The Ethics [Part I]
Benedict de Spinoza, THE ETHICS
(Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata)
Translated by R. H. M. Elwes
PART I: CONCERNING GOD.
I. By that which is 'self-caused' I mean that of which the
essence involves existence, or that of which the nature is only
conceivable as existent.
II. A thing is called 'finite after its kind' when it can be
limited by another thing of the same nature; for instance, a body
is called finite because we always conceive another greater body.
So, also, a thought is limited by another thought, but a body is
not limited by thought, nor a thought by body.
III. By 'substance' I mean that which is in itself, and is
conceived through itself: in other words, that of which a
conception can be formed independently of any other conception.
IV. By 'attribute' I mean that which the intellect perceives as
constituting the essence of substance.
V. By 'mode' I mean the modifications ("affectiones") of
substance, or that which exists in, and is conceived through,
something other than itself.
VI. By 'God' I mean a being absolutely infinite--that is, a
substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each
expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.
>>>>>Explanation--I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after
its kind: for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, infinite
attributes may be denied; but that which is absolutely infinite,
contains in its essence whatever expresses reality, and involves
VII. That thing is called 'free,' which exists solely by the
necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is
determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that thing is
necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by
something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of
existence or action.
VIII. By 'eternity' I mean existence itself, in so far as it is
conceived necessarily to follow solely from the definition of
that which is eternal.
>>>>>Explanation--Existence of this kind is conceived as an
eternal truth, like the essence of a thing and, therefore,
cannot be explained by means of continuance or time, though
continuance may be conceived without a beginning or end.
AXIOMS. I. Everything which exists, exists either in itself or
in something else.
II. That which cannot be conceived through anything else must be
conceived through itself.
III. From a given definite cause an effect necessarily follows;
and, on the other hand, if no definite cause be granted, it is
impossible that an effect can follow.
IV. The knowledge of an effect depends on and involves the
knowledge of a cause.
V. Things which have nothing in common cannot be understood, the
one by means of the other; the conception of one does not involve
the conception of the other.
VI. A true idea must correspond with its ideate or object.
VII. If a thing can be conceived as non-existing, its essence
does not involve existence.
PROPOSITIONS. I. Substance is by nature prior to its
>>>>>Proof--This is clear from Deff. iii. and v.
II. Two substances, whose attributes are different, have
nothing in common.
>>>>>Proof--Also evident from Def. iii. For each must exist in
itself, and be conceived through itself; in other words, the
conception of one does not imply the conception of the other.
III. Things which have nothing in common cannot be one the cause
of the other.
>>>>>Proof--If they have nothing in common, it follows that one
cannot be apprehended by means of the other (Ax. v.), and,
therefore, one cannot be the cause of the other (Ax. iv.).
IV. Two or more distinct things are distinguished one from the
other, either by the difference of the attributes of the
substances, or by the difference of their modifications.
>>>>>Proof--Everything which exists, exists either in itself or
in something else (Ax. i.),-- that is (by Deff. iii. and v.),
nothing is granted in addition to the understanding, except
substance and its modifications. Nothing is, therefore, given
besides the understanding, by which several things may be
distinguished one from the other, except the substances, or, in
other words (see Ax. iv.), their attributes and modifications.
V. There cannot exist in the universe two or more substances
having the same nature or attribute.
>>>>>Proof--If several distinct substances be granted, they must
be distinguished one from the other, either by the difference of
their attributes, or by the difference of their modifications
(Prop. iv.). If only by the difference of their attributes, it
will be granted that there cannot be more than one with an
identical attribute. If by the difference of their
modifications--as substance is naturally prior to its
modifications (Prop. i.)--it follows that setting the
modifications aside, and considering substance in itself, that is
truly, (Deff. iii and vi.), there cannot be conceived one
substance different from another--that is (by Prop. iv.), there
cannot be granted several substances, but one substance only.
VI. One substance cannot be produced by another substance.
>>>>>Proof--It is impossible that there should be in the universe
two substances with an identical attribute, i.e. which have
anything common to them both (Prop ii.), and, therefore (Prop.
iii.), one cannot be the cause of the other, neither can one be
produced by the other. Q.E.D.
nothing is granted, save substances and their modifications (as
appears from Ax. i. and Deff. iii. and v.). Now (by the last
Prop.) substance cannot be produced by another substance,
therefore it cannot be produced by anything external to itself.
Q.E.D. This is shown still more readily by the absurdity of the
contradictory. For, if substance be produced by an external
cause, the knowledge of it would depend on the knowledge of its
cause (Ax. iv.), and (by Deff. iii.) it would itself not be
VII. Existence belongs to the nature of substances.
>>>>>Proof--Substance cannot be produced by anything external
(Cor., Prop vi.), it must, therefore, be its own cause--that is,
its essence necessarily involves existence, or existence belongs
to its nature.
VIII. Every substance is necessarily infinite.
>>>>>Proof--There can only be one substance with an identical
attribute, and existence follows from its nature (Prop. vii.);
its nature, therefore, involves existence, either as finite or
infinite. It does not exist as finite, for (by Deff. ii.) it
would then be limited by something else of the same kind, which
would also necessarily exist (Prop. vii.); and there would be two
substances with an identical attribute, which is absurd (Prop.
v.). It therefore exists as infinite. Q.E.D.
*****Note I.--As finite existence involves a partial negation,
and infinite existence is the absolute affirmation of the given
nature, it follows (solely from Prop. vii.) that every substance
is necessarily infinite.
*****Note II.--No doubt it will be difficult for those who think
about things loosely, and have not been accustomed to know them
by their primary causes, to comprehend the demonstration of
Prop. vii.: for such persons make no distinction between the
modifications of substances and the substances themselves, and
are ignorant of the manner in which things are produced; hence
they may attribute to substances the beginning which they observe
in natural objects. Those who are ignorant of true causes make
complete confusion--think that trees might talk just as well as
men--that men might be formed from stones as well as from seed;
and imagine that any form might be changed into any other. So,
also, those who confuse the two natures, divine and human,
readily attribute human passions to the deity, especially so
long as they do not know how passions originate in the mind.
But, if people would consider the nature of substance, they would
have no doubt about the truth of Prop. vii. In fact, this
proposition would be a universal axiom, and accounted a truism.
For, by substance, would be understood that which is in itself,
and is conceived through itself--that is, something of which the
conception requires not the conception of anything else; whereas
modifications exist in something external to themselves, and a
conception of them is formed by means of a conception of the
things in which they exist. Therefore, we may have true ideas
of non-existent modifications; for, although they may have no
actual existence apart from the conceiving intellect, yet their
essence is so involved in something external to themselves that
they may through it be conceived. Whereas the only truth
substances can have, external to the intellect, must consist in
their existence, because they are conceived through themselves.
Therefore, for a person to say that he has a clear and
distinct--that is, a true--idea of a substance, but that he is
not sure whether such substance exists, would be the same as if
he said that he had a true idea, but was not sure whether or no
it was false (a little consideration will make this plain); or if
anyone affirmed that substance is created, it would be the same
as saying that a false idea was true--in short, the height of
absurdity. It must, then, necessarily be admitted that the
existence of substance as its essence is an eternal truth. And
we can hence conclude by another process of reasoning--that there
is but one such substance. I think that this may profitably be
done at once; and, in order to proceed regularly with the
demonstration, we must premise:--
+++++1. The true definition of a thing neither involves nor
expresses anything beyond the nature of the thing defined. From
this it follows that--
+++++2. No definition implies or expresses a certain number of
individuals, inasmuch as it expresses nothing beyond the nature
of the thing defined. For instance, the definition of a triangle
expresses nothing beyond the actual nature of a triangle: it
does not imply any fixed number of triangles.
+++++3. There is necessarily for each individual existent thing
a cause why it should exist.
