Baruch Spinoza

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I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.
When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes.

Benedictus de Spinoza (24 November 163221 February 1677) was a social and metaphysical philosopher famous for the elaborate development of his monist philosophy, which has become known as Spinozism. Controversy regarding his ideas led to his excommunication from the Jewish community of his native Amsterdam. He was named Baruch ("blessed" in Hebrew) Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento d'Espiñoza, but afterwards used the name Benedictus ("blessed" in Latin) de Spinoza.

See also
Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670)
Ethics Geometrically Demonstrated (1677)


I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different...
The eternal wisdom of God … has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy.
Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, I am also.
  • If you find the light of Scripture clearer than the light of reason (which also is given us by divine wisdom), you are doubtless right in your own conscience in making your reason yield. For my part, since I plainly confess that I do not understand the Scriptures, though I have spent many years upon them, and since I know that when once I have a firm proof I cannot by any course of thought come to doubt of it, I rest wholly upon that which my understanding commends to me, without any suspicion that I am deceived therein, or that the Scriptures, even though I do not search them, can speak against it. For one truth cannot conflict with another, as I have already clearly shown in my Appendix to the "Principles of Descartes"...But if in any case I did find error in that which I have collected from my natural understanding, I should count it good fortune, since I enjoy life, and endeavour to pass it not in weeping and sighing, but in peace, joy, and cheerfulness, and from time to time climb thereby a step higher. I know, meanwhile (which is the highest pleasure of all), that all things happen by the power and unchangeable decree of the most perfect Being.
  • When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is ; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes. I am not astonished ; for I believe that, 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.
    The briefness of a letter and want of time do not allow me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, or the questions you have propounded. Besides, suggesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. That we do many things in the world from conjecture is true, but that our redactions are based on conjecture is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable ; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth. 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. But in philosophic reflection this is not so. On the contrary, we must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.
    Again, we cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain ; for there have been many persons so enamoured of contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms.
  • This impels me, before going into your reasons, to set forth briefly my opinion on the question, whether the world was made by chance. But I answer, that as it is clear that chance and necessity are two contraries, so is it also clear, that he, who asserts the world to be a necessary effect of the divine nature, must utterly deny that the world has been made by chance; whereas, he who affirms that God need not have made the world, confirms, though in different language, the doctrine that it has been made by chance; inasmuch as he maintains that it proceeds from a wish, which might never have been formed. However, as this opinion and theory is on the face of it absurd, it is commonly very unanimously admitted, that God's will is eternal, and has never been indifferent; hence... the world is a necessary effect of the divine nature. Let them call it will, understanding, or any name they like, they come at last to the same conclusion, that under different names they are expressing one and the same thing. If you ask them, whether the divine will does not differ from the human, they answer, that the former has nothing in common with the latter except its name; especially as they generally admit that God's will, understanding, intellect, essence, and nature are all identical; so I... lest I... confound the divine nature with the human, do not assign to God human attributes, such as will, understanding, attention, hearing, &c. I therefore say, as I have said already, that the world is a necessary effect of the divine nature, and that it has not been made by chance. I think this is enough to persuade you, that the opinion of those (if such there be) who say that the world has been made by chance, is entirely contrary to mine; and relying on this hypothesis, I proceed to examine those reasons which lead you to infer the existence of all kinds of ghosts.
  • Beauty, my dear Sir, is not so much a quality of the object beheld, as an effect in him who beholds it. If our sight were longer or shorter, or if our constitution were different, what now appears beautiful to us would seem misshapen, and what we now think misshapen we should regard as beautiful. The most beautiful hand seen through the microscope will appear horrible. Some things are beautiful at a distance, but ugly near; thus things regarded in themselves, and in relation to God, are neither ugly nor beautiful. Therefore, he who says that God has created the world, so that it might be beautiful, is bound to adopt one of the two alternatives, either that God created the world for the sake of men's pleasure and eyesight, or else that He created men's pleasure and eyesight for the sake of the world. Now, whether we adopt the former or the latter of these views, how God could have furthered His object by the creation of ghosts, I cannot see. Perfection and imperfection are names which do not differ much from the names beauty and ugliness.
    • Letter to Hugo Boxel (October 1674) The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza (1891) Tr. R. H. M. Elwes, Vol. 2, Letter 58 (54).
  • This I know, that between finite and infinite there is no comparison; so that the difference between God and the greatest and most excellent created thing is no less than the difference between God and the least created thing.
    • Letter to Hugo Boxel (October 1674) The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza (1891) Tr. R. H. M. Elwes, Vol. 2, Letter 58 (54).
  • If I had as clear an idea of ghosts, as I have of a triangle or a circle, I should not in the least hesitate to affirm that they had been created by God; but as the idea I possess of them is just like the ideas, which my imagination forms of harpies, gryphons, hydras, &c., I cannot consider them as anything but dreams, which differ from God as totally as that which is not differs from that which is.
    • Letter to Hugo Boxel (October 1674) The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza (1891) Tr. R. H. M. Elwes, Vol. 2, Letter 58 (54).
  • I had hoped that out of so many stories you would at least have produced one or two, which could hardly be questioned, and which would clearly show that ghosts or spectres exist. The case you relate... seems to me laughable. In like manner it would be tedious here to examine all the stories of people, who have written on these trifles. To be brief, I cite the instance of Julius Caesar, who, as Suetonius testifies, laughed at such things and yet was happy. ...And so should all who reflect on the human imagination, and the effects of the emotions, laugh at such notions; whatever Lavater and others, who have gone dreaming with him in the matter, may produce to the contrary.
  • My opinion concerning God differs widely from that which is ordinarily defended by modern Christians. For I hold that God is of all things the cause immanent, as the phrase is, not transient. I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different ; I will even venture to affirm that I agree with all the ancient Hebrews, in so far as one may judge from their traditions, though these are in many ways corrupted. The supposition of some, that I endeavour to prove in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus the unity of God and Nature (meaning by the latter a certain mass or corporeal matter), is wholly erroneous.
    As regards miracles, I am of opinion that the revelation of God can only be established by the wisdom of the doctrine, not by miracles, or in other words by ignorance.
  • I make this chief distinction between religion and superstition, that the latter is founded on ignorance, the former on knowledge; this, I take it, is the reason why Christians are distinguished from the rest of the world, not by faith, nor by charity, nor by the other fruits of the Holy Spirit, but solely by their opinions, inasmuch as they defend their cause, like everyone else, by miracles, that is by ignorance, which is the source of all malice; thus they turn a faith, which may be true, into superstition.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)
  • I do not think it necessary for salvation to know Christ according to the flesh : but with regard to the Eternal Son of God, that is the Eternal Wisdom of God, which has manifested itself in all things and especially in the human mind, and above all in Christ Jesus, the case is far otherwise. For without this no one can come to a state of blessedness, inasmuch as it alone teaches, what is true or false, good or evil. And, inasmuch as this wisdom was made especially manifest through Jesus Christ, as I have said, his disciples preached it, in so far as it was revealed to them through him, and thus showed that they could rejoice in that spirit of Christ more than the rest of mankind. The doctrines added by certain churches, such as that God took upon himself human nature, I have expressly said that I do not understand; in fact, to speak the truth, they seem to me no less absurd than would a statement, that a circle had taken upon itself the nature of a square. This I think will be sufficient explanation of my opinions concerning the three points mentioned. Whether it will be satisfactory to Christians you will know better than I.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg, November (1675)
    • Variant translation: The eternal wisdom of God … has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
  • You seem to wish to employ reason, and ask me, "How I know that my philosophy is the best among all that have ever been taught in the world, or are being taught, or ever will be taught?" a question which I might with much greater right ask you ; for I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy. If you ask in what way I know it, I answer: In the same way as you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient, will be denied by no one whose brain is sound, and who does not go dreaming of evil spirits inspiring us with false ideas like the true. For the truth is the index of itself and of what is false.
    But you, who presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men, on whom you have pinned your credulity, you, "who know that they are the best among all who have taught, do now teach, or shall in future teach other religions. Have you examined all religions, ancient as well as modern, taught here and in India and everywhere throughout the world? And, if you, have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best" since you can give no reason for the faith that is in you? But you will say, that you acquiesce in the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the rest of mankind are ensnared and deceived by the prince of evil spirits. But all those outside the pale of the Romish Church can with equal right proclaim of their own creed what you proclaim of yours.
    As to what you add of the common consent of myriads of men and the uninterrupted ecclesiastical succession, this is the very catch-word of the Pharisees. They with no less confidence than the devotees of Rome bring forward their myriad witnesses, who as pertinaciously as the Roman witnesses repeat what they have heard, as though it were their personal experience. Further, they carry back their line to Adam. They boast with equal arrogance, that their Church has continued to this day unmoved and unimpaired in spite of the hatred of Christians and heathen. They more than any other sect are supported by antiquity. They exclaim with one voice, that they have received their traditions from God himself, and that they alone preserve the word of God, both written and unwritten. That all heresies have issued from them, and that they have remained constant through thousands of years under no constraint of temporal dominion, but by the sole efficacy of their superstition, no one can deny. The miracles they tell of would tire a thousand tongues. But their chief boast is that they count a far greater number of martyrs than any other nation, a number which is daily increased by those who suffer with singular constancy for the faith they profess; nor is their boasting false. I myself knew among others of a certain Judah called the faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was already thought to be dead, lifted his voice to sing the hymn beginning, "To thee, o God, I offer up my soul", and so singing perished.
  • Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, I am also.
    • As quoted in The Story of Philosophy (1933) by Will Durant, p. 176
  • Of all the things that are beyond my power, I value nothing more highly than to be allowed the honor of entering into bonds of friendship with people who sincerely love truth. For, of things beyond our power, I believe there is nothing in the world which we can love with tranquility except such men.
    • Spinoza, Correspondence, 146, Letter xix
  • All the better; they do not force me to do anything that I would not have done of my own accord if I did not dread scandal. But since they want it that way, I enter gladly on the path that is opened to me, with the consolation that my departure will be more innocent than was the exodus of the early Hebrews from Egypt.
    • Statement after his excommunication from Jewish society, attributed by Lucas, in The Oldest Biography of Spinoza (1970) by A. Wolf; also in Spinoza: A Life (1999) by Steven Nadler

On the Improvement of the Understanding (1662)[edit]

If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference are equal, every one can see that such a definition does not in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one of its properties.
Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione [On the Improvement of the Understanding] (1662); full text online
  • 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.
    • I, 1
  • 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.
    • I, 3
    • Variant translation: The things which … are esteemed as the greatest good of all … can be reduced to these three headings, to wit : Riches, Fame, and Pleasure. With these three the mind is so engrossed that it cannot scarcely think of any other good.
  • Tota felicitas aut infelicitas in hoc solo sita est; videlicet in qualitate obiecti, cui adhaeremus amore.
    • All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.
      • I, 9; translation by W. Hale White (Revised by Amelia Hutchison Stirling)
  • Sed amor erga rem aeternam et infinitam sola laetitia pascit animum, ipsaque omnis tristitiae est expers; quod valde est desiderandum totisque viribus quaerendum.
    • But love for an object eternal and infinite feeds the mind with joy alone, and a joy which is free from all sorrow. This is something greatly to be desired and to be sought with all our strength.
      • I, 10; translation by W. Hale White (Revised by Amelia Hutchison Stirling)
  • A definition, if it is to be called perfect, must explain the inmost essence of a thing, and must take care not to substitute for this any of its properties. In order to illustrate my meaning, without taking an example which would seem to show a desire to expose other people's errors, I will choose the case of something abstract, the definition of which is of little moment. Such is a circle. If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference are equal, every one can see that such a definition does not in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one of its properties. Though, as I have said, this is of no importance in the case of figures and other abstractions, it is of great importance in the case of physical beings and realities, 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.
    • XII, 95

Theological-Political Treatise (1670)[edit]

Ethics (1677)[edit]

Main article: Ethics (book)
Full text online
  • Deus est omnium rerum causa immanens, non vero transiens
    • God is the Immanent Cause of all things, never truly transcendent from them
    • Part I, Prop. XVIII
  • [B]y Natura naturans we must understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, or such attributes of substance as express an eternal and infinite essence, that is … God, insofar as he is considered as a free cause.
    But by Natura naturata I understand whatever follows from the necessity of God's nature, or from God's attributes, that is, all the modes of God's attributes insofar as they are considered as things which are in God, and can neither be nor be conceived without God.
    • Part I, Prop. XXIX, Scholium (trans: Edwin Curley, London: Penguin, 1996)
  • Ordo et connexio idearum idem est ac ordo et connexio rerum
    • The order and connection of the thought is identical to with the order and connection of the things.
    • Part II, Prop. VII
  • veritas norma sui et falsi est
    • Truth is a standard both of itself and of falsity
    • Part II, Prop. XLIII, Scholium
  • Hic conatus aliquid agendi et etiam omittendi ea sola de causa ut hominibus placeamus, vocatur ambitio præsertim quando adeo impense vulgo placere conamur ut cum nostro aut alterius damno quædam agamus vel omittamus; alias humanitas appellari solet.
    • This endeavour to do a thing or leave it undone, solely in order to please men, we call ambition, especially when we so eagerly endeavour to please the vulgar, that we do or omit certain things to our own or another's hurt : in other cases it is generally called kindliness.
    • Part III, Prop. XXIX
  • Meum institutum non est verborum significationem sed rerum naturam explicare
    • My purpose is to explain, not the meaning of words, but the nature of things.
    • Part III, Def. XX
  • Humanam impotentiam in moderandis et coercendis affectibus servitutem voco; homo enim affectibus obnoxius sui juris non est sed fortunæ in cujus potestate ita est ut sæpe coactus sit quanquam meliora sibi videat, deteriora tamen sequi.
    • Human infirmity in moderating and checking the emotions I name bondage: for, when a man is a prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune: so much so, that he is often compelled, while seeing that which is better for him, to follow that which is worse.
      • Part IV, Preface; translation by R. H. M. Elwes
  • Deus seu Natura
    • God or Nature
    • Part IV, Preface (Deum seu Naturam, Deus seu Natura);
  • Maxima superbia vel abjectio est maxima sui ignorantia.
    • Extreme pride or dejection indicates extreme ignorance of self.
    • Part IV, Prop. LV
  • Homo liber de nulla re minus, quam de morte cogitat, et ejus sapientia non mortis, sed vitae meditatio est.
    • A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.
    • Part IV, Prop. LXVII
  • Sentimus experimurque, nos aeternos esse.
    • We feel and know that we are eternal.
      • Part V, Prop. XXIII, Scholium
  • sub specie aeternitatis
    • ...from the perspective of the eternal.
    • Part V, Prop. XXIII, Scholium
  • Et sane arduum debet esse, quod adeo raro reperitur. Qui enim posset fieri, si salus in promptu esset et sine magno labore reperiri posset, ut ab omnibus fere negligeretur? Sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia, quam rara sunt.
    • Needs must it be hard, since it is so seldom found. How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
    • Part V, Prop. XLII, Scholium

Political Treatise (1677)[edit]

