to an ordinary letter 
carrier. I doubt not that you know someone at the 
Hague, who would take charge of our letters; I should 
like to hear of such a person, that our correspondence 
might be more conveniently and securely taken care of. 
If the <( Tractatus Theologico-Politicus * has not yet come 
to your hands, I will, unless you have any objection, 
send you a copy. Farewell. 



LETTER LIII.) CORRESPONDENCE 379 

LETTER LIII. (XLVII.) 

FABRITIUS TO SPINOZA. 

[ Fabritius, under the order and in the name of the Elector Palatine, 
offers Spinoza the post of Professor of Philosophy at Heidelberg, 
under very liberal conditions.] 

MOST RENOWNED SIR, His Most Serene Highness the 
Elector Palatine,* my most gracious master, commands 
me to write to you, who are, as yet, unknown to me, but 
most favorably regarded by his Most Serene Highness, 
and to inquire of you, whether you are willing to accept 
an ordinary professorship of Philosophy in his illustrious 
university. An annual salary would be paid to you, 
equal to that enjoyed at present by the ordinary profes 
sors. You will hardly find elsewhere a prince more 
favorable to distinguished talents, among which he reck 
ons yourself. You will have the most ample freedom in 
philosophical teaching, which the prince is confident you 
will not misuse, to disturb the religion publicly estab 
lished. I cannot refrain from seconding the prince s 
injunction. I therefore most earnestly beg you to reply 
as soon as possible, and to address your answer either 
under cover to the Most Serene Elector s resident at 
the Hague, Mr. Grotius, or to Mr. Gilles Van der Hele, 
so that it may come in the packet of letters usually sent 
to the court, or else to avail yourself of some other con 
venient opportunity for transmitting it. I will only add, 
that if you come here, you will live pleasantly a life 
worthy of a philosopher, unless events turn out quite 
contrary to our expectation and hope. So farewell. 
I remain, illustrious Sir, 

Your devoted admirer, 

I. LEWIS FABRITIUS. 

Professor of the Academy of Heidelberg, and 
Councillor of the Elector Palatine. 

HEIDELBERG, 16 Feb., 1673. 

* Charles Lewis, Elector, 1632-1680. 



380 SPINOZA S [LETTER XLIV. 

LETTER LIV. (XLVIII.) 
SPINOZA TO FABRITIUS. 

(Spinoza thanks the Elector for his kind offer, but, owing to his 
unwillingness to teach in public, and other causes, humbly begs 
to be allowed time to consider it.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, If I had ever desired to take a 
professorship in any faculty, I could not have wished for 
any other than that which is offered to me, through you, 
by His Most Serene Highness the Elector Palatine, espe 
cially because of that freedom in philosophical teaching, 
which the most gracious prince is kind enough to grant, 
not to speak of the desire which I have long entertained, 
to live under the rule of a prince, whom all men admire 
for his wisdom. 

But since it has never been my wish to teach in 
public, I have been unable to induce myself to accept 
this splendid opportunity, though I have long deliberated 
about it. I think in the first place, that I should aban 
don philosophical research if I consented to find time for 
teaching young students. I think, in the second place, 
that I do not know the limits, within which the freedom 
of my philosophical teaching would be confined, if I am 
to avoid all appearance of disturbing the publicly estab 
lished religion. Religious quarrels do not arise so much 
from ardent zeal for religion, as from men s various dis 
positions and love of contradiction, which causes them 
to habitually distort and condemn everything, however 
rightly it may have been said. I have experienced these 
results in my private and secluded station, how much 
more should I have to fear them after my elevation to 
this post of honor. 

Thus you see, distinguished Sir, that I am not holding 
back in the hope of getting something better, but through 
my love of quietness, which I think I can in some 
measure secure, if I keep away from lecturing in public. 



LETTER LV.l CORRESPONDENCE 381 

I therefore most earnestly entreat you to beg of the 
Most Serene Elector, that I may be allowed to consider 
further about this matter, and I also ask you to concil 
iate the favor of the most gracious prince to his most 
devoted admirer, thus increasing the obligations of your 
sincere friend, B. DE S. 

THE HAGUE, 30 March, 1673. 



LETTER LV. (LI.) 

HUGO BOXEL TO SPINOZA. 

[A friend asks Spinoza s opinion about ghosts. J 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, My reason for writing to you is, 
that I want to know your opinion about apparitions and 
ghosts or spectres; if you admit their existence, what do 
you think about them, and how long does their life last? 
For some hold them to be mortal, others immortal. As 
I am doubtful whether you admit their existence, I will 
proceed no further. 

Meanwhile, it is certain, that the ancients believed in 
them. The theologians and philosophers of to-day are 
hitherto agreed as to the existence of some creatures 
of the kind though they may not agree as to the nature of 
their essence. Some assert that they are composed of 
very thin and subtle matter, others that they are spiritual. 
But, as I was saying before, we are quite at cross pur 
poses, inasmuch as I am doubtful whether you would 
grant their existence; though as you must be aware, so 
many instances and stories of them are found through 
out antiquity, that it would really be difficult either to 
deny or to doubt them. It is clear that, even if you con 
fess that they exist, you do not believe that some of them 
are the souls of the dead, as the defenders of the Romish 
faith would have it. I will here end, and will say noth- 



3 82 SPINOZA S [LETTER LVL 

ing about war and rumors, inasmuch as our lot is cast in 
an age, etc. Farewell. 
14 Sept., 1674. 



LETTER LVL (LII.) 
SPINOZA TO HUGO BOXEL. 

[Spinoza answers that he does not know what ghosts are, and can 
gain no information from antiquity. (The Hague, Sept, 1674.)] 

DEAR SIR, Your letter, which I received yesterday, 
was most welcome to me, both because I wanted to hear 
news of you, and also because it shows that you have 
not utterly forgotten me. Although some might think 
it a bad omen, that ghosts are the cause of your writing 
to me, I, on the contrary, can discern a deeper meaning 
in the circumstance; I see that not only truths, but also 
things trifling and imaginary may be of use to me. 

However, let us defer the question, whether ghosts are 
delusions and imaginary, for I see that not only denial of 
them, but even doubt about them seems very singular to 
you, as to one who has been convinced by the numerous 
histories related by men of to-day and the ancients. The 
great esteem and honor, in which I have always held and 
still hold you, does not suffer me to contradict you, still 
less to humor you. The middle course, which I shall 
adopt, is to beg you to be kind enough to select from the 
numerous stories which you have read, one or two of 
those least open to doubt, and most clearly demonstra 
ting the existence of ghosts. For to confess the truth, I 
have never read a trustworthy author, who clearly showed 
that there are such things. Up to the present time I do 
not know what they are, and no one has ever been able 
to tell me. Yet it is evident, that in the case of a thing 
so clearly shown by experience we ought to know what 
it is; otherwise we shall have great difficulty in gather 
ing from histories that ghosts exist. We only gather that 
something exists of nature unknown. If philosophers 
choose to call things which we do not know ghosts/ I 



LETTER LVII.] CORRESPONDENCE 383 

shall not deny the existence of such, for there are an 
infinity of things, which I cannot make out. 

Pray tell me, my dear Sir, before I explain myself 
further in the matter, What are these ghosts or spectres ? 
Are they children, or fools, or madmen ? For all that I 
have heard of them seems more adapted to the silly than 
the wise, or, to say the best we can of it, resembles the 
pastimes of children or of fools. Before I end, I would 
submit to you one consideration, namely, that the desire 
which most men have to narrate things, not as they really 
happened, but as they wished them to happen, can be 
illustrated from the stories of ghosts and spectres more 
easily than from any others. The principal reason for 
this is, I believe, that such stories are only attested by 
the narrators, and thus a fabricator can add or suppress 
circumstances, as seems most convenient to him, without 
fear of anyone being able to contradict him. He com 
poses them to suit special circumstances, in order to 
justify the fear he feels of dreams and phantoms, or else 
to confirm his courage, his credit, or his opinion. There 
are other reasons, which lead me to doubt, if not the 
actual stories, at least some of the narrated circumstances ; 
and which have a close bearing on the conclusion we are 
endeavoring to derive from the aforesaid stories. I will 
here stop, until I have learned from you what those stories 
are, which have so completely convinced you, that you 
regard all doubt about them as absurd, etc. 



LETTER LVII. (LIII.) 

HUGO BOXEL TO SPINOZA. 

MOST SAGACIOUS SIR, You have sent me just the an 
swer I expected to receive, from a friend holding an 
opinion adverse to my own. But no matter. Friends may 
always disagree on indifferent subjects without injury to 
their friendship. 



3&4 SPINOZA S LETTER LVII. 

You ask me, before you gave an opinion as to what 
these spectres or spirits are, to tell you whether they are 
children, fools, or madmen, and you add that everything 
you have heard of them seems to have proceeded rather 
from the insane than the sane. It is a true proverb, 
which says that a preconceived opinion hinders the pur 
suit of truth. 

I, then, believe that ghosts exist for the following rea 
sons: first, because it appertains to the beauty and per 
fection of the universe, that they should ; secondly, because 
it is probable that the Creator created them, as being 
more like himself than are embodied creatures; thirdly, 
because as body exists without soul, soul exists without 
body; fourthly and lastly, because in the upper air, 
region, or space, I believe there is no obscure body 
without inhabitants of its own; consequently, that the 
measureless space between us and the stars is not empty, 
but thronged with spiritual inhabitants. Perhaps the 
highest and most remote are true spirits, whereas the 
lowest in the lowest region of the air are creatures of 
very thin and subtle substance, and also invisible. Thus 
I think there are spirits of all sorts, but, perhaps, none 
of the female sex. 

This reasoning will in no wise convince those who 
rashly believe that the world has been created by chance. 
Daily experience, if these reasons be dismissed, shows 
that there are spectres, and many stories, both new and 
old, are current about them. Such may be found in 
Plutarch s book (< De viris illustribus, " and in his other 
works; in Suetonius s Lives of the Caesars, also in 
Wierus s and Lavater s books about ghosts, where the 
subject is fully treated and illustrated from writers of all 
kinds. Cardano, celebrated for his learning, also speaks 
of them in his books De Subtilitate, De Varietate," 
and in his (< Life ; showing, by experience, that they 
have appeared to himself, his relations, and friends. 
Melancthon, a wise man and a lover of truth, testifies to 
his experience of them, as also do many others. A cer 
tain burgomaster, learned and wise, who is still living, 
once told me that he heard by night the noise of work- 



LETTER LVIL] CORRESPONDENCE 385 

ing in his mother s brew-house, going on just as it does 
while beer is being brewed in the day; this he attested 
as having occurred frequently. The same sort of thing 
has happened to me and will never fade from my mem 
ory; hence I am convinced by the above-mentioned expe 
riences and reasons that there are ghosts. 