+++++4. This cause of existence must either be contained in the
nature and definition of the thing defined, or must be postulated
apart from such definition.
It therefore follows that, if a given number of individual things
exist in nature, there must be some cause for the existence of
exactly that number, neither more nor less. For example, if
twenty men exist in the universe (for simplicity's sake, I will
suppose them existing simultaneously, and to have had no
predecessors), and we want to account for the existence of these
twenty men, it will not be enough to show the cause of human
existence in general; we must also show why there are exactly
twenty men, neither more nor less: for a cause must be assigned
for the existence of each individual. Now this cause cannot be
contained in the actual nature of man, for the true definition of
man does not involve any consideration of the number twenty.
Consequently, the cause for the existence of these twenty men,
and, consequently, of each of them, must necessarily be sought
externally to each individual. Hence we may lay down the absolute
rule, that everything which may consist of several individuals
must have an external cause. And, as it has been shown already
that existence appertains to the nature of substance, existence
must necessarily be included in its definition; and from its
definition alone existence must be deducible. But from its
definition (as we have shown, Notes ii., iii.), we cannot infer
the existence of several substances; therefore it follows that
there is only one substance of the same nature. Q.E.D.
IX. The more reality or being a thing has, the greater the
number of its attributes (Def. iv.).
X. Each particular attribute of the one substance must be
conceived through itself.
>>>>>Proof--An attribute is that which the intellect perceives of
substance, as constituting its essence (Def. iv.), and,
therefore, must be conceived through itself (Def. iii.). Q.E.D.
*****Note--It is thus evident that, though two attributes are, in
fact, conceived as distinct--that is, one without the help of the
other--yet we cannot, therefore, conclude that they constitute
two entities, or two different substances. For it is the nature
of substance that each of its attributes is conceived through
itself, inasmuch as all the attributes it has have always existed
simultaneously in it, and none could be produced by any other;
but each expresses the reality or being of substance. It is,
then, far from an absurdity to ascribe several attributes to one
substance: for nothing in nature is more clear than that each
and every entity must be conceived under some attribute, and that
its reality or being is in proportion to the number of its
attributes expressing necessity or eternity and infinity.
Consequently it is abundantly clear, that an absolutely infinite
being must necessarily be defined as consisting in infinite
attributes, each of which expresses a certain eternal and
If anyone now ask, by what sign shall he be able to distinguish
different substances, let him read the following propositions,
which show that there is but one substance in the universe, and
that it is absolutely infinite, wherefore such a sign would be
sought in vain.
XI. God, or substance, consisting of infinite attributes, of
which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality,
>>>>>Proof--If this be denied, conceive, if possible, that God
does not exist: then his essence does not involve existence.
But this (Prop. vii.) is absurd. Therefore God necessarily
>>>>>Another proof--Of everything whatsoever a cause or reason
must be assigned, either for its existence, or for its
non-existence--e.g. if a triangle exist, a reason or cause must
be granted for its existence; if, on the contrary, it does not
exist, a cause must also be granted, which prevents it from
existing, or annuls its existence. This reason or cause must
either be contained in the nature of the thing in question, or be
external to it. For instance, the reason for the non-existence
of a square circle is indicated in its nature, namely, because it
would involve a contradiction. On the other hand, the existence
of substance follows also solely from its nature, inasmuch as its
nature involves existence. (See Prop. vii.)
But the reason for the existence of a triangle or a circle does
not follow from the nature of those figures, but from the order
of universal nature in extension. From the latter it must
follow, either that a triangle necessarily exists, or that it is
impossible that it should exist. So much is self-evident. It
follows therefrom that a thing necessarily exists, if no cause or
reason be granted which prevents its existence.
If, then, no cause or reason can be given, which prevents the
existence of God, or which destroys his existence, we must
certainly conclude that he necessarily does exist. If such a
reason or cause should be given, it must either be drawn from the
very nature of God, or be external to him--that is, drawn from
another substance of another nature. For if it were of the same
nature, God, by that very fact, would be admitted to exist. But
substance of another nature could have nothing in common with God
(by Prop. ii.), and therefore would be unable either to cause or
to destroy his existence.
As, then, a reason or cause which would annul the divine
existence cannot be drawn from anything external to the divine
nature, such cause must perforce, if God does not exist, be drawn
from God's own nature, which would involve a contradiction. To
make such an affirmation about a being absolutely infinite and
supremely perfect is absurd; therefore, neither in the nature of
God, nor externally to his nature, can a cause or reason be
assigned which would annul his existence. Therefore, God
necessarily exists. Q.E.D.
>>>>>Another proof--The potentiality of non-existence is a
negation of power, and contrariwise the potentiality of existence
is a power, as is obvious. If, then, that which necessarily
exists is nothing but finite beings, such finite beings are more
powerful than a being absolutely infinite, which is obviously
absurd; therefore, either nothing exists, or else a being
absolutely infinite necessarily exists also. Now we exist either
in ourselves, or in something else which necessarily exists (see
Ax. i. and Prop. vii.). Therefore a being absolutely
infinite--in other words, God (Def. vi.)--necessarily exists.
*****Note--In this last proof, I have purposely shown God's
existence 'a posteriori,' so that the proof might be more easily
followed, not because, from the same premises, God's existence
does not follow 'a priori.' For, as the potentiality of
existence is a power, it follows that, in proportion as reality
increases in the nature of a thing, so also will it increase its
strength for existence. Therefore a being absolutely infinite,
such as God, has from himself an absolutely infinite power of
existence, and hence he does absolutely exist. Perhaps there will
be many who will be unable to see the force of this proof,
inasmuch as they are accustomed only to consider those things
which flow from external causes. Of such things, they see that
those which quickly come to pass--that is, quickly come into
existence--quickly also disappear; whereas they regard as more
difficult of accomplishment --that is, not so easily brought into
existence--those things which they conceive as more complicated.
However, to do away with this misconception, I need not here show
the measure of truth in the proverb, "What comes quickly, goes
quickly," nor discuss whether, from the point of view of
universal nature, all things are equally easy, or otherwise: I
need only remark that I am not here speaking of things, which
come to pass through causes external to themselves, but only of
substances which (by Prop. vi.) cannot be produced by any
external cause. Things which are produced by external causes,
whether they consist of many parts or few, owe whatsoever
perfection or reality they possess solely to the efficacy of
their external cause; wherefore the existence of substance must
arise solely from its own nature, which is nothing else but its
essence. Thus, the perfection of a thing does not annul its
existence, but, on the contrary, asserts it. Imperfection, on
the other hand, does annul it; therefore we cannot be more
certain of the existence of anything, than of the existence of a
being absolutely infinite or perfect--that is, of God. For
inasmuch as his essence excludes all imperfection, and involves
absolute perfection, all cause for doubt concerning his existence
is done away, and the utmost certainty on the question is given.
This, I think, will be evident to every moderately attentive
XII. No attribute of substance can be conceived from which it
would follow that substance can be divided.
>>>>>Proof--The parts into which substance as thus conceived
would be divided either will retain the nature of substance, or
they will not. If the former, then (by Prop. viii.) each part
will necessarily be infinite, and (by Prop vi.) self-caused, and
(by Prop. v.) will perforce consist of a different attribute, so
that, in that case, several substances could be formed out of one
substance, which (by Prop. vi.) is absurd. Moreover, the parts
(by Prop. ii.) would have nothing in common with their whole, and
the whole (by Def. iv. and Prop. X) could both exist and be
conceived without its parts, which everyone will admit to be
absurd. If we adopt the second alternative--namely, that the
parts will not retain the nature of substance--then, if the
whole substance were divided into equal parts, it would lose the
nature of substance, and would cease to exist, which (by Prop.
vii.) is absurd.
