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THE materials which the author had prepared for this 
book were found greatly to exceed the limits assigned 
to it. He has therefore, besides other parts of his plan 
to which special reference need not here be made, been 
compelled to leave out the account of Spinoza's life and 
letters, and to confine the work to an examination of his 
philosophical system. This is the less to be regretted 
that the life has been so fully narrated in the recent 
works of Mr Pollock and Dr Martineau. These works 
contain, also, very able and elaborate expositions of the 
Spinozistic philosophy, but this book attempts to deal 
with that philosophy from a point of view different 
from that of either of these writers. 







IV. GIORDANO BRUNO, . . . . .75 
V. DESCARTES, . . . . . .91 

VI. THE ' ETHICS ' ITS METHOD, .... 113 



IX. MODES, ...... 157 

X. INFINITE MODES, ..... 176 




ING IMPULSE, ..... 231 



CONCLUSION, ...... 303 



A GREAT system of philosophy is exposed to that kind 
of injustice which arises from the multiplicity of its 
interpreters, and from the fact that these interpreters 
are apt to contemplate and criticise it, not from the 
point of view of its author, but from their own. Critics 
and commentators of different schools and shades of 
opinion are naturally desirous to claim for their own 
views the sanction of a great writer's name, and uncon- 
sciously exercise their ingenuity in forcing that sanction 
when it is not spontaneously yielded. If any ambigui- 
ties or inconsistencies lurk in his doctrines, they are sure 
to be brought to light and exaggerated by the tendency 
of conflicting schools to fasten on what is most in ac- 
cordance with their own special principles. And even 
when a writer is on the whole self-consistent, it is pos- 
sible for a one-sided expositor so to arrange the lights 
and shadows, so to give prominence to what is incidental 
and throw into the shade what is essential, as to make 
him the advocate of ideas really antagonistic to his own. 
P. xn. A 

2 Spinoza. 


More, perhaps, than most systems of philosophy, that 
of Spinoza has been subjected to this sort of miscon- 
struction. Doctrines the most diversified and contra- 
dictory have been extracted from it. Pantheism and 
atheism, idealism and empiricism, nominalism and real- 
ism, a non-theistic naturalism as uncompromising as that 
of the modern evolutionist, and a supernaturalism or 
acosmism which makes as little of the world as the 
Maya of the Buddhist have all alike found a col- 
ourable sanction in Spinoza's teaching. A philoso- 
phy apparently as exact and logically coherent as the 
Geometry of Euclid or the Principia of Newton, has 
proved, in the hands of modern interpreters, as enig- 
matical as the utterances of the Jewish Kabbala or the 
mystical theosophy of the N"eo-Platonists. To the vision 
of one observer, it is so pervaded and dominated by the 
idea of the Infinite, that he can describe its author only 
as " a God-intoxicated man." To the acute inspection 
of another, the theistic element in it is only the decor- 
ous guise of a scientific empiricism a judicious but 
unmeaning concession to the theological prejudices of 
the author's time, or an incongruous dress of medieval 
scholasticism of which he had not been able wholly to 
divest himself. 

"Whilst some at least of those heterogeneous notions 
which have been fathered on Spinoza have no other ori- 
gin than the mistakes of his modern critics, there arc, it 
must be acknowledged, others which indicate real incon- 
sistencies. It is true, indeed, that the controversies of 
subsequent times may easily read into the language of 
an early writer decisions on questions of which he knew 
nothing. " Philosophers of an earlier age," it has been 

Apparent Inconsistencies. 3 

said, " often contain, in a kind of implicit unity, different 
aspects or elements of truth, which in a subsequent time 
become distinguished from and opposed to each other." 
They make use, in a general and indeterminate way, of 
terms which later controversies have stamped Avith a 
special significance ; they may thus seem to answer ques- 
tions which they never put to themselves, and may easily 
be got to pronounce seemingly inconsistent opinions on 
problems which they never thought of solving. The 
eager controversialist catches at his pet phrase or mot 
Vnrdre, and hastily concludes that the old writer speaks 
in the distinctive tone of the modern polemic. But 
obviously the inconsistencies which thus arise are incon- 
sistencies only to the ear. It may be possible to get 
Spinoza to side in appearance with the modern evolution- 
ist or with the modern spiritualist, to make him an indi- 
vidualist after the fashion of Mill or Spencer, or a uni- 
versalist who speaks by anticipation with the voice of 
Schelling. But if such attempts are made, they are 
mere philosophical anachronisms. The problems which 
they seem to solve are problems which, when the supposed 
solutions were given, could not even be propounded. 

Yet it is impossible to ascribe the discordancy of 
Spinoza's modern interpreters only to the necessary 
ambiguity of their author's language. His philosophy 
is not a completely homogeneous product. It may 
rather be said to be the composite result of conflicting 
tendencies, neither of which is followed out to its utmost 
logical results. If we say in general terms that philo- 
sophy is the search for unity, the effort of thought to 
gain a point of view from which the contrast variously 
expressed by the terms the One and the Many, the Uni- 

4 Spinoza. 

versa! and the Individual, the Infinite and the Finite, 
God and the World, shall be reconciled and harmonised, 
then \ve shall look in vain, in the philosophy of Spinoza, 
for one consistent solution of the problem. No solution 
can be regarded as satisfactory which suppresses or fails 
to do justice to either of the extremes, or which, though 
giving alternate expression to both, leaves them still in 
merely external combination without being reconciled 
for thought. Yet, at most, the latter result is all that 
the philosophy of Spinoza can be said to achieve. There 
are parts of his system such as the reduction of all 
finite individuals to modes or accidents of the absolute 
substance, and the assertion that all determination is 
negation in which the idea of the infinite is so empha- 
sised as to leave no place for the finite, or to reduce 
nature and man, all individual existences, to unreality 
and illusion. There are parts of his system, on the 
other hand such as his assertion that the individual 
is the real, his ascription to each finite thing of a rmiutn* 
in suo esse perseverandi, his rejection of general ideas as 
mere entia rationis, his polemic against teleology, his use 
of the term "Nature" as a synonym for "God" which 
seem to give to the finite an independent reality that 
leaves no room for the infinite, or reduces it to an expres- 
sion for the aggregate of finite things. Thus the system 
of Spinoza contains elements which resist any attempt to 
classify him either as a pantheist or an atheist, a natur- 
alist or supernaturalist, a nominalist or a realist. As he 
approaches the problem with which he deals from difl'er- 
ent sides, the opposite tendencies by which his mind is 
governed seem to receive alternate expression ; but to 
the last they remain side by side, with no apparent con- 

Underlying Unity. 5 

sciousness of their disharmony, and with no attempt to 
mediate between them. 

But though it may be conceded that the philosophy 
of Spinoza is not self- consistent, or contains elements 
which, if not irreconcilable, are unreconciled, it does not 
follow that the task of the expositor of Spinoza is limited 
to what is involved in this concession. Inconsistency 
may arise not so much from incompatible principles as 
from defective logic. Contradictory elements may have 
been admitted into a system, not because its author 
looked at things from different and irreconcilable stand- 
points, but because he failed to see all that his funda- 
mental standpoint involved ; not because he started from 
different premisses, but because he did not carry out 
what was for him the only true premiss to its legitimate 
results. As moral defects assume an altogether different 
aspect according as they are regarded as the expression 
of a retrograding or of an advancing moral nature as 
willing divergences or as involuntary shortcomings from 
its own ideal so intellectual inconsistencies may mean 
more or less according to the attitude of the mind from 
which they proceed. It may be possible to discover, 
through all a man's thoughts, a dominant idea or general 
tendency, and to explain his inconsistencies as only un- 
conscious aberrations from it. It may even be possible 
to discern, underneath apparent contradictions or abrupt 
transitions from one point of view to another, an implicit 
unity of aim the guidance of thought by an unconscious 
logic towards a principle of reconciliation not yet fully 
grasped. And if any such dominant idea or implicit 
aim can be detected in a great writer, it cannot fail to 
throw light on the general character and bearing of his 

6 Spinoza. 

speculations, and it may enable us to pronounce whether 
and to what extent in his seeming inconsistencies he is 
only unfaithful to himself, or inadequately representing 
his own idea. 

Now there are various conceivable indications by 
which we may be aided in detecting this undercurrent 
of tendency in the mind of a philosophical writer. We 
may be able, for instance, to learn something of the 
motive of his speculations to discover in his previous 
spiritual history what it was that constituted for him, so 
to speak, the original impulse towards philosophy, and 
that secretly guided the process by which intellectual 
satisfaction has been sought. Or again, we may know 
something of the helps which have been afforded him in 
the search for truth, of the studies on which his open- 
ing intelligence has been fed, of the sources from which 
he has derived inspiration, of the books or authorities 
which consciously or unconsciously have moulded the 
substance or form of his thoughts. Or finally, we may 
have the means of viewing his system in the making, of 
watching the working of his mind and the development 
of his ideas from their earlier and crader shape to the 
form which they have finally taken. We may be able 
thus to see which, if any, of the conflicting elements in 
his thought has gradually tended to prevail over the 
others, and to which of them therefore, though the 
victory to the last may be incomplete, the place of the 
ruling or characteristic principle must be ascribed. We 
may find it possible in this way to pronounce of the 
blots which disfigure his system in its final form, that 
they are not radical inconsistencies, but only irrelevances 
or excrescences foreign to its essential character. 

Interpretation of his System. 7 

we are not without sucli helps to the understand- 
ing of the Spinozistic philosophy. In the first place, we 
possess in the preface to the treatise ' Concerning the 
Improvement of the Understanding ' an axitobiographical 
fragment in which Spinoza narrates what may be termed 
the origin and development of his spiritual life, and from 
which we gain a clear insight into the motive and genesis 
of his philosophical system. In the second place, we 
have information, direct and indirect, as to Spinoza's 
early studies in philosophy. From his own testimony, 
from the internal evidence supplied by his writings, and 
from other sources, we know something as to the authors 
he had read, the intellectual atmosphere in which he 
grew up, the authorities which may have influenced the 
formation of his opinions. Lastly, we have in Spinoza's 
earlier works the means of tracing the gradual develop- 
ment of those ideas which took their final systematised 
form in the ' Ethics.' Especially in the ' Treatise con- 
cerning God and ^lan,' which has been brought to light 
only in our own time, we possess what may be regarded 
as an early study for the ' Ethics,' embracing the same 
subjects and dealing with the same fundamental ideas, 
but presenting them in a cruder and less coherent form, 
and exhibiting the conflicting tendencies of the later 
work in harder and more unmodified opposition to each 
other. From these various sources some help may be 
derived towards the right apprehension of Spinoza's 
philosophy and the explanation of its apparent ambi- 
guities and inconsistencies. 




THE impulse towards philosophy Avas not in Spinoza's 
mind a purely intellectual one. His philosophy is the 
logical sequel to that of Descartes, but the Cartesian 
philosophy only supplied or suggested a dialectic for con- 
victions that were the independent growth of his own 
moral and spiritual experience. He was prompted to 
seek after a method of knowledge because primarily he 
sought after spiritual rest. It Avas the consciousness 
that the dissatisfaction and disquietude which the ordi- 
nary desires and passions engender had their ultimate 
source in a false view of the world in other words, that 
the contemplation of the Avorld from the point of vieAv 
of the senses and the imagination bred only perturbation 
and unrest which led him to ask himself Avhether that 
point of A r ieAv is not an illusory one, and Avhether it is 
possible to penetrate beneath the shoAvs of things to tlu-ir 
hidden essence. Xor is this account of the origin of 
Spinoza's philosophy a mere conjecture. The introduc- 
tion to the unfinished treatise above named is, as AVC 

Motive of Ms Philosophy. 9 

have said, a kind of spiritual autobiography, in which the 
author explains to us what were the moral difficulties 
and aspirations in which his speculative inquiries origin- 
ated. He tells us what is the view of the true end and 
goal of human existence to which his own experience had 
led him, and he points out the means by which he con- 
ceived that that end could be attained. His philosophy 
took its rise, he tells us, not primarily in the search for 
intellectual satisfaction, but in the endeavour to discover 
some true and abiding object of love, something in find- 
ing which he would find a perfect and eternal joy a joy 
which could not be found in the ordinary objects of 
human desire in riches, honour, the pleasures of appe- 
tite and sense. All these objects experience proved to 
be deceptive and inconstant, difficult and uncertain of 
attainment, and when attained bringing only disappoint- 
ment and disquietude. 

" Our happiness," he says, " depends entirely on the qual- 
ity of the objects to which we are attached by love. For, on 
account of that which is not loved, no strifes will ever arise, 
no sorrow if it perishes, no envy if others possess it, no fear, 
no hatred, no perturbation of mind all of which come upon 
us in the love of things which are perishable, as are all those 
things of which we have spoken. But love to a thing which 
is eternal and infinite feeds the mind only with joy a joy 
that is unmingled with any sorrow ; that therefore we 
should eagerly desire and with all our strength seek to 
obtain." l 

The end of all human endeavour, therefore that in 
which consists the perfection and blessedness of our 
nature is union by love with an infinite and eternal 

1 De Int. Emend. , L 

10 Spinoza. 

object. But love, according to Spinoza, rests on know- 
ledge ; or rather there is a point of view in which, for 
him, feeling and intelligence, knowing and being, are 
identified. The sure and only Avay to attain the end AVO 
seek is to knoxv things as they really are, to disabuse our 
minds of error and illusion ; and for this purpose what 
is chiefly needed is a discipline of the intelligence, " a 
method," as he expresses it, " of curing the understand- 
ing and of so purifying it that it may knoAV things as 
Avell as possible and withoiit error." But all knoAvledge, 
he repeats, has a value for him only as it is directed to 
one end and goal viz., the attainment of that highest 
human perfection of Avhich he had spoken and every- 
thing in the sciences which does not bring us nearer to 
that end he Avill reject as useless. The task, therefore, 
Avhich in this treatise he proposes to himself is the de- 
A'ising, not of a method of knoAvledge or organon of the 
sciences in general, but of a means of attaining that kind 
of knoAvledge, or of apprehending all things in that aspect 
of them, Avhich will lead to the attainment of moral and 
spiritual perfection. 

It is unnecessary, for our present purpose, to follow 
out in detail the successive steps by which Spinoza Avorks 
out his conception of the true method of knowledge. 
The general drift of the treatise may be said to be this, 
to set before us an ideal of true knoAvledge, and to 
point out the Avay in Avhich that ideal is to be realised. 
In contrast Avith the kind of knoAvledge Avhich con- 
stitutes the content of our ordinary unreflecting ex- 
perience, that knoAvledge Avhich can be said to be real 
and adequate must be intuitive or self-eA'idencing ; it 
must apprehend its objects in their unity or their rela- 

Notes of Tme, Knoidcdge. 11 

tion to each other as parts of one absolute whole ; and it 
must see them in their right order, or in their relation to 
the first principle of knowledge, so that the order of our 
thoughts shall " correspond to the exemplar of nature," 
or represent the real order of things. The knowledge of 
the ordinary, unreflecting consciousness is, in the first 
place, merely second-hand and unintelligent, it is derived 
from hearsay, or from loose and unsifted experience. 
True knowledge, in contrast with this, must be that in 
which the mind is in immediate relation to its object, in 
which truth is seen in its own light, or, as Spinoza ex- 
presses it, " in which a thing is perceived solely from 
its own essence, or from the knowledge of its proximate 
cause." Ordinary knowledge, again, is disconnected and 
fragmentary, it looks at things apart from each other, or 
in the accidental order in which they are presented to 
the -common observer of nature, or connected with each 
other only by arbitrary associations. In contrast with 
this, true knowledge is that which breaks down the false 
isolation and independence which popiilar imagination 
gives to individual objects; it regards the universe as 
a whole, in which no object exists for itself, or can be 
understood save in its relations to other objects and to 
the whole. It discerns, or seeks to discern, the real re- 
lations of things, or what is the same, the rational rela- 
tions of the ideas of things ; and therefore it is fatal to 
all such connections or combinations of ideas as rest on 
accident or arbitrary association. For the same reason, 
lastly, true knowledge is that which not only sees its 
objects as related to each other, but sees them in that 
definite relation of ordered sequence which is determined 
ultimately by the first principle out of which they 

12 Spinoza. 

spring. There are certain ideas on which other ideas 
rest. Spinoza rejects the "universals" of scholastic 
nietaphysic as mere entia rationis or fictions of the 
imagination. Yet we are not left to the impossible task 
of attempting to collect or string together in thought 
the infinite multiplicity of finite and changeable things. 
There are certain ideas which come to us in the place of 
universals, and which gather up o\ir knowledge into that 
unity which by means of the fictitious universals was 
sought after. " There are," he tells us in language the 
precise significance of which we cannot at present ex- 
amine, certain " fixed and eternal things, which, though 
they are individual, yet on account of their omnipresence 
and all-comprehending power become to us as universals, 
or as genera in the definitions of individual changeable 
things, and as the proximate causes of all things." l 
Finally, there is one highest idea, that of " the most 
perfect Being," which is the source and explanation of 
all other ideas, as it represents the source and origin of 
all things. That knowledge therefore alone can be 
termed adequate which proceeds from and is moulded by 
this supreme or central idea. " That our mind," says he, 
" may thoroughly reflect the exemplar of nature, it must 
evolve all ideas from that which represents the origin 
and source of all nature, so- that that idea may appear to 
be the source of all other ideas." 2 

Such, then, is Spinoza's theory of knowledge : how is 
it to be reduced to practice 1 What, in other words, is 
the true method of knowledge ] AYhat Spinoza says in 
answer to this question in the present treatise amounts 
to little more than this, that we should endeavour to 
1 De Int. Emend., xiv. - Ibid., vii. 

Method of Knowledge. 1 3 

become possessed of what he calls " true ideas," and that 
we should by means of the highest of all ideas seek to 
reduce them to unity, or endeavour " so to order and 
concatenate our ideas that our mind shall represent 
objectively (i.e., in thought) the formality (i.e., objec- 
tive reality) of nature, both as to the whole and as to its 
parts." l 

Spinoza does not atttempt here to investigate the rela- 
tion of mind to nature, of thought to its object. He as- 
sumes that a true idea is something different from its 
object, the idea of a circle from an actual circle, the idea,, 
of the body from the body itself : but he takes for granted 
that the former agrees with or adequately represents the 
latter. To verify a true idea we need not go beyond itself. 
" Certitude is nothing but the objective essence (the 
idea) itself ; the way in which we perceive the formal 
essence is itself certitude." 2 "NVe may, indeed, have a 
reflex knowledge of our ideas make one idea the object 
of a second idea, or, in modern phraseology, be not only 
conscious but self-conscious. Yet, in order to the attain- 
ment of knowledge, it is no more necessary to know that 
we know, than, in order to know the essence of a triangle, 
it is necessary to know the essence of a circle. But 
though it is possible to have true ideas without reflecting 
on them, and even to reason correctly without a know- 
ledge of logic or the principles of reasoning ideas, both 
in themselves and in their relations, being their own 
evidence yet this does not hinder that, for lack of 
reflection and by reason of various prejudices, people 
often mistake error for truth and go Avrong in their 
reasoning, so that " it seldom happens that in the inves- 
1 De Int. Emeud., xii. 2 Ibid., vi 

14 Spinoza. 

tigation of nature they proceed in proper order." Hence 
arises the need for method, " which is nothing but re- 
flected knowledge or the idea of the idea." 1 

What this means is that we do not need to go outside 
of thought in search of a criterion of truth, inasmuch 
as this would virtually be the demand to excogitate a 
method of thought before we begin to think, to learn 
to swim before we go into the water. We cannot criti- 
cise the forms of thought without using them. Ideas 
must, so to speak, criticise themselves. In reflecting 
on them, making them objects of consciousness, they 
determine their own nature and limits, and so become 
capable of being used as the instruments of further 

" True ideas," Spinoza says, constitute themselves " the 
inborn instruments of knowledge " which the understand- 
ing makes for itself by its own native force. Having 
grasped a true idea, we have only to direct the mind's oper- 
ations so as to make the given true idea " a norm accord- 
ing to which we shall understand all tilings." Method, 
in short, consists in bringing ideas to self-consciousness, 
and then in using them as the principles of investigation. 
Having a true idea such as, c.ij., that of Causality you 
become conscious of it, understand and define it ; and 
thenceforward it is no longer used at random, unintel- 
ligently, but becomes a principle of method or a guide in 
future inquiries. Knowledge thus acquired will possess, 
so far, the characteristics which have been laid down as 
constituting the ideal of knowledge ; it will rest on ideas 
or principles which are their own evidence, and it will, 
instead of a mere collection or combination of things 
1 De lut. Eniend., vii. 

Unity of Knmvledge. 15 

arbitrarily associated, consist of parts related to each other 
by links of reason or necessary thought. 

But there is a further and more important element 
which method must include ere it can be adequate to 
the whole field of knowledge. Knowledge must remain 
imperfect until we can contemplate all things from the 
point of view of their absolute unity. True ideas may 
serve as provisional instruments of thought ; but their 
main use is that we may, like a workman who uses 
ruder implements to construct more perfect ones, fashion 
by means of them " other intellectual instruments, by 
which the mind acquires a farther power of investi- 
gation, and so proceeds till it gradually attains the 
summit of wisdom." x Each true idea, Spinoza seems 
to teach, furnishes us with a term of thought which 
serves so far to correct the false independence which 
imagination gives to individual objects ; but that idea 
itself needs to have its individuality dissolved in a higher 
conception. As all things in nature "have commerce 
with each other, i.e., are produced by and produce 
others " are, in other words, reciprocally causes and 
effects so each idea or term of thought is only a focus 
of relations, a transition point in a systematic whole ; 
and ideas rise in importance according as they extend 
over a wider portion of the realm of knowledge. But 
if this be so, that knowledge must still be imperfect 
which stops short of the highest and most comprehen- 
sive idea in this intellectual hierarchy. Xot only must 
individual objects yield up their false independence, 
but ideas themselves must surrender in succession their 
isolated authority, until we reach that which is " the 
1 De Int. Emend., vi. 


fountain and source of all other ideas" the idea, as 
Spinoza terms it, of "the most perfect Being." 

" That method will be good which shows how the niind is 
to be directed according to the norm of a given true idea. 
Moreover, since the relation between two ideas is the same 
with the relation between the formal essences (objects) of 
these ideas, it follows that that reflective knowledge, which 
is that of the idea of the most perfect Being, will be more 
excellent than the reflective knowledge of other ideas ; that 
is, that method will be the most perfect which shows how 
the mind is to be directed according to the norm of the given 
idea of the most perfect Being." x 

" If we proceed as little as possible abstractly, and begin 
as soon as possible with the first elements i.e., with the 
source and origin of nature we need not fear deception. . . . 
No confusion is to be apprehended in regard to the idea of 
it (the origin of nature), if only we have the norm of truth, 
as already shown. For this is a Being single, infinite i.e., 
all being, and beyond which there is no being." 2 

" As regards order," again Spinoza writes, " and that we 
may arrange and unite all our perceptions, it is required 
that, as soon as it can be done and reason demands, we in- 
quire whether there is any being, and, at the same time, of 
what sort, which is the cause of all things, as its objective 
essence is also the cause of all our ideas ; and then will our 
mind, as we have said, reproduce nature as completely as 
possible ; for it will contain objectively both its essence and 
its order and unity." 3 

"\Vhat then, the question arises, are we to understand 
by this " most perfect Being," " Being, single, infinite, 
all-embracing," the idea of which constitutes, according 
to Spinoza, the first principle of knowledge ? Is it 
something above nature, outside of the cosmos of finite 

1 De Int. Eiueud., vii. 2 Ibid., ix. 3 Ibid., xiv. 

" The Most Perfect Seiny" 17 

things and relations, though itself the source or cause 
of all things 1 Or is it, though the highest, only one of 
the elements which constitute nature, the first principle 
of the system of related phenomena, but itself essential- 
ly part of that system ? Or again, is it only a synonym 
for Mature, the totality of individual things and beings, 
and is this identification of nature with " the most per- 
fect Being " merely a concession to theological prejudices, 
whilst really nothing more is meant than that the uni- 
verse is to be conceived of as an ordered system of things 1 
According to one of the ablest of Spinoza's recent ex- 
positors, " the idea of the most perfect Being includes, 
if it is not equivalent to, the belief that the whole of 
nature is one and uniform," which belief is "the very 
first principle of science." "In knowing the 'most 
perfect Being,' " he adds, " the mind also knows itself 
as part of the universal order and at one with it, therein 
finding, as we have to learn elsewhere, the secret of 
man's happiness and freedom. What more Spinoza 
may have meant is doubtful, that he meant this much 
is certain." 1 Spinoza, he further explains, whilst "at- 
tached by an intellectual passion to the pursuit of exact 
science," was also " attached by race and tradition to 
the Hebrew sentiment of a one and only Supreme 
Power ; " and in this he seems to find the explanation 
of the fact that Spinoza clothed the purely scientific 
idea of the unity and uniformity of nature in the theo- 
logical guise of " the most perfect Being." Spinoza, he 
tells us, " follows in form and even in language the 
examples made familiar by theologians and philoso- 
phers under theological influence and pressure, who had 

i Pollock's Spinoza, p. 136. 
P. XII, B 

18 Spinoza. 

undertaken to prove the existence of a being apart from 
and above the universe. He does not simply break off 
from theological speculation, and seek to establish philo- 
sophy on an independent footing ; he seems intent on 
showing that theological speculation itself, when reason 
is once allowed free play, must at last purge itself of all 
anthropomorpliism and come round to the scientific 
view. Spinoza does not ignore theology, but provides 
an euthanasia for it." l Many of Spinoza's other mod- 
ern interpreters have convinced themselves on various 
grounds that Spinoza's system is one of pure naturalism, 
that his highest principle does not go beyond the con- 
ception of an all-embracing, all-dominating, but uncon- 
scious nature-force, and that we should not misconstrue 
him if we substituted the word " Xature " for " God," 
wherever the latter occurs in his philosophy. 

It cannot, we think, be questioned that the view 
taken by these writers is so far true that in Spinoza's 
system " theological speculation has," in Mr Pollock's 
graphic phrase, "purged itself of anthropomorphism." 
Spinoza's God is certainly not the supramundane poten- 
tate or "magnified man" of popular thought, or even 
the " all-wise Creator and Governor " of natural the- 
ology. Whatever else the idea of " the most perfect 
Being " means, it is an idea which is supposed to consti- 
tute a principle, and the highest principle, of knowledge 
at once its own evidence and the evidence or explana- 
tion of the whole finite world. But an outside Creator 
or Contriver is a notion which explains nothing. Xot 
only does it reduce the God who is placed outside the 
world to something finite, but it is essentially dualistic. 
1 Pollock's Spinoza, p. 166. 

No Anthropomorphic God. 19 

The link between God and the world, according to this 
notion, is a purely arbitrary one. To find in God the 
explanation of the world implies that the existence of 
the world and all that is in it is traceable to something 
in the nature of God, and not to His mere arbitrary will 
or poAver. A cause which thought can recognise as such 
is one which contains in it the reason and necessity of 
the effect, and which reveals itself in the effect. But a 
personified cause, which of its mere will produces an 
effect it might have refrained from producing, is an 
impossible conception. In such a conception cause and 
effect stand apart, and the gap is not filled up for 
thought by the interposition of an arbitrary, omnipotent 
will. To find in God the first principle of all being and 
of all knowledge implies a relation between the prin- 
ciple and that which flows from it between God and 
the world such that, in one point of view, God would 
not be God without it; and on the other hand, the 
world would not be what it is, would be reduced to 
unreality or nonentity, without God. Now this, as we 
have seen, is what Spinoza doe>, or attempts to do. 
The " most perfect Being," whatever else the phrase 
means, is a Being the idea of which is the first prin- 
ciple of knowledge, the key to the meaning of the 
whole system of being. Without this central principle, 
finite things and beings have no existence other than 
the illusory existence and individuality which imagina- 
tion ascribes to them are mere fictions and unrealities. 
And on the other hand, to anticipate Spinoza's favourite 
illustration, from this fundamental principle all things 
folloAV as necessarily as from the conception of a triangle 
follow the equality of its angles to two right angles, and 

20 Spinoza. 

all its other properties. If, therefore, Spinoza's system 
can only be redeemed from naturalism by the idea of 
an anthropomorphic God the deus ex machina of 
popular theology a pure naturalistic system it is. 

The exclusion of the notion of an anthropomorphic God 
does not, however, of necessity reduce a system of phil- 
osophy to pure naturalism. A principle which explains 
nature is not therefore, to say the least, a part of nature. 
It is possible to derive from such a principle all that 
renders the facts of nature intelligible without regarding 
it as itself one of these facts. The definition of nature 
may indeed be so widened as to include in it the idea 
or principle which constitutes the world an ordered or 
rational system; but in another and truer sense that 
principle may, and properly must, be contemplated as 
something prior to and above nature. The treatise be- 
fore us is, as above said, an unfinished work, and it does 
not contain except inferentially any explanation of what 
its author meant by the idea of the "most perfect 
Being." But if we take into view the general drift and 
intention of the work if, in other words, we consider 
the motive from which it starts, and the general bearing 
of its theory of knowledge, we shall be led, I think, to 
see in Spinoza's "most perfect Being" something very 
different, at once from crude supernaturalism, and from 
the pure naturalism with which it has been sought to 
identify it. 

1. The knowledge of the " most perfect Being " as the 
constitutive principle of the world is the formal expres- 
sion of the result to which Spinoza was led by his 
search for that spiritual satisfaction and rest Avhich he 
could not find in " the things that are changeable and 

God and Nature. 21 

perishable." His examination of the principles of know- 
ledge had given theoretical justification to his dissatis- 
faction with the ordinary objects of human desire, by 
proving that these objects have no reality save the ficti- 
tious and illusory reality which imagination lends to 
them. And the presumption with which he started, 
and which indeed constituted the implicit ground of his 
discontent with these objects viz., that there must 
exist " something eternal and infinite, love to which 
would fill the mind with joy and with joy alone," now 
finds verification in the rational idea of a "most perfect 
Being," " a Being single, infinite, and beyond which 
there is no being." Now, however intense may have 
been Spinoza's " intellectual devotion to the pursuit of 
exact science," the process just described is, we think, 
one Avhich that formula does not cover. If it did, then 
the attitude of mind to which, under whatever modifi- 
cations, the designation " religion " has been given, must 
be something essentially indistinguishable from "the 
passion for exact science." For, however foreign to 
Spinoza's nature much that passes under the name of 
religion must be pronounced to be, his account of the 
mental experience that constituted the impulse to spec- 
ulative inquiry is that of a process in which the very 
essence of religion may be said to lie. If we pass be- 
yond the " fetichism " of barbarous races, the mere in- 
discriminating ascription of mysterious powers to ma- 
terial objects (which is as irrelevant to the religious 
history of the world as the other phenomena of savage 
life are to the history of morality and civilisation), the 
religious life of man may be said to have its root in 
what, for want of a better description, may be called 

22 Spinoza. 

Pantheism. The dawn of religious feeling may be 
traced to the impression which experience forces upon 
us of the unsubstantial character of the world on which 
we look and of which we form a part. In different 
ways this sense of the illusoriness of the world may 
come to different men and different races, according to 
their less or greater depth of nature. The apparent 
shifting of the outward scene, the lapse of time, the 
impossibility of staying the passing moment to question 
what it means, the uncertainty of life and the insecurity 
of its possessions, may be to one what to another is its 
inner counterpart, the changing of our opinions, feelings, 
desires, which, even if the world remained steadfast, 
would perpetually make and unmake it for us. Or 
again, the sense of the illusoriness of life deepens into 
weariness and disgust or into a sense of shame and re- 
morse, in the man who reflects on himself and feels 
himself the sport of it, who has detected the vanity of 
his desires and hopes, yet is powerless to emancipate 
himself from their dominion. Now it is this sense of 
the unreality of the world regarded from the point of 
view of ordinary experience which not merely gives rise 
to the longing for some fixed and permanent reality, 
"some Life continuous, Being unexposed to the blind 
walk of mortal accident," but is in itself, in a sense, 
already the implicit recognition of the existence of such 
a Being. Arguments from "design," which conclude 
from the existence of finite things to a God conceived 
of after the analogy of a maker of machines, are not a 
true expression of the natural history of religion. Such 
arguments are only the afterthought of an imperfect 
philosophy. It is not the reality, but the unreality, of 

The Process of Religion. 23 

the finite world that gives rise to the consciousness of 
God. It is not from the affirmation, but from the 
negation, of the finite that the human spirit rises to the 
conception of the infinite. And when we reflect on 
what this process, this elevation of spirit means, we 
discern that what is second in time is really, though 
implicitly, first in thought. The very consciousness of 
a limit is the proof that we are already beyond it God 
is not the conclusion of a syllogism from the finite 
world, but the prius or presupposition which reveals its 
presence in the very sense of our finitude and that of 
the world to which we belong. The impression that 
comes to us first in time is that the world is nothing ; 
but that impression would have no existence or mean- 
ing if the thought really though latently first were not 
this God is all. It is not, of course, meant that the 
process we have described is one which all who experi- 
ence it experience in the same manner. Like all nor- 
mal elements of human experience it varies, as we have 
said, with the varying character and the wider or nar- 
rower culture of individuals and races. In the deeper 
and more reflective natures it manifests itself chiefly in 
the consciousness of an inner life other and larger than 
the life of sense, of a self that transcends the natural 
desires. With widening experience of life this con- 
sciousness deepens, since wider experience only furnishes 
new materials for the contrast between the multiplicity 
of impressions and the self that is identified with none 
of them. Advancing intellectual and moral culture 
brings with it the profounder consciousness of an in- 
finite possibility within us, of being greater than our 
sensations and desires, of capacities to which the out- 

24 Spinoza. 

ward life is not adequate. This consciousness, rightly 
interpreted, is a negative which involves a positive. It 
is the revelation in us of a something that is not of us, 
of a perfect, by comparison with which the imperfection 
of ourselves and the whole complex of finite existences 
is disclosed. Reflecting on the meaning of the discord 
between itself and its desires, the consciousness of a 
thirst that is unquenchable by the world becomes to 
such a nature the presumptive proof of " an infinite and 
eternal object, love to which would fill the mind with 
unmingled and abiding joy." 

Now if there be any truth in the foregoing analysis of 
the movement of mind of which we speak, it is obviously 
one which cannot be identified with the processes of 
physical science, and the result of which could never be 
generated by empirical observation of the facts and 
phenomena of the world. It may be if there be no 
other dialectic than the logic of the sciences, it un- 
doubtedly is a movement which reason does not justify, 
inasmuch as it puts more into the conclusion than is 
contained in the premisses, or rather, as we have seen, in- 
asmuch as its conclusion is the negative of the premiss 
with which it seems to start. If it evaporates anything 
as "a dogmatic dream," it is not God but nature. The 
object to which it concludes is not one which is con- 
tained in, or can by any process of generalisation be ex- 
tracted from the facts of nature, or identified with its 
"laws of coexistence and succession." If scientific ex- 
perience be experience of change and laws of change, by 
no straining can this be identified with an experience 
which is that of an object beyond all change or possibility 
of change. At any rate, logical or illogical, scientific or 

Relation to the Infinite. 25 

unscientific, the attitude of mind which Spinoza records 
as that which constituted for him the impulse to specu- 
lative inquiry is identical, or in close analogy, with that 
which in the history of mankind has been the origin and 
secret nerve of what we mean by the word "religion." 

2. But the negation of the finite is not the last step 
in the process of which I have spoken. Neither religion, 
nor philosophy which seeks to develop the logic of re- 
ligion, can rest content with an idea of God from, which 
no explanation of the finite world can be derived. Even 
if the independent existence of finite things be an illu- 
sion, the idea of God must contain in it a reason if only 
for their illusory existence. The shadow, though it be 
but a shadow, must have its reason in the substance it 
reflects. To say that the infinite is the negation of the 
finite, implies that there is in the infinite at least a 
negative relation to the finite. But it implies something 
more than this. The recognition of the inadequacy of 
finite objects is not only the expression of the implicit 
consciousness of an infinite object, but also of my relation 
to that object. It is through something in me that I 
am capable of pronouncing the verdict of reality and un- 
reality. If therefore, on the one hand, I belong to the 
finite world which, as an independent reality, is negated, 
on the other hand, there is a side of my nature in which 
I belong or am inwardly related to that infinite and 
eternal reality which negates or annuls it. If I deny my 
own reality as part of the finite world, I in one and the 
same act reassert it as essentially related to God. It is 
this which explains what may be termed the positive side 
of that mental experience which formed the starting- 
point of Spinoza's investigations. The inadequacy or 

26 Spinoza. 

unreality of the finite was to him an implicit revelation, 
not only of an infinite and eternal object, but also of 
himself as in essential relation to it. And what he was 
thus implicitly conscious of he seeks to make explicit. 

It is, we think, from this point of view that we must 
interpret Spinoza's attempt partially fulfilled only in 
the fragmentary treatise before us, burdened with con- 
flicting elements even in the later work in which it 
finds systematic embodiment to reaffirm and explain 
the reality of the finite world in and through the idea of 
the infinite. But though in the present work the thought 
which forms the fundamental principle of his system is 
left undeveloped, it is possible, from the general drift and 
bearing of the treatise, to divine in some measure the 
meaning he attached to that principle, and the direction 
in Avhich its development must lie. And, considered in 
this light, it is impossible, I venture to say, to find in 
Spinoza's philosophy only that pure naturalism with 
which it has been identified, or to regard the meaning 
of his " idea of the most perfect Being," as exhausted 
by any such formula as "the unity and uniformity of 

It is no doubt possible, as already said, so to define 
"Xature" as that it shall include both finite and in- 
finite, the multiplicity of individual things, and the 
principle which gives them unity. If we mean by the 
universe all reality, then to say that there is nothing 
outside of it, that nature or the universe is all, is only 
an identical proposition. 

Moreover, as we have seen, nothing can be more un- 
questionable than that Spinoza's God was no transcen- 
dent dam ex machina, existing apart from the world, or 

" Uhiversals." 27 

connected with it only by the unintelligible bond of an 
arbitrary creative act. Again, it may be conceded that 
we do not as a matter of fact begin by forming a con- 
ception of God as the principle of all things, and then, 
by a separate mental act or process of thought, bring this 
conception to bear 011 the world of finite, individual 
existences. Observation and experience are, it may be 
granted, the only instruments of knowledge in this sense, 
that the principle which gives unity to knowledge is 
grasped, not apart from, but as inseparably implicated 
with, the facts and phenomena observed or experienced. 
But the real and only important question is, whether it 
is Spinoza's doctrine that the individual, the things of out- 
ward observation, or the world as a collection or sum of 
finite existences, are the sole constituents of knowledge 
whether there is not involved in real knowledge or 
knowledge of realities, a principle of unity distinguish- 
able from the manifold of phenomena, a universal dis- 
tinguishable from the sum of particulars, an infinite and 
eternal distinguishable from the finite and changeable, 
not given by it, logically prior to it. If this question 
be answered in the affirmative, it matters not whether 
you give the name God or Xature to the universe ; in 
neither case is Spinoza's system a pure naturalism. 

Now it might seem, at first sight, to preclude any such 
answer that, for Spinoza, individual things are, in one 
sense, the only realities, and that he regards general 
ideas or " universals " as one of the chief sources of error 
and confusion. 

" When anything," says he, 1 " is conceived abstractly, as 

1 De Int. Emend., ix. 

28 Spinoza. 

are all universals, it is always apprehended in the. understand- 
ing in a wider sense than its particulars can really exist in 
nature. Further, since in nature there are many things the 
difference of which is so slight as almost to escape the under- 
standing, it may easily happen, if we think abstractly, that 
we should confuse them." And again : " We ought never, 
when we are inquiring into the nature of things, to draw any 
conclusions from abstract notions, and we should carefully 
guard against confounding things which are only in the under- 
standing with those which actually exist." 1 

Whilst, however, here as elsewhere, Spinoza wages a 
constant polemic against the " universals " or abstract 
notions of scholastic metaphysics, and treats as nugatory 
any conclusions that rest on such premisses, this by 
no means implies that he excludes from knowledge 
every universal element every element other than that 
which is generated by observation of particular facts. 
The very context from which the foregoing passages 
have been taken renders any such inference impossible. 
His denunciation of the abstractions of scholasticism is 
introduced expressly to contrast these false, with Avhat 
he deemed true, universals. Deception arises, he tells 
us, in a passage already quoted, from conceiving things 
too abstractly. 

