Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY
3. Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) was born at Amsterdam. His parents were of
Jewish-Portuguese extraction. From them he received a liberal education. His
teacher in Hebrew was the celebrated Rabbi Marteira, who introduced him to the
study of the Talmud and the Bible. He studied Latin also under the noted
physician, Franz van der Ende. He was brought up in the Hebrew faith, but he was
expelled from the Jewish communion on account of "frightful heresies."
Though interested in Christianity and a warm admirer of the life and
teaching of Jesus, he never formally accepted the Christian faith. He
lived in great retirement engaged in his philosophical pursuits, and
supporting himself by the polishing of lenses. He lived a frugal life.
He was not without friends and
protectors, from whom, however, he refused to accept monetary aid. He was called
to a professor's chair in Heidelberg, but declined it on the ground that he
might be there hindered in the full liberty of thought. Of delicate
constitution, he died at the age of 44 of consumption. He was a man
of pure life and simple habits, kindly and gentle of disposition; unselfish,
somewhat sad, free from hypocrisy and guile, devoted to the pursuit of truth, he
was the image, as one has said, of a true sage.
His writings are: The Principles of the Philosophy of Descartes, 1670;
Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670; Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione;
Epistolae; A Recently Discovered Treatise Concerning God and Man; and his
Ethica, which was published by his friend Ludwig Mayer after his death. This
latter work contains the gist of his system, and sets forth at once the
principles and aim of his philosophy. It consists of five books. The first
treats of God; the second, of the nature and origin of the mind, in which he
deals not so much with the nature of the mind as with the spiritual life of man
on its ethical side; the third book treats of the nature of the emotions and
passions; the fourth deals with human bondage to the passions (De servitute
humana sive affectuum viribus); the fifth treats of the "Power of the
Intellect," or of "Human Freedom."
Most diverse estimates have been formed of Spinoza. By some he has been
execrated as the arch enemy of religion. By others he has been extolled as the
prophet of a higher cult. Dugald Stewart sees in his philosophy the seeds of
blank atheism. Novalis, on the other hand, calls him "that God-intoxicated
While it must be admitted that Spinoza has little in common with doctrinal
Christianity, denying as he does the personality of God and repudiating the idea
of a divine revelation through the God-Man, no one can peruse his ethics without
being impressed with the exalted spirituality of its tone and purpose, and it
must be conceded that he himself regarded his philosophy as a vindication of the
principles of true religion.
An atheist he by no means was, and it would probably be more correct to call
him, as Hegel does, an Acosmist, rather than a Pantheist. He begins and ends
The world is in God, and we can only know it and ourselves through and by Him.
In spite of his rigid method and abstract reasoning, his aim is purely
practical. It is wholly ethical, as his principal work indicates; it is, as he
himself calls it, a theory of freedom and redemption.
Descartes had split up mind and matter into two substances which were only
united in a supreme substance— God. On the one side was placed God, and on the
other the world. Spinoza perceived the duality. The first aim of all philosophy
is to attain to unity. There can be only one substance—only one all-embracing
being, of which all finite and individual things must be but accidents. The
unity of all things in God is at once the starting-point and the central thought
of Spinoza's system.
The outward form in which Spinoza presents his system, his mathematical or
demonstrative method, creates not only its greatest difficulty, but also one of
its chief defects.
Descartes had suggested that metaphysics might be dealt with in the same manner
as mathematics, though he himself never fully carried out his idea. Spinoza,
however, acting on this hint, thought that if he followed the same method as
Euclid he would obtain for his reasonings the same certainty. But Spinoza failed
to see that this method, though suitable to the finite sciences, is wholly
inadequate to the treatment of speculative subjects. Euclid was dealing with a
different subject-matter from that of Spinoza. Geometry proceeds on the
assumption that the matter is given. Philosophy has to investigate what is
given, and why it is given. Thus, while Spinoza starts with definitions, he
gives us no reason why he should select just these definitions. When he has
formally defined substance, he has said all about it that his method will admit.