XIII. Substance absolutely infinite is indivisible.
>>>>>Proof--If it could be divided, the parts into which it was
divided would either retain the nature of absolutely infinite
substance, or they would not. If the former, we should have
several substances of the same nature, which (by Prop. v.) is
absurd. If the latter, then (by Prop. vii.) substance
absolutely infinite could cease to exist, which (by Prop. xi.) is
*****Note--The indivisibility of substance may be more easily
understood as follows. The nature of substance can only be
conceived as infinite, and by a part of substance, nothing else
can be understood than finite substance, which (by Prop. viii.)
involves a manifest contradiction.
XIV. Besides God no substance can be granted or conceived.
>>>>>Proof--As God is a being absolutely infinite, of whom no
attribute that expresses the essence of substance can be denied
(by Def. vi.), and he necessarily exists (by Prop. xi.); if any
substance besides God were granted, it would have to be explained
by some attribute of God, and thus two substances with the same
attribute would exist, which (by Prop. v.) is absurd; therefore,
besides God no substance can be granted, or consequently be
conceived. If it could be conceived, it would necessarily have to
be conceived as existent; but this (by the first part of this
proof) is absurd. Therefore, besides God no substance can be
granted or conceived. Q.E.D.
and that substance is absolutely infinite, as we have already
indicated (in the note to Prop. x.).
("affectiones") of the attributes of God.
XV. Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or
>>>>>Proof--Besides God, no substance is granted or can be
conceived (by Prop. xiv.), that is (by Def. iii.) nothing which
is in itself and is conceived through itself. But modes (by Def.
v.) can neither be, nor be conceived without substance;
wherefore they can only be in the divine nature, and can only
through it be conceived. But substances and modes form the sum
total of existence (by Ax. i.), therefore, without God nothing
can be, or be conceived. Q.E.D.
*****Note--Some assert that God, like a man, consists of body and
mind, and is susceptible of passions. How far such persons have
strayed from the truth is sufficiently evident from what has been
said. But these I pass over. For all who have in anywise
reflected on the divine nature deny that God has a body. Of this
they find excellent proof in the fact that we understand by body
a definite quantity, so long, so broad, so deep, bounded by a
certain shape, and it is the height of absurdity to predicate
such a thing of God, a being absolutely infinite. But meanwhile
by other reasons with which they try to prove their point, they
show that they think corporeal or extended substance wholly apart
from the divine nature, and say it was created by God. Wherefrom
the divine nature can have been created, they are wholly
ignorant; thus they clearly show that they do not know the
meaning of their own words. I myself have proved sufficiently
clearly, at any rate in my own judgment (Cor. Prop. vi., and Note
2, Prop. viii.), that no substance can be produced or created by
anything other than itself. Further, I showed (in Prop. xiv.)
that besides God no substance can be granted or conceived.
Hence we drew the conclusion that extended substance is one of
the infinite attributes of God. However, in order to explain
more fully, I will refute the arguments of my adversaries, which
all start from the following points:--
Extended substance, in so far as it is substance, consists, as
they think, in parts, wherefore they deny that it can be
infinite, or consequently, that it can appertain to God. This
they illustrate with many examples, of which I will take one or
two. If extended substance, they say, is infinite, let it be
conceived to be divided into two parts; each part will then be
either finite or infinite. If the former, then infinite
substance is composed of two finite parts, which is absurd. If
the latter, then one infinite will be twice as large as another
infinite, which is also absurd.
Further, if an infinite line be measured out in foot lengths, it
will consist of an infinite number of such parts; it would
equally consist of an infinite number of parts, if each part
measured only an inch: therefore, one infinity would be twelve
times as great as the other.
Lastly, if from a single point there be conceived to be drawn two
diverging lines which at first are at a definite distance apart,
but are produced to infinity, it is certain that the distance
between the two lines will be continually increased, until at
length it changes from definite to indefinable. As these
absurdities follow, it is said, from considering quantity as
infinite, the conclusion is drawn that extended substance must
necessarily be finite, and, consequently, cannot appertain to the
nature of God.
The second argument is also drawn from God's supreme perfection.
God, it is said, inasmuch as he is a supremely perfect being,
cannot be passive; but extended substance, insofar as it is
divisible, is passive. It follows, therefore, that extended
substance does not appertain to the essence of God.
Such are the arguments I find on the subject in writers, who by
them try to prove that extended substance is unworthy of the
divine nature, and cannot possibly appertain thereto. However, I
think an attentive reader will see that I have already answered
their propositions; for all their arguments are founded on the
hypothesis that extended substance is composed of parts, and such
a hypothesis I have shown (Prop. xii., and Cor. Prop. xiii.) to
be absurd. Moreover, anyone who reflects will see that all these
absurdities (if absurdities they be, which I am not now
discussing), from which it is sought to extract the conclusion
that extended substance is finite, do not at all follow from the
notion of an infinite quantity, but merely from the notion that
an infinite quantity is measurable, and composed of finite parts:
therefore, the only fair conclusion to be drawn is that infinite
quantity is not measurable, and cannot be composed of finite
parts. This is exactly what we have already proved (in Prop.
xii.). Wherefore the weapon which they aimed at us has in
reality recoiled upon themselves. If, from this absurdity of
theirs, they persist in drawing the conclusion that extended
substance must be finite, they will in good sooth be acting like
a man who asserts that circles have the properties of squares,
and, finding himself thereby landed in absurdities, proceeds to
deny that circles have any center, from which all lines drawn to
the circumference are equal. For, taking extended substance,
which can only be conceived as infinite, one, and indivisible
(Props. viii., v., xii.) they assert, in order to prove that it
is finite, that it is composed of finite parts, and that it can
be multiplied and divided.
So, also, others, after asserting that a line is composed of
points, can produce many arguments to prove that a line cannot be
infinitely divided. Assuredly it is not less absurd to assert
that extended substance is made up of bodies or parts, than it
would be to assert that a solid is made up of surfaces, a surface
of lines, and a line of points. This must be admitted by all who
know clear reason to be infallible, and most of all by those who
deny the possibility of a vacuum. For if extended substance
could be so divided that its parts were really separate, why
should not one part admit of being destroyed, the others
remaining joined together as before? And why should all be so
fitted into one another as to leave no vacuum? Surely in the
case of things, which are really distinct one from the other, one
can exist without the other, and can remain in its original
condition. As, then, there does not exist a vacuum in nature (of
which anon), but all parts are bound to come together to prevent
it, it follows from this that the parts cannot really be
distinguished, and that extended substance in so far as it is
substance cannot be divided.
If anyone asks me the further question, Why are we naturally so
prone to divide quantity? I answer, that quantity is conceived by
us in two ways; in the abstract and superficially, as we imagine
it; or as substance, as we conceive it solely by the intellect.
If, then, we regard quantity as it is represented in our
imagination, which we often and more easily do, we shall find
that it is finite, divisible, and compounded of parts; but if we
regard it as it is represented in our intellect, and conceive it
as substance, which it is very difficult to do, we shall then, as
I have sufficiently proved, find that it is infinite, one, and
indivisible. This will be plain enough to all who make a
distinction between the intellect and the imagination,
especially if it be remembered that matter is everywhere the
same, that its parts are not distinguishable, except in so far as
we conceive matter as diversely modified, whence its parts are
distinguished, not really, but modally. For instance, water, in
so far as it is water, we conceive to be divided, and its parts
to be separated one from the other; but not in so far as it is
extended substance; from this point of view it is neither
separated nor divisible. Further, water, in so far as it is
water, is produced and corrupted; but, in so far as it is
substance, it is neither produced nor corrupted.
