Last modified on 1 November 2014, at 15:33

Baruch Spinoza

I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.
When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes.

Benedictus de Spinoza (24 November 163221 February 1677) was a social and metaphysical philosopher famous for the elaborate development of his monist philosophy, which has become known as Spinozism. Controversy regarding his ideas led to his excommunication from the Jewish community of his native Amsterdam. He was named Baruch ("blessed" in Hebrew) Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento d'Espiñoza, but afterwards used the name Benedictus ("blessed" in Latin) de Spinoza.

See also: Ethics Geometrically Demonstrated (1677)

QuotationsEdit

I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different...
The eternal wisdom of God … has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy.
Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, I am also.
  • When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is ; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes. I am not astonished ; for I believe that, if a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular. Thus each would ascribe to God its own attributes, would assume itself to be like God, and look on everything else as ill-shaped.
    The briefness of a letter and want of time do not allow me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, or the questions you have propounded. Besides, suggesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. That we do many things in the world from conjecture is true, but that our redactions are based on conjecture is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable ; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth. A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him. But in philosophic reflection this is not so. On the contrary, we must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.
    Again, we cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain ; for there have been many persons so enamoured of contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms.
  • 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 agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, 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 traditions, though these are in many ways corrupted. The supposition of some, that I endeavour to prove in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus the unity of God and Nature (meaning by the latter a certain mass or corporeal matter), is wholly erroneous.
    As regards miracles, I am of opinion that the revelation of God can only be established by the wisdom of the doctrine, not by miracles, or in other words by ignorance.
  • I make this chief distinction between religion and superstition, 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 miracles, that is by ignorance, which is the source of all malice; thus they turn a faith, which may be true, into superstition.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)
  • 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 without 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 especially 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 opinions concerning the three points mentioned. Whether it will be satisfactory to Christians you will know better than I.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)
    • Variant translation: The eternal wisdom of God … has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
  • You seem to wish to employ reason, and ask me, "How I know that my philosophy is the best among all that have ever been taught in the world, or are being taught, or ever will be taught?" a question which I might with much greater right ask you ; for I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy. If you ask in what way I know it, I answer: In the same way as you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient, will be denied by no one whose brain is sound, and who does not go dreaming of evil spirits inspiring us with false ideas like the true. For the truth is the index of itself and of what is false.
    But you, who presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men, on whom you have pinned your credulity, you, "who know that they are the best among all who have taught, do now teach, or shall in future teach other religions. Have you examined all religions, ancient as well as modern, taught here and in India and everywhere throughout the world? And, if you, have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best" since you can give no reason for the faith that is in you? But you will say, that you acquiesce in the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the rest of mankind are ensnared and deceived by the prince of evil spirits. But all those outside the pale of the Romish Church can with equal right proclaim of their own creed what you proclaim of yours.
    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 forward their myriad witnesses, who as pertinaciously 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 arrogance, that their Church has continued to this day unmoved and unimpaired in spite of the hatred of Christians 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 himself, 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 temporal dominion, but by the sole efficacy of their superstition, 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 beginning, "To thee, o God, I offer up my soul", and so singing perished.
  • Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, I am also.
    • As quoted in The Story of Philosophy (1933) by Will Durant, p. 176
  • Of all the things that are beyond my power, I value nothing more highly than to be allowed the honor of entering into bonds of friendship with people who sincerely love truth. For, of things beyond our power, I believe there is nothing in the world which we can love with tranquility except such men.
    • Spinoza, Correspondence, 146, Letter xix.

On the Improvement of the Understanding (1662)Edit

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.
Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione [On the Improvement of the Understanding] (1662); full text online
  • The ordinary surroundings 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.
    • Pt. I, 3
    • Variant translation: The things which … are esteemed as the greatest good of all … can be reduced to these three headings, to wit : Riches, Fame, and Pleasure. With these three the mind is so engrossed that it cannot scarcely think of any other good.
  • 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 understood 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 succession of nature, and we go far astray from our object.