Tractatus Politicus as translated by A. H. Gosset (1883); full text online; this is an unfinished work, left incomplete by Spinoza's death
Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault.
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.
Man can, indeed, act contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.
Nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
Peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character.
If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune.
All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that, on the contrary, they stimulate them.
  • Affectus, quibus conflictamur, concipiunt philosophi veluti vitia, in quae homines sua culpa labuntur; quos propterea ridere, flere, carpere vel (qui sanctiores videri volunt) detestari solent. Sic ergo se rem divinam facere, et sapientiae culmen attingere credunt, quando humanam naturam, quae nullibi est, multis modis laudare et eam, quae revera est, dictis lacessere norunt. Homines namque non ut sunt, sed ut eosdem esse vellent, concipiunt; unde factum est, ut plerumque pro e t h i c a satyram scripserint, et ut nunquam p o l i t i c a m conceperint, quae possit ad usum revocari; sed quae pro chimaera haberetur, vel quae in Utopia vel in illo poëtarum aureo saeculo, ubi scilicet minime necesse erat, institui potuisset. Cum igitur omnium scientiarum, quae usum habent, tum maxime p o l i t i c e s t h e o r i a ab ipsius p r a x i discrepare creditur, et regendae reipublicae nulli minus idonei aestimantur, quam theoretici seu philosophi.
    • Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride, bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics, which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera, or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice ; and no men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers.
      • Ch. 1, Introduction; section 1
  • 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.
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
  • Sedulo curavi, humanas actiones non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere; atque adeo humanos affectus, ut sunt amor, odium, ira, invidia, gloria, misericordia et reliquae animi commotiones non ut humanae naturae vitia, sed ut proprietates contemplatus sum, quae ad ipsam ita pertinent, ut ad naturam aëris aestus, frigus, tempestas, tonitru et alia huiusmodi, quae, tametsi incommoda sunt, necessaria tamen sunt, certasque habent causas, per quas eorum naturam intelligere conamur, et mens eorum vera contemplatione aeque gaudet, ac earum rerum cognitione, quae sensibus gratae sunt.
    • I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them; 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 endeavour 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
      • Ch. 1, Introduction; section 4
  • Speaking generally, he holds dominion, to whom are entrusted by common consent affairs of state — such as the laying down, interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification of cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge belong to a council, composed of the general multitude, then the dominion is called a democracy; if the council be composed of certain chosen persons, then it is an aristocracy ; and, if, lastly, the care of affairs of state, and, consequently, the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of monarchy.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Man can, indeed, act contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • In the state of nature, wrong-doing is impossible ; or, if anyone does wrong, it is to himself, not to another. For no one by the law of nature is bound to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold anything to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his own temperament, pronounces to be so ; and, to speak generally, nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than another's ; but, under nature, everything belongs to all — that is, they have authority to claim it for themselves. But, under dominion, where it is by common law determined what belongs to this man, and what to that, he is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his own, but he, unjust who strives, on the contrary, to make his own that which belongs to another.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Civitas, cuius subditi metu territi arma non capiunt, potius dicenda est, quod sine bello sit, quam quod pacem habeat. Pax enim non belli privatio, sed virtus est, quae ex animi fortitudine oritur; est namque obsequium constans voluntas id exsequendi, quod ex communi civitatis decreto fieri debet. Illa praeterea civitas, cuius pax a subditorum inertia pendet, qui scilicet veluti pecora ducuntur, ut tantum servire discant, rectius solitudo, quam civitas dici potest.
    • Of a commonwealth, whose subjects are but hindered by terror from taking arms, it should rather be said, that it is free from war, than that it has peace. For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character : for obedience is the constant will to execute what, by the general decree of the commonwealth, ought to be done. Besides, that commonwealth, whose peace depends on the sluggishness of its subjects, that are led about like sheep, to learn but slavery, may more properly be called a desert than a commonwealth.
      • Ch. 5, Of the Best State of a Dominion
      • Liberally rendered in A Natural History of Peace (1996) by Thomas Gregor as:
        "Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice."
  • If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves ; yet it advances not the art of household management to change a father's right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by handing the whole authority to one man.
    • Ch. 6, On Monarchy
  • He who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity.
    • Ch. 9, Of Aristocracy, Continuation
  • All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate them.
    • Ch. 10, Of Aristocracy, Conclusion
    • Variant translation : Laws which can be broken without any wrong to one's neighbor are but a laughing-stoke ; and, so far from such laws restraining the appetites and lusts of mankind, they rather heighten them.
    • Variant: All laws which can be violated without doing any one any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of men, that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects, for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it.
  • I pass, at length, to the third and perfectly absolute dominion, which we call democracy.
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy
  • We can conceive of various kinds of democracy. But my intention is not to treat of every kind, but of that only, "wherein all, without exception, who owe allegiance to the laws of the country only, and are further independent and of respectable life, have the right of voting in the supreme council and of filling the offices of the dominion."
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy

Quotations regarding Spinoza[edit]

The enchanted one insists
And shapes God with delicate geometry. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
Alphabetized by author
How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own. ~ Albert Einstein
Men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another. ~ Albert Einstein
Thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism ; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy. ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Bruno's ideas were widely imparted, borrowed, sounded ; almost never, though, with the name Giordano Bruno attached to them. … Never does Spinoza cite Bruno by name. ~ Bill Kuhns
I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! … Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here. ~ Ernest Renan
The noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. ~ Bertrand Russell
Bruno and Spinoza … Each stands by himself and alone ; and they do not belong either to their age or to their part of the globe, which rewarded the one with death, and the other with persecution and ignominy. … The banks of the Ganges were their spiritual home ; there, they would have led a peaceful and honoured life among men of like mind. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
  • ...Spinoza's philosophy introduced an unprecedented theoretical revolution in the history of philosophy, probably the greatest philosophical revolution of all time, insofar as we can regard Spinoza as Marx's only direct ancestor, from the philosophical standpoint. However, this radical revolution was the object of a massive historical repression, and Spinozist philosophy suffered much the same fate as Marxist philosophy used to and still does suffer in some countries: it served as damning evidence for a charge of ‘atheism’. The insistence of the seventeenth and eighteenth century establishment's hounding of Spinoza's memory, and the distance every writer had ineluctably to take with respect to Spinoza in order to obtain the right to speak (cf. Montesquieu) are evidence both of the repulsion and the extraordinary attraction of his thought. The history of philosophy's repressed Spinozism thus unfolded as a subterranean history acting at other sites (autres lieux), in political and religious ideology (deism) and in the sciences, but not on the illuminated stage of visible philosophy. And when Spinoza re-appeared on this stage in German idealism's ‘Atheismusstreit’, and then in academic interpretations, it was more or less under the aegis of a misunderstanding.
  • ...If we never were structuralists, we can now explain why: why we seemed to be, even though we were not, why there came about this strange misunderstanding on the basis of which books were written. We were guilty of an equally powerful and compromising passion: we were Spinozists. In our own way, of course, which was not Brunschvicg's! And by attributing to the author of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and the Ethics a number of theses which he would surely never have acknowledged, though they did not actually contradict him. But to be a heretical Spinozist is almost orthodox Spinozism, if Spinozism can be said to be one of the greatest lessons in heresy that the world has seen! In any case, with very few exceptions our blessed critics, imbued with conviction and swayed by fashion, never suspected any of this. They took the easy road: it was so simple to join the crowd and shout "structuralism"! Structuralism was all the rage, and you did not have to read about it in books to be able to talk about it. But you have to read Spinoza and know that he exists: that he still exists today. To recognize him, you must at least have heard of him.
  • I read Spinoza's Ethics for the first time when I was thirteen years old. Of course at school we studied the Bible – which for me is the ultimate philosophical work. However, reading Spinoza opened up a new dimension for me, which is the reason for my continuing dedication to his works. Spinoza's simple principle 'man thinks' has become an existential mindset for me; my copy of his Ethics has become dog-eared and torn. For years I took it with me on my travels and in hotel rooms or intervals in concerts became absorbed by many of its principles. Spinoza's Ethics is the best training ground for the intellect, above all because Spinoza teaches the radical freedom of thought more completely than any other philosopher.
  • The great Voltaire once accused Spinoza of ‘abusing metaphysics’. Is not the uncompromising nature of metaphysics more important today than ever? Has not liberated thinking become the most valued freedom at a time when political systems, social constraints, moral codes and political correctness often control our thinking?
  • Spinoza helps me to see myself objectively. This makes life bearable even in experiencing suffering; and with the teachings from the Ethics the world is perceived as manageable.
  • Spinoza would not tolerate restrictions, imposed by any political or religious system or by any moral attitude. He struggled for the ideal of free thought. Hardly any other philosopher made so many enemies. He was labelled ‘a troublemaking Jew’, banned from the synagogue and from the academic establishment. Even his pupils would acknowledge him in private. And when Karl Ludwig asked the impoverished lonely philosopher to lecture at the University of Heidelberg, he turned him down. Spinoza could not guarantee that his thinking would not threaten ‘widely accepted religious concepts’. The philosopher in him preferred the quiet retiring life to a bourgeois career.
  • Spinoza had no particular interest in music. Nonetheless, his logic was influenced by his approach to music. My father, who studied philosophy, was the first to introduce me to Spinoza. He advised me to look at scores philosophically and rationally. Spinoza's principle that reason and emotion cannot be separated, became for me a primary approach to music. I believe that one can approach a concept and a piece of music only if the logical structure can be established simultaneously with the emotional content.
  • I think back to the last discussion I had with the great conductor Otto Klemperer. We talked about Spinoza and he said “Spinoza's Ethics is the most important book ever written”. Klemperer was, as we know, Jewish. At the age of 22 he converted to Christianity because he believed that only as a Christian could he conduct Bach's St Matthew Passion. Many years later, after the War, when Klemperer had already reached old age, he converted back to Judaism. And the reason he gave was Spinoza's Ethics. Perhaps the most important Jewish philosophy. Questions about Jewish ethics and morals and “What is being Jewish?” were long identified as being a minority. The traditional thinking and perceived identity of the Jewish people in its 2,000 year history was as a minority. Historically the Jews were integrated into social and cultural life but tragically persecuted under the Spanish Inquisition and the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. What is special about Spinoza's philosophy is that, despite persecution, abuse and alienation, his thinking was never based on the premise of Jews being a minority. That is precisely why his philosophy is so contemporary, now that the Jewish people have their own state, i.e. are no longer a minority. Spinoza's Ethics remains a potent formula for creating intellectual and moral unity among the Jews.
  • Spinoza suffered two experiences which are strongly evident today. Although a Jew, he was excluded from the Jewish community; he also became a victim of anti-Semitism. A recent survey in Germany exposed the reality that a majority of Germans believe that the Jews were the greatest risk to world peace. [...] It is significant that Spinoza's ideas had an influence on what is regarded as typical German thinking today – on Feuerbach, Wagner and Nietzsche. How could Richard Wagner become an anti-semite while influenced by Spinoza? Anti-semitism definitely formed part of the profile of a German nationalist in the nineteenth century. Why did Wagner pursue this idea with such fervour? He could not draw these ideas from his spiritual father, the heir to Spinoza, Feuerbach.
  • The rise of Spinozism in the late eighteenth century is a phenomenon of no less significance than the emergence of Kantianism itself. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Spinoza's philosophy had become the main competitor to Kant's, and only Spinoza had as many admirers or adherents as Kant.
    • Frederick C. Beiser, in his book The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987)
  • After 1785 public opinion of Spinoza changed from almost universal contempt to almost universal admiration, largely as a result of the publication of Jacobi's Briefe, in which he revealed Lessing's Spinozism. Lessing was the most admired figure of the Aufklarung, and his credo automatically gave a stamp of legitimacy to every secret Spinozist. One after another the Spinozists could now come out of their closets and form a file behind Lessing. If Lessing was an honorable man and a Spinozist, then they could be too. Ironically, Jacobi's Briefe did not destroy Lessing's reputation, as Mendelssohn feared. It did the very opposite, making him a hero in the eyes of the nonconformists. Lessing made it a fashion to be unorthodox; and to be fashionably unorthodox was to be a Spinozist. Of course, Lessing's credo explains only how Spinozism became respectable. It accounts for why a Spinozist might go public, but not for why he became a Spinozist in the first place. To understand why Spinozism became the credo of so many other thinkers, we have to consider the new situation of the sciences at the close of the eighteenth century. The rise in the fortunes of Spinozism resulted in part from the consequence of the decline of theism and deism.
    • Frederick C. Beiser, in his book The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987)
  • Until the publication of Jacobi's Briefe über die Lehre von Spinoza in 1785, Spinoza was a notorious figure in Germany. For more than a century the academic and ecclesiastical establishment had treated him “like a dead dog” as Lessing later put it. The Ethica was published in Germany in 1677, and the Tractatus Theologico-politicus in 1670 (though it appeared anonymously, Spinoza was known to be the author). Until the middle of the eighteenth century it was de rigueur for every professor and cleric to prove his orthodoxy before taking office; and proving one’s orthodoxy demanded denouncing Spinoza as a heretic. Since attacks on Spinoza became a virtual ritual, there was an abundance of defamatory and polemical tracts against him. Indeed, by 1710 so many professors and clerics had attacked Spinoza that there was a Catalogus scriptorum Anti-spinozanorum in Leipzig. And in 1759 Trinius counted, probably too modestly, 129 enemies of Spinoza in his Freydenkerlexicon. Such was Spinoza’s reputation that he was often identified with Satan himself. Spinoza was seen as not only one form of atheism, but as the worst form. Thus Spinoza was dubbed the "Euclides atheisticus', the 'princips atheorum.
    • Frederick C. Beiser, in his book The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987)
  • Every philosopher has two philosophies: his own and Spinoza's.
  • After expending a recent month in constantly rereading Spinoza, I find myself ambivalent toward this grandest of Jewish secular philosophers. (Wittgenstein was uneasily aware of his Jewish lineage, and reticent about it.) [...] As a teacher of reality, he practiced his own wisdom, and was surely one of the most exemplary human beings ever to have lived. [...] He was greatly cold, and coldly great; personally admirable and one of philosophy's rare saints. Read his "Ethics": it will illuminate you, but through light without heat.
  • It is not possible, I think, to rise from the perusal of the arguments of Clark and Spinoza without a deep conviction of the futility of all endeavors to establish, entirely à priori, the existence of an Infinite Being, His attributes, and His relation to the universe. The fundamental principle of all such speculations, viz. that whatever we can clearly conceive, must exist, fails to accomplish its end, even when its truth is admitted. For how shall the finite comprehend the infinite? Yet must the possibility of such conception be granted, and in something more than the sense of a mere withdrawal of the limits of phænomal existence, before any solid ground can be established for the knowledge, à priori, of things infinite and eternal.
  • The greatest philosophical genius Judaism has given to the world, Spinoza, is the only one of the great philosophers for whom, in reality, God is the sole subject of thought;...
  • Ultimately there are but three systems of ethics, three conceptions of the ideal character and the moral life. One is that of Buddha and Jesus, which stresses the feminine virtues, considers all men to be equally precious, resists evil only by returning good, identifies virtue with love, and inclines in politics to unlimited democracy. Another is the ethic of Machiavelli and Nietzsche, which stresses the masculine virtues, accepts the inequality of men, relishes the risks of combat and conquest and rule, identifies virtue with power, and exalts an hereditary aristocracy. A third, the ethic of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, denies the universal applicability of either the feminine or the masculine virtues; considers that only the informed and mature mind can judge, according to diverse circumstance, when love should rule, and when power; identifies virtue, therefore, with intelligence; and advocates a varying mixture of aristocracy and democracy in government. It is the distinction of Spinoza that his ethic unconsciously reconciles these apparently hostile philosophies, weaves them into a harmonious unity, and gives us in consequence a system of morals which is the supreme achievement of modern thought.
  • Time carries him as the river carries
    A leaf in the downstream water.
    No matter. The enchanted one insists
    And shapes God with delicate geometry.

    Since his illness, since his birth,
    He goes on constructing God with the word.
    The mightiest love was granted him
    Love that does not expect to be loved.
    • "Baruch Spinoza" by Jorge Luis Borges, as translated in Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason (1989) by Yirmiyahu Yovel
  • Las traslúcidas manos del judío
    Labran en la penumbra los cristales
    Y la tarde que muere es miedo y frío.
    (Las tardes a las tardes son iguales.)
    Las manos y el espacio de jacinto
    Que palidece en el confín del Ghetto
    Casi no existen para el hombre quieto
    Que está soñando un claro laberinto.
    No lo turba la fama, ese reflejo
    De sueños en el sueño de otro espejo,
    Ni el temeroso amor de las doncellas.
    Libre de la metáfora y del mito
    abra un arduo cristal: el infinito
    Mapa de Aquél que es todas Sus estrellas.