" But," he adds, " such deception need never be dreaded by 
us if we proceed as little as possible abstractly, and begin as 
soon as possible with the first elements, that is, with the 
source and origin of nature. And as regards the knowledge 
of the origin of nature, we need have no fear of confounding 
it with abstractions. . . . For, since the origin of nature, as 
we shall see in the sequel, can neither be conceived abstractly, 

1 De Int. Emend., xii. 

True and False Universals. 29 

nor can be extended more widely in the understanding than 
it actually is, nor has any resemblance to things that are 
changeable, there is no need to fear any confusion in regard 
to the idea of it, if only we possess the norm of truth, and 
this is a being single, infinite, i.e., it is all being and beyond 
which there is no being." 1 And again he says : "It is to 
be remarked that by the series of causes and of real en- 
tities, I do not understand the series of individual change- 
able things, but only the series of fixed and eternal things. 
For the series of individual changeable things it would be 
impossible for human weakness to attain to . . . because of the 
infinite circumstances in one and the same thing of which 
each may be the cause of the existence or non-existence of 
the thing ; since the existence of things has no connection 
with their essence, or, as I have just said, is not an eternal 
truth. It is, however, not at all necessary to know their 
series, since the essences of changeable individual things are 
not derivable from their series or order of existing, for this 
gives us nothing but external denominations, relations, or, at 
most, circumstances which are foreign to their inmost essence. 
The last is only to be sought from fixed and eternal things, 
and at the same time from the laws that are inscribed in these 
things as their true codes, according to which all individuals 
both take place and are ordered ; yea, these changeable things 
depend so intimately and essentially, so to speak, on those 
fixed things, that without them they can neither exist nor be 
conceived. Hence those fixed and eternal things, although 
they are individuals, yet on account of their omnipresence 
and all-comprehending power, are to us as universals or as 
genera of definitions of the individual changeable things, 
and as the proximate causes of all things." 2 

From these and other passages in the treatise it is 
impossible, we think, to avoid the conclusion that 
Spinoza's "nominalism" did not imply, either that indi- 

1 De Int. Emeiid. , ix. - Ibid. , xiv. 

30 Spinoza. 

viduals, finite objects, the facts and phenomena of 
empirical observation, are the only realities, or that 
there are not universals other than the abstract essences 
of scholasticism which constitute a necessary element of 
all true knowledge. In the first place, when we ask 
what are the individuals of which it can be affirmed 
that they constitute the only realities, it is to be con- 
sidered that the individuality or independence which 
ordinary observation ascribes to particular objects is no 
real individuality. Ordinary observation contemplates 
things under the external conditions of space and time, 
and so it can begin and end anywhere. It conceives as 
an independent reality whatever it can picture to itself 
as such. Even scientific observation does not go beyond 
the conception of the system of things as a multiplicity 
of separate substances, each endowed with its own 
qualities, and all acting and reacting on each other 
according to invariable laAvs. But when we examine 
more closely what this so-called individuality means, 
we perceive that it is a mere fictitious isolation or inde- 
pendence, which it is the function of advancing know- 
ledge to dissipate. Objects are not abstract things or 
substances, each with a number of qualities attached to 
it. The qualities by which we define the nature of a 
thing are in reality nothing else than its relations to 
other things. Take away all such relations, and the 
thing itself ceases to have any existence for thought. 
It is the qualities or relations which constitute its definite 
existence : the substance in which they are supposed to 
inhere, and which remains one and the same through all 
the manifoldness of its properties, if detached from them 
would have no meaning. At most, it would be but a 

True Individuality. 31 

name for the bare abstraction of being or existence ; and 
when we think away the predicates or properties, the 
sxibstance vanishes with them. But if the qualities by 
which we determine any object are simply its relations 
to other objects, then, inasmuch as each individual object 
is directly or indirectly related to all other objects, com- 
pletely to determine any individual, to see what it really 
is, is to see it in its relation to all other objects. An 
object cannot be perfectly individualised until it is per- 
fectly universalised. In other words, knowledge of it 
in its complete individuality would be knowledge of it 
as determined by the whole universe of which it is a 
part. True knowledge, therefore, does not begin with 
individuals regarded as mere isolated singular things ; 
nor is it the apprehension of the universe as a collection 
of such individuals, nor any generalisation got from them 
by a process of abstraction. In so far as it is knowledge 
of the individual, it is of the individual which has be- 
come more and more specialised by each advancing step 
in the progress of science, by every new and higher con- 
ception which exhibits it in new and hitherto unobserved 
relations ; and the ideal of true knowledge cannot stop 
short of the conception of each individual in its relation 
to the highest universal, or seen in the light of the whole 
system of being in its unity. It is this conception of 
individuality to which Spinoza points when he speaks 
of individuals as the only realities. For him the indi- 
viduals of ordinary observation are as much unrealities, 
figments of the imagination, as the abstract essences of 
the schoolmen, they are " the individual, changeable 
things the existence of which has no connection with 
their essence," and the " accidental series " of which " it 

32 Spinozc:. 

is not at all necessary to know." The true " essences " 
of individuals are to be discerned only in their relation 
to what he calls "fixed and eternal things and their 
laws, according to which all individuals exist and are 
ordered," and "without which they can neither exist 
nor be conceived," and, above all, in their relation to 
that which is the " highest norm of truth, a being single, 
infinite, and all - comprehending." So far, therefore, 
from asserting that knowledge begins with individuals 
regarded as the only realities, he tells us that " that 
method of knowledge would be the most perfect in 
which we should have an idea of the most perfect Being, 
to the knowledge of which, therefore, it becomes us as 
soon as possible to attain," and that our mind can only 
reflect the exemplar of nature by deriving all its ideas 
from that which reflects the source and fountain of 
nature i.e., the "idea of the most perfect Being." 

In the second place, it is implied in what has now 
been said that Spinoza's " nominalism " does not involve 
the denial of universals other than the abstractions of 
scholasticism, as constituting a necessary principle or 
factor of true knowledge. What are these universals, 
and especially, what is that "idea of the most perfect 
Being " which is the highest universal or first principle 
of knowledge ? We have seen that a recent expositor 
of Spinoza finds nothing more in it than the idea of 
" the unity and uniformity of nature." 

Even if we could suppose that by the " idea of the 
most perfect Being " Spinoza meant nothing more than 
the scientific conception of the unity and uniformity of 
nature, the supposition would be fatal to the assertion 
of his " thorough-going nominalism." Xominalism re- 

Uniformity of Nature. 33 

individual substances as the only realities, and 
nature as, at most, a name for the collection or aggregate 
of such substances. But the unity and uniformity of 
nature is the first principle of all science. All scientific 
investigation proceeds on the tacit assumption that 
nature is not a chaos, but a system of invariable coex- 
istences and successions constituting a self-consistent 
whole. " It is an assured fact that discoveries are not 
made without belief in the nature of things, by which I 
mean the sure trust that under all diversity of appear- 
ances there is a constant and sufficient order, that there 
is no maze without a clue. Belief in the nature of 
things is the mainspring of all science and the condition 
of all sound thinking. " l But if this be so, it seems 
beyond question that a belief which is presupposed in 
all scientific observation and experience cannot itself be 
a product or part of that experience. It is from observa- 
tion and experience that we learn what are the particular 
sequences of phenomena in nature, what are the par- 
ticular causes or conditions of particular effects ; but the 
idea or principle of uniform sequence with which we 
start cannot itself be learnt from experience. To the 
unreflecting mind nature seems to reveal its own unity 
and uniformity. The objective world is a ready-made 
system, and the only function of intelligence is to 
observe and investigate what is already presented to it 
in its complete reality. Xature in its unity and uni- 
formity is given to us, ready to be taken up into our 
experience ; the facts and phenomena and their unity 
and uniformity are things of the same order, and our 
knowledge of both comes from the same source. "We 

1 Pollock's Spinoza, p. 142. 

34 Spinoza. 

have before us a world organised into unity, and then 
our consciousness simply reproduces it. But a little 
reflection teaches us that this is not the true account of 
the process of knowledge. Our knowledge of nature as 
an ordered system implies a principle which is not 
natural, and which cannot be observed as we observe the 
facts of nature. Experience of difference implies already 
the presence of a principle of unity, experience of suc- 
cessions or changes the presence of a principle that is 
constant or self-identical. A process of change cannot 
be conceived to generate a consciousness of itself, still 
less to generate a consciousness of change according to 
a uniform method. In order to the minimum, of scien- 
tific experience, the observation of a single sequence of 
related facts, there is presupposed in the observer the 
consciousness that the relation is an unalterable one, 
that the same conditions will and must ever give the 
same result ; in other words, there is presupposed the 
idea of uniformity. But that which is the prim or pre- 
condition of all knowledge of the facts of nature cannot 
be itself one of those facts or the result of the observa- 
tion of any number of such facts. The idea or prin- 
ciple, therefore, which is the necessary condition of all 
knowledge of nature, without which there could be for 
us no nature, and in the light of which all particular 
facts or objects are known this, though it is not a uni- 
versal, like the abstract essences of scholastic realism, 
may be said, in Spinoza's language, " on account of its 
omnipresence and all-comprehending power, to take the 
place of a universal, or a genus of definition of indi- 
vidual changeable things." 

But by the idea of " the most perfect Being," can we 

Presuppositions of Knowledge. 35 

suppose that Spinoza meant no more than that of " the 
unity and uniformity of nature " ] Or if he did mean 
something more, if the latter formula does not exhaust 
the meaning of the former or of the equivalent expres- 
sion, "a Being single, infinite, and all-comprehending," 
can we form any conjecture as to what that something 
more is 1 The answer to this question would carry us 
beyond the contents of the work before us. This much 
at least we can gather from it, that Spinoza's speculative 
inquiries originated in his moral and spiritual aspirations, 
and that in both his endeavour was to rise above the 
illusoriness and unreality of the finite. The unrest in- 
separable from desires and passions that point only to 
finite and changeable things is itself implicitly the 
aspiration after an infinite and eternal object, in which 
the spirit can find perfect satisfaction and rest. And 
true knowledge, following in the steps of aspiration, 
discovers to us the unreality of the world as it appears 
to sense and imagination, and has for its aim to rise 
above the finite and to grasp that primary idea or first 
principle which is the source of all other ideas, in the 
light of which the fragmentary, contingent, confused 
aspect of things will vanish, and all things will be seen 
in their unity and reality as parts of one intelligible 




CONCEDING that the philosophy of Spinoza is not 
thoroughly self-consistent, we have said that it may be 
possible to discover what was the dominant idea or pre- 
vailing tendency in its author's mind, and to see in its 
inconsistencies, not so much the presence of irreconcilable 
principles, as an inadequate apprehension of the meaning 
and results of one leading principle. One help towards 
the right understanding of his system we have found in 
Spinoza's own account of the motive of his speculations, 
the impulse which originated and guided the process by 
which he endeavoured to attain intellectual satisfaction. 
Another help may be found in what we know of his 
early studies, and of the writers who may have moulded 
his mind or given a special direction to his thoughts. 

Much ingenuity has been spent, perhaps we might say 
misspent, in tracing the supposed " sources " of Spin- 
ozism. Not only has it been regarded by many writers 
as the logical development of the Cartesian philosophy, 
but, in so far as it diverges from the latter, it has been 
represented as reflecting or reproducing the mystical 
theosophy of the Kabbala, or the ideas of Maimonides 

Originality. 37 

and other medieval Jewish philosophers, or the revived 
Platonism of Giordano Bruno and other writers of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

But it is to be considered that the originality of a 
philosophical writer is not to be determined simply by 
the measure in which his ideas are traceable to earlier 
sources, or by the suggestions he has caught up from 
other minds. To lend real value to any contribution to 
philosophy it must reproduce the past, the sole question 
is whether the reproduction is a dead or living repro- 
duction, a rechauffe of old materials collected from 
various sources, or a revival of them, absorbed, trans- 
formed, renewed, by the quickening, transmuting power 
of speculative thought. On the other hand, no doubt, 
a great philosophical system must advance beyond the 
past ; but the all-important test of the new element is, 
whether it is connected with the past as a mere arbitrary 
increment, or as the outcome of an organic development 
The history of thought cannot, from its nature, be an 
arbitrary one. It is true that, as the formation of 
individual opinion may be deflected by a thousand acci- 
dents from the order of reason or rational progression, 
so the history of the thought of the world may be some- 
times the record of what is accidental and irrational of 
errors, vagaries, reactions, incoherencies : but in both, in 
so far as there is real progress, it is a progress which 
must follow the order of reason an advance by steps, 
each of which contains in it a reason for the next, each 
of which is at once the result and the explanation of 
that which preceded it. The merit, therefore, of any 
individual thinker, must be determined mainly by con- 
sidering whether he takes up and carries on the move- 

38 Spinoza. 

ment of thought at the particular stage which it has 
reached in his own day. If his work have real or per- 
manent value, it will be due, indeed, to his own pro- 
ductive activity, but to that as an activity which has 
for its necessary presupposition the intellectual life of 
the past, growing out of it and determined by it. Con- 
sciously or unconsciously he must make that life his 
own. The originality of his work will consist, not in 
his independence of the thought of the past, but in this, 
that whatever ideas or suggestions he may have gathered 
from, various thinkers of various times, all his acquire- 
ments have become fused in a mind that is, so to speak, 
in sympathy with the dialectic movement of the spirit of 
its time. His greatness, if he be great, will be that of 
one who has at once put and answered the questions 
for the solution of which the age is pressing, given artic- 
ulate expression to the problem of philosophy in the 
form in which it is silently moving the thought of the 
world, and either partially or completely furnished the 
solution of it. 

That the merit of originality in the sense now indi- 
cated may be justly claimed for the philosophy of 
Spinoza, we shall endeavour to show in the sequel. But 
though the solution of the problem of philosophy to 
which he was led was logically involved in, and grew 
out of the teaching of Descartes, it is not inconsistent 
with this to say that it is one for which he was in some 
measure prepared and predisposed by the intellectual 
atmosphere of his early life, and by the literature and 
traditions which created it. In the ideas imbibed from 
the speculative mysticism of the Kabbala, from the 
teaching of medieval Jewish rationalists, and from the 

References to the Kabbala. 39 

Platonic or Xeo-Platonic revival of times near his own, 
we may discern, though not the logical origin, at least 
the predisposing impulse towards the pantheistic side of 
Spinoza's philosophy. 


Ko direct reference to the Kabbala is to be found in 
Spinoza's writings, with the exception of one sentence in 
the 'Tractatus Theologico-politicus,' the contemptuous 
tone of which has been supposed to settle the question 
of his indebtedness to Kabbalistic speculation. " I have 
read," says he, "and, moreover, been (personally) ac- 
quainted with certain Kabbalistic triflers, at whose folly 
I cannot sufficiently wonder." But this depreciatory 
judgment, it has been pointed out, has special reference 
to the arbitrary and grotesque method of interpretation 
by which Kabbalistic writers endeavoured to extract a 
hidden significance from the historical narratives and 
other parts of the Old Testament Scriptures ; and that 
his contempt for such vagaries does not extend to what 
may be termed the speculative element of the Kabbala 
seems to be placed beyond question by two passages in 
his writings in which Kabbalistic doctrines are referred 
to with at least a qualified respect. Replying to Olden- 
burg, who had urged that, in the work above named, 
Spinoza seemed to many to confound God and Mature, 
he says : "I hold that God is the immanent and not the 
transient cause of all things. That all things are in God 
and move in God I affirm with Paul, and perhaps also 
with all the ancient philosophers, and I might even 
venture to say with all the ancient Hebrews, in so far as 
may be conjectured from certain traditions, though these 

40 Spinoza. 

have been in many ways corrupted." l The other pas- 
sage is contained in the ' Ethics,' 2 where, with reference 
to his doctrine that " thinking substance and extended 
substance are one and the same substance, apprehended, 
now under this attribute, now under that," and that " a 
mode of extension and the idea of that mode are one and 
the same thing expressed in two different ways," he adds, 
" which truth certain of the Hebrews appear to have seen 
as if through a cloud when they affirm that God, the 
intellect of God, and the things which are the objects 
of that intellect, are one and the same thing." To show 
that the reference here is to the Kabbala, the following 
passage has been adduced from a work entitled ' The 
Garden of Pomegranates,' an exposition of the Kabba- 
listic doctrine of "the Sephiroth" or Divine Emana- 
tions, by a celebrated Kabbalist of the sixteenth century, 
Moses Corduero. " The knowledge of the Creator differs 
from that of the creature in this respect that, in the case 
of the latter, thought, the thinker, and the object thought 
of are different. But the Creator is Himself knowledge, 
the knower, and the object known. His knowledge does 
not arise from His directing His thoughts to things out- 
side of Him, since in comprehending and knowing Him- 
self, He comprehends and knows everything that exists. 
Nothing exists which is not one with Him and which 
He does not find in His own substance. He is the 
archetype of all things that exist, and all things are in 
Him in their purest and most perfect form." Notwith- 
standing the parallelism in this quotation, both in sub- 
stance and expression, to the doctrine ascribed by Spinoza 
to " certain Hebrews," the reference is rendered somewhat 
1 Ep., 21. Eth., p. ii, Prop. vii. Schol. 

Neo-Platonism. 41 

doubtful by the fact that Ave have no evidence that 
Spinoza knew anything of the writer from Avhom it is 
taken, and also, that in the ' Guide to the Perplexed,' the 
well-known work of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, 
from whom Spinoza elsewhere quotes, a passage occurs 
in which the same doctrine is maintained in almost the 
same terms. 

It is not, however, in particular citations from the 
Kabbala that we find the most probable indications of 
the influence of its ideas on Spinoza's mind. Even the 
least incoherent of Kabbalistic works, the so-called 
' Book Zoliar,' can only be described as a strange con- 
glomerate of philosophy and allegory, reason and rhap- 
sody, of ideas from Plato and Aristotle and ideas from 
the Pentateuch, of Jewish traditions and oriental mysti- 
cism. But if we try to extricate from this curious com- 
posite the underlying speculative element, we find in 
it distinct traces of one particular phase or school of 
thought. "Whatever the date or outward origin of the 
Kabbala, or its historic relation to Alexandrian meta- 
physic, the philosophy it teaches is simply Neo-Platonism 
in a fantastic guise. And through whatever channel they 
reached him, Spinoza's writings contain, we think, indi- 
cations of a certain influence of Neo-Platonic ideas. It is 
necessary, therefore, to form some conception of the system 
of thought to which these ideas belong. 

Neo-Platonism took its rise at a period when the old 
religions and philosophies of the world began to mingle, 
and (though the Greek element in it was the preponder- 
ating one) it attempted to produce a coherent system 
out of elements derived from Semitic theology, Asiatic 
mysticism, and the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. 

42 Spinoza. 

The main problem of ^Neo-Platonic speculation is that of 
the relation of the infinite and finite, of God and the 
world. Starting from a conception of the two extremes 
of this relation which made them absolutely irreconcil- 
able, the whole system was the expression of one long 
effort to bridge over an impassable gulf to deal with the 
idea of God conceived of as an absolute unity, beyond 
limitation or definition, so as, on the one hand, to make it 
possible for God to reveal Himself not merely in nature 
and man, but in an absolute formless matter ; and on the 
other hand, for the human spirit to rise into communion 
with the divine. The solution of this absolute dualism 
which Neo-Platonism propounds may be represented by 
the two words Emanation and Ecstasy. 

In the first place, the intense religious feeling which 
was the underlying motive of Xeo-Platonic speculation, 
and the consequent endeavour to elevate the conception 
of God above all the limiting conditions of human exist- 
ence, led to an idea of the First Principle of all things 
which is simply that of the absolutely indeterminate 
that which can be thought of only as the negation of all 
that can be affirmed of the finite. God is the Absolute 
One, unity beyond all difference, to which no predicates 
can be attached, of which nothing can be affirmed or 
expressed. We may not think of Him as intelligent, for 
intelligence implies distinction between the knower and 
the object known. For a similar reason we may not 
ascribe to Him a will. " Strictly speaking, He is neither 
consciousness nor unconsciousness, neither freedom nor 
unfreedom, for all such opposites pertain to the realm of 
finite things. He gives life, yet Himself lives not, Hf is 
all and the negation of all/' Even when we name Him 

Emanation. 43 

"the One," we must exclude any thought of numerical 
unity, for that contains or implies the idea of multipli- 
city, and is meaningless when applied to that which is 
above all distinction. " Only by negation can we define 
Him. He is inexpressible, for all speech names some 
definite thing ; He is incomprehensible, for thought dis- 
tinguishes between itself and its object ; if we would 
grasp Him, it is only by an act of intuition in which 
the mind rises above thought and becomes one with 
its object." 

But when the idea of God has been tints rarefied to 
an abstraction which is simply the negation of the finite, 
every way back to the finite would seem to be cut off. 
The Absolute One of Neo-Platonism, in which the ex- 
planation of all finite things is to be found, would seem 
to be shut up in its own self-identity. In a unity so 
conceived there is no reason why it should go beyond 
itself to manifest or reveal itself in the manifoldness of 
finite existence. The solution of the problem which 
Xeo-Platonism gives is contained, as we have said, in the 
word "emanation." The self -involved imprisonment of 
the Absolute which reason cannot break down, Plotinus 
attempts to dissolve by the aid of imagination and pic- 
torial analogy. " Everything," says he, " that is in any 
degree perfect, and most of all, therefore, the absolutely 
perfect, tends to overflow itself, to stream forth, and pro- 
duce that which is other than itself yet an image of it- 
self. Fire produces heat, snow cold, fragrant substances 
odours, medicine healing. The most perfect cannot re- 
main powerless, shut up in itself." Accordingly, that 
Absolute which is above knowledge is conceived to 
stream forth in a series of emanations, descending 

44 Spinoza. 

through successive stages in which the irradiation be- 
comes fainter and fainter, till it reaches the realm of 
darkness, of that formless matter which is below know- 
ledge. As Plato endeavoured to overcome the dualism 
between the ideal and phenomenal world by the concep- 
tion of a world-soul as a kind of mediator, so Plotinus 
seeks to escape from a still more absolute dualism by ex- 
panding the Platonic conception into that of four de- 
scending stages of emanations, each of which successively 
represents a lower degree of perfection. The first is the 
ideal world or realm of ideas, in which the Absolute 
One, the ineffable light which is indistinguishable from 
darkness, becomes conscious of itself, or produces as the 
image of itself mind or intelligence. This ideal world, 
though in itself the archetype of all finite being, the 
source of all the light and life of the phenomenal 
world, is in itself incapable of any immediate relation 
to it ; and so, by the same emanational expedient, the 
conception is formed of an intermediating principle, the 
world-soul or realm of souls, related, on the one hand, 
to the realm of ideas from which it emanates, and on 
the other hand, to the realm of matter, by its impregna- 
tion of which it produces the phenomenal world, and 
time and space, which are the conditions of its being. 
In this descending series we pass, circle beyond circle, 
within the world of light and reality, till we reach its 
utmost limit in the world of souls, beyond which lies 
the sensible phenomenal world, which is produced by 
the last circle of light casting forth its rays into the 
darkness beneath. The phenomenal world is thus a 
composite of light and darkness, being and non-being, 
whose only reality is due to the radiance which pene- 

Ecstasy. 45 

trates it from the world above. Beneath it lies the 
region of formless matter, which, as the opposite of the 
First Principle, is designated Absolute Evil, in the sense 
of pure negation or non-being. In the phenomenal 
world it is redeemed from negation ; but that phenomenal 
Avoiid is itself only a world of shadows, owing its reality 
to the world-soul, as that in turn to the ideal world, and 
both alike to the primordial unity, the only absolute, all- 
comprehending reality. There, and there alone, all dis- 
tinction, all mutation, cease ; the whole universe of 
thought and being exists only as its transient image 
or irradiation, and the reabsorption of that universe into 
its primal source woiild be at once the vanishing away 
of its finite existence and its return to the only absolute 

In the second place, this last thought receives definite 
expression in an ascending series of stages, in which as- 
piration, ending in ecstasy or ecstatic intuition, reverses 
the process of the descending series of emanations. All 
finite being strives after union with its origin. All in- 
dividual existences in their separateness and transiency 
are under an impulse which urges them backwards to- 
wards the centre from which they emanated. The in- 
dividual soul, like the soul of the world, of which it is 
a part, stands at the middle of this universe of emana- 
tions, and combines in itself elements at once of the 
highest and of the lowest. As embodied it is a part of 
nature and allied to the lower world of matter; as spiritual 
it belongs to the ideal world and to the unity from which 
it emanates, in estrangement from which it is in bondage 
to a natural necessity separating it from its true home ; 
and to that home, in obedience to its proper destiny, it 

46 Spinoza. 

ever seeks to return. The steps by which this return is 
achieved repeat in reverse order those of descent. By 
knowledge or contemplative energy it emancipates itself 
from the bondage of sense, and remounts into the ideal 
world, the region where thought or intelligence finds 
nothing foreign to itself, but lives and moves in the pure 
atmosphere of eternal ideas. But even here intelligence 
has not reached its highest goal, the absolute unity to 
which it aspires. Even in the realm of ideas there is 
still division. The mind which contemplates objective 
truth, or which attains to knowledge by any dialectic pro- 
cess, is still not absolutely one with its object. There is 
a stage of spiritual exaltation higher than that of definite 
thought. There is a point where the last distinction, 
that of subject and object, vanishes, where thought dies 
away into feeling, intelligence loses itself in rapt identi- 
fication with its object, and all sense of individuality is 
absorbed in that absolute transparent imity where no 
division is. This is the final goal of Xeo-Platonic specu- 
lation, the " ecstasy " which can only be described as 
the extinction of thought from its own intensity, the 
striving of the finite spirit beyond itself till it is lost 
in God. 

If we try to characterise this system generally, it may 
be described as a kind of poetical or imaginative pan- 
theism. It does not succeed in overcoming the original 
dualism which is involved in the two extremes of an 
absolute, self-identical unity, and an absolute, formless 
matter. The former contains in it no reason for the ex- 
istence of a world in which its latent riches shall be 
revealed, and the idea of emanation to which recourse 
is had is only the substitution of a metaphor for a rational 

Neo-Platonism in the Kabbala. 47 

principle. But in intention at least, it i.s purely pan- 
theistic, or rather it belongs to that class of pantheistic 
systems to which the designation " acosmism " is more 
properly applied. The successive orders of emanations 
which constitute the world are only phantoms, unreal as 
the reflections in a mirror; its only reality is the absolute 
unity from which their phantasmal existence is projected, 
and that, as it was without diminution through their 
existence, remains without increase when they have 
vanished away. 

If we endeavour to disengage from the arbitrary 
mythological and other ingredients of which the Kab- 
bala is composed, the speculative element which gives it 
any value for thought, we shall find in it, as we have 
said, little else than a reproduction of ^eo-Platonism. 
In the Book Zohar, the only part of the Kabbala which 
has any pretension to systematic connection, the funda- 
mental idea is that of the " En Soph," or unlimited, 
Avith its ten " Sephiroth," or emanations. The former, 
the source from which all the life and light of the uni- 
verse, all ideal and actual existence, flows, is described 
as " the unknown of the unknown," " the mystery of 
mysteries." " He cannot be comprehended by the 
intellect nor described in words, and as such he is in 
a certain sense non-existent, because, as far as our minds 
are concerned, that which is perfectly incomprehensible 
does not exist." l In other words, the Kabbalists, in 
their endeavour to exalt the conception of God above all 
anthropomorphic elements, refine it away till it becomes 
simply the abstract notion of being which is indistinguish- 
able from non-being. This Absolute Being, unknowable 
1 Zohar, quoted by Ginsburg, The Kabbala, \>. 6. 

48 Spinoza. 

in Himself, can become known, even indirectly, only l>y 
becoming active or creative. But He cannot become im- 
mediate creator of a finite world : first, because to ascribe 
to Him intention and will would be to introduce finite 
determinations into His nature ; and secondly, because an 
Infinite Being can produce only that which is infinite. 
Accordingly, in ^[eo-Platonic fashion, the Kabbala invents 
a mediating principle based on the figure of the radia- 
tion of light from an invisible centre. This principle, 
corresponding to the " ideal world " of Plotinus, is desig- 
nated " the world of emanations," and is elaborated and 
arranged by the Kabbalists into successive trinities, each 
of which constitutes, on the one hand, one of the various 
aspects under which the " En Soph," or incomprehensible 
divine nature, is contemplated ; on the other hand, the 
archetype of some one of the various orders of existence 
in the finite world. In their totality, gathered up into 
unity by the last emanation, which is the harmonising 
principle of the whole series, they are designated the 
'Adam Kadmon,' the ideal or celestial man, inasmuch 
as, according to the Zohar, " the form of man contains 
all that is in heaven and earth, all beings superior and 
inferior, and therefore the ancient of ancients has chosen 
it for his own." 1 In order to constitute the mediating 
principle between God and the world, the Sephiroth are 
represented as partaking of the nature at once of the in- 
finite and finite : as emanations from the infinite, they 
are themselves infinite ; as distinguishable from the in- 
finite, they are the first order of finite things. The finite 
world is not a creation out of nothing, but simply a 
further expansion or evolution of the Sephiroth. By a 
1 Zohar, quoted by Franck, La Kalilxdr, p. 179. 

Emanation. 49 

curious conceit the Kabbala supposes, prior to the ex- 
istence of the present world, certain formless worlds, 
abortive attempts at creation, so to speak, to have issued 
from the ideal archetypal fountain of being and then 
vanished away ; and these it compares to sparks which 
fly from a red-hot iron beaten by a hammer, and which 
are extinguished as they separate themselves from the 
burning mass. 1 On the other hand, in contrast with 
these failures, the being of the actual world is due to 
the continuous presence in it and in all it contains of a 
measure, greater or less, of the luminous element from 
which it springs. All finite existences are made in 
descending series " after the pattern of things in the 
heavens." " First comes the 'Briatic world,' which is 
the abode of pure spirits ; next, the ' Yetziratic world,' 
or world of formation, which is the habitation of angels ; 
and lastly, the ' Assiatic world,' or world of action, which 
contains the spheres and matter, and is the residence of 
the prince of darkness and his legions." 2 Without fol- 
lowing this theory of creation in the details of fantastic 
imagery into which it is wrought out by the Kabbalists, 
it may be observed in general that its characteristic prin- 
ciple, the emanational conception of the relation of the 
world to God which is common to it with iNeo-Platonism, 
reappears in it in a form modified by Jewish mythological 
traditions. The belief in angels and demons was deeply 
rooted in the spirit of the Jewish people, and under its 
influence the emanations of Neo-Platonism become per- 
sonified into the angels of the Kabbala, and the world- 
soul of the former becomes in the latter the Briatic 
world, which is the habitation of pure spirits. In like 

1 Ginsburg, I.e., p. 15. - Ginsburg, p. 24. 


/50 Spinoza. 

manner the phenomenal world of Xeo-Platonism becomes 
the Yetziratic world of the Kabbala ; and as the former 
was constituted by the irradiation of light from above 
into the darkness of matter, so in the cosmology of the 
Kabbala the same result is brought about by the presence 
of angelic beings pervading the whole realm of nature. 
To every part and process of the material world the 
heavenly firmament, the orbs of light, the earth, the 
element of fire, the revolution of the seasons, &c. an 
angelic ruler is assigned, and it is to the agency of the 
angelic hosts that all the varied movements of nature 
and their harmony and unity are to be ascribed. Finally, 
under the same personifying influence, the Jfeo-Platonic 
realm of darkness, beneath the last circle of ideal life, 
becomes, in the Kabbala, the Assiatic world, the habita- 
tion of evil spirits a conception in which the demon- 
ology of Jewish tradition and its wild imaginative 
reveries come into strange conjunction with the results 
of Greek speculative thought 

In the Kabbalistic theory of the nature and destiny 
of man we find the same reproduction of Neo-Platonic 
ideas under Jewish forms. Man is the epitome of the 
universe, the microcosm who combines in his nature all 
the various elements which constitute the totality of being. 
He is, says the Zohar, 1 " at once the sum and the highest 
term of creation. . . . As soon as man appeared every- 
thing was complete, both the higher and lower worlds, 
for everything is comprised in him ; he unites in him- 
self all forms of being." This is otherwise expressed by 
saying that man is the earthly Adam, the image of the 
heavenly Adam, the Adam Kadmon above described. 
i Quoted, Franck, 229. 

Absorption. 51 

As the latter is simply an expression for the totality of 
Sephiroth, the eternal ideal archetypes of all that exists 
in the finite world, so, to say that man is the earthly 
image of the heavenly Adam is to say that all things in 
heaven and earth, from the highest to the lowest, are 
represented or expressed in the unity of his nature. He 
is at once spiritual and animal, divine and demoniacal 
011 the higher side of his being an emanation from the 
world of pure spirits, which is itself an emanation from 
the Infinite ; on the other hand, having relation through 
his fleshly nature to the material world and to that form- 
less matter which is figured as the abode of the spirits of 
darkness. Finally, in its doctrine of the destiny of man 
and the world, the Kabbala reproduces, under a slightly 
modified form, the reascending stages of Neo-Platonism. 
As all individual souls, according to the Zohar, in their 
ideal essence, pre-existed in the world of emanations, so, 
having inhabited human bodies, and passed through the 
discipline of an earthly life (or through successive lives), 
they become emancipated from the blind power of nature 
which governs the animal life, and return to the source 
from which they emanated. In this reascending process 
two stages are distinguished, each marked by its own 
characteristics. From the servitude of the animal life the 
soul rises first into that real but still imperfect relation to 
the divine source of light in which knowledge is only re- 
flective and obedience is more that of fear than of love. 
But there is, says the Zohar, a state of perfection in 
which the Eternal Light falls no longer indirectly and 
as through a veil on the spirit, but shines on it directly 
and full-orbed in immediate vision, and in which perfect 
love casts out fear. In this consummation of its being, 

52 Spinoza. 

this state of intuitive vision and unmingled love, there is 
no longer any division between the spirit and its object. 
It has lost its individual character ; all finite interests, 
all activity, all return upon itself have vanished. Its 
being becomes absolutely lost in the divine. 1 I have 
said that the Neo-Platonic system leaves still in the 
" formless matter " which lies beyond the last circle of 
light an element of unsolved dualism, which its pan- 
theistic principle of emanation has not overcome. But 
the pantheism of the Kabbala is, in expression at least, 
more uncompromising. In it the differentiation of the 
primordial unity is succeeded by a more complete re- 
integration. Not even the lowest world of darkness, the 
habitation of evil spirits, which is the analogue for the 
"formless matter" of Neo-Platonism, is left in the final 
crisis unreclaimed. The Kabbala knows no absolute 
evil, no being doomed to everlasting separation from the 
source of light. There will come a time when the world 
of darkness will disappear, and even the archangel of 
evil, "the venomous beast," will be restored to his 
angelic name and nature, and when all orders of being 
will have entered into the eternal rest, the endless 
Sabbath of the universe. 2 

It is not, as we have said, in the theosophic mysticism 
of the Kabbala, but in the dialectic movement of the 
thought of his own time a movement which found 
independent expression where there could be no question 
of Jewish influences, in the philosophy of Malebranche 
and in the theology of the Eeformers that the true 
genesis of Spinozism is to be discerned. But whilst 
Descartes is the logical parent of Spinoza, there are 

i Franck, p. 248. 2 Ibid, p. 217 ; Ghislmrg, p. 44. 

Spinoza and the Kdbbala. 53 

traces in the 'Ethics,' and still more distinctly in the 
earlier treatise ' Concerning God and Man,' of his 
familiarity with Kabbalistic ideas, and these ideas may 
have constituted in a mind early imbued with them 
a predisposing tendency toward that view of the world 
and of its relation to God which lies at the basis of the 
Spinozistic philosophy. Whatever else Spinozism is, it 
is an attempt to find in the idea of God a principle 
from which the whole universe could be evolved by 
a necessity as strict as that by which, according to 
Spinoza's favourite illustration, the properties of a tri- 
angle follow from its definition. For the clear intelli- 
gence of Spinoza it was impossible to rest satisfied with 
a system in Avhich metaphor plays the part of logical 
thought ; and accordingly, in his philosophy the emana- 
tion theory of the Kabbalists finds no place. Yet even 
in a system in which logical consecution is the supreme 
principle of method, there are traces of that attempt to 
effect by an arbitrary mediating principle what reason 
fails to accomplish, which is the main characteristic 
of Kabbalistic speculation. In one point of view the 
transition from the infinite to the finite is barred for 
Spinoza, as it was for the Kabbalists, by the idea of 
God with which he starts. If we interpret that idea by 
his own principle that " all determination is negation," 
what it means for him is the absolutely indeterminate, 
the bare affirmation of Being which is reached by 
abstracting from all determinations. It is true that he 
ascribes to God or absolute substance the two attributes 
of thought and extension, but these attributes are only 
distinctions relative to finite intelligence ; they do not 
pertain to the absolute essence of the divine nature, but 

54 Spinoza. 

are only ways in which the human understanding con- 
ceives of it. Beyond these attributes or determinations 
lies the indeterminate substance, of which nothing can 
be affirmed but that it is the self-identical unity into 
which no difference or distinction can enter. But in so 
defining the nature of God, Spinoza would seem to have 
rendered impossible all advance from this primary idea 
to anything further. In that of which nothing can be 
affirmed there can be no reason for the existence of 
anything else, and to find in it a reason for the existence 
of the finite world would be to find in it a reason for its 
own negation. To rehabilitate the finite world would 
be to reaffirm that by abstracting from which the idea of 
God has been attained ; it Avould be to destroy God in 
order to derive the finite from Him. 

Yet though in this point of view the fundamental 
principle of Spinozism would seem to preclude all fur- 
ther advance, it was, as above said, the intention of its 
author to find in that principle the explanation of all 
things. The whole finite world was to be so involved 
in the idea of God as to be deducible from it as cer- 
tainly as the propositions of geometry from its defini- 
tions and axioms. To achieve this result it is obvious 
that either the fundamental principle as above defined 
must be modified, or some illogical expedient must be 
adopted to cure it of its barrenness. The latter alter- 
native is that which Spinoza adopted. He attempted 
by means of a conception analogous to the world-soul of 
the Neo-Platonists, to mediate between the infinite and 
finite, and to gain for the latter a legitimate derivation 
from the former. Out of the rigid unity of absolute sub- 
stance difference is to be educed ; from an infinite which 

"Infinite Modes." 55 

is in incommunicable isolation the finite world is to be 
derived. This problem Spinoza thinks to solve by con- 
ceiving of all individual finite existences as " modes " 
i.e., finite determinations of the infinite substance and 
then escaping the contradiction implied in determina- 
tions of the indeterminate by means of the conception 
of what he terms " infinite modes." On the one hand 
we have the infinite, indeterminate substance on the 
other, a world of finite modes or determinations ; and in 
order to bridge the gulf between them we have a third 
something which, as its name implies, is so conceived 
as to be in affinity with both, with the finite or modal 
world, as being itself a " mode " ; with the infinite, as 
an " infinite " mode. In other words, Spinoza thinks it 
possible to conceive of modes which, though as such 
they belong to the finite, changeable world, are them- 
selves infinite and unchangeable. The whole corporeal 
world may be represented as a single individual, a 
universal motion which, embracing all particular move- 
ments, remains itself eternally unmoved; and the whole 
spiritual world may be represented as a universal intelli- 
gence, which, embracing all finite ideas or intelligences, 
is itself unlimited or infinite. Thus these universal 
individuals having in them elements at once of infinitude 
and finitude, may constitute the transition from the one 
realm to the other. As infinite and eternal, they in- 
troduce no negation into the one absolute substance ; as 
expressions for the totality of finite existences and of 
the whole series of phenomenal changes, they are in 
close relation to the finite world. It is not at present 
our business to criticise this notion ; all we have to do 
is to point out that, whether suggested to his mind from 

56 Spinoza* 

his early studies in Jewish philosophy of not, there is at 
least a certain analogy between it and the Nee-Platonic 
conception, reproduced in the Kabbala, of an inter- 
mediating principle between the absolute unity and the 
world of finite existences, between the ideal world, in 
itself eternal and unchangeable, and the world of mutable 
things and beings. 

Nor, on the other hand, is it impossible to discern in 
Spinozism a certain reflection of the reascending move- 
ment which forms the converse side of the Xeo-Platonic 
system. As in the descending movement we have the 
stages of infinite attributes, modified by infinite modes, 
and these by an infinite number of finite modes, so in 
the return to God there is, so to speak, a retracing of the 
steps by which finite individualities have become differ- 
entiated from the unity of infinite substance in which 
all reality is comprehended. In the attitude of ordinary 
experience (experientia vaya) we contemplate the world 
as consisting of independent things and beings. But 
the independence we thus ascribe to them is illusory. 
As it is only by applying to space or extension, which 
is one and indivisible, the conceptions of number and 
measure, which are mere " aids of imagination," that we 
caii think of it as made up of discrete parts, so it is only 
imagination which gives to ourselves and all other finite 
individuals a separate, independent existence. Not only 
does each finite mode exist only as determined by other 
finite modes in an infinite series, but by the very fact 
that it is a mode it has no claim to independence in 
regard to the infinite substance. The first step or stage 
of true knowledge, therefore, the commencement of our 
escape from the illusion of the finite, is that of our passing 

Stages of Knowledge. 57 

from " vague experience " to " reason " or the rational 
contemplation of the world. This kind of knowledge 
Spinoza defines x as " that in which we contemplate things 
not as accidental but as necessary ; " and again, 2 as " that 
in which we know things under a certain form of eter- 
nity." It is not the highest stage of knowledge, but it 
is so far on the way to the highest that in it we are 
rescued from the dominion of accidental associations ; 
we look at things no longer in the arbitrary relations of 
time and place, but as linked together in necessary con- 
nection of cause and effect, so that all things are seen to 
be what they are because they are parts of that series or 
totality which, as above described, constitutes the " in- 
finite modes" of the absolute substance. So regarded 
they have in them, underneath all appearances of change, 
an element of unchangeableness, of necessity, of eternity. 
But beyond even this ideal aspect of things, there is a 
higher attitude of mind which Spinoza designates scientia 
i/itniftrri, in which we "proceed from an adequate idea 
of a certain attribute of God to the adequate knowledge 
of the nature of things." This stage of knowledge is 
that in which we no longer reason about things, but 
know them in their essence, no longer proceed infer- 
entially, from premisses to conclusion, from causes to 
effects, but as by immediate vision penetrate to the heart 
and life, the inmost reality of the world. If there is 
any element of mediation in this knowledge, it is only 
in so far as it is that of an intelligence which sees all 
things in God and in their relation to Him. At this 
stage the finite mind has risen above itself and other 
things as individuals, to contemplate them in their 
1 Eth. ii. 44. - Ibid., cor. 2. 