Theological-Political Treatise (1670)Edit

Men's habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits...
Full text online
Prophecy really includes ordinary knowledge...
The multitude always strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the gifts of nature ; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordinary knowledge is not supposed to be included...
In regard to intellect and true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God has not in these respects chosen one people rather than another.
The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled ; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice.
The true aim of government is liberty.
The real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
  • (1) Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favoured by fortune : but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune's greedily coveted favours, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity.
    (2) The human mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the mastery, though usually it is boastful, over-confident, and vain.
    (3) This as a general fact I suppose everyone knows, though few, I believe, know their own nature ; no one can have lived in the world without observing that most people, when in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom (however inexperienced they may be), that they take every offer of advice as a personal insult, whereas in adversity they know not where to turn, but beg and pray for counsel from every passer-by.
    (4) No plan is then too futile, too absurd, or too fatuous for their adoption ; the most frivolous causes will raise them to hope, or plunge them into despair — if anything happens during their fright which reminds them of some past good or ill, they think it portends a happy or unhappy issue, and therefore (though it may have proved abortive a hundred times before) style it a lucky or unlucky omen.
    (5) Anything which excites their astonishment they believe to be a portent signifying the anger of the gods or of the Supreme Being, and, mistaking superstition for religion, account it impious not to avert the evil with prayer and sacrifice.
    (6) Signs and wonders of this sort they conjure up perpetually, till one might think Nature as mad as themselves, they interpret her so fantastically.
    (7) Thus it is brought prominently before us, that superstition's chief victims are those persons who greedily covet temporal advantages; they it is, who (especially when they are in danger, and cannot help themselves) are wont with Prayers and womanish tears to implore help from God : upbraiding Reason as blind, because she cannot show a sure path to the shadows they pursue, and rejecting human wisdom as vain ; but believing the phantoms of imagination, dreams, and other childish absurdities, to be the very oracles of Heaven.
    (8) As though God had turned away from the wise, and written his decrees, not in the mind of man but in the entrails of beasts, or left them to be proclaimed by the inspiration and instinct of fools, madmen, and birds. Such is the unreason to which terror can drive mankind!
    (9) Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear.
    • Preface
  • As men's habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honoured save justice and charity.
    • Preface
  • Prophecy really includes ordinary knowledge; for the knowledge which we acquire by our natural faculties depends on knowledge of God and his eternal laws ; but ordinary knowledge is common to all men as men, and rests on foundations which all share, whereas the multitude always strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the gifts of nature ; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordinary knowledge is not supposed to be included.
    Nevertheless, it has as much right as any other to be called divine, for God's nature, in so far as we share therein, and God's laws, dictate it to us; nor does it suffer from that to which we give the preeminence, except in so far as the latter transcends its limits and cannot be accounted for by natural laws taken in themselves.
    • Ch. 1, Of Prophecy
  • I do not believe anyone has reached such perfection, surpassing all others, except Christ, to whom God immediately revealed — without words or visions — the conditions which lead to salvation. So God revealed himself to the Apostles through Christ's mind, as formerly he had revealed himself to Moses by means of a heavenly voice. And therefore Christ's voice, like the one Moses heard, can be called the voice of God. And in this sense we can also say that God's wisdom, that is, a wisdom, surpassing human wisdom, assumed a human nature in Christ, and that Christ was the way to salvation.
    • Ch. 1, Of Prophecy from Benedictus de Spinoza Opera by Carl Gebhardt, ed. (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1925) vol. III, p. 21 as trans. by Edwin Curley, ed., A Spinoza Reader: The Ethics and Other Works/Benedict de Spinoza (Princeton NJ: Princeton UP, 1994) p. 14.
  • When, the prophets, in speaking of this election which regards only true virtue, mixed up much concerning sacrifices and ceremonies, and the rebuilding of the temple and city, they wished by such figurative expressions, after the manner and nature of prophecy, to expound matters spiritual, so as at the same time to show to the Jews, whose prophets they were, the true restoration of the state and of the temple to be expected about the time of Cyrus.
    At the present time, therefore, there is absolutely nothing which the Jews can arrogate to themselves beyond other people.
    As to their continuance so long after dispersion and the loss of empire, there is nothing marvellous in it, for they so separated themselves from every other nation as to draw down upon themselves universal hate, not only by their outward rites, rites conflicting with those of other nations, but also by the sign of circumcision which they most scrupulously observe.
    That they have been preserved in great measure by Gentile hatred, experience demonstrates.
    • Ch. 3, Of the Vocation of the Hebrews, and Whether the Gift of Prophecy Was Peculiar to Them
    • Variant translation: Therefore at the present time there is nothing whatsoever that the Jews can arrogate to themselves above other nations. As to their continued existence for so many years when scattered and stateless, this is in no way surprising, since they have separated themselves from other nations to such a degree as to incur the hatred of all, and this not only through external rites alien to the rites of other nations but also through the mark of circumcision, which they most religiously observe. That they are preserved largely through the hatred of other nations is demonstrated by historical fact.
      • As translated by Samuel Shirley
  • In regard to intellect and true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God has not in these respects chosen one people rather than another.
    • Ch. 3, Of the Vocation of the Hebrews, and Whether the Gift of Prophecy Was Peculiar to Them
  • The ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but, contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security ; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others.
    No, the object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled ; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
    • Variant translation: The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to restrain them by fear ; rather it is so to free each man from fear that he may live and act with full security and without injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, a free reason ; that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.
  • If men's minds were as easily controlled as their tongues, every king would sit safely on his throne, and government by compulsion would cease ; for every subject would shape his life according to the intentions of his rulers, and would esteem a thing true or false, good or evil, just or unjust, in obedience to their dictates.
    • Ch. 20
  • The more a government strives to curtail freedom of speech, the more obstinately is it resisted ; not indeed by the avaricious, … but by those whom good education, sound morality, and virtue have rendered more free. Men, in general, are so constituted that there is nothing they will endure with so little patience as that views which they believe to be true should be counted crimes against the laws. … Under such circumstances they do not think it disgraceful, but most honorable, to hold the laws in abhorrence, and to refrain from no action against the government.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
  • Schisms do not originate in a love of truth, which is a source of courtesy and gentleness, but rather in an inordinate desire for supremacy. From all these considerations it is clearer than the Sun at noonday, that the true schismatics are those who condemn other men's writings, and seditiously stir up the quarrelsome masses against their authors, rather than those authors themselves, who generally write only for the learned, and appeal solely to reason. In fact, the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
  • The safest way for a state is to lay down the rule that religion is comprised solely in the exercise of charity and justice, and that the rights of rulers in sacred, no less than in secular matters, should merely have to do with actions, but that every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks

Ethics (1677)Edit

Full text online
  • Deus est omnium rerum causa immanens, non vero transiens
    • God is the Immanent Cause of all things, never truly transcendent from them
    • Part I, Prop. XVIII
  • [B]y Natura naturans we must understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, or such attributes of substance as express an eternal and infinite essence, that is … God, insofar as he is considered as a free cause.
    But by Natura naturata I understand whatever follows from the necessity of God's nature, or from God's attributes, that is, all the modes of God's attributes insofar as they are considered as things which are in God, and can neither be nor be conceived without God.
    • Part I, Prop. XXIX, Scholium (trans: Edwin Curley, London: Penguin, 1996)
  • Ordo et connexio idearum idem est ac ordo et connexio rerum
    • The order and connection of the thought is identical to with the order and connection of the things.
    • Part II, Prop. VII
  • veritas norma sui et falsi est
    • Truth is a standard both of itself and of falsity
    • Part II, Prop. XLIII, Scholium
  • Hic conatus aliquid agendi et etiam omittendi ea sola de causa ut hominibus placeamus, vocatur ambitio præsertim quando adeo impense vulgo placere conamur ut cum nostro aut alterius damno quædam agamus vel omittamus; alias humanitas appellari solet.
    • This endeavour to do a thing or leave it undone, solely in order to please men, we call ambition, especially when we so eagerly endeavour 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.
    • Part III, Prop. XXIX
  • meum institutum non est verborum significationem sed rerum naturam explicare
    • My purpose is to explain, not the meaning of words, but the nature of things.
    • Part III, Def. XX
  • Deus seu Natura
    • God or Nature
    • Part IV, Preface (Deum seu Naturam, Deus seu Natura);
  • Maxima superbia vel abjectio est maxima sui ignorantia.
    • Extreme pride or dejection indicates extreme ignorance of self.
    • Part IV, Prop. LV
  • Homo liber de nulla re minus, quam de morte cogitat, et ejus sapientia non mortis, sed vitae meditatio est.
    • A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.
    • Part IV, Prop. LXVII
  • We feel and know that we are eternal.
    • Part V, Prop. XXIII
  • sub specie aeternitatis
    • ...from the perspective of the eternal.
    • Part V, Prop. XXIII, Scholium
  • How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
    • Part V, closing note