It is the mere abstract unity of all things in which everything is merged, but
out of which nothing flows. Philosophy admits of no unexplained presuppositions,
and a system which neglects to verify its own
assumptions would require another to explain it. The strict and formal method
which he has adopted has reacted both on his view of God's being and of man's
freedom. Not only has it suggested a false idea of the infinite as that which
has no limitations or qualifications, and of which only positive existence can
be affirmed, but it has also caused him to reject a teleological conception of
the world. A philosophy which regards all things as following by mathematical
necessity from its first principles has obviously no room in it for any idea of
a final cause or end of things. The world and the things of the world, man and
his powers, are simply there, as necessary parts of a whole, just as the angles
are there as necessary elements of a triangle. And so too with regard to human
freedom. Where all things flow from the first principle with the same necessity
as the properties of a geometric figure from its definition, individual freedom
is an impossible idea. The illusion of liberty arises from the tendency of
ordinary beings to take a part for the whole, and to see things separate from
the conditions which determine them. But as a matter of fact, according to
Spinoza, a man can no more act differently from what he does, than a false
conclusion can follow from certain given premisses.
Having so far considered the general form, and particularly the method of
Spinoza,—the source of many of its shortcomings,—we may now proceed to examine
his philosophy more in detail.
According to Spinoza every fact that is known to us must come under one of three
heads, which he calls Substance, Attributes, and Modes. On these three notions
his whole system is based, consequently we have to speak of Substance, or his
doctrine of God; of the Attributes, or the doctrine of mind and matter; of the
Modes, or the doctrine of particular things.
(1) Substance. Spinoza starts with a definition of Substance. "Substance is
that which is in itself, and is
contained through itself, i.e. the conception of which does not need the
conception of another thing in order to its formation." This substance he
characterizes as infinite, indivisible, unique, free, eternal, as the cause of
itself and of all things, and as consisting of an infinite number of infinite
attributes, two only of which are cognisable by human intelligence. Furthermore,
he expressly identifies this substance with God, whom he defines as "a being
absolutely infinite, i.e. substance consisting of infinite attributes of which
each expresses an eternal and infinite essence."
Spinoza follows Descartes in his definition of Substance, but he sees that there
can be legitimately only one substance. It must be independent of all else, and
it must be at once the Self-existent and All-embracing, at once "the cause of
itself and the cause of all things."
Much discussion has taken place with regard to the expression causa sui, which
at first sight would appear to be open to the objection that it contains a
logical contradiction. To say that a thing is the cause of itself implies that
the thing exists before itself, which is absurd. But all that Spinoza probably
means is that substance is eternal and infinite cause. It is that which the mind
necessarily thinks as the ground-notion of all being. "By the cause of itself,"
he says, "I mean something of which the essence involves existence, of which
the nature is conceivable only as being in existence." To Spinoza, in other
words, the self-existent is the starting-point of thought; it is the character
of reality as a whole. From this notion he thought he could unfold the universe.
The conception of causality in the sense of dependence as between cause and
effect is absent from the very method by which he proceeds. With him the
relation rather is a statical one of ground and consequent, and his constant
parallel is geometrical properties in relation to their figure.
In thus beginning with the universal and descending to the particular, it has
been objected that Spinoza
neglects, or at least anticipates, experience, and attempts to explain the world
simply by an à priori notion, arbitrarily chosen. Ought not the unity with which
he starts, to be the goal rather than the beginning of knowledge? Is Spinoza not
guilty of a premature and capricious generalization, taken up at haphazard
without a preliminary examination of the facts of experience?
It may be sufficient to answer that, in one sense, Spinoza has only begun where
philosophy in all ages has begun. Thus the Eleatics commenced with the
and if we are to explain the world at all we must present to our minds the
totality of being, the unity of all things as the starting-point of thought.
