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Ethics: with The Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters (Hackett Classics)

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Since their publication in 1982, Samuel Shirley's translations of Spinoza's Ethics and Selected Letters have been commended for their accuracy and readability. Now with the addition of his new translation of Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect this enlarged edition will be even more useful to students of Spinoza's thought. Since their publication in 1982, Samuel Shirley's translations of Spinoza's Ethics and Selected Letters have been commended for their accuracy and readability. Now with the addition of his new translation of Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect this enlarged edition will be even more useful to students of Spinoza's thought.


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Since their publication in 1982, Samuel Shirley's translations of Spinoza's Ethics and Selected Letters have been commended for their accuracy and readability. Now with the addition of his new translation of Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect this enlarged edition will be even more useful to students of Spinoza's thought. Since their publication in 1982, Samuel Shirley's translations of Spinoza's Ethics and Selected Letters have been commended for their accuracy and readability. Now with the addition of his new translation of Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect this enlarged edition will be even more useful to students of Spinoza's thought.

30 review for Ethics: with The Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters (Hackett Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    January

    My dad was a Presbyterian minister who discovered Spinoza quite accidentally and late in life and never looked back. So my childhood was spent listening to my dad quote Spinoza in response to almost any question I ever asked. When I left for college my dad's gift to me was the Dover editions of the Elwes translation of the "Ethics" and the "Theologico-Political Treatise," with an exhortation to always read the unfinished "Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect" before reading either major w My dad was a Presbyterian minister who discovered Spinoza quite accidentally and late in life and never looked back. So my childhood was spent listening to my dad quote Spinoza in response to almost any question I ever asked. When I left for college my dad's gift to me was the Dover editions of the Elwes translation of the "Ethics" and the "Theologico-Political Treatise," with an exhortation to always read the unfinished "Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect" before reading either major work. Eventually I abandoned the pre-med program to become a philosophy major and wrote my senior thesis on Spinoza. I guess a love of Spinoza turned out to be my inheritance. If you have the honesty and strength to read objectively and carefully, to accept Spinoza on his terms, which, thankfully, are clearly defined and stated from the beginning, you will most likely never experience another work in the way you can experience the Ethics. There is no dogma, no proof from authority; there is only the beauty of human reason unfolding in geometrically deductive method all it can know and discover about itself and the reality of the world around it. Few books are as difficult as this one, and even fewer are as rewarding. "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." - Scholium, V.42

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    In my admittedly spotty philosophy education (both of the formal and self variety) very scant attention has been given to Baruch Spinoza. Much to my detriment. I have struggled with the ideas presented by Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Luther, Bacon, Pascal, and Descartes; both as it pertains to comprehending them and accepting them once I had reached some level of comprehension. Spinoza's is the first theory of existence that seemed remotely plausible in its refusal to default to doctr In my admittedly spotty philosophy education (both of the formal and self variety) very scant attention has been given to Baruch Spinoza. Much to my detriment. I have struggled with the ideas presented by Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Luther, Bacon, Pascal, and Descartes; both as it pertains to comprehending them and accepting them once I had reached some level of comprehension. Spinoza's is the first theory of existence that seemed remotely plausible in its refusal to default to doctrinally necessary unexplainable supernatural phenomenon when confronted with unknowns. In Spinoza's words: "Men...look on all the things of Nature as means to their own advantage. And realising that these were not produced by them...came to believe that ...someone else...produced these...for their use. Among...Nature's blessings they were bound to discover...disasters...[and] maintained that ...the gods were angry at the wrongs done them by man...although daily experience...showed by any number of examples that blessings and disasters befall the godly and the ungodly alike without discrimination...they found it easier to regard this fact as one among other mysteries...and...made it axiomatic that the judgment of the gods is beyond understanding." When I read this passage I felt the spirit move me. After this nice bit of intellectual ambrosia, however, Spinoza launches into the meat and potatoes of his philosophy which he approaches as a geometer. That is, he sets forth his theories in the manner of Euclidean proofs. I'd explain it but I don't want to. Suffice it to say that this is highly irregular but, as it turns out, wonderfully effective. Spinoza's version of God/Nature/Being aligns pretty closely with my own version and thus, he is clearly the most reliable of all the philosophers up to his period of history (wink). Interestingly, or not, Spinoza's views also align quite closely to those of Buddhism which is another way of viewing existence that has attracted my notice recently. Other areas where I found Spinoza's arguments compelling: religion, good v. evil, personal ethics, free will v. determinism. Spinoza is difficult reading and not for the faint of heart, weak of will, or soft of head. But, if you are any combination of these things you, like me (a little of all three), will appreciate the assistance of Beth Lord's companion volume "Spinoza's Ethics: An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide".

  3. 5 out of 5

    Null Ghostman

    Spinoza is the most systematic and reasoned thinker of the Rationalists. His ethics is a huge set of definitions, axioms, propositions, proofs, and corollaries in a bizarre format called the "geometrical" style, loosely based on the very rigid and sequential nature of mathematical proofs. His systematic approach leads him to some very unusual conclusions about the nature of God, the human being and its relation to the world, and his ultimate ethical imperatives, but it is nonetheless a very orig Spinoza is the most systematic and reasoned thinker of the Rationalists. His ethics is a huge set of definitions, axioms, propositions, proofs, and corollaries in a bizarre format called the "geometrical" style, loosely based on the very rigid and sequential nature of mathematical proofs. His systematic approach leads him to some very unusual conclusions about the nature of God, the human being and its relation to the world, and his ultimate ethical imperatives, but it is nonetheless a very original and interesting train of thought, and a much bolder and more striking set of ideas than those posited by the other most well-known Rationalists (Descartes and Leibniz).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex Lee

