Benedict Spinoza ns2In existographies, Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) (IQ:180|#53) (Cattell 1000:108) [RGM:157|1,500+] (Murray 4000:10|WP) [HD:6] [FA:50] [RMS:19] (EPD:M6) (GPhE:#) [CR:194] was a Dutch philosopher, and "celebrated atheist" (Holbach, 1770), noted for, in hmolscience, his 1676 posthumously-published Ethics: Demonstrated in Geometrical Order, a treatise on morality written, supposedly, in the style of Euclid's Elements, as a series of geometrical proofs of numerous philosophical points, accompanied by definitions, axioms, demonstrations, and corollaries, as well as intervening stretches of friendlier prose (scholia).

In 1670, Spinoza, in his Theologico-Political Treatise, building on Abraham Ezra (1089-1167), denied that Moses wrote the Pentateuch; example statement:

“It is thus clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived long after Moses.”
— Benedict Spinoza (1670), Theologico-Political Treatise (Ѻ)


The following is a representative quote from Ethics part three: [8]

“I shall consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.”

Much of this argument, to note, is oft-encapsulated in the term “Spinoza’s god” (or god = nature), retrospectively classified as pantheism. [20]

Soul | Excommunication
In 1656, Descartes was excommunicated from Judaism for asserting that there was no “immortal soul”, among other things such as that the Torah was not the literal world of god, and the Jews were not the chosen people. [20]

Descartes, after he was excommunicated, changed his name to its Latin equivalent "Benedict", thereafter working as a lens-grinder and tutor by day, and philosopher by night.

In 1676, Descartes, in his “Of the Soul”, part five of his Ethics, presented his final views on the matter of the soul.

Religion | Atheism
In 1670, Spinoza anonymously published a treatise on theology. [5] In 1921, German-born American Albert Einstein, following his arrival in New York, a rabbi sent him a telegram asking: “Do you believe in god” to which he famously replied: [4]

“I believe in Spinoza’s god, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists.”

The gist of Spinoza’s views of god are that miracles were seen by only those who wanted to see them; that if God had laws, there were inherent in natural laws; that there was no afterlife; that knowledge of nature was knowledge of God; and that the only rational language which to describe the universe was the language of mathematics. [5]

Spinoza's belief system is notoriously difficult to label. Christianity historian Geoffrey Blainey (2011) refers to Spinoza as probably the first "semi-atheist" to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era. [17]

Spinoza does not prove the existence of god. Being is god. If others denounce him as an atheist for this, I wish to exalt him.”
Johann Goethe (c.1810), response to a book that labeled Spinoza as an atheist [18]

Spinoza's general religion has always tended to be labeled by the equation "God = Nature" or "Nature = God" or something along these lines.

In 1661, Spinoza published a Short Treatise on God.

Spinoza is known to have studied Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Euclid, and as many have supposed Giordano Bruno, though there is no evidence of the latter.

Bruno | Conatus
With regard to Spinoza's psychology and ethics, the idea of the "conatus", or the theory of striving to preserve in being, extended to all finite things, organic and inorganic, and even the term "conato de conservarsi" itself are said to be derived from or influenced by Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). [12] Translator W.H. White (1953), however, comments in footnote that despite striking parallel passage between the two "there is no direct evidence that he actually read Bruno". [14]

Much of Spinoza’s work is said to have been, in part, responses to difficulties in the work of French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650), whose aim was to overthrow church-endorsed authority of Aristotle in favor of a new epistemology and metaphysics that would serve as the foundation for a new mechanistic and mathematized approach to the natural world. [10] Descartes was thirty-seven years old when Spinoza was born (synthesized), had he recently moved to Holland, and died (analyzed) the when Spinoza was seventeen. The topic of Spinoza’s first published work was The Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy.

In the third book of his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Spinoza states the following in respect to why things happen:

“All things happen according to the laws of nature.”

The following is one dismantling Aristotle's famed final cause:

Nature has not fixed aim in view and all final causes are merely fabrications of men.”