58 Spinoza. 

unity, as they are in God or as modifications of His 
attributes. Even its knowledge of God is no longer 
simply the knowledge which the finite has of the infinite, 
it is a part of the knowledge which God has of Himself. 
Moreover, it is to be noticed that, by his identification 
of will with intelligence, the reascending process is for 
Spinoza a moral as well as an intellectual one. The 
bondage of sense and the bondage of inadequate ideas 
is one and the same. To discern the illusory independ- 
ence we ascribe to ourselves and to all finite things is to 
escape from it ; to know the absolute law of necessity 
imder which we lie is to become free ; to know our- 
selves " under the form of eternity " is to rise above the 
sphere of time. It is the false reality which opinion and 
imagination ascribe to the finite that subjects us to the 
slavery of our desires and passions. Reason, in destroy- 
ing their unreal basis, breaks the yoke. And when, 
finally, we have risen to that supreme attitude of mind 
in which we not merely reason from the idea of God as 
a first principle to the nature of things, but by the grasp 
of intuitive insight see ourselves and all things in the 
light of it, then with the very existence of our finite self 
the desires and passions that were implicated with it of 
necessity vanish. As we cease to know, so we cease to 
will or love, any object outside of God ; and our love to 
God, like our knowledge of God, becomes one with that 
wherewith God regards Himself. Here as elsewhere in 
the philosophy of Spinoza there are elements which, as we 
shall see in the sequel, essentially distinguish him from 
the mystical Neo-Platonic theosophists ; yet even in the 
foregoing sketch of the process by which he reaches that 

Influence of the Kabbala. 59 

' ' intellectual love " which is for him the final goal of 
moral endeavour and aspiration, we may discern points 
of analogy to the Neo-Platonic "ecstasy" and to the 
Kabbalistic absorption in the " En Soph " which, in a 
mind steeped from early youth in Jewish literature and 
tradition, cannot have been altogether a matter of 




A VAST amount of learning and ingenuity has been ex- 
pended on the question of Spinoza's supposed obligations 
to Maimonides, Chasdai Creskas, and other distinguished 
philosophic writers of his own race. Many parallelisms 
of thought and expression have been adduced by Dr 
Joel and others, and it has even been maintained that 
his debt to these writers seriously affects his title to 
originality as a philosopher. Such occasional coinci- 
dences, however, even if they had been more numerous 
and unambiguous than those on which this opinion rests, 
cannot without further consideration be accepted as prov- 
ing the derivation of Spinozism from Jewish sources. Par- 
ticular points of resemblance, as we have already said, mean 
more or less according to the general principles and point 
of view of the writers in whom they occur. The signifi- 
cance of an idea or form of expression can only be esti- 
mated in view of its organic relation to the whole of 
whicli it forms a part, and even exact verbal coincidences, 
so far from establishing the intellectual obligation of a 
later writer to earlier writers of a different school or stand- 
point, only go to prove, at most, that he was acquainted 

Maimonides. 61 

with their works. It is on this principle that we must 
judge of the alleged anticipations of Spinozism in the 
medieval Jewish philosophers. From one and all of 
these writers he differed, at least in this respect, that 
they served two masters, he only one. The conclusions 
they reached were the result of a compromise between 
reason and authority. Their aim in all they wrote was 
to reconcile philosophy with the teaching of Moses and 
the traditional dogmas of Judaism, and the result was 
even more unsatisfactory than in the parallel case of the 
scholastic philosophy. That result varied, indeed, in its 
character in different instances, according as the philo- 
sophic or the authoritative tendency predominated in the 
mind of the writer. In some cases Jewish dogma was 
manipulated by arbitrary interpretation into accordance 
with Greek philosophy, in others Aristotelian and Pla- 
tonic terminology was crudely applied to the cosmogony 
of Moses and the theology of the synagogue. In all 
cases alike the issue of this forced alliance was a 
spurious one, which neither reason nor authority could 
claim as its own. Between such composite productions 
and a strictly reasoned system like Spinozism there can 
be no common measure. 

A detailed examination of Spinoza's relations to the 
Jewish philosophers would carry us beyond the limits of 
this work. We must confine our remarks to that one 
of these writers to whom Spinoza has been said to owe 
the most, Moses Maimonides. The philosophical writ- 
ings of Maimonides are characterised as a whole by the 
tendency above indicated, the endeavour to establish 
foregone conclusions. But perhaps the part of his philo- 
sophy in which this tendency shows itself least is that 

62 Spinoza. 

which relates to the idea of God. In his treatment of 
this subject the Jewish theologian is almost entirely sub- 
ordinated to the follower of Plato and Aristotle. In 
one passage of his most important work, the ' Moreh 
Nebuchim,' or ' Guide to the Perplexed,' he adopts the 
Aristotelian definition of God as vo^o-ts vor/o-ews i.e., 
thought which is its own object, pure, abstract self- 
consciousness ; and in other passages in which he treats 
of the divine attributes, the notion of abstract unity 
involved in this definition is further rarefied into the 
^N"eo-Platonic conception of absolute self -identity, a unity 
which repels every element of difference. We have 
already seen how, in the endeavour to clear the idea 
of God from all anthropomorphic alloy, Xeo-Platonism 
endeavours to get beyond the stage at which there is a 
distinction between thought and its object, and to rise 
to a point of exaltation higher even than thought or in- 
telligence, a unity in which this distinction vanishes. 
Maimonides in different parts of his writings wavers 
between these two conceptions. As Plotinus maintained 
that the highest ideal of intelligence is that in which 
the object of knowledge is no longer something external 
to the knowing subject, but that pure self -contemplative 
energy in which thought is the object of its own activity, 
so Maimonides, still more closely following the Aristo- 
telian dialectic, endeavours on the same principle to dis- 
tinguish between divine and human intelligence. It is 
of the very nature of thought or intelligence that it 
grasps the " forms " or real essences of things ; and when 
it does so, these forms are not something different from 
itself, for it is only as active, as thinking these forms, 
that it realises its own nature. Intelligence apprehend- 

Divine Intelligence. 63 

ing the forms of things, and the forms of things appre- 
hended by intelligence, are only different expressions for 
one and the same thing, or the same thing regarded from 
different points of view. When, therefore, the human 
intelligence is in the state of actual thought, thought, the 
thinker, and the thing thought of, are wholly one. But 
man is not always in the state of actual thought. At first 
thought in him is only potential, a capacity of thinking 
which has not yet come into actuality ; and even when 
intelligence in him has become developed, it is not 
always or continuously active. When the mind is at 
the potential stage of thought, or when the capacity of 
thinking is in abeyance, we can regard the power of 
apprehension and the object capable of being appre- 
hended as two separate things ; and farther, inasmuch 
as a power can only be conceived of as residing in a 
being or nature which possesses it, to these two we 
have to add a third viz., the mind in which the power 
of thought resides. But when we conceive of a univer- 
sal and ever-active intelligence, an intelligence in which 
there is no unrealised capacity, no potentiality that is not 
actuality, and which does not apprehend at one time 
and cease to apprehend at another when, in other 
words, we think of a mind to which no reality is foreign, 
in which the forms or essences of things are ever present, 
and which is eternal activity as well as potentiality, 
then we have before us the conception of a being in which 
the threefold distinction vanishes. In a mind which ever 
thinks there is no separation of thinker and power of 
thought, nor of the power of thought from its own objects. 
In God, the absolute energy, the ever-active intelligence, 
thought, the thinker, and the object of thought, are one, 

64 Spinoza. 

In the passage which I have here epitomised, the idea 
of God which Maimonides reaches is that which, if 
followed out and freed from the limitations which are 
connected with it in the Aristotelian philosophy, would 
lead to the modern conception of absolute, self-conscious, 
self-determining Spirit of thought which at once reveals 
itself in the manifold differences of the finite world and 
from all these differences returns upon itself. 

But in Mairnonides not only does this idea remain 
undeveloped, but it is left in unreconciled contradiction 
with another conception of the divine nature on which 
he more frequently insists. In the false search for unity, 
or confounding that discreteness which destroys unity 
with that concrete fulness in which the highest unity con- 
sists, he sets himself to think of something higher even 
than intelligence, an absolute which is not the unity of 
subject and object, but the abstraction in which these 
distinctions are lost. An absolute unity is that from 
which every element of plurality or difference must be 
excluded. Our belief in the divine unity, therefore, 
implies that the essence of God is that to which no pred- 
icates or attributes can be attached. When we describe 
an object by attributes, these attributes must be conceived 
of either as constituting its essence, or as superadded to 
it. If the attributes of God are conceived of as con- 
stituting his essence, we fall into the absurdity of con- 
ceiving of a plurality of infinites, and further, of in- 
troducing into the nature of God that divisibility or 
compositeness which belongs only to corporeal things. 
If the attributes are thought of as superadded to the 
essence, then are they merely accidents and express 
nothing in the reality of the divine nature. By these 

The Absolute Unity. 65 

and similar arguments, Maimonides convinced himself 
that such attributes as power, wisdom, goodness, cannot 
be understood as expressing any positive reality, and 
that even such predicates as existence, unity, &c., can- 
not, in the ordinary sense of the words, be applied to the 
divine essence. As applied to finite beings, existence is 
something separable from essence ; the idea of a house in 
the mind of the builder, for instance, being something 
different from the house as an actually existing thing : 
but in God existence and essence, idea and reality, are 
one and indivisible. When, again, we say of God that 
He is one, we must understand something different from 
the unity we predicate of finite things, for " unity and 
plurality are accidents belonging to the category of 
discrete quantity." When we pronounce a thing to be 
one, we add to its essence the accidents of its relations 
to other things ; but in God as an absolute or necessarily 
existing Being, unity and essence are one. The con- 
clusion, therefore, to which Maimonides comes, is that 
the predicates by which we suppose ourselves to attain 
to a knowledge of God do not express any positive real 
ity in the divine nature, but can only be employed in 
a negative sense, to denote, not what God is, but what 
He is not; in other words, they are only expressions 
for our own ignorance. The essence of God is that pure 
absolute unity which lies beyond all plurality, and there- 
fore beyond all predication, of which we can only say 
that it is, but not what or how it is. 1 

From the foregoing summary it is obvious that Mai- 
monides does not advance beyond the Keo-Platonic con- 
ception of the nature of God. If any positive reference 

1 Moreh, i. 51-57 
P. XII. E 

66 Spiili >-.'i. 

to him can be traced in Spinoza's writings, it is in the 
passage above quoted, in which he speaks in a somewhat 
slighting tone of some faint anticipation of his doctrine 
of the relation of the attributes of thought and extension 
to the divine substance as having dawned " as through 
a cloud" on the minds of "certain of the Hebrews." 
On the further question, whether on this point any 
indirect influence of the writers so designated can be 
traced in the philosophy of Spinoza, enough has already 
been said. 

Whatever the relation of Spinoza's doctrine as to the 
nature of God to that of Maimonides, when we pass 
from this point to the teaching of the latter as to the 
relation of God to the world, the divergence between 
the two systems amounts to nothing less than radical 
inconsistency. Here it is no longer Aristotle but Moses 
who is the master of Maimonides. He is no longer an 
independent thinker, but a rabbi striving by special 
pleading to force philosophy into reconciliation with the 
creed of the synagogue. A philosophy Avhich starts 
from the notion of a transcendent God, a self-identical 
unity excluding all distinctions, can find in itself no 
logical explanation of the existence of a finite world. 
The process from unity to difference becomes impossible 
when there is no element of difference in the unity. 
Even the Aristotelian conception of God as pure self- 
consciousness, pure Form without Matter, rendered it 
impossible to account for a world in which form \vas 
realised in matter. And the impossibility of the transi- 
tion becomes still more obvious when the unity of self- 
consciousness is sublimated into the Neo-Platonic idea of 
a pure identity without difference. The only device by 

Relation of God to the World. 67 

which an apparent transition from the one to the many, 
from God to the world, can, under such conditions, be 
effected, is either to substitute metaphor for reason, as 
we have seen at tempted in Xeo-Platonism, or, failing that 
expedient, to take refuge in mystery and to account for 
the world by a supernatural creative act. It is the 
latter expedient which, under the constraint of the pre- 
supposed orthodox doctrine of a creation of the world 
ex niltilo, Maimonides adopts. There is indeed one 
remarkable passage in the ' Guide to the Perplexed ' in 
which the Xeo-Platonic theory of emanation is distinctly 
taught. How, he asks, can that which remains eternally 
the same and unmoving be the cause of all motion and 
becoming? And he answers by the following illustra- 
tion : " Many a man possesses so much Avealth that he 
can not only bestow on others what they are in want of, 
but can so enrich them that they in turn can enrich 
others. In like manner there is poured forth from God 
so much good that there emanates from Him, not only 
spirit, but a sphere of spirits. This second spirit again 
contains in it ever such a fulness that from it also 
spirit and spheres of spirit are derived, and so forth 
down to the last intelligence and the first matter from 
which all the elements arose. This idea of God was 
held by the prophets, and because this emanation of 
God is limited neither by space nor time, they have 
compared God to an eternal and inexhaustible fountain 
pouring itself forth on all sides." l This passage, how- 
ever, can only be understood as the passing lapse of an 
unsystematic writer, adopting for the moment and for rt 
special purpose a theory inconsistent with his funda- 
i Moreh, ii. 11, 12. 

68 Spinoza. 

mental principles. It is scarcely necessary to show by 
formal quotations that the theory, if so it can be called, 
on which Maimonides rests as the only possible explana- 
tion of the existence of the finite world, is that which is 
expressed by the phrase, "creation out of nothing." In 
answer to the Aristotelian argument that creation in 
time would imply in God a potentiality which had not 
yet passed into actuality, Maimonides maintains that 
" the sole ground of creation is to be found in the will 
of God, and that it belongs to the nature of will that 
a thing takes place at one time and not at another." l 
" For all these phenomena of nature," he adds, " I see 
no law of necessity, but can only understand them when 
we say with the doctrine of Moses that all has arisen by 
the free will of the Creator." 2 " If I had any proofs 
for the doctrines of Plato," again he writes, " I would 
unconditionally accept them, and interpret allegorically 
the verses of Moses which speak of a creation out of 
nothing." 3 And then he proceeds elaborately to defend 
the Mosaic doctrine against the philosophic, which, in 
his opinion, would completely subvert religion, our 
belief in Scripture, and the hopes and fears which reli- 
gion inculcates. 

It need scarcely be said that we have here a doctrine 
which is irreconcilable, not only with the philosophy of 
Spinoza, but with any philosophy whatever. "Whether 
Spinoza's doctrine of one substance, of Avhich all finite 
things are only transitory modes, furnishes any adequate 
solution of the problem of the relation of the world to 
God, it is at least an attempt to find in the idea of God 
a first principle from which everything else follows by 
i Moreh, ii. 18. - Ibid., ii. 22. ibid., ii. 25. 

Creation out of Nothing. 69 

strict necessity. The finite world is for him that which 
" follows from the necessity of the divine nature that 
is, all the modes of the divine attributes, in so far as 
they are considered as things which are in God, and 
cannot be conceived without God." l Even the theory 
of emanation is at least an attempt to solve the problem 
with which it deals. But the theory of creation out of 
nothing is simply the abandonment of the problem as 
insoluble ; and if it seem anything more, it is only 
because its real character is disguised by a meaningless 
phrase. The theory itself, as well as the world for 
which it would account, is created out of nothing. 

It is unnecessary to follow the so-called philosophy of 
Maimonides into further details. Setting out from a 
point of divergence such as has just been indicated, it is 
obvious that in the subsequent course of their specula- 
tions Spinoza and Maimonides could never meet, and 
their occasional coincidences are such only to the ear. 
Maimonides, for example, like many thinkers of the 
same order, feels himself impelled to seek a basis for 
moral responsibility in a freedom of indifference or in- 
determinism, and from the difficulties involved in this 
conception he finds a ready escape in his theory of 
creation. He who begins by tracing all things to an 
arbitrary supernatural act can never be at a loss for a 
solution of particular speculative difficulties. " To man," 
says he, 2 " has been given complete freedom whether he 
will incline to the good or evil way. Here there is no 
law of causality as in outward nature, so that the will 
of man should be the effect of any cause, but man's own 
will is the first cause of all his actions." "But," he 
1 Eth. i. 29, schol. - Yad-ha-chazakah, v. 4. 

70 Spinoza. 

asks, " does not the assertion that the will is free stand 
in contradiction with the divine omnipotence] The 
answer is, !Not so ; for, as God has given to everything its 
own nature, so He has made it the nature of the human 
will that it should be free." In other words, the un- 
conditioned freedom of the human will is not only not 
derived from but is in absolute contradiction with the 
nature of God, and must therefore be ascribed simply to 
His arbitrary will, and what is contradictory to God's 
nature ceases to be so when God Himself is the author 
of the contradiction. How far apart from Spinoza, both 
in matter and manner, lies this kind of reasoning, need 
not here be pointed out. 

There is, however, one subject on which, viewed apart 
from the general principles of the two systems, their 
coincidence at first sight looks more than verbal viz., 
the nature of physical and moral evil : 

"We must," says Maimonicles, 1 "first of all consider 
whence evil comes, and what is the nature of good and evil. 
Only the good is something positive ; evil, on the contrary, 
is only want of good, therefore a mere negation. Life, e.g. , 
is the combination of this form with this matter ; the cessa- 
tion of the combination or the division of the two is death. 
Health is harmony in human bodies, sickness arises so soon 
as the harmony is destroyed. God, therefore, can only be 
regarded as the author of evil in the world in so far as He 
permits change, and lets the world arise out of matter which 
is subject to change. But change is a thing that is necessary ; 
that anything should begin to be implies the possibility of 
its passing away. And not only of natural evil but of moral 
evil must it be pronounced that it is a mere negation. It 
comes merely from a want of reason, and is nothing positive. 

1 Moreh, iii. 21. 

Nature of Evil. 71 

Were men wholly rational there would be neither hatred, 
nor envy, nor error, which work destructively amongst men, 
just as blind men injure themselves and others through want 
of sight. Both kinds of evil are mere negations which God 
does not cause, but only permits. Both are consequences of 
matter from which the world and man have become, and yet 
from matter nothing better could arise." 

Compare with this doctrine of evil the following 
passages from Spinoza : 

"With regard to good and evil, these indicate nothing 
positive in things considered in themselves, nor anything 
else than modes of thought or notions which we form from 
the comparison of one thing with another." l " For my own 
part, I cannot admit that sin and evil have any positive 
existence. . . . We know that whatever is, when considered 
in itself without regard to anything else, possesses perfection, 
extending in each thing as far as the limits of that thing's 
essence. The design or determined will (in such an act as 
Adam's eating the forbidden fruit), considered in itself alone, 
includes perfection in so far as it expresses reality. Hence 
it may be inferred that we can only perceive imperfection 
in things when they are viewed In relation to other things 
possessing more reality. . . . Hence sin which indicates 
nothing save imperfection cannot consist in anything which 
expresses reality." 2 "I maintain that God is absolutely and 
really (as causa sui) the cause of all things which have 
essence (i.e., affirmative reality). . . . When you can prove 
to me that evil, error, crime, &c., are anything which ex- 
presses essence, then I will grant to you that God is the 
cause of evil. But I have sufficiently shown that that 
which constitutes the form of evil does not consist in any- 
thing which expresses essence, and therefore it cannot be 
said that God is the cause of it." 3 

To the cursory reader of these passages both writers 
i Eth. iv. Pref. 2 Ep. 32. 3 Ep. 36. 

72 Spinoza. 

seem to teach the same doctrine as to the nature of evil, 
and with a common object. To prove that God is not 
the author of evil, it seems to be the endeavour of both 
to show that no positive reality can be ascribed to it, 
and that physical and moral evil alike must be relegated 
to the category of negations or unrealities. But a little 
closer examination proves that a fundamental difference 
underlies this superficial similarity. The theory of 
Maimonides is essentially dualistic. To exonerate his 
supramundane Creator from the causation of evil, he 
adopts the Aristotelian distinction of form and matter, 
ascribing all that is positively good in the system of 
being to the former, and regarding evil as only the 
element of negation or limitation which necessarily clings 
to the latter. In so far as any finite being is redeemed 
from imperfection, the element of good that is in it is 
due to the divine causation ; in so far as imperfection 
still adheres to it, it is to be ascribed, not to the positive 
agency of God, but, so to speak, to the intractableness of 
the materials with which He has had to deal. Matter is 
essentially mutable ; pain, sickness, death are its inevit- 
able conditions ; only the life which arrests change and 
disintegration is due to God. Error and crime are not 
traceable to God, any more than the blunders and mis- 
takes of the blind to the author of the organ of vision. 
If reason were perfect there would be neither error nor 
sin ; and therefore the measure of knowledge and virtue 
which men possess is to be ascribed to the author of 
reason ; that they have no more, and therefore yield to 
irrational passions, is simply another Avay of saying that 
they are finite. God wills the good element which re- 
claims finite beings from matter ; the evil which shows 

Unreality of Evil. 73 

that they are only partially reclaimed He can at most be 
said only to permit. 

It is not our business to criticise this theory, further 
than to point out its essentially dualistic character, and 
therefore its discordance with every system which, like 
that of Spinoza, maintains the absolute unity of the 
universe. Xot only does it start from the fundamental 
dualism of a supramundane Creator and a world lying 
outside of Him, but even in that world all does not spring 
from the will that creates it. God is not responsible for 
all that takes place in the world, simply because another 
principle, that of "matter," has there a role which is in- 
dependent of Him, and over which He can achieve at 
best only a partial victory. Spinoza, on the other hand, 
knows nothing of such an external Creator, or of any 
element of matter which possesses substantiality and 
independence. For him there is but one infinite sub- 
stance, outside of which nothing exists or can be con- 
ceived ; and all finite beings, corporeal and spiritual, are 
only modes of that one substance. Interpreted in the 
light of this fundamental principle, Spinoza's language 
with respect to the non-positive nature of evil means 
something with which the doctrine of Maimonides has 
no relation. Finite things, as such, have neither in 
their existence nor their essence any substantial reality. 
Everything that has a real existence, everything in 
nature and man that can be said to have any positive 
reality, is a modification or expression of the divine 
nature, and everything else that seems to be is only 
unreality, nonentity. If, then, we ask how it comes 
that we regard anything as evil, or ascribe reality to 
things that are injurious or wicked, the answer is that 

74 Spinoza. 

this arises from the false substantiation which imagination 
or opinion gives to things finite. " Whatever we think 
injurious and evil, and, moreover, whatever we think to 
be impious, or unjust, or wicked, arises from this, that we 
conceive things in a distorted and mutilated fashion." ] 
As by means of the conceptions of number and measure, 
which are merely " aids of the imagination," we give a 
false independence to discrete parts of space, which is 
really one and continuous, so the negative element in 
individual things and actions, which have no reality 
apart from God, is only due to the false isolation or 
limitation which the imagination or the abstracting un- 
derstanding gives to them. Remove the fictitious limit 
by which they are distinguished from God, and the 
negation vanishes ; the positive element, which alone 
expresses their essence, is all that remains. Whether 
this view of the nature of evil be tenable or not, it is 
obviously one which has nothing in common with that 
of Maimonides. For the latter, God is not the author 
of evil, because the evil or negative element in things is 
to be ascribed to another and independent source : for 
Spinoza, God is not the cause of evil, because, from the 
point of view of the whole, contemplating the system of 
being in the only aspect in which it has any real or 
affirmative existence, evil vanishes away into illusion 
and nonentity. 

i Eth. iv. 73, dem. 




ONE of the most remarkable writers of the transition 
period between medieval and modern philosophy is 
Giordano Bruno. His numerous works, poetical, scien- 
tific, philosophical, reflect the general characteristics of 
that period, modified in some respects by a strongly 
marked individuality. The revolt against authority, the 
almost exulting sense of intellectual freedom, the breaking 
down of the artificial division between things sacred and 
secular, human and divine, the revival of ancient philo- 
sophy, and resumption of its problems from a new and 
higher standpoint these and other distinctive features 
of the spirit of the time, and along with these the 
intellectual unsettlement and unrest, the predilection for 
occult sciences and arts, the tendency to commingle the 
dreams and vagaries of imagination with the results of 
rational investigation which marked some of its nobler 
yet more undisciplined minds, are vividly represented 
in Bruno's multifarious writings. In these it is vain to 
seek for systematic unity. They are the expression of a 
mind filled with intellectual enthusiasm, rich, versatile, 
original, yet undisciplined and erratic, feeling after truth, 

76 Spinoza. 

and making random guesses now in this direction, now 
in that, pouring forth with almost inexhaustible pro- 
ductiveness speculations, theories, conjectures, under 
the impulse of the moment or the varying influence of 
external circumstances and of the intellectual atmosphere 
in which he moved. Betwixt such a mind as this and 
the clear, patient, disciplined intelligence of Spinoza, it 
would seem impossible to find any point of contact, and 
in the absence of any direct evidence we might be dis- 
posed to regard Spinoza's alleged obligations to Bruno as 
nothing more than accidental coincidences. It is true, 
indeed, that the absence of any reference to Bruno in 
Spinoza's writings does not settle the question, inasmuch 
as Spinoza was undoubtedly conversant with, and derived 
important suggestions from, authors whom he does not 
qiiote. But without attaching any weight to Spinoza's 
silence, the positive proof of his obligations would seem, 
at first blush, to consist only of a few verbal coincidences 
scarcely avoidable in writers treating of the same subjects, 
and more than overborne by the lack of any real affinity 
of thought. 

AVhen, however, we examine more closely the general 
drift of Bruno's philosophical writings the leading ideas 
which, though never developed into a coherent system, 
underlie his speculations concerning man and nature and 
God we shall find in them not a little which may be 
regarded as a kind of anticipation of Spinozism. The 
idea which seems to have dominated the mind of Bruno, 
and which, by means partly of Aristotelian categories, 
partly of Neo-Platonic emanation theories, he seeks in 
his various writings to explain and defend, is that of the 
divinity of nature and man. He was in profound sym- 

Bruno's Pantheism. 77 

patliy with the revolt against the medieval notion of a 
transcendent God, and a sphere of divine things absolutely 
separated from nature and the secular life of mankind. 
The course of religious thought during the scholastic 
period had tended more and more to obscure the Christian 
idea of the unity of the divine and human. The 
ecclesiastical conception of God had gradually become 
that, not of a Being who reveals Himself in and to the 
human spirit, but of a Being above the world, and to 
whom thought can be related only as the passive re- 
cipient of mysterious dogmas authoritatively revealed. 
The false exaltation thus given to the idea of God led 
by obvious sequence to the degradation of nature, and 
the individual and social life of man. The observation 
of nature lost all religious interest for minds in which 
the divine was identified Avith the supernatural, and 
which found the indications of a divine presence not in 
the course of nature, but in interferences with its laws. 
In like manner, and for the same reason, the specially 
religious life became one of abstraction from the world, 
ami the secular life of man, its domestic, social, political 
relations, came to be regarded as outside of the sphere of 
spiritual tilings. It is easy to see how the reaction from 
this false separation of the natural and spiritual, the 
human and divine, should give rise, on the one hand, to 
the reawakened interest in nature which is indicated by 
the scientific revival of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, and on the other, to the pantheistic tendency 
in philosophy which gives their distinctive character to 
the speculative writings of Bruno. Both on the religioiis 
and the poetical side of his nature, Bruno recoiled from 
the conception of a supramuiidane God, and a world 

78 Spinoza. 

in whose life and thought no divine element could be 
discerned. In the external world, in whose least 
phenomena science had begun to perceive the hid- 
den glory of intelligible order and law; in the inner 
world of mind, to whose boundless wealth of thought 
the consciousness of the time was becoming awakened, 
Bruno seemed to himself intuitively to discern, not the 
mere production of a distant omnipotence, but the im- 
mediate expression of a divine presence and life. And 
with the whole strength of his ardent nature he sought 
to give philosophic form and verification to this intuitive 
sense of a kingdom of heaven on earth. But religious 
and poetical feeling may instinctively grasp what reason 
is inadequate to justify. Bruno was a poet first and a 
philosopher only in the second place. And whatever in- 
direct influence his writings may have had on a greater 
mind, it needed a calmer intelligence and severer logic than 
his own to overtake the task he set himself to accomplish. 
"The true philosopher," says Bruno, "differs from th> 
theologian in this, that the former seeks the infinite 
Being, not outside the world, but within it. TVe must 
begin, in other words, by recognising the universal 
agent in creation, before attempting to rise to that 
elevated region in which theology finds the archetype of 
created beings." l Dismissing, then, the conception of 
a supramundane God, it is Bruno's aim to show how 
philosophy justifies the idea of an immanent relation of 
God to the world. When we examine his solution of 
the problem, it is found to consist partly in a recurrence 
to Neo-Platonic figures and analogies, partly in a manipu- 

1 De la causa, pincipio et uno Wagner's edit., i. p. 175. Cf. 
Bartholmess, J. Bruno, ii. p. 130. 

The "Soul of the World." 79 

lation of the Aristotelian categories of matter and form, 
of potentiality and actuality. To the former point of 
view belongs his elaborate exposition of the notion of a 
"soul of the world." The universe is to be conceived 
of as an infinite living organism, not created by any out- 
ward cause, but having the principle of all its existences 
and activities within itself. It is that beyond which 
nothing exists, in which all things live, and move, and 
have their being. This inward, ever- active, creative 
principle he compares to the principle of life in the root 
or seed, " which sends forth from itself shoots, branches, 
twigs, &c., which disposes and fashions the delicate 
tissue of leaves, flowers, fruit, and again, by the same 
interior energy, recalls the sap to the root." It is in one 
sense external, in another internal, to purely natural 
things ; the former, because it cannot be regarded as 
itself a part or element of the things it creates the 
latter, because it does not act on matter or outside of 
matter, but wholly from within, in the very bosom and 
heart of matter. He represents this first principle again 
as an "inner artist" of infinite productiveness and 
plastic power ; but it differs from a human artist in two 
respects : (1.) That the latter operates on matter which is 
already alive or instinct with form, whereas in the case 
of the former no such presupposition is involved. He 
argues, therefore, that though we may shrink from re- 
garding the universe as a living being, yet we cannot 
conceive any form which is not already, directly or in- 
directly, the expression of a soul, any more than we can 
conceive a thing which has absolutely no form. It 
would be absurd, indeed, to regard as living forms the 
productions of human art. My table, as such, is not 

80 Spinoza. 

animate ; but inasmuch as its matter is taken from 
nature, it is composed of materials which are already 
living. There is nothing, be it ever so little or worth- 
less, that does not contain in it life or soul. 1 The 
human artist, in other words, works from without to 
communicate his own thought to materials which are 
taken from nature, and which have already, as part of 
nature, a life and being of their own ; but the divine or 
inner artist has no pre-existing materials on which to work. 
His art is creative, at once of the materials and of the in- 
finitely diversified forms imposed on them. Creative and 
formative energy are in Hun one and the same thing; and 
if He transmutes lower into higher forms of existence, 
the former are not taken from a sphere that is foreign 
or external to Him, but already instinct with His own 
life ; and the latter are only the same life putting forth a 
new expression of its inexhaustible energy. (2.) It is 
only a slightly varied form of the same thought when 
Bruno tells us that in the divine or inner artist, in con- 
trast with the human, the ideas of efficient and final cause 
are inseparable. In nature, he argues, the efficient cause 
cannot be separated from the final or ideal cause. Every 
reasonable act presupposes an end or design. That 
design is "nothing else than the form of the thing to he 
produced. From which it follows that an intelligence 
capable of producing all, and of raising them by a 
marvellous art from potentiality into actuality, should 
contain in itself the forms and essences of all things." 5 
Since it is intelligence or the soul of the world which 
creates natural things, it is impossible that the formal 

1 De la causa, i. p. 241. Cf. Bartholmess, ii. p. 135. 

2 De la causa, i. p. 237. Cf. Bartholmess, ii. p. 134. 

Tlic Unircrsc an Organism. 81 

should be absolutely distinct from the efficient cause. 
They must fall together in the inner principle of things. 
Bruno expresses the same thing in another way when 
he speaks of the universe as a living organism. In 
the work of a human artist the thought or conception 
lies outside of the materials on which he works, and in 
which it is by his plastic hand to be realised. But the 
thought or design which is at work in the creation of an 
organised structure, is not a mere mechanical cunning 
acting from without, shaping and adjusting matter accord- 
ing to an ingenious plan which is foreign to it. Here, 
on the contrary, the ideal principle or formative power 
goes with the matter, and constitutes its essence. Such 
a principle is supposed to be present from the beginning, 
inspiring the first minutest atom of the structure with 
the power of the perfect whole that is to be. The inner 
principle, the life within, is both first cause and last ; it 
makes the last first, and the first last. When, therefore, 
we apply this conception to the universe, what it brings 
before us is, not an extramundane omnipotent agent, 
creating and shaping things to accomplish an end out- 
side both of himself and them implying, therefore, some- 
thing originally lacking both to himself and the matter 
on which he operates but a universe which contains in 
itself the principle of its own being, a vast organism 
in which the power of the whole is working from the 
beginning, in which the least and most insignificant of 
finite existences presupposes and manifests the end to be 
realised, and in which the first principle is at once be- 
ginning and end of all. Had Bruno realised all that is 
contained in this conception, his philosophy might have 
gone beyond that of Spinoza, and anticipated much 

82 Spinoza. 

which it was left for later speculative thought to 

But when we follow the course of his speculations, and 
ask how from his fundamental thought he proceeds 
to explain the nature of God, and His relation to the 
world, we find that, under the limiting influence of 
scholastic or Aristotelian categories, the inherent wealth 
of his own idea escapes his grasp. With him as with a 
greater than he, the principle of abstract identity is in 
fatal opposition to that of concrete unity, or if the latter 
is faintly adumbrated in his conception of the soul of 
the world as a self-differentiating, self-integrating unity, 
the former speedily reasserts itself, so as to reduce the 
idea of God to a meaningless and barren abstraction, 
and the finite world to evanescence and unreality. 

In order to determine the nature of the first principle 
of all things, Bruno has recourse to the Aristotelian 
distinction of "form" and "matter." 

"Democritus and the Epicureans," says he, "hold that 
there is no real existence which is not corporeal ; they regard 
matter as the sole substance of things, and assert that it is 
itself the divine nature. These, with the Stoics and others, 
hold also that forms are simply the accidental dispositions of 
matter. ... A closer examination, however, forces us to re- 
cognise in nature two kinds of substances, form and matter. If, 
therefore, there is an active principle which is the constitutive 
principle of all, there is also a subject or passive principle 
corresponding to it, a something that is capable of being acted 
on as well as a something that is capable of acting. Human 
art cannot operate except on the surface of things already 
formed by nature; . . . but nature operates, so to speak, from 
the c-eiitre of its subject-matter, which is altogether unformed. 
Therefore the subject-matter of the arts is manifold, but the 

Matter and Form,. 83 

subject-matter of nature is one, seeing that all diversity 
proceeds from form." 1 

In this passage and elsewhere, what Bruno seeks to 
prove is, that the conceptions of matter and form are 
correlative, that neither can be apprehended in abstrac- 
tion from the other, and that the necessities of thought 
force us beyond them to another and higher conception, 
that of a primal substance which is neither matter alone 
nor form alone, but the unity of the two. We are led 
to the same result, he elsewhere shows, when we con- 
sider the supposed hard and fast distinction of sub- 
stances corporeal and incorporeal. " It is necessary that 
of all things that subsist there should be one principle 
of subsistence. . . . But all distinguishable things 
presuppose something indistinguishable. That indis- 
tinguishable something is a common reason to which, the 
difference and distinctive form are added." Just as sen- 
sible objects presuppose a sensible subject, intelligible 
objects an intelligible subject 

" So it is necessary that there be one thing which corresponds 
to the common reason of both subjects, ... a first essence 
which contains in itself the principle of its being. If body, 
as is generally agreed, presupposes a matter which is not 
body, and which therefore naturally precedes that which we 
designate as properly corporeal, we cannot admit any absolute 
incompatibility between matter and the substances which we 
name immaterial. ... If we discern something formal and 
divine in corporeal substances, on the same principle we 
must ?ay that there is something material in divine sub- 
stances. As Plotinus says, if the intelligible world contains 
an infinite variety of existences, there must be in them, along 

1 De la causa, p. 251. 

84 Spinoza. 

with tlieir characteristic differences, something which they 
all have in common, and that common element takes the place 
of matter as the distinctive element takes that of form. . . . 
This common basis of things material and immaterial, in so 
far as it includes a multiplicity of forms, is multiple and 
many-formed, but in itself it is absolutely simple and indi- 
visible ; and because it is all, it cannot be itself any one par- 
ticular being." l 

Such considerations do not suggest the idea of a 
Supreme Being (an extramundane God), "but of the 
soul of the world as the actuality of all, the poten- 
tiality of all, and all in all Whence, though there 
are innumerable individuals, yet everything is one." 2 
" There is one form or soul, one matter or body, which 
is the fulfilment of all and the perfection of all, which 
cannot be limited or determined, and is therefore un- 
changeable." 3 

These quotations may suffice to show what is the gen- 
eral drift of Bruno's speculations. The result to which his 
reasoning leads is not that which he intended or supposed 
himself to have attained. His obvious aim was to attain 
to a first principle Avhich should be the living source and 
explanation of all finite existences, material and spiritual. 
But owing to the false method by which he proceeds, 
what he does reach is, not a unity which comprehends, 
but a unity which excludes, all determinations not a 
being which embraces in its concrete unity the whole in- 
exhaustible wealth of the finite world, but an empty 
abstraction from which all content has been evaporated. 
Finding that the ideas of matter and form, and again of 

1 De la cam a, Wagner, i. pp. 269, 270, 272. 

2 Ibid., i . s ibid., p. 280. 

His Unity an Abstraction. 85 

corporeal and spiritual, cannot be held apart, but that 
when we attempt to think it, each implies and falls over 
into the other, he yet does not rise to a higher unity, a 
unity which transcends, yet at the same time compre- 
hends both. Hence his only available resource is to find 
his higher unity in that which matter and form, mind 
and body, have in common when their differences are 
eliminated. But by thinking of that which mind has in 
common with body, or form with matter, we do not reach 
a unity which is higher and richer than both, any more 
than we do so when we think of that which gold has in 
common with silver or copper. A generic unity, in 
other words, is a mere logical abstraction which has 
less content than the lowest individual it is supposed to 
embrace. In short, like many other thinkers before and 
after him, Bruno conceived himself to be explaining the 
differences and contrarieties of existence by the simple 
process of eliminating or ignoring them. And his first 
or highest principle (which he identified with God), in 
which he conceived himself to have reached the origin 
and end of all things, was nothing more than the abstrac- 
tion of " Being," which is logically higher, simply because 
it is poorer in content, not merely than matter or mind, 
but than the lowest of finite existences. 

And if thus his idea of God or the infinite was depleted 
of all content or reality, it fared no better, and for the 
same reason, with his idea of the finite world. What 
he sought for was a first principle or " soul of the world," 
in which all finite existences should find their being and 
reality. The solution of this problem, therefore, implied 
at once the nothingness of all finite being apart from 
God, and their reality in God. His fundamental notion 

86 Spinoza. 

of an organic unity imposed on him the necessity of 
explaining the universe as an organism in which the 
members are nothing but dead, meaningless fragments in 
separation from the life or vital principle of the whole ; 
but also the necessity of showing that through their re- 
lation to that principle they cease to be such unreal 
abstractions. His method certainly enabled him, as he 
himself saw, to achieve the former of these results 
viz., that of reducing all finite existences, as such, to 
evanescence and nothingness. 

" In its externality," says he, " nature is nothing more than 
a shadow, an empty image of the first principle in which 
potentiality and actuality are one. . . . Thou art not nearer 
to the infinite by being man rather than insect, by being star 
rather than sun. And what I say of these I understand of 
all things whose subsistence is particular. Now, if all these 
particular things are not different in the infinite, they are 
not really different. Therefore the universe is still one, and 
immovable. It comprehends all and admits of no difference 
of being, nor of any change with itself or in itself. It is all 
that can be, and in it is no difference of potentiality and 
actuality. 1 . . . Individuals which continually change do 
not take a new existence, but only a ne\v manner of being. 
It is in this sense that Solomon has said, ' There is nothing 
new under the sun, but that which is was before.' As all 
things are in the universe and the universe is in all things, 
as we are in it and it is in us, so all concur to one perfect 
unity, which is sole, stable, and ever remaining. It is one 
and eternal. Every form of existence, every other thing is 
vanity, every thing outside of that one is nothing." 2 

But whilst Bruno thus proved the unreality of all 
finite existences apart from the first principle, the si nil 
i De la causa, i. p. 281. - Ibid., - 

Relation to Spinoza. 87 

or substance of the world, what he failed to prove, and 
from the self-imposed conditions of his method could 
not prove, was that even in their relation to the first 
principle any reality was left to them. Regarded as 
that which is reached by abstraction from the limits of 
finite existences, the first principle does not explain, it 
simply annuls them. Their distinction from God is their 
finitude, and the withdrawal of their finitude, which 
makes them one with God, makes them lost in God. 
They are only figures carved out in the infinitude of 
space, and, like figures in space, they vanish when the 
defining lines are withdrawn. 

