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Ethics 1 Ethics 2 Ethics 3 Ethics 4 Ethics 5

Spinoza Topic Studies

Ethics Keys
The Spinoza Universe
Types of Knowledge


Ethics Keys

(Diagrams, except for color, as presented by Frederick Kettner)

Ethics 1


In part one Spinoza gives his doctrine concerning God, or Substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal essentiality, and his idea of the attributes and of the nature of individual things, or modifications of the attributes of God.

Ethics 2


"I now pass on to explaining the results, which must necessarily follow from the essence of God, or of the eternal and infinite being; ... those which are able to lead us, as it were by the hand, to the knowledge of the human mind and its highest blessedness."

Ethics 3


"I shall ... treat of the nature and strength of the emotions according to the same method, as I employed heretofore in my investigations concerning God and the mind. I shall consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids."

Ethics 4


"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: ... Why this is so, and what is good or evil in the emotions, I propose to show in this part of my treatise."

Ethics 5


"At length I pass to the remaining portion of my Ethics, which is concerned with the way leading to freedom. I shall therefore treat therein of the power of the reason, ... and what is the nature of Mental Freedom or Blessedness."




The Spinoza Universe

Type of Thing (abstract) Infinite/Finite Eternity/Duration  
Substance Absolutely Infinite Eternal God (real)
Attribute Infinite Eternal Extension Thought
Immediate Modes Infinite Eternal Motion & Rest Absolutely Infinite Understanding
Mode Finite Duration Bodies Ideas


Method of Improving the Understanding

Components of Method in TEI Related Reference Ethics
Aim - Attain to the supreme human perfection. Happiness - True Good - Character Perfection  
Certain Rules of Life    
Means necessary for attaining our end. To have an exact knowledge of our nature... Best mode of perception: Intuition  
Beginning of Method - True Ideas    
Method Defined. the idea of an idea...    
Summary of Method.    
First Part of Method. a means of distinguishing a true idea from all other perceptions, and enabling the mind to avoid the latter;    
Second Part of Method. rules for perceiving unknown things according to the standard of the true idea    
Order of Thinking.    


Knowledge and Being

Kind of Knowledge Other Terms NonBeing/Being --- A Fanciful (Imagination) Relation to Plato's Cave analogy
First Kind Opinion, Belief, Confused Ideas, Imagination, Hearsay, Experience False,
Fictitious being
Practical knowledge of life,
Words,- Images, and Memory
Shadows on the wall.
Second Kind True Belief, Reason
Beings of Reason
Physical Science,
Honour (Honestas),
Knowledge of the inside of the cave only, including the fire light causing the shadows.
Third Kind Clear and Distinct Knowledge, Intuition Real Beings True Religion Knowledge of the cave itself as a cave and more importantly knowledge of the real world and the Sun light outside the cave.



Term from Essence from Cause Discussion Reference
Necessary the existence of a thing necessarily follows, either from its essence and definition,... ... or from a given efficient cause.   E1P33N1
Impossible its essence or definition involves a contradiction,... ... or because no external cause is granted, which is conditioned to produce such an effect.   E1P33N1
Contingent Particular things I call contingent in so far as, while regarding their essence only, we find nothing therein, which necessarily asserts their existence or excludes it.   a thing can in no respect be called contingent, save in relation to the imperfection of our knowledge. E4D3
Possible   Particular things I call possible in so far as, while regarding the causes whereby they must be produced, we know not, whether such causes be determined for producing them. a thing can in no respect be called possible, save in relation to the imperfection of our knowledge. E4D4


Meaning of Objective/Subjective


    R.H.M. Elwes included a note to the following in his English translation (1883) of "On the Improvement of the Understanding":

========= TEI-P33(33):
...A true idea (for we possess a true idea) is something different from its correlate ('ideatum'); thus a circle is different from the idea of a circle. The idea of a circle, is not something having a circumference and a centre, as a circle has; nor is the idea of a body that body itself. Now, as it is something different from its correlate, it is capable of being understood through itself; in other words, the idea, in so far as its actual essence ('essentia formalis') is concerned, may be the subject of another subjective essence ('essentia objectiva').[Note1]...

    In modern language, "the idea may become the subject of another representation." 'Objectivus' generally corresponds to the modern "subjective," 'formalis' to the modern "objective."--[Tr.]

    More detail on this may be found in the following notes in the commentary by A. Wolf to his English translation (1910) of Spinoza's "Short Treatise On God, Man, and His Well-Being":

16,3 'Formaliter' = actually or objectively (in the modern sense). The identification of 'formalis' and 'actualis' in medieval philosophy was due to the influence of Aristotelianism. According to Aristotle, individual things are compounds of Matter and Form, and Form is the more important of the two. Matter is the as yet imperfect or merely potential, which requires Form to make it actual. Hence during the supremacy of Aristotelian philosophy in the Middle Ages, Matter was identified with Potentiality, and Form with Actuality, so that 'formalis' = 'actualis'. [This does not mean of course that Spinoza subscribed to this Aristotelian concept! -TNeff]

16,9 "Objective" = in thought, or 'subjectively' (in the modern sense). The present use of the terms "subjective" and "objective" is the reverse of former usage. By "subject" ('subjectum' = [a Greek term]) used to be meant the substrate or concrete reality supporting or "underlying" its properties, and hence also the subject of predication, because in predication these properties or qualities are generally predicated of their "subject." By "object" ('objectum' = [a Greek term]), on the other hand, was meant something which consisted in "lying opposite" or before the mind ('quatenus objicitur intellectui'), so that "objective" referred only to the sphere of thought. This usage is already met with in the writings of Duns Scotus (died 1308), and continued, with some modifications, right into the eighteenth century --Berkeley, e.g., still used "real" as an antithesis to "objective." The noun "object" (objectum) acquired its present meaning long before the adjective did. Already Descartes used the term "objects" for "things" ("in objectus, hoc est in rebus." --Principia Phil.). The transition to the present meaning of "subjective" was probably brought about by the application of the term 'subjectum' to the soul as distinguished from (or as the bearer of) its "objective" ideas. (Leibniz, e.g. used the expression: "subjectum ou l'ame meme." Hence "subjective" came to indicate whatever had reference to the soul.

    Also, in the Preface to Samuel Shirley's original published English translation (1992) of the Ethics, TEI, and Selected Letters [not found in his newer "Spinoza: Complete Works" publication (2002)] he includes a similar explanation for 'essentia formalis' and 'essentia objectiva'.

    Notice also that Elwes translates using the modern terms as in...:

"actual essence" and "subjective essence"

...above while Shirley and Curley in the same and similar places use:

"formal essence" and "objective essence"


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