As for evil spirits who torture wretched men in this 
life and the next, and who work spells, I believe the 
stories of them to be fables. In treatises about spirits 
you will find a host of details. Besides those I have cited, 
you may refer to Pliny the Younger, bk. vii., the letter 
to Sura; Suetonius, "Life of Julius Caesar, }) ch. xxxii. ; 
Valerius Maximus, I. viii., 7, 8; and Alexander ab Alex- 
andro, <( Dies Geniales. w I am sure these books are access 
ible to you. I say nothing of monks and priests, for they 
relate so many tales of souls and evil spirits, or as I 
should rather say of spectres, that the reader becomes 
wearied with their abundance. Thyraeus, a Jesuit, in the 
book about the apparition of spirits, also treats of the 
question. But these last named discourse on such sub 
jects merely for the sake of gain, and to prove that pur 
gatory is not so bad as is supposed, thus treating the 
question as a mine, from which they dig up plenteous 
store of gold and silver. But the same cannot be said 
of the writers mentioned previously, and other mod 
erns, who merit greater credit from their absence of 
bias. 

As an answer to the passage in your letter, where you 
speak of fools and madmen, I subjoin this sentence from 
the learned Lavater, who ends with it his first book on 
ghosts or spectres. (( He who is bold enough to gainsay 
so many witnesses, both ancient and modern, seems to 
me unworthy of credit. For as it is a mark of frivolity 
to lend incontinent credence to everyone who says he 
has seen a ghost ; so, on the other hand, rashly and flatly 
to contradict so many trustworthy historians, Fathers, and 
other persons placed in authority would argue a remark 
able shamelessness. M 

21 Sept., 1674. 
25 



3 86 SPINOZA S [LETTER LVIII. 

LETTER LVIII. (LIV.) 
SPINOZA TO HUGO BOXEL. 

[Spinoza treats of the necessary creation of the world he refutes 
his friend s arguments and quotations.] 

DEAR SIR, I will rely on what you said in your letter 
of the 2ist of last month, that friends may disagree on 
indifferent questions, without injury to their friendship, 
and will frankly tell you my opinion on the reasons and 
stories, whereon you base your conclusion, that THERE 

ARE GHOSTS OF EVERY KIND, BUT PERHAPS NONE OF THE 

FEMALE SEX. The reason for my not replying sooner is 
that the books you quoted are not at hand, in fact I have 
not found any except Pliny and Suetonius. However, 
these two have saved me the trouble of consulting any 
other, for I am persuaded that they all talk in the same 
strain and hanker after extraordinary tales, which rouse 
men s astonishment and compel their wonder. I confess 
that I am not a little amazed, not at the stories, but at 
those who narrate them. I wonder that men of talent 
and judgment should so employ their readiness of speech, 
and abuse it in endeavoring to convince us of such trifles. 

However, let us dismiss the writers, and turn to the 
question itself. In the first place, we will reason a little 
about your conclusion. Let us see whether I, who deny 
that there are spectres or spirits, am on that account less 
able to understand the authors, who have written on the 
subject; or whether you, who assert that such beings 
exist, do not give to the aforesaid writers more credit 
than they deserve. The distinction you drew, in admit 
ting without hesitation spirits of the male sex, but doubt 
ing whether any female spirits exist, seems to me more 
like a fancy than a genuine doubt. If it were really your 
opinion, it would resemble the common imagination that 
God is masculine, not feminine. I wonder that those, 
who have seen naked ghosts, have not cast their eyes on 



LETTER LVIIL] CORRESPONDENCE 387 

those parts of the person, which would remove all doubt; 
perhaps they were timid, or did not know of this dis 
tinction. You would say that this is ridicule, not reason 
ing: and hence I see, that your reasons appear to you 
so strong and well-founded, that no one can (at least in 
your judgment) contradict them, unless he be some per 
verse fellow, who thinks the world has been made by 
chance. This impels me, before going into your reasons, 
to set forth briefly my opinion on the question, WHETHER 
THE WORLD WAS MADE BY CHANCE. But I answer, that as 
it is clear that chance and necessity are two contraries, 
so it is also clear, that he, who asserts the world to be 
a necessary effect of the divine nature, must utterly 
deny that the world has been made by chance; whereas, 
he who affirms, that God need not have made the world, 
confirms, though in different language, the doctrine that 
it has been made by chance; inasmuch as he maintains 
that it proceeds from a wish, which might never have 
been formed. However, as this opinion and theory is on 
the face of it absurd, it is commonly very unanimously 
admitted, that God s will is eternal, and has never been in 
different ; hence it must necessarily be also admitted, you 
will observe, that the world is a necessary effect of the 
divine nature. Let them call it will, understanding, or 
any name they like, they come at last to the same con 
clusion, that under different names they are expressing 
one and the same thing. If you ask them, whether the 
divine will does not differ from the human, they answer, 
that the former has nothing in common with the latter 
except its name; especially as they generally admit that 
God s will, understanding, intellect, essence, and nature 
are all identical; so I, myself, lest I should confound the 
divine nature with the human, do not assign to God 
human attributes, such as will, understanding, attention, 
hearing, etc. I therefore say, as I have said already, 

that THE WORLD IS A NECESSARY EFFECT OF THE DIVINE 
NATURE, AND THAT IT HAS NOT BEEN MADE BY CHANCE. 

I think this is enough to persuade you, that the opinion 
of those (if such there be), who say that the world has 
been made by chance, is entirely contrary to mine; and, 



388 SPINOZA S [LETTER LV1II. 

relying on this hypothesis, I proceed to examine those 
reasons which lead you to infer the existence of all kinds 
of ghosts. I should like to say of these reasons gener 
ally, that they seem rather conjectures than reasons, and 
I can with difficulty believe, that you take them for 
guiding reasons. However, be they conjectures or be 
they reasons, let us see whether we can take them for 
foundations. 

Your first reason is, that the existence of ghosts is 
needful for the beauty and perfection of the universe. 
Beauty, my dear sir, is not so much a quality of the ob 
ject beheld, as an effect in him who beholds it. If our 
sight were longer or shorter, or if our constitution were 
different, what now appears beautiful to us would seem 
misshapen, and what we now think misshapen we should 
regard as beautiful. The most beautiful hand seen 
through the microscope will appear horrible. Some 
things are beautiful at a distance, but ugly near; thus 
things regarded in themselves, and in relation to God, 
are neither ugly nor beautiful. Therefore, he who says 
that God has created the world, so that it might be beau 
tiful, is bound to adopt one of the two alternatives, 
either that God created the world for the sake of men s 
pleasure and eyesight, or else that he created men s 
pleasure and eyesight for the sake of the world. Now, 
whether we adopt the former or the latter of these views, 
how God could have furthered his object by the creation 
of ghosts, I cannot see. Perfection and imperfection are 
names, which do not differ much from the names beauty 
and ugliness. I only ask, therefore (not to be tedious), 
which would contribute most to the perfect adornment 
of the world, ghosts, or a quantity of monsters, such as 
centaurs, hydras, harpies, satyrs, gryphons, arguses, and 
other similar inventions ? Truly the world would be 
handsomely bedecked, if God had adorned and embel 
lished it, in obedience to our fancy, with beings, which 
any one may readily imagine and dream of, but no one 
can understand. 

Your second reason is, that because spirits express 
God s image more than embodied creatures, it is probable 



LETTER LVIII.] CORRESPONDENCE 389 

that he has created them. I frankly confess, that I am 
as yet in ignorance, how spirits more than other crea 
tures express God. This I know, that between finite 
and infinite there is no comparison; so that the differ 
ence between God and the greatest and most excellent 
created thing is no less than the difference between God 
and the least created thing. This argument, therefore, 
is beside the mark. If I had as clear an idea of ghosts 
as I have of a triangle or a circle, I should not in the 
least hesitate to affirm that they had been created by 
God; but as the idea I possess of them is just like the 
ideas, which my imagination forms of harpies, gryphons, 
hydras, etc., I cannot consider them as anything but 
dreams, which differ from God as totally, as that which 
is not differs from that which is. 

Your third reason (that as body exists without soul, 
so soul should exist without body) seems to me equally 
absurd. Pray tell me, if it is not also likely, that memory, 
hearing, sight, etc., exist without bodies, because bodies 
exist without memory, hearing, sight, etc., or that a 
sphere exists without a circle, because a circle exists 
without a sphere ? 

Your fourth, and last reason, is the same as your first, 
and I refer you to my answer given above. I will only 
observe here, that I do not know which are the highest 
or which the lowest places, which you conceive as exist 
ing in infinite matter, unless you take the earth as the 
centre of the universe. For if the sun or Saturn be the 
centre of the universe, the sun or Saturn, not the earth, 
will be the lowest. 

Thus, passing by this argument and what remains, I 
conclude, that these and similar reasons will convince no 
one of the existence of all kinds of ghosts and spectres, 
unless it be those persons, who shut their ears to the 
understanding, and allow themselves to be led away by 
superstition. This last is so hostile to right reason, that 
she lends willing credence to old wives tales for the 
sake of discrediting philosophers. 

As regards the stories, I have already said in my first 
letter, that I do not deny them altogether, but only the 



390 SPINOZA S [LETTER LIX. 

conclusion drawn from them. To this I may add, that 
I do not believe them so thoroughly, as not to doubt 
many of the details, which are generally added rather 
for ornament than for bringing out the truth of the story 
or the conclusion drawn from it. I had hoped, that out 
of so many stories you would at least have produced one 
or two, which could hardly be questioned, and which 
would clearly show that ghosts or spectres exist. The 
case you relate of the burgomaster, who wanted to infer 
their existence, because he heard spectral brewers work 
ing in his mother s brew-house by night, and making the 
same noises as he was accustomed to hear by day, seems 
to me laughable. In like manner it would be tedious 
here to examine all the stories of people, who have written 
on these trifles. To be brief, I cite the instance of Julius 
Caesar, who, as Suetonius testifies, laughed at such things 
and yet was happy, if we may trust what Suetonius says 
in the 59th chapter of his life of that leader. And so 
should all, who reflect on the human imagination, and 
the effects of the emotions, laugh at such notions; what 
ever Lavater and others, who have gone dreaming with 
him in the matter, may produce to the contrary. 