Such then, in substance, is Bruno's contribution to 
that problem with which, directly or indirectly, all 
speculative thought attempts to deal. It would be to 
forestall the exposition of the Spinozistic system to at- 
tempt here, save in a very general way, to answer the 
question, What, if any, traces are to be found in it of 
the influence of this writer on the mind of its author? 
At first sight there woidd seem to be discordances as 
great between the leading ideas of Bruno and of Spinoza 
as between the glowing, imaginative, poetical manner 
and style of the former, stamped throughout with the 
personality of the writer, and the rigid mathematical 
mould, excluding every trace of personal feeling, in 
which the ideas of the latter are cast. What point of 
contact, for instance, can be discerned between Spinoza's 
view of the universe as a system in which all things fol- 
low from the idea of infinite substance by as strict logical 
deduction as the properties of a triangle from its defini- 
tion, and Bruno's conception of an infinite organism in- 

88 Spitioza. 

stinct with the freedom, the activity, the perpetual change 
and variety of life, and in which the first principle is 
for ever manifesting itself, with the spontaneity and in- 
exhaustible productiveness of art, in the forms and 
aspects of the world 1 Yet perhaps a closer examination 
may lead to the conclusion that, with many apparent 
and some real differences between the two systems, in 
their essential principle and in the results to which it 
leads, there is a real affinity between them. Both seek 
to justify for thought that idea of the absolute unity of 
all things which is the presupposition of all science and 
of all philosophy. Both seek to explain the universe 
from itself, to the exclusion of any external or arbitrary 
cause, as implying a virtual abandonment of the problem 
to be solved. In the idea of God both endeavour 
to find, not an inexplicable supramundane Creator, but 
the immanent cause or principle of the world. In both 
there is a sense in which the words " God " and "Nature " 
are interchangeable. In Bruno, the first principle is the 
union of potentiality and actuality ; and whether you 
consider it as a principle which realises itself in the 
actual, and call it God, or as all actuality in relation to 
its principle, and call it Nature, it is only one and the 
same thing contemplated from different sides. In Spinoza, 
Substance is that beyond which nothing exists or can be 
conceived, and Nature understood as the whole finite 
world, including all possible modifications of an infinite 
number of infinite attributes in their relation to Substance, 
or in so far as they are expressions of it is only another 
name for the same universe regarded from a different 
point of view. Finally, in both systems the logical ru- 

Bruno and Spinoza. 89 

suit falls short of the aim and intention of the author, 
and the failure in both cases arises, to some extent at 
least, from the same cause viz., the attempt to reach a 
concrete, by a method that can yield only an abstract, 
unity. We have seen how in Bruno the infinite living 
organism, which was his ideal of the universe, reduces 
itself to a God who is only a bare self-identical abstrac- 
tion, in which the finite is lost or annulled. And in the 
sequel we shall find that Spinozism is, from one point of 
view, the ambiguous result of two conflicting elements 
a self-identical, undetermined substance which is all in 
one, and a world of finite individualities, each of which 
has a being and reality of its own. It is the obvious in- 
tention of the author to bring these two elements into the 
unity of a perfect system to find in Substance the origin 
and explanation of finite existences, and also to bring 
back all the individualities of the finite world into unity 
in their relation to the one infinite substance. But the 
relation between the two elements is only asserted, never 
demonstrated. The absolutely undetermined is, by its 
very definition, precluded from going forth out of itself 
into a world of finite determinations ; and if we start 
from the latter, they can only be brought back to the 
former by the destruction of their finitude, and their 
absorption in the infinite all. 

From these considerations it seems to follow that, 
whatever weight we attach to the external evidence of 
Spinoza's indebtedness to Bruno, in the movement of 
thought in both writers, in the principle from which 
they start, the end at which they aim, their partial suc- 
cess, and the reason of their failure, a close resemblance 

90 Spinoza. 

may be traced. Whether, in point of fact, we can affili- 
ate Spinoza's system to the speculations of his predeces- 
sor is doubtful, but it must at least be conceded that 
the philosophy of the former betrays tendencies which, 
had he been acquainted with Bruno's writings, would 
have led him to recognise in the latter a spirit akin to 
his own. 




THE philosophy and the theology of modern times 
start from a common origin, and a certain analogy 
may be traced, at least in their earlier stages, in 
the course of development through which they passed. 
What first strikes us in studying that development is its 
apparent inconsistency with its origin. The principle of 
freedom is the common source of both, yet in both it 
speedily passes into a doctrine of absolutism which seems 
to be the complete negation of freedom. From a move- 
ment in which everything seems to be grounded on the 
individual consciousness, we are brought almost imme- 
diately to a theory of the universe in which God is so 
conceived of as to leave to the world and man no inde- 
pendence or reality. In religion, the assertion of the 
right of private judgment gives rise to a theology of 
absolute predestination and " irresistible grace." In 
philosophy the principle of self -consciousness, as the 
source of all knowledge and the criterion of certitude, 
develops into a system of uncompromising pantheism. 

Yet a little reflection will show that the transition 
thus indicated involves no real inconsistency. The prin- 

92 Spinoza. 

ciple of the Protestant Reformation was, indeed, the 
assertion of spiritual freedom. It expressed the revolt 
of the reawakening religious consciousness against ex- 
ternal mediation or authority in matters of faith. It 
is implied in the very idea of religion that the human 
spirit is essentially related to the divine, and that in 
seeking to realise that relation it is attaining to a deeper 
consciousness of itself. By whatever outward means 
the knowledge of God and of divine things may "be con- 
veyed to us, it is not religious knowledge until it has 
been grasped by the spiritual consciousness and has 
found its witness therein. The ultimate criterion of 
truth must lie not without, but within, the spirit. The 
voice of God must find its response in the heart and 
conscience of him to whom it speaks, and nothing can 
hold good for him as true or divine which has not re- 
ceived its authentication in the " assurance of faith." But 
whilst nothing, it would seem, can be more thorough- 
going than this assertion of spiritual freedom, it involves 
and directly leads to what might easily be regarded as 
the negation of such freedom. Religious knowledge is 
the revelation to man at once of freedom and of absolute 
dependence ; of freedom, because it is to consciousness 
that truth appeals, and by the activity of consciousness 
that truth is apprehended of absolute dependence, be- 
cause at the very first step of our entrance into the king- 
dom of truth, we find ourselves in a region where nothing 
can be made or unmade by us, in the presence of an author- 
ity which dominates our will and claims the complete 
submission of our thoughts. The very act of entering 
into it involves the renunciation of all individual opin- 
ions, inclinations, prejudices, of everything that pertains 

Principle of the Reformation. 93 

to me merely as this individual self. It implies, more- 
over, the recognition by the individual self, not merely 
of its finitude and dependence, but of its moral blindness 
and weakness. Truth must find its witness in the con- 
sciousness ; but the consciousness to which it appeals is 
that not of the natural man, but of the spiritual. The 
response which it awakens is that not of the individual 
self, but of a higher or universal self, with which the 
former is not in harmony. It is therefore the revelation 
to me not merely of a universal reason to which the in- 
dividual consciousness must subject itself, but of an 
absolute moral authority, an infinite will at once in me 
and above me, before which I am self-condemned and 
helpless. Religion begins with the sense of moral guilt 
and impotence ; but the presupposition which this in- 
volves is that of an infinite will with which my finite 
will is not in harmony, and to which it is only by the 
absolute renunciation of any individual independence, 
that I can ever be reconciled. It is from this point of 
view that we can understand how, from the principle of 
Protestantism, the early Reformers should be led to that 
idea of God which constitutes the primary doctrine of 
their theological system. 

The principle which was at the root of the Protestant 
Reformation found thus its first expression in the sphere 
of religion, and it was here that the human spirit first 
attained emancipation from that bondage to authority in 
which it had been held. But the century of the Refor- 
mation is the beginning also of a new epoch in philo- 
sopli}' ; and both in its origin and development, a close 
analogy can be traced between the philosophical and the 
religious movement. Speculative thought felt the same 

94 Spinoza. 

impulse with religion to liberate itself from the presup- 
positions which had hitherto fettered it, and to assert its 
autonomy in its own sphere. And here, too, the individual 
consciousness seemed to employ its regained freedom only 
in subjecting itself to a new and more absolute limita- 
tion. In this point of view the philosophy of Descartes 
may be compared to the first assertion of religious liberty 
by the Reformers, and the philosophy of Spinoza springs 
from it by the same movement of thought which gaA'e 
birth to the predestinarian theories of Luther and 

In general, the philosophy of Descartes expresses the 
effort of intelligence to bring all things within -its own 
sphere, to find within thought the explanation of all the 
problems of thought. Formally stated, Descartes' search 
after an ultimate criterion of certitude was the endeavour 
to give to all that claims to be knowledge the form of 
self-consciousness. The process by which he represents 
himself as reaching this criterion is indeed, when closely 
examined, one which already virtually implies it. In 
the search for intellectual satisfaction he begins by re- 
solving to reject everything which it is possible to doubt. 
When we examine the contents of ordinary knowledge, 
we find it to consist of a mass of unsifted and incongru- 
ous materials of impressions, opinions, beliefs, which 
reason has never tested, and which have no other than 
an accidental connection with each other. They have 
been blindly accepted on authority or by tradition, they 
have fallen upon the mind in the form of instinctive 
impressions, they have been woven together by arbitrary 
associations. When rejection is awakened, there are 

Criterion of Certitude. 95 

none of them which it cannot doubt, and, at least pro- 
visionally, reject ; not authoritative dogmas and beliefs, 
for these by their very definition have no inherent cer- 
tainty ; not things we seem to perceive by the senses, 
for the senses often deceive us, and what once deceives 
may do so always ; not even mathematical propositions, 
for, as we are not the makers of our own minds, it is at 
least conceivable that they are the creation of some 
malicious or mocking spirit who has so constructed them 
as, even in their seemingly demonstrative certainties, to 
be mistaking error for truth. But when, by this process 
of elimination, I have got rid of or provisionally rejected 
one after another of the elements of that accidental con- 
glomerate of beliefs which I have hitherto accepted, is 
there nothing that remains, no primeval rock of certitude, 
or fundamental basis of knowledge unassailable by doubt 1 
And the answer is, that when everything else has been 
doubted, there is one thing which lies beyond the reach 
of doubt, which in the very process of doubting I tacitly 
affirm. I cannot doubt the doubter. Doubt is thought, 
and in thinking I cannot but affirm the existence of the 
thinker. From everything else I can abstract, but I 
cannot abstract from myself who performs the process of 
abstraction. Coyito, ergo sum. 

In this account which Descartes gives of the way in 
which he seemed to himself to have reached an ultimate 
principle of certitude, it is obvious that he tacitly presup- 
poses from the outset the principle of which he is in quest. 
When he sets out by saying, " I will question everything 
which I can doxibt," he virtually posits the " I " as the 
umpire by whose verdict everything is to be decided. In 
this, as in every other possible investigation which it can 

96 Spinoza. 

undertake, thought presupposes itself. In bringing any- 
thing to the bar of consciousness, consciousness presumes 
its own reality. Nay, we can go further, and say that 
in every act of intelligence, in the most rudimentary 
exercise of thought by which I bring any object before 
me, I presuppose myself as the thinking subject to which 
that object is referred. And this, further, enables us to 
see what is the real significance of Descartes' fundamental 
principle. As has been often pointed out, the proposition, 
" I think, therefore I am," is only in form syllogistic. As 
its author himself expressly says, it is not an argument 
based on the major premiss, " Whatever thinks exists," 
for the terms of that premiss would have no meaning 
save what is derived from the prior intuition of the unity 
of being and thought. Gogito ergo sum is, therefore, 
simply the expression of that unity as the ultimate datum 
of consciousness. In saying " I am conscious," the " I " 
and the consciousness predicated of it cannot be separated. 
In affirming the consciousness we affirm the I. Descartes' 
proposition, therefore, is the assertion of the indissoluble 
unity of thought and reality in self-consciousness as the 
fundamental principle on which all knowledge rests. 

Descartes had now attained the principle of which he 
was iu quest; but the inquiry would have been fruitless 
unless in that principle he had found not only that which 
is al isolutely certain in itself, but that which is the source 
of all other certainties, the idea by means of which we 
can advance to rehabilitate the world which doubt has 
destroyed. If this principle is not to remain a mere 
barren abstraction, a form of knowledge without content, 
it must enable us to recover, as objects of rational and 
Britain knowledge, what had been rejected as a congeries 

Principle of Self-Consciousness. 97 

of unsifted beliefs. How, then, asks Descartes, shall we 
find iu self-consciousness the key to all knowledge 1 Now 
the failure or success of any attempt to answer this ques- 
tion must, it is easy to see, turn upon the sense in which 
the principle itself is understood. "Whether the proposi- 
tion, " I in thinking am," or more briefly, " I think," is to 
be fruitful or barren, depends on the part of it on which the 
emphasis is thrown. If the latter term be limited by the 
former, if, in other words, the thought or self-conscious- 
ness here affirmed be taken as merely subjective and 
individual, the proposition contains in it the beginning 
and end of all knowledge. In the empirical fact of his 
own self-consciousness there is nothing which enables 
the individual to transcend his own individuality. 
Thought that is purely mine can build for itself no 
bridge by which it can pass to a world that lies, by 
supposition, wholly beyond it. The future history of 
philosophy was to show, in the vain endeavours of the 
empirical psychologists, from Locke downwards, to solve 
this problem, that individualism imprisons the mind in 
its own isolated consciousness, and can never attain to 
the legitimate knowledge of the nature or even of the 
existence of any reality beyond it. 

On the other hand, the principle of self-consciousness 
may be so construed as to become in itself the fraitful 
source of knowledge, and the test by which all know- 
ledge can be evaluated. What it may be understood to 
mean is, that beyond all difference of thought and being, 
of thought and its object, there is a unity which alone 
makes this difference intelligible, a unity which is the 
first presupposition of all affirmation about the particular 
subject and the particular object. Or to state it differ- 

p. XIL c 

98 Spinoza. 

cntly, it may mean that whilst I caii abstract from ev-ry- 
thing else, I cannot abstract from the being which is iden- 
tical with thought. That being is not the being of my 
particular self ; for that too, like every other particular 
contingent existence, I can in one sense abstract from. 
I can make it an object of observation, I can think of it, 
and I can think it away, as that which was not and 
might not be. But the self from which I cannot ab- 
stract, the self which is identical with thought, is that 
for which not only I, this particular individual, am, but 
for which and in which I and all things are. So far 
from shutting me up in a mere subjective experience, 
with a world of realities lying beyond and inaccessible, 
self-consciousness, thus understood, is that which contains 
in it the possibility of all knowledge. It is that which 
is presupposed in all knowledge and to which all realities 
are relative. 

In which of these senses did Descartes understand his 
own fundamental principle? In his endeavour to re- 
construct the world by means of it, did he employ it in 
the sense in which it is altogether inadequate for the 
task, or in the sense in which a system of knowledge 
can legitimately be based on it? The answer is, that 
he did neither, bitt wavered between the two radically 
inconsistent interpretations, and whilst his system con- 
tains much that implies or points towards the higher 
view, he neither grasps it firmly nor carries it out to 
its logical results. Yet even the arbitrary expedients 
which he employs to extract more from his first prin- 
ciple than, in the narrower sense, it could yield, proves 
that the wider construction of it was that towards 
which he unconsciously tended, though it was left for 

Mind and Mattt /-. 99 

other and more consequent thinkers to discern its full 

To say that self-consciousness is that to which all 
things are relative, is to say that the world is an in- 
telligible world, and that betwixt mind and matter, 
thought and being, there is no essential division, and 
no necessity, therefore, to go in search of some third 
principle to mediate between them. Such a necessity, 
however, Descartes creates for himself. The do\ibt or 
provisional negation of external things by which the 
affirmation of a conscious self had been reached, he 
speedily hardens into an absolute negation. It is through 
the opposition of a not-self that mind realises itself. 
How then can that conscious self which exists only as it 
opposes itself to that which is not-self, which knows itself 
only in abstracting from a world without, hold any in- 
telligent converse therewith? In attempting to know 
anything beyond itself, is not consciousness committing 
a virtually suicidal act? This difficulty was rendered 
more formidable for Descartes by the view he takes of 
the essentially distinctive nature of mind and matter. 
Mind and matter are independent substances, each having 
its own determining or characteristic attribute. The 
characteristic attribute of mind is thought or self- 
consciousness, that of matter is extension, and these two 
can only be understood in a sense which renders them 
reciprocally contradictory. Thought or self-consciousness 
is that which is absolutely self-included and indivisible. 
We can ideally distinguish in it that which thinks and 
that which is object of thought ; but they do not lie out- 
side of each other, they are indivisible elements in the 
unity of self-consciousness. But if this z'tensiveness is 

1 00 Spinoza. 

the essence of mind, that of matter is the very opposite 
or contradiction of this extension, self-externality, ex- 
istence which consists of parts outside of parts, without 
any centre of unity. Mind is self-consciousness; mat- 
ter, on the other hand, is absolute selflessness. Now 
then, between things which by their very definition are 
reciprocally exclusive, can there be any communion 1 
How can that whose very being is to be selfless become 
related to that whose very being is to be a conscious 
self? In passing into mind, matter must cease to be 
matter ; in going forth to apprehend matter, mind must 
cease to be mind. 

The expedient by which ultimately Descartes en- 
deavours to overcome this difficulty is, as we shall see, 
that of arbitrarily depriving the two independent sub- 
stances of their independence and reciprocal exclusive- 
ness by reducing them to moments of a third and higher 
substance. Whilst the distinctive attribute which makes 
each a substance with reference to the other remains, 
their opposition is mediated by the absolute substance, 
God, on whom the existence of both depends. But this 
attempt to overcome the dualism of mind and matter 
presents itself first in a somewhat cruder and more 
mechanical form. Mind and matter are essentially op- 
posed ; but God becomes the guarantee to mind of the 
truthfulness of its ideas of matter. Mind has no im- 
mediate certainty of the truth of these ideas ; it simply 
finds them in itself. They convey no assurance of any 
objective reality corresponding to them. It is conceiv- 
able, as was formerly supposed, that our notions of 
material things, or even of the existence of an external 
world, may be illusions. But our idea of God is that 

Idea of God. 101 

of an all-perfect Being, one of whose perfections is ab- 
solute veracity or truthfulness. If, therefore, in the 
mind which owes to Him its existence we find certain 
clear and distinct ideas of matter or of external realities, 
the veracity of God is the unquestionable security that 
these ideas are true. Ideas of things which we could 
not otherwise trust, we can trust as implanted in us by 
a God that cannot lie. 

Arbitrary and forced as this method of solving the 
problem before him seems to be, what it really indicates 
is, that Descartes had discerned the inadequacy of a 
merely individualistic principle of knowledge, and had 
begun to see that the consciousness of the individual is 
implicated with a consciousness wider and more abso- 
lute than itself. And this becomes more obvious when 
we go on to consider how Descartes contrives, without 
any conscious departure from his fundamental principle, 
to extract from it the idea of God and the proof of His 
objective existence. In two ways consciousness seems 
to him to testify to something more absolute than 
itself. In the first place, he finds in it an idea 
which, from its very nature, cannot be traced to any 
finite source, and which therefore witnesses to an in- 
finite Being as its cause or archetype. Whatever real- 
ity, he argues, any thing or idea contains, at least as 
much must be contained in its cause. If I find in 
myself an idea which contains more reality than is 
contained in my own nature or could be derived or 
collected from other finite natures, I may conclude 
that there is a being containing in himself an amount 
of reality transcending that of all finite existence. 
Such an idea is that of God, the infinite substance, 

102 Spinoza. 

and it could only have been implanted in me by an 
actually existing God. 

To this argument it is easy to take exception, on the 
obvious ground that it presupposes the thing which it is 
intended to prove that it seeks to deduce from conscious- 
ness, or one of the ideas of consciousness, a being who 
is to guarantee the veracity of consciousness ; and further, 
that it attempts to find in thought the proof of some- 
thing outside of thought or unthinkable in other words, 
to make thought transcend itself. Yet the flaw is only 
in the form, not in the real though implicit significance 
of the argument. The being who contains in himself 
all perfections is still a being thought of in a most defi- 
nite way. Seeming to himself to have forced a path 
outward to a region beyond consciousness, Descartes is 
still within it ; and what he has really achieved is vir- 
tually to expand the sphere of self-consciousness till it 
embraces that which transcends all that is finite and 
individual. The secret nerve of the argument, and that 
which constituted its motive and significance, was, that 
there is an infinite element in thought, or that the con- 
sciousness of the individual, when closely examined, is 
seen to be implicated with or dominated by a universal 
consciousness, or a consciousness of the infinite. 

The contrast between the apparent and the real signi- 
ficance of the argument becomes still more obvious in 
the second form in which Descartes presents it, and 
which is only a modification of the "ontological argu- 
ment " of Anselm and Aquinas. The objective existence 
of God is involved in the very idea of God. Amongst 
the various ideas in our minds we find one, the highest 
of all that of a Being supremely wise and powerful and 

Ontological Argument. 103 

absolutely perfect ; and Ave perceive that this idea, unlike 
others, contains in it the characteristic, not of possible 
or contingent, but of absolutely necessary existence. In 
the same way, therefore, as from the fact that the idea 
of a triangle necessarily involves that its angles should 
be equal to two right angles, we conclude that every 
triangle must have this property ; so from the fact that 
the idea of an absolutely perfect being includes in it 
that of existence, we conclude that such a being must 
necessarily exist. Here again the argument, though 
faulty in the form in which Descartes presents it, is 
valuable as indicating the untenableness of ' his origi- 
nal standpoint, and the inevitable tendency to read into 
it a new and deeper meaning. If self -consciousness 
is only individual, and we suppose a world of realities 
lying outside of it, it is impossible to conclude from self- 
existence or any other element of an idea in us that 
there is any actual reality corresponding to it any 
more than, according to Kant's familiar illustration, I 
can infer from the idea of a hundred dollars in my mind 
that I have them in my purse. That equality of its 
angles to two right angles is a necessary element of the 
idea of a triangle, proves no more than that //' any actual 
triangle exists, it will possess this property ; and that 
necessary existence belongs to the idea of God, merely 
prove-; that if there is a being corresponding to the idea, 
he exists necessarily. By no. straining, therefore, could 
the principle of self-consciousness, if regarded as merely 
individualistic, break down, in this case any more than 
in any other, the barrier between the subjective self and 
the world of realities opposed to it. But what Descartes 
was really aiming at was a self-consciousness which is 

104 Spinoza. 

not individual but universal, or the principle that the 
real presupposition of knowledge is not the individual's 
consciousness of himself as an individual, but the thought 
or consciousness of a self which is beyond all individual 
selves and their objects that, viz., of universal or abso- 
lute intelligence. Other existences may be contingent, 
other things may or may not be ; but behind all our 
ideas there is one which, whether we are explicitly or 
only implicitly conscious of it, so proves its reality from 
thought, that thought becomes impossible without it. 
Its absolute reality is so fundamental to thought, that to 
doubt it is to doubt reason itself. This was the goal to 
Avhich Descartes was tending. Had he reached it, the 
principle of individual freedom with which he started 
would have converted itself into another form, which is 
either the pantheistic suppression of freedom, or the re- 
establishment of it on a deeper basis. In his own hands, 
however, it remained in the imperfect form in which it 
served only to introduce into his system a new element 
absolutely inconsistent with the principle from which he 

The foregoing view of the tendency and results of the 
Cartesian philosophy will be borne out if we consider, 
further, how near Descartes comes to the abandonment 
in express terms of his original for a different stand- 
point; in other words, to the recognition of the truth 
that it is not the consciousness of self but the con- 
sciousness of God which is the first principle of know- 
ledge. "VYhat he had represented to himself as the ori- 
ginal certainty of self had been reached by doubting 
everything else ; but it was not the doubt that had 
created the certitude, but the certitude that had ere- 

Infinite and Finite. 105 

ated the doubt. It was the implicit presence of a 
standard of reality that had led him to pronounce his 
first notions of things illusory and unreal. The idea 
that was the prius in the process of doubt was not 
that of the things doubted, but the idea or conscious- 
ness of self. In like manner when he conies to con- 
sider the relation of the idea of God to other ideas, 
or of the idea of the infinite to that of the finite, he 
expressly maintains that the idea of infinite and neces- 
sary being does not arise by abstraction or negation 
from that of finite, contingent being, but conversely, 
that it is the presence in the mind of the idea of in- 
finite and necessary being that enables us to pronounce 
any other existences to be finite and contingent. " I 
ought not to think," says he, " that I perceive the in- 
finite only by negation of the finite, as I perceive rest 
and darkness by negation of motion and light ; on the 
contrary, I clearly perceive that there is more of reality 
in infinite substance than in finite, and therefore that, in 
a certain sense, the idea of the infinite is prior in me to 
that of the finite." In other words, the idea of the infi- 
nite is presupposed in that of the finite ; the former is 
the positive idea, the latter produced merely by nega- 
tion or limitation of it. It is really, though uncon- 
sciously, the idea of God from which we start, and 
from which our ideas of other existences as finite are 
derived. But if this be so, it is to be observed that 
we have here the complete subversion of Descartes' 
original principle of knowledge. For, in the first place, 
amongst the ideas of finite things to Avhich that of the 
infinite is now pronounced the prius, must be included 
the idea of the finite individual self. And in the 

106 Spinoza. 

second place, the cogito ergo sum was, as we can now 
see, only his proof of God in another form. In the 
latter, he finds in his mind an idea which, in contrast 
with all ideas of merely finite, contingent existences, is 
that of infinite or necessary existence. In the former 
he found in his mind an idea which, in contrast with 
all ideas he could douht or deny, was ahsolutely certain. 
The starting-point and the process are in both cases the 
same. What he denies or reduces to negativity and 
contingency in contrast with the idea of God, is pre- 
cisely the same with what he denied or reduced to 
illusion and nullity in contrast with the idea of self. 
The conclusion he reaches must be in both cases the 
same. And that the self of the one process is really 
identical with the God of the other, is further obvious 
from this, that doubt is possible, not through the cer- 
tainty of self, but through the certainty of absolute 
truth. In doubting or denying anything, the tacit appeal 
is not to a finite but to an infinite standard, not to the 
idea of the subjective self, but to that of absolute objec- 
tive reality. The self of the cogito ergo sum was there- 
fore not really the individual self, but that infinite which 
he now pronounces to be the jn-ius in thought of all 
finite existences. 

But though logically Descartes' own express admis- 
sion implied the abandonment of his former for a new 
principle of knowledge, he did not himself recognise or 
admit the implication. To save his OAvn consistency he 
has recourse to a distinction which is simply the ac- 
knowledgment of the unresolved dualism which charac- 
terises his system. In order to retain the cogito ergo .-unit 
as a first principle, whilst yet asserting that God or the 

Knoiviny and Belay. 107 

infinite is in thought the prf-us of the finite, he distin- 
guishes between the principle of knowledge (jprincipittim 
cognoscendi) and the principle of being (principium 
essendt), assigning the former role to the Ego, the latter 
to God. But a philosophical system fails by its own 
showing, if it does not give to all with which it deals 
the unity of knowledge. What, as a philosophy, it 
undertakes to do, is to explain the world as an intel- 
ligible world to trace rational relations between all 
existences and orders of being, to make them mem- 
bers of one system by showing how all are expressions 
of one principle to which all their differences can be 
brought back. To make Being, therefore, something 
apart from and irreducible to the principle of know- 
ledge, is virtually to confess the inadequacy of the 
system and of the principle on which it is based to 
save that principle by admitting that there is something 
it cannot explain. For Descartes the true escape from 
his dilemma would have been by admitting the conclu- 
sion to which his own hesitating language logically 
pointed that God or the infinite is first in knowledge 
as well as first in being. To separate the existence of 
God from the idea of God, and make the latter only the 
proof of the former, was the impossible attempt to go 
outside of knowledge for the explanation of know- 
ledge ; and it was an attempt which his own account 
of that idea rendered wholly arbitrary and self-contra- 
dictory. For what alone can be meant by an innate 
or implanted idea of God is simply the indwelling or 
activity of God in xis. To infer the existence of God 
from the idea of God, is to infer the existence of God 
from the consciousness of it, or to infer the existence of 

108 Spinoza. 

God from itself. There is no advance to something new 
in thinking of the existence of God, when in thought I 
have already His necessary existence. The idea is 
already the existence of God. " I think God, there- 
fore God is," is no more a syllogism in which exist- 
ence is inferred from thought than cogito eryo sum is 
such a syllogism. The existence and the thought arc 
given in one act, inseparably united. It was because 
Descartes failed to perceive this that the unity to which 
his system tended was left still encumbered with a 
dualistic element. 

Finally, it is to be remarked that the dualism which 
remains unresolved in Descartes' view of the relation of 
God and the world, continues of necessity unresolved in 
his conception of the relation of mind and matter, of soxil 
and body. If the infinite be arbitrarily separated from 
the finite, the latter necessarily breaks into irreconcilable 
oppositions. Thought and being divided at the source 
cannot be united in the streams. Accordingly, mind and 
matter, the world Avithin and the world without, remain, 
in Descartes' view, independent entities tied together 
only by an arbitrary bond. They are, as we have seen, 
so defined as to be each the absolute negation of the 
other. The two are conceived of only as substances recip- 
rocally exclusive, and their very nature consists in fa-ii/i/ 
reciprocally exclusive. It would seem, therefore, impos- 
sible that two substances so defined should be united in 
one system or brought into any real relation to each 
other. To be so would imply that mind should cease 
to be mind, or matter matter that mind should become 
extended, or matter think. All the devices, therefore, 
l>y which Descartes endeavours to include them in one 

Sithordinate Substances. 109 

system, are expedients to knit together what has been 
irreparably rent asunder. Mind has in it ideas of cor- 
poreal things ; but these ideas have no real but only a 
representative relation to external objects, and they are 
not the mind's own, but due to an outside power who 
mechanically inserts or infuses them and vouches for 
their truth. Body and soul are not in themselves re- 
lated to each other ; they are not correlative factors of 
a whole which explains at once their difference and 
their unity, but independent substances brought and 
kept together by an external and unintelligible force. 
Thus matter and mind fall asunder, and that which is 
supposed to unite them does not unite them for thought. 
There being nothing in their own nature which unites 
them, an arbitrary act of power, even when it is des- 
ignated omnipotent, explains nothing, but is merely 
another way of saying that somehow or another they 
are united. 

There is indeed one form of explanation to which, 
with marks of hesitation, Descartes' language seems 
finally to point, and which, in so far as it is a conceiv- 
able explanation, indicates the ultimate goal to which 
his philosophy leads. The dualism which is only verb- 
ally solved by reference to an inexplicable act of power, 
finds at least a possible solution when the extended and 
thinking substances are subordinated to an absolute or 
infinite substance in which their differences are lost. 
But in order to this solution two things are necessary : 
in the first place, the subordinate substances must be 
deprived of their substantial character and reduced to 
attributes or accidents ; and in the second place, the 
common substance in which they are united must be 

1 10 Spinoza. 

conceived of as something underlying yet different from 
both. And this, accordingly, is the process by which 
Descartes effected his final solution of the problem be- 
fore him, the restoring to unity of his disintegrated 
universe. Substance, he tells us, is " that which so 
exists that it needs nothing else in order to its exist- 
ence." But in this sense the notion cannot be applied 
to finite, created existences. Mind and matter retain, 
indeed, each its substantial character and distinguishing 
attribute with reference to the other ; but with reference 
to God they lose their independence and exclusiveness, 
and become, as absolutely dependent, moments or acci- 
dents of His being. Further, the supreme or absolute 
substance in which mind and matter find their reality 
must be something in which their distinctive charac- 
teristics no longer exist, a unity which is different 
from both. Though elsewhere, therefore, Descartes 
speaks of the nature of God as having a nearer affinity 
to mind than to matter, yet, contemplated as substance, 
he expressly declares that nothing can be predicated in 
the same sense of God and finite creatures. The quali- 
ties of matter He cannot have, for matter is divisible 
and imperfect ; and if thought can be ascribed to Him, 
it is in Him something essentially different from thought 
in man. God is therefore for us simply the unknown 
something which remains when we abstract from nature 
and man their distinctive attributes. He is neither 
matter nor thought, and if He can be conceived at all, it 
is only as the bare abstraction of Being which is common 
to both. 

It is little wonder that Descartes' language should 
become hesitating and ambiguous when he seems to be 

Pantheistic Tendency. Ill 

led by his own logic to a conception which, instead of 
explaining the differences of the finite world, seems to 
suppress or annul them which, having absorbed nature 
and man in God, reduces God Himself to a lifeless 
abstraction of which we can say nothing but that it i*. 
But whilst Descartes, recoiling from the pantheistic 
abyss to the brink of which he had been led, refuses to 
commit himself in definite terms to this result, it was 
left for another and more resolute thinker to follow out 
his principles to their legitimate conclusion. 

112 Spinoza. 


The treatise ' De Deo et Homine,' which has been brought 
to light in recent times, may be regarded as a kind of study 
for Spinoza's greater and more systematic work, the ' Ethics.' 
For the student of his philosophy its chief interest lies in 
the fact that the ideas of the later work are here presented 
to us in an inchoate and cruder form. As the title indi- 
cates, the subject of the earlier work is the same as that of 
the later ; the succession of topics is the same in both, 
and we find in them many coincidences both of thought 
and expression. But the earlier treatise is less coherent and 
complete. There is much in it conceptions, definitions, 
phrases, scholastic and theological formulae which are not 
found in the ' Ethics,' and which can only be regarded as 
survivals from a more immature stage of thought. At the 
outset Spinoza seems to be hesitating between different start- 
ing-points, and making trials of fundamental principles 
which are essentially inconsistent. There are many gaps in 
the logical sequence of thought, dialogues are interposed 
which interrupt the main argument, and an appendix is 
added in which the doctrines of the work are re-discussed 
from a different point of view. But with all these differ- 
ences the general character of the two works is the same. 
They bear the stamp of the same mind, only of the same 
mind at an earlier and a later stage of its philosophical de- 
velopment. In the former we see the writer feeling his way 
to ideas concerning God and man which reappear in the 
latter, freed from irrelevances and inconsequences, as the 
final result of his speculations. 

It was my intention, as formerly indicated, to prepare for 
the criticism and interpretation of the ' Ethics ' by a care- 
ful examination of the treatise ' De Deo et Homine.' Such 
an examination, however, would have extended this book 
greatly beyond the limits assigned to it. I have there- 
fore been compelled to omit this part of my general plan. 




THE point of view of a philosophical writer reflects itself, 
not only in the substance of his teaching, but in the 
form in which it is cast. Clear speculative insight may 
rise above the restraints of a false or defective method, 
but cannot altogether withstand its influence. Form 
inevitably reacts on matter, method unconsciously modi- 
fies ideas or hinders their full expression and develop- 
ment. From the form, therefore, of Spinoza's system 
we may derive some help in the endeavour to apprehend 
its general bearing and to discover the reasons both of 
its success and of its failure, of what it does and of 
what it leaves undone. 

"What Spinoza aimed at was a system of knowledge in 
which everything should follow by strict necessity of 
thought from the first principle with which it starts. 
It is the function of reason to rise above the influence 
of the senses, to strip away from the objects it contem- 
plates the guise of contingency and independence with 
Avhich ordinary observation clothes them, and to see all 
things related to each other under the form of absolute 
necessity. To this end it seeks to penetrate to the first 

p. xii, H 

114 Spinoza. 

ground or presupposition of all thought and being, to 
grasp " that idea which represents the origin and sum of 
nature, and so to develop all our ideas from it that it 
shall appear as the source of all other ideas." 

With such a conception of the nature of knowledge it 
is easy to see how Spinoza should regard the science of 
mathematics as affording the purest type of method, and 
should endeavour, as he has done, to cast his system in 
geometrical form. In geometry everything is based on 
the fundamental conception of space or quantity, and 
the whole content of the science seems to follow by 
rigid logical necessity from definitions and axioms re- 
lating to that conception. Might not the same exactitude, 
certainty, necessity of sequence be obtained for the 
truths of philosophy as for the truths of mathematics by 
following the same method 1 It was probably some such 
anticipation that led Spinoza to give to his great work 
the form which is indicated by its title, ' Ethics de- 
monstrated in Geometrical Order,' and to set forth his 
ideas, after the manner of Euclid, in a series of defini- 
tions, axioms, postulates, and of propositions and corol- 
laries flowing from these by strict logical deduction. 

To what extent the defects of Spinoza's system are 
to be traced to his method will perhaps appear in the 
sequel ; but it may be pointed out here that, from the 
very nature of the thing, a purely geometrical method is 
inadequate to the treatment of philosophical truth. 

1. For one thing, philosophy must go further back 
than either mathematics or the sciences that treat of 
outward nature. These sciences may and do take much 
for granted ; philosophy admits of no unexamined pre- 
suppositions, The former not only deal with limited 

Geometrical Method. 115 

departments of knowledge, and with things the existence 
of which is regarded as already known, without asking 
how they come to be known, but they employ categories 
and forms of thought which they do not investigate, and 
presuppositions which they do not pretend to do more 
than verbally define. Even geometry may, in this point 
of view, be called a hypothetical science. It presupposes 
the objective existence of space, and employs, without 
inquiry into its validity, the category of quantity. It 
begins with certain definitions, e.g., of a point, a line, a 
surface, without examining into their origin or asking 
whether they are mere arbitrary conceptions, or express 
what is absolutely true and real. Philosophy cannot 
content itself with such a method. It cannot follow 
the example of mathematics and start with defini- 
tions and axioms, or employ in an uncritical way, 
like the physical sciences, such categories as being, 
substance, causality, &c. It must go back to the very 
beginning, and, in a sense, create the matter with which 
it deals. It must entitle itself to the use of its cate- 
gories by tracing their origin and development, see them 
coming to the birth in the pure medium of thought, and 
evolving themselves in the necessary movement or pro- 
cess of reason. The special sciences may content them- 
selves, each with its own provisional view of things, and 
may relegate to philosophy the task of explaining and 
verifying it. A philosophy which did so would need 
another philosophy to examine and criticise it. 

2. The geometrical method, when closely examined, 
fails in that quality which constitutes, at first sight, its 
peculiar attraction. It does not furnish to philosophy the 
paradigm of a science in which everything follows by strict 

116 Spinoza. 

necessity from its fundamental principle. In a philo- 
sophical system, according to Spinoza's favourite illustra- 
tion, everything should follow from, the primary idea by 
the same necessity with which the properties of a triangle 
flow from its definition. And it is true that, if we look 
only to the figures or ideal constructions represented in 
the diagrams of the mathematician, it is possible to draw 
out a series of propositions which follow by rigid deduc- 
tion from the definitions of the figures. But if we test 
the value of geometrical science, not by what can be 
logically deduced from given premisses (and the illustra- 
tion in question implies no more), but by what is involved 
in and can be deduced from its fundamental conception, 
then it fails to furnish what is implied in Spinoza's ideal 
of a philosophical system. For the idea of space does 
not evolve from itself a system of geometrical truth. 
There is no reason simply in the idea of space why 
triangles, circles, squares, &c., should arise in it. Such 
constructions are conditioned by and presuppose that 
idea, but are not produced by it. Space does not pro- 
duce or evolve anything unless you, the geometrician, 
arbitrarily create or imagine in it lines, surfaces, solids, 
figured constructions of whatever kind. Being produced, 
they must relate themselves to each other according to 
the conditions which the conception of space involves ; 
and so you may rear upon these ideal constructions a 
vast system of geometrical truths of immense value in 
determining the relations of objects that admit of being 
regarded quantitatively. But neither these objects nor 
their relations, ideal or actual, are the necessary product 
of the fundamental conception. That conception has in 
it no principle of self-determination, and the determina- 

Inadequacy of this Method. 117 

tions it gets are arbitrarily imposed on it from without. 
If, therefore, philosophical truth is to be, not a system 
in which by arbitrary synthesis you force its first prin- 
ciple to become fertile, but one in which that principle, 
by its own genetic power, necessarily determines or 
differentiates itself to all particular truths, then obvi- 
ously it is a misconception to seek the type of such a 
system in the province of the mathematician. 

3. The main objection to the employment in philos- 
ophy of the geometrical method is that the category on 
which it is based is inadequate to the treatment of spir- 
itual things. Inevitable confusion and error arise from 
applying to one order of things conceptions or cate- 
gories which are strictly applicable only to another and 
lower order of things, or in leaving out of account in 
the higher and more complex sphere all conditions and 
relations save those which pertain to the lower. Xow the 
conceptions of space and quantity have their proper and 
exclusive application only to objects which can be con- 
ceived of as occupying extension or lying outside of each 
other ; whilst philosophy, in so far as it deals with things 
spiritual, has to do with a sphere where purely external 
or special relations vanish. In formal language, mathe- 
matical method is applicable only to the sphere of self- 
externality, but is incapable of dealing with thought 
or self-consciousness, which is the sphere of immanence 
or self-internality. 