    Perhaps it is the repeated exposure to Deleuze's Spinoza and readings of this slender collection that leaves me a little blank on what to say. Spinoza remains the imminent thinker of substance. Pre-Kantian, he shows us a world where relation and thought interact as pure geometry. His aesthetics for human understanding and interaction remain inspiring, even after all these years. While he encapsulates his system through the excessive nominalisation of God, Spinoza is able to return for us a trans Perhaps it is the repeated exposure to Deleuze's Spinoza and readings of this slender collection that leaves me a little blank on what to say. Spinoza remains the imminent thinker of substance. Pre-Kantian, he shows us a world where relation and thought interact as pure geometry. His aesthetics for human understanding and interaction remain inspiring, even after all these years. While he encapsulates his system through the excessive nominalisation of God, Spinoza is able to return for us a transcendental limit, of a lesser obsfucation, one that reflects our limitation as beings of finiteness. This is different from a transcendental completeness, in which inconsistency is hidden through a necessary contingency of being universal. For Spinoza, there is only one manifold of infinite variety but of the univocal. Spinoza still preaches a completeness through God's perfection but he shows us that inconsistency is only given our modality as finite beings. Still strange and interesting is his conception beyond Good and Evil, in which these are layers of human localisation. This is almost Buddhist in conception. What makes Spinoza a philosopher is his calibration to the "faculty" of rationalism as the modality for emotion, understanding and modal being. His religiousity is instead, an extension of his thought, a characterization of the common mode of relation available for all who adopt his method. If Spinoza were alive today, he might as well extended his geometric volume from pure relation of substance to algorithmic functionality. His correspondence is interesting though, as it is able to show how he deals with a variety of different people and points of view.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Spinoza has taught me how to write really foolproof arguments. Step 1: When defining your terms at the beginning of your argument, make sure your definitions are super strong and assertive. You don't have to explain why your definitions of substance or affection or God are a certain way because they're, like, you know. Definitions. Step 2: Draw some conclusions based on those definitions. Your conclusions will be pretty much indisputable, no matter how weird or extreme they sound, because your r Spinoza has taught me how to write really foolproof arguments. Step 1: When defining your terms at the beginning of your argument, make sure your definitions are super strong and assertive. You don't have to explain why your definitions of substance or affection or God are a certain way because they're, like, you know. Definitions. Step 2: Draw some conclusions based on those definitions. Your conclusions will be pretty much indisputable, no matter how weird or extreme they sound, because your really powerful definitions will cover any logistical holes. The end!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mr.

    good, but too many triangle analogies

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tom Veale

    I think I’m starting to get it. I’ve been rather stultified for the last month or so which is worsened by me vaguely knowing the causes and what to do and then subsequently not doing it, but I’m confident I think I’m starting to start to get it. I think it has something to do with zoo’s. Like the place with the animals. A few years ago, I use to live a few minutes’ walk from the Melbourne zoo, and so I often made use of it. The Melbourne zoo is standard as far as zoo’s go: monkey’s that chase aft I think I’m starting to get it. I’ve been rather stultified for the last month or so which is worsened by me vaguely knowing the causes and what to do and then subsequently not doing it, but I’m confident I think I’m starting to start to get it. I think it has something to do with zoo’s. Like the place with the animals. A few years ago, I use to live a few minutes’ walk from the Melbourne zoo, and so I often made use of it. The Melbourne zoo is standard as far as zoo’s go: monkey’s that chase after each other, ostriches that scare pretty much everyone, a tiger or two which pace seemingly all day. Did you know a lot of zoo animals are on anti-depressants, I mean so are a lot of human’s so maybe this isn’t noteworthy. It would be an injustice to say Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’ only has one main concept but one of the more predominant ones is his notion of the ‘conatus’ which is relatively similar to the ‘will’ if this was the 19th century, or the ‘unconscious’ if it were the 20th. To explain the conatus properly you’d probably need to mention Spinoza’s metaphysics, which is all about God, except not the God you’re thinking of, it’s God that’s radically appropriated by Spinoza for his purpose of liberating us (resulting in his accusations of heresy and subsequent excommunication from his Jewish community). God is the cloth from which everything is cut but even once its cut its still necessarily God. God is nature naturing, and nature natured is everything that exists in relation to God. God is that which produces, what is produced are modes of God. To better understand God is what we’re here to do, or maybe you could just say to better understand is our purpose. This probably doesn’t mean anything, I know – I swear it makes more sense once you’ve read it from Spinoza himself. The conatus is the inherent urge of all beings to continue and improve its existence, to become more “perfect” through deeper understanding of all external causes and how they relate to God – this is marked by an increase in joy. This is not something with an end goal, you do not, so to speak, realise the conatus, you just keep pursuing it. One’s conatus can be quantified so to speak by your power, how much power you have to prevent external causes from impeding you. You are powerful if you can keep improving yourself and prevent the external world from reducing your power, if you understand then you’re better equipped to prevent external things from decomposing you and also at allowing greater self-composition. Other people can help you on the way and this is a reason not to be selfish or tyrannical, it’s not a zero-sum game, we must help each other become more powerful through knowledge to help ourselves. The lions at the zoo seriously do pace all day – I’ve sat and watched for as long as I could and the only change is during feeding which lasts maybe 5 or 10 minutes and then they return to their cowpath. When you look at animals in the zoo do you think they’re happy or satisfied? You could say they have a good lifestyle, right? Secure home, food and water, entertainment, no threats. Is not the guarantee of sustained life what we are all tolling for? Is this not happiness, to be able to look upon your life and finally rest upon your laurels? I think what I’m starting to start to get with Spinoza is that happiness is a by-product. Okay, this much is obvious – this isn’t per se what I’m starting to get. What I mean to say is that I think happiness is irrelevant, not even worth considering, a red herring through and through. The animals in the zoo are happy and that’s just the problem. That’s the problem with our current notion of happiness and what’s desirable and what to strive for. According to Spinoza, and I think he’s right, there is no end goal to which we strive and which will provide us with that all too desirable sense of complete and unalloyed resolution. There is no sustained happiness, instead there is only the joy which comes as a result of the continued increase towards perfection. For the sake of the pacing lion in you, burst beyond the safety of the cage and try to begin to start to get it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Head