LETTER LIX. (LV.) 

HUGO BOXEL TO SPINOZA. 

[ A continuation of the arguments in favor of ghosts, which may be 
summarized as follows: I say a thing is done by chance, when it 
has not been the subject of will on the part of the doer ; not when it 
might never have happened. Necessity and freedom, not necessity 
and chance, are contraries. If we do not in some sense attribute 
human qualities to God, what meaning can we attach to the term ? 
You ask for absolute proof of the existence of spirits ; such proof is 
not obtainable for many things, which are yet firmly believed. Some 
things are more beautiful intrinsically than others. As God is a 
spirit, spirits resemble him more than embodied creatures do. A 
ghost cannot be conceived as clearly as a triangle : can you say that 
your own idea of God is as clear as your idea of a triangle ? As a 
circle exists without a sphere, so a sphere exists without a circle. 






LETTER LX. CORRESPONDENCE 39! 

We call things higher or lower in proportion to their distance from 
the earth. All the Stoics, Pythagoreans, and Platonists, Empedocles, 
Maximus Tyrius, Apuleius, and others, bear witness to ghosts ; and 
no modern denies them. It is presumption to sneer at such a body 
of testimony. Caesar did not ridicule ghosts, but omens, and if he 
had listened to Spurina he would not have been murdered. ] 



LETTER LX. (LVI.) 
SPINOZA TO HUGO BOXEL. 

[Spinoza again answers the argument in favor of ghosts. ( The Hague, 

1674-)] 

DEAR SIR, I hasten to answer your letter, received 
yesterday, for if I delay my reply, I may have to put it 
off longer than I should like. The state of your health 
would have made me anxious, if I did not understand 
that you are better. I hope you are by this time quite 
well again. 

The difficulties experienced by two people following 
different principles, and trying to agree on a matter, 
which depends on many other questions, might be shown 
from this discussion alone, if there were no reason to 
prove it by. Pray tell me, whether you have seen or 
read any philosophers, who hold that the world has been 
made by chance, taking chance in your sense, namely, 
that God had some design in making the world and yet 
has not kept to the plan he had formed. I do not know, 
that such an idea has ever entered anyone s mind. I am 
likewise at a loss for the reasons, with which you want 
to make me believe, that chance and necessity are not 
contraries. As soon as I affirm that the three angles of 
a triangle are equal to two right angles necessarily, I 
deny that they are thus equal by chance. As soon as I 
affirm that heat is a necessary effect of fire, I deny that 
it is a chance effect. To say that necessary and free 
are two contrary terms, seems to me no less absurd and 
repugnant to reason. For no one can deny, that God 
freely knows himself and all else, yet all with one voice 
grant that God knows himself necessarily. Hence as it 



39 2 SPINOZA S [LETTER LX. 

seems to me, you draw no distinction between constraint 
or force and necessity. Man s wishes to live, to love, etc., 
are not under constraint, but nevertheless are necessary; 
much more is it necessary that God wishes to be, to 
know, and to act. If you will also reflect, that indiffer 
ence is only another name for ignorance or doubt, and 
that a will always constant and determined in all things 
is a necessary property of the understanding, you will 
see that my words are in complete harmony with truth. 
If we affirm, that God might have been able not to wish 
a given event, or not to understand it, we attribute to 
God two different freedoms, one necessary, the other in 
different; consequently we shall conceive God s will as 
different from his essence and understanding, and shall 
thus fall from one absurdity into another. 

The attention, which I asked for in my former letter, 
has not seemed to you necessary. This has been the 
reason why you have not directed your thoughts to the 
main issue, and have neglected a point which is very im 
portant. 

Further, when you say that if I deny, that the opera 
tions of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, etc., can be 
ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any emi 
nent 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 attri 
butes. 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 al 
low me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, 
or the questions you have propounded. Besides, sug 
gesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. 
That we do many things in the world from conjecture 
is true, but that our reflections are based on conjectures 
is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow 



LETTER LX.] CORRESPONDENCE 393 

what is most probable; in speculative thought we are 
compelled to follow truth. A man would perish of hun 
ger 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 quar 
rels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain; 
for there have been many persons so enamored of 
contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms. 
Sextus Empiricus and other sceptics, whom you quote, 
declare, that it is false to say that a whole is greater 
than its part, and pass similar judgments on other axioms. 

However, as I pass over and grant that in default of 
proof we must be content with probabilities, I say that a 
probable proof ought to be such that, though we may 
doubt about it, we cannot maintain its contrary; for 
that which can be contradicted resembles not truth but 
falsehood. For instance, if I say that Peter is alive, 
because I saw him yesterday in good health, this is a 
probability, in so far as no one can maintain the con 
trary; but if anyone says that he saw Peter yesterday in 
a swoon, and that he believed Peter to have departed 
this life to-day, he will make my statement seem false. 
That conjecture about ghosts and spectres seems false, 
and not even probable, I have shown so clearly, that I 
can find nothing worthy of answer in your reply. 

To your question, whether I have of God as clear an 
idea as I have of a triangle, I reply in the affirmative. 
But if you ask me, whether I have as clear a mental 
image of God as I have of a triangle, I reply in the 
negative. For we are not able to imagine God, though 
we can understand him. You must also here observe, 
that I do not assert that I thoroughly know God, but 
that I understand some of his attributes, not all nor the 
greater part, and it is evident that my ignorance of very 
many does not hinder the knowledge I have of some. 



394 SPINOZA S [LETTER LX. 

When I learned Euclid s Elements, I understood that the 
three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, 
and this property of a triangle I perceived clearly, 
though I might be ignorant of many others. 

As regards spectres or ghosts, I have hitherto heard 
attributed to them no intelligible property: they seem 
like phantoms, which no one can understand. When you 
say that spectres, or ghosts, in these lower regions (I 
adopt your phraseology, though I know not why matter 
below should be inferior to matter above ) consist in a very 
thin rarefied and subtle substance, you seem to me to be 
speaking of spiders webs, air, or vapors. To say, that 
they are invisible, seems to me to be equivalent to say 
ing that they do not exist, not to stating their nature; 
unless, perhaps, you wish to indicate, that they render 
themselves visible or invisible at will, and that the 
imagination, in these as in other impossibilities, will find 
a difficulty. 

The authority of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, does 
not carry much weight with me. I should have been 
astonished, if you had brought forward Epicurus, Democ- 
ritus, Lucretius, or any of the atomists, or upholders 
of the atomic theory. It is no wonder that persons, 
who have invented occult qualities, intentional species, 
substantial forms, and a thousand other trifles, should 
have also devised spectres and ghosts, and given credence 
to old wives tales, in order to take away the reputation 
of Democritus, whom they were so jealous of, that 
they burned all the books which he had published amid 
so much eulogy. If you are inclined to believe such 
witnesses, what reason have you for denying the miracles 
of the Blessed Virgin, and all the Saints ? These have 
been described by so many famous philosophers, 
theologians, and historians, that I could produce at least 
a hundred such authorities for every one of the former. 
But I have gone further, my dear Sir, than I intended: 
I do not desire to cause any further annoyance by 
doctrines which I know you will not grant. For the 
principles which you follow are far different from 
my own. 



LETTER LXIL] CORRESPONDENCE 395 

LETTER LXI. (LVII.) 
. . TO SPINOZA. 

[Philosophers often differ through using words in different senses. 
Thus in the question of free will Descartes means by free, constrained 
by no cause. You mean by the same, undetermined in a particular 
way by a cause. The question of free will is threefold : I. Have we 
any power whatever over things external to us ? II. Have we 
absolute power over the intentional movements of our own body ? 
III. Have we free use of our reason? Both Descartes and 
yourself are right according to the terms employed by each 
(8th October, 1674)-] 



LETTER LXII. (LVIIL) 

SPINOZA TO ... (THE HAGUE, OCTOBER 1674.) 
[Spinoza gives his opinions on liberty and necessity.] 

SIR; Our friend, J. R., has sent me the letter which 
you have been kind enough to write to me, and also the 
judgment of your friend as to the opinions of Descartes 
and myself regarding free will. Both inclosures were 
very welcome to me. Though I am, at present, much 
occupied with other matters, not to mention my delicate 
health, your singular courtesy, or, to name the chief 
motive, your love of truth, impels me to satisfy your 
inquiries, as far as my poor abilities will permit. What 
your friend wishes to imply by his remark before he 
appeals to experience, I know not. What he adds, that 

WHEN ONE OF TWO DISPUTANTS AFFIRMS SOMETHING WHICH 
THE OTHER DENIES, BOTH MAY BE RIGHT, IS true, if he 

means that the two, though using the same terms, are 
thinking of different things. I once sent several exam 
ples of this to our friend J. R., and am now writing to 
tell him to communicate them to you. 



396 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXII. 

I, therefore, pass on to that definition of liberty, which 
he says is my own ; but I know not whence he has taken 
it. I say that a thing is free, which exists and acts solely 
by the necessity of its own nature. Thus also God under 
stands himself and all things freely, because it follows 
solely from the necessity of his nature, that he should 
understand all things. You see I do not place freedom 
in free decision, but in free necessity. However, let 
us descend to created things, which are all determined 
by external causes to exist and operate in a given deter 
minate manner. In order that this may be clearly under 
stood, let us conceive a very simple thing. For instance, 
a stone receives from the impulsion of an external cause, 
a certain quantity of motion, by virtue of which it con 
tinues to move after the impulsion given by the external 
cause has ceased. The permanence of the stone s motion 
is constrained, not necessarily, because it must be defined 
by the impulsion of an external cause. What is true of 
the stone is true of any individual, however complicated 
its nature, or varied its functions, inasmuch as every 
individual thing is necessarily determined by some exter 
nal cause to exist and operate in a fixed and determinate 
manner. 