I think I have now answered the second argument; it is, in fact,
founded on the same assumption as the first--namely, that matter,
in so far as it is substance, is divisible, and composed of
parts. Even if it were so, I do not know why it should be
considered unworthy of the divine nature, inasmuch as besides God
(by Prop. xiv.) no substance can be granted, wherefrom it could
receive its modifications. All things, I repeat, are in God, and
all things which come to pass, come to pass solely through the
laws of the infinite nature of God, and follow (as I will shortly
show) from the necessity of his essence. Wherefore it can in
nowise be said that God is passive in respect to anything other
than himself, or that extended substance is unworthy of the
divine nature, even if it be supposed divisible, so long as it is
granted to be infinite and eternal. But enough of this for the
XVI. From the necessity of the divine nature must follow an
infinite number of things in infinite ways--that is, all things
which can fall within the sphere of infinite intellect.
>>>>>Proof--This proposition will be clear to everyone, who
remembers that from the given definition of any thing the
intellect infers several properties, which really necessarily
follow therefrom (that is, from the actual essence of the thing
defined); and it infers more properties in proportion as the
definition of the thing expresses more reality, that is, in
proportion as the essence of the thing defined involves more
reality. Now, as the divine nature has absolutely infinite
attributes (by Def. vi.), of which each expresses infinite
essence after its kind, it follows that from the necessity of its
nature an infinite number of things (that is, everything which
can fall within the sphere of an infinite intellect) must
necessarily follow. Q.E.D.
XVII. God acts solely by the laws of his own nature, and is not
constrained by anyone.
>>>>>Proof--We have just shown (in Prop. xvi.), that solely from
the necessity of the divine nature, or, what is the same thing,
solely from the laws of his nature, an infinite number of things
absolutely follow in an infinite number of ways; and we proved
(in Prop. xv.), that without God nothing can be nor be conceived;
but that all things are in God. Wherefore nothing can exist
outside himself, whereby he can be conditioned or constrained to
act. Wherefore God acts solely by the laws of his own nature,
and is not constrained by anyone. Q.E.D.
perfection of his own nature, moves God to act.
(by Prop. xi. and Prop. xiv., Cor. i.), and acts by the sole
necessity of his own nature, wherefore God is (by Def. vii.) the
sole free cause. Q.E.D.
*****Note--Others think that God is a free cause, because he can,
as they think, bring it about, that those things which we have
said follow from his nature--that is, which are in his power,
should not come to pass, or should not be produced by him. But
this is the same as if they said, that God could bring it about,
that it should follow from the nature of a triangle that its
three interior angles should not be equal to two right angles; or
that from a given cause no effect should follow, which is absurd.
Moreover, I will show below, without the aid of this
proposition, that neither intellect nor will appertain to God's
nature. I know that there are many who think that they can show,
that supreme intellect and free will do appertain to God's
nature; for they say they know of nothing more perfect, which
they can attribute to God, than that which is the highest
perfection in ourselves. Further, although they conceive God as
actually supremely intelligent, they yet do not believe that he
can bring into existence everything which he actually
understands, for they think that they would thus destroy God's
power. If, they contend, God had created everything which is in
his intellect, he would not be able to create anything more, and
this, they think, would clash with God's omnipotence; therefore,
they prefer to asset that God is indifferent to all things, and
that he creates nothing except that which he has decided, by some
absolute exercise of will, to create. However, I think I have
shown sufficiently clearly (by Prop. xvi.) that from God's
supreme power, or infinite nature, an infinite number of
things--that is, all things have necessarily flowed forth in an
infinite number of ways, or always flow from the same necessity;
in the same way as from the nature of a triangle it follows from
eternity and for eternity, that its three interior angles are
equal to two right angles. Wherefore the omnipotence of God has
been displayed from all eternity, and will for all eternity
remain in the same state of activity. This manner of treating the
question attributes to God an omnipotence, in my opinion, far
more perfect. For, otherwise, we are compelled to confess that
God understands an infinite number of creatable things, which he
will never be able to create, for, if he created all that he
understands, he would, according to this showing, exhaust his
omnipotence, and render himself imperfect. Wherefore, in order
to establish that God is perfect, we should be reduced to
establishing at the same time, that he cannot bring to pass
everything over which his power extends; this seems to be a
hypothesis most absurd, and most repugnant to God's omnipotence.
Further (to say a word concerning the intellect and the will
which we attribute to God), if intellect and will appertain to
the eternal essence of God, we must take these words in some
significance quite different from those they usually bear. For
intellect and will, which should constitute the essence of God,
would perforce be as far apart as the poles from the human
intellect and will, in fact, would have nothing in common with
them but the name; there would be about as much correspondence
between the two as there is between the Dog, the heavenly
constellation, and a dog, an animal that barks. This I will
prove as follows. If intellect belongs to the divine nature, it
cannot be in nature, as ours is generally thought to be,
posterior to, or simultaneous with the things understood,
inasmuch as God is prior to all things by reason of his causality
(Prop. xvi., Cor. i.). On the contrary, the truth and formal
essence of things is as it is, because it exists by
representation as such in the intellect of God. Wherefore the
intellect of God, in so far as it is conceived to constitute
God's essence, is, in reality, the cause of things, both of their
essence and of their existence. This seems to have been
recognized by those who have asserted, that God's intellect,
God's will, and God's power, are one and the same. As,
therefore, God's intellect is the sole cause of things, namely,
both of their essence and existence, it must necessarily differ
from them in respect to its essence, and in respect to its
existence. For a cause differs from a thing it causes,
precisely in the quality which the latter gains from the former.
For example, a man is the cause of another man's existence, but
not of his essence (for the latter is an eternal truth), and,
therefore, the two men may be entirely similar in essence, but
must be different in existence; and hence if the existence of one
of them cease, the existence of the other will not necessarily
cease also; but if the essence of one could be destroyed, and be
made false, the essence of the other would be destroyed also.
Wherefore, a thing which is the cause both of the essence and of
the existence of a given effect, must differ from such effect
both in respect to its essence, and also in respect to its
existence. Now the intellect of God is the cause both of the
essence and the existence of our intellect; therefore, the
intellect of God in so far as it is conceived to constitute the
divine essence, differs from our intellect both in respect to
essence and in respect to existence, nor can it in anywise agree
therewith save in name, as we said before. The reasoning would
be identical in the case of the will, as anyone can easily see.
XVIII. God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all
things. >>>>>Proof--All things which are, are in God, and must be
conceived through God (by Prop. xv.), therefore (by Prop. xvi.,
Cor. i.) God is the cause of those things which are in him.
This is our first point. Further, besides God there can be no
substance (by Prop. xiv.), that is nothing in itself external to
God. This is our second point. God, therefore, is the
indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. Q.E.D.
XIX. God, and all the attributes of God, are eternal.
>>>>>Proof--God (by Def. vi.) is substance, which (by Prop. xi.)
necessarily exists, that is (by Prop. vii.) existence appertains
to its nature, or (what is the same thing) follows from its
definition; therefore, God is eternal (by Def. vii.). Further,
by the attributes of God we must understand that which (by Def.
iv.) expresses the essence of the divine substance--in other
words, that which appertains to substance: that, I say, should
be involved in the attributes of substance. Now eternity
appertains to the nature of substance (as I have already shown in
Prop. vii.); therefore, eternity must appertain to each of the
attributes, and thus all are eternal. Q.E.D.
*****Note--This proposition is also evident from the manner in
which (in Prop. xi.) I demonstrated the existence of God; it is
evident, I repeat, from that proof, that the existence of God,
like his essence, is an eternal truth. Further (in Prop. xix. of
my "Principles of the Cartesian Philosophy"), I have proved the
eternity of God, in another manner, which I need not here
XX. The existence of God and his essence are one and the same.
>>>>>Proof--God (by the last Prop.) and all his attributes are
eternal, that is (by Def. viii.) each of his attributes expresses
existence. Therefore the same attributes of God which explain
his eternal essence, explain at the same time his eternal
existence--in other words, that which constitutes God's essence
constitutes at the same time his existence. Wherefore God's
existence and God's essence are one and the same. Q.E.D.
changed in respect to existence, they must also be able to be
changed in respect to essence--that is, obviously, be changed
from true to false, which is absurd.