Political Treatise (1677)Edit

Tractatus Politicus as translated by A. H. Gosset (1883); full text online; this is an unfinished work, left incomplete by Spinoza's death
Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault.
I have resolved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only such things as agree best with practice.
Man can, indeed, act contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.
Nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
Peace … is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune.
All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that, on the contrary, they stimulate them.
  • Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride, bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics, which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera, or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice ; and no men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers.
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
  • I have resolved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only such things as agree best with practice.
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
  • I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions ; and, to this end, I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to understand their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
    • Variant translation: I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.
  • Speaking generally, he holds dominion, to whom are entrusted by common consent affairs of state — such as the laying down, interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification of cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge belong to a council, composed of the general multitude, then the dominion is called a democracy ; if the council be composed of certain chosen persons, then it is an aristocracy ; and, if, lastly, the care of affairs of state, and, consequently, the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of monarchy.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Man can, indeed, act contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • In the state of nature, wrong-doing is impossible ; or, if anyone does wrong, it is to himself, not to another. For no one by the law of nature is bound to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold anything to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his own temperament, pronounces to be so ; and, to speak generally, nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than another's ; but, under nature, everything belongs to all — that is, they have authority to claim it for themselves. But, under dominion, where it is by common law determined what belongs to this man, and what to that, he is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his own, but he, unjust who strives, on the contrary, to make his own that which belongs to another.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Of a commonwealth, whose subjects are but hindered by terror from taking arms, it should rather be said, that it is free from war, than that it has peace. For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character : for obedience is the constant will to execute what, by the general decree of the commonwealth, ought to be done. Besides, that commonwealth, whose peace depends on the sluggishness of its subjects, that are led about like sheep, to learn but slavery, may more properly be called a desert than a commonwealth.
    • Ch. 5, Of the Best State of a Dominion
    • This might be paraphrased in a similar statement quoted in recent works, including A Natural History of Peace (1996) by Thomas Gregor, p. 4, there cited as being from Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), but without citations as to chapter or translation used : Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
  • If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves ; yet it advances not the art of household management to change a father's right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by handing the whole authority to one man.
    • Ch. 6, On Monarchy
  • He who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity.
    • Ch. 9, Of Aristocracy, Continuation
  • All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate them.
    • Ch. 10, Of Aristocracy, Conclusion
    • Variant translation : Laws which can be broken without any wrong to one's neighbor are but a laughing-stoke ; and, so far from such laws restraining the appetites and lusts of mankind, they rather heighten them.
    • Variant: All laws which can be violated without doing any one any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of men, that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects, for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it.
  • I pass, at length, to the third and perfectly absolute dominion, which we call democracy.
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy
  • We can conceive of various kinds of democracy. But my intention is not to treat of every kind, but of that only, "wherein all, without exception, who owe allegiance to the laws of the country only, and are further independent and of respectable life, have the right of voting in the supreme council and of filling the offices of the dominion."
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy

Quotations regarding SpinozaEdit

The enchanted one insists
And shapes God with delicate geometry. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
Alphabetized by author
How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own. ~ Albert Einstein
Men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another. ~ Albert Einstein
Thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism ; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy. ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Bruno's ideas were widely imparted, borrowed, sounded ; almost never, though, with the name Giordano Bruno attached to them. … Never does Spinoza cite Bruno by name. ~ Bill Kuhns
I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! … Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here. ~ Ernest Renan
The noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. ~ Bertrand Russell
Bruno and Spinoza … Each stands by himself and alone ; and they do not belong either to their age or to their part of the globe, which rewarded the one with death, and the other with persecution and ignominy. … The banks of the Ganges were their spiritual home ; there, they would have led a peaceful and honoured life among men of like mind. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Time carries him as the river carries
    A leaf in the downstream water.
    No matter. The enchanted one insists
    And shapes God with delicate geometry.