Further conceive, I beg, that a stone, while continuing 
in motion, should be capable of thinking and knowing, 
that it is endeavoring, as far as it can, to continue to 
move. Such a stone, being conscious merely of its own 
endeavor and not at all indifferent, would believe itself 
to be completely free, and would think that it continued 
in motion solely because of its own wish. This is that 
human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and 
which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious 
of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes 
whereby that desire has been determined. Thus an in 
fant believes that it desires milk freely; an angry child 
thinks he wishes freely for vengeance, a timid child 
thinks he wishes freely to run away. Again, a drunken 
man thinks, that from the free decision of his mind he 
speaks words, which afterward, when sober, he would 
like to have left unsaid. So the delirious, the garrulous, 



LETTER LXIL] CORRESPONDENCE 397 

and others of the same sort think that they act from 
the free decision of their mind, not that they are car 
ried away by impulse. As this misconception is innate 
in all men, it is not easily conquered. For, although 
experience abundantly shows, that men can do anything 
rather than check their desires, and that very often, 
when a prey to conflicting emotions, they see the better 
course and follow the worse, they yet believe themselves 
to be free; because in some cases their desire for a 
thing is slight, and can easily be overruled by the re 
collection of something else, which is frequently present 
in the mind. 

I have thus, if I mistake not, sufficiently explained my 
opinion regarding free and constrained necessity, and also 
regarding so-called human freedom: from what I have 
said you will easily be able to reply to your friend s objec 
tions. For when he says, with Descartes, that he who is 
constrained by no external cause is free, if by being con 
strained he means acting against one s will, I grant that 
we are in some cases quite unrestrained, and in this respect 
possess free will. But if by constrained he means acting 
necessarily, although not against one s w r ill (as I have ex 
plained above), I deny that we are in any instance 
free. 

But your friend, on the contrary, asserts that WE MAY 

EMPLOY OUR REASON ABSOLUTELY, THAT IS, IN COMPLETE 

FREEDOM; and is, I think, a little too confident on the 
point. FOR WHO, he says, COULD DENY, WITHOUT CONTRA 
DICTING HIS OWN CONSCIOUSNESS, THAT I CAN THINK WITH 
MY THOUGHTS, THAT I WISH OR DO NOT WISH TO WRITE ? 

I should like to know what consciousness he is talking of, 
over and above that which I have illustrated by the exam 
ple of the stone. 

As a matter of fact I, without, I hope, contradicting my 
consciousness, that is my reason and experience, and with 
out cherishing ignorance and misconception, deny that I 
can by any absolute power of thought think, that I wish 
or do not wish to write. I appeal to the consciousness, 
which he has doubtless experienced, that in dreams he 
has not the power of thinking that he wishes, or does not 



39 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXII. 

wish to write; and that, when he dreams that he wishes 
to write, he has not the power not to dream that he 
wishes to write. I think he must also have experienced, 
that the mind is not always equally capable of thinking 
of the same object, but according as the body is more 
capable for the image of this or that object being excited 
in it, so is the mind more capable of thinking of the 
same object. 

When he further adds, that the causes for his applying 
his mind to writing have led him, but not constrained 
him to write, he merely means (if he will look at the 
question impartially), that his disposition was then in a 
state, in which it could easily be acted on by causes, 
which would have been powerless under other circum 
stances, as for instance, when he was under a violent 
emotion. That is, causes, which at other times would not 
have constrained him, have constrained him, in this case, 
not to write against his will, but necessarily to wish to 
write. 

As for his statement, that IF WE WERE CONSTRAINED BY 

EXTERNAL CAUSES, NO ONE COULD ACQUIRE THE HABIT OF 

VIRTUE, I know not what is his authority for saying, that 
firmness and constancy of disposition cannot arise from 
predestined necessity, but only from free will. 

What he finally adds, that IF THIS WERE GRANTED, ALL 
WICKEDNESS WOULD BE EXCUSABLE, I meet with the ques 
tion, What then ? Wicked men are not less to be feared, 
and are not less harmful, when they are wicked from 
necessity. However, on this point I would ask you to 
refer to my Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, Part 
II., chap. viii. 

In a word, I should like your friend, who makes these 
objections, to tell me, how he reconciles the human virtue, 
which he says arises from the free decision of the mind, 
with God s pre-ordainment of the universe. If, with Des 
cartes, he confesses his inability to do so, he is endeavor 
ing to direct against me the weapon which has already 
pierced himself. But in vain. For if you examine my 
opinion attentively, you will see that it is quite consist 
ent, etc. 



LETTER LXIII.] CORRESPONDENCE 399 

LETTER LXIII. (LIX.) 

TO SPINOZA. 

[The writer exhorts Spinoza to publish the treatises on <( Ethics w and on 
the ^Improvement of the Understanding. Remarks on the definition 
of motion. On the difference between a true and an adequate 
idea.] 

MOST EXCELLENT SIR, When shall we have your 
method of rightly directing the reason in the acquisition 
of unknown truths, and your general treatise on physics ? 
I know you have already proceeded far with them. The 
first has already come to my knowledge, and the second I 
have become aware of from the Lemmas added to the sec 
ond part of the (< Ethics }> ; whereby many difficulties in 
physics are readily solved. If time and opportunity per 
mit, I humbly beg from you a true DEFINITION OF MOTION 
and its explanation; also to know how, seeing that ex 
tension in so far as it is conceived in itself is indivisible, 
immutable, etc., we can infer b priori, that there can 
arise so many varieties of it, and consequently the exist 
ence of figure in the particles of any given body, which 
are, nevertheless, in every body various, and distinct 
from the figures of the parts, which compose the reality 
of any other body. You have already, by word of mouth, 
pointed out to me a method, which you employ in the 
search for truths as yet unknown. I find this method to 
be very excellent, and at the same time very easy, in so 
far as I have formed an opinion on it, and I can assert 
that from this single discovery I have made great prog 
ress in mathematics. I wish, therefore, that you would 
give me a true definition of an adequate, a true, a false, 
a fictitious, and a doubtful idea. I have been in search 
of the difference between a true and an adequate idea. 
Hitherto, however, I can ascertain nothing except after 
inquiring into a thing, and forming a certain con 
cept or idea of it. I then (in order to elicit whether this 
true idea is also an adequate idea of its object) inquire, 
what is the cause of this idea or concept* when this is 



400 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXIII. 

ascertained, I again ask, What is the cause of this prior 
concept ? and so I go on always inquiring for the causes 
of the causes of ideas, until I find a cause of such a kind, 
that I cannot find any cause for it, except that among 
all the ideas which I can command this alone exists. If, 
for instance, we inquire the true origin of our errors, 
Descartes will answer, that it consists in our giving assent 
to things not yet clearly perceived. But supposing this 
to be the true idea of the thing, I nevertheless shall not 
yet be able to determine all things necessary to be known 
concerning it, unless I have also an adequate idea of 
the thing in question; in order to obtain such, therefore, 
I inquire into the cause of this concept, how it happens 
that we give assent to things not clearly understood 
and I answer, that it arises from defective knowledge. 
But here I cannot inquire further, and ask what is the 
cause, that we are ignorant of certain things; hence I 
see that I have detected an adequate idea of the origin 
of our errors. Here, meanwhile, I ask you, whether, see 
ing that many things expressed in infinite modes have an 
adequate idea of themselves, and that from every ade 
quate idea all that can be known of its object can be 
inferred, though more readily from some ideas than others, 
whether, I say, this may be the means of knowing which 
idea is to be preferred ? For instance, one adequate idea 
of a circle consists in the equality of its radii; another 
adequate idea consists in the infinite right angles equal 
to one another, made by the intersection of two lines, etc., 
and thus we have infinite expressions, each giving the 
adequate nature of a circle. Now, though all the proper 
ties of a circle may be inferred from every one of them, 
they may be deduced much more easily from some than 
from others. So also he, who considers lines applied to 
curves, will be able to draw many conclusions as to the 
measurement of curves, but will do so more readily from 
the consideration of tangents, etc. Thus I have wished 
to indicate how far I have progressed in this study; I 
await perfection in it, or, if I am wrong on any point, 
correction; also the definition I asked for. Farewell. 
5 Jan., 1675. 



LETTER LXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 401 

LETTER LXIV. (LX.) 
SPINOZA TO ... 

[The difference between a true and an adequate idea is merely 
extrinsic, etc. The Hague, Jan., 1675.] 

HONORED SIR. Between a true and an adequate idea, 
I recognize no difference, except that the epithet true only 
has regard to the agreement between the idea and its 
object, whereas the epithet adequate has regard to the 
nature of the idea in itself; so that in reality there is no 
difference between a true and an adequate idea beyond 
this extrinsic relation. However, in order that I may 
know, from which idea out of many all the properties of 
its object may be deduced, I pay attention to one point 
only, namely, that the idea or definition should express 
the efficient cause of its object. For instance, in inquiring 
into the properties of a circle, I ask, whether from the idea 
of a circle, that it consists of infinite right angles, I can 
deduce all its properties. I ask, I repeat, whether this 
idea involves the efficient cause of a circle. If it does 
not, I look for another, namely, that a circle is the space 
described by a line, of which one point is fixed, and the 
other movable. As this definition explains the efficient 
cause, I know that I can deduce from it all the properties 
of a circle. So, also, when I define God as a supremely 
perfect Being, then, since that definition does not express 
the efficient cause (I mean the efficient cause internal as 
well as external ) I shall not be able to infer therefrom all 
the properties of God; as I can, when I define God as a 
Being, etc. (see Ethics, I. Def. vi.). As for your other 
inquiries, namely, that concerning motion, and those per 
taining to method, my observations on them are not yet 
written out in due order, so I will reserve them for another 
occasion. 

As regards your remark, that he "who considers lines 
applied to curves makes many deductions with regard to 
26 



402 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXV. 

the measurement of curves, but does so with greater 
facility from the consideration of tangents, " etc. , I think 
that from the consideration of tangents many deductions 
will be made with more difficulty, than from the consid 
eration of lines applied in succession; and I assert abso 
lutely, that from certain properties of any particular thing 
( whatever idea be given ) some things may be discovered 
more readily, others with more difficulty, though all are 
concerned with the nature of the thing. I think it need 
only be observed, that an idea should be sought for of 
such a kind, that all properties may be inferred, as has 
been said above. He who is about to deduce all the 
properties of a particular thing, knows that the ultimate 
properties will necessarily be the most difficult to dis 
cover, etc. 



LETTER LXV. (LXIII.) 

G. H. SCHALLER TO SPINOZA. 

[Schaller asks for answers to four questions of his friend Tschirn 
hausen on the attributes of God, and mentions that Tschirnhausen 
has removed the unfavorable opinion of Spinoza lately conceived 
by Boyle and Oldenburg.] 