XXI. All things which follow from the absolute nature of any
attribute of God must always exist and be infinite, or, in other
words, are eternal and infinite through the said attribute.
>>>>>Proof--Conceive, if it be possible (supposing the
proposition to be denied), that something in some attribute of
God can follow from the absolute nature of the said attribute,
and that at the same time it is finite, and has a conditioned
existence or duration; for instance, the idea of God expressed in
the attribute thought. Now thought, in so far as it is supposed
to be an attribute of God, is necessarily (by Prop. xi.) in its
nature infinite. But, in so far as it possesses the idea of God,
it is supposed finite. It cannot, however, be conceived as
finite, unless it be limited by thought (by Def. ii.); but it is
not limited by thought itself, in so far as it has constituted
the idea of God (for so far it is supposed to be finite);
therefore, it is limited by thought, in so far as it has not
constituted the idea of God, which nevertheless (by Prop. xi.)
must necessarily exist.
We have now granted, therefore, thought not constituting the idea
of God, and, accordingly, the idea of God does not naturally
follow from its nature in so far as it is absolute thought (for
it is conceived as constituting, and also as not constituting,
the idea of God), which is against our hypothesis. Wherefore, if
the idea of God expressed in the attribute thought, or, indeed,
anything else in any attribute of God (for we may take any
example, as the proof is of universal application) follows from
the necessity of the absolute nature of the said attribute, the
said thing must necessarily be infinite, which was our first
Furthermore, a thing which thus follows from the necessity of the
nature of any attribute cannot have a limited duration. For if
it can, suppose a thing, which follows from the necessity of the
nature of some attribute, to exist in some attribute of God, for
instance, the idea of God expressed in the attribute thought, and
let it be supposed at some time not to have existed, or to be
about not to exist.
Now thought being an attribute of God must necessarily exist
unchanged (by Prop. xi., and Prop. xx., Cor. ii.); and beyond the
limits of the duration of the idea of God (supposing the latter
at some time not to have existed, or not to be going to exist)
thought would perforce have existed without the idea of God,
which is contrary to our hypothesis, for we supposed that,
thought being given, the idea of God necessarily flowed
therefrom. Therefore the idea of God expressed in thought, or
anything which necessarily follows from the absolute nature of
some attribute of God, cannot have a limited duration, but
through the said attribute is eternal, which is our second point.
Bear in mind that the same proposition may be affirmed of
anything, which in any attribute necessarily follows from God's
XXII. Whatsoever follows from any attribute of God, in so far as
it is modified by a modification, which exists necessarily and as
infinite, through the said attribute, must also exist necessarily
and as infinite.
>>>>>Proof--The proof of this proposition is similar to that of
the preceding one.
XXIII. Every mode, which exists both necessarily and as
infinite, must necessarily follow either from the absolute nature
of some attribute of God, or from an attribute modified by a
modification which exists necessarily, and as infinite.
>>>>>Proof--A mode exists in something else, through which it
must be conceived (Def. v.), that is (Prop. xv.), it exists
solely in God, and solely through God can be conceived. If
therefore a mode is conceived as necessarily existing and
infinite, it must necessarily be inferred or perceived through
some attribute of God, in so far as such attribute is conceived
as expressing the infinity and necessity of existence, in other
words (Def. viii.) eternity; that is, in so far as it is
considered absolutely. A mode, therefore, which necessarily
exists as infinite, must follow from the absolute nature of some
attribute of God, either immediately (Prop. xxi.) or through the
means of some modification, which follows from the absolute
nature of the said attribute; that is (by Prop. xxii.), which
exists necessarily and as infinite.
XXIV. The essence of things produced by God does not involve
>>>>>Proof--This proposition is evident from Def. i. For that of
which the nature (considered in itself) involves existence is
self-caused, and exists by the sole necessity of its own nature.
existence, that is, in scholastic phraseology, God is cause of
the being of things (essendi rerum). For whether things exist,
or do not exist, whenever we contemplate their essence, we see
that it involves neither existence nor duration; consequently, it
cannot be the cause of either the one or the other. God must be
the sole cause, inasmuch as to him alone does existence
appertain. (Prop. xiv. Cor. i.) Q.E.D.
XXV. God is the efficient cause not only of the existence of
things, but also of their essence.
>>>>>Proof--If this be denied, then God is not the cause of the
essence of things; and therefore the essence of things can (by
Ax. iv.) be conceived without God. This (by Prop. xv.) is
absurd. Therefore, God is the cause of the essence of things.
*****Note--This proposition follows more clearly from Prop. xvi.
For it is evident thereby that, given the divine nature, the
essence of things must be inferred from it, no less than their
existence--in a word, God must be called the cause of all things,
in the same sense as he is called the cause of himself. This
will be made still clearer by the following corollary.
are expressed in a fixed and definite manner. The proof appears
from Prop. xv. and Def. v.
XXVI. A thing which is conditioned to act in a particular
manner, has necessarily been thus conditioned by God; and that
which has not been conditioned by God cannot condition itself to
>>>>>Proof--That by which things are said to be conditioned to
act in a particular manner is necessarily something positive
(this is obvious); therefore both of its essence and of its
existence God by the necessity of his nature is the efficient
cause (Props. xxv. and xvi.); this is our first point. Our
second point is plainly to be inferred therefrom. For if a
thing, which has not been conditioned by God, could condition
itself, the first part of our proof would be false, and this, as
we have shown is absurd.
XXVII. A thing, which has been conditioned by God to act in a
particular way, cannot render itself unconditioned.
>>>>>Proof--This proposition is evident from Ax. iii.
XXVIII. Every individual thing, or everything which is finite
and has a conditioned existence, cannot exist or be conditioned
to act, unless it be conditioned for existence and action by a
cause other than itself, which also is finite, and has a
conditioned existence; and likewise this cause cannot in its turn
exist, or be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for
existence and action by another cause, which also is finite, and
has a conditioned existence, and so on to infinity.
>>>>>Proof--Whatsoever is conditioned to exist and act, has been
thus conditioned by God (by Prop. xxvi. and Prop. xxiv., Cor.)
But that which is finite, and has a conditioned existence, cannot
be produced by the absolute nature of any attribute of God; for
whatsoever follows from the absolute nature of any attribute of
God is infinite and eternal (by Prop. xxi.). It must, therefore,
follow from some attribute of God, in so far as the said
attribute is considered as in some way modified; for substance
and modes make up the sum total of existence (by Ax. i. and Def.
iii., v.), while modes are merely modifications of the
attributes of God. But from God, or from any of his attributes,
in so far as the latter is modified by a modification infinite
and eternal, a conditioned thing cannot follow. Wherefore it
must follow from, or be conditioned for, existence and action by
God or one of his attributes, in so far as the latter are
modified by some modification which is finite, and has a
conditioned existence. This is our first point. Again, this
cause or this modification (for the reason by which we
established the first part of this proof) must in its turn be
conditioned by another cause, which also is finite, and has a
conditioned existence, and, again, this last by another (for the
same reason); and so on (for the same reason) to infinity.
*****Note--As certain things must be produced immediately by God,
namely those things which necessarily follow from his absolute
nature, through the means of these primary attributes, which,
nevertheless, can neither exist nor be conceived without God, it
follows: 1. That God is absolutely the proximate cause of those
things immediately produced by him. I say absolutely, not after
his kind, as is usually stated. For the effects of God cannot
either exist or be conceived without a cause (Prop. xv. and Prop.
xxiv. Cor.). 2. That God cannot properly be styled the remote
cause of individual things, except for the sake of
distinguishing these from what he immediately produces, or rather
from what follows from his absolute nature. For, by a remote
cause, we understand a cause which is in no way conjoined to the
effect. But all things which are, are in God, and so depend on
God, that without him they can neither be nor be conceived.
