Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared
Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of material, intellectual and religious freedom. Every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.
In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth.
In philosophy, when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.
The highest activity a human being can attain to is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.
The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.
Inasmuch as people defend their cause, by miracles, that is by ignorance, which is the source of all malice, they turn a faith, which may be true, into superstition.
As though God had turned away from the wise, and written His decrees, not in the mind of man but in the entrails of beasts, or left them to be proclaimed by the inspiration and instinct of fools, madmen, and birds. Such is the unreason to which terror can drive mankind!
There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.
Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear.
In proportion as we endeavor to live according to the guidance of reason, shall we strive as much as possible to depend less on hope, to liberate ourselves from fear, to rule fortune, and to direct our actions by the sure counsels of reason.
I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.
Not to weep; Not to wax indignant; But to understand.
The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.
I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of the peace.
Don’t be astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.
The more you struggle to live, the less you live.
Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure … you are above everything distressing.
I have labored carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions; and to this end I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavor to understand their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses … I shall, therefore, treat the nature and strength of the emotion in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.
I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.
Nothing in nature is by chance … Some things appear to be chance only because of our lack of knowledge.
Nature offers nothing that can be called this man’s rather than another’s; Under nature everything belongs to everyone — that is, they have authority to claim it for themselves.
Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, so am I.
Of great importance in the case of physical beings and realities is to know there essences: for the properties of things are not understood so long as their essences are unknown. If the latter be passed over, there is necessarily a perversion of the succession of ideas, which should reflect the succession of nature, and we go far astray from our object.
But factually greediness, ambition, and so forth are forms of insanity, … the defects have been culturally patterned to such an extent now that they are not even generally thought any more to be annoying or contemptible.
Each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.
Knowledge which we acquire by our natural faculties depends on knowledge of God and His eternal laws; but ordinary knowledge is common to all men as men, and rests on foundations which all share, whereas the multitude always strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the gifts of nature; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordinary knowledge is not supposed to be included.
God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things.
Anything which excites their astonishment they believe to be a portent signifying the anger of the gods or of the Supreme Being, and, mistaking superstition for religion, account it impious not to avert the evil with prayer and sacrifice.
If a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular. Thus each would ascribe to God its own attributes, would assume itself to be like God, and look on everything else as ill-shaped.
Since love of God is the highest felicity and happiness of man, his final end and the aim of all his actions, it follows that he alone observes the divine law who is concerned to love God not from fear of punishment nor love of something else, such as pleasure, fame, ect., but from the single fact that he knows God, or that he knows that the knowledge and love of God is the highest goods.
A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him.
After experience had taught me that all the usual surroundings of social life are vain and futile; seeing that none of the objects of my fears contained in themselves anything either good or bad, except in so far as the mind is affected by them, I finally resolved to inquire whether there might be some real good having power to communicate itself, which would affect the mind singly, to the exclusion of all else: whether, in fact, there might be anything of which the discovery and attainment would enable me to enjoy continuous, supreme, and unending happiness.
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.
Everyone endeavors as much as possible to make others love what he loves, and to hate what he hates… This effort to make everyone approve what we love or hate is in truth ambition, and so we see that each person by nature desires that other persons should live according to his way of thinking …
He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it.
No men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers. For they conceive of men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. I have resolved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only such things as agree best with practice.
He who seeks equality between unequal men, seeks an absurdity.
Nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone’s power.
Happiness is not the reward of virtue, but is virtue itself; nor do we delight in happiness because we restrain from our lusts; but on the contrary, because we delight in it, therefore we are able to restrain them.
Further conceive, I beg, that a stone, while continuing in motion, should be capable of thinking and knowing, that it is endeavoring, as far as it can, to continue to move. Such a stone, being conscious merely of its own endeavor and not at all indifferent, would believe itself to be completely free, and would think that it continued in motion solely because of its own wish. This is that human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined.
Those who know the true use of money, and regulate the measure of wealth according to their needs, live contented with few things.
He alone is free who lives with free consent under the entire guidance of reason.
Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass men as vices into which they fall by their own free actions.
The ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others. No, the object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.
The end of the state is really liberty. The real disturbers of the peace are those who, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
Hatred is increased by being reciprocated, and can on the other hand be destroyed by love. Hatred which is completely vanquished by love, passes into love; and love is thereupon greater, than if hatred had not preceded it. He resists equally one or many men, and scarcely needs at all the help of fortune. Those whom he conquers yield joyfully
The greatest secret of monarchic rule…is to keep men deceived and to cloak in the specious name of religion the fear by which they must be checked, so that they will fight for slavery as they would for salvation, and will think it not shameful, but a most honorable achievement, to give their life and blood that one man may have a ground for boasting.
Pride is pleasure arising from a man’s thinking too highly of himself.
None are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not.
Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens. They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.
He who seeks to regulate everything by law is more likely to arouse vices than to reform them. It is best to grant what cannot be abolished, even though it be in itself harmful. How many evils spring from luxury, envy, avarice, drunkenness and the like, yet these are tolerated because they cannot be prevented by legal enactments.
These are the prejudices which I undertook to notice here. If any others of a similar character remain, they can easily be rectified with a little thought by anyone.
Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition of benevolence, confidence, justice.
Self-preservation is the primary and only foundation of virtue.
If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.
It is certain that seditions, wars, and contempt or breach of the laws are not so much to be imputed to the wickedness of the subjects, as to the bad state of the dominion.
In so far as the mind sees things in their eternal aspect, it participates in eternity.
Every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks. When that is possible the conflicts that are inevitable between men can be clarified to the real points of conflict and usually a mutually acceptable set of actions can be found. It is critical that we see and understand the ideas behind our competitor’s beliefs and state them clearly to him so he knows we understand his problems. Inasmuch as people defend their cause, by miracles, that is by ignorance, which is the source of all malice, they turn a faith, which may be true, into superstition. If a person has fallen into some understanding of the situation based on his fabrications it may be possible to clarify why those things that bother him arose. That requires free, open and sustained conversation so clarity can develop. In philosophy, when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow. When one misconception is observed it becomes possible to build a whole world of falsehood upon that point. Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear. It is fear of the unknown, and the value of extended open conversation is that it eliminates unknown fears.
We thinking humans must be careful in our application of our philosophical thoughts. A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him. A few billion years of evolution have been successful in making us able to survive well in our local environment, and we must look with suspicion upon our personal local learning or that gleaned from books of long dead philosophers.
Philosophy is willing and able to explore far beyond the reaches of everyday experience, and it does sometimes find practical application in remote places. But, in those infinite realms there is infinite error to be easily found and few truths. It is the philosopher’s job to discover and clearly expose the difference. But, that is complicated by complexity of points of view, and the infinity of applications. Thus it is that Spinoza says, No men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers. I would add that in a Congress deciding public issues there should be philosophers and scientists giving their input but the decisions of action should be left to the whole body and include plenty of those with abundant real-world experience.