MOST DISTINGUISHED AND EXCELLENT SIR, I should 
blush for my silence, which has lasted so long, and has 
laid me open to the charge of ingratitude for your kind 
ness extended to me beyond my merits, if I did not reflect 
that your generous courtesy inclines rather to excuse than 
to accuse, and also know that you devote your leisure, for 
the common good of your friends, to serious studies, which 
it would be harmful and injurious to disturb without due 
cause. For this reason I have been silent, and have mean 
while been content to hear from friends of your good 
health : I send you this letter to inform you, that our noble 
friend von Tschirnhausen is enjoying the same in England, 
and has three times in the letters he has sent me bidden 



LETTER LXV.] CORRESPONDENCE 403, 

me convey his kindest regards to the master, again bidding 
me request from you the solution of the following ques 
tions, and forward to him your hoped-for answer: would 
the master be pleased to convince him by positive proof, 
not by a reduction to the impossible, that we cannot know 
any attributes of God, save thought and extension ? 
Further, whether it follows that creatures constituted under 
other attributes can form no idea of extension ? If so, it 
would follow that there must be as many worlds as there 
are attributes of God. For instance, there would be as 
much room for extension in worlds affected by other 
attributes, as there actually exists of extension in our 
world. But as we perceive nothing save thought besides 
extension, so creatures in the other world would perceive 
nothing besides the attributes of that world and thought. 

Secondly, as the understanding of God differs from our 
understanding as much in essence as in existence, it has, 
therefore, nothing in common with it; therefore (by 
"Ethics," I. iii.), God s understanding cannot be the cause 
of our own. 

Thirdly (in (< Ethics," I. x. note), you say, that NOTHING 

IN NATURE IS CLEARER THAN THAT EVERY ENTITY MUST BE 
CONCEIVED UNDER SOME ATTRIBUTE (this I thoroughly 

understand), AND THAT THE MORE IT HAS OF REALITY OR 

BEING, THE MORE ATTRIBUTES APPERTAIN TO IT. It Seems 

to follow from this, that there are entities possessing 
three, four, or more attributes (though we gather from 
what has been demonstrated that every being consists 
only of two attributes, namely, a certain attribute of 
God and the idea of that attribute). 

Fourthly, I should like to have examples of those 
things which are immediately produced by God, and 
those which are produced through the means of some in 
finite modification. Thought and extension seem to be 
of the former kind; understanding in thought and mo 
tion in extension seem to be of the latter. 

And these are the points which our said friend von 
Tschirnhausen joins with me in wishing to have ex 
plained by your excellence, if perchance your spare time 
allows it. He further relates, that Mr. Boyle and Old- 



404 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXVI. 

enburg had formed a strange idea of your personal char 
acter, but that he has not only removed it, but also given 
reasons, which have not only led them back to a most 
worthy and favorable opinion thereof, but also made them 
value most highly the tt Theologico- Political Treatise.* Of 
this I have not ventured to inform you, because of your 
health. Be assured that I am, and live, 

Most noble sir, 
for every good office your most devoted servant, 

G. H. SCHALLER. 
AMSTERDAM, 25 July, 1675. 

Mr. a Gent and J. Rieuwerts dutifully greet you. 



LETTER LXVI. (LXIV.) 
SPINOZA TO ... 

[Spinoza answers by reference to the first three books of the 
Ethics. ] 

DEAR SIR, I am glad that you have at last had occa 
sion to refresh me with one of your letters, always most 
welcome to me. I heartily beg that you will frequently 
repeat the favor, etc. 

I proceed to consider your doubts : to the first I answer, 
that the human mind can only acquire knowledge of 
those things which the idea of a body actually existing 
involves, or of what can be inferred from such an idea. 
For the power of anything is defined solely by its essence 
( Ethics, III. vii.); the essence of the mind ( Ethics, w 
II. xiii.) consists solely in this, that it is the idea of 
body actually existing; therefore, the mind s power of 
understanding only extends to things, which this idea of 
body contains in itself, or which follow therefrom. Now 
this idea of body does not involve or express any of 
God s attributes, save extension and thought. For its 
object (ideatum), namely, body (by <( Ethics, w II. vi.) has 



LETTER LXVL] CORRESPONDENCE 405 

God for its cause, in so far as he is regarded under the 
attribute of extension, and not in so far as he is re 
garded under any other; therefore ("Ethics," I. Ax. vi.), 
this idea of the body involves the knowledge of God, 
only in so far as he is regarded under the attribute of 
extension. Further, this idea, in so far as it is a mode 
of thinking, has also (by the same proposition) God for 
its cause, in so far as he is regarded as a thinking 
thing, and not in so far as he is regarded under any 
other attribute. Hence (by the same axiom) the idea 
of this idea involves the knowledge of God, in so far 
as he is regarded under the attribute of thought, and 
not in so far as he is regarded under any attribute. It 
is therefore plain, that the human mind, or the idea of 
the human body neither involves nor expresses any at 
tributes to God save these two. Now from these two 
attributes, or their modifications, no other attribute of God 
can ( (< Ethics, w I. x.) be inferred or conceived. I therefore 
conclude that the human mind cannot attain knowledge 
of any attribute of God besides these, which is the propo 
sition you inquire about. With regard to your question, 
whether there must be as many worlds as there are at 
tributes, I refer you to "Ethics," II. vii. note. 

Moreover, this proposition might be proved more readily 
by a reduction to the absurd; I am accustomed, when 
the proposition is negative, to employ this mode of 
demonstration as more in character. However, as the 
question you ask is positive, I make use of the positive 
method, and ask, whether one thing can be produced 
from another, from which it differs both in essence and 
existence; for things which differ to this extent seem to 
have nothing in common. But since all particular things, 
except those which are produced from things similar to 
themselves, differ from their causes both in essence and 
existence, I see here no reason for doubt. 

The sense in which I mean that God is the efficient 
cause of things, no less of their essence than of their ex 
istence, I think has been sufficiently explained in (< Ethics }> 
I. xxv. note and corollary. The axiom in the note to 
Ethics I. x., as I hinted at the end of the said note, is 



406 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXVII. 

based on the idea which we have of a Being absolutely 
infinite, not on the fact, that there are or may be beings 
possessing three, four or more attributes. 

Lastly, the examples you ask for of the first kind are, 
in thought, absolutely infinite understanding; in exten 
sion, motion and rest; an example of the second kind is 
the sum of the whole extended universe (fades totius 
universi), which, though it varies in infinite modes, yet 
remains always the same. Cf. <( Ethics }) II. note to 
Lemma vii. before Prop. xiv. 

Thus, most excellent Sir, I have answered, as I think, 
the objections of yourself and your friend. If you think 
any uncertainty remains, I hope you will not neglect to 
tell me, so that I may, if possible, remove it. 

THE HAGUE, 29 July, 1675. 



LETTER LXVII. (LXV.) 

. . . TO SPINOZA. 

[A fresh inquiry as to whether there are two or more attributes 

of God. ] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, I should like a demonstration of 
what you say : namely, that the soul cannot perceive any 
attributes of God, except extension and thought. Though 
this might appear evident to me, it seems possible that 
the contrary might be deduced from <( Ethics w II. vii. note ; 
perhaps because I do not rightly grasp the meaning of 
that passage. I have therefore resolved, distinguished 
Sir, to show you how I make the deduction, earnestly 
begging you to aid me with your usual courtesy, wher 
ever I do not rightly represent your meaning. I reason 
as follows: Though I gather that the universe is one, 
it is not less clear from the passage referred to, that it 
is expressed in infinite modes, and therefore that every 
individual thing is expressed in infinite modes. Hence 
it seems to follow, that the modification constituting my 



LETTER LXVIIL] CORRESPONDENCE 407 

mind, and the modification constituting my body, though 
one and the same modification, is yet expressed in infi 
nite ways first, through thought; secondly, through ex 
tension ; thirdly, through some attribute of God unknown 
to me, and so on to infinity, seeing that there are in God 
infinite attributes, and the order and connection of the 
modifications seem to be the same in all. Hence arises 
the question: Why the mind, which represents a cer 
tain modification, the same modification being expressed 
not only in extension, but in infinite other ways, why, 
I repeat, does the mind perceive that modification only 
as expressed through extension, to wit, the human body, 
and not as expressed through any other attributes ? Time 
does not allow me to pursue the subject further; 
perhaps my difficulties will be removed by further re 
flection. 

LONDON, 12 Aug., 1675. 



LETTER LXVIIL (LXVI.) 
SPINOZA TO 



[In this fragment of a letter Spinoza refers his friend to Ethics, 
I. x. and II. vii. note.] 



DISTINGUISHED SIR, . . . But in answer to your 
objection I say, that although each particular thing be 
expressed in infinite ways in the infinite understanding 
of God, yet those infinite ideas, whereby it is expressed, 
cannot constitute one and the same mind of a particular 
thing, but infinite minds; seeing that each of these in 
finite ideas has no connection with the rest, as I have 
explained in the same note to <( Ethics, w II. vii., and as is 
also evident from I. x. If you will reflect on these 



4o8 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXVIII.A. 

passages a little, you will see that all difficulty vanishes, 
etc. 

THE HAGUE, 18 August, 1675. 



LETTER LXVIII.A. 

G. H. SCHALLER TO SPINOZA. 

[ Schaller relates to Spinoza Tschirnhausen s doings in France, and 
letter to him, and makes known to Spinoza the answers contained 
in that letter to Spinoza s objections in Letter LXVIII. and the 
request of Leibnitz to see Spinoza s unpublished writings.] 

AMSTERDAM, 14 Nov., 1675. 

MOST LEARNED AND EXCELLENT MASTER, MY MOST 
VENERABLE PATRON, I hope that you duly receive my 

letter with s method,* and likewise, that you are up 

to the present time in good health, as I am. 

But for three months I had no letter from our friend 
von Tschirnhausen, whence I formed sad conjectures that 
he had made a fatal journey, when he left England for 
France. Now that I have received a letter, in my full 
ness of joy I felt bound, according to his request, to 
communicate it to the master, and to let you know, with 
his most dutiful greeting, that he has arrived safely in 
Paris, and found there Mr. Huygens, as we had told him, 
and consequently has in every way sought to please him, 
and is thus highly esteemed by him. He mentioned, 
that the master had recommended to him Huygens s con 
versation, and made very much of him personally. This 
greatly pleased Huygens; so he answered that he like 
wise greatly esteemed you personally, and he has now 
received from you a copy of the <( Theologico-Political 
Treatise, * which is esteemed by many there, and it is 
eagerly inquired, whether there are extant any more of 
the same writer s works. To this Mr. von Tschirnhausen 

* See the next letter. 