But though Spinoza begins in his Ethica with definitions and axioms, he was not
so wholly independent of a preliminary examination of experience as he seems to
be. In another work, De Intellectus Emendatione, and also in the second book of
the Ethics, he draws a distinction between the procedure of reason and
imagination. He says it is the province of reason to grasp things in their
totality and universality, and for this end we must get beyond the illusions of
sense and the abstractions of ordinary thinking, and view things sub quadem
specie aeternitatis. The defect of the ordinary unreflecting way of looking at
things, which like Plato he calls "opinion," is that it is apt to take the part
for the whole, to make the individual the standard of the universe, and,
generally, to be satisfied with a partial, fragmentary view of things. But as a
matter of fact, if we think of it, nothing is isolated. All things are connected
and are parts of each other, linked together by an inner bond of causality. So
it also is with the minds of men. Individuality is a mere semblance, caused by
our narrow, one-sided way of looking upon life. Isolate men and you destroy
their whole character as intelligent beings. No man lives to himself alone.
Every life is inextricably bound up with the lives of others. Pure intelligence
corrects this fragmentary
view, and forces us to connect things together and regard the universe not as an
aggregate of isolated facts, but as a unity.
The problem which presents itself to Spinoza, therefore, is, how are we to reach
the apprehension of things in their unity? Must we simply proceed from part to
part, from fact to fact, reach wider and ever wider generalizations? Or can we
at once, from the standpoint of pure reason, seize the idea of an all-embracing
unity in which all the parts are seen to have their necessary place and function? In other words, may we not at once view the world
sub Specie aeternitatis?
Spinoza holds that we can, and indeed must. "The essences of individual things
are not to be discovered by looking at the series or order of their existence,
for in that way we can only get external marks or relations, but not the
explanation of things in themselves. For such an explanation we must look to
that which is eternal and unchanging, in which, as on tables of stone, we find
inscribed the laws according to which all individual things are produced and
ordered. Nay, these changeable things are so intimately, and in their essence,
dependent on those things which are eternal, that, apart from them, the former
can neither exist nor be conceived" (De Intell. Emend., chap. XIV.).
It is obvious, he affirms, that our knowledge cannot be real or adequate except
in so far as it is determined by the idea of the whole. He holds also that there
are certain first principles to which the mind is capable of attaining, from and
through which everything exists and may be known. His philosophy, therefore,
begins with the idea of God, the one substance, the infinite unity, in which all
things are. We can get no further back than that. The mind can rise no higher.
Here then we must start. Of this ultimate idea, this basis of all thoughts and
things, it must be affirmed that whilst all other ideas rest upon it, it rests
itself on no other. It is beyond doubt or demonstration. It cannot be proved by
anything outside itself.
It can only be defined as "that which is in itself and is conceived through
The position of Spinoza then is that the individual can only be explained in the
light of the whole of which it is a part, that all differences in the finite
world presuppose an ultimate unity. But when we ask what is the positive nature
of the substance we perceive the unsatisfactoriness of Spinoza's doctrine. His
infinite unity is merely abstract. The world of particulars is simply merged in
it, not organically accounted for by it. The substance has really no contents.
Finite things are nothing; the substance is all. This abstract conception of God
arises from Spinoza's formal mathematical way of looking at things. His idea of
the infinite is that which has no limits. The kernel and keynote of his system
is his famous sentence,—"every determination is a negation" (omnis
determitiatio est negatio). A determination would imply a defect of existence.
Only that which has no qualifications is perfect, is real. All elements,
therefore, which define God must be thought away. All ideas of number, degree,
time, which imply separation or relation of parts; nay, all conceptions of good
or evil, of human freedom or responsibility, must disappear. Special positive
designations would reduce the substance to something finite. It must, therefore,
be only described in negative terms. We do not know what God is; we can only say
what He is not. He is the limitless infinite, indivisible, eternal essence. He
is eternal in the same sense as space is eternal,—existence without limit. He is
free also in the same sense,—negatively free, in so far as He is conditioned by
nothing outside Himself.