Ethics (Spinoza)
A 2001 edition of Spinoza’s Ethics, the cover showing Dutch painter Maarten Heemskerck’s c.1550 “Geometry”, illustrating Spinoza's aim of reformulating human ethics geometrically, or using proofs. [11]
Spinoza's morality philosophy was said to have been very influential to German polyintellect Johann Goethe, in regards to his 1808 physical chemistry based morality system, as presented in his 1809 Elective Affinities. [1] According to German Goethean scholar Herman Grimm, Spinoza’s manner of treating human relations, had opened the way to the latter views of Goethe and Friedrich Schiller who, in their circa 1796 correspondences, compared humans to elements that attract or repel one another without any exercise of "will" in the matter. [2] In regards to Spinoza’s view of morality, and its possible influence on Goethe’s physical chemistry morality theory, Goethe writes in his 1814 autobiography Poetry and Truth:

“After seeking through the world in vain, to find a means of cultivation for my unusual nature, I at last fell upon the Ethics of this philosopher. If would be impossible for me to render an account of how much I drew from my perusal of the work itself and how much I myself read into it. Enough that I found in it a sedative for my passions, and that it seemed to open out for me a free and boundless view of both the sensible and the moral world. But what especially riveted me to him, was the utter disinterestedness, which glowed in his every sentence.”
— Johann Goethe (1814), retrospect commentary on finding Spinoza’s Ethics in 1774-75 [3]

In other words, Goethe, in Spinoza, may have intuited the some of the preliminaries of the physical chemistry morality system that he eventually comes to present in Elective Affinities.

On the subject of "will", Spinoza is said to have criticized Rene Descartes' dualism position, and, in propositions 48-49 of his Ethics, summarized as follows: [6]

“There is in the mind no absolute faculty of willing or not willing but only particular volitions like this or that affirmation or this or that negation. Will and understanding are one and the same thing. Ideas are not dumb figures traced on a canvas; the assumption that they are is what prevents our seeing that every idea inasmuch as it is an idea contains affirmation or negation. There is not in the mind a will absolute and free; but the mind is so conditioned as to be caused to will this or that, by some cause which is determined by other cause, and this by another and so to infinity. So then the relation of the understanding and the will to this or that idea, to this or that volition, is that of stoniness to this or that stone, or that or humanness to Peter or to Paul. Will cannot be called ‘free cause’, but only ‘necessary cause’. The will is nothing else than a manner of thinking just as is the understanding. Men think themselves free, because they are conscious of their volitions and of their desires and are oblivious to the causes which dispose them do desire and to will.”

This last part, i.e. “men think themselves free”, seems to have been paraphrased into Goethe’s famous P2:C5 quote on freedom:

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

In another place:

Spinoza says that if a stone which has been catapulted though the air had consciousness, it would think that it was flying of its own will. I only add that the stone would be right. That catapulting is for the stone what the motive is for me.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (1819), The World as Will and Representation (pg. #); cited by David Skrbina (2017), in Panpsychism in the West (pg. 142)


Spinoza study room
A portion of Spinoza's study room.
At an early age, he was distinguished for his great capacities, and was said to have been strongly impressed by the following maxim of Rene Descartes:

“Nothing ought to be received as truth until it has been proved by good and solid reasons.”

Spinoza, as a young man, ran with a crowd who were admirers of Descartes, but he personally admired Giordano Bruno.

He was an accomplished Latin and Greek scholar, well-versed in the classic and ancient systems of philosophy, and had studies mathematics, algebra, physics, chemistry, optics. Spinoza spoke Portuguese, German, Latin, and Hebrew.