    (Here in the twilight the translucent hands
    Of the Jew polishing the crystal glass.
    The dying afternoon is cold with bands
    Of fear. Each day the afternoons all pass
    The same. The hands and space of hyacinth
    Paling in the confines of the ghetto walls
    Barely exists for the quiet man who stalls
    There, dreaming up a brilliant labyrinth.
    Fame doesn't trouble him (that reflection of
    Dreams in the dream of another mirror), nor love,
    The timid love women. Gone the bars,
    He's free, from metaphor and myth, to sit
    Polishing a stubborn lens: the infinite
    Map of the One who now is all His stars.
    ) [Translated from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone]
    • "Spinoza" by Jorge Luis Borges, in his Selected Poems, edited by Alexander Coleman. (New York: Penguin Books, 2000)
  • Bruma de oro, el occidente alumbra
    La ventana. El asiduo manuscrito
    Aguarda, ya cargado de infinito.
    Alguien construye a Dios en la penumbra.
    Un hombre engendra a Dios. Es un judío
    De tristes ojos y piel cetrina;
    Lo lleva el tiempo como lleva el río
    Una hoja en el agua que declina.
    No importa. El hechicero insiste y labra
    A Dios con geometría delicada;
    Desde su enfermedad, desde su nada,
    Sigue erigiendo a Dios con la palabra.
    El más pródigo amor le fue otorgado,
    El amor que no espera ser amado.

