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expounded, I think it worth while here to subject those pre-
judices to the test of reason. And since all the prejudices Prejudices
which I here undertake to expose depend on the one ordinary J^Ut to

assumption of men that all things in Nature act like men the test of


1 There is no contradiction between this and the former assertion
that God is the 'free cause of all things.' The latter means simply
the spontaneous cause, i.e. acting from within and not by external
compulsion. But this does not in the least involve what is commonly
understood by 'free will.' I have, however, often to acknowledge
that Spinoza's whole doctrine of 'cause' is obsolete.

2 Rerum concatenationan.


themselves with a view to an end, nay, even regard it as a

matter of course that God Himself is guiding all things toward

The some definite end 1 — for they say that God made all things

not made on account of man, but man that he might worship God — I

for man. g^u consider this point first, at the outset examining the

reason why the generality of men agree in this prejudice

Plan of the while all are hy nature inclined to embrace it. Next I shall

exposition. snow t ne falsehood of this prejudice, and finally how out of

it have sprung prejudices concerning good and evil, merit and

crime, praise and blame, order and confusion, beauty and ugliness,

and others of the like nature.

' But this is not the place to deduce all this from the nature

(1) The of the human mind. It will be enough here if I take for a
ideaof C frei mam principle the fact which all must surely acknowledge,
will arises {.that all men are born ignorant of the causes of things, and
couple<i ir \ tnat a H nave a conscious impulse to seek what is beneficial to
with ignor- t themselves. From this it follows that men suppose them-
cause. selves to be free whenever they have a consciousness of their

own wishes and desires, while they never dream of the causes
by which they are inclined to desire and will, because they
are unaware of any such causes. It follows, secondly, that
men do all things with a view to some end, that is, with a
view to something beneficial which they desire. Hence it is
that they always seek so much to know the final causes

(2) As men (purpose) of anything done, and when they have heard this
actfora^ tne ^ are sa ^ sne( I ', because indeed they have no reason for
purpose, further doubt. But if they cannot learn those final causes
led^Isk from another person, there is nothing for it but to look into
the purpose themselves and to reflect on those ends with a view to which
thing!* 7 ' they themselves usually determine on analogous actions, and

thus of necessity they judge the intention of another being
Die pur- by their own. Farther, since they find by experience both
in themselves and in the outer world many means of securing
no small advantage to themselves, as for instance the eyes

— they i Compare the last lines of ' In Memoriam' :

think —

have been ' And one far off divine event

their own To which the whole creation moves.'


J)Os,- 01

what is
useful to
them must


for sight, the teeth for chewing, herbs and animals for
nourishment, the sun for light, the sea for nourishing fishes,
and so forth, thus they are led to consider all natural objects
as means for serving their welfare. And inasmuch as they if they did
know that these means have been found, but not made, by °°J h m t ^J
themselves, hence they have assumed a reason for believing themselves,
that there is some other (being) who has prepared those ^hit or 6I
means for their use. For when once they regarded (natural) beings must
things as means (to an end), they could not possibly believe so .
that these things had made themselves. But from the
analogy of the means (instruments) which they are accus-
tomed to prepare for themselves, they plausibly concluded 1
that there existed some being, or some rulers of Nature, en-
dowed with human freedom of will (libertate), who had con-
trived all these things for man, and had constituted all
things for the advantage of men. And since men had never These
heard anything about the disposition (mind, intention) of n atiiral
those Rulers of Nature, that disposition was inevitably beings were
estimated by the standard of human nature. Hence men imagined as

adopted the idea that the arods order everything: with a view to animated
1-, , , i-i by human

the advantage of men, in order that they may bind men to motives.

themselves, and be held by men in supreme honour. Thus

it came to pass that every one invented for himself, out of This


his own head, different forms of worshipping God, all seek- for the

ing that God should love them more than the rest of men, d J ve ^ y ,

and should order Nature so as to serve their blind greed and cults.

insatiable avarice. And so it was that this prejudice 2 was

turned into superstition and thrust deep roots into the minds

of men, which superstition is accountable for the universal

straining of desire to know and explain the final causes of The search

things. But while men sought to show that Nature does c^^ses ends

nothing in vain — that is, nothing which may not serve man in proving

.* , »i. • i • universal

— they seem to have succeeded in proving nothing except ineptitude.

that Nature and the gods are as mad as men.