    The first thing to understand about Spinoza’s ethical philosophy is that he holds a deterministic view of the universe (“Nature”), and consequently denies free decision. A bit odd, you might think, to have a moral view of the universe if everything is determined to be the way it is--and I would agree with you. However, despite the lack of choice in his moral philosophy, he can still write some beautiful things about love. In the passage below, you get a glimpse of his influence on Nietzsche’s vi The first thing to understand about Spinoza’s ethical philosophy is that he holds a deterministic view of the universe (“Nature”), and consequently denies free decision. A bit odd, you might think, to have a moral view of the universe if everything is determined to be the way it is--and I would agree with you. However, despite the lack of choice in his moral philosophy, he can still write some beautiful things about love. In the passage below, you get a glimpse of his influence on Nietzsche’s view of nobility—a recurring ethical concept in both philosophers’ writing. PROPOSITION 46 He who lives by the guidance of reason endeavors as far as he can to repay with love or nobility another’s hatred, anger, contempt, etc. towards himself. Proof All emotions of hatred are bad, and thus he who lives by the guidance of reason will endeavor as far as he can not to be assailed by emotions of hatred, and consequently, he will also endeavor that another should not suffer these same emotions. But hatred is increased by reciprocal hatred, and can on the other hand be extinguished by love, so that hatred is transformed into love. Therefore he who lives by the guidance of reason will endeavor to render back love, that is nobility, in return for another’s hatred, etc. Similarly, though we might think of a deterministic view of history as precluding any political philosophy of the way things ought to be (the definition of ethics I assume), Spinoza has some wisdom regarding social theory as well. PROPOSITION 73 The man who is guided by reason is more free in a state where he lives under a system of law than in solitude where he obeys only himself. Proof The man who is guided by reason is not guided to obey out of fear, but in so far as he endeavors to preserve his own being according to the dictates of reason—that is, in so far as he endeavors to live freely—he desires to take account of the life and the good of the community, and consequently to live according to the laws of the state. Therefore the man who is guided by reason desires to adhere to the laws of the state so that he may live more freely. The operation of the state, the body, the universe, and even the logic of the Ethics is mechanistic and deterministic. And yet, there is a place for love and the mind, although these operate in the same manner. In a corollary to Proposition 17 in Part V of Ethics, Spinoza writes, “Strictly speaking, God does not love or hate anyone. For God is not affected with any emotion of pleasure or pain, and consequently he neither loves not hates anyone.” That word “consequently” operates in the background of Spinoza’s thought at every turn, though his logic is not always clearly and distinctly perceived by the reader. God cannot have passive emotions, so therefore God cannot love. Seems a bit suspicious to me... The rationalistic impulse runs through Spinoza to such a degree that we no longer have a distinction between good and bad, everything just is by necessity: …it must be borne in mind that good and bad are only relative terms, so that one and the same thing may be said to be good or bad in different respects, just like the terms perfect and imperfect. Nothing, when regarded in its own nature, can be called perfect or imperfect, especially when we realize that all things that come into being do so in accordance with an eternal order and Nature’s fixed laws. (TIE, 12) Many would say Spinoza has left evil out of his philosophy. Can we not put God on trial for his eternal harmony requiring the protracted pain of even one creature? I suppose not if everything is ordained by logical necessity. Though his philosophy at times seems coldly rational, there is much to find in his letters to warm the heart. For instance, he gives a very clear indication that he is a panentheist: As regards the human mind, I maintain that it also is a part of Nature, for I hold that in Nature there also exists an infinite power of thinking which, in so far as it is infinite, contains within itself the whole of Nature as an object of thought, and whose thoughts proceed in the same manner as does Nature, which is clearly its object of thought. Further, I maintain that the human mind is that same power of thinking, not in so far as that power is infinite and apprehends the whole of Nature, but in so far as it is finite, apprehending the human body only. The human mind, I maintain, is in this way part of an infinite intellect…” (Nov. 20, 1665) So, we get a God that experiences our pain and suffering with us—very close to the Christian notion of the atonement—but we still don’t get a very good explanation for why evil exists (which is also a problem for Christian theology) or how it fits into the eternal harmony of Nature. We might say with Ivan Karamazov, “If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please?” Resistance to the harmonization of evil with the eternal order may be a fallen state, but it’s the state that I am in.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mamluk Qayser