At one point he started training for a rabbinical career, but being short on money took up a career as a lens grinder, wherein, during the course of his work, he met and advised both Christiaan Huygens and Gottfried Leibniz. [5]

Goethe and Einstein aside, Spinoza was said to have influence on Gotthold Lessing, Novalis, George Eliot, Mary Shelley, Somerset Maugham, and Jorge-Luis Borges. [10] Likewise, in 1854 French historian-philosopher Hippolyte Taine, in his “Essay on Livy” submitted to the French Academy, expressed his view that according to Spinoza, a human’s place in relation to nature, is not that of an empire within an empire, but of a part in a whole; that a person’s inner nature or being is subject to laws in the same way as the external world; moreover, that there is a dominate principle, a ruling faculty, which regulates thought and imparts an irresistible in inevitable impulse to the human machine. [11]

Quotes | On
The following are incidences of praise and or tribute:

Spinoza’s Treatise on Theologico-Politics, has for its main objective the destruction of all religions, particularly the Jewish and Christian religions – which he thinks are altogether invented for public utility – and in their place to introduce atheism, libertarianism, and freedom, based on rational that people will keep themselves virtuous, not in the hope of compensation after death, but simply for the sake of excellency of virtue itself.”
— Jean-Baptiste Stouppe (c.1660), La Religion des Hollandais [21]

“All our modern philosophers, though often perhaps unconsciously, see through the glasses which Spinoza ground.”
Heinrich Heine (c.1835), Publication [22]

“I am really amazed, really delighted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: what brought me to him now was the guidance of instinct. Not only is his whole tendency like my own, to make knowledge the most powerful passion, but also in five main points of his doctrine I find myself; the most abnormal and lonely thinker is closest to me in these points precisely: he denies free will, purposes, the moral world order, the nonegoistical, evil; of course the differences are enormous. In summa: my solitariness which, as on the very high mountains, has often made me grasp for breath and lose blood, is now at least a solitude for two.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (c.1885), comment to close friend in his later yeas [15]

“The principle of plenitude had latent in it a sort of absolute cosmical determinism which attains its final systematic formulation and practical application in the Ethics of Spinoza.”
Arthur Lovejoy (1933), The Great Chain of Being (pg. 54)

Quotes | By
The following noted Spinoza quotes:

“We must bear in mind that the terms good and evil are only applied relatively, so that the same thing may be called both good and bad according to the relations in view, in the same way as it may be called perfect or imperfect. Nothing regarded in its own nature can be called perfect or imperfect; especially when we are aware that all things which come to pass, come to pass according to the eternal order and fixed laws of nature.”
— Benedict Spinoza (1662), “On the Improvement of the Understanding: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect” (Ѻ) (Ѻ)

“The man who endeavors to find out the true causes of miracles, and who desires as a wise man to understand nature, and not to gape at it like a fool is generally considered and proclaimed to be a heretic and impious by those whom the vulgar worship as the interpreters both of nature and of the gods. For these know that if ignorance be removed, amazed stupidity—the sole ground on which they rely in arguing or in defending their authority—is take away also.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1660) [19]

“I call him free who is led solely by reason.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1660) (Ѻ)

“To take appeal to the will of god is to take refuge in the asylum of ignorance.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1660)

“All things are animate in varying degrees.”
— Benedict Spinoza (1674), “Letter to Schuller”; cited by David Skrbina (2017), in Panpsychism in the West (pg. 142)

“All noble things are as difficult as they are rare.”
— Benedict Spinoza (1676), Ethics [14]

“We must take care not to admit as true anything that is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) [16]

“Nothing in nature is by chance. Something appears to be chance only because of our lack of knowledge.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1660) (Ѻ)

“I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1660) (Ѻ)

“Everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) (Ѻ)

Nature abhors a vacuum.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) (Ѻ)

“He who seeks equality between unequals, seeks an absurdity.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) (Ѻ)

“The ordinary surroundings of life which are esteemed by men (as their actions testify) to be the highest good, may be classed under the three heads — ‘riches’, ‘fame’, and the ‘pleasures of sense’: with these three the mind is so absorbed that it has little power to reflect on any different good.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) (Ѻ)

“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.”
— Benedict Spinoza (c.1670) (Ѻ)