1 Conchulcre dehaerunt ; say, 'could hardly help concluding.'

2 I.e. of anthropomorphism — the attribution of final causes to


The other ' Mark, I pray you, the issue. Amid so many blessings of
shield • the na ture, there were necessarily many things unpleasant, such
apparent a s storms, earthquakes, diseases and such like. And men
Nature. held the opinion that these things happened because the
gods were angry on account of wrongs done to them by
mankind, or on account of errors committed in the form of
Theological worship. And although experience from day to day insisted
contrary to an( ^ proved by innumerable instances that advantage and
fact. disadvantage befell equally and without any distinction both

the pious and the impious, not in the least on that account
did they relinquish their ingrained prejudice. For to count
The Un- this among other unknown things of which they did not
no refuge know the final purpose or advantage, was easier to them
here - than to cancel that whole system of thought, and to think

out a new one. Hence they laid it down as a certain axiom
that the judgments of the gods far surpass human under-
standing; which indeed by itself would have been amply
sufficient to hide truth for ever from the human race, had
Mathemat- not Mathematics, which does not deal with ends (or purposes)
a°different but only with the essential nature and properties of figures,
standard of discovered to men another standard of truth. 1 And in addi-
which to tion to Mathematics other causes might be mentioned —

measure though it is needless to recount them here — enabling men to
the world. & . . o

take note of these universal prejudices, and to become sus-

/ , ceptible of guidance to a true understanding of things.
' /w- ' I have thus explained sufficiently what I undertook to
Final "■■ deal with first. 2 And now in order to show that Nature has
ananthro- set herself no fixed purpose, and that all final causes are but
pomorphic human fictions, there is no need of many words. For I
prc ( believe this to be sufficiently established both by my demon-

stration of the origins and causes in which this prejudice has
had its birth, and also by the propositions and corollaries 3

1 The suggestion is ( 1 ) that no purpose (or final cause) can be assigned
to the truths about space, figure, and quantity. They are because
they are. (2) That such truths are judged by reason, or intuition.

2 Viz. the reason why the generality of men assume as a matter of
course the reality of final causes.

3 Props, xvi. , xxxii. , and Corollaries.


and all those arguments by which I have shown that all
things arise in supreme perfection by a sort of eternal neces-
sity of Nature. This, however, I will add here ; that the
above doctrine of a purpose entirely overturns Nature. For Contradic-
that which in very deed is a cause, it considers as an effect, ^ ^J 1 "
and the reverse. Secondly, that which in Nature is first it in the
puts last. And, lastly, that which is supreme and absolutely doctnne -
perfect it represents as most imperfect.

'For, omitting the first two points as self-evident, 1 that The doc-
effect is most perfect which is produced immediately by God; 2 ^i causes
and in proportion as everything requires a greater number makes
of intermediate causes for its production, it is more imperfect, effects of
But if things immediately produced by God had been made ^^ e
in order that God might thereby achieve His (farther) better than
purpose, then necessarily the last things, for the sake of e 1 ff e m ^ iate
which the first were made, would be the most excellent of all.

1 Then again this doctrine does away with the perfection of it also
God. For if God acts with a view to an end, necessarily He q^ 1 .® 8
desires something that is lacking to Him. And although infinite
Theologians and Metaphysicians distinguish between an end per e(
sought because of need and an end sought by way of assimila-
tion, nevertheless they acknowledge that God has done all

1 We are referred to Props, xxi.-xxiii., all going to show that all
finite forms or events being modes of the Attributes, are necessarily
involved in the Essence or Being of God and cannot be conceived
otherwise. This being granted, a final cause is a contradiction in
terms, for it is really an effect involved in the Infinite Cause. But
these subtleties perhaps confuse more than they explain. The common-
sense underlying these subtleties comes out more clearly as we pro-
ceed with the Appendix.