Mathematical science recommends itself by the clear- 
ness and simplicity of its conceptions and the demon- 
strative certainty of its results. But, however valuable 
within its own sphere, as compared \vith other sciences 
it may be said that its simplicity arises from its shallow- 

118 Spinoza. 

ness or abstractness, and its certainty from its ignoring 
of the very elements which, in the case of these sciences, 
complicate the problems to be solved. Geometry, as we 
have said, is based on the conception of space, and on 
ideal constructions or figures in space. It abstracts from 
all relations of actual objects, save those which arise 
from their being extended from all conditions save 
that of not occupying the same parts of space with each 
other. But this obviously is a way of looking at things 
which is purely abstract ; and conclusions reached with 
reference to such abstractions do not apply, strictly speak- 
ing, to anything beyond the abstraction itself. Even 
inorganic objects are incapable of being reasoned about 
as if conclusions which are true of space and its parts 
held good with respect to them. In the material world 
there are indeed unities which are unities merely of aggre- 
gation made up, that is, of parts which seem to be only 
externally related to each other, and to be connected with 
other unities only externally. But there are no mate- 
rial realities which are absolutely continuous or which 
can be thought of as if their component parts were re- 
lated to each other as the ideal parts of pure space, or 
as if propositions with reference to lines, surfaces, solids 
were unconditionally applicable to them. Nor, again, 
are there any material realities which are not related to 
each other in other ways than can be embraced under 
the conception of spatial extension. Inorganic sub- 
stances undergo chemical changes which do not admit of 
being expressed simply in terms of quantity. Iron rusts, 
but space does not, and the rusting is something more 
than a change of spatial relations. Chemical changes, 
in other words, involve other conditions than those of 

Inadequacy of this Method 119 

space. In a chemical compound the unity is one 
of which the elements have lost their independent 
quantitative existence ; their spatial individuality has 
vanished in the neutral product. Still less do or- 
ganic existences admit of being adequately dealt Avith 
under the category of quantity. A living being is not 
composed of parts which exist simply outside of each 
other, and have only external or spatial relations to 
each other. There is a sense in which in an organism 
the whole is in every part, and the parts exist only in 
the whole. In a mere material aggregate the whole is 
simply the sum of the parts ; but in a living unity, when 
you have summed up all the parts, you have left out 
something which escapes spatial measurement, and yet 
which constitutes the very essence of the thing. It is 
only when it ceases to be living that an organism de- 
scends into the sphere to which quantitative measures 
belong. And the reason is that its unity is not of parts 
external to parts, but of parts which have their being in 
and through each other not a self-external but an im- 
manent or self-internal unity. Least of all, when we 
rise to the sphere of spiritual things, when we propose 
to consider the relations of God and man, to treat of 
such things as intelligence, freedom, duty, immortality, 
can we adequately apprehend them by a method which 
turns on quantitative relations. Organisms, whatever 
else they are, are tilings which still occupy space, and 
may therefore partially be apprehended by means of a 
category which deals Avith objects externally related to 
each other. But in the sphere of thought or self-con- 
sciousness we have absolutely transcended that of spatial 
outwardness. The indivisible unitv of self-consciousness 

120 Spiiioza. 

transcends all external difference. Xo thought or fuel- 
ing is bende another. The self that thinks is not some- 
thing outside of its thoughts. It is by a false abstraction 
that we talk of one faculty of consciousness as if it were 
a part or bit of mind separated by spatial division from 
other faculties. In every part of consciousness the whole 
is present. Nor, whatever we mean by speaking of one 
mind as greater than another, can we determine the 
greatness or littleness as quantitative magnitudes. "NVe 
cannot conceive of Infinite Mind as something existing 
above or beyond finite minds ; and if we say that Infin- 
ite Mind or Intelligence comprehends and transcends all 
finite minds, we cannot represent this relation as iden- 
tical with that of a bigger circle or sphere to the smaller 
circle or sphere that is contained in it. "VVe may speak 
in a figure of " larger, other minds than ours," but if the 
figure becomes more than a figure, if we let it govern or 
guide our ideas as to the nature of spiritual things, it will 
betray us into confusion and error. 

Spinoza is often greater than his method. There are 
parts of his system which it is impossible to reconcile 
with the categories that in general seem to guide him. 
In the last Book of the ' Ethics,' especially, he seems to 
restore in a measure the very ideas, such as those of 
human freedom and individuality and of final causality, 
against which, in the earlier Books, he most strenuously 
contends. Perhaps the most valuable part of his philos- 
ophy is that in which his keen speculative insight rises 
above his self-imposed restraints. Yet, on the other 
hand, the method he adopts and the conception on which 
it is based furnish often the key to the meaning of his 

Influence of this Method. 121 

ideas, and the explanation of the errors into which he is 
betrayed ; and the general bearing of his system becomes 
more intelligible when we consider it in the light of that 
method, as a brief glance at some of its leading points 
may suffice to show. 

1. One of these points is his identification of the 
infinite with the purely affirmative, of the finite or 
determined with the negative. In one of his letters 1 
occurs the following passage : " As to the doctrine 
that figure is negation and not anything positive, 
it is plain that the whole of matter, considered in- 
definitely, can have no figure, and that figure can only 
exist in finite and determinate bodies. He who says 
that he perceives a figure, merely says that he has before 
his mind a limited thing. But this limitation does not 
pertain to the thing in respect of its being, but, on the 
contrary, of its non-being. As, then, figure is nothing 
but limitation, and limitation is negation, figure, as I 
have said, can be nothing but negation." The same 
principle is expressed in more general terms in another 
letter, 2 where he writes : " It is a contradiction to con- 
ceive anything whose definition involves existence, or, 
which is the same thing, affirms existence, under nega- 
tion of existence. And since determination indicates 
nothing positive, but only a privation of existence in the 
nature conceived as determinate, it follows that that of 
which the definition affirms existence cannot be con- 
ceived as determinate." Applying the principle here 
enunciated, he in the same letter identifies the idea of 
God, or of " a Being absolutely perfect," with that of 
" a Being absolutely indeterminate," and argues that, 
1 Ep. 50. - Ibid., 41. 

122 Spinoza. 

" since the nature of God does not consist in a certain 
kind of being, but in being which is absolutely indeter- 
minate, His nature demands everything which perfectly 
expresses being, otherwise it would be determinate and 
defective." And the same doctrine, that " finite being is 
negation, infinite being absolute affirmation," is laid down 
in the ' Ethics.' 1 

In these passages the influence of what may be termed 
a geometrical conception of the universe is obvious. 
When we represent to ourselves the relation of infinite 
and finite by that of space and its determinations, the 
idea of the finite becomes that simply of privation or 
negation. A figure in space has no individual reality ; 
in so far as it has any positive reality, it is only the 
reality that belongs to the part of infinite space which 
its periphery cuts off; and in so far as it can be said to 
have any individual existence in distinction from infinite 
space, that existence is not positive but negative, it is 
created solely by cutting off or negating all of space that 
is outside of it. Its very essence, therefore, is privation, 
negation, want of being. Its sole being is non-being. 
And this conception Spinoza applies to all finite or 
particular existences. In so far as they have any reality, 
it is not their own, but that which pertains to them as 
parts of the being of the infinite ; and any apparent 
individuality in them is not positive but negative it ex- 
presses, not what they are, but what they are not. It is 
true that we can pictorially represent to ourselves figured 
portions of space ; but these constructions are purely 
ideal, entia ration},*, fictions of the mind. Space itself 
has no parts ; it overflows, so to speak, these arbitrary 
1 Eth. i. 8, schol. 

Determination and Negation. 123 

divisions and annuls them. And in like manner, it is 
possible for imagination to lend to particular finite beings, 
material or spiritual, an apparent independence or in- 
dividuality. But this individuality is purely fictitious. 
It exists only for ordinary experience, which is under the 
control of appearances ; or for imagination, which regards 
as real anything that can be pictured. "When thought 
penetrates to the reality of things, it discerns their in- 
dividual independence to be an illusion ; it breaks down 
the false abstraction, and perceives the only reality to be 
that, not of the part but of the whole, not of the finite 
but of the infinite. It is obvious also what, from this 
point of view, is the only conception that can be formed 
of " a Being absolutely perfect." When we withdraw 
the arbitrary limits which distinguish the finite from the 
infinite, what we reach is simply that which is free from 
all limits or determinations, the absolutely indeterminate ; 
and as determinations are merely negations, the removal 
of all negations leaves us in the presence of non-negation, 
or of pure, absolute affirmation. As the very essence of 
the finite is nan esse, privation or negation of being, so 
the essence of the infinite is simply pure Being, that 
which is, or that which cannot be conceived save as 
existing, seeing its very nature is one with existence. 
"\Vc see, therefore, in so far as this part of his system 
is concerned, the narrowing influence of Spinoza's 
method. The conception of things on which that 
method is based excludes any other alternative than that 
of determination or indetermination. It excludes, in 
other words, another possible alternative viz., that of 
self-determination, that is, of an affirmation which does 
not simply annul, but subsumes and includes negation. 

124 Spinoza. 

Yet the way to this alternative lay open to Spinoza 
when he had reached the last result which his method 
could yield. For an affirmation which is reached by 
negation, cannot ignore it. Apart from negation pure 
affirmation has no meaning. A negative element enters 
into its very essence. In itself, like the conception of 
pure space on which it is based, it is a mere abstraction ; 
it needs the negative or determinate as its correlate. 
And when we have reached this point, we have got 
beyond the contradictory elements of negation and affir- 
mation to an idea which includes both. Thus the in- 
finite, in the highest sense of the word, must be con- 
ceived not as the simple negation of the finite, but as 
that which at once denies and affirms it. What this 
view further implies what is involved in the notion of 
an infinite which does not annul, but realises itself in 
and through the differences of the finite world this is 
not the place to show. Had Spinoza token this further 
step, it would have implied the reconstruction of his 
whole system. As it is, the idea of a purely affirmative 
infinite, or of a finite which is merely the illusory sub- 
stantiation of imaginary distinctions in the infinite, had 
it not been accompanied by other ideas, which, how- 
ever illogically associated with it, modify or correct it, 
would have left his system one of uncompromising 

2. Connected with the foregoing, and in further 
illustration of the relation of Spinoza's thought to his 
method, we have to notice his denial of human freedom, 
and his rejection of any other criterion of perfection 
than that of amount or quantity of being. 

In a system in which all things follow from the first 

Freedom ami Perfection. 125 

principle with the same necessity as the properties of a 
geometrical figure from its definition, or a logical con- 
clusion from its premisses, individual freedom is, of 
course, an impossible conception. The illusion of free- 
dom, according to Spinoza, arises from the tendency 
already noticed as belonging to ordinary thinking the 
tendency to see things abstractly or with the eyes of 
imagination. The individual thinks himself free because 
he is conscious of his desires and actions, but not of the 
conditions that determine them. He can imagine him- 
self to have acted otherwise than he has done, and can 
ascribe to himself a capacity of so acting, for the same 
reason that he can picture himself as an isolated and 
independent being in the universe. But when he looks 
at himself with the eye of reason rather than of imagina- 
tion, he can no more think himself acting otherwise than 
he has acted, than a triangle, if it were conscious, could 
think its angles equal to three or four right angles or any 
other number of right angles than two. For the same 
reason the terms good and evil, virtue and vice, perfection 
and imperfection, have, from Spinoza's point of view, 
either no meaning or a meaning different from that which 
ordinary thought attaches to them. "Were men born 
free," says he "that is, were they led by reason alone, 
or possessed of adequate ideas of things they could form 
no idea of good and evil." We may create for ourselves 
by the abstracting power of imagination fictitious 
standards of human perfection, and judge men accord- 
ing as they fulfil or fall short of them ; but this is 
merely a human Avay of looking at things. To the 
divine intelligence what we call good and evil, as imply- 
ing individual independence and freedom in relation to 

126 Spinoza. 

the infinite, have no existence. "We compare men with 
each other in view of this arbitrary standard, and regard 
one as more imperfect than another ; but what separates 
man from God, the absolutely perfect Being, is simply 
his finitude, and no one finite being can be nearer to the 
infinite than another. 

There is, indeed, another side of Spinoza's teaching, 
according to which, as we shall see, a certain indepen- 
dence or self-assertion, a tendency to maintain itself or 
persist in its own being, is ascribed to each individual 
existence. But even here we find that the quasi moral 
distinctions which this principle introduces, do not turn 
on any conception of a universal element in man's nature, 
a self deeper than the natural self, to which merely 
quantitative measures will not apply. On the contrary, 
what this supposed tendency or impulse points to is 
simply the maintaining and increasing by each individual 
of the amount of its being. " Perfection and reality," 
says he, "mean the same thing." 1 It is the possession 
of more or less of this " reality " that distinguishes one 
individual from another. The more reality, the more 
power of thinking and acting an intelligent being 
possesses, so much the more perfect or virtuous he is. 
" When I say that an individual passes from a less to a 
greater perfection and vice versa, I understand by this, 
that we conceive that his power of action, in so far 
as it is understood from his own nature, is increased 
or diminished." 2 The great principle of all spiritual 
activity is thus simply the working out and enlargement 
of our own individual nature. Even if apparently un- 
selfish motives, such as sympathy with and participation 
1 Eth. ii., clef. 6. - Il>id. iv., Pref. 

Idea of Final Cause. 127 

in the good of others, are admitted as possible principles 
of action, the ground of this possibility is that the 
happiness of the object of such affections contributes to 
the increase or expansion of our own individual being. 

3. The influence of Spinoza's method betrays itself 
again in his rejection of a teleological conception of the 
relation of God to the world. 

A philosophy which regards all things as following 
by logical sequence from the first principle, obviously 
excludes any question of the end or final cause of 
things. Such a principle does not aim at its results, or 
employ means to reach them. These results simply are, 
and cannot be conceived to be other than they are ; 
they do not arise as matters of foreseen design, but are 
absolutely determined by the nature of the principle 
with which we start. We may not ask, with respect 
to finite things or beings, why or for what end they 
exist, any more than we ask for what end the proper- 
ties of a triangle exist. Of these we can only say that 
they are, or that they are because they are given along 
with the definition of the thing itself. And in like 
manner, of all finite existences we can only say, not that 
they point to or are explained by any ulterior end, but 
that they are because God is, or because they are the 
necessary determinate expressions of His being. 

Spinoza's condemnation of a teleological view of the 
world is directed mainly against that kind of teleology 
which constitutes the so-called "argument from design." 
To view the world teleologically would, he urges, imply 
imperfection in God by conceiving of Him as aiming at 
an end outside of Himself. It would be to think of Him 
after the analogy of finite beings, who seek to give shape 

128 Spinoza. 

to their unrealised conceptions, or are impelled by the 
consciousness of wants to aim at objects which will 
satisfy them. " If God," says he, " works for the sake 
of an end, He necessarily seeks something of which He 
stands in need. . . . Theologians maintain that God 
has done all things for His own sake, . . . and there- 
fore they are necessarily compelled to admit that God 
stood in need of and desired those things for which He 
determined to prepare the means." 1 But though a tele- 
ological view of the world, rightly apprehended, does 
not thus separate the end from the beginning, and there- 
fore may be freed from the objection that it implies 
original imperfection in the author of it, it is obvious 
that in no sense can such a view be expressed in terms 
of quantity, or under that category on which the geo- 
metrical method is based. The idea of Final Cause is 
that of a unity which realises itself in differences, which, 
by its own inner impulse, gives rise to differences, yet ever 
maintains itself in them, and through these differences 
returns upon itself. It implies an organic process, in 
which neither the unity is lost in the differences nor the 
differences in the unity, but in which, the further the 
differentiation is carried, so much the richer does the 
original unity become. But, as we have already seen, 
a geometrical method is incapable of expressing any such 
living, self-differentiating, self-integrating unity. Space 
does not determine itself to its own divisions, or give 
rise to the determinate objects conceived as existing in 
it. Xor does space retract these arbitrary differences 
any more than it produces them ; and when ire have 
withdrawn them and restored the original unity and 
1 Eth. i., Append, 

True and False Teleology. 129 

continuity of space, it has not become any richer by the 
process. The unity prior to the finite was complete in 
itself, and the arbitrary differentiation and reintegration 
has not increased its wealth. The differences are not 
preserved but annulled in the final unity, and it is the 
same self-identical unity at the end as at the beginning. 

p. xii. 




THE starting-point of Spinoza's system is the idea of 
" Substance," which he defines as " that which is in 
itself and is conceived through itself i.e., that, the con- 
ception of which does not need the conception of another 
thing in order to its formation." 3 This substance he 
characterises as infinite, indivisible, unique, free, eter- 
nal, as the cause of itself and of all things, and as con- 
sisting of an infinite number of infinite attributes, two 
only of which, thought and extension, are cognisable 
by human intelligence ; and he expressly identifies this 
substance with God, whom he defines as " a Being ab- 
solutely infinite that is, substance consisting of infinite 
attributes, of which each expresses an eternal and infinite 
essence." 2 

In beginning with this idea Spinoza is attempting 
to realise his own theory of knowledge viz., that "in 
order that our mind may correspond to the exemplar of 
nature, it must develop all its ideas from the idea which 
represents the origin and sum of nature, so that that 
idea may appear as the source of all other ideas." 3 

1 Eth. i., def. 3. 2 Ibid., def. 6. 3 Be Emend., vii. 42. 

Philosophy a r nd Experience. 131 

Philosophy, according to this view, begins with the 
universal, not the particular ; it does not proceed by 
induction or generalisation from the facts of observation 
and experience, but it seeks to grasp the ultimate unity, 
the highest principle of things, and to derive or develop 
from it all particular existences. Its method is, not to 
reach the universal from the particular, but to know the 
particular through the universal. 

But in thus endeavouring to find a first principle 
from which all things are to be evolved, does not 
Spinoza lay himself open to the charge often brought 
against philosophy, of neglecting or anticipating ex- 
perience, and attempting to explain the world by a 
priori notions'? Is not his system a flagrant instance 
of the unscientific method of metaphysicians who in- 
terpret nature by subjective theories, instead of, by 
patient observation and generalisation of facts, letting 
nature be her own interpreter 1 Suppose we could ever 
apprehend the unity with which he starts, would it not 
be the end rather than the beginning of knowledge? 
Science is ever seeking to embrace lower in higher and 
more comprehensive generalisations, and the ultimate 
goal to which the scientific impulse points may be a law 
which would comprehend all laws, a final principle 
which Avould transcend the inadequate and partial ex- 
planations of the world which particular sciences give, 
and achieve for them what they, each in its own pro- 
vince, attempt to do for the special phenomena with 
which they deaL But even if such a goal were actu- 
ally attainable, would it not be so only as the last 
result of the long labour of science; and must not 
the hasty attempt to snatch at this unity by a mere 

132 Spinoza. 

effort of abstract thought be regarded as vain and 
futile ? 

The answer in the case of Spinoza, as in that of all 
kindred thinkers, is that philosophy does not neglect 
experience, but only seeks to examine and criticise the 
presuppositions involved in it, to trace back to their 
ultimate ground the principles on which, unconsciously, 
ordinary and scientific thought proceeds ; and then to 
reinterpret experience or, in one sense, to re-create it 
in the light of the results thus reached. This account 
of its work implies that philosophy must, in a sense, 
reverse the order of ordinary and even of scientific ex- 
perience, and beginning with the highest universal 
which thought involves, show how from it all lower 
universalities take their rise, and how the whole world 
of finite particular existences is transformed for thought 
by becoming linked in bonds of rational necessity to the 
first principle of all things. 

The progressive method of knowledge then is, in 
one sense, based on and presupposes the retrogressive. 
Metaphysic does not pretend to create the world out of 
its own categories, still less to supersede the special 
work of science. On the contrary, it is through the 
discovery of the partial and inadequate explanation of 
things which the categories of science furnish that it is 
led to seek after a deeper satisfaction for thought, an 
interpretation of the world by higher principles, till it 
attains that final interpretation which is given by a 
principle that rests on no higher, but is seen by its own 
light. Reversing the process, it then seeks to show how 
all the previous stages of knowledge, from the highest 
to the lowest, become transformed in the light of the 

True Order of Knowledge. 1 33 

first principle of knowledge, or how all things are seen 
in their reality only when regarded as its expressions or 

Spinoza's method, then, is not justly chargeable with 
reversing the true order of knowledge. If his phil- 
osophy be found defective, the defect will lie not in his 
beginning where he did, but in the nature of the idea 
with which he began ; not in his attempt to start with 
a first principle from which all things might be derived, 
but in the idea with which he started being incapable 
of fulfilling the function assigned to it, and in his 
attempting to explain all things from this principle 
simply by analytic deduction. If modern philosophy 
has had more success in dealing with the problem, per- 
haps the reason may, in some measure, be that science, 
by its marvellous progress, has worked into the hands 
of philosophy in our day as it did not and could not 
do in his. The inadequacy of Spinoza's first principle 
is, in part at least, traceable to the fact that he found 
it possible, so to speak, to reach the infinite by a short 
cut ; whilst modern thought, in some measure, owes the 
greater richness and fertility of the idea which consti- 
tutes its starting-point, to the fact that it has had to 
attain that idea by a slower and severer process. The 
problem for Spinoza, by his own showing, was to find 
a first principle which would explain the universe, after 
the analogy of mathematical science, according to the 
simplest of categories. The problem which modern 
philosophy has had to face is that of finding a final 
interpretation of nature which must presuppose the 
previous interpretations of it by the whole range of 
the physical and biological sciences, and Avhich must 


supply a principle of criticism of the categories on 
which these sciences are based, and itself at once com- 
prehend and transcend them. 


Spinoza's starting-point, the idea which is to be " the 
source of all other ideas," that which explains all else 
but needs no other idea to explain it, is " Substance," 
which, as already said, he defines as " that which is in 
itself and is conceived through itself." When we ask 
what Spinoza means by substance, we seem precluded 
by the very terms of the definition from all ordinary 
methods of explanation. The question what it is, 
seems to be ansAvered simply by the affirmation that it 
is ; the question how we are to conceive of it, by what 
other ideas we are to be enabled to apprehend its mean- 
ing, seems to be met by the affirmation that it is that 
which can be conceived only through itself: we may 
understand all other ideas by means of it, not it by 
means of them. 

But whilst thus we seem debarred from any direct 
explanation of the nature of substance, we may come 
at the answer indirectly if we consider, in the light of 
Spinoza's theory of knowledge, what is the point of 
view which this term is intended to express. We can 
understand the world, or bring our thoughts " into cor- 
respondence with the exemplar of nature," he tells us, 
as we have seen, only by "developing all our ideas 
from the idea which represents. the origin and source of 
nature ; " and the idea which constitutes the " origin of 
nature," he elsewhere defines as that of " a Being, single, 
infinite, which is the totality of being, and beyond 

Idea of the IVTiole. 135 

which there is no being." 1 From this we gather that, 
according to Spinoza's conception of it, true or adequate 
knowledge is that which starts from tlie idea of ilt>' 
whole, and for which all other ideas have a meaning and 
reality only as they are determined by or seen in the 
light of the idea of the whole. Whatever else sub- 
stance means, therefore, by this term we are to under- 
stand this much at least that idea of the whole or 
totality of being, in the light of which only can all in- 
dividual things and thoughts be understood. This may 
be further illustrated by considering the contrast which 
elsewhere Spinoza draws between that "vague expe- 
rience " of which popular knowledge consists, and that 
<-i')ttia infuitlra which is the highest and only real 
kind of knowledge. The separate, independent exist- 
ence which popular thought ascribes to individual things 
and beings is no real existence. Xo object in nature is 
a single isolated thing. Each object is what it is only 
in virtue of its relations to other objects, and ultimately 
to the whole system of being. Ordinary observation 
looks at things superficially, or as to the outward eye 
they seem to exist, each apart from or side by side with 
the rest. Judging merely by the senses, it confounds 
externality in space with independent existence, and 
leaving out of view all deeper relations, it represents to 
itself the spatial separation of stones, plants, animals, as 
equivalent to an isolated or absolute reality. But when 
we cease to look at things after the outward appearance, 
and penetrate to their real nature, their isolated sub- 
stantiality vanishes ; we perceive them to be linked to 
each other by the inner bond of causality. Each in- 

1 De Emend, ix. 

136 Spinoza. 

dividual thing forms part of an infinite series of causes 
and effects ; its place, form, functions, activities, are 
what they are, not through itself alone, but through its 
connection with other beings, and ultimately with the 
whole universe of being. Not an atom of matter could 
be other than it is without supposing the whole material 
world to be other than it is ; and to understand a single 
material substance, we must take into account not 
merely its immediate environment, but the causes or 
conditions which have created that environment, and so 
on ad infinitum. And the same principle applies to 
intelligent or spiritual beings ; they, too, are successive 
existences which have only a semblance of individuality. 
By a trick of the imagination, we look upon ourselves 
as independent, self - determined individuals ; but oxir 
whole spiritual life is involved in our relations to other 
intelligences, as theirs again in that of those who sur- 
round or precede them. Eightly viewed, each so-called 
individual is only a transition-point in a movement of 
thought that stretches back through the interminable 
past and onwards through the interminable future. 
Thus the substantial reality of individual existences 
vanishes, and we can apply the designation " substance " 
only to the whole, the totality of being which includes 
and determines them. That whole is the only true in- 
dividual, the only being which " is in itself and is con- 
ceived through itself." 

"All bodies," writes Spinoza in one of his letters, 1 "are 
surrounded by other bodies, and reciprocally determine and 
are determined by them to exist and act in a fixed and defi- 

i Ep. 15. 

Tlie Universe a Substance. 137 

nite way. Hence it follows that every body, in so far as it 
exists under a certain definite modification, ought to be con- 
sidered as merely a part of the whole universe, which agrees 
with its whole, and thereby is in intimate union with all the 
other parts ; and since the nature of the universe is not lim- 
ited, but absolutely infinite, it is clear that by this nature, 
with its infinite powers, the parts are modified in an infinite 
number of ways, and compelled to pass through an infinity 
of variations. Moreover, when I think of the universe as a 
substance, I conceive of a yet closer union of each part with 
the whole ; for, as I have elsewhere shown, it is the nature 
of substance to be infinite, and therefore each single part 
belongs to the nature of corporeal substance, so that apart 
therefrom it can neither exist nor be conceived. And as to 
the human mind, I conceive of it also as a part of nature, as 
having in it an infinite power of thinking, which, as infinite, 
contains in it the idea of all nature, and whose thoughts run 
parallel with existence." 

By "substance," therefore, we are to understand, in 
the first place, the idea of the totality of being or the 
universe as a whole. Further, this substance is by its 
nature " infinite." It would be self -contradictory to 
suppose that any finite thing could be determined 
merely by a series of finite causes. We may trace back 
step by step the regress of causes by which each par- 
ticular existence, material or spiritual, is determined 
to be what it is. But, however far back we go, we 
are dealing still with the particular or finite, which 
needs as much to be determined as the initial member 
of the series. If it was only by an illusory abstraction 
that we conceived of the latter as an independent 
individual, it is only by a like abstraction that we 
conceive of any aggregate of such individuals as having 
any reality apart from the whole. We may resolve any 


particular tiling iuto a larger whole of which it forms a 
part, but that larger whole is itself but a fragment " an 
individual of the second order, but still an individual." 
And though we may proceed in the same way by a 
process of successive inclusions, correcting the con- 
ception of each lower unity by a higher, we can never 
by any such ascending movement reach that of which 
we are in quest the infinite whole, the absolute unity 
by which all finite things are determined to be what 
they are. 

But if we cannot reach the infinite, the substance of 
all things, by seeking it through a receding series of 
finite causes and effects, ai-e we to conclude that the 
quest is vain, that the object of inquiry is a chimera ; 
or if not, how is it to be attained 1 ? The answer of 
Spinoza virtually is, that we need not ascend to heaven 
to bring it down from above, for it is already in our 
hands and in our mouths. "Every idea of any body 
or existing thing necessarily involves the eternal 
and infinite essence." l Our ordinary consciousness is 
indeed, as we have seen, in one point of view, arbitrary 
and illusory ; but we have only to examine what is its 
real content and meaning to perceive that it involves 
what is virtually the consciousness of the infinite. All 
knowledge of what is limited rests on an implicit 
reference to what is unlimited. Every conception of a 
particular space or body presupposes the idea of infinite 
space or extension. Every particular idea implies a 
virtual reference to an infinite thought. And the dis- 
tinction of mind and matter, of ideas and things, would 
be itself impossible save by a tacit appeal to the idea of 
i Etb. ii. 45. 

Infinite Substance. 139 

an infinite unity which lies beyond their difference. All 
finite thought and being, therefore, rests on the idea of 
Infinite Substance. And of this ultimate idea, this 
prius of all thought and being, it must be affirmed that 
whilst other ideas rest on it, it rests itself on no other. 
It cannot be proved by anything outside of itself, for 
no thing or thought could be or be conceived save on 
the assumption of it. It is beyond demonstration and 
inaccessible to doubt, for demonstration and doubt alike 
depend on and indirectly affirm it. It can only be 
defined as "that which is in itself and is conceived 
through itself." 

What is to be said in criticism of Spinoza's funda- 
mental principle has been already anticipated. That 
the individual can only be understood in the light of 
the whole system of being to which he belongs, that all 
the differences of the finite world presuppose and rest 
on an ultimate unity which is itself beyond demonstra- 
tion or doubt, are propositions the soundness of which 
cannot be questioned. The Aveakness of Spinoza's 
doctrine may be said to lie in this, that his substance 
or infinite unity on which all things rest is not organic 
but abstract. It may be true to say that substance is 
that which is in itself and conceived through itself, or, 
otherwise expressed, that the thought or idea of God 
proves His being. But the significance and force of the 
so-called " ontological argument " lies in this, that the 
unity of thought and being to which it concludes is not 
an abstract but a concrete unity. The distinction 
between them, as it is a distinction in thought and to 
thought, is one which thought can transcend nay, one 
which, when we bring to clear consciousness Avhat is 

140 Spinoza. 

implied in it, thought in thinking it has already tran- 
scended. But the unity thus reached is the unity of 
the related elements, not something which merely lies 
beyond them; it explains and reconciles but does not 
annul them. What it expresses is, that thought and be- 
ing, though distinguishable, are correlated elements in that 
ultimate unity of self-consciousness which all knowledge 
presupposes as its beginning and seeks as its goal. The 
Spinozistic substance, on the other hand, is reached, as 
we have seen, not by the reconciliation of opposed but 
related elements in a higher unity, but simply by 
abstracting from the difference of these elements. It is 
not the reason of these differences but the unity that is 
got by obliterating them. And as all differences vanish 
in it, so no differences can proceed from or be predicated 
of it. It not only contains in it no principle of self- 
determination, but it is itself the negation of all deter- 
minations. How then can Spinoza find in his infinite 
substance the source and explanation of the variety 
and multiplicity of existence 1 The answer to this 
question is contained in his doctrine of "attributes" 
and "modes." 




RIGHTLY to fulfil the function assigned to it as the first 
principle of knowledge, Spinoza's "substance" must 
he so conceived as to he, not only the presupposition, 
hut the productive source of all finite being. It must 
be the ideal origin and explanation of things as well as 
that which transcends them. We must not merely be 
forced back to it as the unity Avhich is above all differ- 
ences, but also find in it that from which all differ- 
ences are evolved. The transition, in other words, to the 
finite world must lie in the very nature of substance. 

Does Spinoza's substance answer to this conception? 
That he deemed it capable of doing so is obvious. 
Substance is not merely causa sui, but causa omnium 
rerum. It is a unity which differentiates itself, first 
into "infinite attributes," then into "infinite modes," 
and these last again are modified by an infinite number 
of " finite modes." The world which is meaningless 
apart from it, the individualities which are only shadows 
and unrealities looked at in themselves, are redeemed 
from non-entity by the intuitive grasp of an intelligence 
which sees them instinct with the presence and power 

142 Spinoza. 

of " substance." All things are unreal viewed as inde- 
pendent or distinct from God; all things become real 
in so far as we can discern in them the self-affirmation 
of the divine nature. All thinking things, all objects 
of all thought, as Spinoza regards them, throb with tin- 
vital pulse of the universal life. The dead world 
becomes alive in God. 

But though there can be no doubt as to the part 
which Spinoza intended his first principle to play, the first 
step he takes raises the question whether it is inherent!}' 
capable of the function assigned to it whether sub- 
stance, as he defines it, is not so conceived as to be in- 
capable, without giving up its essential nature, of passing 
from its self-involved unity or identity into difference. 

This first step is that which consists in the ascrip- 
tion of " infinite attributes " to the infinite substance. 
" Substance " or " God " " consists of infinite attributes 
of which each expresses the eternal and infinite 
essence." l But of these infinite attributes, whilst we 
know that their number is infinite, only two, " thought " 
and " extension," are cognisable by human intelligence. 
AY hat, then, is the ground or reason of this differentiation 
of the absolute unity 1 How does Spinoza find the 
attributes in his substance ] To this question the 
answer seems to be, that whilst (1) there is nothing in 
the nature of substance, as Spinoza conceives it, which 
can logically yield, but everything to preclude any such 
element of difference, (2) failing such logical ground, he 
simply asserts without proof the differentiation of sub- 
stance into attributes which he has empirically reached. 
In other words, the attributes are not differences to 
i Eth. L, def. 6. 

Substance and Attributes. 143 

which substance determines itself, but to which it is 
determined ly us. 

(1.) As we have already seen, Spinoza's process to the 
infinite, the regressive movement by which he reaches 
substance as the ultimate unity of knowing and being, 
is simply the removal of the limit by which finite things 
are supposed to be quantitatively distinguished from the 
infinite. Number and measure are nothing but fictitious 
instruments of the imagination by which we break up 
the indivisible into parts. Space in itself is one and 
continuous, not made up of discrete parts. You cannot 
take one portion of space and isolate it from the rest, or 
say that one portion is here and the next there. Part 
runs into part, and it is only by a false abstraction 
that you can view them as separate from each other. 
" Figure," therefore, is " nothing positive." * And the 
same principle applies to all finite existences. The 
positive existence we ascribe to them is, when closely 
viewed, only negation or non-existence. To get to real 
or affirmative being we must negate the negation, with- 
draw the fictitious limit, and what we get as the real is 
simply the absolutely indeterminate, the logical abstrac- 
tion of Being. To predicate differences of this colourless 
entity would be to introduce into it non-entity. A de- 
termined absolute would be a partly non-existing ab- 
solute. From this point of view, therefore, it would 
seem that Spinoza is precluded from attaching any predi- 
i-atL-s or ascribing any attributes to his absolute sub- 
stance. To do so would be, as he himself says, 2 " to 
conceive under the category of non-existence that whose 
definition affirms existence." 

1 Ep. 50. 2 Ep. 51. 

144 Spinoza. 

(2.) Yet whilst by the very idea of substance Spinoza 
would seem to be precluded from giving to it any deter- 
minations, we find him passing at once from the notion 
of substance as the negation, to that of substance as the 
affirmation, of all possible determinations. The colour- 
less blank becomes at a stroke filled up with a rich and 
varied content. The unity which was reached by ab- 
straction from differences seems to be identified with a 
unity which contains all differences. Thought seems 
to re-enact the part for which imagination was con- 
demned that of dividing the indivisible, of introducing 
number and measure into the absolute. Substance 
which, logically, is the purely indeterminate, passes into 
substance which consists of infinite attributes infinitely 

It is easier to discern the motive than to understand 
the logic of this transformation. Had Spinoza not 
refused to be led by his own logic, his system would 
have ended where it began. Philosophy, along with 
other things, comes to an end, in a principle which 
reduces all thought and being to nothingness. More- 
over, it is not difficult to understand how Spinoza should 
seem to see more in the idea of substance than it legiti- 
mately contained. While he ostensibly rejected all 
determinations from it, in his thought an element of 
determination tacitly clung to it. Thought often sup- 
plies the hidden corrective of the theories we form about 
it. It is possible to devise a theory which implies the 
separation of unity and difference, of the universal and 
the particular, of affirmation and negation. But the 
opposite elements are really correlatives, and the rejected 
or excluded element secretly clings to the thought that 

Unity and Difference. 145 

denies it. It is impossible really to think an affirmative 
which affirms nothing in particular, or which is pure, 
blank affirmation devoid of all negation. When the 
particular vanishes from thought, the universal vanishes 
with it. Unity which carries with it no implication of 
diversity, becomes as meaningless a conception as that of 
a whole without parts, or a cause without effect. When, 
therefore, Spinoza began by rightly denying, or pro- 
nouncing to be -non e*$e, the particular existences of the 
finite world apart from their unity, that to which his 
thought pointed was the assertion, not of pure abstract 
unity, but of the reality of these particulars in relation 
to their unity. The converse of the nothingness of the 
particular independent of the universal was, not the 
reality of the abstract universal, but the reality of the 
particular in the universal. From the negation of acci- 
dents without substance what thought sought after was, 
not the assertion of substance without accidents, but 
the assertion of accidents transformed into the necessary 
moments or attributes of substance, of substance real- 
ising itself in and through accidents. Though, there- 
fore, the former of these alternatives pure, abstract, 
indeterminate substance Avas the logical result of his 
method, the latter Avas the real result to which the 
hidden, unconscious logic of his thought pointed. It 
was natural for him, therefore, tacitly to substitute the 
latter for the former, and so to pass, apparently by a 
leap, from the notion of God or Substance as the nega- 
tion, to that of God or Substance as the affirmation, of 
all possible determinations. 

But though it is possible thus to trace the real move- 
ment of Spinoza's thought, that movement was not a 

P. XII. K 

146 Sjnnoza. 

conscious one, and it Avas not thus that he justified his 
own conclusion. What he seemed to himself to have 
reached as the presupposition of all things was the 
purely indeterminate self-identical infinite ; and the 
problem immediately arose, how to conceive of this 
infinite unity as, Avithout abandoning its essential nature, 
passing into difference, IIOAV to find in this moveless 
Absolute the explanation of the diversity and change- 
fulness of the finite Avorld. The device which Spinoza 
falls upon to reach the diversity Avithout tampering with 
the unity, is to regard the former as differences, not in 
the substance itself, but in substance in relation to t In- 
finite intelligence 'which contemplates it. " By attribute," 
says he, 1 "I understand that Avhich the intellect per- 
ceives of substance as constituting its essence." It is, 
in other Avords, not the essence itself of substance, but 
that essence relatively to our intelligence. In one of 
his letters, 2 after defining substance, he adds, " By 
attribute I understand the same thing, only that it is 
called attribute Avith reference to the understanding 
attributing a certain nature to substance." The relative 
or subjective character of the element of difference ex- 
pressed by attributes is further explained by various 
illustrations. He compares substance, e.g., 3 to a surface 
reflecting the rays of light, which, regarded objectively, 
is called " a plane," but with reference to the observer 
is described as "Avhite." "By a plane/' says he, "I 
mean a surface Avhich reflects all rays of light Avithout 
altering them ; by a white surface I mean the same, 
Avith this difference, that a surface is called Avhite Avith 
reference to a man looking at it." The same distinction 
i Eth. i., def. 4. - Ep. 27. :i Ibirt. 

of Attributes. 147 

is illustrated by the different names of the third patriarch, 
who in his proper character called Israel, is in one special 
relation called Jacob. Finally, in the following and 
other passages of his writings Spinoza expressly teaches 
that the true or absolute nature of God is something 
that lies beyond all conceptions formed of Him by finite 
intelligence : "If the will be supposed infinite, it must 
be determined to exist and act by God, not in so far as 
He is absolutely infinite substance, but in so far as He 
has an attribute which expresses the infinite and eternal 
essence of thought." l " Being as being, by itself alone, 
as substance, does not affect us, and therefore it is to 
be explained by some attribute, from which yet it is not 
distinguished save ideally." 2 To the same effect, in the 
' Theologico-political Treatise,' 3 speaking of the various 
titles of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, he says that the 
name " Jehovah " points to " the absolute essence of 
God without relation to created things ; " whilst on the 
other hand " El Saddai " and other names express 
"attributes of God, and pertain to Him in so far as 
He is considered with relation to created things or is 
manifested by them." 

Thus the ascription of attributes to God does not 
imply any tampering with the absolutely indeterminate 
unity of the divine nature, inasmuch as they do not 
characterise that nature in itself, but only as reflected 
in the finite intelligence. Finite intelligence cannot 
rise above itself, or see things otherwise than under the 
conditions that arise from its own nature. As man is him- 
self a being at once spiritual and corporeal in Spinoza's 
language, a "mode" or modification of thought and 

1 Eth. i. 32. 2 Cogitat. Metaph. i. 3. :i xiii. 11, 12. 

148 Spinoza. 

extension he can know God only under these two 
aspects or attributes. But we cannot conceive of the 
infinite nature as exhausted by our ways of apprehend- 
ing it. " The more reality or being anything has, the 
more attribiites belong to it." ] "A being absolutely 
infinite, therefore, is necessarily defined as being which 
consists of infinite attributes, each one of which ex- 
presses a certain essence eternal and infinite." Though, 
therefore, to us God is expressed only under the two 
attributes of " thought " and " extension," to minds 
differently constituted from ours the divine nature would 
reveal itself in different ways, and to an infinite number 
of minds or to an infinite understanding in an infinite 
number of ways or by an infinite diversity of attributes. 
" The infinite ways whereby each particular thing is 
expressed in the infinite understanding cannot constitute 
one and the same mind of a singular thing, but infinite 
minds, seeing that each of these infinite ideas has no 
connection with the rest." 2 

By yet another expedient does Spinoza find it pos- 
sible to ascribe attributes to the infinite substance with- 
out infringing its purely indeterminate nature viz., by 
means of the distinction between what is "absolutely 
infinite " and what is only " infinite in its own kind " 
(in fuo genere). To avoid the implication that by at- 
taching predicates to substance we necessarily introduce 
an element of finiteness or negation into it, he tries to 
conceive of predicates which express something not neg- 
ative but positive, not finite but infinite, and which 
therefore limit neither the infinite substance nor each 
other. Such predicates are the infinite attributes of 
i Eth. i. 9. 2 Ep. 68. 