    (A haze of gold, the Occident lights up
    The window. Now, the assiduous manuscript
    Is waiting, weighed down with the infinite.
    Someone is building God in a dark cup.
    A man engenders God. He is a Jew
    With saddened eyes and lemon-colored skin;
    Time carries him the way a leaf, dropped in
    A river, is borne off by waters to
    Its end. No matter. The magician moved
    Carves out his God with fine geometry;
    From his disease, from nothing, he's begun
    To construct God, using the word. No one
    Is granted such prodigious love as he:
    The love that has no hope of being loved.
    ) [Translated from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone]
    • "Baruch Spinoza" by Jorge Luis Borges, in his Selected Poems, edited by Alexander Coleman. (New York: Penguin Books, 2000)
  • The dominant feature in his character was his devotion to the pursuit of truth
    • A. Wolf, from the introduction to Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being (1910)
  • When sending his Short Treatise to his Amsterdam friends he begs of them to be sure that nothing but the good of their neighbours will ever induce them to communicate its doctrines to others.
    • A. Wolf, from the introduction to Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being (1910)
  • Of Bruno, as of Spinoza, it may be said that he was "God-intoxicated." He felt that the Divine Excellence had its abode in the very heart of Nature and within his own body and spirit. Indwelling in every dewdrop as in the innumerable host of heaven, in the humblest flower and in the mind of man, he found the living spirit of God, setting forth the Divine glory, making the Divine perfection and inspiring with the Divine love.
    • William Boulting, in Giordano Bruno: His Life, Thought, and Martyrdom (1916) online excerpt
  • As I leave the churchyard, my thoughts turn to the bizarre significance of this burial site. Why is Spinoza, who was born a Jew, buried next to this powerful Protestant church? The answer is as complicated as anything else having to do with Spinoza. He is buried here, perhaps, because having been expelled by his fellow Jews he could be seen as Christian by default; he certainly could not have been buried in the Jewish cemetery at Ouderkerk. But he is not really here, perhaps because he never became a proper Christian, Protestant or Catholic, and in the eyes of many he was an atheist. And how fitting it all is. Spinoza's God was neither Jewish nor Christian. Spinoza's God was everywhere, could not be spoken to, did not respond if prayed to, was very much in every particle of the universe, without beginning and without end. Buried and unburied, Jewish and not. Portugese but not really, Dutch but not quite, Spinoza belonged nowhere and everywhere.
    • Antonio Damasio, in his book Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003)
  • The 21st of February of this year [1927] was the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Benedict Spinoza. On that day a solemn celebration in Spinoza's memory was held under the auspices of the Spinoza Society (Societas Spinozana) in The Hague—the city where Spinoza spent the last years of his life where his ashes rest. At this grand meeting there were in attendance, besides official representatives of the universities and of science, official representative of the League of Nations, who demonstrated in his speech that if Spinoza were alive today he would be an ardent admirer of the League of Nations, since it strives for the realization of universal peace. A representative of the church—no celebration, as is well known, can get along there without a representative of the church—for his part, demonstrated that Spinoza's teaching does not in the least contradict the Christian religion. There were other speeches as well, but I shall not dwell on them. At all events, everyone was agreed that Spinoza was a great idealist, pantheist, and mystic, the founder of a new religion, etc. But at Hague no voice was raised to cry out loudly to all these fine gentlemen: 'You are impudent liars.'
    • Abram Deborin, in Spinoza's World-View, from Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy: A Series of Essays, selected and translated, and with an introduction by George L. Kline. (London: Routledge and Paul, 1952) [original in Russian]
  • We have gathered within the walls of the Communist Academy and are devoting this evening to Spinoza's memory not from the considerations which guided the organizers of the Hague celebration but from quite different considerations; for us Spinoza is essentially a great atheist and materialist. In this appraisal of Spinoza I am in complete agreement with Plekhanov. In all of Plekhanov's works, as I know, the fundamental thought is emphasized that Marxism, considered as a world‑view, is nothing other than a 'variety of Spinozism.' But I shall set this question aside for the moment, in order to cite a passage from Plekhanov's preface to my Introduction to Philosophy (the preface was written in 1914) in which he sharply criticizes the historians of philosophy who have numbered Spinoza among the idealists. 'With the present universal prevalence of idealism,' he says, 'it is quite natural that the history of philosophy should now be interpreted from the idealistic point of view. As a consequence, Spinoza his long since been numbered among the idealists. Hence, certain readers will probably be very much surprised to learn that I understand Spinoza in the materialistic sense; yet this is the only correct understanding of Spinozism. 'As early as 1843 Feuerbach asserted his fundamental conviction that the teaching of Spinoza was "an expression of the materialistic conceptions of the modern age." Of course, even Spinoza did not escape the influence of his time. His materialism, as Feuerbach remarked, was clothed in a theological costume, but the important thing was that, in any case, he eliminated the dualism of mind and nature. Nature in Spinoza is called God, but extension is one of the attributes of this God. And this constitutes the radical difference between Spinozism and idealism.'
    • Abram Deborin, in Spinoza's World-View, from Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy: A Series of Essays, selected and translated, and with an introduction by George L. Kline. (London: Routledge and Paul, 1952) [original in Russian]
  • With such a universal prevalence of idealism it is not surprising that Spinoza has long since been enlisted in the camp of the idealists. Unfortunately, there are even some Marxists who defend the tradition of the historians of philosophy, despite the fact that Feuerbach, to some extent Engels, and more recently Plekhanov have done a great deal in explaining Spinoza's materialistic views. We still have to struggle against this idealistic tradition, to prove to comrades from our own midst that Spinoza is not to be ranked among the idealists. In the last few years, two 'fronts' have been formed in connection with the treatment of Hegelian dialectics and Spinoza's world-conception: the Hegelian front and the Spinozistic front. The disagreements and disputes which are going on in our own midst focus on two basic points: the disputes about Hegel touch the foundations of our method, the differences of opinion with regard to Spinoza concern our world‑view and involve the conception of materialism itself. But, since method and world‑view are not separate from one another, the disputes and disagreements in the first area—those concerning method—are indissolubly connected with the disputes in the second area—those concerning world‑view. I shall not dwell further on this point; I wished merely to indicate the extent to which these two fronts are connected.
    • Abram Deborin, in Spinoza's World-View, from Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy: A Series of Essays, selected and translated, and with an introduction by George L. Kline. (London: Routledge and Paul, 1952) [original in Russian]
  • I shall not attempt to speculate as to what Spinoza might have been if he had lived in our time. For me, in any case, one thing is not open to doubt: Spinoza would never have been an agent of the League of Nations. The second point that I wish to emphasize is that we do not agree to yield Spinoza to our enemies in any case. There is no reason at all for this. Spinoza was a great materialistic thinker, and in this respect he should be considered a predecessor of dialectical materialism. The contemporary proletariat is Spinoza's only genuine heir.
    • Abram Deborin, in Spinoza's World-View, from Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy: A Series of Essays, selected and translated, and with an introduction by George L. Kline. (London: Routledge and Paul, 1952) [original in Russian]
  • Writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers – painters too, even chance reader – may find that they are Spinozists; indeed, such a thing is more likely for them than for professional philosophers. It is a matter of one's practical conception of the “plan”. It is not that one may be a Spinozist without knowing it. Rather, there is a strange privilege that Spinoza enjoys something that seems to have been accomplished by him and no one else. He is a philosopher who commands an extraordinary conceptual apparatus, one that is highly developed, systematic, and scholarly; and yet he is the quintessential object of an immediate, unprepared encounter, such that a nonphilosopher, or even someone without any formal education, can receive a sudden illumination from him, a “flash”. Then it is as if one discovers that one is a Spinozist; one arrives in the middle of Spinoza, one is sucked up, drawn into the system or the composition. (…) What is unique about Spinoza is that he, the most philosophic of philosophers (…) teaches the philosopher how to become a non-philosopher.
  • ...Spinoza was the philosopher who knew full well that immanence was only immanent to itself and therefore that it was a plane traversed by movements of the infinite, filled with intensive ordinates. He is therefore the prince of philosophers. Perhaps he is the only philosopher never to have compromised with transcendence and to have hunted it down everywhere. In the last book of the Ethics he produced the movement of the infinite and gave infinite speeds to thought in the third kind of knowledge. There he attains incredible speeds, with such lightning compressions that one can only speak of music, of tornadoes, of wind and strings. He discovered that freedom exists only within immanence. He fulfilled philosophy because he satisfied its prephilosophical presupposition. [...] Spinoza is the vertigo of immanence from which so many philosophers try in vain to escape. Will we ever be mature enough for a Spinozist inspiration?
  • ...The most terrifying affirmations, like that of Clement of Alexandria who declares that "Matter is eternal," are drawn from a treasury of the philosophical propositions that most tantalized Flaubert, above all those of Spinoza, for whom his admiration was unlimited, the Spinoza of the Ethics and particularly of the Tractatus Theologico-politicus. If we had the time, we could uncover a panoply of Spinozisms in the devil's discourse at the end of The Temptation of Saint Anthony. This discourse is not purely Spinozist: it is not homogeneous in this respect, but it has recourse to recognizable schemata from the Ethics. The devil, to be sure, is no atheist; no one is less atheist than the devil. But he does not deny God's extension and therefore his substance any more than Spinoza does; [...] The devil is no more an atheist than Spinoza, and Flaubert says that all those who "accuse" Spinoza of atheism are "asses". But he plays this Spinoza off against religion and its forms of imagination, against the illusions of figures in the politics of religion; and in this regard, the Tractatus Theologico-politicus is even more important than the Ethics. Flaubert discovered the Tractatus in 1870, while he was working on the Temptation. The book, he says, "dazzles" and "astounds" him; he is "transported with admiration." In a moment, I will venture a hypothesis on the privileged place of Spinoza in Flaubert's library or philosophical dictionary, as well as in his company of philosophers, for his first impulse is always one of admiration for Spinoza the man ("My God, what a man! what an intellect! what learning and what a mind!" "What a genius!"). [...] With this gesture, Flaubert also shows himself to be Nietzsche's brother.
    • Jacques Derrida, in his Psyche: Inventions of the Other (Stanford University Press, 2007) [original in French]
  • I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
    • Albert Einstein, in response to the telegrammed question of New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein in (24 April 1929) ; he later expanded on his comments about Spinoza's and his own ideas on religion elsewhere : "I can understand your aversion to the use of the term "religion" to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza … I have not found a better expression than "religious" for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason." — as quoted in Einstein : Science and Religion by Arnold V. Lesikar
  • My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.
  • The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image ; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
  • I do not have the professional knowledge to write a scholarly article about Spinoza. But what I think about this man I can express in a few words. Spinoza was the first to apply with strict consistency the idea of an all-pervasive determinism to human thought, feeling, and action. In my opinion, his point of view has not gained general acceptance by all those striving for clarity and logical rigor only because it requires not only consistency of thought, but also unusual integrity, magnamity, and — modesty.
    • Albert Einstein (1932), in Max Jammer's Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (Princeton University Press)
  • I have read the Spinoza Dictionary with great care. It is, in my opinion, a valuable contribution to philosophical literature. Spinoza is, among the great classical thinkers, one of the least accessible because of his rigid adherence to the geometric form of argumentation, in which form he obviously saw somewhat of an insurance against fallacies. In fact, Spinoza thereby made it difficult for the reader who all too quickly loses patience and breath before he reaches the heart of the philosopher's ideas. Many have attempted to present Spinoza's thoughts in modern language—a daring as well as irreverent enterprise which offers no guarantee against misinterpretation. Yet throughout Spinoza's writings one will find sharp and clear propositions which are masterpieces of concise formulation.
    • Albert Einstein, in his foreword, in Dagobert D. Runes's Spinoza Dictionary (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951)
  • I write at once to answer your questions about business. Spinoza and I have been divorced for several months. My want of health has obliged me to renounce all application. I take walks, play on the piano, read Voltaire, talk to my friends, and just take a dose of mathematics every day to prevent my brain from becoming quite soft. Therefore I am by no means eager to supersede any other person’s labours, and Mr. Chapman is absolved from observing any delicacy towards me about Spinoza or his translators. If you are anxious to publish the translation in question I could, after a few months, finish the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus to keep it company but I confess to you, that I think you would do better to abstain from printing a translation. What is wanted in English is not a translation of Spinoza's works, but a true estimate of his life and system. After one has rendered his Latin faithfully into English one feels that there is another yet more difficult process of translation for the reader to effect, and that the only mode of making Spinoza accessible to a larger number is to study his books, then shut them and give an analysis. For those who read the very words Spinoza wrote, there is the same sort of interest in his style as in the conversation of a person of great capacity who has led a solitary life, and who says from his own soul what all the world is saying by rote, but this interest hardly belongs to a translation.
    • George Eliot, in her letter to Mr. and Mrs. Bray (4 December 1849)
  • But it seems to me much better to read a man's own writings than to read what others say about him. Especially when the man is first-rate and the “others” are third-rate. As Goethe said long ago about Spinoza, “Ich immer vorzog, von dem Menschen zu efrahren wie er dachte, als von einem andern zu hören, wie er hätte denken sollen.” However, I am not fond of expressing criticism or disapprobation. The difficulty is, to digest and live upon any valuable truth oneself.
    • George Eliot, in her letter to Sarah Hennell (28 October 1865)
  • Do you remember Goethe's wise words about reading Spinoza? — “I always preferred knowing what an author himself said, to knowing what others thought he ought to have said.”
    • George Eliot, in her letter to Alexander Main (4 September 1871)
  • When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes.
    • T. S. Eliot, excerpts from ‘The Metaphysical Poets’, Selected Essays (3rd edn., London, 1951)
  • It is to the highest credit of the philosophy of the time that it did not let itself be led astray by the restricted state of contemporary natural knowledge, and that — from Spinoza down to the great French materialists — it insisted on explaining the world from the world itself and left the justification in detail to the natural science of the future.
  • Spinoza is the originator of speculative philosophy, Schelling its restorer, Hegel its perfecter.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, in his book Provisional Theses for the Reformation of Philosophy (1842) [original in German]
  • ...Spinoza hit the nail on the head with his paradoxical proposition: God is an extended, that is, material being. He found, at least for his time, the true philosophical expression for the materialistic tendency of the modern era; he legitimated and sanctioned it: God himself is a materialist. Spinoza's philosophy was religion; he himself was an amazing man. Unlike so many others, Spinoza's materialism did not stand in contradiction to the notion of a non-material and anti-materialistic God who also quite consistently imposes on man the duty to give himself up only to anti-materialistic, heavenly tendencies and concerns, for God is nothing other than the archetypal and ideal image of man; what God is and how he is, is what man ought to be or wants to be, or at least hopes to be in the future. But only where theory does not belie practice, and practice theory, is there character, truth, and religion. Spinoza is the Moses of modern free-thinkers and materialists.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, in his book Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843) [original in German]
  • My son is taking a course in philosophy, and last night we were looking at something by Spinoza and there was the most childish reasoning! There were all these attributes, and Substances, and all this meaningless chewing around, and we started to laugh. Now how could we do that? Here's this great Dutch philosopher, and we're laughing at him. It's because there's no excuse for it! In the same period there was Newton, there was Harvey studying the circulation of the blood, there were people with methods of analysis by which progress was being made! You can take every one of Spinoza's propositions, and take the contrary propositions, and look at the world and you can't tell which is right.
    • Richard Feynman, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999), Ch. 9. The Smartest Man in the World
  • ...Aside from a little Spinoza and Plutarch, I have read nothing since my return, as I am quite occupied by my present work.
  • ...I have read lately some amazing theological things, which I have intermingled with a little of Plutarch and Spinoza.
  • ...Just now, I am reading in the evening, Kant's Critique de la raison pure, translated by Barni, and I am freshening up my Spinoza.
  • ...If only I do not make a failure also of Saint-Antoine. I am going to start working on it again in a week, when I have finished with Kant and Hegel. These two great men are helping to stupefy me, and when I leave them I fall with eagerness upon my old and thrice great Spinoza. What genius, how fine a work the Ethics is! [Pourvu que je ne rate pas aussi saint Antoine! Je vais m'y remettre dans une huitaine quand j'en aurai fini avec Kant et avec Hegel! Ces deux grands hommes continuent à m'abrutir et, quand je sors de leur compagnie, je tombe avec voracité sur mon vieux et trois fois grand Spinoza! Quel génie! quelle œuvre que l'Éthique!]
  • ...I knew Spinoza's Ethics, but not the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. The book astounds me; I am dazzled, and transported with admiration. My God, what a man! what an intellect! what learning and what a mind! [Je connaissais l'Éthique de Spinoza, mais pas du tout le Tractatus théologico-politicus, lequel m'épate, m'éblouit, me transporte d'admiration. Nom de Dieu, quel homme! quel cerveau! quelle science et quel esprit!]
  • ...Yes, you must read Spinoza. Those who accuse him of atheism are asses. Goethe said, 'When I am upset or troubled I reread the Ethics.' Perhaps like Goethe you will find calm in the reading of this great book. Ten years ago I lost the friend I had loved more than any other, Alfred Le Poittevin. Fatally ill, he spent his last nights reading Spinoza. [A propos de Spinoza (un fort grand homme, celui-là), tâchez de vous procurer sa biographie par Boulainvilliers. Elle est dans l'édition latine de Leipsick. Emile Saisset a traduit, je crois, l'Éthique. Il faut lire cela. L'article de Mme Coignet, dans la Revue de Paris était bien insuffisant. Oui, il faut lire Spinoza. Les gens qui l'accusent d'athéisme sont des ânes. Goethe disait: « Quand je me sens troublé, je relis l'Éthique ». Il vous arrivera peut-être, comme à Goethe, d'être calmée par cette grande lecture. J'ai perdu, il y a dix ans, l'homme que j'ai le plus aimé au monde, Alfred Le Poittevin. Dans sa maladie dernière, il passait ses nuits à lire Spinoza.]
    • Gustave Flaubert, in his letter to Marie-Sophie Leroyer de Chantepie (1857), as quoted in Jacques Derrida's Psyche: Inventions of the Other (Stanford University Press, 2007) [original in French]
  • As is well known, a great flowering of Neo-Spinozism occurred in German philosophy and literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Lessing, Herder, and Goethe; Hölderlin; the German Romantics Schleiermacher, Friedrich Schlegel, and Novalis; the German Idealists Schelling and Hegel — all of them subscribed to one or another version of Spinoza's monistic, deterministic metaphysics.
    • Michael N. Forster, in his book Herder's Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Spinoza formulated the problem of the socially patterned defect very clearly. He says: "Many people are seized by one and the same affect with great consistency. All his senses are so strongly affected by one object that he believes this object to be present even if it is not. If this happens while the person is awake, the person is believed to be insane. … But if the greedy person thinks only of money and possessions, the ambitious one only of fame, one does not think of them as being insane, but only as annoying ; generally one has contempt for them. But factually greediness, ambition, and so forth are forms of insanity, although usually one does not think of them as 'illness.'" These words were written a few hundred years ago ; they still hold true, although 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.
  • ...We may deny his conclusions; we may consider his system of thought preposterous and even pernicious, but we cannot refuse him the respect which is the right of all sincere and honourable men. [...] Spinoza's influence over European thought is too great to be denied or set aside...
  • ...The Festschrift [1932] dedicated to Spinoza may be said to be a praiseworthy international achievement. Its initiators were Germans and it appeared as a Sonderausgabe of a German newspaper. Spinoza had nothing in common with the German nation. The Germans, however, were the first to manifest serious interest in him. Their first great philosopher Leibniz went to seek his advice and his counsel; they were the only ones to invite him to lecture at their university. Even though Leibniz concealed him from the world, the Germans revealed him to the world. The generation of their greatest philosophers and poets from the second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries grew up under his influence. Goethe read him together with Charlotte von Stein, and even read him together with her in Latin. To Hegel, Spinoza was "der Mittelpunkt der modernen Philosophie".
    • M. Gálik, in his article 'Two Modern Chinese Philosophers on Spinoza (Some Remarks on Sino-German Spinoza's „Festschrift“)' [Oriens Extremus 22(1), 1975]
  • ...Happily, I had already prepared if not fully cultivated myself on this side, having in some degree appropriated the thoughts and mind of an extraordinary man, and though my study of him had been incomplete and hasty, I was yet already conscious of important influences derived from this source. This mind, which had worked upon me thus decisively, and which was destined to affect so deeply my whole mode of thinking, was SPINOZA. After looking through the world in vain, to find a means of development for my strange nature, I at last fell upon the Ethics of this philosopher. Of what I read out of the work, and of what I read into it, I can give no account. Enough that I found in it a sedative for my passions, and that a free, wide view over the sensible and moral world, seemed to open before me. But what especially riveted me to him, was the utter disinterestedness which shone forth in his every sentence. That wonderful sentiment, "He who truly loves God must not desire God to love him in return," together with all the preliminary propositions on which it rests, and all the consequences that follow from it, filled my whole mind. To be disinterested in everything, but the most of all in love and friendship, was my highest desire, my maxim, my practice, so that that subsequent hasty saying of mine, "If I love thee what is that to thee?" was spoken right out of my heart. Moreover, it must not be forgotten here that the closest unions are those of opposites. The all-composing calmness of Spinoza was in striking contrast with my all-disturbing activity; his mathematical method was the direct opposite of my poetic humour and my way of writing, and that very precision which was thought ill-adapted to moral subjects, made me his enthusiastic disciple, his most decided worshipper. Mind and heart, understanding and sense, sought each other with an eager affinity, binding together the most different natures.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Autobiography of Goethe: Truth and Poetry: From My Own Life (1848). Translated from the German by John Oxenford (London: George Bell and Sons, 1897)
  • ...It was not until the middle of the seventeenth century that pantheism was exhibited in its purest form by the great Baruch Spinoza; he gave for the totality of things a definition of substance in which God and the world are inseparably united. The clearness, confidence, and consistency of Spinoza's monistic system are the more remarkable when we remember that this gifted thinker of two hundred and fifty years ago was without the support of all those sound empirical bases which have been obtained in the second half of the nineteenth century. We have already spoken, in the first chapter, of Spinoza's relation to the materialism of the eighteenth and the monism of the nineteenth century. The propagation of his views, especially in Germany, is due, above all, to the immortal works of our greatest poet and thinker, Wolfgang Goethe.
    • Ernst Haeckel, in his book The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (1900) [original in German]
  • ...The first thinker to introduce the purely monistic conception of substance into science and appreciate its profound importance was the great philosopher Baruch Spinoza; his chief work appeared shortly before his death in 1677, just one hundred years before Lavoisier gave empirical proof of the constancy of matter by means of the chemist's principle instrument, the balance. In his stately pantheistic system the notion of the world (the universe, or the cosmos) is identical with the all-pervading notion of God; it is at one and the same time the purest and most rational monism and the clearest and most abstract monotheism. This universal substance, this “divine nature of the world,” shows us two different aspects of its being, or two fundamental attributes — matter (indefinitely extended substance) and spirit (the all-embracing energy of thought). All the changes which have since come over the idea of substance are reduced, on a logical analysis, to this supreme thought of Spinoza's; with Goethe I take it to be the loftiest, profoundest, and truest thought of all ages.
    • Ernst Haeckel, in his book The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (1900) [original in German]
  • These distinctions make sense only when AR [absolute perfection in some respects, relative perfection in all others] is assumed (hence Spinoza's failure, who assumed mere A). Just as AR is the whole positive content of perfection, so CW, or the conception of the Creator-and-the-Whole-of-what-he-has-created as constituting one life, the super-whole which in its everlasting essence is uncreated (and does not necessitate just the parts which the whole has) but in its de facto concreteness is created — this panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations. Thus ARCW, or absolute-relative panentheism, is the one doctrine that really states the whole of what all theists, if not all atheists as/well, are implicitly talking about.
  • This Idea of Spinoza's we must allow to be in the main true and well-grounded; absolute substance is the truth, but it is not the whole truth ; in order to be this, it must also be thought of as in itself active and living, and by that very means it must determine itself as mind. But substance with Spinoza is only the universal and consequently the abstract determination of mind ; it may undoubtedly be said that this thought is the foundation of all true views — not, however, as their absolutely fixed and permanent basis, but as the abstract unity which mind is in itself. It is therefore worthy of note that thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy. For as we saw above … when man begins to philosophize, the soul must commence by bathing in this ether of the One Substance, in which all that man has held as true has disappeared ; this negation of all that is particular, to which every philosopher must have come, is the liberation of the mind and its absolute foundation.