    Since his illness, since his birth,
    He goes on constructing God with the word.
    The mightiest love was granted him
    Love that does not expect to be loved.
    • "Baruch Spinoza" by Jorge Luis Borges, as translated in Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason (1989) by Yirmiyahu Yovel
  • Of Bruno, as of Spinoza, it may be said that he was "God-intoxicated." He felt that the Divine Excellence had its abode in the very heart of Nature and within his own body and spirit. Indwelling in every dewdrop as in the innumerable host of heaven, in the humblest flower and in the mind of man, he found the living spirit of God, setting forth the Divine glory, making the Divine perfection and inspiring with the Divine love.
    • William Boulting, in Giordano Bruno: His Life, Thought, and Martyrdom (1916) online excerpt
  • "Spinoza did not seek to found a sect, and he founded none" ; yet all philosophy after him is permeated with his thought.
  • I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
    • Albert Einstein, in response the telegrammed question of New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein in (24 April 1929) ; he later expanded on his comments about Spinoza's and his own ideas on religion elsewhere : "I can understand your aversion to the use of the term "religion" to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza … I have not found a better expression than "religious" for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason." — as quoted in Einstein : Science and Religion by Arnold V. Lesikar
  • The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image ; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
  • Spinoza formulated the problem of the socially patterned defect very clearly. He says: "Many people are seized by one and the same affect with great consistency. All his senses are so strongly affected by one object that he believes this object to be present even if it is not. If this happens while the person is awake, the person is believed to be insane. … But if the greedy person thinks only of money and possessions, the ambitious one only of fame, one does not think of them as being insane, but only as annoying ; generally one has contempt for them. But factually greediness, ambition, and so forth are forms of insanity, although usually one does not think of them as 'illness.'" These words were written a few hundred years ago ; they still hold true, although the defects have been culturally patterned to such an extent now that they are not even generally thought any more to be annoying or contemptible.
  • These distinctions make sense only when AR [absolute perfection in some respects, relative perfection in all others] is assumed (hence Spinoza's failure, who assumed mere A). Just as AR is the whole positive content of perfection, so CW, or the conception of the Creator-and-the-Whole-of-what-he-has-created as constituting one life, the super-whole which in its everlasting essence is uncreated (and does not necessitate just the parts which the whole has) but in its de facto concreteness is created — this panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations. Thus ARCW, or absolute-relative panentheism, is the one doctrine that really states the whole of what all theists, if not all atheists as/well, are implicitly talking about.
  • This Idea of Spinoza's we must allow to be in the main true and well-grounded; absolute substance is the truth, but it is not the whole truth ; in order to be this, it must also be thought of as in itself active and living, and by that very means it must determine itself as mind. But substance with Spinoza is only the universal and consequently the abstract determination of mind ; it may undoubtedly be said that this thought is the foundation of all true views — not, however, as their absolutely fixed and permanent basis, but as the abstract unity which mind is in itself. It is therefore worthy of note that thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy. For as we saw above … when man begins to philosophize, the soul must commence by bathing in this ether of the One Substance, in which all that man has held as true has disappeared ; this negation of all that is particular, to which every philosopher must have come, is the liberation of the mind and its absolute foundation.
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, comparing Spinoza's philosophy to that of the Eleatics, in Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1896), Vol. 3, Ch. I : The Metaphysics of the Understanding, § 2 : Spinoza, p. 257
  • The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1896), Vol. 3, Ch. I : The Metaphysics of the Understanding, § 2 : Spinoza, p. 283
  • I assert, that the doctrine of the immateriality, simplicity, and indivisibility of a thinking substance is a true atheism, and will serve to justify all those sentiments, for which Spinoza is so universally infamous. From this topic, I hope at least to reap one advantage, that my adversaries will not have any pretext to render the present doctrine odious by their declamations, when they see that they can be so easily retorted on them.
  • The fundamental principle of the atheism of Spinoza is the doctrine of the simplicity of the universe, and the unity of that substance, in which he supposes both thought and matter to inhere. There is only one substance, says he, in the world; and that substance is perfectly simple and indivisible, and exists every where, without any local presence. Whatever we discover externally by sensation; whatever we feel internally by reflection; all these are nothing but modifications of that one, simple, and necessarily existent being, and are not possest of any separate or distinct existence. Every passion of the soul; every configuration of matter, however different and various, inhere in the same substance, and preserve in themselves their characters of distinction, without communicating them to that subject, in which they inhere.
  • Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Bruno's ideas were widely imparted, borrowed, sounded ; almost never, though, with the name Giordano Bruno attached to them. Kepler once chided Galileo for omitting his debt to Bruno ; yet, we can discern Kepler's own indifference … Later generations would evoke Bruno's writings to the phrase, without quoting or acknowledging him. Recent scholarship on Spinoza, for example, cites Bruno's powerful exertion on his thought about infinity and on his style. Never does Spinoza cite Bruno by name.
  • Descartes... fell back on his original confusion of matter with space—space being, according to him, the only form of substance, and all existing things but affections of space. This error... forms one of the ultimate foundations of the system of Spinoza.
  • It was not until the Twelfth Century of our era that the Pentateuch as a whole was subjected to rational scrutiny. The man who undertook the ungrateful task was a learned Spanish rabbi, Abraham ben Meir ibn Esra. He unearthed many absurdities, but... it was not until five hundred years later that anything properly describable as scientific criticism... came into being. Its earliest shining lights were the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes [with his Leviathan], and the Amsterdam Jew, Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza's "Tractatus Theologico-politicus", published in 1670, made the first really formidable onslaught upon the inspired inerrancy of the Pentateuch. It called attention to scores of transparent imbecilities … including a dozen or more palpable geographical and historical impossibilities … The answer of constituted authorities was to suppress the "Tractatus", but enough copies got out to reach the proper persons, and ever since then the Old Testament has been under searching and devastating examination.
  • I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza : that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by "instinct". Not only is his overtendency like mine — namely, to make all knowledge the most powerful affect — but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself ; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters : he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange!
  • Ein Gottbetrunkener Mensch
    • A God-intoxicated man.
      • Novalis, as quoted in Novalis (1829) by Thomas Carlyle: "Spinoza is a God-intoxicated man (Gott-trunkenet Mensch)."
  • Woe to him who in passing should hurl an insult at this gentle and pensive head. He would be punished, as all vulgar souls are punished, by his very vulgarity, and by his incapacity to conceive what is divine. This man, from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men the way of blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, "The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here."
  • My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.
    • George Santayana, in "On My Friendly Critics", in Soliloquies in England (1922)
  • [From Schopenhauer's assessments of other philosophers] Bruno and Spinoza are to be entirely excepted. Each stands by himself and alone; and they do not belong either to their age or to their part of the globe, which rewarded the one with death, and the other with persecution and ignominy. Their miserable existence and death in this Western world are like that of a tropical plant in Europe. The banks of the Ganges were their spiritual home ; there, they would have led a peaceful and honoured life among men of like mind.
  • Of all heroes, Spinoza was Einstein's greatest. No one expressed more strongly than he a belief in the harmony, the beauty, and, most of all, the ultimate comprehensibility of nature.
    • John Archibald Wheeler, in "Albert Einstein in Biographical Memoirs Vol. 51, by the National Academy of Sciences
  • With the judgment of the angels and the sentence of the saints, we anathematize, execrate, curse and cast out Baruch de Espinoza, the whole of the sacred community assenting, in presence of the sacred books with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts written therein, pronouncing against him the malediction wherewith Elisha cursed the children, and all the maledictions written in the Book of the Law. Let him be accursed by day, and accursed by night ; let him be accursed in his lying down, and accursed in his rising up ; accursed in going out and accursed in coming in. May the Lord never more pardon or acknowledge him ; may the wrath and displeasure of the Lord burn henceforth against this man, load him with all the curses written in the Book of the Law, and blot out his name from under the sky ; may the Lord sever him from all the tribes of Israel, weight him with all the maledictions of the firmament contained in the Book of Law ; and may all ye who are obedient to the Lord your God be saved this day.
    Hereby then are all admonished that none hold converse with him by word of mouth, none hold communication with him by writing ; that no one do him any service, no one abide under the same roof with him, no one approach within four cubits' length of him, and no one read any document dictated by him, or written by his hand.
    • Rite of expulsion from the Jewish community, as translated in Benedict de Spinoza : His Life, Correspondence, and Ethics (1870) by Robert Willis

External linksEdit

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource
Wikisource has original text related to:
Commons
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Works: