The Ethics [Part 5]
Benedict de Spinoza, THE ETHICS
(Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata)
Translated by R. H. M. Elwes
PART V: Of the Power of the Understanding, or of Human Freedom
At length I pass to the remaining portion of my Ethics, which is concerned
with the way leading to freedom. I shall therefore treat therein of the
power of the reason, showing how far the reason can control the emotions,
and what is the nature of Mental Freedom or Blessedness; we shall then be
able to see, how much more powerful the wise man is than the ignorant.
It is no part of my design to point out the method and means whereby the
understanding may be perfected, nor to show the skill whereby the body may
be so tended, as to be capable of the due performance of its functions. The
latter question lies in the province of Medicine, the former in the province
of Logic. Here, therefore, I repeat, I shall treat only of the power of the
mind, or of reason; and I shall mainly show the extent and nature of its
dominion over the emotions, for their control and moderation. That we do
not possess absolute dominion over them, I have already shown. Yet the
Stoics have thought, that the emotions depended absolutely on our will, and
that we could absolutely govern them. But these philosophers were compelled,
by the protest of experience, not from their own principles, to confess,
that no slight practice and zeal is needed to control and moderate them:
and this someone endeavoured to illustrate by the example (if I remember
rightly) of two dogs, the one a house-dog and the other a hunting-dog. For
by long training it could be brought about, that the house-dog should become
accustomed to hunt, and the hunting-dog to cease from running after hares.
To this opinion Descartes not a little inclines. For he maintained, that the
soul or mind is specially united to a particular part of the brain, namely,
to that part called the pineal gland, by the aid of which the mind is
enabled to feel all the movements which are set going in the body, and also
external objects, and which the mind by a simple act of volition can put in
motion in various ways. He asserted, that this gland is so suspended in the
midst of the brain, that it could be moved by the slightest motion of the
animal spirits: further, that this gland is suspended in the midst of the
brain in as many different manners, as the animal spirits can impinge
thereon; and, again, that as many different marks are impressed on the said
gland, as there are different external objects which impel the animal
spirits towards it; whence it follows, that if the will of the soul suspends
the gland in a position, wherein it has already been suspended once before
by the animal spirits driven in one way or another, the gland in its turn
reacts on the said spirits, driving and determining them to the condition
wherein they were, when repulsed before by a similar position of the gland.
He further asserted, that every act of mental volition is united in nature
to a certain given motion of the gland. For instance, whenever anyone
desires to look at a remote object, the act of volition causes the pupil of
the eye to dilate, whereas, if the person in question had only thought of
the dilatation of the pupil, the mere wish to dilate it would not have
brought about the result, inasmuch as the motion of the gland, which serves
to impel the animal spirits towards the optic nerve in a way which would
dilate or contract the pupil, is not associated in nature with the wish to
dilate or contract the pupil, but with the wish to look at remote or very
near objects. Lastly, he maintained that, although every motion of the
aforesaid gland seems to have been united by nature to one particular
thought out of the whole number of our thoughts from the very beginning of
our life, yet it can nevertheless become through habituation associated with
other thoughts; this he endeavours to prove in the Passions de l'ame, I. 50.
He thence concludes, that there is no soul so weak, that it cannot, under
proper direction, acquire absolute power over its passions. For passions as
defined by him are "perceptions, or feelings, or disturbances of the soul,
which are referred to the soul as species, and which (mark the expression)
are produced, preserved, and strengthened through some movement of the
spirits." (Passion del l'ame,I.27.) But, seeing that we can join any motion
of the gland, or consequently of the spirits, to any volition, the
determination of the will depends entirely on our own powers; if, therefore,
we determine our will with sure and firm decisions in the direction to which
we wish our actions to tend, and associate the motions of the passions which
we wish to acquire with the said decisions, we shall acquire an absolute
dominion over our passions. Such is the doctrine of this illustrious
philosopher (in so far as I gather it from his own words); it is one
which, had it been less ingenious, I could hardly believe to have proceeded
from so great a man. Indeed, I am lost in wonder, that a philosopher, who
had stoutly asserted, that he would draw no conclusions which do not follow
from self-evident premisses, and would affirm nothing which he did not
clearly and distinctly perceive, and who had so often taken to task the
scholastics for wishing to explain obscurities through occult qualities,
could maintain a hypothesis, beside which occult qualities are commonplace.
What does he understand, I ask, by the union of the mind and the body? What
clear and distinct conception has he got of thought in most intimate union
with a certain particle of extended matter? Truly I should like him to
explain this union through its proximate cause. What clear and distinct
conception has he got of thought in most intimate union with a certain
particle of extended matter? What clear and distinct conception has he got
of thought in most intimate union with a certain particle of extended
matter? But he had so distinct a conception of mind being distinct from
body, that he could not assign any particular cause of the union between the
two, or of the mind itself, but was obliged to have recourse to the cause of
the whole universe, that is to God. Further, I should much like to know,
what degree of motion the mind can impart to this pineal gland, and with
what force can it hold it suspended? For I am in ignorance, whether this
gland can be agitated more slowly or more quickly by the mind than by the
animal spirits, and whether the motions of the passions, which we have
closely united with firm decisions, cannot be again disjoined therefrom by
physical causes; in which case it would follow that, although the mind
firmly intended to face a given danger, and had united to this decision the
motions of boldness, yet at the sight of the danger the gland might become
suspended in a way, which would preclude the mind thinking of anything
except running away. In truth, as there is no common standard of volition
and motion, so is there no comparison possible between the powers of the
mind and the power or strength of the body; consequently the strength of one
cannot in any wise be determined by the strength of the other. We may also
add, that there is no gland discoverable in the midst of the brain, so
placed that it can thus easily be set in motion in so many ways, and also
that all the nerves are not prolonged so far as the cavities of the brain.
Lastly, I omit all the assertions which he makes concerning the will and its
freedom, inasmuch as I have abundantly proved that his premisses are false.
Therefore, since the power of the mind, as I have shown above, is defined by
the understanding only, we shall determine solely by the knowledge of the
mind the remedies against the emotions, which I believe all have had
experience of, but do not accurately observe or distinctly see, and from the
same basis we shall deduce all those conclusions, which have regard to the
I. If two contrary actions be started in the same subject, a change must
necessarily take place, either in both, or in one of the two, and continue
until they cease to be contrary.
II. The power of an effect is defined by the power of its cause, in so far
as its essence is explained or defined by the essence of its cause. (This
axiom is evident from III.vii.)
Prop.I. Even as thoughts and the ideas of things are arranged
and associated in the mind, so are the modifications of body or
the images of things precisely in the same way arranged and
associated in the body.
Proof.- The order and connection of ideas is the same (II:vii.) as the order
and connection of things, and vice versa the order and connection of things
is the same (II:vi.Coroll. and II:vii.) as the order and connection of
ideas. Wherefore, even as the order and connection of ideas in the mind
takes place according to the order and association of modifications of the
body (II:xviii.), so vice versa (III:ii.) the order and connection of
modifications of the body takes place in accordance with the manner, in
which thoughts and the ideas of things are arranged and associated in the
PROP.II. If we remove a disturbance of the spirit, or emotion,
from the thought of an external cause, and unite it to other
thoughts, then will the love or hatred towards that external cause,
and also the vacillations of spirit which arise from these
emotions, be destroyed.
Proof.- That, which constitutes the reality of love or hatred, is pleasure
or pain, accompanied by the idea of an external cause (Def. of the
Emotions:vi.,&vii.); wherefore, when this cause is removed, the reality of
love or hatred is removed with it; therefore these emotions and those
which arise therefrom are destroyed. Q.E.D.
Prop.III. An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a
passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.
Proof.- An emotion, which is a passion, is a confused idea (by the general
Def. of the Emotions). If, therefore, we form a clear and distinct idea of a
given emotion, that idea will only be distinguished from the emotion, in so
far as it is referred to the mind only, by reason (II:xxi.,&Note); therefore
(III:iii.), the emotion will cease to be a passion. Q.E.D.
Corollary.- An emotion therefore becomes more under our control, and the
mind is less passive in respect to it, in proportion as it is more known to
Prop.IV. There is no modification of the body, whereof we
cannot form some clear and distinct conception.
Proof.- Properties which are common to all things can only be conceived
adequately (II:xxxviii.); therefore (II:xii.and Lemma. ii. after II:xiii.)
there is no modification of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and
distinct conception. Q.E.D.
Corollary.- Hence it follows that there is no emotion, whereof we cannot
form some clear and distinct conception. For an emotion is the idea of a
modification of the body (by the general Def. of the Emotions), and must
therefore (by the preceding Prop.) involve some clear and distinct
Note.- Seeing that there is nothing which is not followed by an effect
(I:xxxvi.), and that we clearly and distinctly understand whatever
follows from an idea, which in us is adequate (II:xl.), it follows that
everyone has the power of clearly and distinctly understanding himself and
his emotions, if not absolutely, at any rate in part, and consequently of
bringing it about, that he should become less subject to them. To attain
this result, therefore, we must chiefly direct our efforts to acquiring, as
far as possible, a clear and distinct knowledge of every emotion, in order
that the mind may thus, through emotion, be determined to think of those
things which it clearly and distinctly perceives, and wherein it fully
acquiesces: and thus that the emotion itself may be separated from the
thought of an external cause, and may be associated with true thoughts;
whence it will come to pass, not only that love, hatred, &c. will be
destroyed (V:ii.), but also that the appetites or desires, which are wont to
arise from such emotion, will become incapable of being excessive (IV:lxi.).
For it must be especially remarked, that the appetite through which a man is
said to be active, and that through which he is said to be passive is one
and the same. For instance, we have shown that human nature is so
constituted, that everyone desires his fellow-men to live after his own
fashion (III:xxxi.Note); in a man, who is not guided by reason, this
appetite is a passion which is called ambition, and does not greatly differ
from pride; whereas in a man, who lives by the dictates of reason, it is an
activity or virtue which is called piety (IV:xxxvii.Note.i. and second
proof). In like manner all appetites or desires are only passions, in so far
as they spring from inadequate ideas; the same results are accredited to
virtue, when they are aroused or generated by adequate ideas. For all
desires, whereby we are determined to any given action, may arise as much
from adequate as from inadequate ideas (IV:lix.). Than this remedy for the
emotions (to return to the point from which I started), which consists in a
true knowledge thereof, nothing more excellent, being within our power, can
be devised. For the mind has no other power save that of thinking and of
forming, adequate ideas, as we have shown above (III:iii.).
Prop.V. An emotion towards a thing, which we conceive
simply, and not as necessary, or as contingent, or as possible, is,
other conditions being equal, greater than any other emotion.
Proof.- An emotion towards a thing, which we conceive to be free, is greater
than one towards what we conceive to be necessary (III:xlix.), and,
consequently, still greater than one towards what we conceive as possible,
or contingent (IV:xi.). But to conceive a thing as free can be nothing else
than to conceive it simply, while we are in ignorance of the causes whereby
it has been determined to action (II:xxxv.Note); therefore, an emotion
towards a thing which we conceive simply is, other conditions being equal,
greater than one, which we feel towards what is necessary, possible, or
contingent, and, consequently, it is the greatest of all. Q.E.D.
Prop.VI. The mind has greater power over the emotions and is
less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as
Proof.- The mind understands all things to be necessary (I:xxix.) and to be
determined to existence and operation by an infinite chain of causes;
therefore (by the foregoing Proposition), it thus far brings it about, that
it is less subject to the emotions arising therefrom, and (III:xlviii.)
feels less emotion towards the things themselves. Q.E.D.
Note.- The more this knowledge, that things are necessary, is applied to
particular things, which we conceive more distinctly and vividly, the
greater is the power of the mind over the emotions, as experience also
testifies. For we see, that the pain arising from the loss of any good is
mitigated, as soon as the man who has lost it perceives, that it could not
by any means have been preserved. So also we see that no one pities an
infant, because it cannot speak, walk, or reason, or lastly, because it
passes so many years, as it were, in unconsciousness. Whereas, if most
people were born full-grown and only one here and there as an infant,
everyone would pity the infants; because infancy would not then be looked on
as a state natural and necessary, but as a fault or delinquency in Nature;
and we may note several other instances of the same sort.
Prop.VII. Emotions which are aroused or spring from reason, if
we take account of time, are stronger than those, which are
attributable to particular objects that we regard as absent.
Proof.- We do not regard a thing as absent, by reason of the emotion
wherewith we conceive it, but by reason of the body, being affected by
another emotion excluding the existence of the said thing (II:xvii.).
Wherefore, the emotion, which is referred to the thing which we regard as
absent, is not of a nature to overcome the rest of a man's activities and
power (IV:vi.), but is, on the contrary, of a nature to be in some sort
controlled by the emotions, which exclude the existence of its external
cause (IV:ix.). But an emotion which springs from reason is necessarily
referred to the common properties of things (see the def. of reason in
II:xl.Note.ii.), which we always regard as present (for there can be nothing
to exclude their present existence), and which we always conceive in the
same manner (II:xxxviii.). Wherefore an emotion of this kind always remains
the same; and consequently (V:Ax.i.) emotions, which are contrary thereto
and are not kept going by their external causes, will be obliged to adapt
themselves to it more and more, until they are no longer contrary to it; to
this extent the emotion which springs from reason is more powerful. Q.E.D.
Prop.VIII. An emotion is stronger in proportion to the number of
simultaneous concurrent causes whereby it is aroused.
Proof.- Many simultaneous causes are more powerful than a few (III:vii.):
therefore (IV:v.), in proportion to the increased number of simultaneous
causes whereby it is aroused, an emotion becomes stronger. Q.E.D.
Note.- This proposition is also evident from V:Ax.ii.
Prop.IX. An emotion, which is attributable to many and diverse
causes which the mind regards as simultaneous with the emotion
itself, is less hurtful, and we are less subject thereto and less
affected towards each of its causes, than if it were a different and
equally powerful emotion attributable to fewer causes or to a
Proof-. An emotion is only bad or hurtful, in so far as it hinders the mind
from being able to think (IV:xxvi., IV:xxvii.); therefore, an emotion,
whereby the mind is determined to the contemplation of several things at
once, is less hurtful than another equally powerful emotion, which so
engrosses the mind in the single contemplation of a few objects or of one,
that it is unable to think of anything else; this was our first point.
Again, as the mind's essence, in other words, its power (III:vii.), consists
solely in thought (II:xi.), the mind is less passive in respect to an
emotion, which causes it to think of several things at once, than in regard
to an equally strong emotion, which keeps it engrossed in the contemplation
of a few or of a single object: this was our second point. Lastly, this
emotion (III:xlviii.), in so far as it is attributable to several causes, is
less powerful in regard to each of them. Q.E.D.
Prop.X. So long as we are not assailed by emotions contrary to
our nature, we have the power of arranging and associating the
modifications of our body according to the intellectual order.
Proof.- The emotions, which are contrary to our nature, that is (IV:xxx.),
which are bad, are bad in so far as they impede the mind from understanding
(IV:xxvii.). So long, therefore, as we are not assailed by emotions contrary
to our nature, the mind's power, whereby it endeavours to understand things
(IV:xxvi.), is not impeded, and therefore it is able to form clear and
distinct ideas and to deduce them one from another (II:xl.Note.ii. and
II:xlvii.Note); consequently we have in such cases the power of arranging
and associating the modifications of the body according to the intellectual
Note.- By this power of rightly arranging and associating the bodily
modifications we can guard ourselves from being easily affected by evil
emotions. For (V:vii.) a greater force is needed for controlling the
emotions, when they are arranged and associated according to the
intellectual order, than when they, are uncertain and unsettled. The best we
can do, therefore, so long as we do not possess a perfect knowledge of our
emotions, is to frame a system of right conduct, or fixed practical
precepts, to commit it to memory, and to apply it forthwith to the
particular circumstances which now and again meet us in life, so that our
imagination may become fully imbued therewith, and that it may be always
ready to our hand. For instance, we have laid down among the rules of life
(IV:xlvi., & Note), that hatred should be overcome with love or high-
mindedness, and not required with hatred in return. Now, that this precept
of reason may be always ready to our hand in time of need, we should often
think over and reflect upon the wrongs generally committed by men, and in
what manner and way they may be best warded off by high-mindedness: we shall
thus associate the idea of wrong with the idea of this precept, which
accordingly will always be ready for use when a wrong is done to us
(II:xviii.). If we keep also in readiness the notion of our true
advantage, and of the good which follows from mutual friendships, and common
fellowships; further, if we remember that complete acquiescence is the
result of the right way of life (IV:lii.), and that men, no less than
everything else, act by the necessity of their nature: in such case I say
the wrong, or the hatred, which commonly arises therefrom, will engross a
very small part of our imagination and will be easily overcome; or, if the
anger which springs from a grievous wrong be not overcome easily, it will
nevertheless be overcome, though not without a spiritual conflict, far
sooner than if we had not thus reflected on the subject beforehand. As is
indeed evident from V:vi.,V:vii.,V:viii. We should, in the same way, reflect
on courage as a means of overcoming fear; the ordinary dangers of life
should frequently be brought to mind and imagined, together with the means
whereby through readiness of resource and strength of mind we can avoid and
overcome them. But we must note, that in arranging our thoughts and
conceptions we should always bear in mind that which is good in every
individual thing (IV:lxiii.Coroll. and III:lix.), in order that we may
always be determined to action by an emotion of pleasure. For instance, if
a man sees that he is too keen in the pursuit of honour, let him think over
its right use, the end for which it should be pursued, and the means whereby
he may attain it. Let him not think of its misuse, and its emptiness, and
the fickleness of mankind, and the like, whereof no man thinks except
through a morbidness of disposition; with thoughts like these do the
most ambitious most torment themselves, when they despair of gaining the
distinctions they hanker after, and in thus giving vent to their anger would
fain appear wise. Wherefore it is certain that those, who cry out the
loudest against the misuse of honour and the vanity of the world, are those
who most greedily covet it. This is not peculiar to the ambitious, but is
common to all who are ill-used by fortune, and who are infirm in spirit.
For a poor man also, who is miserly, will talk incessantly of the misuse of
wealth and of the vices of the rich; whereby he merely torments himself, and
shows the world that he is intolerant, not only of his own poverty, but also
of other people's riches. So, again, those who have been ill received by a
woman they love think of nothing but the inconstancy, treachery, and other
stock faults of the fair sex; all of which they consign to oblivion,
directly they are again taken into favour by their sweetheart. Thus he who
would govern his emotions and appetite solely by the love of freedom
strives, as far as he can, to gain a knowledge of the virtues and their
causes, and to fill his spirit with the joy which arises from the true
knowledge of them: he will in no wise desire to dwell on men's faults, or to
carp at his fellows, or to revel in a false show of freedom. Whosoever will
diligently observe and practise these precepts (which indeed are not
difficult) will verily, in a short space of time, be able, for the most
part, to direct his actions according to the commandments of reason.
Prop.XI. In proportion as a mental image is referred to more
objects, so is it more frequent, or more often vivid, and occupies
the mind more.
Proof.- In proportion as a mental image or an emotion is referred to more
objects, so are there more causes whereby it can be aroused and fostered,
all of which (by hypothesis) the mind contemplates simultaneously in
association with the given emotion; therefore the emotion is more frequent,
or is more often in full vigour, and (V:viii.) occupies the mind more.
Prop.XII. The mental images of things are more easily
associated with the images referred to things which we clearly
and distinctly understand, than with others.
Proof.- Things, which we clearly and distinctly understand, are either the
common properties of things or deductions therefrom (see definition of
Reason, II:.xl.Note ii.), and are consequently (by the last Prop.) more
often aroused in us. Wherefore it may more readily happen, that we should
contemplate other things in conjunction with these than in conjunction with
something else, and consequently (II:xviii.) that the images of the said
things should be more often associated with the images of these than with
the images of something else. Q.E.D.
Prop. XIII. A mental image is more often vivid, in proportion
as it is associated with a greater number of other images.
Proof.- In proportion as an image is associated with a greater number of
other images, so (II:xviii.) are there more causes whereby it can be
Prop. XIV. The mind can bring it about, that all bodily
modifications or images of things may be referred to the
idea of God.
Proof.- There is no modification of the body, whereof the mind may not form
some clear and distinct conception (V:iv.); wherefore it can bring it about,
that they should all be referred to the idea of God (I:xv.). Q.E.D.
Prop. XV. He who clearly and distinctly understands himself
and his emotions loves God, and so much the more in proportion
as he more understands himself and his emotions.
Proof.- He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions
feels pleasure (III:liii.), and this pleasure is (by the last Prop.)
accompanied by the idea of God; therefore (Def. of the Emotions:vi.) such an
one loves God, and (for the same reason) so much the more in proportion as
he more understands himself and his emotions. Q.E.D.
Prop. XVI. This love towards God must
hold the chief place in the mind.
Proof.- For this love is associated with all the modifications of the body
(V:xiv.) and is fostered by them all (V:v.); therefore (V:xi.), it must hold
the chief place in the mind. Q.E.D.
Prop. XVII. God is without passions,
neither is he affected by
any emotion of pleasure or pain.
Proof.- All ideas, in so far as they are referred to God, are true
(II:xxxii.), that is (II:Def.iv.) adequate; and therefore (by the general
Def. of the Emotions) God is without passions. Again, God cannot pass either
to a greater or to a lesser perfection (I:xx.Coroll.ii.); therefore
(by Def. of the Emotions:ii., &iii.) he is not affected by any emotion of
pleasure or pain.
Corollary. Strictly speaking, God does not love or hate anyone. For God (by
the foregoing Prop.) is not affected by any emotion of pleasure or pain,
consequently (Def. of the Emotions:vi., &vii.) he does not love or hate
Prop.XVIII. No one can hate God.
Proof.- The idea of God which is in us is adequate and perfect (II:xlvi.,
II:xlvii.); wherefore, in so far as we contemplate God, we are active
(III:iii.) ; consequently (III:lix.) there can be no pain accompanied by the
idea of God, in other words (Def. of the Emotions:vii.), no one can hate
Corollary.- Love towards God cannot be turned into hate.
Note.- It may be objected that, as we understand God as the cause of all
things, we by that very fact regard God as the cause of pain. But I make
answer, that, in so far as we understand the causes of pain, it to that
extent (V:iii.) ceases to be a passion, that is, it ceases to be pain
(III:lix.); therefore, in so far as we understand God to be the cause of
pain, we to that extent feel pleasure.
Prop. XIX. He, who loves God,
cannot endeavour that God
should love him in return.
Proof.- For, if a man should so endeavour, he would desire (V:xvii.Coroll.)
that God, whom he loves, should not be God, and consequently he would desire
to feel pain (III:xix.); which is absurd (III:xxviii.). Therefore, he who
loves God, &c. Q.E.D.
Prop. XX. This love towards God cannot be stained by the
emotion of envy or jealousy: contrariwise, it is the more fostered,
in proportion as we conceive a greater number of men to be
joined to God by the same bond of love.
Proof.- This love towards God is the highest good which we can seek for
under the guidance of reason (IV:xxviii.), it is common to all men
(IV:xxxvi),and we desire that all should rejoice therein (IV:xxxvii.);
therefore (Def. of the Emotions:xxiii), it cannot be stained by the
emotion envy nor by, the emotion of jealousy, (V:xviii. see definition of
Jealousy, (III:xxxv. Note); but, contrariwise, it must needs be the more
fostered, in proportion as we conceive a greater number of men to rejoice
Note.- We can in the same way, show, that there is no emotion directly
contrary to this love, whereby this love can be destroyed; therefore we may
conclude, that this love towards God is the most constant of all the
emotions, and that, in so far as it is referred to the body, it cannot be
destroyed, unless the body be destroyed also. As to its nature, in so far as
it is referred to the mind only, we shall presently inquire.
I have now gone through all the remedies against the emotions, or all
that the mind, considered in itself alone, can do against them. Whence it
appears that the mind's power over the emotions consists:-
I. In the actual knowledge of the emotions (V:iv.Note).
II. In the fact that it separates the emotions from the thought of an
external cause, which we conceive confusedly (V:ii. and V:iv.Note).
III. In the fact, that, in respect to time, the emotions referred to
things, which we distinctly understand, surpass those referred to what we
conceive in a confused and fragmentary manner (V:vii.).
IV. In the number of causes whereby those modifications (Affectiones.
Camerer reads affectus - emotions), are fostered, which have regard to the
common properties of things or to God (V:ix., V:xi.).
V. Lastly, in the order wherein the mind can arrange and associate, one
with another, its own emotions (V:x.Note and V:xii., V:xiii., V:xiv.).
But, in order that this power of the mind over the emotions may be better
understood, it should be specially observed that the emotions are called by
us strong, when we compare the emotion of one man with the emotion of
another, and see that one man is more troubled than another by the same
emotion; or when we are comparing the various emotions of the same man one
with another, and find that he is more affected or stirred by one emotion
than by another. For the strength of every emotion is defined by a
comparison of our own power with the power of an external cause. Now the
power of the mind is defined by knowledge only, and its infirmity or passion
is defined by the privation of knowledge only: it therefore follows, that
that mind is most passive, whose greatest part is made up of inadequate
ideas, so that it may be characterized more readily by its passive states
than by its activities: on the other hand, that mind is most active, whose
greatest part is made up of adequate ideas, so that, although it may contain
as many inadequate ideas as the former mind, it may yet be more easily
characterized by ideas attributable to human virtue, than by ideas which
tell of human infirmity. Again, it must be observed, that spiritual
unhealthiness; and misfortunes can generally be traced to excessive love for
something which is subject to many variations, and which we can never become
masters of. For no one is solicitous or anxious about anything, unless he
loves it; neither do wrongs, suspicions, enmities, &c. arise, except in
regard to things whereof no one can be really master.
We may thus readily conceive the power which clear and distinct knowledge,
and especially that third kind of knowledge (II:xlvii.Note), founded on the
actual knowledge of God, possesses over the emotions: if it does not
absolutely destroy them, in so far as they are passions (V:iii. and
V:iv.Note); at any rate, it causes them to occupy a very small part of the
mind (V:xiv.). Further, it begets a love towards a thing immutable and
eternal (V:xv.), whereof we may really enter into possession (II:xlv.);
neither can it be defiled with those faults which are inherent in ordinary
love; but it may grow from strength to strength, and may engross the greater
part of the mind, and deeply penetrate it. And now I have finished with all
that concerns this present life: for, as I said in the beginning of this
note, I have briefly described all the remedies against the emotions. And
this everyone may readily have seen for himself, if he has attended to
what is advanced in the present note, and also to the definitions of the
mind and its emotions, and, lastly, to Propositions III:i. and III:iii. It
is now, therefore, time to pass on to those matters, which appertain to the
duration of the mind, without relation to the body.
Prop. XXI. The mind can only imagine anything,
or remember what is past, while the body endures.
Proof.- The mind does not express the actual existence of its body, nor does
it imagine the modifications of the body as actual, except while the body
endures (II:viii.Coroll.); and, consequently (II:xxvi.), it does not imagine
any body as actually existing, except while its own body endures. Thus it
cannot imagine anything (for definition of Imagination, see II:xvii.Note),
or remember things past, except while the body endures (see definition of
Memory, II:xviii.Note). Q.E.D.
Prop. XXII. Nevertheless in God there is necessarily an idea,
which expresses the essence of this or that human body under
the form of eternity.
Proof.- God is the cause, not only of the existence of this or that human
body, but also of its essence (I:xxv.). This essence, therefore, must
necessarily be conceived through the very essence of God (I:Ax.iv.), and be
thus conceived by a certain eternal necessity (I:xvi.); and this conception.
must necessarily exist in God (II:iii.). Q.E.D.
Prop. XXIII. The human mind cannot be absolutely
destroyed with the body, but there remains of it
something which is eternal.
Proof.- There is necessarily in God a concept or idea, which expresses the
essence of the human body (last Prop.), which, therefore, is necessarily
something appertaining to the essence of the human mind (II:xiii.). But we
have not assigned to the human mind any, duration, definable by time, except
in so far as it expresses the actual existence of the body, which is
explained through duration, and may be defined by time - that is
(II:viii.Coroll.), we do not assign to it duration, except while the body
endures. Yet, as there is something, notwithstanding, which is conceived by
a certain eternal necessity through the very essence of God (last Prop.);
this something, which appertains to the essence of the mind, will
necessarily be eternal. Q.E.D.
Note.- This idea, which expresses the essence of the body under the form of
eternity, is, as we have said, a certain mode of thinking, which belongs to
the essence of the mind, and is necessarily eternal. Yet it is not possible
that we should remember that we existed before our body, for our body can
bear no trace of such existence, neither can eternity be defined in terms of
time, or have any relation to time. But, notwithstanding, we feel and know
that we are eternal. For the mind feels those things that it conceives by
understanding, no less than those things that it remembers. For the eyes of
the mind, whereby it sees and observes things, are none other than proofs.
Thus, although we do not remember that we existed before the body, yet we
feel that our mind, in so far as it involves the essence of the body, under
the form of eternity, is eternal, and that thus its existence cannot be
defined in terms of time, or explained through duration. Thus our mind can
only be said to endure, and its existence can only be defined by a fixed
time, in so far as it involves the actual existence of the body. Thus far
only has it the power of determining the existence of things by time, and
conceiving them under the category of duration.
Prop. XXIV. The more we understand particular
things, the more do we understand God.
Proof.- This is evident from I:xxv.Coroll.
Prop. XXV. The highest endeavour of the mind,
and the highest virtue is to understand things
by the third kind of knowledge.
Proof.- The third kind of knowledge proceeds from an adequate idea of
certain attributes of God to an adequate knowledge of the essence of things
(see its definition III:xl.Note.ii.); and, in proportion as we understand
things more in this way, we better understand God (by the last Prop.);
therefore (IV:xxviii.) the highest virtue of the mind, that is IV:Def.viii.)
the power, or nature, or (III:vii.) highest endeavour of the mind, is to
understand things by the third kind of knowledge. Q.E.D.
Prop. XXVI. In proportion as the mind is
more capable of understanding things by
the third kind of knowledge, it desires
more to understand things by that kind.
Proof.- This is evident. For, in so far as we conceive the mind to be
capable of conceiving things by this kind of knowledge, we, to that extent,
conceive it as determined thus to conceive things; and consequently (Def. of
the Emotions:i.), the mind desires so to do, in proportion as it is more
capable thereof. Q.E.D.
Prop. XXVII. From this third kind of
knowledge arises the highest possible
Proof.- The highest virtue of the mind is to know God (IV:xxviii.), or to
understand things by the third kind of knowledge (V:xxv.), and this virtue
is greater in proportion as the mind knows things more by the said kind of
knowledge (V:xxiv.): consequently, he who knows things by this kind of
knowledge passes to the summit of human perfection, and is therefore
(Def. of the Emotions:ii.) affected by the highest pleasure, such pleasure
being accompanied by the idea of himself and his own virtue; thus (Def. of
the Emotions:xxv.), from this kind of knowledge arises the highest possible
Prop. XXVIII. The endeavour or desire to
know things by the third kind of knowledge
cannot arise from the first, but from the
second kind of knowledge.
Proof.- This proposition is self-evident. For whatsoever we understand
clearly and distinct we understand either through itself, or through that
which is conceived through itself; that is, ideas which are clear and
distinct in us, or which are referred to the third kind of knowledge
(II:xl.Note.ii.) cannot follow from ideas that are fragmentary, and
confused, and are referred to knowledge of the first kind, but must follow
from adequate ideas, or ideas of the second and third kind of knowledge;
therefore (Def. of the Emotions:i.), the desire of knowing things by the
third kind of knowledge cannot arise from the first, but from the second
Prop. XXIX. Whatsoever the mind understands
under the form of eternity, it does not
understand by virtue of conceiving the
present actual existence of the body,
but by virtue of conceiving the essence of
the body under the form of eternity.
Proof.- In so far as the mind conceives the present existence of its body,
it to that extent conceives duration which can be determined by time, and to
that extent only, has it the power of conceiving things in relation to time
(V:xxi., II:xxvi.). But eternity cannot be explained in terms of duration
(I:Def.viii. and explanation). Therefore to this extent the mind has not the
power of conceiving things under the form of eternity, but it possesses such
power, because it is of the nature of reason to conceive things under the
form of eternity (II:xliv.Coroll.ii.), and also because it is of the nature
of the mind to conceive the essence of the body under the form of eternity
(V:xxiii.), for besides these two there is nothing which belongs to the
essence of mind (II:xiii.). Therefore this power of conceiving things under
the form of eternity only belongs to the mind in virtue of the mind's
conceiving the essence of the body under the form of eternity. Q.E.D.
Note.- Things are conceived by us as actual in two ways; either as existing
in relation to a given time and place, or as contained in God and following
from the necessity of the divine nature. Whatsoever we conceive in this
second way as true or real, we conceive under the form of eternity, and
their ideas involve the eternal and infinite essence of God, as we showed
in II:xlv.&Note, which see.
Prop. XXX. Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and the body
under the form of eternity, has to that extent necessarily a
knowledge of God, and knows that it is in God, and is conceived
Proof.- Eternity is the very essence of God, in so far as this involves
necessary existence (I:Def.viii.). Therefore to conceive things under the
form of eternity, is to conceive things in so far as they are conceived
through thp essence of God as real entities, or in so far as they involve
existence through the essence of God; wherefore our mind, in so far as it
conceives itself and the body under the form of eternity, has to that extent
necessarily a knowledge of God, and knows, &c. Q.E.D.
Prop. XXXI. The third kind of knowledge
depends on the mind, as its formal cause,
in so far as the mind itself is eternal.
Proof.- The mind does not conceive anything under the form of eternity,
except in so far as it conceives its own body under the form of eternity
(V:xxix.); that is, except in so far as it is eternal (V:xxi., V:xxiii.);
therefore (by the last Prop.), in so far as it is eternal, it possesses the
knowledge of God, which knowledge is necessarily adequate
(II:xlvi.); hence the mind, in so far as it is eternal, is capable of
knowing everything which can follow from this given knowledge of God
(II:xl.), in other words, of knowing things by the third kind of knowledge
(see Def. in II:xl.Note.ii.), whereof accordingly the mind (III:Def.i.), in
so far as it is eternal, is the adequate or formal cause of such knowledge.
Note.- In proportion, therefore, as a man is more potent in this kind of
knowledge, he will be more completely conscious of himself and of God; in
other words, he will be more perfect and blessed, as will appear more
clearly in the sequel. But we must here observe that, although we are
already certain that the mind is eternal, in so far as it conceives things
under the form of eternity, yet, in order that what we wish to show may be
more readily explained and better understood, we will consider the mind
itself, as though it had just begun to exist and to understand things under
the form of eternity, as indeed we have done hitherto; this we may do
without any danger of error, so long as we are careful not to draw any
conclusion, unless our premisses are plain.
Prop. XXXII. Whatsoever we understand by the third kind of
knowledge, we take delight in, and our delight is accompanied by
the idea of God as cause.
Proof.- From this kind of knowledge arises the highest possible mental
acquiescence, that is (Def of the Emotions:xxv.), pleasure, and this
acquiescence is accompanied by the idea of the mind itself (V. xxvii.), and
consequently (V:xxx.) the idea also of God as cause. Q.E.D.
Corollary.- From the third kind of knowledge necessarily arises the
intellectual love of God. From this kind of knowledge arises pleasure
accompanied by the idea of God as cause, that is (Def. of the Emotions:vi.),
the love of God; not in so far as we imagine him as present (V:xxix.), but
in so far as we understand him to be eternal; this is what I call the
intellectual love of God.
Prop. XXXIII. The intellectual love of God,
which arises from the third kind of knowledge,
Proof.- The third kind of knowledge is eternal (V:xxxi., I:Ax.iii.);
therefore (by the same Axiom) the love which arises therefrom is also
necessarily eternal. Q.E.D.
Note.- Although this love towards God has (by the foregoing Prop.) no
beginning, it yet possesses all the perfections of love, just as though it
had arisen as we feigned in the Coroll. of the last Prop. Nor is there here
any difference, except that the mind possesses as eternal those same
perfections which we feigned to accrue to it, and they are accompanied by
the idea of God as eternal cause. If pleasure consists in the transition to
a greater perfection, assuredly blessedness must consist in the mind being
endowed with perfection itself.
Prop. XXX.IV. The mind is, only while the body
endures, subject to those emotions which are
attributable to passions.