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, comparing Spinoza's philosophy to that of the Eleatics, in Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1896), Vol. 3, Ch. I : The Metaphysics of the Understanding, § 2 : Spinoza, p. 257
  • The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1896), Vol. 3, Ch. I : The Metaphysics of the Understanding, § 2 : Spinoza, p. 283
  • ...We must mention the providential man who, at the same time as Locke and Leibnitz, had educated himself in the school of Descartes, had for a long time been viewed only with scorn and hatred, and who nevertheless today is rising to exclusive supremacy in the world of intellect. I am speaking about Benedict Spinoza. One great genius shapes himself by means of another, less through assimilation than through friction. One diamond polishes the other. Thus Descartes' philosophy did not originate, but merely furthered, Spinoza's. Hence we find in the pupil, first of all, the method of the master; this is a great gain. We also find in Spinoza, as in Descartes, a method of demonstration borrowed from mathematics. This is a great defect. The mathematical form gives Spinoza's work a harsh exterior. But this is like the hard shell of the almond; the kernel is all the more delightful. On reading Spinoza we are seized by an emotion similar to that which we feel at the sight of great Nature in her most animated composure. A forest of heaven‑aspiring thoughts whose blossoming treetops are tossing like waves, while the immovable trunks are rooted in the eternal earth. There is a certain mysterious aura about Spinoza's writings. The air of the future seems to flow over us. Perhaps the spirit of the Hebrew prophets still hovered over their late‑born descendant. There is, withal, a seriousness in him, a confident pride, a solemn dignity of thought, which also seem to be a part of his inheritance; for Spinoza belonged to one of those martyr families exiled from Spain by the most Catholic of kings. Added to this is the patience of the Hollander, which was always revealed in the life of the man as well as in his writings. It is a fact that Spinoza's life was beyond reproach and pure and spotless as the life of his divine cousin, Jesus Christ. Like Him, he too suffered for his teachings; like Him he wore the crown of thorns. Wherever a great mind expresses its thought, there is Golgotha.
  • ...Nothing is more absurd than ownership claimed for ideas. Hegel did, to be sure, use many of Schelling's ideas for his philosophy, but Mr. Schelling would never have known what to do with these ideas anyway. He always just philosophized, but was never able to produce a philosophy. And besides, one could certainly maintain that Mr. Schelling borrowed more from Spinoza than Hegel borrowed from Schelling. If Spinoza is some day liberated from his rigid, antiquated Cartesian, mathematical form and made accessible to a large public, we shall perhaps see that he, more than any other, might complain about the theft of ideas. All our present‑day philosophers, possibly without knowing it, look through glasses that Baruch Spinoza ground.
    • Heinrich Heine, in his Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany (1833–1836), translated by Helen Mustard, in: The Romantic School and Other Essays, edited by Jost Hermand and Robert C. Holub (New York: Continuum, 1985) [original in German]
  • ...In the eyes of his biographers Spinoza was unmistakably an ideal wise man: exclusively concentrated on the precise architecture of his works, perfectly indifferent to material affairs, and liberated from all passions. But an episode in his life is passed over in silence by some biographers, while others consider it only an incomprehensible, youthful whim. Spinoza's father died in 1656. In his family Baruch had the reputation of an eccentric young man who had no practical sense and wasted precious time studying incomprehensible books. Due to clever intrigues (his stepsister Rebecca and her husband Casseres played the main role in this) he was deprived of his inheritance. She hoped the absentminded young man would not even notice. But it happened otherwise.
  • Kant is erroneously viewed as the founder of German philosophy, and an ingenious poet-philosopher, Heinrich Heine, has even drawn a parallel between the different phases of the French Revolution and those of German philosophy, putting next to each other as analogous phenomena Kant and Robespierre, Fichte and Napoleon, Schelling and the Restoration, Hegel and the July [1830] Revolution. But the true founder of German philosophy - if one wishes to name a personal representative for the spirit of the age [Zeitgeist] - is none other than [the thinker] whose world view lies equally at the foundation of French social philosophy - Spinoza; and as far as Heine's analogy goes, it is only Kant and Robespierre, i.e. the religious revolution, who are analogous phenomena.
    • Moses Hess, in his book The Holy History of Mankind (1837) [original in German]
  • ...The teaching of Spinoza, the product of the Jewish genius and modern science [Wissenschaft], does not stand in contradiction with the Jewish teaching of unity - at most it may contradict its rationalistic and super-naturalistic approach.
    • Moses Hess, in his book The Holy History of Mankind (1837) [original in German]
  • I assert, that the doctrine of the immateriality, simplicity, and indivisibility of a thinking substance is a true atheism, and will serve to justify all those sentiments, for which Spinoza is so universally infamous. From this topic, I hope at least to reap one advantage, that my adversaries will not have any pretext to render the present doctrine odious by their declamations, when they see that they can be so easily retorted on them.
  • The fundamental principle of the atheism of Spinoza is the doctrine of the simplicity of the universe, and the unity of that substance, in which he supposes both thought and matter to inhere. There is only one substance, says he, in the world; and that substance is perfectly simple and indivisible, and exists every where, without any local presence. Whatever we discover externally by sensation; whatever we feel internally by reflection; all these are nothing but modifications of that one, simple, and necessarily existent being, and are not possest of any separate or distinct existence. Every passion of the soul; every configuration of matter, however different and various, inhere in the same substance, and preserve in themselves their characters of distinction, without communicating them to that subject, in which they inhere.
  • An immense role in the development of logic, and in preparing the ground for modern views on its subject matter, a role far from fully appreciated, was played by Spinoza. Like Leibniz, Spinoza rose high above the mechanistic limitations of the natural science of his time. Any tendency directly to universalise partial forms and methods of thinking only useful within the bounds of mechanistic, mathematical natural science was also foreign to him. Insofar as logic was preserved alongside the doctrine of substance, Spinoza treated it as an applied discipline by analogy with medicine, since its concern proved not to be the invention of artificial rules but the co-ordination of human intellect with the laws of thought understood as an ‘attribute’ of the natural whole, only as ‘modes of expression’ of the universal order and connection of things. He also tried to work out logical problems on the basis of this conception. Spinoza understood thought much more profoundly and, in essence, dialectically, which is why his figure presents special interest in the history of dialectics; he was probably the only one of the great thinkers of the pre-Marxian era who knew how to unite brilliant models of acutely dialectical thought with a consistently held materialist principle (rigorously applied throughout his system) of understanding thought and its relations to the external world lying in the space outside the human head. The influence of Spinoza's ideas on the subsequent development of dialectical thought can hardly be exaggerated. ‘It is therefore worthy of note that thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy.’ [Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel]
    • Evald Ilyenkov, in his book Dialectical Logic (Spinoza: Thought as an Attribute of Substance) [original in Russian]
  • But orthodox religious scholasticism, in alliance with subjective idealist philosophy, has not ceased to flog Spinoza as a ‘dead dog’, treating him as a living and dangerous opponent. Elementary analysis reveals that the main principles of Spinoza’s thought directly contradict the conception of ‘thought’ developed by modern positivism all along the line. The most modern systems of the twentieth century still clash in sharp antagonism in Spinoza; and that obliges us to analyse the theoretical foundation of his conception very carefully, and to bring out the principles in it that, in rather different forms of expression perhaps, remain the most precious principles of any scientific thinking to this day, and as such are very heatedly disputed by our contemporary opponents of dialectical thought.
    • Evald Ilyenkov, in his book Dialectical Logic (Spinoza: Thought as an Attribute of Substance) [original in Russian]
  • Spinoza, then, emerged as the supreme philosophical bogeyman of Early Enlightenment Europe. Admittedly, historians have rarely emphasized this. It has been much more common, and still is, to claim that Spinoza was rarely understood and had very little influence, a typical example of an abiding historiographical refrain which appears to be totally untrue but nevertheless, since the nineteenth century, has exerted an enduring appeal for all manner of scholars. In fact, no one else during the century 1650–1750 remotely rivalled Spinoza's notoriety as the chief challenger of the fundamentals of revealed religion, received ideas, tradition, morality, and what was everywhere regarded, in absolutist and non-absolutist states alike, as divinely constituted political authority.
    • Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (2001), Ch. 8. Spinoza
  • ...If we had the time we should now go on to present the ingenious theory of organism with which Spinoza focused the general ontological scheme specifically on the biological sphere, where mentality is ordinarily seen to be conjoined to physical fact, and particularly on the case of man. It must be enough to say that Spinoza makes it beautifully intelligible from his general premises that the quality and power of a mind are proportionate to the complexity of the body to which it corresponds, so that the perfection of the human body as a piece of physical organization is a direct yardstick for the perfection of the human mind which, as it were, conformally (or: isomorphously) duplicates the body's physical performance on the plane of thought.
    • Hans Jonas, Parallelism and Complementarity: The Psycho-Physical Problem in the Succession of Niels Bohr
  • Surely, Spinoza's parallelism of attributes expressing differently but equivalently one and the same substance was a feat of genius and far superior to all other treatments of the problem at the time. Without interposing a synchronizing deity, as did others, it overcame Descartes' dualistic rift by a monistic reduction, yet retained the full severity of the disjunctions which that dualism had been designed to ensure.
    • Hans Jonas, Parallelism and Complementarity: The Psycho-Physical Problem in the Succession of Niels Bohr
  • ...I depart tonight to spend a few days in Münster and am on that account very busy and distracted, else I would be writing more as to the possible advantages there might be in presenting to the public Spinoza's system in its true form and according to the intrinsic coherence of its parts. Its spectre has been haunting Germany for lo these many years, in all shapes and sizes and is regarded with reverence by believers and doubters alike. I am speaking not just of the petty-minded but of people with the finest minds.
  • [Spinoza] this pure soul, this great realist, the first human being to attempt to become a citizen of the world. . . this down-to-earth passion.
    • Karl Jaspers to Hannah Arendt, 4 August 1949, letter 91 in Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers Correspondence, edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans Saner (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992)
  • What do they think when they hear music? Way to catch rattlesnakes. Night Michael Gunn gave us the box. Tun ing up. Shah of Persia liked that best. Remind him of home sweet home. Wiped his nose in curtain too. Custom his country perhaps. That’s music too. Not as bad as it sounds. Tootling. Brasses braying asses through uptrunks. Double basses helpless, gashes in their sides. Woodwinds mooing cows. Semigrand open crocodile music hath jaws. Wood wind like Goodwin’s name.
    She looked fine. Her crocus dress she wore lowcut, belongings on show. Clove her breath was always in theatre when she bent to ask a question. Told her what Spinoza says in that book of poor papa’s. Hypnotised, listening. Eyes like that. She bent. Chap in dresscircle staring down into her with his operaglass for all he was worth. Beauty of music you must hear twice. Nature woman half a look. God made the country man the tune. Met him pike hoses. Philosophy. O rocks!
  • There is really very little of Machiavelli's one can accept or use in the contemporary world. The one thing I find interesting in Machiavelli is his estimate of the prince's will. Interesting, but not such as to influence me. If you want to know who has influenced me most, I'll answer with two philosophers' names: Spinoza and Kant. Which makes it all the more peculiar that you choose to associate me with Machiavelli.
  • Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Bruno's ideas were widely imparted, borrowed, sounded ; almost never, though, with the name Giordano Bruno attached to them. Kepler once chided Galileo for omitting his debt to Bruno ; yet, we can discern Kepler's own indifference … Later generations would evoke Bruno's writings to the phrase, without quoting or acknowledging him. Recent scholarship on Spinoza, for example, cites Bruno's powerful exertion on his thought about infinity and on his style. Never does Spinoza cite Bruno by name.
  • Regarding Spinoza, whom M. Arnauld has called the most impious and most dangerous man of this century, he was truly an Atheist, [i.e.,] he allowed absolutely no Providence dispensing rewards and punishments according to justice. ...The God he puts on parade is not like ours; he has no intellect or will. ...He fell well short of mastering the art of demonstration; he had only a mediocre knowledge of analysis and geometry; what he knew best was to make lenses for microscopes.
  • Pantheism is as old as philosophy. It was taught in the old Greek schools — by Plato, by St. Augustine, and by the Jews. Indeed, one may say that Pantheism, under one of its various shapes, is the necessary consequence of all metaphysical inquiry, when pushed to its logical limits ; and from this reason do we find it in every age and nation. The dreamy contemplative Indian, the quick versatile Greek, the practical Roman, the quibbling Scholastic, the ardent Italian, the lively Frenchman, and the bold Englishman, have all pronounced it as the final truth of philosophy. Wherein consists Spinoza's originality? — what is his merit? — are natural questions, when we see him only lead to the same result as others had before proclaimed. His merit and originality consist in the systematic exposition and development of that doctrine — in his hands, for the first time, it assumes the aspect of a science. The Greek and Indian Pantheism is a vague fanciful doctrine, carrying with it no scientific conviction ; it may be true — it looks true — but the proof is wanting. But with Spinoza there is no choice : if you understand his terms, admit the possibility of his science, and seize his meaning; you can no more doubt his conclusions than you can doubt Euclid ; no mere opinion is possible, conviction only is possible.
    • George Henry Lewes, in his A Biographical History of Philosophy, Volumes III & IV (London: C. Knight & Company, 1846)
  • Such was Benedict Spinoza — thus he lived and thought. A brave and simple man, earnestly meditating on the deepest subjects that can occupy the human race, he produced a system which will ever remain as one of the most astounding efforts of abstract speculation — a system that has been decried, for nearly two centuries, as the most iniquitous and blasphemous of human invention ; and which has now, within the last sixty years, become the acknowledged parent of a whole nation's philosophy, ranking among its admirers some of the most pious and illustrious intellects of the age. The ribald Atheist turns out, on nearer acquaintance, to be a "God-intoxicated man." The blasphemous Jew becomes a pious, virtuous, and creative thinker. The dissolute heretic becomes a child-like, simple, self-denying and heroic man. We look into his works with calm earnestness, and read there another curious page of human history : the majestic struggle with the mysteries of existence has failed, as it always must fail ; but the struggle demands our warmest admiration, and the man our ardent sympathy. Spinoza stands out from the dim past like a tall beacon, whose shadow is thrown athwart the sea, and whose light will serve to warn the wanderers from the shoals and rocks on which hundreds of their brethren have perished.
    • George Henry Lewes, in his A Biographical History of Philosophy, Volumes III & IV (London: C. Knight & Company, 1846)
  • ...The doctrine of Spinoza was of great importance, if for nothing more than having brought about the first crisis in modern Philosophy.
    • George Henry Lewes, in his A Biographical History of Philosophy, Volumes III & IV (London: C. Knight & Company, 1846)
  • ...Jews seem to have superiority as actors, chess-players, doctors, merchants (chiefly financiers), in metaphysics, music, poetry, and philology.... Of course, Jews have no Darwin. It took England 180 years after Newton before she could produce a Darwin, and as Britishers are five times the number of Jews, even including those of Russia, it would take, on the same showing, 900 years before they produce another Spinoza, or, even supposing the double superiority to be true, 450 years would be needed.
  • Spinozism dominated the eighteenth century both in its later French variety, which made matter into substance, and in deism, which conferred on matter a more spiritual name.... Spinoza's French school and the supporters of deism were but two sects disputing over the true meaning of his system....
  • Even in the case of philosophers who give systematic form to their work, Spinoza for instance, the true inner structure of the system is quite unlike the form in which it was consciously presented by him.
  • Descartes... fell back on his original confusion of matter with space—space being, according to him, the only form of substance, and all existing things but affections of space. This error... forms one of the ultimate foundations of the system of Spinoza.
  • Spinoza is a highly systematic thinker, but still I do not think I can offer a single key for all things Spinozistic. Personally, one thing which got me excited about Spinoza is his philosophical boldness, i.e., his willingness to pursue philosophical exploration as far as he can, making very little concessions to commonly accepted beliefs and norms. In terms of content, I take his attempt to conceive of God, nature, and ethics in a manner that is free from anthropomorphism and anthropocentric illusions as one of the deepest elements of his philosophical thinking. A closely related issue is his advocacy of actual infinity (an issue that has been mostly neglected in recent literature). Finally, the very attempt to do philosophy systematically (rather than rely on fragmented and disassociated intuitions) and transparently (laying bare the logical structure of his arguments) commands my respect, indeed admiration.
  • It was not until the Twelfth Century of our era that the Pentateuch as a whole was subjected to rational scrutiny. The man who undertook the ungrateful task was a learned Spanish rabbi, Abraham ben Meir ibn Esra. He unearthed many absurdities, but... it was not until five hundred years later that anything properly describable as scientific criticism... came into being. Its earliest shining lights were the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes [with his Leviathan], and the Amsterdam Jew, Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza's "Tractatus Theologico-politicus", published in 1670, made the first really formidable onslaught upon the inspired inerrancy of the Pentateuch. It called attention to scores of transparent imbecilities … including a dozen or more palpable geographical and historical impossibilities … The answer of constituted authorities was to suppress the "Tractatus", but enough copies got out to reach the proper persons, and ever since then the Old Testament has been under searching and devastating examination.
  • Neophil: ...Leibniz, Wolff, and their various successors, to what a level of perfection and completeness they have brought philosophy! How proud Germany can be of them! Yet what does it help to claim more for oneself than is right? Let us always acknowledge that someone other than a German, I add further, someone other than a Christian, namely, Spinoza, has participated immensely in the work of bettering philosophy. Before the transition from the Cartesian to the Leibnizian philosophy could occur, it was necessary for someone to take the plunge into the monstrous abyss lying between them. This unhappy lot fell to Spinoza. How his fate is to be pitied! He was a sacrifice for the human intellect, but one that deserves to be decorated with flowers. Without him, philosophy would never have been able to extend its borders so far.
  • Philopon: The misfortune of this man has always touched me in an extraordinary way. He lived in moderation, alone and irreproachable; he renounced all human idols and devoted his entire life to reflection, and look what happened! In the labyrinth of his meditations, he goes astray and, out of error, maintains much that agrees very little with his innocent way of life and that the most depraved scoundrel might wish for in order to be able to indulge his evil desires with impunity. How unjust is the irreconcilable hatred of scholars towards someone so unfortunate!
  • Few philosophers have been so mythologised as the 17th century Jew, Baruch Spinoza. Legends abound regarding his life, thought and character. He has been claimed as hero and as villain by both secular and ecclesiastical authorities. During his life he was widely attacked for his 'blasphemous' and 'heretical' opinions on God, the bible, and religion, even suffering one of the most vitriolic cherem (excommunication) ever issued by the Amsterdam Portuguese-Jewish community. But after his death he was appropriated by others who believed that within his complex writings could be found a deeply religious instinct. To German Romantics like the poet Novalis, he was "a God intoxicated man", while Goethe called him simply theissimus, 'most theistic'. So what was Spinoza's attitude to God? Certainly no one who read his work thoroughly could argue that he held a traditional theistic conception of a divine being, the providential God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the Ethics, his philosophical masterpiece, Spinoza says that God is 'immanent' in nature, not some supernatural entity beyond the world. But does this mean that we can describe him as a pantheist, as someone who believes that God is revealed in every aspect of the natural world that lies around us? This was certainly a popular interpretation.
  • The philosopher John Toland, in the early 18th century, insisted that the terms 'Spinozism' and 'pantheism' are synonymous. Toland says that "Moses was, to be sure, a Pantheist, or, if you please, in more current terms, a Spinosist", while Spinoza's pantheism was taken for granted by Moses Mendelssohn, Gotthold Lessing and Friedrich Jacobi, in their famous Pantheismusstreit of 1785. More recently, this interpretation also appears in both the scholarly literature and popular representations of Spinoza's thought. In the recently published Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy we read that "Spinoza is the most distinguished pantheist in Western philosophy". But the problem with calling Spinoza a 'pantheist' is that pantheism is still a kind of theism.
  • Spinoza does not believe that worshipful awe is an appropriate attitude to take before God or nature. There is nothing holy or sacred about nature, and it is certainly not the object of a religious experience. Instead, one should strive to understand God or nature, with the kind of adequate or clear and distinct intellectual knowledge that reveals nature's most important truths and shows how everything depends essentially and existentially on higher natural causes. The key to discovering and experiencing God/nature, for Spinoza, is philosophy and science, not religious awe and worshipful submission. The latter give rise only to superstitious behaviour and subservience to ecclesiastic authorities; the former leads to enlightenment, freedom and true blessedness (i.e. peace of mind).
  • Spinoza's naturalist and rationalist project demands that we provide these notions with a proper intellectualist interpretation. Thus, the love of God is simply an awareness of the ultimate natural cause of the joy that accompanies the improvement in one's condition that the highest knowledge brings; to love God is nothing but to understand nature. And the eternity in which one participates is represented solely by the knowledge of eternal truths that makes up a part of the rational person's mind.
  • There is no place in Spinoza's system for a sense of mystery in the face of nature. Such an attitude is to be dispelled by the intelligibility of things. Religious wonder is bred by ignorance, he believes. Spinoza contrasts the person who "is eager, like an educated man, to understand natural things" with the person who "wonders at them, like a fool". For Spinoza, anyone who would approach nature with the kind of worshipful awe usually demanded by the religious attitude represents the latter. By definition, and in substance, pantheism is not atheism. And Spinoza is an atheist.
  • There may be no philosopher in history (with the possible exceptions of Socrates and Nietzsche) who has received greater attention in artistic, literary and popular culture than Bento (Benedictus) de Spinoza (1632–1677). His life, ideas and influence have been the subject of numerous novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, even musical pieces and opera. His name and his visage have been used in the marketing of various items in the worlds of entertainment, leisure and consumption, from cafés to rock bands to bagels. [...] A relatively simple explanation for Spinoza's unusually high profile outside the walls of academia is at hand. Spinoza was the most radical and iconoclastic thinker of his time. His ideas on religion, politics, ethics, human psychology and metaphysics, presented in difficult and sometimes mystifying treatises, lay the groundwork for much of what we now regard as “modern.” Perhaps most enticing of all, he was excommunicated from the Amsterdam Portuguese-Jewish community as a young man for reasons that remain obscure (although not hard to fathom). Everyone loves a rebel—especially one whose values they likely share and whom, they feel, was unjustly punished by those in power.
  • I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza : that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by "instinct". Not only is his overtendency like mine — namely, to make all knowledge the most powerful affect — but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself ; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters : he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange!
  • Lovingly facing the “one is everything”
    amor dei, happy from comprehension—
    Take off your shoes! That three times holy land—
    —Yet secretly beneath this love, devouring,
    A fire of revenge was shimmering,
    The Jewish God devoured by Jewish hatred . . .
    Hermit! Have I recognized you?
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, in his poem To Spinoza. Translated from the German by Yirmiyahu Yovel, in his book Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Adventures of Immanence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 132. Original published in Nietzsche, Werke (Leipzig: Kröner, 1919)
  • Ein Gottbetrunkener Mensch
    • A God-intoxicated man.
      • Novalis, as quoted in Novalis (1829) by Thomas Carlyle: "Spinoza is a God-intoxicated man (Gott-trunkenet Mensch)."
  • While Herr Bernstein returns to Kant “to a certain point” Herr Stern speaks to us of the old Spinoza, and asks us to return to the philosophy of that great and noble Jewish thinker. That is something else, and far more reasonable than Herr Bernstein's call. Indeed, it is important and interesting to study the question of whether there is something in common between the philosophical ideas of Marx and Engels on the one hand, and Spinoza's on the other. [...] Meanwhile, I assert with full conviction that, in the materialist period of their development, Marx and Engels never abandoned Spinoza's point of view. That conviction, incidentally, is based on Engels's personal testimony. [...] After visiting the Paris World Exhibition in 1889, I went to London to make Engels's acquaintance. For almost a whole week, I had the pleasure of having long talks with him on a variety of practical and theoretical subjects. When, on one occasion, we were discussing philosophy, Engels sharply condemned what Stern had most inaccurately called “naturphilosophische materialism”. “So do you think,” I asked, “old Spinoza was right when he said that thought and extent are nothing but two attributes of one and the same substance?” “Of course,” Engels replied, “old Spinoza was quite right.”
    • Georgi Plekhanov, in Bernstein and Materialism (July 1898) [original in Russian]