XXIX. Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are
conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the
necessity of the divine nature.
>>>>>Proof--Whatsoever is, is in God (Prop. xv.). But God cannot
be called a thing contingent. For (by Prop. xi.) he exists
necessarily, and not contingently. Further, the modes of the
divine nature follow therefrom necessarily, and not contingently
(Prop. xvi.); and they thus follow, whether we consider the
divine nature absolutely, or whether we consider it as in any way
conditioned to act (Prop. xxvii.). Further, God is not only the
cause of these modes, in so far as they simply exist (by Prop.
xxiv., Cor.), but also in so far as they are considered as
conditioned for operating in a particular manner (Prop. xxvi.).
If they be not conditioned by God (Prop. xxvi.), it is
impossible, and not contingent, that they should condition
themselves; contrariwise, if they be conditioned by God, it is
impossible, and not contingent, that they should render
themselves unconditioned. Wherefore all things are conditioned by
the necessity of the divine nature, not only to exist, but also
to exist and operate in a particular manner, and there is nothing
that is contingent. Q.E.D.
*****Note--Before going any further, I wish here to explain, what
we should understand by nature viewed as active (natura
naturans), and nature viewed as passive (natura naturata). I say
to explain, or rather call attention to it, for I think that,
from what has been said, it is sufficiently clear, that by nature
viewed as active we should understand that which is in itself,
and is conceived through itself, or those attributes of
substance, which express eternal and infinite essence, in other
words (Prop. xiv., Cor. i., and Prop. xvii., Cor. ii.) God, in so
far as he is considered as a free cause.
By nature viewed as passive I understand all that which follows
from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any of the
attributes of God, that is, all the modes of the attributes of
God, in so far as they are considered as things which are in God,
and which without God cannot exist or be conceived.
XXX. Intellect, in function (actu) finite, or in function
infinite, must comprehend the attributes of God and the
modifications of God, and nothing else.
>>>>>Proof--A true idea must agree with its object (Ax. vi.); in
other words (obviously) that which is contained in the intellect
in representation must necessarily be granted in nature. But in
nature (by Prop. xiv., Cor. i.) there is no substance save God,
nor any modifications save those (Prop. xv.) which are in God,
and cannot without God either be or be conceived. Therefore the
intellect, in function finite, or in function infinite, must
comprehend the attributes of God and the modifications of God,
and nothing else. Q.E.D.
XXXI. The intellect in function, whether finite or infinite, as
will, desire, love, &c., should be referred to passive nature and
not to active nature.
>>>>>Proof--By the intellect we do not (obviously) mean absolute
thought, but only a certain mode of thinking, differing from
other modes, such as love, desire, &c., and therefore (Def. v.)
requiring to be conceived through absolute thought. It must (by
Prop. xv. and Def. vi.), through some attribute of God which
expresses the eternal and infinite essence of thought, be so
conceived, that without such attribute it could neither be nor be
conceived. It must therefore be referred to nature passive
rather than to nature active, as must also the other modes of
*****Note--I do not here, by speaking of intellect in function,
admit that there is such a thing as intellect in potentiality:
but, wishing to avoid all confusion, I desire to speak only of
what is most clearly perceived by us, namely, of the very act of
understanding, than which nothing is more clearly perceived. For
we cannot perceive anything without adding to our knowledge of
the act of understanding.
XXXII. Will cannot be called a free cause, but only a necessary
>>>>>Proof--Will is only a particular mode of thinking, like
intellect; therefore (by Prop. xxviii.) no volition can exist,
nor be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned by some cause
other than itself, which cause is conditioned by a third cause,
and so on to infinity. But if will be supposed infinite, it must
also be conditioned to exist and act by God, not by virtue of his
being substance absolutely infinite, but by virtue of his
possessing an attribute which expresses the infinite and eternal
essence of thought (by Prop. xxiii.). Thus, however it be
conceived, whether as finite or infinite, it requires a cause by
which it should be conditioned to exist and act. Thus (Def.
vii.) it cannot be called a free cause, but only a necessary or
constrained cause. Q.E.D.
rest, and absolutely all natural phenomena, which must be
conditioned by God (Prop. xxix.) to exist and act in a particular
manner. For will, like the rest, stands in need of a cause, by
which it is conditioned to exist and act in a particular manner.
And although, when will or intellect be granted, an infinite
number of results may follow, yet God cannot on that account be
said to act from freedom of the will, any more than the infinite
number of results from motion and rest would justify us in saying
that motion and rest act by free will. Wherefore will no more
appertains to God than does anything else in nature, but stands
in the same relation to him as motion, rest, and the like, which
we have shown to follow from the necessity of the divine nature,
and to be conditioned by it to exist and act in a particular
XXXIII. Things could not have been brought into being by God in
any manner or in any order different from that which has in fact
>>>>>Proof--All things necessarily follow from the nature of God
(Prop. xvi.), and by the nature of God are conditioned to exist
and act in a particular way (Prop. xxix). If things, therefore,
could have been of a different nature, or have been conditioned
to act in a different way, so that the order of nature would
have been different, God's nature would also have been able to
be different from what it now is; and therefore (by Prop.
xi.)that different nature also would have perforce existed, and
consequently there would have been able to be two or more Gods.
This (by Prop. xiv., Cor. i.) is absurd. Therefore, things
could not have been brought into being by God in any other
manner, &c. Q.E.D.
*****Note I--As I have thus shown, more clearly than the sun at
noonday, that there is nothing to justify us in calling things
contingent, I wish to explain briefly what meaning we shall
attach to the word contingent; but I will first explain the words
necessary and impossible.
A thing is called necessary either in respect to its essence or
in respect to its cause; for the existence of a thing
necessarily follows, either from its essence and definition, or
from a given efficient cause. For similar reasons a thing is
said to be impossible; namely, inasmuch as its essence or
definition involves a contradiction, or because no external cause
is granted, which is conditioned to produce such an effect; but
a thing can in no respect be called contingent, save in relation
to the imperfection of our knowledge.
A thing of which we do not know whether the essence does or does
not involve a contradiction, or of which, knowing that it does
not involve a contradiction, we are still in doubt concerning
the existence, because the order of causes escapes us,--such a
thing, I say, cannot appear to us either necessary or
impossible. Wherefore we call it contingent or possible.
*****Note II--It clearly follows from what we have said, that
things have been brought into being by God in the highest
perfection, inasmuch as they have necessarily followed from a
most perfect nature. Nor does this prove any imperfection in
God, for it has compelled us to affirm his perfection. From its
contrary proposition, we should clearly gather (as I have just
shown), that God is not supremely perfect, for if things had been
brought into being in any other way, we should have to assign to
God a nature different from that, which we are bound to
attribute to him from the consideration of an absolutely perfect
I do not doubt, that many will scout this idea as absurd, and
will refuse to give their minds up to contemplating it, simply
because they are accustomed to assign to God a freedom very
different from that which we (Def. vii.) have deduced. They
assign to him, in short, absolute free will. However, I am also
convinced that if such persons reflect on the matter, and duly
weigh in their minds our series of propositions, they will reject
such freedom as they now attribute to God, not only as nugatory,
but also as a great impediment to organized knowledge. There is
no need for me to repeat what I have said in the note to Prop.
xvii. But, for the sake of my opponents, I will show further,
that although it be granted that will pertains to the essence of
God, it nevertheless follows from his perfection, that things
could not have been by him created other than they are, or in a
different order; this is easily proved, if we reflect on what
our opponents themselves concede, namely, that it depends solely
on the decree and will of God, that each thing is what it is. If
it were otherwise, God would not be the cause of all things.