Proof. Imagination is the idea wherewith the mind contemplates a thing as
present (II:xvii.Note); yet this idea indicates rather the present
disposition of the human body than the nature of the external thing
(II:xvi.Coroll.ii.). Therefore emotion (see general Def. of Emotions)
is imagination, in so far as it indicates the present disposition of the
body; therefore (V:xxi.) the mind is, only while the body endures, subject
to emotions which are attributable to passions. Q.E.D.
Corollary.- Hence it follows that no love save intellectual love is eternal.
Note.- If we look to men's general opinion, we shall see that they are
indeed conscious of the eternity of their mind, but that they confuse
eternity with duration, and ascribe it to the imagination or the memory
which they believe to remain after death.
Prop. XXXV. God loves himself with
an infinite intellectual love.
Proof.- God is absolutely infinite (I:Def.vi.), that is (II:Def.vi.), the
nature of God rejoices in infinite perfection; and such rejoicing is
(II:iii.) accompanied by the idea of himself, that is (I:xi. and I:Def.i.),
the idea of his own cause: now this is what we have (in V:xxxii.Coroll.)
described as intellectual love.
Prop. XXXVI. The intellectual love of the mind towards God is
that very love of God whereby God loves himself, not in so far as
he is infinite, but in so far as he can be explained through
the essence of the human mind regarded under the form of
eternity; in other words, the intellectual love of the mind towards
God is part of the infinite love wherewith God loves himself.
Proof.- (1) This love of the mind must be referred to the activities of the
mind (V:xxxii.Coroll. and III:iii.); it is itself, indeed, an activity
whereby the mind regards itself accompanied by the idea of God as cause
(V:xxxii.&Coroll.); that is (I:xxv.Coroll. and II:xi.Coroll.), an activity
whereby God, in so far as he can be explained through the human mind,
regards himself accompanied by the idea of himself; therefore (by the last
Prop.), this love of the mind is part of the infinite love wherewith God
loves himself. Q.E.D.
Corollary.- Hence it follows that God, in so far as he loves himself, loves
man, and, consequently, that the love of God towards men, and the
intellectual love of the mind towards God are identical.
Note.- From what has been said we clearly understand, wherein our salvation,
or blessedness, or freedom, consists: namely, in the constant and eternal
love towards God, or in God's love towards men. This love or blessedness is,
in the Bible, called Glory and not undeservedly. For whether this love be
referred to God or to the mind, it may rightly be called acquiescence of
spirit, which (Def. of the Emotions:xxv., and xxx.) is not really
distinguished from glory. In so far as it is referred to God, it is
(V:xxxv.) pleasure, if we may still use that term, accompanied by the idea
of itself, and, in so far as it is referred to the mind, it is the same
Again, since the essence of our mind consists solely in knowledge, whereof
the beginning and the foundation is God (I:xv., &II:xlvii.Note), it becomes
clear to us, in what manner and way our mind, as to its essence and
existence, follows from the divine nature and constantly depends on God. I
have thought it worth while here to call attention to this, in order to show
by this example how the knowledge of particular things, which I have called
intuitive or of the third kind (II:xl.Note.ii.), is potent, and more
powerful than the universal knowledge, which I have styled knowledge of the
second kind. For, although in Part I showed in general terms, that all
things (and consequently, also, the human mind) depend as to their essence
and existence on God, yet that demonstration, though legitimate and placed
beyond the chances of doubt, does not affect our mind so much, as when the
same conclusion is derived from the actual essence of some particular thing,
which we say depends on God.
Prop. XXXVII. There is nothing in nature,
which is contrary to this intellectual love,
or which can take it away.
Proof.- This intellectual love follows necessarily from the nature of the
mind, in so far as the latter is regarded through the nature of God as an
eternal truth (V:xxxiii. and V:xxix.). If, therefore, there should be
anything which would be contrary to this love, that thing would be
contrary to that which is true; consequently, that, which should be able to
take away this love, would cause that which is true to be false; an obvious
absurdity. Therefore there is nothing in nature which, &c. Q.E.D.
Note.- The Axiom of Part IV. has reference to particular things, in so far
as they are regarded in relation to a given time and place: of this, I
think, no one can doubt.
Prop. XXXVIII. In proportion as the mind understands more
things by the second and third kind of knowledge, it is less
subject to those emotions which are evil, and stands in less
fear of death.
Proof.- The mind's essence consists in knowledge (II:xi.); therefore, in
proportion as the mind understands more things by the second and third kinds
of knowledge, the greater will be the part of it that endures (V:xxix. and
V:xxiii.), and, consequently (by the last Prop.), the greater will be the
part that is not touched by the emotions, which are contrary to our nature,
or in other words, evil (IV:xxx.). Thus, in proportion as the mind
understands more things by the second and third kinds of knowledge, the
greater will be the part of it, that remains unimpaired, and, consequently,
less subject to emotions, &c. Q.E.D.
Note.- Hence we understand that point which I touched on in IV:xxxix.Note,
and which I promised to explain in this Part; namely, that death becomes
less hurtful, in proportion as the mind's clear and distinct knowledge is
greater, and, consequently, in proportion as the mind loves God more. Again,
since from the third kind of knowledge arises the highest possible
acquiescence (V:xxvii.), it follows that the human mind can attain to
being of such a nature, that the part thereof which we have shown to
perish with the body (V:xxi.) should be of little importance when compared
with the part which endures. But I will soon treat of the subject at greater
Prop. XXXIX. He, who possesses a body capable
of the greatest number of activities, possesses
a mind whereof the greatest part is eternal.
Proof.- He, who possesses a body capable of the greatest number of
activities, is least agitated by those emotions which are evil (IV:xxxviii.)
that is (IV:xxx.), by those emotions which are contrary to our nature;
therefore (V:x.), he possesses the power of arranging and associating the
modifications of the body according to the intellectual order, and,
consequently, of bringing it about, that all the modifications of the body
should be referred to the idea of God; whence it will come to pass that
(V:xv.) he will be affected with love towards God, which (V:xvi) must occupy
or constitute the chief part of the mind; therefore (V:xxxiii.), such a man
will possess a mind whereof the chief part is eternal. Q.E.D.