Plurality of Infinites. 149 

God. All finite distinctions disappear in the infinite ; 
but we can conceive of distinctions which are not finite, 
in this sense that no one of them is limited either by 
the rest or by anything within its own sphere. We call 
a thing finite Avhen it is bounded by another thing of the 
same kind, as one piece of matter by another ; but things 
of different kinds do not limit each other. Mental 
things are not limited by material, nor vice versa. Ideas 
do not occupy space. Bodies are neither inside nor out 
side of minds. If therefore we can think of the attri- 
bute of extension as that which has no limit within its 
own sphere, its infinitude is not infringed by the exist- 
ence of another attribute of a wholly different kind, 
such as thought. It is no limitation of infinite exten- 
sion that it cannot think, nor of infinite thought that it 
is not extended. We may conceive an infinite number 
of such attributes, each infinite in its own kind, and 
yet their infinite diversity implying no reciprocal limi- 
tation. It may be said that if we conceive of an infinite 
number of such attributes as together constituting the 
nature of a being, each of them can express only a part 
of that nature, and therefore each must be regarded as 
a limitation of its infinitude. But Spinoza's answer to 
this objection virtually is, that it would be a valid ob- 
jection if we conceived of infinite substance as made up 
of thought, extension, and other attributes. When we 
think of a thing as an aggregate or combination of quali- 
ties, each of them is less than the whole, and expresses 
a limitation of nature. But the absolutely infinite sub- 
stance is not the sum or totality of its attributes. Ac- 
cording to Spinoza's peculiar conception, each of the 
different attributes expresses the same infinite reality 

150 Spinoza. 

and the whole of that reality. The attributes are not 
complementary properties, the omission of any one of 
which leaves the whole imperfect, but each the same 
perfect Avhole contemplated in a different aspect. They 
are not correlative members of an organic unity Avhich 
have no independent reality apart from each other, but 
parallel, independent, equivalent manifestations of the 
same infinite object. Thought does not contain more or 
less of God than extension, but the content of both and 
of an infinite number of other attributes is absolutely 
the same. "Each attribute," says he, 1 "of one sub- 
stance must be conceived through itself." " It is ob- 
vious," he adds, 2 " that though two attributes are con- 
ceived as distinct that is, the one without the aid of 
the other yet we cannot therefore conclude that they 
constitute two different entities or substances. For it 
is of the nature of substance that each of its attributes 
is conceived through itself (since all the attributes which 
it has have existed simultaneously in it), nor could one 
be produced by another ; but each expresses the real- 
ity or being of substance. It is therefore by no means 
absurd to ascribe a plurality of attributes to one sub- 
stance." From this point of view, therefore, Spinoza 
is enabled to combine the notions of absolute indeter- 
minate unity with endless difference, or to conceive of 
an infinite multiplicity of attributes without tampering 
with the unconditioned unity of substance. The two 
expedients, however, by which he accomplishes this re- 
sult, virtually resolve themselves into one. The attri- 
butes, though said to be infinite each in its own kind, are 
not really different in kind from each other. The con- 
i Eth. i. 10. 2 Ibid., schol. 

Criticism of the Doctrine. 151 

tent of each is precisely the same as that of any other, 
and the difference is only a difference in our way of 
looking at it. The difference in kind is nothing more 
than a difference of aspect. Spinoza's reconciliation, 
therefore, of diversity of attributes with absolute self- 
identical unity of substance, is simply that the diver- 
sity is a purely subjective one. 

1. One obvious criticism on Spinoza's doctrine of 
attributes is that it presupposes what it is intended to 
prove. The definition of attribute is "that which in- 
telligence perceives in substance as constituting its 
essence." But finite intelligence is itself only a " mode " 
or modification of one of the attributes of substance. 
The attributes, therefore, exist only through that which 
is simply a modification of one of them. The thought 
or intelligence which is the product of an attribute, 
is surreptitiously introduced to create the attributes. 
Thought, indeed, thinks itself and everything else ; and 
if the intelligence which differentiates the infinite sub- 
stance were its own, there would be no paralogism in 
supposing infinite intelligence or self-consciousness to be 
the source or origin of the finite intelligence which knows 
it. But in the case before us, the absolutely infinite sub- 
stance, as we have seen, is expressly distinguished from, 
or logically prior to, the attributes that of thought as 
Avell as every other. Thought is only one of the aspects 
into which the absolute unity is diffracted by finite in- 
telligence. Finite intelligence, therefore, is supposed to 
create that by which it is itself created. 

2. The attributes are not derived from, but brought 
from without to, substance. To render the system co- 
herent, the existence and distinctive character of the 

152 Spinoza. 

attributes should arise out of the essential nature of 
substance. In the very nature or idea of substance 
an element of self-differentiation must be shown to ex- 
ist, and that an element which does not tamper with its 
unity. In other words, substance must be conceived 
as a unity which has in it an impulse to go forth out 
of itself, to realise itself in the infinite determinations 
expressed by the attributes and their modifications, and 
yet in so going forth as remaining in unbroken identity 
with itself. Spinoza's substance, however, as we have 
just seen, not only does not contain, but is exclusive of. 
any such element of self-determination, and the deter- 
mination expressed by the attributes are ascribed to a 
purely empirical origin. "We feel and perceive," says 
he, 1 " no particular things save bodies and modes of 
thought," and therefore we conclude that thought and 
extension are attributes of God. We represent to 
ourselves God as a "thinking thing" or an "extended 
thing." It is ice who ascribe or bring the attributes to 
the substance, and the ice has not been accounted for. 

3. The accidental character of the attributes is indi- 
cated, not only in the origin ascribed to them, but also 
in their number and relation to each other. If sub- 
stance is to have the character of a principle from which 
everything in the system is to be logically deduced, it 
should contain in itself the reason why such and no 
other determinations belong to it ; it should determine 
the order of their sequence, and show how each involves 
or is involved in all the rest. To say simply that a 
number of attributes cohere in one substance, is not to 
explain or give any rational idea of their unity, but 
1 Eth. ii., ax. 5. 

Number and Relation of Attributes. 153 

merely to affirm that they are united. In the Spinozistic 
system extension, thought, and the other attributes are 
not organically related to each other. Each is absolutely 
independent of the rest forms, so to speak, a com- 
pleted whole in itself, and is to be conceived in and 
through itself. One attribute can no more be related to 
another than an object seen through a glass of one colour 
can be related to the same object seen through a glass 
of a different colour, or than an idea expressed in one 
language can be related to precisely the same idea ex- 
pressed in another language. As it is perfectly indiffer- 
ent to the object itself through how many differently 
coloured glasses it is seen, so it is perfectly indiffer- 
ent to the nature of substance by what or how many 
attributes it is manifested. If Spinoza speaks of the 
diversity of attributes as infinite, the infinitude is not 
that which arises o\it of the essence of substance, but is 
only a numerical infinitude the false infinite of endless- 
ness or indefiniteness. In predicating of substance an 
infinite number of attributes, Spinoza relapses into the 
ambiguity which he himself had censured in a remark- 
able letter already quoted the ambiguity, viz., of tho 
term "infinite" as denoting either that which by its 
very nature is incapable of limitation, or that which 
exceeds every assignable limit. The infinitude which 
he ascribes to substance is of the former kind, and 
there is no legitimate connection between such an infini- 
tude and the merely quantitative infinitude of attributes, 
the number of which exceeds an}' given or conceivable 

4. In the li-tu-rs which passed between Spino/a and 
his acute correspondent Tschirnhausen, some fiu-ther de- 

154 Spinoza. 

fects and inconsistencies in his doctrine of the attri- 
butes are brought to light. Amongst other pertinent 
questions, Tschirnhausen asks these two : First, whether 
it can be proved "that we cannot know any attributes 
of God other than thought and extension ; " 1 or, more 
fully expressed, " why my mind, which represents a cer- 
tain modification (of absolute substance), a modification 
which is expressed not only by extension, but in an 
infinite variety of ways, perceives only that modifica- 
tion as expressed by extension, and not as expressed 
through the other attributes ? " 2 Secondly, whether, 
though it is laid down that every attribute is of equal 
content and significance with every other, " the attribute 
of thought is not really (as Spinoza defines it) of wider 
extent than any of the other attributes " ] 3 

To the former of these questions Spinoza answers that 
" the power of a thing is defined solely by its essence, 
and that the essence of the mind is the idea of the body, 
which idea does not involve or express any of God's 
attributes save extension and thought. 4 Of this answer 
it may be said that, though from Spinoza's point of view 
it is no doubt conclusive, yet it betrays in some measure 
the insufficiency and even inconsistency of the principles 
on which it is based. In a philosophy in which thought 
is related to extension, mind to matter, as the con- 
scious subject to its own object, Tschirnhausen's ob- 
jection would, in one point of view, be unanswerable. 
For in such a philosophy there is nothing which lies out- 
side the realm of intelligence, nothing which is not either 
known or knowable. If thought can apprehend exten- 
sion, there is nothing which it cannot apprehend. If 
i Ep. 65. '- FI-. 87. :i lv 4 Kl>. 66. 

Tschirnliauseri s Questions. 155 

human intelligence can transcend the distinction between 
itself and one attribute or manifestation of God, it there- 
by proves its capacity to transcend the same distinction 
in the case of every other attribute. Mind cannot be 
capable of apprehending its object in one aspect or two 
aspects and not in every other aspect. But, on the 
other hand, in a philosophy in which thought and ex- 
tension, though regarded as attributes of one substance, 
are still conceived of as wholly independent of each 
other as simply two parallel but unconnected expres- 
sions, amongst many others, of the divine essence there 
is no reason in the nature of thought why, knowing one 
such attribute or expression, it should also know any 
other. The relation of parallelism does not carry with 
it what is involved in the deeper relation of conscious- 
ness to its object. An arbitrary connection does not 
imply the universal results of a necessary relation. In 
fact, the difficulty here is, not why, knowing extension, 
thought should not know everything else, but why it 
should transcend the gulf between itself and what is 
outside of it at all. In Spinoza's philosophy, that 
thought should overleap this gulf even in the one case 
of extension is an inconsistency ; but it is one of those 
happy inconsistencies which render it so fruitful and 
suggestive. It must be added, however, that from an- 
other point of view a philosophy which is based on the 
principle of self-consciousness would, though on different 
grounds, accept Spinoza's limitation of knowledge to ex- 
tension and thought. For to such a philosophy exten- 
sion is not, as Spinoza conceives, simply one amongst a 
multiplicity of attributes which intelligence in man 
happens to know, but it is the essential correlative of 

156 Spinoza. 

thought. It is not one amongst many things which 
thought can apprehend, but it is the necessary form of 
the object in its opposition to the thought for which 
it is. Extension and thought, in other words, are 
not a duality of attributes, but the dualism which con- 
stitutes the very essence of mind. If we conceive of 
God as Infinite Mind or Spirit, extension, instead of 
being one amongst an infinite number of attributes, is 
simply the form of objectivity through which alone is 
self-consciousness possible. 

As to the second question, which does not seem to 
have been answered by Spinoza, it may be remarked that 
whilst, according to Spinoza's doctrine, every attribute 
expresses the whole of substance, and is of precisely the 
same value with every other, yet, inasmuch as all the 
attributes alike are relative to thought, or are "what 
intelligence perceives of substance as constituting its 
essence," thought has obviously in his system a wider 
function than any of the other attributes. In the case of 
man it knows the two attributes of which his mind 
and body are modifications, but it also, in the case of all 
other possible intelligences, knows the other attributes of 
which their natures are the modifications. If we conceive 
the attributes as running in pairs, thought will always 
be one of them. Each finite nature will be a modifica- 
tion of thought and of some other attribute which plays 
a corresponding part to extension in the nature of man. 
Thought has therefore a purely exceptional place in the 
scheme ; it is the con-elate of all the other attributes. It 
is not simply one of the two attributes which human in- 
telligence knows, but it is a universal factor in that know- 
ledge of God which is possible for all finite intelligencea 




THE next step in the process by which Spinoza attempted 
to find in substance the first principle of all things, is 
that which is expressed in his doctrine of "Modes." 
The attributes, even if legitimately deduced, leave us 
still in the region of the infinite, and furnish no transi- 
tion to a finite world. Though thought and extension 
are only expressions of substance, each in a certain 
definite manner, they are still infinite. The character- 
istic of being conceived through itself (per se concipi) 
belongs to the idea of attribute as well as to that of 
substance ; there is nothing in it which points to any- 
thing beyond itself ; it contains no element of self- 
differentiation by which the process to the finite might 
be mediated. The attributes, like the substance, are 
pure self-identical xmities, and if they presuppose finite 
intelligence as the medium through which the colour- 
less unity of substance is refracted, they only tacitly 
presuppose but do not prove it. 

It is in Spinoza's doctrine of " Modes," and of their 
relation to substance, that we must find, if anywhere, 
the explanation of the existence of the finite world, and 

158 Spinoza. 

of its relation to the infinite. " By mode," says he, 1 " I 
understand affections of substance, or that which is in 
another, through which also it is conceived." "Modes 
can neither exist nor be conceived without substance ; 
therefore they can exist only in the divine nature, and 
can be conceived only through it." 2 " Besides substance 
and modes nothing exists, and modes are nothing but 
affections of the attributes of God." 3 Finite modes are, 
further, identified with individual things (res partlcu- 
lares), and of these it is said 4 that " they are nothing but 
affections of the attributes of God, or modes by which 
the attributes of God are expressed in a certain definite 

What we gather from these various forms of state- 
ment is, that, in contrast with Substance or God, who 
alone is self-existent, all finite things have only an ex- 
istence that is dependent on or derived from Him, 
Their being is a being which is not in themselves, 
but " in another " that is, " in God." What is meant 
by the phrase "in another," or "in God," the following 
passages may help us to understand : 

" Whatever is, is in God, and without God nothing can l>e 
or be conceived." 5 " From the necessity of the divine nature 
an infinite number of things follows in infinite ways, as will 
be evident if we reflect that from the definition of a tiling 
the understanding infers many properties which necessarily 
follow from it that is, from the very essence of the thing 
defined." 6 "The modes of the divine nature follow there- 
from necessarily and not contingently, and that, whether we 

1 Eth. i., clef. 5. - Eth. i. 15, tlem. 

Eth. i. 28, dem. 4 Eth. i. 25, cor. 

8 Eth. i. 15. Eth. i. 16, dem. 

Derivation of Modes. 159 

consider the divine nature absolutely, or as determined to 
act in a certain manner. Further, God is the cause of these 
modes not only in so far as they simply exist, but in so far 
as they are considered as determined to any action." l 

In these passages the relation of modes or finite things 
to God is represented by the equivalent forms of expres- 
sion " following from God " and " caused by God " ; and 
it is to be observed that in the last-quoted passage the 
causality of God with regard to modes is spoken of as of 
a twofold character viz., that of the divine nature " con- 
sidered absolutely," and that of the divine nature " in 
so far as it is determined to act in a certain manner." 
This distinction, to which Spinoza frequently recurs, 
and on the tenableness of which the coherence of his 
system may be said to turn, is more fully expressed in 
the following passages : 

" That which is finite and has a determinate existence can- 
not be produced by the absolute nature of any attribute of 
God ; for whatever follows from the absolute nature of any 
attribute of God is infinite and eternal. It must therefore fol- 
low from God or from some attribute of God, in so far as He 
is considered as affected by some mode, . . . (or) in so far as 
He is modified by a modification which is finite and has a 
determined existence. This mode again must in turn be 
determined by another which also is finite, and this last again 
by another, &c., ad infinitum." 2 Yet "it cannot be said that 
God is only the remote and not the proximate cause of indi- 
vidual things, except to distinguish them from those . . . 
which follow from His absolute nature." 3 

Thus the causality of finite things, considered as modes 
of God, is not the nature of God viewed absolutely, but 
that nature as modified by, or expressed in, the endless 

i Etli. i. 29, clem. 2 Eth. i. 28, dem. 3 Ibid., schol. 

160 Spinoza. 

regress of finite causes, or what Spinoza elsewhere calls 
" the common order of nature and constitution of things," 
or the " connection of causes." l This idea reappears 
throughout the whole system as a solvent of the diffi- 
culties involved in the relation of the purely indeter- 
minate God to a world of finite individualities in time 
and space. " The idea of an individual thing actually 
existing is an individual mode of thinking distinct from 
other modes," and is caused by God " not in so far as 
He is a thinking thing absolutely, but in so far as He is 
considered as affected by another mode of thinking, of 
which again He is the cause as affected by another, and 
so on to infinity." 2 " The human mind is part of the 
infinite intellect of God ; and when we say that the 
human mind perceives this or that, we affirm that God 
has this or that idea, not in so far as He is infinite, but 
in so far as He is expressed by the nature of the human 
mind, or constitutes the essence of the human mind." 3 
On the other hand, though the causality of individual 
things is thus ascribed to God not as He exists absolutely 
or infinitely, we find from other passages that there is 
a sense in which they can be referred to the absolute or 
eternal nature of God as their cause e.g. : 

" It is the nature of reason to regard things not as contin- 
gent but as necessary. But this necessity of things is the 
very necessity of the eternal nature of God, and therefore it 
is the nature of reason to regard things under this form of 
eternity." " Every idea of every particular thing actually 
existing necessarily involves the eternal and infinite essence 
of God." " By existence (of individual things), I do not mean 
existence in so far as it is conceived abstractly and as a certain 

1 Eth. ii. 30, dem. " Eth. ii. 9, dem. :! Eth. ii. 11, cor. 

H'lation of Substance ami Modes. 161 

form of quantity; I speak of the very nature of existence 
which is ascribed to individual things, because an infinite 
number of things follows in infinite ways from the eternal 
necessity of God's nature of the existence of individual things 
as they are in God. For, although each individual thing is 
determined by another individual thing to exist in a certain 
manner, yet the force whereby each individual thing per- 
se veres in existing, follows from the eternal necessity of the 
nature of God." 1 

Further, the two kinds of existence of individual things 
that in which they are viewed as a series of causes 
and effects in time and space, and that in which they are 
viewed. " under the form of eternity " are expressly 
contrasted as follows : " Things are conceived as actual 
in two ways either in so far as they exist in relation to 
a certain time and place, or in so far as we conceive them 
as contained in God and following from the necessity of 
the divine nature. When in this second way we con- 
ceive things as true and real, we conceive them under 
the form of eternity, and the ideas of them involve the 
eternal and infinite essence of God." 2 

In the light of these and other passages to which we 
shall refer in the sequel, we are prepared to examine 
what is Spinoza's conception of the relation of infinite 01 
absolute substance to its " modes." When we ask what 
in his system is the relation of the finite world and in- 
dividual finite things to God, the question is not settled 
simply by referring to his doctrine that all things exist 
in God, and that modes or finite things have no existence 
or operation independently of the infinite substance. 

1 Eth. ii. 44, cor., ii. 45, and ibid., schol. 
- Eth. v. 29, schol. 
P. XII. L 

162 Spinoza. 

Spinozism is not at once proved to be pantheistic by 
such expressions as these. For every system that is not 
dualistic, and for which the terms infinite and finite 
have any meaning, is pantheistic to the extent of hold- 
ing that the world has no absolute or independent ex- 
istence, and that the ultimate explanation of all things 
is to be found in God. Before pronouncing Spinoza a 
pantheist, therefore, the point to be determined is not 
whether he ascribes independent reality to finite things, 
but whether he ascribes to them any reality at all 
whether his modes have any existence distinguishable 
from that of substance, and such that we can speak of 
an actual relation between the two. If, on the one hand, 
it can be shown that the existence he ascribes to modes 
is only a fictitious or fugitive semblance of existence, if 
the distinction of modes from substance is a distinction 
which is created by the imagination and has no objective 
reality, and if the unity into which all individual things 
are resolved is one which does not maintain but sup- 
presses or annuls that distinction, then indeed his philo- 
sophy may justly be characterised as pantheistic. But, 
on the other hand, since real distinctions do not exclude 
but imply a unity which transcends them, if Spinoza's 
siibstance is a principle which subordinates but does not 
suppress differences, if his modes are the expression for a 
finite world which does not vanish, but constitutes a 
necessary and permanent moment in the unity of the 
infinite, then it is no proof of Spinoza's pantheism that 
he affirms that " whatever is is in God," and that modes 
are things that "exist only in God, and only through 
God can be conceived." In the passages quoted above, 
when read in the light of his general principles, there 

7s the Doctrine Pantheistic? 163 

is much to favour the former of these t\vo construc- 
tions of his system ; hut in these, as elsewhere, there 
are expressions which refuse to lend themselves to a 
purely pantheistic view of the relation of God to the 

1. The considerations that favour the former or pan- 
theistic interpretation have already heen adduced, and 
need not here he repeated. They amount to this, that 
individual finite things have no real existence dis- 
tinguishable from that of absolute substance, but are 
merely creations of the abstracting imagination. 

" It is mere folly or insanity," he write?, 1 " to suppose that 
extended substance is made up of parts or bodies really dis- 
tinct from each other. ... If you ask why we are by nature 
so prone to attempt to divide extended substance, I answer 
that quantity is conceived by us in two ways : viz., abstractly> 
superficially, as we imagine it by aid of the senses ; or as 
substance, which can only be done by the understanding. 
So that if we attend to quantity, as it is in the imagination, 
it will be found to be divisible, finite, made up of parts, and 
manifold. Again, from the fact that we can limit duration 
and quantity at our pleasure, when we conceive the latter in 
abstraction from substance, and separate the former from the 
way in which it flows from things eternal, there arise time 
and measure time for the purpose of limiting duration, 
measure for the purpose of determining quantity so that we 
may, as far as possible, imagine them. Further, inasmuch 
as we separate the modifications of substance from substance 
itself, and reduce them to classes in order, as far as possible, 
to imagine them, there arises number, whereby we limit 
them. . . . Whence it is clear that measure, time, and num- 
ber are nothing but modes of thinking, or rather of imagin- 
ing. But," he adds, " there are many things which cannot 

1 Ep. 29. 

164 Spinoza. 

be conceived by the imagination, but only by the under- 
standing e.g., substance, eternity, and the like. Thus, if 
any one tries to explain these things by means of conceptions, 
which are mere aids to the imagination, he is simply trying 
to let his imagination run away with him." 

The drift of these and other passages which might be 
quoted is, not simply that modes, or individual finite 
things, have no existence independent of substance, but 
that they have no existence at all, save for a faculty 
which mistakes abstractions for realities. It is possible 
for the unreflecting mind to suppose itself capable of 
thinking the separate halves or minuter isolated parts of 
a line, but intelligence corrects the illusion. A line, it 
discerns, could as easily be made up of points lying miles 
apart as of points contiguous yet really isolated. The 
point it perceives to be a mere fictitious abstraction, an 
unreality, a thing which has no existence apart from the 
line, and when we think the line the point ceases to 
have any existence at all. And the same is true of lines 
in relation to surfaces, of surfaces in relation to solids, 
and of all existences in space in relation to space itself, 
which is the one infinite, indivisible reality. In like 
manner, when we regard the modes in relation to the 
infinite substance, we see that they are mere creatures 
of the imagination ; when we contemplate individual 
things from the point of view of intelligence, or as they 
really are, their illusory individuality vanishes', and the 
only reality left, the only being in the universe, is God, 
or Infinite Substance. And indeed it is only, Spinoza 
expressly affirms, when we leave out of view the fictitious 
differences which modes introduce into substance that 
the latter can be truly contemplated. " Substance is 

Spinoza's " Quatenw." 165 

considered in itself that is, truly when we set aside 
all its modifications " (deposit is affectionibus). 

It is true that whilst Spinoza not only concedes but 
expressly teaches that modes or individual finite things 
have no reality in relation to the absolute nature of God, 
he yet contrives to ascribe to them, in a certain indirect 
way, a divine origin. " That Avhich is finite," says he, 
in a passage above quoted, " and has a determined ex- 
istence, cannot be produced or follow from the absolute 
nature of any attribute of God," for " whatever does so 
follow is infinite and eternal." And " every individual 
thing, or everything which is finite and has a determined 
existence, can only exist or be determined to act by 
another thing which is also finite, and this again only 
by another which also is finite, and so on indefinitely." 
" Only the infinite can follow from the infinite, the finite 
can follow only from the finite." How, then, does Spinoza 
reconcile these propositions with the assertion that modes 
" are conceived through the divine nature, and follow 
necessarily from it " 1 The answer is, that he simply 
begs the question. " That which is finite," he tells us, 
" cannot be produced by the absolute nature of God or 
of any of His attributes ; ... it must therefore follow 
from. God, or some attribute of God, in so far as (qua- 
te)i)i$) He is modified by a modification which is finite 
and has a determined existence, and this mode or cause 
must in turn be modified by another, &c." The only 
construction of which this proposition, taken in con- 
nection with what precedes it, is capable, is that it simply 
assumes without proof what has been already denied 
viz., that individual finite things can be derived from 
God. The nature of God is such that it does not admit 

166 Spinoza. 

of modification, but finite things follow from it in so far 
as it is modified. Or, otherwise expressed, Spinoza pre- 
supposes the existence of finite things in order to prove 
it, or virtually makes God finite in order to express 
Himself in the finite. Finite things follow from God 
in so far as He is (already) modified by finite things. 
Every reader of Spinoza knows what an important role 
is assigned to this quafenm, and how often, by means of 
what is nothing more than a tautological phrase, he con- 
trives to escape from difficulties and inconsistencies 
otherwise insuperable. 

It may be said that Spinoza's reasoning here is not 
the bare petitio principii involved in the assertion that 
finite things follow from God in so far as they already 
follow from Him ; but that what he affirms is that they 
follow, not from individual finite things, but from the 
interminable series or connection of finite things, which 
is not finite but relatively infinite. But to this the 
answer is what, as we have seen, Spinoza has himself 
taught us, that by the spurious infinite of mere endless- 
ness we do not rise above the region of the finite. An 
infinite quantity is a contradiction in terms, a phrase in 
which the predicate denies the subject. By no indefinite 
addition or aggregation of finites can we reach the essen- 
tially or absolutely infinite that infinite from which 
Spinoza asserts that the finite can not be derived. 

In the foregoing view of Spinoza's doctrine as to the 
relation of God to the world, we have considered it 
simply as a relation of the absolutely indetermined infi- 
nite to determined or finite things. But in some of the 
above-quoted passages, and elsewhere, we find him ex- 
pressing this relation in terms of another category viz., 

Divine Causality. 167 

that of causality. " God is the efficient cause of all things 
that can fall under an infinite intellect." * " God is the 
efficient cause not only of the existence of things but 
also of their essence." 2 " The modes of any given 
attribute have God for their cause, &c." 3 " Of things as 
they are in themselves God is really the cause, &c." 4 
Now, as the relation of cause and effect is one in which 
we ordinarily think of the effect as something which, 
though dependent on the cause, actually emerges out of 
it into an existence of its own, the application of this 
category to the relation of God and the world would 
seem to give to finite things a reality which is not 
illusory or imaginative, a being which is not absorbed 
in that of infinite substance. But it is to be considered 
that, in its proper sense, causality is not a category 
which is applicable to the relation of the infinite to the 
finite ; and if we attempt so to apply it, what it expresses 
is not the reality of the finite, but either the limitation 
or the non-reality of the infinite. 

Causality is a category only of the finite. The rela- 
tion of cause and effect is one which implies the succes- 
sion or (though not with strict accuracy) the coexistence 
of its members. In the latter case it presupposes the 
existence of things external to, and affecting and being 
affected by each other. In the former, it is a relation in 
which the first member is conceived of as passing into the 
second ; the cause, or the sum of conditions which con- 
stitute it, loses its existence in the effect or in the sum of 
the new conditions to which it has given rise. The cause, 
iu other words, is only cause in and through the con- 

1 Eth. i. 16, cor. 2 Eth. i. 25. 

3 Eth. ii. 6. Eth. ii. 7, schol. 

168 Spinoza. 

stimulated result which we call effect, and the very 
reality or realisation of the former implies, in a sense, 
its own extinction. In the impact of two balls the 
motion of the first becomes the cause of the motion of 
the second only when it has ceased to exist in the 
former ; the force which has existed as heat becomes 
the cause of motion only when it has exhausted itself of 
its existence in the one form and become converted into 
the other. But, obviously, in neither of these senses 
can we embrace the relation of the infinite and the finite 
under the form of causality. The infinite cannot be 
conceived of as external to, and acting on, the finite, as 
one finite body is outside of, and acts on, another ; in 
such a relation it would cease to be infinite. " God," 
says Spinoza, " is omne esse." Beyond substance there 
is nothing real. Substance and its affections con- 
stitute the totality of existence, and is absolutely in- 
finite. But this it could not be if its affections, instead 
of existing only in it and being conceivable only through 
it, had an existence capable of being acted on by it. 
Xor, again, can you speak of the infinite as a cause 
which, in producing the finite, passes wholly into it 
and becomes lost in it ; for, in that case, the existence 
of the finite would be conditioned by the non-existence 
or extinction of the infinite. 

The inapplicability of the category of causality to the 
relation of infinite and finite is thus so obvious that 
Spinoza can only give a colour of relevancy to it by 
qualifying the term " cause " when applied to God so as 
virtually to destroy its meaning. "God," he tells us, 1 
" is not the transient but the immanent cause of the 
i Etk i. 18. 

Immanent Cause. 169 

world." He can only be designated cause of all things 
in the same sense in which He is cause of Himself 
(<'au*a fit/). 1 In other words, to obviate the contradic- 
tion involved in the idea of an infinite which is exter- 
nal to the finite, he modifies the notion of cause so as to 
conceive of it as existing, not outside of, but wholly 
within, the things which are said to be its effects ; and 
to obviate the further difficulty which thus arises, of 
conceiving an infinite which passes away into the finite, 
he again modifies the notion of cause so as to conceive 
of it as maintaining its own independent existence at 
the same time that it loses itself in the effect. But 
though in the conception of a causa omnium rerum 
which is at the same time causa sui, what Spinoza is 
aiming at is the idea of a Being which remains one 
with itself in all its changes, or of a self-differentiating, 
which is at the same time a self -integrating, infinite, this 
idea is one which in vain attempts to express itself 
under the category of causality. The attempt so to 
express it may be regarded as one of those indications 
in Spinoza of the consciousness of another than the 
purely negative relation of the finite -to the infinite 
which his own inadequate logic forced him to maintain. 
2. The foregoing considerations seem almost conclu- 
sively to favour that view of Spinoza's doctrine of modes 
which denies to individual finite things any existence 
that is not fictitious and illusory. His derivation of 
modes from substance would seem to be nothing more 
than a reversal of the process of abstraction by which 
the idea of substance was reached. It is not substance 
which determines itself to modes, but we who, with a 
i Eth. i. -25, clem. 

170 Spinoza. 

show of logic, reintroduce into it the fictitious distinc- 
tions which the same logic had abolished. 

But this account of Spinoza's doctrine would be in- 
complete if we did not point out that, however incon- 
sistently they enter into it, there are elements of his 
system which refuse to lend themselves to the notion 
of the unreality of the finite world. Modes are not 
invariably represented as merely transient creations of 
the abstracting imagination. They have in them a 
positive element which remains even when on the 
negative side they have been resolved into the unity of 

Besides the tacit implication of another doctrine in 
the idea of a causa sui which is at the same time causa 
omnium rerum, the following considerations seem to 
point in the same direction : 

(1.) Even if modes are only transient forms, there 
must be a reason in the nature of substance for their 
existence as suck. Though everything else in the finite 
world is resolved into negation, the negation itself is 
not so resolved. Evanescence itself does not vanish. 
When you have reduced all finite things to phantoms, 
insubstantial as the things of a dream, the dream-world 
itself remains to be accounted for ; and more than that, 
obviously the mind which perceives and pronounces 
that it if a dream-world cannot belong to that world. 
In ascribing to intelligence the function of rising above 
and abolishing the distinction from substance of finite 
things, Spinoza virtually exempts intelligence itself from 
the process of abolition. The criterion of the illusory 
cannot be itself illusory. If therefore, as Spinoza 
asserts, "that which is finite and has a determinate 

Positive Element in the Finite. 171 

nature cannot follow from the absolute nature of God, 
for whatever does so follow is infinite and eternal," 
what this involves as to that intelligence which discerns 
the nothingness of finite things is, not that it does not 
follow from the absolute nature of God, but that it has 
in it, in its very discernment of its distinction from God, 
an element of what is infinite and eternal 

(2.) That Spinoza himself, despite of his own princi- 
ple that " all determination is negation," recognises in 
modes something that is not mere negation, is indirectly 
indicated by the qualified form in which in the ' Ethics ' 
that principle is stated. " The finite," says he, 1 " is in 
part negation " (ex parte negatio). The negation implied 
in finitude is not complete but partial. There is, in 
other words, a positive element in finite things, which 
is not annulled when the fictitious distinction from the 
infinite is taken away. There is an individuality which 
survives the extinction of the false or spurious individu- 
ality. Xor is this implied only in the phrase " partial 
negation." Besides the idea of God as the negation of 
all determinations there are traces of another and oppo- 
site idea that of the affirmation of all determinations. 
For the indivisible unity in which all differences vanish, 
Spinoza seems often, without consciousness of inconsis- 
tency, to substitute the infinite unity which comprehends 
in it all possible differences. 

" From the necessity of the divine nature," says lie, 2 
" must follow an infinite number of things in infinite -ways." 
" There is not wanting to God materials for the creation of 
all things from the highest to the lowest degree of perfec- 

1 Eth. L 8, schol. - Eth. i. 16. 

172 Spinoza. 

tion for the producing of all things which can be conceived 
by an infinite intellect." 1 " There are two ways," says he 
in a passage already quoted, " in which things are conceived 
by us as actual viz., either as existing in relation to a 
certain time and place, or as contained in God and following 
from the necessity of the divine nature. In the second way 
we conceive them as true and real, under the form of eter- 
nity, and the ideas of them involve the eternal and infinite 
essence of God." 2 

And when we have reached the latter point of view, 
what we have ceased to see in finite things is not their 
individuality, but their finitude. Their true individu- 
ality is not lost, for " every idea of an individual thing 
actually existing necessarily involves the idea of the 
eternal and infinite essence of God ; . . . for the force 
by which each individual thing perseveres in its own 
existence folloAvs from the eternal necessity of the divine 
nature." 3 "In God there is necessarily an idea which 
expresses the essence of this or that body under the form 
of eternity," 4 and this idea is a certain mode of thinking 
which is necessarily eternal. 5 What is lost, what of 
our former unreal view of things disappears, is their con- 
tingency, their transient, fugitive being as things of time 
and sense, for " it is of the nature of reason to contem- 
plate things as they are in themselves i.e., not as con- 
tingent but as necessary," 6 not " as determined each by 
another finite thing, but as following from the eternal 
necessity of the nature of God." 7 

That there is, in Spinoza's view, an affirmative ele- 

1 Hth. i., Append. 2 Eth. v. 29, schol. 

:i Eth. ii. 45, deni. and schol . 4 Eth. v. 22. 

8 Eth. v 23, schol. e Eth. ii. 44, cor. 2. 

7 Eth. ii. 45, schol. 

Tlic, Self-maintaining Impulse. 173 

nient which remains to finite things when the negative 
element which seemed to distinguish them from the in- 
finite is obliterated, an individuality which, taken up into 
the infinite, still exists and can be known through the in- 
finite, these passages seem clearly to teach. But if we ask 
further and more definitely what that element is, and how 
it " follows from the infinite nature of God," the answer 
is by no means satisfactory. As to the first question, 
that element in the finite which lifts it out of the sphere 
of time into " the form of eternity " is, Spinoza tells us, 
the inherent impulse or endeavour of each individual 
thing to maintain itself or persevere in its own being. 
" No individual thing has in it anything by which it can 
be destroyed or which can deprive it of its existence ; 
but, on the contrary, it is opposed to all that could de- 
prive it of its existence." x There is in each thing an 
" endeavour (conatus) by which it seeks to persevere in 
its own being," and this endeavour " is nothing but the 
actual essence of the thing itself," 2 and it is therefore 
something not conditioned by time, " it involves no 
finite but an indefinite time." But is not this con- 
ception of the self-maintenance or persevering in exist- 
ence of an individual thing a simple tautology ? Does 
it mean any more than this, that when we think of it as 
an existing thing, we cannot think of it as a non-existing 
thing ? Is not the inherent capacity to persevere in 
existing simply the incapacity of the mind to predicate 
of a thing at once existence and non-existence 1 When 
\ve say that a thing necessarily perseveres in existence, 
do we say any more than that, so long as we think of it, 
we think of it as existing, or that the conception of 
i Eth. iii. 6, deni. 2 Ibid., 7. 

] 74 Spinoza. 

existence excludes or contradicts the conception of 
non-existence ] Moreover, is not this perseverance in 
existing which is supposed to pertain to a thing as seen 
"under the form of eternity," a conception which is 
still conditioned by time ? We do not escape from 
the quantitative idea of duration merely by making it 
indefinite. Indefinite or endless duration is a form 
of time and not of eternity. As to the second ques- 
tionviz., as to the relation of this self-maintaining 
element in the finite to God all that Spinoza says 
amounts simply to the affirmation that it has its ori- 
gin in the absolute nature of God, and is a determi- 
nate expression of that nature. " Although each in- 
dividual thing," says he, 1 " is determined to exist in a 
certain way by another individual thing, yet the force 
by which each thing perseveres in existing follows from 
the eternal necessity of the nature of God." " Individ- 
ual things are modes by which the attributes of God are 
expressed in a certain definite manner, &c." 2 How 
finite things can have in them a power of self-mainten- 
ance, a capacity of continuous existence flowing from 
their own nature, and yet have nothing in them which 
does not follow from the nature of God, is the problem 
to be solved, and Spinoza's only solution is simply to 
affirm that both propositions are true. 

As the result of our inquiry we seem to have found in 
Spinoza's account of the nature of modes statements 
which, if not irreconcilable, he has made no attempt 
to reconcile. In accordance with the principle which 
generally governs his reasoning, the very essence of 
finite things is identified with negation or non-being ; 
1 Eth. ii 45, scliol. 2 tb. iii. 6, dem. 

Result of Inquiry. 175 

they not merely have no real existence apart from God, 
but existence in God is for them equivalent to extinction 
of existence. Yet, on the other hand, as we have just 
seen, to these same finite things Spinoza ascribes a posi- 
tive, self-affirmative nature, an individuality which is 
inherent and essential, and which is not extinguished 
when the limits that divide the finite from the infinite 
are removed. And if thus Spinoza's two representations 
of the nature of finite things seem to conflict, equally 
conflicting are the corresponding representations of the 
nature of God. To the former representation of the 
finite corresponds the notion of a purely indeterminate, 
to the latter that of a self-determining Infinite. In the 
one case the world is nothing and God is all ; in the 
other, the world is the manifold expression of the nature 
of God, and God the Being whose nature unfolds with- 
out losing itself in the innumerable individualities of 
the finite world. If Spinozism contained no other con- 
ception of the relation of God to the world than the 
first, we should be compelled to pronounce it a purely 
pantheistic system. Perhaps the second conception may 
be regarded as the expression on Spinoza's part of an 
unconscious endeavour to correct the inadequacy of the 
first. But the correction, whilst it obviates the impu- 
tation of thorough - going pantheism, and elevates his 
system above all other pantheistic philosophies, is still 
imperfect in this respect, that it implies a principle of 
self-determination in God which is without any specula- 
tive ground in his idea of the divine nature. At best, it 
only creates the demand for a more complete and self- 
consistent philosophy, and indicates the direction in 
which it lies. 




SPINOZA'S system, so far as we have traced its develop- 
ment in the foregoing pages, leaves us still without any 
principle of mediation between God and the world. If, 
as we have just seen, it sometimes represents finite 
things as possessing an element of individuality which, 
taken up into the infinite, still remains, and therefore 
seems to imply a principle of self-determination in the 
divine nature, so far as we have gone this principle is 
simply affirmed, not proved ; the gap between the infinite 
and finite remains unbridged. But there are certain 
passages in the 'Ethics ' in which Ave meet with a concep- 
tion not yet referred to, that of " Infinite Modes, "- 
a conception which may be regarded as an attempt 
to fill up the gap. As the very phrase indicates, 
" infinite modes " point to something whicli constitutes 
a link between the two worlds. As " modes," they 
belong to the sphere of the finite ; as " infinite " modes, 
to that of the infinite. Despite of Spinoza's own asser- 
tion, that the finite can only follow from the finite, 
we have here a conception in which the ideas of in- 
finite and finite are combined. The following arc the 

Examples of Infinite Modes. 177 

passages in which the doctrine of infinite modes is 
most fully expressed : " Whatever follows from any at- 
tribute of God, in so far as it is modified by a modifica- 
tion which exists necessarily and as infinite through the 
said attribute, must also exist necessarily and infinitely;" 1 
and conversely, " Every mode which exists both neces- 
sarily and as infinite, must necessarily follow, either from 
the absolute nature of some attribute of God, or from an 
attribute modified by a modification which exists neces- 
sarily and as infinite." 2 Spinoza here speaks of certain 
modes or modifications of divine attributes, differing 
therefore from the attributes in this respect, that the 
latter are conceived through themselves, the former only 
through the attributes. Further, of these modes he 
specifies two classes or grades : first, those which follow 
immediately from attributes ; and secondly, those which 
follow from attributes already modified : but to both the 
predicate " infinite " is applied. One of Spinoza's cor- 
respondents 3 asks for examples of these two classes of 
modes, and conjectures that thought and extension 
may belong to the first, "the intellect in thought" and 
" motion in extension " to the second. Spinoza, with- 
out waiting to correct the obvious error of finding 
in thought and extension, which are themselves attri- 
butes, examples of modifications of attributes, answers 
thus : 4 " Examples which you ask are, of the first class, 
in thought, the absolutely infinite intellect (intellectus 
absolute infim'tus), in extension, motion, and rest ; of 
the second class, the form of the whole universe (fades 
tot! us universf), which, although it varies in infinite 
ways, remains always the same." 

1 Eth. i. 22. 2 th. i. 23. 3 Ep. 65. 4 Ep. 66. 

P. XII. M 

178 Spinoza. 

At first sight, Spinoza seems to be here attempting to 
combine ideas which are reciprocally exclusive. Sub- 
stance and modes, he himself affirms, include all being. 
But in infinite modes we have a third something which 
belongs to neither category which is neither " in itself" 
nor " in another," neither infinite nor finite, but both at 
once. If the absolutely infinite is " that which contains 
in its essence whatever expresses reality and involves no 
negation," is not an infinite mode as self-contradictory as 
a round square or a rectangular circle ? " Intellect," he 
tells us, 1 "whether finite OT infinite" (and the same is 
true of the other infinite modes), belongs to the sphere of 
natura naturata that is, to the order of things which 
exist only for the imagination and its quantifying forms 
of time and measure ; yet, at the same time, these infi- 
nite modes are things which " cannot have a limited 
duration," but " must exist always and infinitely," or to 
which pertains the timeless immanent unity of the na- 
ture of God. 2 In this conception of infinite modes there 
seems thus to be involved the same apparent contradic- 
tion with which theological controversy has made us 
familiar in the doctrine of the " Logos " or " Son of 
God," in which we meet with the same seemingly irre- 
concilable elements of subordination and equality with 
God ; of that which is " begotten," and therefore finite, 
and that which is consubstantial with God, and therefore 
infinite ; of that which is described as " eternally begot- 
ten," and therefore as l>elonging at once to the sphere of 
the temporal and to that of the eternal. And that this 
is not a merely fanciful analogy, but one which was 
present to Spinoza's own mind, we learn from his earlier 
1 Eth. i. 32, cor. 2 Eth. i. 21. anl .Ion. 