    One sentence aptly describes Spinoza, in the words of Novalis, “…He is a God-intoxicated man”. Spinoza, one of the most brilliant thinkers, and yet it is a mark of the brilliant to be ridiculed. For, when the brilliant breaks every label and boundaries, the masses and the on-lookers strive to perfectly fit everything into their neat little compartments. Spinoza’s pantheism, for an instance, would be swatted away by strawman arguments such as, if everything’s a manifestation of the Divine, would One sentence aptly describes Spinoza, in the words of Novalis, “…He is a God-intoxicated man”. Spinoza, one of the most brilliant thinkers, and yet it is a mark of the brilliant to be ridiculed. For, when the brilliant breaks every label and boundaries, the masses and the on-lookers strive to perfectly fit everything into their neat little compartments. Spinoza’s pantheism, for an instance, would be swatted away by strawman arguments such as, if everything’s a manifestation of the Divine, would the stone, excrements, or even Hitler is one of His many images? Spinoza never explores his thoughts in that naive way of thought, his exploration stretched way beyond that. The only reason I could think that his ideas has always been greeted with such ridicule is that there is no one who can take his argument seriously. But of course, his ideas are not without many glaring contradictions. One of the hardest philosophical works, it is not advised to read this without previous exposure and investigation. For starters, referring back to Novalis’ words, Spinoza is a mystic, of a sober kind. In Islamic Sufistic tradition, there are generally two main tradition; the “sober” or rational Sufism led by the Junayd al-Baghdadi and the “intoxicated” or rapturing schools, commonly said to be originated from Yazid al-Bustami or the Iraqi mystic, Rabia al-Adawiyah. Rarely, an accomplished acolyte would experience a state called as “syatahat” where he seemed intoxicated and utter blasphemous words, sacrilegious sometimes, especially by ones in the latter school. Rabia was noted for her referring God as a lover, and al-Hajjaj, later executed, claimed in this state of rapture; “Ana al-Haq”, I am the Truth. And so, people who are acquainted with Sufistic tradition might not feel as alienated and appalled by what Spinoza trying to convey. The doctrine of “Wahdatul Wujud” or the Unity of Existence, affirms that particular existence has no particular essence, everything was a manifestation of the Divine. This is the central theme of Spinoza; Unity. Spinoza’s penchant for the theme Unity was a response to a long philosophical and scholastic tradition dating back to Aristotle; the duality between the divine and the mortal. The incumbent philosophy can be aptly described with the famous fresco in the Sistine, of God and Man so close, only separated by a finger’s breadth space, yet too far. There’s a sharp distinction between the divine and mortal. Where the mortal is extended and corporeal, the divine is unextended and incorporeal. The question Spinoza aptly asked was; if man and God are so different, how the divine can act on the mortal? How something incorporeal and self-subsisting can reacts or acts or even bothered with something corporeal and finite? This dualism also involved in the mind-body problem. Descartes, for an instance, claimed that man is a union between two different substances; mind and body. But if oil can never mixed/united in water, how can mind and body? Structure. The book is composed of 5 inter-connected parts, which wrap the entire book in a dense yet neat arrangement. Each chapter is presented in the geometrical order, akin to Euclidean’s propositions, where the chapter started with Definitions, followed by Axioms, Propositions and then Proofs, Scholium (or Notes) or Corollary. As with Euclid, Spinoza’s strategy is to explore the subject by using commonsensical notions that can be known intuitively rather than abstract concepts and ideas. He was, after all, one of the Rationalists. This form of geometrical order single-handedly bestows this work a kind of charm and allure to anybody who loves symmetry and order. It is very hard to ignore the way each of the propositions within one part or between parts intertwined beautifully with each other. This kind of arrangement helps us to understand better of his arguments, but considering the heavyweight subject, difficulties must be expected. This edition. This edition includes a superb introduction, extremely essential for every beginner wishing to understand Spinoza. The introduction is impartial and clear, armed with arsenals of clear analogies and explanation. Without this introduction, reading Spinoza would be a bloodbath. It also includes an incomplete work of Spinoza, A Treatise on Emendation of the Intellect, which while in here his pan-in-theism was still not fleshed perfectly as in the Ethics, the latter themes in the Ethics especially regarding emotions are elaborated here, in a much more engaging way than Ethics’ Euclidean geometrical order method. Part I: God, or Nature. It is here that Spinoza’s unique ideas regarding God is explicated. To summarize, he believed that substance is the thing where all attributes are laid into. Everything that we see in a something is the attribute, as when I see an apple, I could see the redness or the roundness of the thing through my senses (its nominal essence) but not the thing-in-itself, or its real essence. It is absurd to suppose that these attributes are the thing-in-itself, for attribute must “latch” itself on substance; attributes are dependent on the substance. And then he proceeds to show that substance is infinite, indivisible and thus singular. A thing is called as finite when there is something other that limits itself, as a ruler is called finite as we can see its limits as compared to a tree, for an example. Then, if substance is finite, we then presuppose that there is other substance that can limit this substance, and this is absurd. Substance is indivisible because as we already established that substance is infinite, if we divide the substance then we would have two infinite parts, which is double the infinity than the first, and this is, too, absurd. And so, God is the infinite and indivisible substance where infinite of attributes are attributed to him. Thus, everything (for everything that we know to exist must possess substance, but in the same time, substance is singular and indivisible) is within God. Spinoza's ideas as the preface suggested, would more accurately called as pan-in-theism rather than pantheism. Part II: Nature of Man. If we are to accept the first part, the first thing we need to address is the obvious question, how do we stand as a creature in the light of this revelation. How can particular entities arise from a unity of substance? Think of it this way. Our arm can be flexed and extended; yet it is the same hand. A person could be said to be rich and benevolent alongside with other qualities, yet he is the same person. God, as the absolutely infinite being has at least two attributes; thought and extension. Man thus, is a particular manifestation of a mode of divine attributes. And so, there’s no dualism between mind and body and how they can both united while being so different. Man, as far as he is performing mental activities, is a mode of the thinking attribute of the divine, and if he is a physical activity, he is a mode of the extension attribute of the divine. Ignoring Spinoza’s thinking that God is extended, man, like God, is a united being that exists, from time to time, in a different mode, yet from a single homogenous essence. Part III: Concerning Emotion. Here Spinoza is trying to elaborate on why the book is called as Ethics; to show the way for happiness and right conduct in life. His entire theory of psychology, though original, shares so many similarities with the Stoic practical philosophy. He believed that the abrupt and tempestuous nature of emotion can be thwarted by deliberation and especially, knowledge. He started with defining desire or appetite as the very essence of our being. If we are to contemplate on who we really are, we don’t really picture of mini version of ourselves within, or a random flying of qualities, but this single inclination to continue to persist and exist. And so, from this conatus, this primal instinct to preserve and persevere in being, rise pain and pleasure. Here Spinoza offers an original idea. He defines pleasure as that that increases the power of mind from a state of less perfection to greater perfection, while pain is the checking of the power of mind from a state of greater perfection to lesser perfection. He also believed that pleasure only arises from adequate knowledge while pain from inadequate knowledge of external causes. This is so because he believed that everything that occurs occurs necessarily and according to its own nature. It is our subjective standards that define this one thing as bad or good, just or unjust. This would be elaborated later. If everything occurs according to its nature, there is no reason to feel pain, and there’s pleasure in discovering that this assurance that everything that occurs, occurs necessarily and eternally. Pain only arises from inadequate knowledge from external causes. One of the emotions derived from pain is anger. We become angry when there’s an external cause produce affectations to us e.g. smacked on the head, which is inadequate knowledge for we are ignorant for the causes for us smacked in the head, and thus we become angry. But, if we are to inquire for the causes, to yield adequate knowledge, anger will subside and there’s pleasure in knowing that even the smacking of head occurs as necessarily as every parts of nature persists in moving unless there’s something that stop it. Part IV: On Good and Evil. Part III elaborates on the definitions of emotions which arise from the basic emotions of desire, pleasure and pain. He believed that our conception of bad and good is from our own faulty and ignorance knowledge of causes, especially in teleology. For an instance, we believed that everything is made with an end in mind, or in God’s mind. And so, a house is made so we can take shelter in it. But this is an erroneous thought. For, the notion that everything is made with an end is no other than our own belief of wanting to see such. We see that the rain falls and made prosper the crops, and thus we conclude that the rain is made to prosper the crops. But this amounts to no more than our imagination of believing it so, rather than knowledge of the thing in itself. Returning to our example, the house is no more than our urge to build a house so we can take shelter in it, not that the house is made for us to take shelter in it. And so, the notion of bad and good arise from our imagination, our belief from how the thing affects our body. When we build the house, when it is finished and everyone can agree from inspecting the house that it is done, we would call it perfect of good. If it were not the case, we would say that it is not perfect or bad. Good or bad is framed from preconceived ideals in our imagination rather than the knowledge of the thing itself. And so, the notions good and bad are not suitable in determining the right conducts in our life. The only way is to prescribe a psychology from the necessary parts of us, the basic emotions of desire, pain and pleasure and their derivatives. Passive emotions are the effects of inadequate knowledge on the external causes affecting on us body, as we mentioned above. On the other hand, active emotions are produced by our own activity to understand and inquire for adequate causes. And after knowing the true causes, it could elicit in ourselves nothing but pleasure. And so, this is the only way in controlling our passion; to engage in an intellectual activity to gain adequate knowledge from an event so we can indulge in pleasure in knowing the eternal truth behind everything that occurs. Part V: On Freedom and Intellectual Love of God. The conclusion from this book is this; now that we know that the only way to love life is to gain adequate knowledge, aren't everything in Nature can only be conceived in God, as Part I proved? And so, the natural conclusion of the wise man that loves life is that he must love God. Not in the terms of lust or emotion, but in an intellectual love. The wise man is now happy, not just because he now can be calm now that he knows that every of his passive emotions can be thwarted by exercising his intellect and reason, but he is in the utmost elation when in this very act of gaining adequate knowledge, he catch a glimpse of God’s direct work. After knowing this, how could he not love God?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dany