Further, that all the decrees of God have been ratified from all
eternity by God himself. If it were otherwise, God would be
convicted of imperfection or change. But in eternity there is no
such thing as when, before, or after; hence it follows solely
from the perfection of God, that God never can decree, or never
would have decreed anything but what is; that God did not exist
before his decrees, and would not exist without them. But, it
is said, supposing that God had made a different universe, or
had ordained other decrees from all eternity concerning nature
and her order, we could not therefore conclude any imperfection
in God. But persons who say this must admit that God can change
his decrees. For if God had ordained any decrees concerning
nature and her order, different from those which he has
ordained--in other words, if he had willed and conceived
something different concerning nature--he would perforce have
had a different intellect from that which he has, and also a
different will. But if it were allowable to assign to God a
different intellect and a different will, without any change in
his essence or his perfection, what would there be to prevent
him changing the decrees which he has made concerning created
things, and nevertheless remaining perfect? For his intellect
and will concerning things created and their order are the same,
in respect to his essence and perfection, however they be
Further, all the philosophers whom I have read admit that God's
intellect is entirely actual, and not at all potential; as they
also admit that God's intellect, and God's will, and God's
essence are identical, it follows that, if God had had a
different actual intellect and a different will, his essence
would also have been different; and thus, as I concluded at
first, if things had been brought into being by God in a
different way from that which has obtained, God's intellect and
will, that is (as is admitted) his essence would perforce have
been different, which is absurd.
As these things could not have been brought into being by God in
any but the actual way and order which has obtained; and as the
truth of this proposition follows from the supreme perfection of
God; we can have no sound reason for persuading ourselves to
believe that God did not wish to create all the things which were
in his intellect, and to create them in the same perfection as
he had understood them.
But, it will be said, there is in things no perfection nor
imperfection; that which is in them, and which causes them to be
called perfect or imperfect, good or bad, depends solely on the
will of God. If God had so willed, he might have brought it
about that what is now perfection should be extreme
imperfection, and vice versa. What is such an assertion, but
an open declaration that God, who necessarily understands that
which he wishes, might bring it about by his will, that he
should understand things differently from the way in which he
does understand them? This (as we have just shown) is the height
of absurdity. Wherefore, I may turn the argument against its
employers, as follows:--All things depend on the power of God.
In order that things should be different from what they are,
God's will would necessarily have to be different. But God's
will cannot be different (as we have just most clearly
demonstrated) from God's perfection. Therefore neither can
things be different. I confess, that the theory which subjects
all things to the will of an indifferent deity, and asserts that
they are all dependent on his fiat, is less far from the truth
than the theory of those, who maintain that God acts in all
things with a view of promoting what is good. For these latter
persons seem to set up something beyond God, which does not
depend on God, but which God in acting looks to as an exemplar,
or which he aims at as a definite goal. This is only another
name for subjecting God to the dominion of destiny, an utter
absurdity in respect to God, whom we have shown to be the first
and only free cause of the essence of all things and also of
their existence. I need, therefore, spend no time in refuting
such wild theories.
XXXIV. God's power is identical with his essence.
>>>>>Proof--From the sole necessity of the essence of God it
follows that God is the cause of himself (Prop. xi.) and of all
things (Prop. xvi. and Cor.). Wherefore the power of God, by
which he and all things are and act, is identical with his
XXXV. Whatsoever we conceive to be in the power of God,
>>>>>Proof--Whatsoever is in God's power, must (by the last
Prop.) be comprehended in his essence in such a manner, that it
necessarily follows therefrom, and therefore necessarily exists.
XXXVI. There is no cause from whose nature some effect does not
>>>>>Proof--Whatsoever exists expresses God's nature or essence
in a given conditioned manner (by Prop. xxv., Cor.); that is,
(by Prop. xxxiv.), whatsoever exists, expresses in a given
conditioned manner God's power, which is the cause of all
things, therefore an effect must (by Prop. xvi.) necessarily
APPENDIX: In the foregoing I have explained the nature and
properties of God. I have shown that he necessarily exists,
that he is one: that he is, and acts solely by the necessity of
his own nature; that he is the free cause of all things, and how
he is so; that all things are in God, and so depend on him, that
without him they could neither exist nor be conceived; lastly,
that all things are predetermined by God, not through his free
will or absolute fiat, but from the very nature of God or
infinite power. I have further, where occasion afforded, taken
care to remove the prejudices, which might impede the
comprehension of my demonstrations. Yet there still remain
misconceptions not a few, which might and may prove very grave
hindrances to the understanding of the concatenation of things,
as I have explained it above. I have therefore thought it worth
while to bring these misconceptions before the bar of reason.
All such opinions spring from the notion commonly entertained,
that all things in nature act as men themselves act, namely,
with an end in view. It is accepted as certain, that God
himself directs all things to a definite goal (for it is said
that God made all things for man, and man that he might worship
him). I will, therefore, consider this opinion, asking first,
why it obtains general credence, and why all men are naturally so
prone to adopt it?; secondly, I will point out its falsity;
and, lastly, I will show how it has given rise to prejudices
about good and bad, right and wrong, praise and blame, order and
confusion, beauty and ugliness, and the like. However, this is
not the place to deduce these misconceptions from the nature of
the human mind: it will be sufficient here, if I assume as a
starting point, what ought to be universally admitted, namely,
that all men are born ignorant of the causes of things, that all
have the desire to seek for what is useful to them, and that
they are conscious of such desire. Herefrom it follows, first,
that men think themselves free inasmuch as they are conscious of
their volitions and desires, and never even dream, in their
ignorance, of the causes which have disposed them so to wish and
desire. Secondly, that men do all things for an end, namely, for
that which is useful to them, and which they seek. Thus it
comes to pass that they only look for a knowledge of the final
causes of events, and when these are learned, they are content,
as having no cause for further doubt. If they cannot learn such
causes from external sources, they are compelled to turn to
considering themselves, and reflecting what end would have
induced them personally to bring about the given event, and thus
they necessarily judge other natures by their own. Further, as
they find in themselves and outside themselves many means which
assist them not a little in the search for what is useful, for
instance, eyes for seeing, teeth for chewing, herbs and animals
for yielding food, the sun for giving light, the sea for
breeding fish, &c., they come to look on the whole of nature as a
means for obtaining such conveniences. Now as they are aware,
that they found these conveniences and did not make them, they
think they have cause for believing, that some other being has
made them for their use. As they look upon things as means, they
cannot believe them to be self-created; but, judging from the
means which they are accustomed to prepare for themselves, they
are bound to believe in some ruler or rulers of the universe
endowed with human freedom, who have arranged and adapted
everything for human use. They are bound to estimate the nature
of such rulers (having no information on the subject) in
accordance with their own nature, and therefore they assert that
the gods ordained everything for the use of man, in order to
bind man to themselves and obtain from him the highest honor.
Hence also it follows, that everyone thought out for himself,
according to his abilities, a different way of worshipping God,
so that God might love him more than his fellows, and direct the
whole course of nature for the satisfaction of his blind cupidity
and insatiable avarice. Thus the prejudice developed into
superstition, and took deep root in the human mind; and for this
reason everyone strove most zealously to understand and explain
the final causes of things; but in their endeavor to show that
nature does nothing in vain, i.e. nothing which is useless to
man, they only seem to have demonstrated that nature, the gods,
and men are all mad together. Consider, I pray you, the result:
among the many helps of nature they were bound to find some
hindrances, such as storms, earthquakes, diseases, &c.: so they
declared that such things happen, because the gods are angry at
some wrong done to them by men, or at some fault committed in
their worship. Experience day by day protested and showed by
infinite examples, that good and evil fortunes fall to the lot
of pious and impious alike; still they would not abandon their
inveterate prejudice, for it was more easy for them to class such
contradictions among other unknown things of whose use they were
ignorant, and thus to retain their actual and innate condition
of ignorance, than to destroy the whole fabric of their reasoning
and start afresh. They therefore laid down as an axiom, that
God's judgments far transcend human understanding. Such a
doctrine might well have sufficed to conceal the truth from the
human race for all eternity, if mathematics had not furnished
another standard of verity in considering solely the essence and
properties of figures without regard to their final causes.