It need hardly be pointed out that this idea of God is very different
from the Christian conception of the Deity. All idea of personality is
precluded. Spinoza expressly repudiates the notion of a personal being
conceived in our own image. Every determination detracts from
perfection. We can, therefore, ascribe to God neither passions nor
purposes, neither intellect nor will. He is a Being absolutely perfect,
"purged of all anthropomorphism." He is neither the "magnified man" of
popular thought, nor the "All-wise Creator and Governor" of natural
theology. He is simply the ground of all being, the infinite,
(2) Attributes. Having thus defined Substance as the alone existent, it might be
assumed that there was nothing more to be said. But the question still presses,
how are we to account for the world as we know it? How are we to explain the
variety and manifoldness of existence? For even though it be a negation, an
illusion, it must be justified. The answer to this question is contained in
Spinoza's doctrine of attributes and modes. Substance is not merely causa sui,
it is also causa omnium rerum. The unity as we know it differentiates itself
into infinite attributes and then into finite and infinite modes. The first
thing we are conscious of is a distinction of mind and matter. How are these to
be reconciled with our idea of the infinite substance and with one another?
Descartes had assumed two derivative substances, the one, spirit, the other,
extension. But obviously these cannot be regarded as real in the same sense as
the one substance is real. There was only one course left for Spinoza in order
to account for thought and extension. They must be conceived as attributes of
the substance, that is to say, as different modes for us of expressing it. They
must be regarded as the two sides of the same thing. God in Himself has no
attributes. But when we think of Him, we must think of Him under the form of our
intelligence. And, therefore, the attributes are but the necessary categories
under which the mind represents God. "By attribute," he says, "I understand
that which the intellect perceives in Substance as (tanquam) constituting its
essence." In other words, an attribute does not constitute the real essence of
the substance in itself, but only in relation to the finite intelligence which
contemplates it. Though Spinoza says there must be an
infinite number of attributes in an infinite substance, which might be
discernible to minds differently constituted from ours, only two are cognisable
by the human mind, viz., thought and extension. These attributes, though
seemingly distinct, do not constitute two different entities. The one cannot be
produced by the other. Each expresses by itself the whole reality of the
substance. He represents the relation by various illustrations. They are like
the different ways of reflecting the same light, or they are like the two names
of the patriarch, Jacob and Israel, each of which included the whole reality of
the man. There is a complete parallelism of thought and extension. Each covers
the whole notion. Thought does not contain more, or less, of God than does
extension. The contents of both are absolutely the same.
It is by an application of this same principle that Spinoza explains the
relation of body and mind in man. To every mode of thought a mode of extension
corresponds, and we may say of every existing thing that it may be regarded as a
modification, both of thought and extension. Of man, we may say he is composed
of mind and body, but these are not two opposing elements; they both express the
man in different aspects. "The soul is the idea of the body"; the body is the
objective of the soul. Though there is no identity or dependence, there is
complete agreement between them, "just as the idea of a circle and a real
circle are the same thing, now under the attribute of thought, now under that of
extension." Body and mind, nature and spirit, are everywhere united, as type and
antitype, subject and object. Running through all nature, in man, as everywhere
else, there is this inseparable dual aspect, through which the single substance
is expressed. There is no necessity here to resort to the Deus ex machina of
Descartes, or to the "occasional causes" of Geulinx or the "pre-established
harmony" of Leibnitz, to explain the relation of body and mind. Each is a whole
in itself. There is no interaction to be explained. As two equal triangles completely coincide, so body and mind each represents completely the
whole action of God, contemplated only in different aspects.
Spinoza's theory of Attributes lays itself open to various criticisms.
1. One cannot but feel that the attributes are not derived from the substance,
but are merely brought, as Hegel has pointed out, from without. According to his
own definition, the very idea of Substance would seem to exclude any difference
or determination. Thought and extension are not given in the definition. The
blank substance is at one stroke filled with contents, and without any
explanation that which he defined as purely indeterminate, suddenly becomes
possessed of an infinite number of qualities.
2. The attributes are, moreover, arbitrarily chosen. There is no justification
offered for their number or their relation to each other. There is no necessity
shown why the Deity should manifest Himself just in these and no others. To say
simply that a number of attributes coheres in one substance is not to explain
their unity or necessity. Thought and extension are not shown to be organically
connected with each other or with the substance. They simply lie within it, in
an external formal manner.