2 It is impossible to avoid the impression that there is something of
the argument um ad hominem here. To Spinoza, who identified God
with the Universe, everj'thing must have been — though even this is
inaccurate — an ' immediate effect ' of God. He is truer to himself
when he tells us that we and everj'thmg else are finite modes of God ; s
infinite Attributes. But, apparently for the purpose of making
himself more comprehensible, he here argues in a manner that seems to
assume a chain of causes, some nearer to and some remoter from God,
a mode of thought fundamentally inconsistent with his philosophy.



things for His own sake and not for the sake of the things to
be created \ because before creation they cannot suggest any-
thing other than God for the sake of which God might act.
Thus they are inevitably forced to confess that God lacked
and desired those things with a view to which He willed to
prepare the (necessary) means — as is self-evident.

' But we must not omit to notice that the adherents of this
doctrine, while desiring to show their ingenuity in finding
purposes for all things, have brought to the proof of this
their doctrine a novel method of argument, I mean the appeal

The argu- not to impossibility (the unthinkable) but to ignorance ;

1™"™°!™ which shows that for this doctrine no other method of
argument was available. For if, by way of example, from
any roof a stone has fallen on some one's head and has killed
him, they will prove after the above method that the stone
fell for the purpose of killing the man. For unless it had
fallen in accordance with the divine will for that purpose,
how could so many circumstances — for often there are many
concurrent — have co-operated by accident 1 You will reply
perhaps that this happened because the wind blew and
because the man was going that way. But they will insist
upon asking why did the wind blow at that time 1 Why
was the man going that way at the same time 1 If again you
answer that the wind rose then because the sea on the pre-
ceding day after a time of calm had begun to be stirred, and
that the man had been invited by a friend, they will insist
on asking again — because there is no end to such questions —
but why was the sea stirred up ? Why was the man invited
for that particular time 1 And still continuing, they will not
cease to inquire the causes of causes until you betake yourself
to the will of God which is the refuge of ignorance. 1

1 This is not for a moment to be confounded with Spencer's doctrine
of the Unknowable. The theological plea of ignorance is a capricious
choice of a particular limit imposed by piety or authority on human
knowledge. Spencer's Unknowable — or, for that matter, Spinoza's in-
finite Being, endowed with infinite Attributes subject to infinite modes
— is what is reached after the freest use of all the powers of human
intellect totally regardless of any authority but that of experience.


c So likewise when they see the structure of the human The
body they are astounded, and, because they do not know the oTnaUire
causes of art so great, they infer that it was not constructed referred to
by molecular force, l but by divine or supernatural art, and natural
has been formed in such a way that one part will not injure the origins.
other. And thus it happens that any man who searches into
the true causes of miracles and who endeavours to understand The fate
natural order as a man of culture, and not merely to gape at thoughtful,
it as a fool, is everywhere taken for a heretic, and irreligious,
and is banned by those whom the mob adore as the inter-
preters of Nature and the gods. For such interpreters know
that if ignorance be removed, stolid amazement — the solitary
means they possess of conviction and defence of their authority
— is abolished. But I pass from such matters and hasten
onward to that which I undertook to treat in the third

1 After men have persuaded themselves that all created Origin of
things were made for their benefit, they have inevitably goriefof
considered that quality in each thing to be most important good, evil,
which is most useful to themselves, and have regarded as
most excellent all those things by which they were best
served. In this way they must needs have formed the
notions by which they exrjressed the nature of things, such
as Good, Evil, Order, Confusion, Warm, Cold, Beauty, and
Ugliness. And because they think themselves free, other
notions have been formed, such as Praise and Reproach, Crime
(sin) and Merit. 2 But these latter I defer till after I have

1 Of course this is not Spinoza's word, which is ' '■ mechanical But
1 molecular ' represents Spinoza's idea transposed into modern modes
of thought.