    “It will suffice at this point if I take as my basis what must be universally admitted, that all men are born ignorant of the causes of things, that they all have a desire to seek their own advantage, a de­ sire of which they are conscious. From this it follows, firstly, that men believe that they are free, precisely because they are conscious of their volitions and desires; yet concerning the causes that have determined them to desire and will they do not think, not even dream about, because th “It will suffice at this point if I take as my basis what must be universally admitted, that all men are born ignorant of the causes of things, that they all have a desire to seek their own advantage, a de­ sire of which they are conscious. From this it follows, firstly, that men believe that they are free, precisely because they are conscious of their volitions and desires; yet concerning the causes that have determined them to desire and will they do not think, not even dream about, because they are ignorant of them. Secondly, men act always with an end in view, to wit, the advantage that they seek.” “When men become convinced that everything that is created is created on their behalf, they were bound to consider as the most important quality in every individual thing that which was most useful to them, and to regard as ofthe high­ est excellence all those things by which they were most benefited. Hence they came to form these abstract notions to explain the natures of things: Good, Bad, Order, Confusion, Hot, Cold, Beauty, Ugliness; and since they believed that they are free, the following abstract notions came into being: Praise, Blame, Right, Wrong.” “All must surely admit that nothing can be or be conceived without God. For all are agreed that God is the sole cause of all things, both of their essence and of their existence; that is, God is the cause ofthings not only in respectoftheir coming into being [secundum fieri], as they say, but also in respect oftheir being. But at the same time many assert that that without which a thing can neither be nor be conceived pertains to the essence of the thing, and so they believe that ei­ ther the nature of God pertains to the essence of created things or that created things can either be or be conceived without God; or else, more probably, they hold no consistent opinion. I think that the reason for this is their failure to ob­ serve the proper order ofphilosophical inquiry. For the divine nature, which they should have considered before all else-it being prior both in cognition and in Nature-they have taken to be last in the order of cognition, and the things that are called objects of sense they have taken as prior to everything. Hence it has come about that in considering natural phenomena, they have completely disregarded the divine nature. And when thereafter they turned to the contemplation of the divine nature, they could find no place in their thinking for those fictions on which theyhad built their natural science, since these fictions were ofno avail in attaining knowledge of the divine nature. So it is little wonder that they have contradicted themselves on all sides.” “Further, to retain the usual terminology, we will assign the word "images" [imagines] to those affections ofthe human body the ideas of which set forth external bodies as if they were present to us, although they do n ot represent shapes. And when the mind regards bodies in this way, we shall say that it "imagines" [imaginari].” “To have a true idea means only to know a thing perfectly, that is, to the utmostdegree. Indeed, nobody can doubt this, unless he thinks thatan idea is some dumb thing like a picture on a tablet, and not a mode ofthinking, to wit, the very act ofunderstanding. And who, pray, can know that he understands some thing unless he first understands it? That is, who can know that he is certain of something unless he is first certain of it? Again, what standard of truth can there be that is clearer and more certain than a true idea? Indeed, just as light makes manifest both itself and darkness, so truth is the standard both of itself and falsity.” “Most controversies arise from this, that men do not correctly express what is in their mind, or they misunderstand another's mind. For, in reality, while they are hotly contradicting one another, they are either in agreement or have differ­ ent things in mind, so that the apparent errors and absurdities of their opponents are not really so.” “If they ask me whether such a man is not to be reckoned an ass rather than a man, I reply that ! do not know, just as I do not know how one should reckon a man who hangs himself, or how one should reckon babies, fools, and madmen.” “When this conatus is related to the mind alone, it is called Will [vol­ untas]; when it is related to mind and body together, it is called Appetite [appeti­ tus], which is therefore nothing else but man's essence, from the nature ofwhich there necessarily follow thosething> that tend to his preservation, and which man is thus determined to perform. Further, there is no difference between appetite and Desire [cupiditas] except that desire is usually related to men insofar as they are conscious of their appetite. Therefore, it can be defined as follows: desire is "appetite accompanied by the consciousness thereof." “ “We therefore see that it is possible that what one man loves, another hates, what one man fears, another fears not, and that one and the same man may now love what he previously hated and may now dare what he previously feared, and so on. Again, since everyone according to his emotions judges what is good, what is bad, what is better and what is worse (Sch. Pr. 39, III), it follows that men vary as much in judgment as in emotion.” “10. Devotion is love toward one at whom we wonder.” “I assign the term "bondage" to man's lack of power to control and check the emo­ tions. For a man at the mercy of his emotions is not h is own master but is subject to fortune, in whose power he so lies that he is often compelled, although he sees the better course, to pursue the worse.” “For we have demonstrated in Appendix, Part I that Nature does not act with an end in view; that the etemal and infinite being, whom we call God, or Nature, acts by the same necessity whereby it exists. That the necessity of his nature whereby he acts is the same as that whereby he exists has been demonstrated (Prop. 16, I). So the reason or cause why God, or nature, acts, and the reason or cause why he exists, are one and the same. Therefore, just as he does not exist for an end, so he does not act for an end; just as there is no beginning or end to his existing, so there is no beginning or end to his acting. What is termed a "final cause" is nothing but human appetite insofar as it is considered as the starting point or primary cause of something.” “Besides, if we consider the mind, surely our intellect would be less perfect if the mind were in solitude and understood nothing beyond itself. Therefore, there are many things outside ourselves which are advantageous to us and ought therefore to be sought. Of these none more excellent can be discovered than those which are in complete harmony with our own nature. For example, if two indi­ viduals ofcompletely the same nature are combined, they compose an individual twice as powerful as each one singly.” “PROPOSITION 21 Nobody can desire to be happy, to do well and to live well without at the same time desiring to be, to do, and to live; that is, actually to exist.” “It is, I repeat, the part ofa wise man to re­ fresh and invigorate himself in moderation with good food and drink, as also with perfumes, with the beauty ofblossoming plants, with dress, music, sporting activ­ ities, theaters, and the like, in which every man can indulge without harm to an­ other. For the human body is composed of many parts of various kinds which are continually in need of fresh and varied nourishment so that the entire body may be equally capable of all the functions that follow from its own nature, and con­ sequently that the mind may be equally capable ofsimultaneously understanding many things.” “PROPOSITION 46 He who lives by the guidance ofreason endeavors as far as he can to repay with love or nobility another's hatred, anger, contempt, etc. toward himself.” “Although self-abasement is the opposite of pride, the self-abased man is very close to the proud man. For since his pain arises from judging his own weakness by the power or virtue ofothers, his pain will be assuaged, that is, he will feel pleas­ ure, ifhis thoughts are engaged in contemplating other people's limIts. This is the origin of the proverb: "The consolation of the wretched is to have fellows in mis­ fortune." On the other hand, he will be more pained in proportion as he thinks himself lower than others. Hence it comes about that the self-abased are more prone to envy than all others, and that they, more than any, endeavor to keep watch on men's deeds with a view to criticizing rather than correcting them, and they end up by praising only self-abasement and exulting in it even while still pre­ serving the appearance of self-abasement.” “Vainglory, as it is called, is the self-contentment that is fostered only by popular esteem and ceases with it; that is (Sch. Pr. 52, IV), the highest good which everyone loves, ceases. So it happens that he who exults in popular esteem has the daily burden ofanxiously striving, acting and contriving to preserve his reputation. For the populace is fickle and inconstant, and unless a reputation is preserved it soon withers away. Indeed, since all are eager to capture the applause of the populace, each is ready to decry another's reputation.” “Whatsoever the mind conceives under the gUidance of reason, it con­ ceives under the same form of eternity or necessity (Cor. 2, Pr. 44, II), and is af­ fected with the same certainty (Pr. 43, II and Sch.). Therefore, whether the idea be of the future, the past, or the present, the mind conceives the thing with the same necessity and is affected with the same certainty; and whether the idea be of the future, the past, or the present, it will nevertheless be equally true (Pr. 4 1 , II); that is (De£. 4, II), it will nevertheless always have the same properties ofan adequate idea. Therefore, insofar as the mind conceives things according to the dictates ofreason, it is affected in the same way, whether the idea be ofa thing fu­ ture, past, or present.” “17. Again, men are won over by generosity, especially those who do not have the wherewithal to produce what is necessary to support life. Yet it is far beyond the power and resources of a private person to come to the assistance of everyone in need. For the wealth ofa private person is quite unequal to such a demand. It is also a practical impossibility for one man to establish friendship with all. There­fore the care of the poor devolves upon society as a whole, and looks only to the common good.” “28. Now to provide all this the strength of each single person would scarcely suffice if men did not lend mutual aid to one another. However, money has sup­ plied a token for all things, with the result that its image is wont to obsess the minds of the populace, because they can scarcely th ink of any kind of pleasure that is not accompanied by the idea of money as its cause.” “PROPOSITION 3 A passive emotion ceases to be a passive emotion as soon as we form a clear and dis­tinct idea of it.” “PROPOSITION 5 An emotion toward a thing which we imagine merely in itself, and not as necessary, possible, or contingent, is the greatest ofall emotions, other things being equal.” “From this we clearly understand in what our salvation or blessedness or freedom consists, namely, in the constant and eternal love toward God, that is, in God's love toward men. This love or blessedness is called glory in the Holy Scriptures, and rightly so. For whether this love be related to God or to the mind, it can properly be called spiritual contentment, which in reality cannot be distinguished from glory (Def. of Emotions 25 and 30).” “The common belief of the multitude seems to be quite different. For the majority appear to think that they are free to the extent that they can indulge their lusts, and that they are giving up their rights to the extent that they are re­ quired to l ive under the commandments of the divine law. So they believe that piety and religion, in fact everything related to strength of mind, are burdens which they hope to lay aside after death, when they will receive the reward oftheir servitude, that is, of piety and religion. And it is not by this hope alone, but also and especially by fear of incurring dreadful punishment after death, that they are induced to live according to the commandments of the divine law as far as their feebleness and impotent spirit allows. And ifmen did not have this hope and this fear, and if they believed on the contrary that minds perish with bodies and that they, miserable creatures, worn out by the burden of piety, had no prospect of fur­ ther existence, they would return to their own inclinations and decide to shape their lives according to their lusts, and to be ruled by fortune rather than by them­ selves. This seems to me no less absurd than if a man, not believing that he can sustain his body on good food forever, were to decide to glut himselfon poisons and deadly fare; or, on realizing that the mind is not eternal or immortal, he pre­ ferred to be mad and to l ive without reason. Such attitudes are so absurd that they are scarcely worth recounting.” “If the road I have pointed out as leading to this goal seems very difficult, yet it can be found. Indeed, what is so rarely discovered is bound to be hard. For ifsal­ vation were ready to hand and could be discovered without great toil, how could it be that it is almost universally neglected? All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Val