3. But a more fatal objection is that Spinoza has conceived a mind outside of
the Substance. Whence comes this intelligence of which he speaks? The mind, he
says, apprehends the attributes as constituting the nature of the Substance, but
yet he also says that thought cannot be ascribed to the Substance as such. Hence
an external understanding must bring with it the attributes of thought and
extension, in order that it may conceive the substance. In other words, in order
to apprehend the substance Spinoza has to suppose a man outside of it. But every
determination is a negation, yet in order to conceive the infinite he must
assume a mind which is not a part of it—a something which the substance is not
and by which it is, therefore, conditioned.
4. It might also be maintained that while Spinoza regards thought and extension
as equal expressions of Substance, he gives the pre-eminence to thought. It is
by thought or intelligence that both attributes are conceived. Thought is
conscious not only of itself, but also of extension. Thought, in other words,
has a priority, and enters into every presentation we form of the substance or
of the attributes. It is not simply one of the attributes, but is a universal
factor in all our knowledge of God or of the world.
(3) Modes. From thought and extension, the two attributes of God, Spinoza
descends to finite things, which, according to his definition of Substance, can
have no real existence, and are only to be regarded as modifications of it. "By
mode I understand a modification of Substance, or that which is in something
other than itself by means of which also it is conceived." Modes can neither
exist nor be conceived without substance, and are indeed nothing but the
affections of the attributes of God. They have no independent being, but are
related to the substance as the waves are related to the sea. They are simply
the ever-varying shapes or modes in which God expresses Himself. Every thought,
wish, feeling, is a mode of God's attribute of thought; while every visible
thing is a mode of His attribute of extension. God is the all in all, the omne
esse, and beyond Him there is nothing real.
As we had a difficulty in perceiving how the attributes were deduced, so we have
a corresponding difficulty in realizing how the modes come into being. They are
not to be conceived as being caused by the Substance, but rather as contained in
it. "God," says Spinoza, "is not the transient but the immanent cause of the
world." He is only the causa omnium rerum in the same sense as He is the
sui. Spinoza's conception of God is not dynamical, but statical. Under the usual
idea of causality we think of the cause contributing something of itself to the
effect and of the effect as becoming something different
from the cause. But with Spinoza there is no thought of transference of energy.
The infinite cannot be conceived as passing over into the finite. It has no
separate existence. All we can say is, that the finite is contained in the
infinite, just as the properties of a triangle are contained in the very
definition of it.
It might be objected to Spinoza's view of the finite world that if the modes are
only transient forms, there must be a reason in the nature of the substance for
their existence as such. Even though everything in the world be resolved into a
negation, the negation itself exists. When you have reduced all finite things to
phantoms, the world of phantoms must still be accounted for. And this Spinoza
virtually admits, for not only does he speak in some passages of the Ethics in a
qualified form of the modes as being "only in part negation," but in ascribing
to the intelligence the power of rising above the illusions of the world, he
really exempts the intelligence from the passing and transient existence which
belongs to mere modes as such. There is, he would seem to imply, an element in
all finite things which is eternal and universal; and, indeed, the practical
purpose of his philosophy is to show how man from being a part of the phenomenal
world may rise out of it and attain to participation in the eternal spirit.
But this suggestion which Spinoza thus casually throws out of finite things
possessing an element of universality and infinity, while it gives to them a
permanence and independence which the original idea of substance does not allow
for, and thus saves Spinoza from the imputation of pantheist, only discloses the
antithesis in a more glaring form. We are still left without any principle of
mediation between God and the world. Spinoza himself seems to have felt this
difficulty of deducing the modes from the substance, the finite from the
infinite. Hence in certain passages of the Ethics we meet with a conception not
yet referred to, that of Infinite Modes, which may be regarded as an attempt to
fill up the gap. On the one
hand we have the infinite indeterminate substance—on the other, a world of
finite modes or determinations: and in order to bridge the gulf between them we
have a third something which, as its name implies, has affinity with both, with
the finite world as being itself a "mode": with the infinite as an "infinite" mode. "These infinite modes are either modifications of the absolute nature
of some attribute or modifications of an attribute already modified, but so
modified as to be eternal and infinite." When asked for examples, Spinoza
answers: "Examples which you ask are, of the first class, in thought, the
absolutely infinite intellect, in extension, motion and rest; of the second
class, the form of the whole universe, which although it varies in infinite
ways, remains always the same."