LETTER LXVIII.A.] CORRESPONDENCE 409 

replied that he knew of none but the Demonstrations in 
the first and second parts of the Cartesian Principles. 
But he mentioned nothing about the master, but what I 
have said, and so he hopes that he has not displeased 

you herein. 

******* 

To the objection that you last made he replies, that 
those few words which I wrote at the master s dicta 
tion, * explained to him your meaning more thoroughly, 
and that he has favorably entertained the said reasonings 
(for by these two methods f they best admit of explana 
tion). But two reasons have obliged him to continue in 
the opinion implied in his recent objection. Of these 
the first is, that otherwise there appears to be a contra 
diction between the fifth and seventh propositions of the 
second book. For in the former of these it is laid down, 
that the objects of ideas are the efficient causes of the 
ideas, which yet seems to be refuted by the quotation, 
in the proof of the latter, of the fourth axiom of Part I. 
Or, as I rather think, I do not make the right applica 
tion of this axiom according to the author s intention, 
which I would most willingly be told by him, if his 
leisure permits it. The second cause which prevented 
me from following the explanation he gives was, 
that thereby the attribute of thought is pronounced to 
extend much more widely than other attributes. But 
since every one of the attributes contributes to make up 
the essence of God, I do not quite see how this fact 
does not contradict the opinion just stated. I will say 
just this more, that if I may judge the minds of others 
by my own, there will be great difficulty in understand 
ing the seventh and eighth propositions of Book II., and 
this for no other reason than that the author has been 
pleased (doubtless because they seemed so plain to him) 
to accompany the demonstrations annexed to them with 
such short and laconic explanations. w 

* Letter LXVIII. 

f That is, I think, hearing from the author criticized what his precise 
meaning is, and attending carefully to his arguments in favor of the 
opinion thus precisely ascertained. [Tn.] 



4 io SPINOZA S [LETTER LXVIII.A. 

He further mentions, that he has found at Paris a man 
called Leibnitz, remarkably learned, and most skilled in 
various sciences, as also free from the vulgar prejudices 
of theology. With him he has formed an intimate 
acquaintance, founded on the fact that Leibnitz labors 
with him to pursue the perfection of the intellect, and 
in fact, reckons nothing better or more useful. Von 
Tschirnhausen says, that he is most practiced in ethics, 
and speaks without any stimulus of the passions by the 
sole dictate of reason. He adds, that he is most skilled 
in physics, and also in metaphysical studies concerning 
God and the soul. Finally, he concludes that he is most 
worthy of having communicated to him the master s 
writings, if you will first give your permission, for he 
believes that the author will thence gain a great advant 
age, as he promises to show at length, if the master be 
so pleased. But if not, do not doubt, in the least, that 
he will honorably keep them concealed as he has prom 
ised, as in fact he has not made the slightest mention of 
them. Leibnitz also highly values the (< Theologico-Polit- 
ical Treatise,* on the subject of which he once wrote the 
master a letter, if he is not mistaken. And therefore I 
would beg my master, that, unless there is some reason 
against him, you will not refuse your permission in 
accordance with your gracious kindness, but will, if pos 
sible, open your mind to me, as soon as may be, for after 
receiving your answers I shall be able to reply to our 
friend von Tschirnhausen, which I would gladly do on 
Tuesday evening, unless important hindrances cause my 
master to delay. 

Mr. Bresser, on his return from Cleves, has sent here a 
large quantity of the beer of that country ; I suggested to 
him that he should make a present to the master of half 
a ton, which he promised to do, and added a most friendly 
greeting. 

Finally, excuse my unpracticed style and hurried writ 
ing, and give me your orders, that I may have a real 
occasion of proving myself, most excellent sir, 

Your most ready servant, 

G. H. SCHALLER. 



LETTER LXVIII.B.] CORRESPONDENCE 411 

LETTER LXVIII.B. 

SPINOZA TO SCHALLER. 

[Spinoza answers all the points in Schaller s letter, and hesitates to 
intrust his writings to Leibnitz.] 

MOST EXPERIENCED SIR, AND VALUED FRIEND, I was 
much pleased to learn from your letter, received to-day, 
that you are well, and that our friend von Tschirnhausen 
has happily accomplished his journey to France. In the 
conversation which he had about me with Mr. Huygens, 
he behaved, at least in my opinion, very judiciously; and 
besides, I am very glad that he has found so convenient 
an opportunity for the purpose which he intended. But 
what it is he has found in the fourth axiom of Part I. 
that seems to contradict Proposition v. of Part II. I do 
not see. For in that proposition it is affirmed, that the 
essence of every idea has for its cause God, in so far as 
he is considered as a thinking thing; but in that axiom, 
that the knowledge or idea of a cause depends on the 
knowledge or idea of an effect. But, to tell the truth, 
I do not quite follow, in this matter, the meaning of your 
letter, and suspect that either in it, or in his copy of the 
book, there is a slip of the pen. For you write, that it 
is affirmed in Proposition v. that the objects of ideas are 
the efficient causes of the ideas, whereas this is exactly 
what is expressly denied in that proposition, and I now 
think that this is the cause of the whole confusion. Ac 
cordingly it would be useless for me at present to try to 
write at greater length on this subject, but I must wait 
till you explain to me his mind more clearly, and till I 
know whether he has a correct copy. I believe that I 
have an epistolary acquaintance with the Leibnitz he 
mentions. But why he, who was a counselor at Frank 
fort, has gone to France, I do not know. As far as I 
could conjecture from his letters, he seemed to me a man 
of liberal mind, and versed in every science. But yet I 
think it imprudent so soon to intrust my writings to 



412 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXIX. 

him. I should like first to know what is his business in 
France, and the judgment of our friend von Tschirn- 
hausen, when he has been longer in his company, and 
knows his character more intimately. However, greet 
that friend of ours in my name, and let him command 
me what he pleases, if in anything I can be of service 
to him, and he will find me most ready to obey him in 
everything. 

I congratulate my most worthy friend Mr. Bresser on 
his arrival or return, and also thank him heartily for the 
promised beer, and will requite him, too, in anyway 
that I can. Lastly, I have not yet tried to find out your 
relation s method, nor do I think that I shall be able to 
apply my mind to trying it. For the more I think over 
the thing in itself, the more I am persuaded that you have 
not made gold, but had not sufficiently eliminated that 
which was hidden in the antimony. But more of this 
another time : at present I am prevented by want of leisure. 
In the meanwhile, if in anything I can assist you, you will 
always find me, most excellent sir, your friend and de 
voted servant, 

B. DE SPINOZA. 
THE HAGUE, 18 Nov., 1675. 



LETTER LXIX. (LXXX.) 
. . . TO SPINOZA. 

[ The writer asks for explanations of some passages in the letter 
about the infinite (XXIX.).] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, In the first place I can with great 
difficulty conceive, how it can be proved, a priori, that 
bodies exist having motion and figure, seeing that, in 
extension considered absolutely in itself, nothing of the 
kind is met with. Secondly, I should like to learn from 
you, how this passage in your letter on the infinite is to 
be understood: "THEY DO NOT HENCE INFER THAT SUCH 

THINGS ELUDE NUMBER BY THE MULTITUDE OF THEIR COM- 



LETTER LXX.] CORRESPONDENCE 413 

PONENT PARTS. For, as a matter of fact, all mathema 
ticians seem to me always to demonstrate, with regard to 
such infinities, that the number of the parts is so great, 
as to elude all expression in terms of number. And in 
the example you give of the two circles, you do not ap 
pear to prove this statement, which was yet what you 
had undertaken to do. For in this second passage you 
only show that they do not draw this conclusion from 

THE EXCESSIVE SIZE OF THE INTERVENING SPACE, Or from 

the fact that (( WE DO NOT KNOW THE MAXIMUM AND THE 
MINIMUM OF THE SAID SPACE*; but you do not demonstrate, 
as you intended, that the conclusion is not based on the 
multitude of parts, etc. 
2 May, 1676. 



LETTER LXX. (LXXXL) 

SPINOZA TO ... 
[Spinoza explains his view of the infinite.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, My statement concerning the in 
finite, that an infinity of parts cannot be inferred from a 
multitude of parts, is plain when we consider that if 
such a conclusion could be drawn from a multitude of 
parts, we should not be able to imagine a greater multi 
tude of parts; the first-named multitude, whatever it was, 
would have to be the greater, which is contrary to fact. 
For in the whole space between two non-concentric cir 
cles we conceive a greater multitude of parts than in half 
that space, yet the number of parts in the half, as in the 
whole of the space, exceeds any assignable number. 
Again from extension, as Descartes conceives it, to wit, 
a quiescent mass, it is not only difficult, as you say, but 
absolutely impossible, to prove the existence of bodies. 
For matter at rest, as it is in itself, will continue at rest, 
and will only be determined to motion by some more pow 
erful external cause; for this reason I have not hesitated 



414 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXI. 

on a former occasion to affirm, that the Cartesian princi 
ples of natural things are useless, not to say absurd. 
THE HAGUE, 5 May, 1676. 



LETTER LXXI. (LXXXII.) 
. . . TO SPINOZA. 

[How can the variety of the universe be shown a priori from the Spino- 
zistic conception of extension ?] 

MOST LEARNED SIR, I wish you would gratify me in 
this matter by pointing out how, from the conception of 
extension, as you give it, the variety of the universe can 
be shown a priori. You recall the opinion of Descartes, 
wherein he asserts, that this variety can only be deduced 
from extension, by supposing that, when motion was 
started by God, it caused this effect in extension. Now 
it appears to me, that he does not deduce the existence 
of bodies from matter at rest, unless, perhaps, you count 
as nothing the assumption of God as a motive power; 
you have not shown how such an effect must, a priori, 
necessarily follow from the nature of God. A difficulty 
which Descartes professed himself unable to solve as 
being beyond human understanding. I therefore ask you 
the question, knowing that you have other thoughts on 
the matter, unless perhaps there be some weighty cause 
for your unwillingness hitherto to disclose your opinion. 
If this, as I suppose, be not expedient, give me some 
hint of your meaning. You may rest assured, that 
whether you speak openly with me, or whether you em 
ploy reserve, my regard for you will remain unchanged. 