2 The patient student will find that both praise and reproach and
the notions of sin and merit have a full and adequate place in Spinoza's
own doctrine. That is, they are essential elements in the universal
order. E.g. it is false to regard praise or reproach as operating on a
separate faculty called Will, that is subject to no order. But it is
true that praise and reproach are part of the forces acting on the
individual microcosm which is just as invariable in its order as the


treated of Human Nature. The former, however, I will here
briefly explain.

' Everything that makes for human welfare and for the
service of God they have called Good, but whatever is opposed
to these they have called Evil. And because those who do
not understand the nature of things have no explanation to
give of things, 1 but only have fancies about them and take
their fancies for understanding, therefore in their ignorance
both of the outer world and of their own nature they firmly
believe that there is a (conceivable) 2 scheme (or system) of
The notion things. For when things are so arranged that, being pre-
or plan hi sented to us through the senses, we can readily picture them,
creation an and consequently remember them easily, we say that they
are well arranged ; while if they are the reverse we say
that they are confused. And since those things which we
can easily conceive are more accordant with our pleasure
than others, therefore men prefer system (ordinem) to con-
fusion — as though system in Nature were anything more
than relative to our imagination. Then they say that God has
created everything on a system, and thus in their ignorance
they attribute imagination to God. 3 Unless perchance they
mean that God, with a design to humour the imagination of
man, has arranged all things on a plan by which they may be
most easily pictured in the mind. Nor perhaps would they
see the least difficulty in the fact that innumerable things
are found which far surpass our imagination, and very many
which absolutely stagger its weakness. But enough of this.

' There are other notions also which are nothing at all but
modes in which the imagination is variously affected; and

1 Nihil de rebus affirmant.

2 I insert this word to bring out what I believe to have been in the
mind of Spinoza. After reading his doctrine of the Attributes and
their Modes and their eternally fixed relations, it would be absurd to
suppose that he denied universal order {Ordo). But what he did
deny was the fancied scheme of any theologian such as ' the plan of
salvation,' etc.

3 As though He were an architect who conceives a plan and works
up to it.


yet by the ignorant they are regarded as being conspicuous
attributes of things; because, as we have just said, they
believe that everything was made for them. And they call Epithets
the nature of any particular thing, good or evil, sound or ™ od *^ d
rotten and corrupt, according as they themselves are affected evil are
by it. For instance, if the vibration 1 which the nerves man on i y>
receive from objects presented by means of the eyes conduce
to satisfaction, the objects by which it is caused are called
beautiful ; but those which excite an opposite sort of vibration,
ugly. Objects again which stimulate perception through the
nostrils men call fragrant or fetid, those (that act) through
the tongue, sweet or bitter, tasty or unsavoury, and so on.
Those objects which affect touch they call hard or soft, rough
or smooth, and so forth. And, lastly, those which affect the
ears are said to give forth noise, tone, or harmony ; and this
last has befooled men to the extent of supposing that God
takes pleasure in harmonious sound. Nor are there wanting
Philosophers who have got the notion that there is such a
thing as the music of the spheres. 2 Now all these facts show
plainly how every one has formed his estimate of (outward)
things according to the disposition of his brain, or rather
how he has taken the affections of his imagination for actual-
ities. No wonder therefore — as we may observe in pass-
ing — that the multitudinous controversies of our experience
have arisen among mankind, and from these controversies,
in the last result, Scepticism. 3 For although the bodies of Differences
men agree in many things they differ in very many, and tion^nd 3 "
therefore what seems good to one seems evil to another : taste show

. ' that there

what is systematic to one is to another confused. "What is is no thing

pleasant to one is displeasing to another ; and so of other absolute

things which I here pass by, partly because this is not the quaiiti.-


1 Mot us — I do not attribute to Spinoza any modern theory, but
vibration is as good as movement.

2 ' Sibi persuader hit motus celestes harmonium componere.''