This final attempt at mediation between the infinite and the finite can scarcely
be regarded as satisfactory. Spinoza would seem to combine here two ideas which
are reciprocally exclusive. In their ultimate analysis the modes must be either
infinite or finite. They cannot be both. Furthermore, when we examine what is
meant by infinite modes we find that it involves on the one hand the
introduction into the idea of the infinite substance an element of activity and
self-differentiation which is lacking in the abstract unity as first conceived.
And on the other hand it is an endeavour to give to the finite world a meaning
which he had already denied to the individuals which compose it. We cannot fail
to be struck here with the resemblance of the infinite modes to the Neoplatonic
doctrine of the Logos or World-Soul, as an intermediary between the one and the
From the consideration of the modes we are naturally led to a consideration of
the practical philosophy of Spinoza.
In the second book of the Ethics, which bears the title,— "The Nature and
Origin of the Mind,"—he deals with the results which necessarily follow from the
nature of God,
i.e. those results which lead us to a knowledge of the human mind and its
Here it is evident Spinoza's aim is a practical one,—the discovery of the way to
spiritual felicity. But, as in his view all moral advancement rests on the
intelligence, the true way to perfection is to clear our minds of all error and
illusion, and see things as God sees them, under the form of eternity. The
question, therefore, comes to be, is the mind capable of what he calls "adequate knowledge"? Spinoza's answer to this question is contained in his
theory of the development of Knowledge.
There are three orders of knowledge recognised by Spinoza.
(1) There is the knowledge which is derived from the particulars of
sense-experience. It is simply the individual point of view, and consists of
confused ideas, opinions, and imaginations. This is the condition of the
ordinary mind in which the reason is not exercised, and in which conclusions
based on mere hearsay, tradition, or inaccurate observation, are accepted.
(2) The second kind of knowledge is that which Spinoza calls "reason" (ratio).
"Reason is that knowledge which arises from our possessing common notions and
adequate ideas of the properties of things." It is a kind of knowledge "which
is common to all men," and is of "that which is common to all things." In other
words, it is knowledge which is derived from reasoning, of the laws and
properties of things. But this kind of knowledge is not the highest. It, indeed,
raises us above the crude conception of things which pertains in the
unreflective stage, but it is only a reasoning from cause to effect. We never
attain to a final unity by this method. All we get by it is an indefinite
succession of facts.
(3) The highest form of knowledge, therefore, is what he calls Scientia
intuitiva—a direct knowledge of the essence of things, and ultimately of the
Divine essence. Reason must not be conceived merely as our individual reason
working under the conditions of time, it is also to be regarded as eternal,
freed from all restrictions—a part of the infinite mind of God. The truths which
we have laboriously reasoned out may be apprehended by a flash of intuition. To
see things as God sees them,—that is the highest form of knowledge. Thus men may
rise above illusive opinion to adequate and real knowledge. From this third kind
of knowledge springs the highest possible satisfaction of the mind. Man's
blessedness lies in the intellectual love of God. "The highest virtue is to
know God, to view all things from their centre in God, and to be moved only by
the passion for good."
The ethical philosophy is the natural outcome of his metaphysical views.
To be free from the bondage of the senses and to attain to the realization of
ourselves in God is the true end of life. Hence the essence of life is
self-preservation. Spinoza teaches a morality which is opposed to asceticism—a
morality not of self-denial, but of self-assertion. The conatus sese
conservandi—the effort of self-realization—is the principle of virtue.
