Benedict (or Baruch) Spinoza - Philosophy, Ethics and
Benedict (or Baruch) Spinoza (1632-77)
Dutch philosopher (pictured right) who:
- died of lung disease (caused by his job as a lens grinder for the making of
telescopes and microscopes).
- was excommunicated from the Jewish religion because of his unorthodox
Who did he influence?
Albert Einstein, German-born
American scientist.(pictured right)
Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist
(pictured right below).
His most famous book is...
What did he say about ethics and happiness?
1. “God is nature”
God is in everything (now called pantheism),
“Whatever is, is in God”,Spinoza said.
So we should respect and protect the world around us.
2. Mind and body
Descartes (pictured right), he said that your mind and body are
inseparable and identical.
- improving one means improving the other.
- the immortality of the soul (as believed in Christianity) is impossible after the
death of the body.
But Spinoza did believe in God’s ability to soothe the mind.
Happiness, he said, is
“Nothing but the contentment of mind that stems from the intuitive knowledge of God”.
3. You are not totally free
Your decisions are caused, or determined, by prior events (now called determinism).
Therefore, your life will be happier, if you understand and accept the
- dominance of prior events.
- reasons for your feelings and actions
- why you do things (see point 3).
- what you think is right and wrong (morality)
- how you can have the best possible life.
Happiness and wisdom come from an active mind, continually doing something challenging,
creative and worthwhile.
5. Control your life
a) conquer your desires
Control them with self-discipline.
b) be positive
- have positive emotions and beliefs like love, courage and hope (which win people over).
- think about life, not death.
c) rely on reason
His support for reason and understanding to understand God and the universe led him to talk about
the “intellectual love of God” (see point 6).
6. Reason with feeling
All knowledge comes from reason (or intellectual analysis) and scientific
progress, not superstition or ignorant dogmatism.
You will be happiest, if you live by your true emotions and feelings (like love and
7. Put things into perspective
Don’t dwell on your problems, which are never as big as they
They are insignificant in comparison with God and eternity.
8. Speak and listen
He was a great supporter of free speech and expression.
“Every man may think what he likes and say what he thinks”, he said.
You should also be;
- prepared to accept other people’s wisdom.
9. Learn to be wise
“Learning for understanding” is the best activity, he said, because “to understand
is to be free”.
But life’s most valuable lessons are difficult to learn, and an idea isn’t necessarily
true because it’s popular.
10. Equality is impossible
We can’t all be equal because of our different levels of ability and effort.
“He who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity”, Spinoza said.
Key quote on influencing people
Minds are not conquered by force, but by love and generosity.
Key quote on
Every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.
Key quote on
He who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity.
Key quotes on
To understand is to be free.
Men are deceived if they think themselves free.
Key quote on fear and
Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.
Key quote on politics and
The ultimate aim of government is... to free every man from fear.
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A good thing which prevents us from enjoying a greater good is in truth an evil.
Key quote on God
Whatever is, is in God.
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Love for an object eternal and infinite feeds the
mind with joy alone, a joy that is free from all sorrow.