My special reasons for making the requests are as fol 
lows: I have always observed in mathematics, that from 
a given thing considered in itself, that is, from the defi 
nition of a given thing, we can only deduce a single 
property; if, however, we require to find several proper- 



LETTER LXXIL] CORRESPONDENCE 415 

ties, we are obliged to place the thing defined in rela 
tion to other things. Then from the conjunction of the 
definitions of these things new properties result. For 
instance, if I regard the circumference of a circle by 
itself, I can only infer that it is everywhere alike or 
uniform, in which property it differs essentially from all 
other curves; I shall never be able to infer any other 
properties. But if I place it in relation with other 
things, such as the radii drawn from the centre, two in 
tersecting lines, or many others, I shall be able hence 
to deduce many properties; this seems to be in 
opposition to Prop. xvi. of your <( Ethics, almost the princi 
pal proposition of the first book of your treatise. For it 
is there assumed as known, that from the given defini 
tion of anything several properties can be deduced. This 
seems to me impossible, unless we bring the thing de 
fined into relation with other things; and, further, I am 
for this reason unable to see, how from any attribute 
regarded singly, for instance, infinite extension, a variety 
of bodies can result; if you think that this conclusion 
cannot be drawn from one attribute considered by itself, 
but from all taken together, I should like to be instructed 
by you on the point, and shown how it should be con 
ceived. Farewell, etc. 

PARIS, 23 June, 1676. 



LETTER LXXIL (LXXXIII.) 
SPINOZA TO ... 

[Spinoza gives the required explanation. Mentions the treatise of 

Huet, etc.] 

DISTINGUISHED SIR, With regard to your question as 
to whether the variety of the universe can be deduced 
a priori from the conception of extension only, I believe I 
have shown clearly enough already that it cannot; and 



416 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXIII. 

that, therefore, matter has been ill-defined by Descartes as 
extension; it must necessarily be explained through an 
attribute, which expresses eternal and infinite essence. 
But perhaps, some day, if my life be prolonged, I may 
discuss the subject with you more clearly. For hitherto 
I have not been able to put any of these matters into due 
order. 

As to what you add; namely, that from the definition 
of a given thing considered in itself we can only deduce 
a single property, this is, perhaps, true in the case of 
very simple things (among which I count figures), but 
not in realities. For, from the fact alone, that I define 
God as a being to whose essence belongs existence, I 
infer several of his properties; namely, that he neces 
sarily exists, that he is one, unchangeable, infinite, etc. 
I could adduce several other examples, which, for the 
present, I pass over. 

In conclusion, I ask you to inquire, whether Huet s 
treatise (against the (< Tractatus Theologico-Politicus ), 
about which I wrote to you before, has yet been published, 
and whether you could send me a copy. Also, whether 
you yet know, what are the new discoveries about refrac 
tion. And so farewell, dear sir, and continue to regard 
yours, etc. 

THE HAGUE, 15 July, 1676. 



LETTER LXXIII. (LXVII.) 
ALBERT BURGH TO SPINOZA. 

[Albert Burgh announces his reception into the Romish Church, and 
exhorts Spinoza to follow his example.] 

I PROMISED to write to you on leaving my country, if 
anything noteworthy occurred on the journey. I take the 
opportunity which offers of an event of the utmost im 
portance, to redeem my engagement, by informing you 



LETTER LXXIIL] CORRESPONDENCE 417 

that I have, by God s infinite mercy, been received into 
the Catholic Church and made a member of the same. 
You may learn the particulars of the step from a letter 
which I have sent to the distinguished and accomplished 
Professor Craanen of Leyden. I will here subjoin a few 
remarks for your special benefit. 

Even as formerly I admired you for the subtlety and 
keenness of your natural gifts, so now do I bewail and 
deplore you ; inasmuch as being by nature most talented, 
and adorned by God with extraordinary gifts; being a 
lover, nay, a coveter of the truth, you yet allow yourself 
to be ensnared and deceived by that most wretched and 
most proud of beings, the prince of evil spirits. As for 
all your philosophy, what is it but a mere illusion and 
chimera? Yet to it you intrust not only your peace of 
mind in this life, but the salvation of your soul for 
eternity. See on what a wretched foundation all your 
doctrines rest. You assume that you have at length dis 
covered the true philosophy. How do you know that your 
philosophy is the best of all that ever have been taught in 
the world, are now being taught, or ever shall be taught ? 
Passing over what may be devised in the future, have you 
examined all the philosophies, ancient as well as modern, 
which are taught here, and in India, and everywhere 
throughout the whole world? Even if you have duly 
examined them, how do you know that you have chosen 
the best ? You will say : (< My philosophy is in harmony 
with right reason; other philosophies are not. M But all 
other philosophers except your own followers disagree 
with you, and with equal right say of their philosophy 
what you say of yours, accusing you, as you do them, of 
falsity and error. It is, therefore, plain, that before the 
truth of your philosophy can come to light, reasons must 
be advanced, which are not common to other philosophies, 
but apply solely to your own; or else you must admit 
that your philosophy is as uncertain and nugatory as 
the rest. 

However, restricting myself for the present to that 
book of yours with an impious title,* and mingling your 

* Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," 
27 



V 



418 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXIII. 

philosophy with your theology, as in reality you mingle 
them yourself, though with diabolic cunning you endeavor 
to maintain, that each is separate from the other, and 
has different principles, I thus proceed. 

Perhaps you will say: "Others have not read Holy 
Scripture so often as I have; and it is from Holy Scrip 
ture, the acknowledgment of which distinguishes Chris 
tians from the rest of the world, that I prove my 
doctrines. But how ? By comparing the clear passages 
with the more obscure I explain Holy Scripture, and out 
of my interpretations I frame dogmas, or else confirm 
those which are already concocted in my brain. w But, I 
adjure you, reflect seriously on what you say. How do 
you know that you have made a right application of 
your method, or again that your method is sufficient for 
the interpretation of Scripture, and that you are thus 
interpreting Scripture aright, especially as the Catholics 
say, and most truly, that the universal Word of God is not 
handed down to us in writing, hence that Holy Scripture 
cannot be explained through itself, I will not say by one 
man, but by the Church herself, who is the sole author 
ized interpreter ? The Apostolic traditions must likewise 
be consulted, as is proved by the testimony of Holy 
Scripture and the Holy Fathers, and as reason and ex 
perience suggest. Thus, as your first principles are most 
false and lead to destruction, what will become of all 
your doctrine, built up and supported on so rotten a 
foundation ? 

Wherefore, if you believe in Christ crucified, acknowl 
edge your pestilent heresy, reflect on the perverseness of 
your nature, and be reconciled with the Church. 

How do your proofs differ from those of all heretics, 
who ever have left, are now leaving, or shall in future 
leave God s Church ? All, like yourself, make use of the 
same principle, to wit, Holy Scripture taken by itself, 
for the concoction and establishment of their doctrines. 

Do not flatter yourself with the thought, that neither 
the Calvinists, it may be, nor the so-called Reformed 
Church, nor the Lutherans, nor the Mennonites, nor the 
Socinians, etc., can refute your doctrines. All these, as 



LETTER LXXIII.J CORRESPONDENCE 419 

I have said, are as wretched as yourself and like you are 
dwelling in the shadow of death. 

If you do not believe in Christ, you are more wretched 
than I can express. Yet the remedy is easy. Turn away 
from your sins, and consider the deadly arrogance of 
your wretched and insane reasoning. You do not 
believe in Christ. Why ? You will say : <( Because the 
teaching and the life of Christ, and also the Christian 
teaching concerning Christ are not at all in harmony 
with my teaching. w But again, I say, then you dare to 
think yourself greater than all those who have ever 
risen up in the State or Church of God, patriarchs, 
prophets, apostles, martyrs, doctors, confessors, and holy 
virgins innumerable, yea, in your blasphemy, than 
Christ himself. Do you alone surpass all these in doctrine, 
in manner of life, in every respect ? Will you, wretched 
pigmy, vile worm of the earth, yea, ashes, food of 
worms, will you in your unspeakable blasphemy, dare to 
put yourself before the incarnate, infinite wisdom of the 
Eternal Father ? Will you, alone, consider yourself 
wiser and greater than all those, who from the begin 
ning of the world have been in the Church of God, and 
have believed, or believe still, that Christ would come or 
has already come ? On what do you base this rash, insane, 
deplorable, and inexcusable arrogance ? 

******* 

If you cannot pronounce on what I have just been 
enumerating (dividing rods, alchemy, etc.), why, 
wretched man, are you so puffed up with diabolical pride, 
as to pass rash judgment on the awful mysteries of 
Christ s life and passion, which the Catholics themselves 
in their teaching declare to be incomprehensible ? Why 
do you commit the further insanity of silly and futile 
carping at the numberless miracles and signs, which 
have been wrought through the virtue of Almighty God 
by the apostles and disciples of Christ, and afterward 
by so many thousand saints, in testimony to, and con 
firmation of the truth of the Catholic faith; yea, which 
are being wrought in our own time in cases without 
number throughout the world, by God s almighty good- 



420 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXIIL 

ness and mercy ? If you cannot gainsay these, and 
surely you cannot, why stand aloof any longer? Join 
hands of fellowship, and repent from your sins: put on 
humility, and be born again. 

[ Albert Burgh requests Spinoza to consider: (i.) The large number 
of believers in the Romish faith, (ii.) The uninterrupted succession 
of the Church, (iii.) The fact that a few unlearned men converted 
the world to Christianity, (iv.) The antiquity, the immutability, the 
infallibility, the incorruption, the unity, and the vast extent of the 
Catholic Religion ; also the fact that secession from it involves damna 
tion, and that it will itself endure as long as the world, (v.) The 
admirable organization of the Romish Church, (vi.) The superior 
morality of Catholics, (vii.) The frequent cases of recantation of 
opinions among heretics, (viii.) The miserable life led by atheists, 
whatever their outward demeanor may be.] 

I have written this letter to you with intentions truly 
Christian; first, in order to show the love I bear to you, 
though you are a heathen ; secondly, in order to beg you 
not to persist in converting others. 

I therefore will thus conclude : God is willing to snatch 
your soul from eternal damnation, if you will allow him. 
Do not doubt that the Master who has called you so 
often through others, is now calling you for the last 
time through me, who having obtained grace from the 
ineffable mercy of God himself, beg the same for you 
with my whole heart. Do not deny me. For if you do 
not now give ear to God who calls you, the wrath of 
the Lord will be kindled against you, and there is a dan 
ger of your being abandoned by his infinite mercy, and 
becoming a wretched victim of the Divine Justice, which 
consumes all things in wrath. Such a fate may Almighty 
God avert for the greater glory of his name, and for 
the salvation of your soul, also for a salutary example 
for the imitation of your most unfortunate and idolatrous 
followers, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, 
who with the Eternal Father, liveth and reigneth in 
the Unity of the Holy Spirit, God for all Eternity. 
Amen. 