This self-realization must take place under the control of reason, the aim of
which is to identify itself with the love of man and the love of God. Spinoza
will not admit any negative element to enter into this effort. Indeed, his
former idea of human life as a mere negation seems now to be discarded. Man is
not merely a part of his environment, there is that in him by which he can
transcend his limits and lift himself out of his bondage. Even in the lower
animals, he says, this striving takes place. But while in them it assumes the
form of appetite, in man it becomes conscious desire. When this act of
self-assertion depends wholly on ourselves it is called an "action," when it
depends partly on what is beyond our control it is a "passion." We are in
bondage to passion so long as we are bound to the contingent world and are
subject to the illusions of sense and the emotions of the body. An
emotion is just a confused idea. All the varied emotions may be referred to one
of three sources,—desire, pain, or pleasure. To rise superior to those emotions
is to be free. In other words, freedom consists in the deliverance from confused
and false ideas and in the attainment of true or adequate knowledge. Reason
masters passion by showing its true nature. "An emotion which is a passion," he
says, "ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of
it"—that is to say, when we reach the stage of true knowledge,—union with
God,—passion has no more power over us.
Spinoza denies the freedom of the will in the common acceptation. Men think that
they are free because they are not conscious of the determining causes. He
identifies will and intelligence. They are one, in so far as both affirm their
objects. Man, like other things, is under an absolute law of necessity. All the
actions of his will, as of his intelligence, are but different forms of the
self-assertive tendency to which he cannot but yield. To be true to the end of
our being is the only freedom possible for us, and that end is the life which
intelligence dictates. We are free in so far as we partake of the nature of God.
God does not act arbitrarily, but solely from the laws of His own nature. He is
not determined by anything external to Him. In like manner man is free when he
intelligently strives to fulfil the inner necessity of his being. Here reason is
our guide. To know our limits is to transcend them. Our passions belong to us
only as finite creatures. But even in them there is an element of infinity. Let
us but obtain an adequate idea of a passion and it can be transformed into an
instrument for our self-realization. Brought into contact with the idea of God,
all our ideas become true and adequate, and, therefore, subservient to our life
in Him. The transition of the mind to greater perfection is joy; the transition
to a lower stage is pain. Spinoza condemns all ideas of rivalry and ambition as
springing out of a false estimate of finite things and a false
desire to take advantage of our fellowmen. The highest good is that which can be
most fully shared with the greatest number. That is of real usefulness which
first contributes to the highest perfection of the individual, and through him
to society. But as the true nature of reason is knowledge, nothing is useful but
that which serves knowledge. Knowledge is our true being, and the highest
knowledge is the knowledge of God. Happiness is not the reward of virtue, but
virtue itself, and that is to be found in "the intellectual love of God."
"The human mind cannot be destroyed with the body, but there remains something
of it which is eternal, and it is only while the body endures that the mind is
susceptible to those emotions which are referred to passion." Yet from this view
of eternity we must eliminate all ideas of personal and conscious immortality.
The idea of eternity has nothing to do with time or duration. It is simply
participation in a sphere where beginning and end have no meaning. It is life in
the eternal present—life in God.
The union of the soul with God has suggested the question whether Spinoza did
not pass from the one Substance of the first Part to a plurality of substances
at the end. Hegel regards the substance of Spinoza as "an abyss in which all
particulars are annihilated." Others see in this final absorption an advance to
Hegel's own more concrete unity—the unity in which the differences are
The goodness of his heart seemed to suggest truths which the stringency of his
logic would not admit, and, if we judge the system by its aim, we must conclude
that Spinoza only solved the Cartesian dualism by suppressing one of its sides,
by merging the finite in the infinite. Later philosophy, as we shall see,
asserted the reality of the finite and the value of experience. Spinoza, it has
been well said, "declared the value of seeing things under the form of
eternity, but it is necessary first to see them under the form of time." The
one-sided assertion of individuality and difference in the schools of Locke and
Leibnitz was the
natural complement of the one-sided assertion of the universality of Spinoza.
When the individualistic tendency of the eighteenth century had received at the
hands of Kant its refutation, it was not unnatural that thought should again
return to that great idea of unity in difference which Spinoza was groping
after, but did not achieve.
Pantheistic tendency. Malebranche