B Spinoza means by this something worse than Agnosticism — un-
named in his day. He refers to the Pyrrhonism — a name probably
quite unjust to Pyrrho— which held that there was no means of
knowing anything, and perhaps nothing to know.


place to deal with them in order, and partly because the fact

is one which everybody knows by experience. For every

one keeps saying " so many heads, so many ways of thinking,"

" every one is satisfied by his own way of thinking " ; " the

differences of brains are not fewer than the differences of

palates." Such proverbs show plainly that men judge of things

by the disposition of the brain, and imagine things rather than

understand them. For if they understood things, all men,

if not attracted (by the truth), would be at least convinced.

'Thus we see that all the methods by which ordinary

people are accustomed to explain Nature are only modes of

picturing things j nor do those methods reveal the nature of

any object, but only the constitution of the imagination.

Entities of And because those modes of imagination have names, as

nation* 21 " though of entities existing independently, I call them entities

not of reason, but of fancy. And in this way all arguments

brought against us by means of such notions can easily be

repelled. For many are in the habit of arguing thus : If all

supposed things follow by necessity from the absolutely perfect nature

tionTin " °f Q°&) whence have come so many imperfections in Nature ?

Nature are For instance, the putrescence of things, with disgusting

as parts odour, ugliness of things exciting nausea, confusion, evil,

and pi-opor- cr j me anc i the rest ? But as I have just said, they are easily

tions ot the * . -,

whole. confuted, ior the perfection of things and their value

(valency) is to be measured by their own nature solely ; and
things are not more or less perfect on account of the delight
or the offence they cause to men — because they are favour-
able to human nature or repel it. To those, however, who
inquire why God did not create all men so that they should
be governed only by the guidance of reason, I reply only
that there was no lack to Him of material for the creation of
all sorts of things, from the highest to the lowest grade of
perfection \ or, to speak more correctly, because the laws of
His own nature were so resourceful (ample) that they sufficed
for the production of all things that can be conceived by any
infinite intellect, as I have shown. 1 These are the prejudices
1 Prop. xvi.


which I undertook here to notice. If any others of the same
grain still survive they can be corrected by any one with a
moderate amount of consideration.'

If it stood by itself this Appendix might seem to A caution


justify those who have accused Spinoza of nullifying not hasty con-
only the sanctions but the very possibility of morals.
But it does not stand by itself. It is organically related
to all the other parts. And when these are grasped
in their entirety — but especially their culmination in
Part v. — it will be found that Spinoza leaves the
practical facts and issues of morality precisely as they
have always been, and as they are now held by practical
men uncommitted to any theory. What he does is to
offer an explanation different from that most generally
accepted, but more consistent with itself because more
accordant with things as they are. All the usual sanctions
of morality — God, Eternity — in the true sense — reward
and punishment, repentance, remorse, aspiration, brotherly
love, Love to God, aspiration after ideal goodness — have
as much a place in Spinoza's system as in any other.
But he gives them a profounder security, by showing
that they are no mere ordinations of any Will, but the
eternally necessary results of that divine Nature, which,
in its Infinity, is absolutely perfect and good, though the
mutual relations of finite modifications of its attributes
are not always accommodated to our pleasure.



Problem of Our study of the First Book of the Ethics has shown us

the Second

Book to that, according to Spinoza, there is absolutely nothing in

find a place

for finite being but God, His Attributes and their Modes. That
wlthm the is to say, if the term ' Atheism ' or ' No-God-ism ' could
God? 1 e ey e r be accurately used to describe any actual form of
human belief, or unbelief, then Spinoza's position was the
precise contrary of this, inasmuch as he maintained that
in all eternity and infinity there has not been and cannot
ever be anything other than God, Such a position
necessarily raises the question, What then do we mean
by ' creation,' by finite existence, and, above all, by indi-
vidual consciousness ?
Creation So far as concerns what we call 'creation,' we have

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Online LibraryJ. Allanson (James Allanson) PictonSpinoza; a handbook to the Ethics → online text (page 4 of 21)