1. Ethics (book) – Wikipedia.
2. Grimm, Herman F. (1880). The Life and Times of Goethe (§23: Study of Natural Science: “The Natural Daughter” and “Elective Affinities”, pgs. 442-74; quote, pg. 463). Trans. Sarah Adams. Little, Brown, and Company.
3. (a) Goethe, Johann. (1814). Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth), in: Goethe’s Werke (editor” Lieselotte Blumenthal). Muenche: Beck Verlag, 1978, two volumes); also trans. Minna Steele Smith (London: Bell & Sons, 1973) Part III, Book XIV 1774-1775, pg. 166.
(b) Hodge, Joanna. (2005). “The Timing of Elective Affinity: Walter Benjamin’s Strong Aesthetics”, in: Walter Benjamin and Art (editor: Andrew Benjamin)(§2, pgs. 14-31; quote, pg. 21; note 13, pg. 252). Continuum International Publishing Group.
(c) Dichtung und Wahrheit – Wikipedia.
4. Edwards, Rem. (2001). What Caused the Big Bang? (pg. 19). Rodopi.
5. Burke, James. (1996). The Pinball Effect (pg. 214). Back Bay Books.
6. Sherrington, Charles. (1940). Man on His Nature (pgs. 170-71). CUP Archive.
7. Spinoza, Benedict. (1676). The Ethics: Demonstrated After the Methods of Geometers, and Divided into Five Parts: I. Of God, II. Of the Soul, III. Of the Affections or Passions, IV. Of Man’s Slavery, or the Force of Passions, V. Of Man’s Freedom, or the Power of Understanding (Translator’s Preface by N.J. Englewood, pgs. iii–xxxvii). D. Van Nostrand, 1888.
8. (a) Spinoza, Benedict. (1676). “The Ethics (Part 3, pg. 129). Dover, 1955.
(b) Smith, Christian. (2010). What is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Amz) (N33, pg.110). University of Chicago Press.
9. Spinoza, Benedict. (1676). Ethics. Wordsworth, 2001.
10. Garrett, Don. (2001). "Introduction", in: Ethics (by: Benedict Spinoza; translator: W.H. White; revised by: A.H. Stirling) (pgs. vii-xv). Wordsworth Editions Limited.
11. Taine, Hippolyte. (1874). Notes on England (Essay on Livy, pg. xxiii; organized molecule, pg. xLvii). W. Isbister & Co.
12. (a) Spinoza, Baruch (section: Giordano Bruno) –
(b) Conatus – Wikipedia.
(c) Bruno, Giordano. (date). “Parallel Passages From Giordano Bruno”, in: Ethics (by: Benedict Spinoza; translator: W.H. White; revised by: A.H. Stirling) (pgs. LXXXIX-xCII). Wordsworth Editions Limited.
13. White, W.H. (1953). "Translator's Preface", in: Ethics (by Benedict Spinoza) (xlv). Wordsworth Classics.
14. Zucker, Morris. (1945). The Philosophy of American History: The Historical Field Theory (pg. 684). Arnold-Howard Publishing Co.
15. Malieth, Monydit (aka Tonnerre). (2013). The Future Affects the Past: What Destination is Time Rushing To? (pgs. 62-63). Red Lead Books.
16. Nahum, Gerard G. (2014). Predicting the Future: Can We Do It? And If Not, Why Not? A Primer for Anyone Who Has Ever Had to Make a Decision about Anything (thermodynamics, 25+ pgs). Archway Publishing.
17. Blainey, Geoffrey. (2011). A Short History of Christianity (semi-atheist, pg. 388). Viking.
18. Haught, James A. (1996). 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt (§: Johann Goethe, pgs. 105-07). Prometheus.
19. (a) Spinoza, Benedict. (1677). Ethics (translator: James Gutmann) (pg. 76). Hafner, 1949.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 321-22). HarperOne.
20. Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (admired Bruno, pg. 319; immortal soul, pg. 320;pantheism, pg. 320; other, pg. 321-22). HarperOne.
21. (a) Garrett, Don. (1996). The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza (pg. 45). Cambridge University Press.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 322). HarperOne.
22. (a) Ratner, Joseph. (1927). “Introduction”, in: The Philosophy of Spinoza: Selection from His Works. Modern Library.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 376). HarperOne.

External links
Baruch Spinoza – Wikipedia.
Ethics (book) – Wikipedia.
Spinoza Quotes – Genius Quotes.

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