FLORENCE, Sept. 3, 1675. 



LETTER LXXIV.j CORRESPONDENCE 421 

LETTER LXXIV. (LXXVI.) 
SPINOZA T@ ALIJERT BURGH. 

[Spinoza laments the step taken by his pupil and answers his argu 
ments. The Hague, end of 1675.] 

THAT, which I could scarcely believe when told me by 
others, I learn at last from your own letter; not only have 
you been made a member of the Romish Church, but you 
are become a very keen champion of the same, and have 
already learned wantonly to insult and rail against your 
opponents. 

At first I resolved to leave your letter unanswered, 
thinking that time and experience will assuredly be of 
more avail than reasoning, to restore you to yourself and 
your friends ; not to mention other arguments, which won 
your approval formerly, when we were discussing the case 
of Steno,* in whose steps you are now following. But 
some of my friends, who, like myself had formed great 
hopes from your superior talents, strenuously urge me not 
to fail in the offices of a friend, but to consider what you 
lately were, rather than what you are, with other arguments 
of the like nature. I have thus been induced to write 
you this short reply, which I earnestly beg you will think 
worthy of calm perusal. 

I will not imitate those adversaries of Romanism, who 
would set forth the vices of priests and popes with a view 
to kindling your aversion. Such considerations are often 
put forward from evil and unworthy motives, and tend 
rather to irritate than to instruct. I will even admit, 
that more men of learning and of blameless life are 
found in the Romish Church than in any other Christian 
body; for, as it contains more members, so will every 
type of character be more largely represented in it. You 
cannot possibly deny, unless you have lost your memory 
as well as your reason, that in every church there are 

*A Danish anatomist, who renounced Lutheranism for Catholicism 
at Florence in 1669. 



422 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXIV. 

thoroughly honorable men, who worship God with justice 
and charity. We have known many such among the 
Lutherans, the Reformed Church, the Mennonites, and the 
Enthusiasts. Not to go further, you knew your own rela 
tions, who in the time of the Duke of Alva suffered every 
kind of torture bravely and willingly for the sake of their 
religion. In fact, you must admit, that personal holiness 
is not peculiar to the Romish Church, but common to 
all churches. 

As it is by this, that we know (< that we dwell in God 
and he in us w (i Ep. John, iv. 13), it follows, that what 
distinguishes the Roman Church from others must be 
something entirely superfluous, and therefore founded 
solely on superstition. For, as John says, justice and 
charity are the one sure sign of the true Catholic faith, 
and the true fruits of the Holy Spirit. Wherever they 
are found, there in truth is Christ; wherever they are 
absent, Christ is absent also. For only by the spirit of 
Christ can we be led to the love of justice and charity. 
Had you been willing to reflect on these points, you 
would not have ruined yourself, nor have brought deep 
affliction on your relations, who are now sorrowfully be 
wailing your evil case. 

But I return to your letter, which you begin, by lament 
ing that I allow myself to be ensnared by the prince of 
evil spirits. Pray take heart and recollect yourself. 
When you had the use of your faculties, you were wont, 
if I mistake not, to worship an infinite God, by whose 
efficacy all things absolutely come to pass and are pre 
served; now you dream of a prince, God s enemy, who 
against God s will ensnares and deceives very many men 
(rarely good ones, to be sure), whom God thereupon 
hands over to this master of wickedness to be tortured 
eternally. The Divine justice therefore allows the devil 
to deceive men and remain unpunished; but it by no 
means allows to remain unpunished the men, who have 
been by that self-same devil miserably deceived and 
ensnared. 

These absurdities might so far be tolerated, if you 
worshipped a God infinite and eternal; not one whom 



LETTER LXXIV.J CORRESPONDENCE 423 

Chastillon in the town which the Dutch call Tienen, gave 
with impunity to horses to be eaten. And, poor wretch, 
you bewail me ? My philosophy, which you never beheld, 
you style a chimera ? O youth, deprived of understanding, 
who has bewitched you into believing, that the supreme 
and eternal is eaten by you, and held in your intestines ? 
Yet 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 ? W 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 tw r o 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 testi 
mony 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 pro 
claim of yours. 

As to what you add of the common consent of myriads 
of men and the uninterrupted ecclesiastical succession, 
this is the very catch-word of the Pharisees. They with 
no less confidence than the devotees of Rome bring for- 



424 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXIV. 

ward their myriad witnesses, who as pertinaciouly as the 
Roman witnesses repeat what they have heard, as though 
it were their personal experience. Further, they carry 
back their line to Adam. They boast with equal arro 
gance, that their Church has continued to this day un 
moved and unimpaired in spite of the hatred of Chris 
tians and heathen. They more than any other sect are 
supported by antiquity. They exclaim with one voice, 
that they have received their traditions from God him 
self, and that they alone preserve the Word of God both 
written and unwritten. That all heresies have issued 
from them, and that they have remained constant 
through thousands of years under no constraint of tem 
poral dominion, but by the sole efficacy of their super 
stition, no one can deny. The miracles they tell of 
would tire a thousand tongues. But their chief boast is, 
that they count a far greater number of martyrs than 
any other nation, a number which is daily increased by 
those who suffer with singular constancy for the faith 
they profess; nor is their boasting false. I myself knew 
among others of a certain Judah called the faithful,* 
who in the midst of the flames, when he was already 
thought to be dead, lifted his voice to sing the hymn be 
ginning, (( To Thee, O God, I offer up my soul, and so 
singing, perished. 

The organization of the Roman Church, which you so 
greatly praise, I confess to be politic, and to many lucra 
tive. I should believe that there was no other more 
convenient for deceiving the people and keeping men s 
minds in check, if it were not for the organization of the 
Mahometan Church, which far surpasses it. For from the 
time when this superstition arose, there has been no 
schism in its church. 

If, therefore, you had rightly judged, you would have 
seen that only your third point tells in favor of the 
Christians, namely, that unlearned and common men 

* Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon de San Clemente, a Spanish noble 
man who was converted to Judaism through the study of Hebrew, and 
was burnt at Valladolid on the 25th July, 1644. POLLOCK S <( Spinoza 
chap. ii. , last note. 



LETTER LXXIV.] CORRESPONDENCE 425 

should have been able to convert nearly the whole world 
to a belief in Christ. But this reason militates not only 
for the Romish Church, but for all those who profess the 
name of Christ. 

But assume that all the reasons you bring forward tell 
in favor solely of the Romish Church. Do you think 
that you can thereby prove mathematically the authority 
of that Church ? As the case is far otherwise, why do 
you wish me to believe that my demonstrations are in- 
spired by the prince of evil spirits, while your own are 
inspired by God, especially as I see, and as your letter 
clearly shows, that you have been led to become a devotee 
of this Church not by your love of God, but by your 
fear of hell, the single cause of superstition ? Is this 
your humility, that you trust nothing to yourself, but 
everything to others, who are condemned by many 
of their fellow men ? Do you set it down to pride and 
arrogance, that I employ reason and acquiesce in this 
true Word of God, which is in the mind and can never 
be depraved or corrupted ? Cast away this deadly super 
stition, acknowledge the reason which God has given 
you, and follow that, unless you would be numbered with 
the brutes. Cease, I say, to call ridiculous errors myster 
ies, and do not basely confound those things which are 
unknown to us, or have not yet been discovered, with 
what is proved to be absurd, like the horrible secrets of 
this Church of yours, which, in proportion as they are 
repugnant to right reason, you believe to transcend the 
understanding. 

But the fundamental principle of the Tractatus Theo- 
logico-Politicus, that Scripture should only be expounded 
through Scripture, which you so wantonly without any 
reason proclaim to be false, is not merely assumed, but 
categorically proved to be true or sound; especially in 
chapter vii., where also the opinions of adversaries are 
confuted; see also what is proved at the end of chapter 
xv. If you will reflect on these things, and also examine 
the history of the Church (of which I see you are com 
pletely ignorant), in order to see how false, in many 
respects, is Papal tradition, and by what course of events 



426 SPINOZA S [LETTER LXXV. 

and with what cunning the Pope of Rome six hundred 
years after Christ obtained supremacy over the Church, I 
do not doubt that you will eventually return to your 
senses. That this result may come to pass I, for your 
sake, heartily wish. Farewell, etc. 



LETTER LXXV. (LXIX.) 
SPINOZA TO LAMBERT VAN VELTHUYSEN 

(Doctor of Medicine at Utrecht). 
[Of the proposed annotation of the Tractatus Theologico- Politic us. ] 

MOST EXCELLENT AND DISTINGUISHED SIR, I wonder at 
our friend Neustadt having said, that I am meditating 
the refutation of the various writings circulated against 
my book,* and that among the works for me to refute 
he places your MS. For I certainly have never enter 
tained the intention of refuting any of my adversaries: 
they all seem to me utterly unworthy of being answered. 
I do not remember to have said to Mr. Neustadt any 
thing more, than that I proposed to illustrate some of the 
obscurer passages in the treatise with notes, and that I 
should add to these your MS., and my answer, if your 
consent could be gained, on which last point I begged 
him to speak to you, adding, that if you refused per 
mission on the ground that some of the observations in 
my answer were too harshly put, you should be given 
full power to modify or expunge them. In the mean 
while, I am by no means angry with Mr. Neustadt, but 
I wanted to put the matter before you as it stands, that 
if your permission be not granted, I might show you 
that I have no wish to publish your MS. against your 
will. Though I think it might be issued without endan 
gering your reputation, if it appears without your name, 
I will take no steps in the matter, unless you give me 
leave. But, to tell the truth, you would do me a far 

*The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus." 



LETTER LXXV.] CORRESPONDENCE 427 

greater kindness, if you would put in writing the argu 
ments with which you think you can impugn my treatise, 
and add them to your MS. I most earnestly beg you to 
do this. For there is no one whose arguments I would 
more willingly consider; knowing, as I do, that you are 
bound solely by your zeal for truth, and that your mind 
is singularly candid. I therefore beg you again and 
again, not to shrink from undertaking this task, and to 
believe me, Yours most obediently, 

B. DE SPINOZA. 



StKftlHG SECT 



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CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

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