There are other reasons (which I need not mention here) besides
mathematics, which might have caused men's minds to be directed
to these general prejudices, and have led them to the knowledge
of the truth.
I have now sufficiently explained my first point. There is no
need to show at length, that nature has no particular goal in
view, and that final causes are mere human figments. This, I
think, is already evident enough, both from the causes and
foundations on which I have shown such prejudice to be based,
and also from Prop. xvi., and the Corollary of Prop. xxxii.,
and, in fact, all those propositions in which I have shown, that
everything in nature proceeds from a sort of necessity, and with
the utmost perfection. However, I will add a few remarks in
order to overthrow this doctrine of a final cause utterly. That
which is really a cause it considers as an effect, and vice
versa: it makes that which is by nature first to be last, and
that which is highest and most perfect to be most imperfect.
Passing over the questions of cause and priority as
self-evident, it is plain from Props. xxi., xxii., xxiii. that
the effect is most perfect which is produced immediately by God;
the effect which requires for its production several
intermediate causes is, in that respect, more imperfect. But if
those things which were made immediately by God were made to
enable him to attain his end, then the things which come after,
for the sake of which the first were made, are necessarily the
most excellent of all.
Further, this doctrine does away with the perfection of God:
for, if God acts for an object, he necessarily desires something
which he lacks. Certainly, theologians and metaphysicians draw
a distinction between the object of want and the object of
assimilation; still they confess that God made all things for
the sake of himself, not for the sake of creation. They are
unable to point to anything prior to creation, except God
himself, as an object for which God should act, and are
therefore driven to admit (as they clearly must), that God
lacked those things for whose attainment he created means, and
further that he desired them.
We must not omit to notice that the followers of this doctrine,
anxious to display their talent in assigning final causes, have
imported a new method of argument in proof of their
theory--namely, a reduction, not to the impossible, but to
ignorance; thus showing that they have no other method of
exhibiting their doctrine. For example, if a stone falls from a
roof onto someone's head, and kills him, they will demonstrate
by their new method, that the stone fell in order to kill the
man; for, if it had not by God's will fallen with that object,
how could so many circumstances (and there are often many
concurrent circumstances) have all happened together by chance?
Perhaps you will answer that the event is due to the facts that
the wind was blowing, and the man was walking that way. "But
why," they will insist, "was the wind blowing, and why was the
man at that very time walking that way?" If you again answer,
that the wind had then sprung up because the sea had begun to be
agitated the day before, the weather being previously calm, and
that the man had been invited by a friend, they will again
insist: "But why was the sea agitated, and why was the man
invited at that time?" So they will pursue their questions from
cause to cause, till at last you take refuge in the will of
God--in other words, the sanctuary of ignorance. So, again,
when they survey the frame of the human body, they are amazed;
and being ignorant of the causes of so great a work of art,
conclude that it has been fashioned, not mechanically, but by
divine and supernatural skill, and has been so put together that
one part shall not hurt another.
Hence anyone who seeks for the true causes of miracles, and
strives to understand natural phenomena as an intelligent being,
and not to gaze at them like a fool, is set down and denounced
as an impious heretic by those, whom the masses adore as the
interpreters of nature and the gods. Such persons know that,
with the removal of ignorance, the wonder which forms their only
available means for proving and preserving their authority would
vanish also. But I now quit this subject, and pass on to my
After men persuaded themselves, that everything which is created
is created for their sake, they were bound to consider as the
chief quality in everything that which is most useful to
themselves, and to account those things the best of all which
have the most beneficial effect on mankind. Further, they were
bound to form abstract notions for the explanation of the nature
of things, such as goodness, badness, order, confusion, warmth,
cold, beauty, deformity, and so on; and from the belief that
they are free agents arose the further notions of praise and
blame, sin and merit.
I will speak of these latter hereafter, when I treat of human
nature; the former I will briefly explain here.
Everything which conduces to health and the worship of God they
have called good, everything which hinders these objects they
have styled bad; and inasmuch as those who do not understand the
nature of things do not verify phenomena in any way, but merely
imagine them after a fashion, and mistake their imagination for
understanding, such persons firmly believe that there is an
order in things, being really ignorant both of things and their
own nature. When phenomena are of such a kind, that the
impression they make on our senses requires little effort of
imagination, and can consequently be easily remembered, we say
that they are well-ordered; if the contrary, that they are
ill-ordered or confused. Further, as things which are easily
imagined are more pleasing to us, men prefer order to
confusion--as though there were any order in nature, except in
relation to our imagination--and say that God has created all
things in order; thus, without knowing it, attributing
imagination to God, unless, indeed, they would have it that God
foresaw human imagination, and arranged everything, so that it
should be most easily imagined. If this be their theory, they
would not, perhaps, be daunted by the fact that we find an
infinite number of phenomena, far surpassing our imagination,
and very many others which confound its weakness. But enough
has been said on this subject. The other abstract notions are
nothing but modes of imagining, in which the imagination is
differently affected: though they are considered by the
ignorant as the chief attributes of things, inasmuch as they
believe that everything was created for the sake of themselves;
and, according as they are affected by it, style it good or bad,
healthy or rotten or corrupt. For instance, if the motion which
objects we see communicate to our nerves be conducive to health,
the objects causing it are styled beautiful; if a contrary motion
be excited, they are styled ugly.
Things which are perceived through our sense of smell are styled
fragrant or fetid; if through our taste, sweet or bitter,
full-flavored or insipid; if through our touch, hard or soft,
rough or smooth, &c.
Whatsoever affects our ears is said to give rise to noise, sound,
or harmony. In this last case, there are men lunatic enough to
believe, that even God himself takes pleasure in harmony; and
philosophers are not lacking who have persuaded themselves, that
the motion of the heavenly bodies gives rise to harmony--all of
which instances sufficiently show that everyone judges of things
according to the state of his brain, or rather mistakes for
things the forms of his imagination. We need no longer wonder
that there have arisen all the controversies we have witnessed,
and finally skepticism: for, although human bodies in many
respects agree, yet in very many others they differ; so that what
seems good to one seems confused to another; what is pleasing to
one displeases another, and so on. I need not further
enumerate, because this is not the place to treat the subject at
length, and also because the fact is sufficiently well known.
It is commonly said: "So many men, so many minds; everyone is
wise in his own way; brains differ as completely as palates."
All of which proverbs show, that men judge of things according
to their mental disposition, and rather imagine than understand:
for, if they understood phenomena, they would, as
mathematicians attest, be convinced, if not attracted, by what I
We have now perceived, that all the explanations commonly given
of nature are mere modes of imagining, and do not indicate the
true nature of anything, but only the constitution of the
imagination; and, although they have names, as though they were
entities, existing externally to the imagination, I call them
entities imaginary rather than real; and, therefore, all
arguments against us drawn from such abstractions are easily
Many argue in this way. If all things follow from a necessity of
the absolutely perfect nature of God, why are there so many
imperfections in nature? such, for instance, as things corrupt
to the point of putridity, loathsome deformity, confusion, evil,
sin, &c. But these reasoners are, as I have said, easily
confuted, for the perfection of things is to be reckoned only
from their own nature and power; things are not more or less
perfect, according as they are serviceable or repugnant to
mankind. To those who ask why God did not so create all men,
that they should be governed only by reason, I give no answer
but this: because matter was not lacking to him for the creation
of every degree of perfection from highest to lowest; or, more
strictly, because the laws of his nature are so vast, as to
suffice for the production of everything conceivable by an
infinite intelligence, as I have shown in Prop. xvi.
Such are the misconceptions I have undertaken to note; if there
are any more of the same sort, everyone may easily dissipate
them for himself with the aid of a little reflection.
END OF PART I
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