  • ...Note that in saying this, Feuerbach stands close to Spinoza, whose philosophy he was already setting forth with great sympathy at the time his own breakaway from idealism was taking shape, that is, when he was writing his history of modern philosophy. In 1843 he made the subtle observation, in his Grundsätze, that pantheism is a theological materialism, a negation of theology but as yet on a theological standpoint. This confusion of materialism and theology constituted Spinoza's inconsistency, which, however, did not prevent him from providing a ‘correct – at least for his time – philosophical expression for the materialist trend of modern times’. That was why Feuerbach called Spinoza ‘the Moses of the modern free-thinkers and materialists’. In 1847 Feuerbach asked: ‘What then, under careful examination, is that which Spinoza calls Substance, in terms of logics or metaphysics, and God in terms of theology?’ To this question he replied categorically: ‘Nothing else but Nature.’ He saw Spinozism’s main shortcoming in the fact that ‘in it the sensible, anti-theological essence of Nature assumes the aspect of an abstract, metaphysical being’. Spinoza eliminated the dualism of God and Nature, since he declared that the acts of Nature were those of God. However, it was just because he regarded the acts of Nature to be those of God, that the latter remained, with Spinoza, a being distinct from Nature, but forming its foundation. He regarded God as the subject and Nature as the predicate. A philosophy that has completely liberated itself from theological traditions must remove this important shortcoming in Spinoza's philosophy, which in its essence is sound. ‘Away with this contradiction!’, Feuerbach exclaimed. ‘Not Deus sive Natura but aut Deus aut Natura is the watchword of Truth.’ Thus, Feuerbach's ‘humanism’ proved to be nothing else but Spinozism disencumbered of its theological pendant. And it was the standpoint of this kind of Spinozism, which Feuerbach had freed of its theological pendant, that Marx and Engels adopted when they broke with idealism. However, disencumbering Spinozism of its theological appendage meant revealing its true and materialist content. Consequently, the Spinozism of Marx and Engels was indeed materialism brought up to date.
    • Georgi Plekhanov, in Fundamental Problems of Marxism (1907) [original in Russian]
  • ...Elsewhere I have shown that La Mettrie and Diderot – each after his own fashion – arrived at a world-outlook that was a ‘brand of Spinozism’, that is, a Spinozism without the theological appendage that distorted its true content. It would also be easy to show that, inasmuch as we are speaking of the unity of subject and object, Hobbes too stood very close to Spinoza. That, however, would be taking us too far afield, and, besides, there is no immediate need to do that. Probably of greater interest to the reader is the fact that today any naturalist who has delved even a little into the problem of the relation of thinking to being arrives at that doctrine of their unity which we have met in Feuerbach.
    • Georgi Plekhanov, in Fundamental Problems of Marxism (1907) [original in Russian]
  • Woe to him who in passing should hurl an insult at this gentle and pensive head. He would be punished, as all vulgar souls are punished, by his very vulgarity, and by his incapacity to conceive what is divine. This man, from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men the way of blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, "The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here."
  • [We] will discuss Soul and Body, the doctrine of God, and Ethics. ...We shall find that Leibniz no longer shows great originality, but tends, with slight alterations of phraseology, to adopt (without acknowledgment) the views of the decried Spinoza. We shall find also many more minor inconsistencies than in the earlier part of [Leibniz's] system, these being due chiefly to the desire to avoid the impieties of the Jewish Atheist, and the still greater impieties to which Leibniz's own logic should have led him.
  • Of all the great modern philosophers, Spinoza is probably the most interesting in relation to human life, and is certainly the most lovable and high-minded. Unfortunately, the difficulty and crabbedness of his writing make it very hard for people who are not serious students of philosophy to understand even what is not inherently difficult in his doctrines. He therefore requires commentaries to translate him into easier language, if his main ideas are to be appreciated as widely as possible.
  • Speaking of Spinoza he [Nietzsche] says: "How much of personal timidity and vulnerability does this masquerade of a sickly recluse betray!" Exactly the same may be said of him, with the less reluctance since he has not hesitated to say it of Spinoza. It is obvious that in his day-dreams he is a warrior, not a professor; all the men he admires were military.
  • Spinoza was the man I believed in always, as the alternative to Catholicism. And it is only in Spinoza's manner that I am a positivist at all. I believe in the real world, in the world of thought and extension, of psychology and physics. God or substance with Spinoza equals reality; and this reality, which may have countless forms, we find only in space and in (other men's) consciousness. I say in other men's, because Spinoza was too sane to care to discuss anything from the point of view of subjective idealism. When one prints a book to convince other people, one oughtn't to discuss in it whether they exist. But this is all by the way, although some other day I will discuss with you the question of Spinoza's hedonism.
  • ...The materialist is primarily an observer; and he will probably be such in ethics also; that is, he will have no ethics, except the emotion produced upon him by the march of the world. If he is an esprit fort and really disinterested, he will love life; as we all love perfect vitality, or what strikes us as such, in gulls and porpoises. This, I think, is the ethical sentiment psychologically consonant with a vigorous materialism: sympathy with the movement of things, interest in the rising wave, delight at the foam it bursts into, before it sinks again. Nature does not distinguish the better from the worse, but the lover of nature does. He calls better what, being analogous to his own life, enhances his vitality and probably possesses some vitality of its own. This is the ethical feeling of Spinoza, the greatest of modern naturalists in philosophy; and we shall see how Lucretius, in spite of his fidelity to the ascetic Epicurus, is carried by his poetic ecstasy in the same direction.
    • George Santayana, in his book Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1910)
  • ...Goethe was the wisest of mankind; too wise, perhaps, to be a philosopher in the technical sense, or to try to harness this wild world in a brain-spun terminology. It is true that he was all his life a follower of Spinoza, and that he may be termed, without hesitation, a naturalist in philosophy and a pantheist. His adherence to the general attitude of Spinoza, however, did not exclude a great plasticity and freedom in his own views, even on the most fundamental points. Thus Goethe did not admit the mechanical interpretation of nature advocated by Spinoza. He also assigned, at least to privileged souls, like his own, a more personal sort of immortality than Spinoza allowed.
    • George Santayana, in his book Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1910)
  • My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.
  • ...To substitute the society of ideas for that of things is simply to live in the mind; it is to survey the world of existences in its truth and beauty rather than in its personal perspectives, or with practical urgency. It is the sole path to happiness for the intellectual man, because the intellectual man cannot be satisfied with a world of perpetual change, defeat, and imperfection. It is the path trodden by ancient philosophers and modern saints or poets; not, of course, by modern writers on philosophy (except Spinoza), because these have not been philosophers in the vital sense; they have practised no spiritual discipline, suffered no change of heart, but lived on exactly like other professors, and exerted themselves to prove the existence of a God favourable to their own desires, instead of searching for the God that happens to exist.
    • George Santayana, in his book Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable, 1922)
  • I believe there is another reason also why Spinoza seems to me so pre-eminent: that in spite of being traditional, or because he was not distracted by side issues, he was an entire and majestic mind, a singularly consecrated soul. All these trite dogmas and problems lived in him and were the natural channels for his intuitions and emotions. That is what I feel to make a real philosopher and not, what we are condemned to be, professors of the philosophy of other people, or of our own opinions.
  • When you say Spinoza, however, besides being too flattering, the comparison is not biographically so true. My Sponizism is in the Life of Reason, less obviously, perhaps, yet more dominantly, than in Realms of Being. These, as you know, are not at all like Spinoza's attributes. They are not aspects or forms of the same reality, absolutely parallel and coextensive. My realms are layers: more as in Plotinus; and my moral or “spiritual” philosophy is again less Spinozistic than in the humanistic period. Spinoza's moral sentiments were plebeian, Dutch, and Jewish: perfectly happy in his corner, polishing his lenses, and saying, Great is Allah. No art, no high politics, no sympathy with greatness, no understanding of courage or of despair.
  • You compare Cardozo with Spinoza; but as far as I can judge by your book there is no intellectual comparison. Spinoza was not soft. I have been all my life long a fervent disciple of Spinoza precisely on account of his firmness, of his uncompromising naturalism. Yet even he leaves out the three traditions which, however false their cosmology, seem to me morally sound: the Greek, the Catholic, and the Indian. I am therefore not a disciple of Spinoza in his ideal of human life: It leaves out poetry, art, traditional religion, military and constructive patriotism. His society would be a tame society, where there would be no masters, but all would be voluntary slaves. Perhaps you feel something of my difficulty when you point out that "art" is an indispensable ingredient in everything human.
  • I ought to love the Jews, as they seem to be my only friends intellectually, beginning with Edman—not to go back to Spinoza.
  • I will not attempt to describe here the many lessons that I learned in the study of Spinoza, lessons that in several respects laid the foundation of my philosophy.
  • ...Now Spinoza, my master and model in respect to the first point [the natural basis of morality], does not satisfy me on the second [the humane possibilities, the "types of excellence towards which life may be directed"]; and I will take this opportunity, since I may not have any other, of clearing my conscience of ambiguity in that respect. The complete moralist must not only be sound in physics, but must be inwardly inspired by a normal human soul and an adequate human tradition; he must be a complete humanist in a complete naturalist. Spinoza was not only a complete naturalist but, by a rare combination, also a spiritual man, seeing and accepting the place of the human heart in the universe; accepting it not grudgingly or viciously or frivolously, as your worldling does, but humbly and joyously: humbly in that he asked to be nothing more than he was, and joyously because what he was allowed him, in spirit, to salute and to worship every form of the good. Nevertheless, Spinoza was not a complete humanist. He had no idea of human greatness and no sympathy with human sorrow. His notion of the soul was too plebeian and too quietistic. He was a Jew not of Exodus or Kings but of Amsterdam. He was too Dutch, too much the merchant and artisan, with nothing of the soldier, the poet, the prince, or the lover. [...] He was virtuous but not normal. [...] He was a genius; but as a guide in the spiritual life, he was narrow and inadequate.
  • ...As to feeling a difference in Jews, I feel it I think, only if they do; and then it doesn't signify a preference or the opposite, but only a diversity. My best pupils were Jews, as was my only modern “master” in philosophy, Spinoza. But many are not happy, and that is a pity.
  • ...Leibniz's Theodicy is an intelligent abstract of Christian doctrine, exhibiting what it would be if it were essentially scientific, whereas it is essentially moralistic, so that its inspiration is missed, while its dogmas are harmonized as much as possible. Spinoza does much the same thing for the natural universe. He misplaces nothing, but draws it all in purely intellectual concepts. He is a great master.
  • Spinoza, too, whom I was reading under Royce himself, filled me with joy and enthusiasm: I gathered at once from him a doctrine which has remained axiomatic with me ever since, namely that good and evil are relative to the natures of animals, irreversible in that relation, but indifferent to the march of cosmic events, since the force of the universe infinitely exceeds the force of any of its parts.
    • George Santayana, in his A General Confession (from The Essential Santayana: Selected Writings)
  • Now I am working on an Ethics à la Spinoza. It is designed to establish the highest principles of all philosophy, in which theoretical and practical reason are united. [...] I have become a Spinozist! Don't be astonished. You will soon hear how.
    • Schelling, in his letter to friend and former roommate Hegel, 1795 [original in German]
  • ...It is because of this that one can admittedly also attribute to Spinozism that calming effect, which, among other things, Goethe praised in it; Spinozism is really the doctrine which sends thought into retirement, into complete quiescence; in its highest conclusions it is the system of perfect theoretical and practical quietism, which can appear beneficient in the tempestuousness of a thought which never rests and always moves...
    • Schelling, On the History of Modern Philosophy (1833) [original in German]
  • It is unquestionably the peacefulness and calm of the Spinozist system which particularly produces the idea of its depth, and which, with hidden but irresistible charm, has attracted so many minds. The Spinozist system will also always remain in a certain sense a model. A system of freedom — but with just as great contours, with the same simplicity, as a perfect counter-image (Gegenbild) of the Spinozist system — this would really be the highest system. This is why Spinozism, despite the many attacks on it, and the many supposed refutations, has never really become something truly past, never been really overcome up to now, and no one can hope to progress to the true and the complete in philosophy who has not at least once in his life lost himself in the abyss of Spinozism. Nobody who wishes to arrive at his own firm conviction should leave unread the main work of Spinoza, his Ethics (for he presented his system under this title), and I should like to urge everyone who is seriously concerned with his education not only to study assiduously on his own, which no teacher can replace, but to be most conscientious and careful in the choice of what he reads. Spinoza in particular belongs to the immortal authors. He is great because of the sublime simplicity of his thoughts and his way of writing, great because of his distance from all scholasticism, and, on the other hand, from all false embellishment or ostentation of language.
    • Schelling, On the History of Modern Philosophy (1833) [original in German]
  • [From Schopenhauer's assessments of other philosophers] Bruno and Spinoza are to be entirely excepted. Each stands by himself and alone; and they do not belong either to their age or to their part of the globe, which rewarded the one with death, and the other with persecution and ignominy. Their miserable existence and death in this Western world are like that of a tropical plant in Europe. The banks of the Ganges were their spiritual home ; there, they would have led a peaceful and honoured life among men of like mind.
  • ...Since, in consequence of the Kantian criticism of all speculative theology, the philosophisers of Germany almost all threw themselves back upon Spinoza, so that the whole series of futile attempts known by the name of the post-Kantian philosophy are simply Spinozism tastelessly dressed up, veiled in all kinds of unintelligible language, and otherwise distorted, I wish, now that I have explained the relation of my philosophy to Pantheism in general, to point out its relation to Spinozism in particular. It stands, then, to Spinozism as the New Testament stands to the Old. What the Old Testament has in common with the New is the same God-Creator. Analogous to this, the world exists, with me as with Spinoza, by its inner power and through itself. But with Spinoza his substantia æterna, the inner nature of the world, which he himself calls God, is also, as regards its moral character and worth, Jehovah, the God-Creator, who applauds His own creation, and finds that all is very good, παντα καλα λιαν. Spinoza has deprived Him of nothing but personality. Thus, according to him also, the world and all in it is wholly excellent and as it ought to be: therefore man has nothing more to do than vivere, agere, suum Esse conservare ex fundamento proprium utile quærendi (Eth., iv. pr. 67); he is even to rejoice in his life as long as it lasts; entirely in accordance with Ecclesiastes ix. 7-10. In short, it is optimism: therefore its ethical side is weak, as in the Old Testament; nay, it is even false, and in part revolting. With me, on the other hand, the will, or the inner nature of the world, is by no means Jehovah, it is rather, as it were, the crucified Saviour, or the crucified thief, according as it resolves. Therefore my ethical teaching agrees with that of Christianity, completely and in its highest tendencies, and not less with that of Brahmanism and Buddhism. Spinoza could not get rid of the Jews; quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem. His contempt for the brutes, which, as mere things for our use, he also declares to be without rights, is thoroughly Jewish, and, in union with Pantheism, is at the same time absurd and detestable (Eth., iv., appendix, c. 27). With all this Spinoza remains a very great man. But in order to estimate his work correctly we must keep in view his relation to Descartes. The latter had sharply divided nature into mind and matter, i.e., thinking and extended substance, and had also placed God and the world in complete opposition to each other; Spinoza also, so long as he was a Cartesian, taught all that in his “Cogitatis Metaphysicis,” c. 12, i. I., 1665. Only in his later years did he see the fundamental falseness of that double dualism; and accordingly his own philosophy principally consists of the indirect abolition of these two antitheses. Yet partly to avoid injuring his teacher, partly in order to be less offensive, he gave it a positive appearance by means of a strictly dogmatic form, although its content is chiefly negative. His identification of the world with God has also this negative significance alone. For to call the world God is not to explain it: it remains a riddle under the one name as under the other. But these two negative truths had value for their age, as for every age in which there still are conscious or unconscious Cartesians.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Idea, Vol. III [Translated from the German by R. B. Haldane, M.A. and J. Kemp, M.A., London, Trübner & Co., 1909]
  • For Spinoza, philosophy originates in the very personal... feeling of emptiness that in the philosophical tradition has earned the distinguished name of contemptu mundi, the contempt for worldly things, or, better, vanitas. ...Spinoza says that... success in life is just a postponement of failure; ...pleasure is just a fleeting respite from pain; and... the objects of our striving are vain illusions. ...
    The feeling of vanitas Spinoza describes is... a dire encounter with the prospect of descent into absolute nothingness, a life without significance coming to a meaningless end. ...The experience Spinoza records... establishes... the moment of extreme doubt , fear, and uncertainty that precedes the dawn of revelation. ...the journey one trodden by poets, philosophers, and theologians too numerous to mention, who for millennia have recorded this feeling that life is a useless passion, a wheel of ceaseless striving, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and so on.
  • Like Socrates, Spinoza avers that blessedness comes only from a certain kind of knowledge—specifically, the "knowledge of the union that the mind has with the whole of Nature."
    ...the life of contemplation is also a life within a certain type of community—specifically, a fellowship of the mind. Like Socrates with his circle of debating partners, or Epicurus in his garden with his intellectual companions, Spinoza imagines a philosophical future... upon achieving blessedness for himself, he announces in his first treatise, his first step is "to form a society... so that as many as possible may attain it as easily and as surely as possible." For, "the highest good," he claims, is to achieve salvation together with other individuals "if possible."
  • According to the seventeenth-century way of thinking, an atheist was by definition a decadent. If there was no God (or, at least, no providential, rewarding-and-punishing God of the sort worshipped in all the traditional religions), the reasoning went, then everything is permitted. So a non-beliver would be expected to indulge in all manner of sensual stimulation... to lie, cheat, and steal...
    Spinoza, according to all seventeenth-century interpreters, rejected all the traditional ideas about God; he was indesputably a heretic. Yet his manner of living was humble and apparently free of vice. Then, as now, the philosopher seemed a living oxymoron: he was an ascetic sensualist, a spiritual materialist, a sociable hermit, a secular saint. How could his life have been so good, the critics asked, when his philosophy was so bad?
  • In the strident world of seventeenth-century philosophy, the mind-body problem was not a word puzzle that could be safely relegated to undergraduate classes. For men such as Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz, solving the mind-body problem was vital to preserving the theological and political order inherited from the Middle Ages and, more generally, to protecting human self-esteem in the face of an increasingly truculent universe. For Spinoza, it was a means of destroying that same order and discovering a new foundation for human worth.
  • ...Similarly, he [Hermann Cohen] states that Spinoza opposed rabbinical Judaism, especially its great concern with the ceremonial law, and that his sharp opposition had a certain salutary effect on the liberation of opinion; he notes without any disapproval that “modern Judaism” has freed itself from part of the ceremonial law; he fails to admit that modern Judaism is a synthesis between rabbinical Judaism and Spinoza.
  • ...This divergence and perversion of the essential question is most striking in what goes today by the name of philosophy. There would seem to be only one question for philosophy to resolve: What must I do? Despite being combined with an enormous amount of unnecessary confusion, answers to the question have at any rate been given within the philosophical tradition on the Christian nations. For example, in Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, or in Spinoza, Schopenhauer and specially Rousseau.
    • Leo Tolstoy, What is Religion : Of What Does its Essence Consist? (1902), Ch. 11
  • From the great creations of Spinoza, as from distant stars, light takes several centuries to reach us. Only the psychology of the future will be able to realize the ideas of Spinoza.
  • My intellect has been shaped under the sign of Spinoza's words, and it has tried not to be astounded, not to laugh, not to cry, but to understand.
    • Lev Vygotsky, in his dissertation thesis Psychology of Art [original in Russian]
  • The philosophical perspective opens before is at this point of our study. For the first time in the process of psychological studies we can resolve essentially purely philosophical problems by means of a psychological experiment and demonstrate empirically the origin of the freedom of human will. We cannot trace in all its completeness the philosophical perspective opening before us here. We expect to do this in another work devotes to philosophy. Now we shall try only to note this perspective in order to see most clearly the place we have reached. We cannot help but note that we have come to the same understanding of freedom and self-control that Spinoza developed in his “Ethics.”
  • ...In a few words, we can define the true relation of Spinozist teaching on passions to explanatory and descriptive psychology of emotions, saying that, practically speaking, this teaching on solving the one and only problem, the problem of a deterministic, causal explanation of what is higher in the life of human passions, also partially contains explanatory psychology, retaining the idea of causal explanation but rejecting the problem of the higher in human passions, and descriptive psychology, rejecting the idea of a causal explanation and retaining the problem of the higher in the life of human passions. Thus, forming its deepest and most internal nucleus, Spinoza's teaching contains specifically what is in neither of the two parts into which contemporary psychology of emotions has disintegrated: the unity of the causal explanation and the problem of the vital significance of human passions, the unity of descriptive and explanatory psychology of feelings. For this reason, Spinoza is closely connected with the most vital, the most critical news of the day for contemporary psychology of emotions, news of the day which prevails in it, determining the paroxysm of crisis that envelops it. The problems of Spinoza await their solution, without which tomorrow’s day in our psychology is impossible.
    • Lev Vygotsky, The Teaching about Emotions, 1932 [original in Russian]
  • Of all heroes, Spinoza was Einstein's greatest. No one expressed more strongly than he a belief in the harmony, the beauty, and, most of all, the ultimate comprehensibility of nature.
    • John Archibald Wheeler, in "Albert Einstein in Biographical Memoirs Vol. 51, by the National Academy of Sciences
  • With the judgment of the angels and the sentence of the saints, we anathematize, execrate, curse and cast out Baruch de Espinoza, the whole of the sacred community assenting, in presence of the sacred books with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts written therein, pronouncing against him the malediction wherewith Elisha cursed the children, and all the maledictions written in the Book of the Law. Let him be accursed by day, and accursed by night; let him be accursed in his lying down, and accursed in his rising up ; accursed in going out and accursed in coming in. May the Lord never more pardon or acknowledge him; may the wrath and displeasure of the Lord burn henceforth against this man, load him with all the curses written in the Book of the Law, and blot out his name from under the sky; may the Lord sever him from all the tribes of Israel, weight him with all the maledictions of the firmament contained in the Book of Law; and may all ye who are obedient to the Lord your God be saved this day.
    Hereby then are all admonished that none hold converse with him by word of mouth, none hold communication with him by writing ; that no one do him any service, no one abide under the same roof with him, no one approach within four cubits' length of him, and no one read any document dictated by him, or written by his hand.
    • Writ of expulsion from the Jewish community, as translated in Benedict de Spinoza: His Life, Correspondence, and Ethics (1870) by Robert Willis
  • Spinoza has long intrigued me, and for years I've wanted to write about this valiant seventeenth-century thinker, so alone in the world—without a family, without a community—who authored books that truly changed the world. He anticipated secularization, the liberal democratic political state, and the rise of natural science, and he paved the way for the Enlightenment. The fact that he was excommunicated by the Jews at the age of twenty-four and censored for the rest of his life by the Christians had always fascinated me, perhaps because of my own iconoclastic proclivities. And this strange sense of kinship with Spinoza was strengthened by the knowledge that Einstein, one of my first heroes, was a Spinozist. When Einstein spoke of God, he spoke of Spinoza's God—a God entirely equivalent to nature, a God that includes all substance, and a God “that doesn't play dice with the universe”—by which he means that everything that happens, without exception, follows the orderly laws of nature.
    • Irvin D. Yalom, in his novel The Spinoza Problem, prologue. (New York: Basic Books, 2012)
  • I also believe that Spinoza, like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, on whose lives and philosophy I have based two earlier novels, wrote much that is highly relevant to my field of psychiatry and psychotherapy—for example, that ideas, thoughts, and feelings are caused by previous experiences, that passions may be studied dispassionately, that understanding leads to transcendence—and I wished to celebrate his contributions through a novel of ideas.
    • Irvin D. Yalom, in his novel The Spinoza Problem, prologue. (New York: Basic Books, 2012)
  • But how to write about a man who lived such a contemplative life marked by so few striking external events? He was extraordinarily private, and he kept his own person invisible in his writing. I had none of the material that ordinarily lends itself to narrative—no family dramas, no love affairs, jealousies, curious anecdotes, feuds, spats, or reunions. He had a large correspondence, but after his death his colleagues followed his instructions and removed almost all personal comments from his letters. No, not much external drama in his life: most scholars regard Spinoza as a placid and gentle soul—some compare his life to that of Christian saints, some even to Jesus.
    • Irvin D. Yalom, in his novel The Spinoza Problem, prologue. (New York: Basic Books, 2012)
  • So I resolved to write a novel about his inner life. That was where my personal expertise might help in telling Spinoza's story. After all, he was a human being and therefore must have struggled with the same basic human conflicts that troubled me and the many patients I’ve worked with over the decades. He must have had a strong emotional response to being excommunicated, at the age of twenty-four, by the Jewish community in Amsterdam—an irreversible edict that ordered every Jew, including his own family, to shun him forever. No Jew would ever again speak to him, have commerce with him, read his words, or come within fifteen feet of his physical presence. And of course no one lives without an inner life of fantasies, dreams, passions, and a yearning for love. About a fourth of Spinoza's major work, Ethics, is devoted to “overcoming the bondage of the passions.” As a psychiatrist, I felt convinced that he could not have written this section unless he had experienced a conscious struggle with his own passions.
    • Irvin D. Yalom, in his novel The Spinoza Problem: A Novel, prologue. (New York: Basic Books, 2012)

Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy (1880)[edit]

Sir Frederick Pollock, source
  • In 1663 Spinoza published the only work to which he ever set his name... He had prepared a summary of the second part of Descartes' 'Principles of Philosophy' for the use of a pupil... Certain of Spinoza's friends became curious about this manual and desired him to treat the first part of Descartes' work also in the same manner. This was done within a fortnight and Spinoza was then urged to publish the book, which he readily agreed to do upon condition that one of his friends would revise the language and write a preface explaining that the author did not agree with all the Cartesian doctrine... The contents... [included] an appendix of 'Metaphysical Reflections,' professedly written from a Cartesian point of view, but often giving significant hints of the author's real divergence from Descartes. ...'On this opportunity,' he writes to Oldenburg, 'we may find some persons holding the highest places in my country... who will be anxious to see those other writings which I acknowledge for my own, and will therefore take such order that I can give them to the world without danger of any inconvenience. If it so happens, I doubt not that I shall soon publish something; if not, I will rather hold my peace than thrust my opinions upon men against the will of my country and make enemies of them.' ...The book on Descartes excited considerable attention and interest, but the untoward course of public events in succeeding years was unfavourable to a liberal policy, and deprived Spinoza of the support for which he had looked. ...
    If Spinoza had ever been a disciple of Descartes, he had completely ceased to be so... He did not suppose the geometrical form of statement and argument to be an infallible method of arriving at philosophical truth; for in this work he made use of it to set forth opinions with which he himself did not agree, and proofs with which he was not satisfied. We do not know to what extent Spinoza's manual was accepted or taken into use by Cartesians, but its accuracy as an exposition of Descartes is beyond question. One of the many perverse criticisms made on Spinoza by modern writers is that he did not understand the fundamental proposition cogito ergo sum. In fact he gives precisely the same explanation of it that is given by Descartes himself in the Meditations.
  • For many years he had suffered from consumption, aggravated perhaps by his work of glass polishing. On Sunday, February 21, 1677, the end came unexpectedly, and almost suddenly. ...
    Credit must be given to Colerus [John Kohler]... for his downright contradiction of the tales concerning Spinoza's death-bed which were circulated, it would seem, by persons who thought it would tend to edification to represent Spinoza as the blustering infidel of popular orthodox polemics, who is invariably assailed by doubt and disquietude in his last moments, and as invariably strives to disguise them with feeble bravado. Colerus very honestly says that the people of the house... knew nothing of any such matters, and did not believe a word of them.