    Fun for reading but not for discussing

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This is easily my favorite philosophical work and the one I most closely identify with. My favorite because of the reverence with which he treats his subject matter, the respect he accords it. He isn't flippant with his utterances - this isn't Nietzsche, although Nietzsche was a fan of his. He organizes the work like Euclid's Elements, with definitions, axioms and theorems, and tries to "derive" philosophical truths. This is easily my favorite philosophical work and the one I most closely identify with. My favorite because of the reverence with which he treats his subject matter, the respect he accords it. He isn't flippant with his utterances - this isn't Nietzsche, although Nietzsche was a fan of his. He organizes the work like Euclid's Elements, with definitions, axioms and theorems, and tries to "derive" philosophical truths.

  13. 4 out of 5

    C

    I'm partial to Hackett versions of philosophical classics. They're inexpensive and the translations are often very good, or minimally,vetted by some of the best living scholars on the philosopher or book. Great edition of a still undervalued and underread book. It's almost all in here. Everything. You know what I'm talking about. Everything. I'm partial to Hackett versions of philosophical classics. They're inexpensive and the translations are often very good, or minimally,vetted by some of the best living scholars on the philosopher or book. Great edition of a still undervalued and underread book. It's almost all in here. Everything. You know what I'm talking about. Everything.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I've been assured it's still relevant. I tend not to trust any philosophy pre-Marx and pre-Darwin. It all seems too metaphysical and tied to God. Let me have philosophy at some point after the understanding that humanity has not just plopped into this world in order to make sense of it. I still need to give it time. I've been assured it's still relevant. I tend not to trust any philosophy pre-Marx and pre-Darwin. It all seems too metaphysical and tied to God. Let me have philosophy at some point after the understanding that humanity has not just plopped into this world in order to make sense of it. I still need to give it time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julian Meynell

    In my opinion the most important book ever written. It is very difficult for a nonprofessional philosopher to understand, however. It should probably only be read in conjunction with another book explaining it, if read outside of an academic context. This is not the best translation, although it is quite good. The Curley translation is better and readily available.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Markwell