Note.- Since human bodies are capable of the greatest number of activities,
there is no doubt but that they may be of such a nature, that they may be
referred to minds possessing a great knowledge of themselves and of God, and
whereof the greatest or chief part is eternal, and, therefore, that they
should scarcely fear death. But, in order that this may be understood more
clearly, we must here call to mind, that we live in a state of perpetual
variation, and, according as we are changed for the better or the worse, we
are called happy or unhappy.
For he, who, from being an infant or a child, becomes a corpse, is called
unhappy; whereas it is set down to happiness, if we have been able to live
through the whole period of life with a sound mind in a sound body. And, in
reality, he, who, as in the case of an infant or a child, has a body capable
of very few activities, and depending, for the most part, on external
causes, has a mind which, considered in itself alone, is scarcely conscious
of itself, or of God, or of things; whereas, he, who has a body capable of
very many activities, has a mind which, considered in itself alone, is
highly conscious of itself, of God, and of things. In this life, therefore,
we primarily endeavour to bring it about, that the body of a child, in so
far as its nature allows and conduces thereto, may be changed into something
else capable of very many activities, and referable to a mind which is
highly conscious of itself, of God, and of things; and we desire so to
change it, that what is referred to its imagination and memory may become
insignificant, in comparison with its intellect, as I have already said in
the note to the last Proposition.
Prop. XL. In proportion as each thing possesses
more of perfection, so is it more active, and
less passive; and, vice versa, in proportion as
it is more active, so is it more perfect.
Proof.- In proportion as each thing is more perfect, it possesses more of
reality (II:Def.vi.), and, consequently (III:iii.and Note), it is to that
extent more active and less passive. This demonstration may be reversed, and
thus prove that, in proportion as a thing is more active, so is it more
Corollary.- Hence it follows that the part of the mind which endures, be it
great or small, is more perfect than the rest. For the eternal part of the
mind (V:xiii. and V:xxix.) the understanding, through which alone we are
said to act (III:iii.); the part which we have shown to perish is the
imagination (V:xxi.), through which only we are said to be passive (III:iii.
and general Def. of the Emotions); therefore, the former, be it great or
small, is more perfect than the latter. Q.E.D.
Note.- Such are the doctrines which I had purposed to set forth concerning
the mind, in so far as it is regarded without relation to the body; whence,
as also from I:xxi. and other places, it is plain that our mind, in so far
as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking, which is determined by
another eternal mode of thinking, and this other by a third, and so on to
infinity; so that all taken together at once constitute the eternal and
infinite intellect of God.
Prop. XLI. Even if we did not know that
our mind is eternal, we should still
consider as of primary importance piety
and religion, and generally all things
which, in Part IV., we showed to be
attributable to courage and high-mindedness.
Proof.- The first and only, foundation of virtue, or the rule of right
living is (IV:xxii.Coroll. and IV:xxiv.) seeking one's own true interest.
Now, while we determined what reason prescribes as useful, we took no
account of the mind's eternity, which has only become known to us in this
Fifth Part. Although we were ignorant at that time that the mind is eternal,
we nevertheless stated that the qualities attributable to courage and high-
mindedness are of primary importance. Therefore, even if we were still
ignorant of this doctrine, we should yet put the aforesaid precepts of
reason in the first place. Q.E.D.
Note.- The general belief of the multitude seems to be different. Most
people seem to believe that they are free, in so far as they may obey their
lusts, and that they cede their rights, in so far as they are bound to live
according to the commandments of the divine law. They therefore believe that
piety, religion, and, generally, all things attributable to firmness of
mind, are burdens, which, after death, they hope to lay aside, and to
receive the reward for their bondage, that is, for their piety, and
religion; it is not only by this hope, but also, and chiefly, by the fear of
being horribly punished after death, that they are induced to live according
to the divine commandments, so far as their feeble and infirm spirit will
If men had not this hope and this fear, but believed that the mind perishes
with the body, and that no hope of prolonged life remains for the wretches
who are broken down with the burden of piety, they would return to their own
inclinations, controlling everything in accordance with their lusts, and
desiring to obey fortune rather than themselves. Such a course appears to me
not less absurd than if a man, because he does not believe that he can by
wholesome food sustain his body for ever, should wish to cram himself with
poisons and deadly fare; or if, because he sees that the mind is not eternal
or immortal, he should prefer to be out of his mind altogether, and to live
without the use of reason; these ideas are so absurd as to be scarcely worth
Prop. XLII. Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue
itself ; neither do we rejoice therein, because we control our
lusts, but, contrariwise, because we rejoice therein, we are able
to control our lusts.
Proof.- Blessedness consists in love towards God (V:xxxvi. and Note), which
love springs from the third kind of knowledge (V:xxxii.Coroll.); therefore
this love (III:iii. and III:lix.) must be referred to the mind, in so far as
the latter is active; therefore (IV:Def.viii.) it is virtue itself.
This was our first point. Again, in proportion as the mind rejoices more in
this divine love or blessedness, so does it the more understand (V:xxxii.);
that is (V:iii.Coroll.), so much the more power has it over the emotions,
and (V:xxxviii.) so much the less is it subject to those emotions
which are evil; therefore, in proportion as the mind rejoices in this divine
love or blessedness, so has it the power of controlling lusts. And, since
human power in controlling the emotions consists solely in the
understanding, it follows that no one rejoices in blessedness, because he
has controlled his lusts, but, contrariwise, his power of controlling his
lusts arises from this blessedness itself. Q.E.D.
Note.- I have thus completed all I wished to set forth touching the mind's
power over the emotions and the mind's freedom. Whence it appears, how
potent is the wise man, and how much he surpasses the ignorant man, who is
driven only by his lusts. For the ignorant man is not only distracted in
various ways by external causes without ever gaining, the true acquiescence
of his spirit, but moreover lives, as it were unwitting of himself, and of
God, and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, ceases also to be.
Whereas the wise man, in so far as he is regarded as such, is scarcely at
all disturbed in spirit, but, being conscious of himself, and of God, and of
things, by a certain eternal necessity, never ceases to be, but always
possesses true acquiescence of his spirit.
If the way which I have pointed out as leading to this result seems
exceedingly hard, it may nevertheless be discovered. Needs must it be hard,
since it is so seldom found. How would it be possible, if salvation were
ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should
be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as
difficult as they are rare.
End of Part V.
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