Spinoza and Buddha: Visions of a Dead God (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933)[edit]

S. M. Melamed, [1]
  • Not only Goethe's poetry but his science is Spinozistically motivated. Convinced of the oneness of nature, he approached it with a certainty to discover in it oneness, and his discovery of the os intermaxtllare in man, which influenced the development of comparative anatomy, is one of the by-products of his Spinozistic sentiments. In his theory of the metamorphosis of the plants, which he expounded scientifically and poetically, he also expressed a good deal of Spinozism. Spinoza enabled him to read the various pages of nature as one book. Goethe respected Kant and may be described as a Kant scholar, but he was a Spinoza adherent. His world-picture is Spinozistic and not Kantian.
  • The very starting-point of Spinoza, the search and discovery of the cause of causes, is hateful to Kant, who states that scientists err when they follow this path. He presumes and presupposes nothing, not even the possibility of the oneness of nature. Transcendental philosophy to him is only the theory of recognition of the possibility of nature itself. Spinoza, on the other hand, presumes and presupposes everything God, nature, its phenomena, and their different relationships. He begins with the supreme cause, without knowing whether it is and what it is. He sets out rationalistically and dogmatically while Kant begins critically. Kant is complicated, abstruse, and often dark, while Spinoza is simple, plain, and full of light. Kant's philosophy can be accepted either entirely or partly, but Spinoza's philosophy can be accepted only entirely. There can be no left or right Spinozists as there are left and right Kantians or Hegelians. In spite of its mathematical form, Spinozism is, in the last analysis, an experience of man's soul, while Kantianism is the product of man's critical mind. The soul is often disturbed and subject to varying moods, while man's mind is more rigid. Feeling is common to all people, but intellectual meditations are the heritage of the few. We can thus understand Spinoza's influence upon the entire fabric of modern culture with the exception of the plastic arts and music, and Kant's influence upon philosophy alone. Spinoza created a new world-picture, Kant only a new school of philosophy. Kant definitely established the frontiers of the human mind, but Spinoza reconstructed a new world out of an old one. Everyone is interested in Spinoza, but only philosophers are concerned with Kant.
  • It may be noted in passing that in spite of Spinoza's vast influence on modern political thought and action, his name is not connected with any emancipation movement, or with any revolutionary tendency. The French Revolution ignored him. While this may be partly due to Bayle's misrepresentation of Spinoza's doctrine and also to the fact that during the first half of the eighteenth century Spinoza was more the target of theologians than a magnet to philosophers and statesmen, one must admit that even without those incidents Spinoza could not have had any appreciable influence on the emancipation movement. The term "emancipation" involves the term of freedom, and implies a vitalistic process instead of a mechanical course. Every forward movement in history presumes a dynamic personality and progress-consciousness. None of these conceptions had any meaning to Spinoza. [...] Neither the French Revolution nor any of its great figures such as Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Condillac, or Holbach were influenced by him. Although neither his general works nor his political philosophy appealed to them, many of them were more or less familiar with his teachings.
  • While Schelling was wrestling with Plato, Spinoza, and Kant, his contemporary Hegel was struggling with Spinoza exclusively. In Hegel, Spinoza reached the height of his influence upon the German mind. Hegel was the most influential, although not the most original, German philosopher since the days of Kant. His system was more an absorption of other systems than an original creation. Therein lies the secret of his influence. He brought all the philosophical tendencies and moods of his time to a conclusion. With him the pantheism of his period attained its highest development and became the conscious and necessary connection of the mind and the world. During his entire philosophical career, Hegel constantly wrestled with Spinoza and for a time was entirely in his clutches. It was while under this influence that Hegel said that in order to refute Spinoza one must first accept him. In his lectures on the history of philosophy he says, "That Spinoza is the main point in modern philosophy, it is either Spinozism or no philosophy at all." He defended Spinoza against the reproach that his philosophy was atheistic and destructive of morality. In his later years, however, when he became more conservative, he changed his attitude toward Spinoza. He said, "that the philosophy of the "Amsterdam hermit" was an antiquated point of view, that his method was 'wooden,' that his proofs were formal tortures, that the attributes did not emanate from the substance and that the modi did not emanate from the attributes." But it was reserved for his old age to discover that Spinozism was philosophically objectionable because it did not tally with Christianity.
  • Lenin's mind was hewn from the rock of Spinozism, and, because his mind imposed itself firmly upon Russia, Christianity in Russia actually was replaced with Spinozism. In all the thirty-four volumes of the collected works of Lenin, published by the Lenin Institute in Moscow, Spinoza's name occurs only once. The manner in which he refers to Spinoza makes it almost certain that if he knew him at all he knew him secondhand. [...] Lenin, however, was not the only ruthless politician who embraced Spinozism de facto. Bismarck, the iron chancellor, who forged the Wilhelminic German Empire, was also a disciple of Spinoza. He was as symbolic of Teutonic might as was Lenin of Russian power. The man who waged three wars within seven years, who humbled the Hapsburg realm and annihilated the Second French Empire, was both a believer in and an admirer of the lonely Jewish lens-grinder. Intimate friends of the chancellor often related that in moments of restlessness he would always concentrate on Spinoza's Ethics. He admitted that the reading of Spinoza had the same calming effect on his mind as his occupation with geometric problems. "About Bismarck's relationship to Spinoza, the iron chancellor's biographer, Busch, is very explicit "Bismarck occupied himself with Spinoza in his student days, and though we do not know exactly to what an extent he had adjusted himself to the latter's world concept, we have a right to assume that it influenced him considerably and that it was one of the causes of his Webschmerzy which attacked him in those days and which later on colored his entire mentality." All of Bismarck's other biographers mention the chancellor's deep interest in Spinoza. To Bismarck, however, Spinoza was not merely a comforter and a spiritual guide but was a political inspiration. Although Bismarck made the first attempt to socialize the German Empire, and regarded the state as being much more than an insurance company, he was, nevertheless, greatly impressed by Spinoza's political doctrine. Spinoza's predilection for the aristocratically governed state, as well as his dictum that the sphere of right is delimited by the sphere of might, appealed greatly to Bismarck. Hence, it is not blind chance that men like Lenin and Bismarck were Spinozists, either in fact or in theory.
  • To the very end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century Spinozism remained an important factor in Western philosophy. Herbert Spencer in England, Wundt and Lotze in Germany, Bergson and Renouvier in France, found many elements in Spinoza's philosophy to which they felt themselves attracted and by which they were greatly influenced. Spinozism as a rigid system dissolved itself into many component parts, and each part became an element in the systems of the modern philosophers.
  • The appearance of Spinoza, however, fundamentally changes the entire religious picture in the West. He emancipated philosophy from theology and taught man to think in metaphysical and universalistic rather than in theological and individualistic terms. He distinguished between the functions of recognition and piety. The aim of philosophy he says is truth, the recognition of things in their connection with one another and with God. The aim of theology is piety obedience to God's laws. Hence, there is but little difference between the Old and the New Testaments, for both, like all theology, have a content apart from recognition. They teach certain doctrines, such as a personal God, His attributes, His relationship to the world, His moral ends, the aim of creation, etc. As practical piety, even the theological content of the Bible is acceptable, but as theoretical philosophy or as objective truth it must be rejected.
  • In view of these facts, the assertion is justified that Spinoza's influence on the cultural process of his own race in modern times was almost as powerful as was his influence upon the general cultural process in the West. Spinoza, Plato, and Aristotle are the most popular philosophers in the Ghetto. Although Spinoza is still considered to be heresy personified, he is looked upon as the very embodiment of philosophical genius. The orthodox Jew, with his medieval outlook upon life, who beholds Spinoza and hates him, is yet proud of him, because he feels that he has accomplished something unusual for the cultural position of his race in the West.
  • Baruch Spinoza, the excommunicated Jew, made the Jewish cultural position in the West not only tenable, but impregnable. But the same Baruch Spinoza was actually responsible for the cultural anti-Semitism of modern Europe. He shaped the strong anti-Jewish attitude of his greatest admirers, followers, and adepts Herder, Goethe, Hegel, and Fichte. They were outspoken Jew-haters. They admired Spinoza, but with their master hated his race and its world-picture.
  • It may be observed, however, that Spinoza was not the first prominent monist and pantheist in modern Europe. A generation before him Bruno conveyed a similar message to humanity. Yet Bruno is merely a beautiful episode in the history of the human mind, while Spinoza is one of its most potent forces. Bruno was a rhapsodist and a poet, who was overwhelmed with artistic emotions; Spinoza, however, was spiritus purus and in his method the prototype of the philosopher.
  • The rediscovery of Spinoza by the Germans contributed to the shaping of the cultural destinies of the German people for almost two hundred years. Just as at the time of the Reformation no other spiritual force was as potent in German life as the Bible, so during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries no other intellectual force so dominated German life as Spinozism. Spinoza became the magnet to German steel. Except for Immanuel Kant and Herbart, Spinoza attracted every great intellectual figure in Germany during the last two centuries, from the greatest, Goethe, to the purest, Lessing.
  • Because of the specific epistemological interests of English philosophy and the dominance of Cartesianism in French thought, Spinoza's philosophical influence was centered in Germany. Of the great German figures Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was the first to come under the spell of Spinoza. He was a man of broad vision, with a hundred cultural interests and a critical disposition of mind, and would not accept any philosophical system in its totality. While he did not accept Spinozism in its entirety, he subscribed to its pantheistic doctrines. But more than he admired Spinoza's philosophy, he was attracted to him by his great earnestness of purpose, his strength of character, and his moral courage.
  • ...He [Lessing] even felt that the highest compliment he could confer on his friend Moses Mendelssohn, whom he greatly admired, was to call him a "second Spinoza." Mendelssohn, one of the fathers of the modern German enlightenment, was an adherent of Leibnitz. As such he could not be a follower of Spinoza, although he, too, admired his personality. Furthermore, he failed to understand Spinoza, for he could never free himself from Bayle's presentation of Spinoza's doctrine. Nevertheless, this very Mendelssohn, by his controversy with Jacobi about Lessing's relationship to Spinoza, was instrumental in making the latter a potent force in German letters. It is interesting to observe that even those thinkers who dedicated their lives to the cause of anti-Spinozism paid the highest tribute to his personality.
  • ...His [Lessing's] pantheism is so outspoken and defended with so much courage and his admiration for Spinoza is so deep that he was more of a Spinozist than many of those of his contemporaries who took pride in calling themselves Spinozists. [...] Lessing and Goethe can be said to be the two most potent forces of Spinozism in the fatherland. Through Lessing's mediation Spinoza became a force of general cultural progress in Germany while through Goethe he became the great literary inspiration.
  • ...The influence of Spinozism attained its height in Germany when it overwhelmed Herder, Goethe, and Schiller, the mental giants of Weimar. Weimar was the cradle of modern German culture. It is to the new Germany what Athens was to ancient Hellas, or Jerusalem to ancient Judea, a sea of light and the center of creative genius. From Weimar emanated all the great cultural traditions of the Fatherland, which secured for Germany her proud position in the realm of European culture. Over this spirit of Weimar hovered the genius of Baruch Spinoza. It was here that Spinozism became a dominating influence in the life of the new German culture. But in this process of expansion it was transformed into something different from the original doctrine of the philosopher. The creative geniuses of Weimar could not possibly become reconciled to the mechanistic world-picture from which personality was banished. To Goethe personality was the highest gift of the Gods to man and enjoyed an even higher place in his affections than did Spinozism. The same can be said of many other poets who later embraced some form of Spinozism.
  • ...The triumphs of heretic Spinozism illustrate this principle. Spinoza's teachings were already known outside of Holland during the final years of his life. So fast did his fame spread that at a time when no Jew could occupy an academic position in Central and Western Europe he was invited to fill the chair of philosophy in the University of Heidelberg, one of the most important seats of learning of the time in Germany. However, his contemporary, Leibnitz, the father of the German enlightenment, who created an optimistic world-picture, always remained only a philosopher for philosophers. Even Immanuel Kant, although always famous, was never popular. In his own fatherland he was all but forgotten for most of the nineteenth century until revived by Hermann Cohen and his school. Spinoza, however, was never exhumed because he was never buried. Kant, because of his exclusive intellectuality, has influenced only his students, while Spinoza, because of his emotional appeal, has ruled even those who have never heard his name.
  • ...The rise, triumph, and victory of Spinozism in Europe are reminiscent of the power of ancient Buddhism because both are religiosity rather than philosophy. Spinozism is religion even when it operates with bizarre formulas. Its starting-point is a dead God, who is reminiscent of Buddha's Brahma. It is man's metaphysical fear and not the idea of a living God which is the driving force in religiosity. True religiosity is not an understanding of how God is correlated to man and to the world but the feeling of man's insignificance in the cosmos, giving birth to a state of meekness, humbleness, compassion, and pity. Only when man is crushed and overwhelmed by the thought of his insignificance in this vast universe does he become truly religious. These feelings are as present in Spinozism as they are in Buddhism.
  • ...Of the Weimarian trio, Herder theologian, poet, historian, critic, philosopher, and metrician was the first to apply Spinozism to historiography and to literary history. He was also the only one to recognize in Spinoza the renovator of a form of ancient theism. Living under the shadow of Goethe and his personality cult, he conceived pantheism under the aspect of personality.
  • ...Kant's famous Categorical Imperative smacked of the Prussian military drill, and it was felt to be too prosaic and sober. Therefore, many of the so-called Kantians, particularly those with deep religious interests, turned from their master to acclaim Spinoza. Solomon Maimon, who destroyed the basis of Kant's metaphysics thereby, paved the way for a critical examination of his ethics. Professor Paulus of Jena University, himself a Kantian, became the first translator and editor of Spinoza's works in German. He thereby became instrumental in furthering the cause of Spinozism in Germany. Many other eminent Kantian theologians of the time, particularly the more learned, became active in spreading Spinoza's gospel. So completely did they come under his spell that they considered it their duty not only to defend Spinoza against accusations of atheism but to represent him as a true theist.
  • ...Kant is Spinoza's only adversary in the realm of occidental culture. Constantin Bruner has aptly stated that everyone must be either a Spinozist or a Kantian. The modern intellectual world, however, is overwhelmingly Spinozistic. Kant created only a school of thought, but Spinoza gave birth to a new culture and religion. Kant was long forgotten in his own fatherland until he was revived by Hermann Cohen. Spinoza has always lived in the centers of modern culture. Although at first he was maligned, calumniated, and even damned, he came to be later blessed and admired. He was always a subject of discussion in religious, philosophical, and scientific circles, because he dangled before man's eye the picture of a world without contradictions or abuses. Kant has accomplished only a special task. He examined and described the mechanism of the human mind rather than the mechanism of the world. He can be compared to Aristotle, as Spinoza can be likened to Plato. Kant is the very embodiment of idealism, while Spinoza is the representative of extreme naturalism.

The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991)[edit]

By Antonio Negri, translated from the Italian by Michael Hardt.
  • This work [The Savage Anomaly] was written in prison. And it was also conceived, for the most part, in prison. Certainly, I have always known Spinoza well. Since I was in school, I have loved the Ethics (and here I would like to fondly remember my teacher of those years). I continued to work on it, never losing touch, but a full study required too much time. Once in prison I started from the beginning: reading and making notes, tormenting my colleagues to send me books. I thank them all with all my heart.
  • Spinoza is the anomaly. The fact that Spinoza, atheist and damned, does not end up behind bars or burned at the stake, like other revolutionary innovators of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, can only mean that his metaphysics effectively represents the pole of an antagonistic relationship of force that is already solidly established: The development of productive forces and relations of production in seventeenth-century Holland already comprehends the tendency toward an antagonistic future. Within this frame, then, Spinoza's materialist metaphysics is the potent anomaly of the century: not a vanquished or marginal anomaly but, rather, an anomaly of victorious materialism, of the ontology of a being that always moves forward and that by constituting itself poses the ideal possibility for revolutionizing the world.
  • Spinoza founds Modern materialism in its highest form, determining the horizons of both Modern and contemporary philosophical speculation within an immanent and given philosophy of being and an atheism defined as the negation of every presupposed ordering of either the constitution of being or human behavior. However, even in its productive and living form, Spinozian metaphysics does not succeed in superseding the limits of a purely "spatial" (or Galilean-physical) conception of the world. It certainly pushes on this conception and tries to destroy its limits, but it does not reach a solution. Rather, it leaves unresolved the problem of the relationship between the spatial dimensions and the temporal, creative, and dynamic dimensions of being. The imagination, that spiritual faculty running throughout the Spinozian system, constitutes being in an order that is only allusively temporal. As such, the problem remains intact, in terms that are unresolved but pure and forceful: Being (before the invention of the dialectic) evades the tangle of dialectical materialism. In fact, the readings of Spinoza by socialist and Soviet authors have not enriched dialectical materialism but have, rather, only diminished the potentialities that Spinozian metaphysics offers for superseding the purely spatial and objectivistic dimension of materialism.
  • Spinoza shows that the history of metaphysics comprehends radical alternatives. Metaphysics, as the highest form of the organization of Modern thought, is not a unitary whole. It comprehends the alternatives that the history of class struggle produces. There exists an "other" history of metaphysics, the blessed history against the damned. And we should not forget that it is still only in the complexity of metaphysics that the Modern age can be read.
  • Spinoza, when confronting political themes (and politics is one of the fundamental axes of his thought), founds a nonmystified form of democracy. In other words, he poses the problem of democracy on the terrain of materialism and therefore as a critique of every juridical mystification of the State. The materialist foundation of democratic constitutionalism in Spinoza is posed within the problematic of production. Spinozian thought squeezes the constitution-production relationship into a unitary nexus; it is not possible to have a correct conception of politics without weaving together these two terms from the very beginning. It is impracticable and despicable to speak of politics outside of this nexus: We know this well. However, Spinoza has too often been thrown into that mixed-up "democratic" soup of normative Hobbesian transcendentalism, Rousseauian general will, and Hegelian Aufhebung — functioning, in effect, to fortify the separation between production and constitution, between society and the State.
  • Spinoza is the clear and luminous side of Modern philosophy. He is the negation of bourgeois mediation and of all the logical, metaphysical, and juridical fictions that organize its expansion. He is the attempt to determine the continuity of the revolutionary project of humanism. With Spinoza, philosophy succeeds for the first time in negating itself as a science of mediation. In Spinoza there is the sense of a great anticipation of the future centuries; there is the intuition of such a radical truth of future philosophy that it not only keeps him from being flattened onto seventeenth-century thought but also, it often seems, denies any confrontation, any comparison. Really, none of his contemporaries understands him or refutes him.
  • How many philosophers and historians of philosophy have gone along with the academies, burning with the desire to be able to sit there! The Dutch thought and art of the siècle d'or reside not only outside of the academies but also, to a large extent, outside of the universities. Spinoza's example serves for all the others. When declining the proposal of the excellent and honorable Sir J. L. Fabritius, who in the name of the Palatine Elector offers him a chair at Heidelberg, Spinoza reminds him that the freedom to philosophize cannot be limited in any way.
  • Spinoza's true politics is his metaphysics. Against the potentialities of this metaphysics, the polemic of bourgeois thought and all the mystificatory attempts that go under the emblem of "Spinozism" discharge their weapons. But Spinoza's metaphysics is articulated in his political discourse, and some of its potentialities are developed specifically in this field. Here we must try to identify them.
  • Some have spoken of a liberal Spinoza, and others, of a democratic Spinoza. By the same standard one could also speak of an artistocratic Spinoza or a monarchical Spinoza — and it has been done. Perhaps also an anarchic Spinoza? No one has ever said that.

See also[edit]


Works about Spinoza

Social and political philosophy
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