    Spinoza's Ethics and the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect is one of my favourite early modern philosophy books. Spinoza's arguments are well organised and laid out in geometric proofs, yet the book remains enjoyable to read. Spinoza is unique among philosophers of his time with his treatment on the emotions and their effect on the intellect. Spinoza's Ethics and the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect is one of my favourite early modern philosophy books. Spinoza's arguments are well organised and laid out in geometric proofs, yet the book remains enjoyable to read. Spinoza is unique among philosophers of his time with his treatment on the emotions and their effect on the intellect.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jaimi

    My favorite book of philosophy, he is not brief, but does cover basically everything. Eat your heart out Kant...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Not my cup of tea. He makes all the mistakes Descartes made while being only slightly more interesting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean Rife

    I have great respect for Spinoza, but reading him makes my head hurt.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mistercaballerogmail.com

    You must be patient and read carefully with an active reading mindset-- this is a philosophy book that is hard to follow.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Obrigewitsch

    Spinoza is perhaps an example of the exile par excellence. He was excommunicated from the Jewish community, and his work skirted the fringes outside of the popular Cartesian philosophy of his day. Not to mention that his thought is a dangerous thought, to the point that he could not publish it during his life, for fear of persecution (The Ethics at least, which is the heart of his thought); it was not published until after his death. Yet his thought is on the side of life, to the point of being Spinoza is perhaps an example of the exile par excellence. He was excommunicated from the Jewish community, and his work skirted the fringes outside of the popular Cartesian philosophy of his day. Not to mention that his thought is a dangerous thought, to the point that he could not publish it during his life, for fear of persecution (The Ethics at least, which is the heart of his thought); it was not published until after his death. Yet his thought is on the side of life, to the point of being excessive for those God-fearing men of his day, who, as Nietzsche might have said, were also life-fearing and life-denying. God is the indeterminate underlying all things. God is expressed in infinite ways. Is it too much of a stretch to say then that God is difference itself - infinitely different expressions or differences that togwther make up an ungraspable difference in itself which is never totalized, never complete. Life ever grows and flows on; death is never grasped. The oneness or substance of God appears to be nothing, or rather, virtual. God would be the impossible possibility, expressed through infinite dissimulations which never fully express and make God actual for us. We, as limited beings, as manifestations of God, cannot grasp the infinity of God in itself, of difference as absolute difference - we can only perceive differences. This God, or difference, is ever expressing itself anew, through another emerging expression. It is constantly moving, becoming more than it was. Such is it also life. These words are all different expressions or modes of thinking the unthinkable (unthinkable for us). And we too are but expressions of this life, and through our conatus - our creative power that urges us to growth, to becoming different than we once were - we are compelled to live more, live differently, to live in joy. This is perhaps a pervese reading of Spinoza, but I do not think it deviates from the vital force of his thought - it is merely a different interpretation of the potentiality that the words and the thought open up. Through them flow the movement of life, of difference, and they express a joy at living such a life. Spinoza, no matter how he is read, is one of the most life-affirming of thinkers. His thought is one of joy. I can understand how Nietzsche felt such a kinship between their philosophies, as well as the heart-bond that Deleuze felt with Spinoza's thought.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zo

    An amazing work of philosophy. The scope/ambition/rigor of Spinoza's proof-based logic makes it a difficult read at times, but also is mind-bogglingly impressive and at times leads an air of legitimacy to his arguments greater than the other philosophers I've read (though I'm curious to read more about how much his logic is criticized, it seems to me the biggest points of contention lie more with the starting definitions than the logic but I'm sure I missed a ton of finer points). Part III which An amazing work of philosophy. The scope/ambition/rigor of Spinoza's proof-based logic makes it a difficult read at times, but also is mind-bogglingly impressive and at times leads an air of legitimacy to his arguments greater than the other philosophers I've read (though I'm curious to read more about how much his logic is criticized, it seems to me the biggest points of contention lie more with the starting definitions than the logic but I'm sure I missed a ton of finer points). Part III which focused on categorizing the various emotions got a little boring and seemed the most unnecessary to me (though maybe I'm failing to understand significance), but Part I/II on the metaphysics of god/the mind and then parts IV/V on how to actually go about living were a real joy to work through and try and wrap my head around. I don't think all of it holds up (duh) but Spinoza's metaphysical structure seemed much closer aligned with what modern biology/physics has taught us than other early philosophers, and many of his views seem like they could be fairly easily incorporated into a contemporary philosophy. The more "practical" parts toward the end are quite moving at times, and I had some moments of real feeling and soul-searching when I tried to take his thought to heart. Only read the Ethics part of the book but might dip into some of the other parts in the coming weeks.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    4/5 Wow, this is going to be a long year. I've been saying this a lot in the past month, but this was a confusing book. What made it a bit different from the others was how confusing it was from the first page. What is Substance? What is an attribute? What is mode, as well as affection? These definitions alone are worthy of a 20-page essay. There is just so much packed in every sentence that it took time to understand. Thankfully, reading this book was not just utter confusion. I have a couple of 4/5 Wow, this is going to be a long year. I've been saying this a lot in the past month, but this was a confusing book. What made it a bit different from the others was how confusing it was from the first page. What is Substance? What is an attribute? What is mode, as well as affection? These definitions alone are worthy of a 20-page essay. There is just so much packed in every sentence that it took time to understand. Thankfully, reading this book was not just utter confusion. I have a couple of questions and sections I want to highlight that especially caught my attention. In the appendix of Part 1, he discusses this idea of prejudice, namely how humans assume that they are the end of God's actions. We assume, like many religions, these superstitious ideas such as these anthropomorphic depictions of God. He concludes that Mathematics is one solution to overcome these prejudices. Unpacking this statement was intriguing. How are we meant to understand Mathematics as an application of theology? Where do figures such as Pascal fit in this idea? What prejudices does Spinoza have when writing and thinking about these ideas? Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to read Parts 1 and 2 of the Ethics. Maybe someday I will read the rest of the Ethics and even his Theological-Political Treatise, and attain some form of an answer to these questions.

