Ethics by Baruch Spinoza

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my notes

Spinoza begins the Ethics with arguments to prove that there must be a single self-substituent substance, to be identified as ‘Deus sive Natura’, ‘God or Nature’, which is the cause, directly or indirectly, of all things, and which is self-created.

He identified God with Nature and he denied the possibility of an Act of Creation.

If we say with our common-sense view of the world, founded on our day-to-day experiences, we shall still believe that the earth is flat and that the sun is immature in our emotions and therefore foolish in the conduct of our affairs, moving from one objective to another without rational control and direction.

Through systematic knowledge of the workings of the mind, matching systematic knowledge of physics, we can gain control of our sentiments and follow a consistent path towards tranquillity and happiness.

By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence.

God is unique, that is, that in Nature there is only one substance, and that is absolutely infinite.

God is the efficient cause of all things.
God is a cause through himself and not an accidental cause.
It follows, third, that God is absolutely the first cause.

For God alone exists only from the necessity of his nature.

Every single thing, or any thing which is finite and has a determine existence, can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exist and produce an effect by another cause, which is also finite and has a determinate existence; and again, this cause also can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exists and produce an effect by another, which is also finite and has a determinate existence, and on, to infinity.

For from the necessity alone of God’s essence it follows that God is the cause of himself.

Men think themselves free, because they are conscious of their volitions and their appetite, and do not think, even in their dreams, of the causes by which they are disposed to wanting and willing , because they are ignorant of those causes.

Whatever conduces to health and worship of God, they have called good; but what is contrary to these, evil.

Though is one of God’s infinite attributes, which expresses an eternal and infinite essence of God.

We neither feel nor perceive any singular things, except bodies and modes of thinking.

The human mind is part of the infinite intellect of God. Therefore, when we say that the human mind perceives this or that, we are saying nothing but that God has this or that idea.

Definitions
By good I shall understand what we certainly know to be useful to us.

By evil, however, I shall understand what we certainly know prevents us from being masters of some good.

I call singular things contingent insofar as we find nothing, while we attend only to their existence, which necessarily posits their existence or which necessarily excludes it.

By the end for the sake of which we do something I understand appetite.

WE call good, or evil, what is useful to, or harmful to, preserving our being, what increases or diminishes, aids or restrains, our power of acting.

Knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sadness which follows necessarily from the affect of joy or sadness itself.

The superstitious know how to reproach people for their vices better than they know how to teach them virtues. Such people only make others as wretched as they themselves are.

By a desire arising from reason, we directly follow the good, and indirectly flee the evil.

A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is a meditation of life, not on death.

If men were born free, they would form no concept of good and evil so long as they remained free.

I call free he who is led by reason alone.

He who understands himself and his affects clearly and distinctly loves God, and does so the more, the more he understands himself and his affects.

He who loves God cannot strive that God should love him in return.

The mind’s greatest advantage, or good, is knowledge of God.

Robert Dumitriu