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    Since I think I rated Descartes's Meditations as 5, this is necessarily 5. For the most part, I view Spinoza as superior to Descartes, whose work was filled with some rather unconvincing points. Of course, in terms of breadth, perhaps Descartes had more impact, even if his work was eclipsed by other people such as Newton, etc. Not that Spinoza doesn't have problematic points! There are definitely some areas where issues have to be swept under the rug. A big issue for modern readers is that Ethics Since I think I rated Descartes's Meditations as 5, this is necessarily 5. For the most part, I view Spinoza as superior to Descartes, whose work was filled with some rather unconvincing points. Of course, in terms of breadth, perhaps Descartes had more impact, even if his work was eclipsed by other people such as Newton, etc. Not that Spinoza doesn't have problematic points! There are definitely some areas where issues have to be swept under the rug. A big issue for modern readers is that Ethics is deeply immersed in medieval Scholastic language as arising from Augustine. Spinoza is immersed in a context, and it can be an endeavor to keep oneself in the mindspace that existed at the time. Some inherited meanings are obscure to modern usage, and of course he is also inventing terms. On top of that, some of his arguments are unconvincing, to be generous. Having said that, it's a critical inflection point in Western thought and one with many interesting points. For the average person, though, maybe a summary of Spinoza would be more interesting. Bearing in the gaps in the arguments that require substantial sympathy to step over.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Owain Morgan-Jones

    From a shore quite conceptually distant, Spinoza built a bridge to traverse the quagmire of intellectual stagnation, cesspool of the collected waste of church and state, of concealment and invention, of treachery and delusion. From the opposite shore, all seeming liberties of mind fettered still by mediaeval constraints of ecclesiastical circuitry, other bridges were built, at length, the thought, to meet like some hypernotion on otherwise incongruous ground. Though the bridge of Spinoza masterfu From a shore quite conceptually distant, Spinoza built a bridge to traverse the quagmire of intellectual stagnation, cesspool of the collected waste of church and state, of concealment and invention, of treachery and delusion. From the opposite shore, all seeming liberties of mind fettered still by mediaeval constraints of ecclesiastical circuitry, other bridges were built, at length, the thought, to meet like some hypernotion on otherwise incongruous ground. Though the bridge of Spinoza masterfully achieved both form and function of its construction, alas, all of its brilliance was in vain, the rendezvous forsworn, yet unforgotten. A tug-of-war, one against a multitude; even with right on his side, Spinoza was vanquished, the church prevailing. The bridges never met. There was no reconciliation, no emendation; no coming together of minds so very far apart. Were Spinoza but a builder of boats… Maybe our next prophet of enlightenment will be a builder of boats. The world is smaller now, but too big for bridges. We need to cross oceans. Before we fly, let us try it with boats.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matheus Alves

    Woop woop! Big ups for the beings who spent their time carefully paying attention to the decision making, idea generation, concept internalization and critical thinking development. Big round of applause for all of those who, like Spinoza, put on paper an endless combinations of letters what you think throughout your day but never managed to carefully dissect.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is without a doubt one of the most impressive books I have ever read. After reading it, I feel that I understand what was driving Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche much more fully than before. I will definitely be returning to this text in the future.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barry Lee

    It’s all in the title.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Feral Academic

    I think I find him compelling but I read the meat of this before moving and everything is a fuzzy blur right now.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    The most rationalist rationalist. very systematic approach to the ontological argument, moral theory, and - how, then, should we live? Much easier to hold philosophers close to your heart when you like them as a person. On a scale of Dionysus, allegedly essentially homeless by choice, and Kant, routinely going on the same walk everyday as a tenured professor and yelling at his servant to get coffee, Spinoza might be in the middle, in the sense of means of substinence. He lived quite modestly, on The most rationalist rationalist. very systematic approach to the ontological argument, moral theory, and - how, then, should we live? Much easier to hold philosophers close to your heart when you like them as a person. On a scale of Dionysus, allegedly essentially homeless by choice, and Kant, routinely going on the same walk everyday as a tenured professor and yelling at his servant to get coffee, Spinoza might be in the middle, in the sense of means of substinence. He lived quite modestly, one of the few who lived by what they wrote. He turned down a professorship on the grounds he feared it would clash with his ideology, and when given a pension by a well-off benefactor, he took only a partial amount. Spinoza was also excommunicated by the church, essentially for his heretical beliefs, but never exactly renounced the theological doctrines he had long been studying. His views on the Bible, as he expounds on in a letter, is that the majority of it is in parables, and written so the human mind can understand. He died of sickness around 40 years of age, never ceasing to write and express his theories, even while he knew he was dying. But what exactly is 'Ethics'? It is to be taken in the most literal sense. The book is written through 'geometric proof' - axioms, propositions, Euclidean style. Spinoza tried very hard to make ethics a science. Spinoza thought everyone before him, especially his contemporary Descartes, 'got it all wrong'. Whether they did or not is, of course, a subjective (or as Spinoza would put in, an Objective) judgment. Ethics is a systematic construction of a system of ethics in five parts, starting from the highest abstraction possible - ontology. Spinoza starts by attempting to prove God (or as he later starts saying, as for him they are the same - God, or Nature) through (rationalist) mathmatical proofs. For Spinoza, God is an infinite being of which is the only substance in existence, as existence is necessarily a part of His essence alone. Everything else (i.e., humans) are affections (think like a state or mode, in the sense of a state or mode of a machine) of Extension, which is one of God's many attributes (Thought being the other important one). Essentially, all of nature is one substance, God, which is all of nature. Note that this does not mean that we are God, we are his affections, or expressions of his nature. Everything necessarily depends on God. In the second part, it is essentially a theory of the Mind and a refutation of the Cartesian dualism, Spinoza claiming that Mind and Body are the same, as they are substance. Spinoza also claims there is no such thing as free will, we only think we are free. I think this is because, for Spinoza, the human mind cannot know itself any more than it can know something outside of itself. An example of this is one Spinoza used - people claim they have all of their cognitive faculty when they are drunk, and can think perfectly clearly, while after the fact, when they are sober, many reflections are often made. Part three is where the moral theory of the book starts picking up, Spinoza attempts to scientifically define and prove the emotions. All things (including emotions) have a tendency to preserve themselves indefinitely unless met with an external cause, this is in their nature. When a mind is affected by an external cause that effects its nature Spinoza considers it passive, when it is, to put it bluntly, 'in control of itself' - although not in the Spinozian sense, it is considered active. Or to follow Spinoza, we will say the mind/emotions are active when they have adequate ideas. Part four details why we are in bondage to our emotions. The mind is dominated by passions, and Spinoza considers the ways in which they affect our lives. Passions can make it hard to live with each other. Lastly, part Five is, essentially, a conclusion. It a plan of action, it argues that, although we are in bondage and cannot overcome our emotions or our 'nature' (in the broadest sense), through the intellect (through reason - logic, not the imagination), we can 'see things as they are' to a degree that God allows us to discover his attributes, and live closer in harmony with God, or Nature, by liberating ourselves of passions and find a degree of tranquilly.

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