Motive of the Conception. 179 

treatise ' Concerning God and Man,' in which, with ex- 
press reference to the subject before us, we find him thus 
writing : 

" As to the modes or creatures which immediately depend 
on God, of these we know only two viz., motion in matter, 
and intellect in thought of which we affirm that they have 
been from all eternity, and will be unchangeably to all eter- 
nity. . . . As to motion, therefore, that it is that which is in 
its nature infinite, and that it can neither exist nor be con- 
ceived through itself, but only by means of extension, . . . 
of all this I will only say here that it is a son of God, or a 
work or effect immediately created by God. As to intellect 
in thought, this also, like the former, is a son of God, . . . 
created from all eternity, and continuing unchangeable to all 
eternity. Its sole function is that of clearly and distinctly 
understanding all things in all times." l 

Can the conception of infinite modes be freed from 
the contradiction which it thus seems to involve 1 The 
answer is, that though on Spinoza's principles the con- 
tradiction is really insoluble, yet in this conception we 
have an elaborate attempt to solve it. Infinitude and 
finite individuality express ideas which, as Spinoza de- 
fines them, are reciprocally exclusive ; but when we 
examine what is meant by the phrase " infinite modes," 
we find that it involves, in opposite directions, an en- 
deavour so to modify these ideas as to bring them into 
coherence. On the one hand it introduces, at a lower 
stage, into the idea of the infinite, that element of 
activity or self-determination which is lacking to the 
higher ideas of sxibstance and attributes. On the other 
hand, it attempts to raise the finite world to a quasi 
1 De Deo, i. cap. 9. 

1 80 Spinoza. 

infinitude which is denied to the separate individualities 
that compose it. The barren infinitude is thus rendered 
fertile, and then finite things are so ennobled as to make 
it possible to claim for them an infinite origin. The 
former side of this modifying process is expressed by 
that class or grade of infinite modes which are " imme- 
diate modifications" of the attributes of thought and 
extension ; the latter, by those which are modifications 
of the second degree, of which Spinoza adduces only one 
example, the fades tot ins nniversi. 

1. Of the infinite modes which are immediate modi- 
fications of attributes, two are specified viz., "motion 
and rest" as modifications of extension, and "the ab^.>- 
lutely infinite intellect " as the modification of thought. 
Now, if we examine the function assigned to these 
" immediate modes," we shall find that they are simply 
the attributes of extension and thought, plus that element 
of activity or self-determination which these attributes 
lack, and yet which is necessary to make them the pro- 
ductive sources of finite things. The very designation 
" infinite mode " shows that Spinoza is here uncon- 
sciously seeking to introduce into his system the element 
of difference or finitude which is excluded from the 
abstract unity of substance. From such an abstract 
infinite, the purity of which can be maintained only hy 
the elimination of all distinctions (<lp<>*iti* a/ectionibus), 
it is impossible to find any way back to the finite. Xor 
could it legitimately be made the living source of finite 
existences save by transforming it from the abstract 
unity which extinguishes difference into the concrete 
unity of a principle in which all differences are at once 
embraced and subordinated. But whilst Spinoza's logic 

First Class of Infinite, Modes. 181 

debarred him from any such introduction of a negative 
or finite element into the purely affirmative unity of 
substance, or even into the infinitude in suo genere 
which is the conception of attribute, the need for such 
an element, if he would not arrest the descending move- 
ment of thought, asserts itself at the stage we have now 
reached, and finds its expression in the conception of 
infinite modes, or of an infinite which contains in it the 
element of negation or finitude. With such a conception 
a new principle of self-development is introduced into 
his system. The barren self-identical infinite becomes 
now an infinite which has in it the impulse to realise 
itself in all the manifold individualities of the finite 
world. That it is this principle of activity or self- 
development which Spinoza is aiming at in the con- 
ception of infinite modes, becomes clear from the 
examples he gives of these modes, and from what he 
says as to their nature and function. Of extension the 
infinite modification is " motion and rest " ; and of 
what he conceived to be the relation in this case of the 
mode to the attribute, we have a clear indication in his 
answer to inquiries on this point from his acute corre- 
spondent Tschirnhaiisen. 1 " It is very difficult," writes 
the latter, " to conceive how the existence of bodies which 
have motion and figure can be demonstrated a pi'iori, 
since in extension, considered absolutely, nothing of the 
kind occurs." To this Spinoza answers by distinguish- 
ing his own from the Cartesian notion of extension." 
" From extension, as Cartesius conceives it that is, as a 
mere inert mass it is not only difficult, as you say, but 
altogether impossible, to demonstrate the existence of 
1 Epp. 69-72. 

182 Spinoza. 

bodies. For inert matter, as it is in itself, will persevere 
in its rest, and will not be excited to motion save by a 
more powerful external cause. And on this account I 
have not hesitated formerly to affirm that the Cartesian 
principles of natural things are useless, not to say 
absurd." In a subsequent letter, in answer to further 
difficulties propounded by his correspondent, Spinoza 
points out that Descartes' notion of extension breaks 
down by his own showing, seeing that he can only 
deduce the variety of things from extension by supposing 
it to be set in motion by God. Matter, therefore, cannot 
be explained by extension as Descartes defines it, " but 
must necessarily be explained by an attribute which 
expresses eternal and infinite essence." The further 
elucidation of this answer which Spinoza promises is not 
given, but his meaning is obvious. An attribute of God 
which explains the manifolclness of things only by call- 
ing in the co-operation of an arbitrary external force, 
is not what it pretends to be viz., " that which ex- 
presses an eternal and infinite essence." It must not be 
supplemented by an outside mover, but must contain in 
itself implicitly the element of motion or activity. And 
this idea Spinoza conceives himself to have attained 
for his own attribute of extension by the proposition 
that motion and rest constitute its immediate infinite 
mode. In other words, extension, or what is here the 
same thing, matter, is not a mere passive inert mass, 
but contains in it, as equally essential moments, both 
motion and rest. It is to be noticed that motion and 
rest are here represented by Spinoza, not as two differ- 
ent things, but as constituting one infinite mode, 
parallel to that of " infinite intellect " in thought. His 

Meaning of these Modes. 1 83 

motion is a motion which is self-terminated, or which is 
not moved by anything outside of itself ; his rest is the 
rest of that which is in intense and unchangeable activity. 
In other words, his first infinite mode is simply self- 
determined extension, or extension with the element of 
activity or self-determination in it. 

From purely infinite or indeterminate thought it is 
as impossible to derive the manifold world of finite in- 
telligences as from extension, considered as a mere inert 
mass, to demonstrate the existence of bodies. Blank 
self-identical thought remains one with itself. It is the 
form of all ideas without the possibility of the actual 
existence of any. Implicitly the whole wealth of the 
world of intelligence is contained in it ; but it can never 
realise that wealth, or become conscious of its own con- 
tent, because to do so would be to introduce distinction 
into that the very nature of which is to transcend all 
distinctions. But what Spinoza wants is an infinite 
thought which, while it remains one with itself, is yet 
the productive source of an actual world of ideas and 
intelligences. The only legitimate way in which this 
could be achieved would be by transforming the idea of 
God as Substance, with thought for its attribute, into 
that of self-conscious Spirit or Mind. From this, how- 
ever, which would have implied the reconstruction of 
his whole philosophy, Spinoza was precluded, and the 
expedient to which he had recourse was to introduce the 
element of self-determination into thought under the 
guise of an " infinite mode." " Intellect," though " ab- 
solutely infinite," is not absolute thought (cogitatio ab- 
aoliita), but only a certain mode of thinking, and there- 
fore . . . must be referred not to natur". tt>it>ii->.ui*, but 

184 Spinoza. 

to natura naturata" l By this means, without intro- 
ducing difference into that which is " absolutely perfect 
that is, absolutely indeterminate " Spinoza can claim 
for the whole finite realm of thought a necessary deriva- 
tion from the divine nature. " Infinite intellect " is not 
simply infinite thought, but that which knows infinite 
thought and all that is contained in it. " From the 
necessity of the divine nature must follow an infinitude 
of things in infinite ways that is, all things that can fall 
under an infinite intellect." 2 "Active intellect, finite 
or infinite, must comprehend the attributes and affections 
of God." 3 " The ideas of (even) non-existent individual 
things or modes must be comprehended in the infinite 
idea of God." 4 Thus to " intellect," as an immediate 
mode of thought, though it is said to belong to the 
sphere of the finite (natura naturata), the predicate 
" absolutely infinite " may be applied, inasmuch as there 
is nothing in the realm of thought which it does not 
comprehend. Though it contains an infinite number of 
determinations, they are, from first to last, self-deteT- 
minations. Though, as the productive source of all 
ideas, it is intensely and unceasingly active, yet, like the 
parallel mode of extension, its activity is a motion 
which is never moved. As motion, which is at the 
same time rest, is infinite, because it is motion which is 
terminated only by itself, so intellect is infinite, because 
its activity knows no limit that does not fall within its 
own domain. What, in short, Spinoza is aiming at by 
the conception of " intellect " as an " infinite mode " of 
thought, is the virtual introduction into his system of 

1 Eth. i. 31, clem. ^ Eth. i. 16. 

3 Eth. i. 30. Eth. ii.8. 

Second Class of Infinite Modes. 185 

what " he had actually excluded from his idea of God 
viz., the principle of self -consciousness or of thought as 
an active, self -determining principle which, in all its 
determinations, remains one with itself. 

2. I have said that the conception of infinite modes is 
an attempt to bring into union the irreconcilable ideas 
of infinitude and finite individuality, not only in the 
way we have just considered viz., by introducing the 
element of self-determination into the idea of the infi- 
nite but also, from an opposite direction, by elevating 
the finite world into a quasi infinitude. Spinoza had 
laid down the principle that nothing can follow from 
the infinite save that which is itself infinite and eternal, 
and conversely, that " that which is finite and has a 
determined existence cannot be produced by the abso- 
lute nature of God." The world of finite individualities, 
therefore, can never be connected by necessary derivation 
with the first principle of his system, the absolute 
nature of God or an attribute of God, unless he can con- 
trive to lend to that world such a guise of infinitude as 
will make it homogeneous with its origin. This he 
attempts to do by the second order of infinite modes or 
modifications of divine attributes in the second degree, 
the nature of which he exemplifies in the phrase " form 
of the whole universe." And the way in which he finds 
it possible to connect this totality of things with the 
absolute nature of God, is by ascribing to it, as a whole, 
a kind of infinitude and unchangeableness which does 
not pertain to the parts of which it is composed, taken 
individually. For this " form of the whole universe," 
"though it varies in infinite ways," though its con- 
stituent finite parts are determined each only by other 

186 Sjnnoza. 

Unite parts, and may be conceived to be endlessly diver- 
sified in their particular movements, yet taken as a 
whole, or as one composite individual, remains ever the 
same. 1 The individual parts are finite or determined ; 
but as constituting together the whole universe, outside 
of which there is nothing to determine them, they are 
infinite. Here, therefore, we have an aspect of the 
finite world in which, in a being derived from the abso- 
lute nature of God, it fulfils the condition that nothing 
can be so derived which is not infinite and eternal. Un- 
der whatever attribute we contemplate this totality of 
things whether as the aggregate of all corporeal things, 
or as the sum of all ideas nothing is presupposed to 
it save " the absolute nature of some attribute of 
God, or of such an attribute modified by a modification 
which is necessary and infinite." The sole presupposi- 
tion of the totality of finite bodies is the attribute of 
extension, conceived as self-determining, or under the 
infinite mode of motion ; the sole presupposition of the 
totality of ideas is the attribute of thought conceived of 
under the infinite mode of intellect. If the phrase 
"fades tot iiis universi" be regarded as embracing both 
the world of thought and the world of things, then we 
have here a point of view from which we can contem- 
plate it as an infinite and eternal expression of the abso- 
lute nature of God. 

If we ask what is the value of this attempt to mediate 
between the infinite or absolute nature of God and the 
finite world by the conception of " infinite modes," the 
answer can only be that Spinoza himself has furnished 
the proof of its inconclusiveness. The sum or aggregate 
of modifications is not equivalent to the unmodified ; by 
1 Ep. 66, and II. Lemma 7, schol. 

Criticism of the Conception. 187 

endless additions of finites we do not reach the true 
infinite ; the totality of relative, changeable things is 
no nearer than any one of them to the unchangeable abso- 
lute. Spinoza's finite modes, even when, by a petitio 
l>rii:ij>ii, he speaks of each mode as determined by God 
in so far as He is expressed by another finite mode, and 
that by others in endless series, are only contiguous, not 
essentially related, to each other. The whole finite 
world, in so far as we can conceive it at all, is broken 
up into an endless multiplicity of isolated atoms, and 
the attempt to sum them gives us only the false infinite 
of indefinite number, which leaves us no nearer the true 
infinite at the end than at the beginning. 

It may be possible, indeed, in another way to discern 
a real infinitude in the multiplicity of finite things. As 
a living organism is a unity which is not the sum of its 
parts, but prior to yet expressing itself in each and all 
of them, so it may be possible to conceive of the fades 
fiift//* unirirx! as an infinite organic whole, every infi- 
nitesimal portion of which is instinct with the universal 
life, every part of which lives in and through the rest, 
and all together constitute, not an aggregate outwardly 
related to, but a corporate unity which is the living 
expression of its infinite author. But though Spinoza 
undoubtedly aimed at a view of the universe in which 
all finite things should be seen to follow from, and 
constitute a necessary expression of, the absolute nature 
of God, we seek in vain in his dialectic for any such 
principle of organic coherence between the individualities 
of the finite world and the infinite substance. By his 
own acknowledgment his "infinite modes " belong still 
to the sphere of nntura naturafa, and the gulf between 
them and his nntura naturan* remains unbridged. 




THE Second Book of the ' Ethics,' to which the above 
title is prefixed, opens with the following words : " I 
will now explain the results which must necessarily fol- 
low from the nature of God, or of the Being eternal and 
infinite ; not, indeed, all these results, . . . but only those 
which can lead us to the knowledge of the human mind 
and of its highest. blessedness." In these words we have 
the key to the subsequent course of Spinoza's speculations 
with respect both to the intellectual and the moral 
nature of man. Here, as in his former work on ' The 
Improvement of the Human Understanding,' his aim is 
not a theoretical but a practical one not primarily the 
search for intellectual satisfaction, but the discovery of 
the way to spiritual perfection and blessedness. But as, 
in his view, all moral advancement rests on and is in 
one sense identical with intelligence, the true way to 
perfection is to disabuse our minds of error and illusion, 
and to gain a point of view from which we shall see 
things as they really are. His inquiry into the nature 
of the human mind, therefore, resolves itself into the 
question whether, from its very nature, human intelli- 

Tu -of old Aspect of MlmL 189 

gence is capable of adequate, or only of inadequate or 
imperfect knowledge. Spinoza's doctrine of " finite 
modes " contains two different and apparently irrecon- 
cilable views of the nature of individual finite things 
that in which the finite is represented as destitute of 
any positive reality, and that, on the other hand, in 
which the negation involved in the notion of the finite 
is only a partial negation, leaving to it still a positive 
element, " a force by which each individual thing 
perseveres in existence, and which follows from the 
eternal necessity of the divine nature." And what is 
true of finite things is equally true of our knowledge 
of them. The finite mind, like all other finite things, 
has, on the one hand, an existence that is merely 
negative and illusory ; the idea of the finite is itself 
finite, limited and determined by other finites, and in- 
capable of rising above itself. On the other hand, it 
has in it an element which is not mere negation, which 
transcends the limits of the finite and relates it to the 
absolute nature of God. In the former aspect, in its 
actual, empirical reality, it contemplates all things only 
under the form of time ; it looks on the world from the 
point of view of sense and imagination, broken up into 
fictitious individualities, or into things which have only 
accidental relations to each other in time and space. 
In the latter aspect, it sees all things from the point 
of view of reason or intelligence, as having in them a 
nature that is not unreal and relations that are not 
accidental, but which " involve the eternal and infinite 
necessity of the nature of God ; " it sees them " under 
the form of eternity." 

Xow whether this twofold existence and activity 

190 Spinoza. 

which Spinoza ascribes to the human mind is not, 
when closely examined, an impossible and self-con- 
tradictory notion, need not here be considered ; what 
we are at present concerned to notice is, that it is 
obviously Spinoza's aim, both here and in the more 
strictly ethical part of his system, to represent the lower 
or finite aspect of human nature as an imperfect stage 
of man's being, and the higher or infinite aspect as the 
goal of perfection to which, by its very essence, it is 
capable of attaining. 

The human mind, as we first contemplate it, is im- 
prisoned in the finite. It is an individual amongst 
other individuals, a link in the endless series of exist- 
ences, to parts of which only it stands in immediate 
relation. Its knowledge is only of the particular ; it 
is a finite mode which has for its object only another 
finite mode ; and it has no knowledge of other things 
save in their accidental relation to its ow'n particular 
being no knowledge, therefore, which is not at once 
fragmentary and confused. The mind is thus in its 
origin simply " the idea of an individual thing actually 
existing, or an individual mode of thinking ; " and its 
whole conception of things is determined by this indi- 
vidual reference. 

But though it would seem to be impossible, on 
Spinoza's principles, that the individual finite mind 
should, without ceasing to be finite or losing its in- 
dividuality, attain to any higher knowledge, it is 
implied in his whole treatment of the subject, that the 
mind is capable of emancipating itself from the par- 
ticular, and of attaining to a knowledge of things from 
a universal point of view. There is a stage of human 

Stages of Intelligence. 191 

intelligence in which it has become liberated from 
accidental associations and can contemplate things not 
as they are merely in relation to our own individuality, 
but as they are in their own nature and in their 
necessary relations to each other. At this stage of 
knowledge the mind has ceased to be dominated by 
the senses and the imagination ; its objects are not 
mere transient phenomena, but permanent laws. But 
beyond this there is a yet higher stage. Even the 
second stage of knowledge, in which we connect things 
under necessary principles and laws, rests on and 
involves the highest principle of all, " the very necessity 
of the nature of God." But there is a form of know- 
ledge of which this principle is not merely the implied 
basis but the very essence that which Spinoza de- 
signates " intuitive knowledge," " which proceeds from 
an adequate idea of the absolute essence of certain 
attributes of God to the adequate knowledge of the 
essence of things." When it has reached this highest 
stage of intelligence, the mind, starting with the unity 
which is present in all knowledge, sees all things in the 
light of it ; it discerns the immanence of the infinite in 
the finite, and regards the finite as real only in so far 
as it has the infinite in it. Thus Spinoza's inquiry into 
the nature of the human mind begins with the definition 
of the mind as " the knowledge of the body," and ends 
virtually with defining it as the knowledge of God and 
of all things in God. Its first consciousness of things 
is from a purely individual, but it is capable of rising 
to a universal standpoint. Lost at first in the confused 
and inadequate ideas of sense and imagination, human 
intelligence has in it the capacity of rising above itself. 

192 Spinoza. 

of seeing things no longer in online a<l in<l!r!<ln>iui, but 
in their objective reality and necessary relations ; and 
finally, it is capable of reaching a point from which 
by the intuitive grasp of reason it can discern all 
individual things, and all relations of things in their 
absolute unity, as expressions of "the eternal necessity 
of the divine nature." 

I. If now we examine a little more closely the course 
of thought of which the foregoing is an outline, the lirst 
important proposition in Spinoza's account of the nature 
of the mind is that the human mind is " the idea of the 
body." " The first," says he, " which constitutes the 
actual being of the human mind is nothing else than 
the idea of an actually existing individual thing," and 
" the object of the idea which constitutes the human 
mind is the body that is, a definite actually existing 
mode of extension and nothing else." l 

The proof that the mind is the idea of the body is 
simply an application to the nature of man of Spino- 
za's general doctrine of the attributes of thought and 
extension, and of the modes as parallel expressions of 
these attributes. Substance is both a " thinking thing" 
and an "extended thing" ; but thought and extension, 
and their respective modes, are not essentially different, 
but only different expressions of one and the same 
thing. To every mode of thought a mode of extension 
corresponds, the order or series of thoughts is the same 
as the order or series of things, and every actually 
existing thing may be regarded as a modification both 
of thought and extension. We say of man that he is 
composed of body and mind, 2 but the body and the 
1 Eth. ii. 11 and 13. 2 ii. 13, cor. 

Mind is tJie Idea of tJic Body. 193 

idea of the body are one and the same thing, contem- 
plated, now under one attribute, now under another. 
The two worlds of mind and matter, thoughts and 
things, are thus absolutely separated from each other. 
Though completely correspondent, they are absolutely 
independent, and idealistic explanations of physical, 
and materialistic explanations of mental phenomena, 
are equally precluded. In Spinoza's theory there is as 
little room for the deus ex machina of Descartes as for 
the " occasional causes " of Geulinx or the " pre-estab- 
lished harmony " of Leibnitz, to explain the relation of 
body and mind and the correspondence of bodily and 
mental acts ; for relation implies difference, and in this 
case there is no difference, but only one and the same 
thing contemplated in different aspects. We may, 
indeed, refer both mental and material phenomena to God 
as their cause, but we can refer the former only to God 
or Substance as thinking thing, the latter to God or 
Substance as extended thing. To trace the existence of 
any material object to the " will of God " would be to 
explain by the attribute of thought what can only be 
explained by the attribute of extension. A circle and the 
idea of a circle are ono and the same thing, conceived 
now under the attribute of extension, now under the 
attribute of thought ; but we cannot explain the ideal 
circle by the actual or by any mode of extension, but 
only by thought and modes of thought, and vice versa. 
Body and mind, in like manner, are to be conceived 
each as a mode of its own attribute ; and the only union 
of the two of which we can speak, is involved in the 
proposition that for everything that exists " formally " 
i.e., as a modification of extension there exists some- 
p. XIT. x 

194 Spinoza. 

thing exactly parallel "objectively" i.e., as a modifica- 
tion of thought. 

What, then, from this view of the nature of things, 
are we to understand by Spinoza's definition of mind as 
" the idea of the body " 1 In the first place, it might 
seem that there is much in man's spiritual nature which 
this definition does not embrace. By defining it as an 
" idea " or mode of thought, does not Spinoza leave out 
of sight such essential elements of that nature as feel- 
ing, desire, will, &c., and reduce it to something purely 
intellectual ? The answer is, that, in Spinoza's view, 
knowledge, the objective knowledge of the human body, 
precedes all other forms of consciousness and constitutes 
the fundamental essence of man's mental nature. Xo 
emotional or volitional element can exist without pre- 
supposing thought, and the latter can exist without the 
former. Thought is not one among many co-ordinate 
faculties, each having its own peculiar function, its own 
time and mode of action ; it is the principle which 
underlies all the many-sided aspects of our spiritual 
life, and of which these are but various specifications. 
" Modes of thinking, such as love, desire, or affections of 
the mind, by whatever name they are designated, do not 
exist iinless there exists in the same individual an iilt-n 
of the thing loved, desired, &c. But the idea may exist 
without any other mode of thinking." 1 ''The essence 
of man is constituted by modes of thinking, to all of 
which the idea is by nature prior, and it is only when 
that exists that the other modes can exist in the same 
individual. Therefore the idea is the first thing consti- 
tuting the being of the human mind." '' 

1 Eth. ii., ax. 3. - Eth. ii. 11, deni. 

Mind not an abstract Entity. 195 

But, secondly, even if we accept the doctrine that the 
ideal element is that to which all other elements of man's 
spiritual nature may be reduced, this doctrine, it may be 
said, does not to the modern ear seem to be expressed 
by the proposition, " the mind is the idea of the body." 
Modern thought conceives of mind as the conscious, 
thinking self to which ideas are referred, the rational 
nature, which is not one idea but the source or subject, 
at lowest, "the permanent possibility," of all ideas. 
But the explanation of Spinoza's phraseology lies in 
this, that mind, as anything more than the idea of the 
body (or of " affections " of the body), is for him a mere 
abstraction. It is only by a fictitious, imaginative gen- 
eralisation that we conceive of any abstract faculty of 
thinking, feeling, willing, apart from particular thoughts, 
feelings, volitions ; so it is only by carrying the same 
fictitious generalisation still further that we conceive of 
an abstract entity called " mind," which is no particular 
mental activity, but a capacity of all activities. Such a 
conception belongs to the same fictitious region with the 
conception of " lapidity " in relation to stones, or " aquos- 
ity " to streams. " There is," says he, 1 " in the mind 
no absolute faculty of understanding, desiring, loving, 
<fec. These and similar faculties are either entirely 
fictitious or merely metaphysical entities or universals, 
such as we are accustomed to create from particular 
things. Thus the intellect and the will stand in the 
same relation to this or that idea or this or that volition, 
as lapidity to this or that stone, or man to Peter and 
Paul." "The mind is a fixed and definite mode of 
thought, and not the free cause of its actions." 2 Mind 
1 Eth. ii. 48, schol. 3 Ibid., dem. 

196 Spinoza. 

is for Spinoza, not a general capacity of knowledge 
without definite content, but a definite knowledge of 
definite things, an individual mode of thought which 
has for its object an individual mode of extension, the 
idea of the body or of the ' affections ' of the body." 
Are we, then, to understand that for Spinoza there is no 
such conception as a conscious self, a permanent ego or 
subject, to which all mental experiences are referred 1 ? 
Is the human consciousness nothing but a succession of 
isolated thoughts, feelings, &c., bound together by no 
principle of unity] To this question the answer can 
only be that, though Spinoza's philosophy contains 
elements which, as we have often seen, are inconsistent 
with his fundamental principles, there is for him, ac- 
cording to these principles, no unity or unifying prin- 
ciple of ideas that stops short of that ultimate unity of 
all things which lies in God. We may group a number 
of the simplest bodies (corpora simplissima] by aggrega- 
tion, or by the constant relation of their motions to each 
other, into a combined or corporate individual, and these 
again, by a similar process, into larger individuals ; in 
like manner we may combine the simplest ideas, or ideas 
of the simplest bodies, into the more complex idea of an 
individual body, which is the aggregate of many such 
simpler elements, and from that again we may rise to 
the idea of a larger and more comprehensive individual. 
But all such unities, the most comprehensive alike with 
the smallest, are artificial creations of the imagination, 
which can ascribe to the part an independent unity that 
exists only in the whole. The unity of all modes of 
thought, of all modes of extension, lies solely in the 
attribute which each mode expresses in a certain definite 

Alleged Ambiguity. 197 

manner ; and the attributes themselves are only different 
expressions of the one ultimate and only absolute unity, 
that of Substance or God. As a mode of a divine attri- 
bute, therefore, the human mind has no independent 
individuality or self-consciousness. " It is," says Spinoza, 
"part of the infinite intellect of God; and when we 
say that it perceives this or that, what we affirm is that 
God has this or that idea, not in so far as He is infinite, 
but in so far as He is manifested through the nature of 
the human mind, or constitutes the essence of the human 
mind." l 

By the phrase " idea of the body," we are thus to 
understand that particular mode of thought called the 
human mind which corresponds to that particular mode 
of extension which we term the human body. Mind, 
in other words, is the correlate in thought of body in 
extension. It has been alleged that here, as elsewhere, 
Spinoza wavers between two entirely different senses of 
the word " idea " that, viz., in which it means, as just 
explained, the mental correlate of a certain modification 
of matter, and that in which it means the conception of 
that modification. It is one thing to say that there 
exists in thought an idea which is parallel to the thing 
we call body, and another thing to say that the body is 
the object of that idea. The relation expressed in the 
former phrase is something quite different from the rela- 
tion of the knower to the known, which is the relation 
expressed in the latter. A constant relation of the mind 
to the body does not imply that we are always thinking 
of the body, nor a relation of the mind as a whole to the 
body as a whole that there is a complete knowledge of 
1 Eth.ii. 11, cor. 

198 Spinoza. 

the body in every man's mind, or that every human 
being is " an accomplished physiologist." Yet a confu- 
sion of these two uses of the term " idea "is to be 
traced, it is averred, in much of Spinoza's speculations, 
and to this cause are to be ascribed some of his gravest 
errors. l 

If, however, we look to the whole drift of Spinoza's 
doctrine, it must, I think, be acquitted of this alleged 
ambiguity. Though, unquestionably, the idea of the 
body is, according to Spinoza, an idea which has the 
body for its object, yet neither directly nor by implica- 
tion does Spinoza confound the idea of the body with 
the physiologist's knowledge of it. The human mind is 
a mode of thought, but relation to an object is of the 
very essence of thought Spinoza, we have just seen, 
rejects any such notion as that of an empty, abstract 
mind or subject, a capacity of thinking apart from the 
actual thought of a particular object. There is no 
thought or idea which is not the thought or idea of 
something. What, then, can be the special object of the 
idea which is a particular mode of thought if not the 
particular mode of extension which corresponds to it? 
For man the whole universe of being consists of thought 
and extension, and their modifications. Outside of 
itself, therefore, there is nothing for the individual 
mind to think, nothing that for it immediately exists, 
save the individual mode of extension which is the 
obverse, so to speak, of itself. In being the mental 
correlate of the body the mind thinks the body. There 
is no confusion, therefore, of correlation and relation in 
saying that the idea that is correlated to the body is the 
1 Pollock's Spinoza, p. 132. 

"Idea" not Scientific Knowledge. 199 

idea which has the body for its object, or, in brief, that 
the mind is the idea of the body. 

But though the mind is, primarily, the idea of the 
body, Spinoza in so defining it neither identifies, nor is 
logically bound to identify, this idea of the body with 
the scientific knowledge of it, or to maintain anything 
so absurd as that " every human being must be an 
accomplished physiologist." As a matter of fact, he 
expressly teaches that the knowledge of the body which 
is the content of this " idea " is very imperfect and 
inaccurate knoAvledge. " The human mind," says he, 
" does not involve an adequate knowledge of the parts 
composing the human body." " The idea," again he 
writes, " of each affection of the human body does not 
involve an adequate knowledge of the human body 
itself ; " and again, " The idea of the affections of the 
human body, in so far as they are related only to the 
human mind, are not clear and distinct, but confused." ] 
Nor does his theory force him to hold any more than 
this. The idea of the body and the body correspond to 
each other ; but the correspondence is between the idea 
as this finite mode of thought, dwelling in the region of 
imagination or sensuous perception, and the body as this 
finite mode of extension apart from its relations to the 
whole system of the physical universe. In this point of 
view " the body " no more includes its whole organic 
.structure and functions as they are contemplated by the 
anatomist or the physiologist, than " the idea of the 
body " or the mind includes its whole constitution and 
relations as they are contemplated by the psychologist 
or the metaphysician. Between the adequate idea of 
1 Eth. ii. 24, 27, 28. 

200 Spinoza. 

the body, indeed, and the body as it really is, there 
would be a perfect correlation, and the relation in this 
case would be that of scientific knowledge ; but the cor- 
relation implied in Spinoza's definition of the mind, is 
not between the body as it really is and the scientific 
mind, still less between the former and the unscientific 
mind, but between body as a finite mode of matter, and 
mind in that attitude which is for the ordinary con- 
sciousness its first crude conception of things. If it be 
said that, after all, the body is as it is to the perfect 
physiologist, the answer is that the perfect physiologist 
is God, who is also the body as it is in reality i.e., as 
determined in relation to the whole of extension, and 
therefore in all its physical relations. Mind is the idea 
of the body, and only so as it is the idea of itself ; but 
the consciousness is as imperfect in the one case as in 
the other. Idea and object, therefore, are here exactly 
correspondent. Relation includes no more than correla- 
tion, and there is no confusion between two different 
things between the body as the condition of thought, 
and the body as the object of thought. What makes 
our knowledge at this stage superficial and confused, we 
shall see more fully in the sequel. 

II. The first important point in Spinoza's inquiry into 
the nature of the human mind is the definition of the mind 
as the " idea of the body." The second is the further 
characterisation of the mind as the idea of itself, the 
doctrine of idea mentis or ut<- /'/>. This further step 
may be expressed by saying that the first determination 
is that of mind as consciousness of an object, the second 
that of mind as self-consciousness. As "the mind is 
united to the body because the body is the object of the 

Idea of the Mind. 201 

mind, so ... the idea of the mind is united to its ob- 
ject, the mind, in the same way as the mind is united to 
the body ; " the only difference being that " mind and 
body are one and the same individual regarded, now 
under the attribute of thought, now under that of ex- 
tension," whereas " the idea of the mind and the mind 
are one and the same thing regarded under one and the 
same attribute, that of thought." l 

The proof of the doctrine of idea mentis is twofold, 
(1) from the nature of God, (2) from the nature of mind 
itself as " the idea of the body." (1.) The human mind, 
as we have seen above, is, according to Spinoza, " part 
of the infinite intellect of God." To say that the mind 
perceives anything is to say " that God has this or that 
idea, not in so far as He is infinite, but in so far as He 
constitutes the essence of the human mind." But it is 
involved in the divine attribute of thought that " there 
must necessarily exist in God an idea both of Himself 
and of all His affections, and therefore an idea of the 
human mind." 2 " The idea of the mind and the 
mind itself exist in God by the same necessity and 
the same power of thinking." 3 The human mind, 
therefore (or God as constituting its essence), has an 
idea of itself. 

(2.) The same thing is proved from the nature of 
mind itself, regarded as " the idea of the body." " The 
idea of the mind, or the idea of the idea, is simply the 
form of the idea considered as a mode of thought with- 
out reference to its object. For one who knows any- 
thing, in the very act of doing so knows that he knows 

1 Eth. ii. 21, deiu. aiid schol. 
2 Eth. ii. 20, dein. 3 th. ii. 21, schol. 

202 Spinoza. 

it, and knows that he knows that he knows it, and so 
on ad infinitum." l 

What it is of most importance to remark as to this 
doctrine of idea mentis is that, notwithstanding Spino- 
za's assertion of the absolute independence and equality 
of the two parallel series of modes, a richer content is 
here ascribed to the mental than to the corporeal side. 
The idea of the body corresponds to the body, but there 
is nothing in the latter which corresponds to the idea's 
consciousness of itself. The body, as a mode of exten- 
sion, has relations to other modes of extension, and the 
idea which constitutes the mind has relations to other 
modes of thought ; but in the series of ideas there is 
interposed a relation which has nothing parallel to it in 
the series of material modes viz., the relation of each 
idea to itself. In returning upon itself, mind is not the 
correlate in thought of anything that takes place in ex- 
tension. It possesses a self-activity, a power of self- 
reflection, which has no existence in matter. In his 
whole doctrine, indeed, as to the relation of the ideal 
and the material, we find an unconscious preponderance 
ascribed to the ideal side. In the very definition of 
mind as the idea of the body, there seems to be attributed 
to it a power to transcend the gulf between thought and 
things, which is not ascribed to the latter. Matter, so 
to speak, becomes idealised, but mind does not become 
materialised. It is not by any influence or impression 
of the body on the mind, but by the mind's own in- 
herent activity, that it knows the body, or has the body 
for its object. " It would be absurd," says Spinoza, " to 
think of the idea as something dumb, like a picture in- 
1 Eth. ii. 21, schol. 

Preponderance of Ideal Side. 203 

scribed on a tablet, and not as a mode of thinking, as in- 
telligence itself." x " By idea," says he elsewhere, 2 " I 
understand a conception of the mind which it forms be- 
cause it is a thinking thing. I say conception rather 
than perception, because the word ' perception ' seems 
to indicate that the mind is passive to the object, but 
' conception ' seems to express the activity of the mind." 
In being the idea of the body, mind is not passive but 
active, and its activity is the purely internal, self-orig- 
inated activity of thought. Moreover, as we have just 
seen, its inherent activity manifests itself in a wholly 
original manner, to which there is nothing corresponding 
in the body viz., as reflection on itself. It is not 
merely the idea of the body, but it makes that idea its 
own object ; and in so doing, as Spinoza teaches, it is 
its own criterion of certitude. In knowing, it knows 
that it knows. The truth of its knowledge is self-cer- 
tified. The content of every true idea carries subjective 
certainty with it, and the " form " or characteristic pro- 
perty of the idea is something that pertains to it, " in 
so far as it is considered as a mode of thought, mthout 
/'/fence to the object." 3 Finally, we shall afterwards 
see that Spinoza ascribes to mind not merely an activity 
independent of the body, but a power to control and 
modify the body and its affections. The mind masters 
the passions by the very act of thinking them, or " by 
forming clear and distinct ideas of them ; " 4 and when 
it is thus liberated from passion, it can order and con- 
catenate its ideas according to the order of reason. But, 
as ideas are ordered and connected in the mind, so are 

i Eth. ii. 43, schol. 2 Eth. ii., def. 3. 

3 Eth. ii. 21, schoL 4 Eth. v. 3. 

204 Spinoza. 

the affections of the body or the images of things in 
the body. " So long," he therefore concludes, " as we 
are not assailed by passions which are contrary to our 
nature, we possess the power of ordering and connecting 
the affections of the body according to the order of 
reason." a Notwithstanding, therefore, his denial of any 
causal nexus between mind and body, we find him here 
ascribing to mind not only a power over itself and its 
own internal activities, which the body does not pos- 
sess, but also a power, extending beyond the sphere of 
thought, to control and regulate the affections of the 

III. The essence of the mind, as we have seen, is in- 
telligence. It is idea, the idea of the body, and in 
being the idea of the body it is the idea of itself. 1 1 s 
characteristic attitude towards both the outward and the 
inward world is that of knoicledge. But if we go on to 
ask, What is the nature and value of its knowledge? 
Spinoza's answer is, that in the first exercise of our in- 
telligence, its knowledge is "inadequate" or, more 
definitely, it is neither a complete nor a distinct, but 
only a fragmentary and confused knowledge of things. 
Its point of view is purely individual ; it is that of a 
being Avho is only a part of the world, and as such ap- 
prehends only the part with which he stands in imme- 
diate connection, and even that only partially and 
indistinctly; and as the mind's knowledge of itself is 
relative to its knowledge of the body as it knows itself 
only in knowing, and in the measure in which it knows, 
outward things its self-consciousness is as inadequate as 
its consciousness of outward objects, 
i Eth. v. 10. 

Inadequate Knowledge. 205 

The proof of the inadequacy of that knowledge which 
pertains to the mind as the idea of the body, is based on 
the proposition that the mind knows the body only by 
means of ideas of bodily affections i.e.. of the modifica- 
tions which the body experiences in its relations to out- 
ward objects. 1 It has been shown 2 that an indi- 
vidual finite thing can exist only as determined by 
another finite thing, and that as determined by another 
finite thing, &c., ad infinitum ; and as the knowledge 
of an effect depends on the knowledge of its cause and 
includes it, 3 an adequate knowledge of any indi- 
vidual thing would imply a knowledge of the whole 
endless series of causes and effects in other words, 
would imply a knowledge which pertains only to the 
infinite intellect of God. But the human mind is only 
a part of that infinite intellect. Its knowledge is God's 
knoAvledge of the body, not in so far as He is infinite, 
but in so far as He is regarded as affected by another 
idea of a particular thing actually existing, or by many 
such ideas. 4 In other Avords, the idea or knowledge of 
the body is not the idea of the body in itself, but only 
of the body as determined or affected by other bodies ; 
or the mind knows the body only by means of the ideas 
of the affections it experiences. No\v, if we consider 
what is the value of the knowledge so defined, it is 
obvious that it must be both partial and confused. It 
is partial ; it apprehends its objects not in the totality of 
their nature and relations. Its knowledge of the body, 
of outward bodies, and of itself, is a knowledge which 
excludes or conceals all but a fragment of what would 

i Eth. ii. 19. 2 Eth. i. 28. 

3 Eth. i., ax. 4. 4 Eth. ii. 19, dem. 

206 Spinoza. 

be necessary to true or perfect knowledge. Knowing 
its own body only as it affects and is affected by outward 
objects, it knows both only in one relation, the external 
objects only in so far as they influence the human body, 
but not in their innumerable other relations ; l the human 
body only in that relation in which it has been affected 
in a particular way, but not as it is capable of being 
affected in a multiplicity of other ways. 2 Further, 
the human body is a highly composite individual 
thing, the parts of which belong to its essence only 
in so far as they participate in its movements in 
definite reciprocal relations ; but in so far as they 
exist in other relations, or in action and reaction with 
other bodies, the knowledge of their existence and 
activity is not included in the idea of the body which 
constitutes the human mind. Thus the knowledge that 
comes through the affections of the body is the know- 
ledge of outward objects, of the body itself, and of its 
constituent parts, only in certain particular relations, and 
is therefore imperfect or partial. It is also, even so 
far as it goes, indistinct or confused. Each affection of 
which the mind is conscious is the result of two factors 
the action of the outward object and the susceptibility 
of its own body and it is incapable of determining how 
rrmch is merely subjective, how much due to the out- 
ward object. "These ideas and affections, therefore, in 
so far as they are related to the human mind alone, are 
like conclusions without premisses that is, they are con- 
fused ideas." 3 

If the knowledge that comes to the mind through the 
affections of the body is thus inadequate, equally inade- 
1 Etb. ii. 25. 2 Eth. ii. 27. 3 Eth. ii. 28. 

Inadequate Knowledge. 207 

quate must be the self-consciousness that is bound up 
with it. The idea of the idea must partake of the im- 
perfection and indistinctness of its object. "As the 
idea of an affection of the body does not involve an 
adequate knowledge of the body or adequately express 
its nature, so the idea of that idea does not adequately 
express the nature of the human mind or involve an 
adequate knowledge of it." l The self -consciousness, in 
other words, which is the consciousness of inadequate 
ideas, must be itself an inadequate self-consciousness. 

But besides this imperfection and confusion which 
characterises our first consciousness of things, or that 
knowledge which is mediated by the affections of the 
body, there is a further defect which inevitably clings 
to it. !Not only at this stage are our particular percep- 
tions inadequate, but the same inadequacy attends our 
ways of connecting or combining them. A mind which 
knows things only through the affections of the body, 
or as they present themselves in individual sensible 
experience, can have no other notion of the relations 
of things than that of arbitrary or accidental association. 
The affections of the body, and therefore the ideas of 
these affections, vary in each case with the individual 
susceptibility. They are limited in number by the 
range of individual experience, and they succeed each 
other in no rational order, but only in the order in 
which the individual chances to be affected by them. 
"Memory," says Spinoza, "is an association of ideas 
which involves the nature of things outside the body, 
but it is an association which arises in the mind ac- 
cording to the order and association of the affections 
1 Eth. ii. 29, dem. 

208 Spinoza. 

of the body," in contradistinction from the order of 
intelligence " whereby the mind perceives things through 
their primary caiises, and which is the same in all men." l 
Thus, so long as our knowledge is derived from mere 
external experience, Spinoza shows (though by the help 
of a somewhat crude physiological explanation, on which 
nothing really turns) that it is possible to regard as 
actually present, things which are absent or even non- 
existent, 2 and to connect things arbitrarily "according 
to the manner in which the mind has been accustomed 
to connect and bind together the images of things." 3 
Lastly, the inadequacy and arbitrariness which is the 
general characteristic of this kind of knowledge finds 
another example in the fictitious " universals," the 
general or abstract terms by which we attempt to give 
connection and unity to our particular perceptions of 
things. Transcendental terms, such as " being," " thing," 
" something " ; generic terms, such as " man," " horse," 
" dog," &c., so far from expressing real relations of 
things, only intensify the confusion of our individual 
perceptions. They are expressions of the mind's weak- 
ness, not of its strength. They arise from the fact that 
its capacity of forming even confused images of things 
is limited, so that when they exceed a certain number 
they run into each other, and our only resource is to 
group them indistinctly under some general term. In- 
stead, therefore, of giving unity to the differences of 
our primary perceptions, they only redouble the original 
indistinctness. And they are as arbitrary as they are 
confused. They do not supply any objective principle 
by which the differences of things are explained and 
1 Eth. ii. 18, schol. 2 Ibid., 17. " Tbid., 18, schol. 

Is Adequate Knowledge, Possible ? 209 

harmonised, but only images or subjective conceptions, 
varying with individual temperament, by which w<> 
attempt to bind together diversities too complicated for 
ordinary thought to embrace. " Those who have most 
frequently looked with admiration on the stature of men 
will understand by the term. ' man ' an animal of erect 
stature; while those who have been in the habit of 
fixing their thoughts on something else will form a dif- 
ferent general image, as of an animal capable of laughter, 
a biped without feathers, a rational animal, &c., each 
person forming general images according to the tempera- 
ment of his own body." ] 

The knowledge which is mediated by the " affections 
of the body " in other words, our first empirical con- 
sciousness of things as they are given in immediate 
perception is thus in many ways imperfect and unreal. 
The mind, regarded simply as " the idea of the body," 
has no adequate knowledge " either of itself or of the 
body, or of outward bodies." It is but an individual 
thing in a boundless universe, catching only indistinct 
glimpses of other finite things in their immediate rela- 
tion to its own individuality. It is but a transitory 
mode of thought, which knows itself only as the reflex 
of a transitory mode of matter ; and of all that lies be- 
yond itself and its immediate object it knows nothing 
save through the dim and broken impressions of its 
accidental surroxmdings. To ask whether such a being 
is capable of "adequate ideas" would seem to be 
equivalent to asking whether the particular can com- 
prehend the universal, or that which is merely subjec- 

1 Eth. ii. 40, schol. 1. 
P. XII. O 


live and contingent can find in itself the expression of 
that which is objective and necessary. 

Spinoza's answer to this question is contained in his 
theory of the development of knowledge. The individual 
point of view which constitutes the mind's first attitude 
towards the world, is only the beginning of knowledge. 
It is possible for man to rise above himself and the 
conditions of his finitude. The human mind has in it, 
by its essential nature, an element in virtue of which 
it can escape from the narrowness and confusion, the 
arbitrariness and contingency of its own subjective 
feelings or affections, or of that knowledge which 
is merely generated from them. It is possible for it, 
in the process of knowledge, to eliminate its own in- 
dividuality, and to attain to a view of things which is 
untroubled by the peculiarities of individual tempera- 
ment or the accidents of individual experience. From 
conceptions which represent only the relations of its 
own body to outward bodies it can rise to the appre- 
hension of the laws or principles which are common to 
all bodies, and which determine, not their accidental, 
but their necessary relation to each other. And finally, 
beyond even that emancipation from itself which is 
implied in the knowledge of things as determined by 
universal laws and rules (j)er It'ijc* ti /vyA/.-- lotiri-r- 
xule*), 1 the mind is capable of attaining that supreme 
elevation in which all finite things and all laws and 
principles of finite things are referred to the ultimate 
unity which is their immanent principle and origin. 
In the light of this highest universality, it contemplates 
all things as they really are, and not as they seem to In-, 
i Eth. iii., Praf. 

Hir/lier Stages of Knowledge. 211 

from the point of view of the whole, and not in partial, 
fragmentary aspects, in their essential relations, and 
not in accidental combinations, under the "form of 
eternity," and not under the conditions of time. In a 
word, the human mind, when it lias realised its inherent 
capacity of intelligence, is no longer " the idea of the 
body," but the idea or intuitive apprehension of God, 
and of all things in God. 

In the ascending scale of intelligence thus generally 
indicated, Spinoza specifies two stages, which he des- 
ignates respectively " reason " (ratio) and " intuitive 
knowledge " (scientia intuitiva). In the earlier sketch of 
the theory which is given in the treatise on ' The Im- 
provement of the Understanding,' these two kinds or 
stages of knowledge are defined as that " in which the 
essence of a thing is inferred from another thing," and 
that " in which a thing is perceived solely from its own 
essence, or by the knowledge of its proximate cause." 
In the ' Ethics ' the distinction is presented in a some- 
what modified form. "Keason" is that knowledge 
which arises " from our possessing common notions and 
adequate ideas of the properties of things," l " ideas 
which are common to all men," of those "things in 
which all bodies agree," - " which exist equally in the 
human body and in external bodies, and equally in the 
part and in the whole of each external body." 3 " In- 
tuitive knowledge," again, is " that kind of knowing 
which proceeds from an. adequate idea of the formal 
essence of certain attributes of God to the adequate know- 
ledge of the essence of things." 4 And this last kind of 

J Eth. ii. 40, schol. 2. * Eth. ii. 38, cor. 

3 Eth. ii. 39, clem. * Eth. ii. 40, schol. 2. 

212 Spinoza. 

knowledge he further describes as the knowledge of " the 
existence of individual things in so far as they are in 
God ; for although," he adds, " each individual thing is 
determined by another individual thing to exist in a 
certain way, nevertheless the force by which each thing 
perseveres in its existence follows from the eternal 
necessity of the nature of God." 1 

1. The kind of knowledge which is designated "rea- 
son," is, as we have just said, in the earlier form of the 
theory distinguished from the third or highest kind of 
knowledge simply as mediate from immediate, that 
which is reached by ratiocination from that which we 
obtain by intuitive perception. "Reason," in other 
words, denotes that knowledge of which the object is 
not apprehended directly and immediately, but only in- 
ferentially, by deduction according to logical principles. 
Of this inferential or deductive knowledge Spinoza ad- 
duces as examples the conclusion from effect to cause, or 
from any universal to " a property which always accom- 
panies it." In the 'Ethics' the explanation of the 
matter, though varied in form, is substantially the same. 
There are certain common notions or fundamental 
principles of reason which enable us to rise above the 
merely individual and subjective view of things, and 
which form the basis of a real knowledge. Behind the 
phenomena of sense, which vary with the individual 
subject, there are certain elements or laws which are 
common to all things and all parts of things a universal 
nature which each thing has in common with other 
things, and in virtue of which it is a member of the 
system or order of nature. Of these universal elements 
1 Eth. ii. 45, schol. 

Second Stage of Knowledge. 213 

the mind can form adequate ideas ; it caii apprehend 
them in their simplicity and purity underlying the con- 
fusion of the sensible world, and so perceive in that 
world, not the accidental play of circumstances, but a 
real or rational order. These adequate ideas enable us 
to see things in their real agreements, differences, and 
c] (positions. They form the basis of reason (fi 
ratiotue) 1 or of ratiocination (fundamcnta 
inasmuch as "whatever ideas in the mind follow from 
adequate ideas are also themselves adequate," 3 and " the 
things we clearly and distinctly understand are either the 
common properties of things, or things which are deduced 
from these." 4 " Reason," in short, is the mind's power 
to form clear and distinct ideas, and deductions from such 
ideas. a This kind of knowledge, he further points out, 
though it raises us above our first crude perceptions of 
things, inasmuch as it liberates us from accidental associa- 
tions, yet falls short of the highest knowledge, and par- 
takes in some measure of the defects of ordinary know- 
ledge. It only incompletely redeems us from that partial 
or abstract way of looking at things which is the radical 
defect of the latter. In our ordinary unscientific attitude 
of mind we proceed from part to part : setting out from 
ourselves and our immediate surroundings, we pass from 
object to object, regarding them as isolated, self-identical 
things, or only vaguely connecting them with each other 
by accidental associations of time and place. Reason so 
far corrects this abstract, disintegrated view of things, 
that it connects and separates them as genera and species 

1 Eth. ii. 44, cor. dem. - Eth. ii. 40, schol. 1. 

s Eth. ii. 40. * Eth. v. 12, dem. 

5 Eth. v. 10, dem. 

214 Spinoza. 

according to their likenesses and dissimilarities, or links 
them together by necessary laws, such as that of cause 
and effect. But in so doing reason only partially over- 
conies the crude abstractions of ordinary thought. When, 
e.g., we reason from effect to cause, we still contemplate 
things as separate, self-identical substances connected 
with each other only by an external link ; and however 
far we carry out the series of causes and effects, we can 
never arrive at any real principle of unity. The utmost 
we get by any such method is only an endless or indefinite 
succession of objects externally determining and deter- 
mined. If the real unity of the world is to be discerned, 
it must be by some higher principle of knowledge some 
principle which will not leave the manifold objects of 
the finite world lying still in disintegration, or explain 
one finite thing by another which is still outside of it, 
or by an infinite which is only the endless repetition of 
the finite. What we want and what " reason" cannot 
give us, is a first or highest principle which will at once 
transcend and explain all differences of the finite world, 
which will be seen in its own light, and in the light of 
which the reality and unity of all finite things will be 

2. "As all things are in God, and are conceived 
through God, we can . . . form that third kind of 
knowledge of which I have spoken, and of the excel- 
lence and utility of which I shall in the fifth part (of 
the 'Ethics') have occasion to speak." 1 It is thus that 
Spinoza describes that scientia intuitiva which forms 
the culminating stage of human intelligence, the attitude 
of mind which is furthest removed from the purely in- 
i Eth. ii. 47, schol. 

Third Stage of Knowledge. 215 

dividual point of view, and in which it apprehends all 
things in the light of that first principle in relation 
to which alone they truly are and can be known. 
" Keason," as we have seen, so far corrects the arbitrary 
abstractions of sense and imagination, but its point of 
view is still abstract. The link of necessity which con- 
nects things with each other is something other than and 
external to the things themselves. That which gives 
them unity is foreign to, not immanent in them. By 
means of such general principles as that of causality we 
can infer or conclude from one thing to another, but we 
do not see the unity that runs through them. We per- 
ceive the differences of things and that which unites 
them, but not unity in difference and difference in 

Xow it is this highest apprehension of things which, 
in " intuitive knowledge," the mind attains. What 
Spinoza means by this phrase is a kind of knowledge in 
which it no longer proceeds from part to part, from dif- 
ference to unity, but is determined by the idea of the 
whole, and proceeds from the whole to the parts, from 
unity to difference. It is the realisation of what, else- 
where, he had laid down as the ideal of true knowledge 
viz., that the mind must grasp the idea which repre- 
sents the origin and sum of nature, and see in that idea 
the source of all other ideas." Moreover, this knowledge 
is not mediate, but immediate or intuitive. In it the 
unity is prior to diversity, and the process from unity to 
difference is not one which first apprehends the principle 
or origin of things as an independent, self-contained 
reality, and then advances to the manifold existences 
of the finite world ; but one in which, as by a single 

216 Spinoza. 

intuitive glance of intelligence, it sees all finite things 
as genetically involved in their first principle. It sees 
the differences as the differences of unity, the unity as 
immanent in the differences. It sees God in all things, 
and all things in God. 

That the human mind is capable of this highest kind 
of knowledge Spinoza rests on the consideration that all 
knowledge virtxially involves the idea of God, and that 
we have only to evolve its content to bring our know- 
ledge into correlation with its first principle or immanent 
source. " The idea," says he, 1 of every individual thing 
actually existing, necessarily involves the eternal and in- 
finite essence of God." As all spaces must be known as 
in one space, or through the conception of an all-com- 
prehending space, so all individual ideas can be known 
only through the all-embracing idea of God. " Inasmuch 
as individual things have God for their cause, in so far 
as He is regarded under the attribute of which they are 
modes, their ideas must necessarily involve the concep- 
tion of the attribute of these ideas that is, the eternal 
and infinite essence of God." 2 The knowledge of God 
is implicated with our knowledge of all things, and 
without that knowledge we could know nothing else. 
It is true that in our ordinary thinking we do not clearly 
apprehend that which is really the fundamental element 
of our consciousness ; but the reason of this is, that the 
unreflective mind confounds thought with imagination, 
and conceives itself to be incapable of thinking what 
it cannot represent to itself by an outward picture or 
image. "Men have been accustomed to associate the 
name of God with images of things they have been in 
i Eth. ii. 45. a ibid., dem. 

Intuitive Knowledge. 217 

the habit of seeing," and the absence of the image is 
mistaken for unconsciousness of the thing. If they 
" could see into their own minds, they would no longer 
make this mistake," any more than the man who makes 
an error in calculation would ascribe it to an incapacity 
in the human mind to apprehend the idea of number, 
rather than to its unconscious substitution of false num- 
bers for true. When we thus " see iuto our minds," or 
bring, by reflection, their content to clear consciousness, 
we discern that our ideas of all things of ourselves, of 
our own bodies, and of external bodies as actually exist- 
ing presuppose and are based on an adequate knowledge 
of " the eternal and infinite essence of God." x Intuitive 
knowledge, therefore, is that which interprets us to our- 
selves, and enables us to transform our consciousness of 
the finite by bringing it into relation with the infinite. 
It not only liberates us from the arbitrary abstractions of 
sense and imagination, but it frees us from the abstract- 
ness that still clings to the general notions of ratiocinative 
thought. When we " proceed from the absolute know- 
ledge of the essence of God to the adequate knowledge 
of the essence of things," from the idea of an absolute 
unity, which is immanent in all diversity, to particular 
things as only the expression of that unity in a certain 
definite manner, the dualism which is involved in the 
notion of causality vanishes. The higher universality dis- 
solves the difference still left by the lower. The view 
of the world, as a succession of finite things conditioned 
by and conditioning each other in endless series, yields 
to the view in which everything is seen in the light of 
the infinite unity which is immanent in all. " For, al- 
1 Etli. ii. 47, schol. 


though each particular thing be conditioned 1>y another 
particular thing to exist in a given way, yet the force by 
which each particular thing perseveres in existing" (/>.. 
its inmost essence) " follows " (not from other particular 
things, but) " from the eternal necessity of the nature of 
God." 1 The intuition of reason is possible only when 
diversity is seen through unity, for till then the special 
existence of things and their mediating link are inde- 
pendent. We cannot properly see the whole at o/n-r. 
Mediacy thus can become immediacy only at the highest 
point ; and this explains the difficulty that is involved 
in asserting at the same time an intuitive knowledge and 
a deduction of ideas from the highest idea. The perfect 
collapse into unity is possible for reason only at the 
highest point where it returns, so to speak, to the direct- 
ness of sense. Finally, we cannot speak of intuitive 
knowledge as a knowledge which is determined by time, 
but only as knowledge "under the form of eternity." 
Even ratiocinative knowledge, in so far as it lifts its 
objects out of their contingency into a system of unal- 
terable relations, may be said to be knowledge of things 
" under a certain form of eternity " (sub quadaui specie 
ti'fi'ritifafi*). But it is only intuitive knowledge to 
which, in the fullest sense of the words, this description 
can be applied. For here our consciousness of things is 
a consciousness which is no longer subjected to finite 
limitations, but one "which proceeds from the eternal 
necessity of the divine nature," or which identifies itself 
with the principle which transcends the sphere of time 
and of temporal relations. " Things are conceived by 
us as actual in two ways either as existing in relation 
1 Etli. ii. 45, schol. 

Knoidcdye under the "Form of Eternity '." 219 

to a given time and place, ov as contained in God and 
following from tlie necessity of the divine nature." l 
Time and number are only forms of the imagination, 
pertaining to the phenomenal unreal aspect -of things. 
It is only individual things, or things regarded as isolated 
individuals, that arise and pass away in their inner 
essence they neither begin nor cease to be. When we 
contemplate them from a universal point of view, we 
enter into a region in which duration and succession 
have no place, where one thing is no more prior in time 
to another than are the different properties of a circle or 
a triangle. As he who grasps the idea of a circle or tri- 
angle sees all its properties to be sinmltaneously present 
in it, so he who intuitively apprehends the nature of 
things sees all finite existences as eternally involved in 
the idea of God sees them " under the form of eternity." 
" Here," says Spinoza, " by existence I do not under- 
stand duration that is, existence abstractly conceived, 
and as a certain form of quantity. I speak of the very 
nature of existence which is ascribed to individual things 
because of this, that from the eternal necessity of the 
nature of God an infinitude of things follow in infinite 
ways." 2 

Tt is unnecessary at present to enter into any detailed 
examination of Spinoza's theory of knowledge. "What 
we may here point out is, that the ideal at which it aims 
it fails to fulfil. Setting out from the purely individual 
point of view of the ordinary consciousness, it traces the 
rise of the mind through the higher but still imperfect 
xiniversality of reason, to that highest or absolute uni- 
versality which is involved in the apprehension of all 
1 Eth. v. 29, schol. " Eth. ii. 45, schol. 

220 Spinoza. 

things in their relation to the idea of God. Expressed 
in modern language, the gradual evolution of thought is 
that in which the mind, beginning with ordinary unso- 
phisticated experience, advances, first to the scientific 
attitude, and finally to that of philosophy or speculation. 
But whatever may be said as to the transition from the 
first to the second stage, the fatal defect of Spinoza's 
scheme of knowledge is, that the final step is, not from a 
lower universality to a higher, from a plurality of prin- 
ciples or categories to one highest principle which em- 
braces and explains them, but simply from the diversity 
of the former to a mere abstract identity which lies be- 
yond them. The principle the intuitive apprehension 
of which is to constitute the ultimate explanation of all 
the differences of the finite world is, when we examine 
what it means, nothing more than the common element 
which we reach when these differences are left out of 
sight. The implicit universality of intelligence, as we 
may express it, asserts itself, first, in raising us above the 
partial, accidental, confused aspect of things as they arc 
regarded from a merely individual or subjective point of 
view, and in apprehending them as related to each other 
by universal principles or laws. But the rational or 
scientific point of view, though it so far corrects that of 
ordinary experience, leaves the impulse towards univer- 
sality still unsatisfied. The claim of philosophy to be a 
higher explanation of the world than that of science is 
based on the fact, not only that science employs categor- 
ies, such as substance and qualities, cause and effect, &c., 
which it does not explain, but that these categories give 
us only ;i provisional explanation of the world conceived 
of as a manifold of existences outside of each other, and 

Defect of the TJieoi^y. 221 

apart from their relation to the intelligence that knows 
them. They connect things indeed by real and objec- 
tive, instead of accidental and subjective relations, but 
the highest view they reach is that of an aggregate of 
finite substances acting and reacting externally on each 
other, and contemplated in abstraction from the intelli- 
gence for which alone they exist. What philosophy, if 
it is to justify its pretensions, must do, is to furnish us 
with a higher principle to which the categories of science 
may be earned back as their principle, and at the same 
time as the principle of the mind that apprehends them 
an idea, in other words, which will be the reason at 
once of the differences of things from each other, and 
of the sxipreme difference of things from the mind that 
knows them. Whether modern philosophy has achieved 
this result we need not here inquire. But this much 
at least is obvious, that the ultimate unity of knowing 
and being cannot be found in a principle which abstracts 
from their difference. If what we are in search of is a 
key to the meaning of nature and man, of mind and 
matter, of the manifold differences of the finite world, it 
is not supplied by an idea which destroys these differ- 
ences, or is itself destroyed when brought into contact 
with them. 




THE ethical part of Spinoza's philosophy is based on 
the metaphysical, and partakes of the merits and de- 
fects of the latter. A thorough-going pantheism knows 
nothing' of moral distinctions. As it admits of no quali- 
tative difference between finite things, so it admits of no 
better and worse, higher and lower, in man's nature. 
God is not more revealed in what Ave call the noblest 
than in the meanest of finite existences. Each is but a 
mode of the infinite, and none can be more. Nor can 
there be any part or element of any individual nature 
Avhich is more or less divine than another, or by the 
triumph or subjugation of which that nature can elevate 
itself to a higher or degenerate to a lower stage of being. 
In such a system the terms " good " and " evil " must be 
meaningless, or at most, expressions of facts of the same 
order with the terms heat and cold, motion and rest, or 
(in the case of sensitive beings) pleasure and pain. Fi- 
nally, as in such a system the independent existence of 
finite things is an illusion, and their only distinction 
from the infinite a distinction which vanishes with the 
false abstraction which gave it birth, any such notion as 

Sketch of the Theory. 223 

that of aspiration, self-devotion, union with God any 
such notions as form the basis of the religious life are 
equally excluded with those of freedom, responsibility, 
duty, &c., which form the basis of the moral. 

But whilst, in one point of view, the metaphysic of 
Spinozism, as of all pantheistic systems, is subversive of 
what we commonly understand by " ethics," it is not 
the less true that the ethical in Spinoza's aim and inten- 
tion was the goal to which the metaphysical part of his 
philosophy pointed. And even in his metaphysic itself 
there are ideas and principles which are incongruous 
with its pantheistic side, and of which his elabo- 
rate ethical theory is the logical result. The origin 
and explanation of all moral activity he finds in a cer- 
tain self-maintaining or self-realising impulse, which is 
identical with the very essence of each finite individual 
" the effort by which it endeavours to persevere in 
its own being." l Feeling or emotion Ja/ectut) is the 
expression of this impulse, and modifications of feel- 
ing arise from its satisfaction or repression. When the 
self-maintaining impulse is satisfied, or when the mind 
is conscious of an increase of power, the feeling is 
that of pleasure or some modification of pleasure ; in the 
opposite case the feeling is that of pain or a modification 
of pain. When the individual is himself the adequate 
cause of such increased power, the emotion is termed an 
" activity " ; when the diminution or increase of power 
follows from something external, and of which the 
individual is only the partial cause, the emotion is 
termed a " passion," or passive state. From this ac- 
count of the nature and origin of human emotion we 
i Eth. iii. 6 and 7. 

224 Spinoza. 

are enabled to understand the relation of the intellectual 
to the ethical part of Spinoza's philosophy, and the close 
correspondence which he traces between the successive 
stages of knowledge and the successive stages of man's 
moral life. Through all the stages of knowledge runs 
the self -realising impulse, taking its complexion and 
content from each in succession, expanding and en- 
larging itself with the widening sphere of intelligence, 
and expressing itself in emotions coloured by the intel- 
lectual atmosphere in which it breathes. At the lowest 
stage, corresponding to that of " vague experience," 
where intelligence is governed by accidental and sub- 
jective associations, the self which seeks realisation is 
the purely individual self, varying with individual 
temperament and the accidental relations of time and 
place. Its good and evil are nothing absolute, but 
only that in which a purely individual nature can ex- 
perience the feeling of enlargement or repression viz., 
pleasure and pain ; and as its whole experience, all that 
moves or affects it, arises not from the mind's own 
activity, but from that which is external or foreign to it 
as, in other words, it is at best only the partial cause 
of its own emotions, and " the force whereby it perse- 
veres in its being is infinitely surpassed by the power of 
external causes " at this stage of the moral life man is 
simply " a part of nature," and the general condition of 
human nature can only be described as that of impotence 
or " bondage." 

But whilst, regarded simply as an individual amongst 
other individuals, man is not, and never can be, free, 
human nature contains in itself the secret of its own 
emancipation. The bondage lies in this, that the true 

Sketch of tlie TJicory. 225 

self is repressed by what is foreign to it. The fun- 
damental impulse of self-maintenance, which is our 
very essence, has here not free play ; it is in con- 
tradiction with the conditions under which it exists, 
and the effort to rise above these conditions is the ex- 
pression of our deepest nature. All the force of that 
nature goes with the effort to throw off the yoke of 
imagination and passion, and to rise to rational freedom. 
Corresponding, therefore, to the stage of intelligence 
which Spinoza designates " reason," in which the mind 
passes from the sphere of inadequate to that of adequate 
ideas, there is a stage of moral activity, in which the 
universal element in man's nature asserts itself, and the 
mind ceasing to be the slave of external and accidental 
impulse, its experience becomes the expression of its 
own self -originated energy. On the intellectual side of 
our nature, reason, as we have seen, is the sphere of 
freedom ; it liberates from the confusion and contin- 
gency of the senses and the imagination, and is itself 
the pure activity of the mind, all the operations of 
which can be " understood from our own nature as their 
adequate cause." But it is the sphere of freedom also 
as regards the moral life. To live according to reason 
is to live according to ourselves, to make our life the 
expression of our true nature. We cannot, indeed, 
cease to be creatures of sense and imagination, or, so 
long as the body exists, to have a consciousness which 
consists of ideas of bodily affections. But reason, 
though it cannot annul the conditions from which desires 
and passions arise, can, to a great extent, elevate us 
above their control. It can make us independent of 
passion ; for " to all actions to which we are determined 
r. xn. p 

by passion, where the mind is passive, we can be deter- 
mined by reason without passion." l And it has in it, 
by its very nature, a power to abate the control of 
passion ; for, in one sense, the activity of thought kills 
passion; by 1liinJchi<j a passion, we make it cease to be 
a passion. The particular objects of our desire or aver- 
sion, love or hatred, lose their power over iis when the 
bodily affections we ascribed to them are referred to 
their true origin viz., the whole order and complex of 
things, and the universal laws by which they are regu- 
lated. Seen in this light, the vehemence of passion 
becomes as foolish as the child's anger against the stone 
that hurts it, or the infuriated man's indignation against 
the messenger of evil tidings. Moreover, reason quells 
passion by revealing the vain imagination of liberty on 
which passion is based. " The mind has greater power 
over the passions, and is less subject to them, in so far 
as it understands all things as necessary." 2 AVe gain 
true freedom by the detection of false freedom. The 
feverish restlessness of hope and fear, disappointment 
and regret, pity and resentment, is allayed or cured 
when we see in our affections of body and mind the 
expression of a necessary and unalterable order. Reason 
can no more be pleased or pained, be moved by love or 
hate, desire or aversion, towards the beings or events 
that often give rise to such emotions, than it can love or 
hate a triangle for its properties, or a law of nature for 
its inevitable results. Finally, the fluctuations of feel- 
ing which depend on the succession of things in time 
are subdued or quelled, the more we learn to see in them 
those eternal relations which are the objects of rational 
1 Eth. iv. 59. 2 Eth. v. 6. 

Sketch of the Theory. 227 

observation. Joy or SOITOAV come and go with the 
transitory relations of the imagination, but the true 
order of things which reason reveals is not transitoiy. 
It lifts us into a sphere in which neither the things 
themselves nor our ideas of them are things of time. 
Xot the latter, for our knowledge even of things in time 
is not itself a thing of time ; not the former, for that in 
the things themselves of which reason takes cognisance 
is not accidental and arbitrary successions, but relations 
which never change. Thus the mind that is guided by 
reason is elevated above the ebb and flow of passion, is 
no longer tossed to and fro on the ever-changing tides 
of feeling, and its only emotion is the profounder joy 
of acquiescence in that changeless order with which it 
identifies itself when it contemplates all things " under 
a form of eternity." 

But the knowledge of things "under the form of 
eternity " is, in the full sense of the words, as we have 
seen, only attained when the mind rises to the highest 
stage of knowledge, which Spinoza designates scientia 
iittuitiva ; and to this corresponds the culminating stage 
of the moral life. As knowledge is still imperfect which 
proceeds from finite to finite even by the link of neces- 
sary and unchanging relation, so the activity and freedom 
of the spiritual life are still imperfect when they are 
determined by affections which spring from finite rela- 
tions of things. Joy in an invariable order is still a 
joy in which the mind regards itself and other minds, 
its body and other bodies, under the limits of the finite. 
Though the links are golden, the chain is still there. 
The alloy of finite passion is still possible when the 
mind and the objects of its contemplation lie outside of 

228 Spinoza. 

each other, and are not referred to the ultimate unity 
from which all differences spring, when it does not yet 
live and breathe in unison with the universal heart and 
life of the world. But intuitive knowledge, as we have 
seen, not only annuls the arbitrary abstractions of sense 
and imagination, but evaporates even that residuum 
of abstraction which reason or ratiocination involves. 
Raised to this point of view, the mind no longer con- 
templates the world and itself as a system of finite 
things conditioned by each other, but by the glance of 
immediate intelligence sees them in the light of that 
absolute unity of which they are only the infinitely 
varied expression. And this supreme attitude of intel- 
ligence reflects itself in that " intellectual love " which 
is the goal and consummation of the moral life. Intel- 
lectual love is the joy or blessedness of the mind in the 
consciousness of its own perfect activity, combined with 
the idea of God as its cause. It is a joy into which no 
element of passion enters, for the mind has here com- 
pletely emerged from that passivity to which passion 
is due. Its consciousness is the consciousness of pure 
activity, because it is determined by no other finite con- 
sciousness, but only by that infinite intelligence with 
which its own inmost nature is identified. Yet, though 
absolutely unimpassioned, this joy is the highest of 
which human nature is capable; for all joy is in the 
consciousness of elevation to a higher measure of power, 
and here, where its consciousness of self is one with 
its consciousness of God, it has reached the summit of 
human perfection. And as this joy in the consciousness 
of perfection is at the same time joy in the knowledge 
of God, or which is combined with the idea of God, it 

Sketch of the Theory. 229 

is another name for the love of God. Further, as this 
"intellectual love" is the love to God of a mind which 
is itself a mode of God, and which, in all its activities, 
is the expression of the divine nature, it may be said 
that the mind's love to God is part of the infinite love 
wherewith God loves Himself. Yet in so describing it 
Spinoza does not imply that, in attaining to this its 
highest perfection, human nature loses its individuality, 
and is absorbed in indistinguishable identity with the 
divine. For whilst there is an idea or consciousness of 
self which is implicated with the affections of the body, 
and which therefore perishes with it, the idea or con- 
sciousness of self which intuitive knowledge involves is 
not implicated with the body or with temporal and 
spatial conditions. As knoAving God and all things in 
God, the mind is not determined by time, it is itself 
eternal. Taken up into the infinite, it still knoAvs itself 
in and through the infinite. Its negation of self is the 
negation, not of all consciousness, but only of that illu- 
sory consciousness which belongs to the imagination 
the negation, i.e., of that which is itself a negation, 
leaving to it still the affirmation of that truer self which 
lives now and for ever in the knowledge and love of 
God, and of all things in God. In other words, the 
negation of the finite as finite is not the negation, but 
the realisation of that affirmative essence of humanity 
which is the eternal object of the love of God. 

Such, then, is an outline of the train of thought by 
which Spinoza reaches, in the ethical part of his work, 
that which, we know, was the implicit aim of all his 
speculation the inquiry, "whether there may not be 
some real good, the discovery and attainment of which 

230 Spiiwza. 

will enable the mind to enjoy constant, supreme, and 
perfect happiness," " which, as a thing infinite and eter- 
nal, will feed the mind wholly with joy, and be itself 
unmingled with sorrow." It must now be our business 
to trace somewhat more in detail the steps by which 
this conclusion is reached. 





IN Spinoza's doctrine of the emotions, we seem at first 
sight to find a complete reversal of the principle of his 
philosophy as it has been unfolded in the preceding 
pages. For a pantheistic there is now substituted what 
is apparently a purely individualistic principle. Instead 
of deriving all from infinite substance, he seems to make 
everything a deduction from a special impulse, which is 
identified with the particular nature of each individual 
thing. Whereas, hitherto, reality and modality had been 
opposed to each other, and to modes or individual 
finite things had been denied any other than a fugitive, 
contingent, or merely negative existence, now he seems 
to ascribe to each finite thing an original, indestructible 
individuality, an independent self-centred being which 
determines its relations to all other beings, is capable of 
asserting itself against them, and can never be swamped 
by them. In particular, the spiritual nature of man, of 
which, alike with all other modes, only a negative exist- 
ence had been predicated, Spinoza now endows with a 
positive or affirmative essence. It is possessed of a power 

232 Spinoza. 

' to persevere in its own being," a capacity of resisting its 
own suppression, and of perpetually seeking its own en- 
largement ; and not only so, but this inmost essence of 
man's individual being can survive the disintegration of 
the body, and instead of vanishing when brought into 
immediate relation to God, only then realises itself and 
attains to its ideal perfection. 

The fundamental principle of the emotions and of the 
whole active and moral life of man, in Spinoza's view, is, 
as I have said, a certain self-asserting, self-maintaining 
impulse which he ascribes to every individual existence, 
and which is only another name for its nature or essence. 
" Everything, so far as it is in itself, endeavours to per- 
sist in its own being." 1 "The endeavour wherewith 
everything endeavours to persist in its own being is 
nothing else than the actual essence of the thing itself." - 
" The mind, whether as it has clear and distinct or as 
it has confused ideas, endeavours to persist in its own 
being for an indefinite time, and is conscious of this en- 
deavour." 3 As Spinoza deals with it, this fundamental 
principle is an impulse in the individual, not only to 
self-preservation, but also to self-expansion or enlarge- 
ment. It is that in virtue of which the individual 
nature consciously or unconsciously aspires to its own 
perfection, seeks after everything that contributes to 
that perfection, shuns everything that hinders it. 4 
Though the proof which he gives of this principle 
viz., that a thing cannot without contradiction "be sup- 
posed to contain anything which would destroy itself,' 5 
is merely negative, and makes the self -maintaining im- 

1 Eth. iii. 6. 3 Eth. iii. 7. 3 Etli. iii. 9. 

4 Eth. iii. 12. s Eth. iii. 4, dem. 

TJie Emotions. 233 

pulse nothing more than self-identity or the formal 
agreement of each thing with itself, yet in his hands it 
assumes the character of a positive, active principle, 
reacting on its environment, rejecting all that would 
limit it, assimilating all that furthers or expands it. The 
particular form of consciousness by which this principle 
expresses itself is that of feeling or emotion (affectus), 
which he defines as "those affections of the body, and 
the ideas of them, by which its active power is increased 
or diminished, furthered or hindered." Emotion arises 
in the transition from less to greater, or from greater to 
less activity and power. When we " pass from a less to 
a greater perfection," the emotion takes the particular 
form of "pleasure" (Icetitia) ; when the transition is of 
the opposite kind, the emotion is " pain " (tristitia). The 
term " desire " (cupiditas) is simply the self-maintaining 
impulse particularised, or filled with a definite content. 
" Desire is the very essence of man in so far as it is con- 
ceived as determined to any action by a given affection 
of itself." x These three, desire, pleasure, pain, constitute 
the primary emotions, of which all other emotions are 
only modifications or derivations. From these primary 
elements Spinoza, by a process, so to speak, of logical 
combination and permutation, aided by the principle of 
association, works out an elaborate scheme of the emo- 
tions, which, however ingenious as a feat of psycho- 
logical analysis, adds nothing to the development of his 
system, and is, in that point of view, of slighter value 
than the other parts of the 'Ethics.' 

Tn basing all human feeling and action on "the im- 
pulse to persist in one's being," does Spinoza reduce all 
1 Eth. iii., def. 1. 

234 Spinoza. 

morality to self-seeking 1 Is his whole ethical system to 
be regarded as the development of a purely subjective, 
egoistic principle, to the exclusion of any objective or 
absolute standard of good and evil ? There is much in 
his language that would appear at first sight to sanction 
this construction of his teaching. To this effect the fol- 
lowing passages may be quoted : 

" By virtue and power I understand the same thing." * 
" The effort 01 self-preservation is the first and only founda- 
tion of virtue." 2 " To act absolutely in obedience to virtue 
is in us the same thing as to act, to live, to preserve one's 
being under the guidance of reason, on the ground of seeking 
what is useful to one's self." 3 " The knowledge of good and 
evil is nothing but the emotion of pleasure and pain in so 
far as we are conscious of it." 4 " The more every man en- 
deavours and is able to seek what is useful to him that is, to 
preserve his being the more is he endowed with virtue." 5 
" By good I mean that which we certainly know to be useful 
to us, by evil that which we certainly know to be a hindrance 
to us in the attainment of any good." 6 

Self-assertion would thus seem to be the only founda- 
tion, self-enlargement or increase of individual power the 
only measure, of virtue. As consciousness of self-enlarge- 
ment is pleasure, " all things which bring pleasure are 
good," 7 all things which bring pain evil. By their 
utility or their tendency to increase our individual being, 
and the pleasurable emotion inplicated therewith, are our 
relations to other things and beings to be determined. 
Love is pleasure associated with the idea of another as 
its cause. When we rejoice in the happiness of others, 

i Eth. iv., def. 8. 2 Eth. iv. 22, cor. Eth. iv. 24. 

* Eth. iv. 8. 5 Eth. iv. 20. Eth. iv., def. 1, 2. 

" Eth. iv., App. c. 30. 

Is the Theory Egoistic ? 235 

our seemingly disinterested delight is to be traced to the 
fact that the contemplation of another's happiness con- 
tributes to our own increase of being. 1 Our desire that 
others should lead a rational or virtuous life is accounted 
for by the reflection that " there is no individual thing 
in nature which is more useful to man than a man who 
lives under the guidance of reason." 2 And even the 
supreme virtue, the knowledge and love of God, appears 
to be regarded as the climax of moral perfection, because 
" the mind's highest utility or good is the knowledge of 
God." 3 

Yet, however conclusively such passages seem to 
point to a purely egoistic or selfish basis of morality, the 
conclusion is one which a closer examination may serve 
to modify, if it do not even lead us to see in Spinoza's 
ethical theory what some of the profoundest minds have 
discerned in it the expression of the purest intellectual 
and moral disinterestedness. 

1. It is to be observed, for one thing, that, in Spinoza's 
intention at least, the self-maintaining impulse is no new 
departure, no deviation from that which in the meta- 
physical part of his system had been set forth as the first 
principle of thought and being. Though, as above de- 
fined, the impulse to persist in one's being seems to be 
the expression for a hard, logical self-identity, an atomic 
isolation or independence excluding from the individual 
nature all reference to other natures, finite or infinite, 
yet Spinoza expressly asserts that the affirmation of self, 
which constitutes this impulse, is, rightly understood, 
the affirmation of God in us. " The force by which each 
individual perseveres in existence follows from the eter- 

i Eth. iii. 21. 2 Eth. iv. 35, cor. 3 Eth. iv. 28, dem. 

236 Spinoza. 

nal necessity of the nature of God." 1 "The power 
whereby each individual thing, and therefore man, pre- 
serves his being, is the power of God or nature. . . . 
Thus the power of man, in so far as it is explained 
through his own actual essence, is part of the infinite 
power of God that is, part of His essence." 2 If, in- 
deed, we ask how Spinoza reconciled these two things, 
a God who is the immanent source and centre of all 
things, and an individual finite nature which is its 
own centre, infinite substance which is the negation of 
the finite, and finite tilings to which a real self-affirma- 
tive essence is ascribed ; or again, how finite individual- 
ities can be at once contingent, evanescent modes, to 
which only an illusory being belongs, and things which 
have, through God, a real and permanent being, to 
these questions Spinoza's dialectic furnishes no answer. 
Xevertheless, the fact remains that the affirmative ele- 
ment, which in the self-maintaining impulse is ascribed 
to the nature of man, is neither obliterated when referred 
to God, nor is left, on the other hand, a purely indepen- 
dent, self-centred thing, but is, according to Spinoza, a 
thing in and through which God realises Himself. 

2. The impulse to persevere in one's being, as Spinoza 
explains it, is not the affirmation but the negation of the 
individual self as such. The " self " of selfishness is not 
maintained but destroyed by the self-affirmation of reas. >n. 
In other words, the impure element vanishes from self- 
seeking when the self we seek is that whose essence is 
ivason and the knowledge and love of God. Eationality 
i-annot be too selfish, cannot seek its own satisfaction too 
eagerly or crave with culpable excess for the enlargement 
i Eth. ii. 45, scbol. 2 th. iv. 4, dem. 

Reason cannot lie Selfish. 237 

of its own being. All tilings that bring pleasure to it 
are good, all tilings that bring pain to it evil ; pleasure, 
that is, becomes a term of moral significance and honour 
when the subject of feeling is identified with reason. 
That reason or a purely rational nature should love 
others for its own sake rather than for theirs, means that 
we cannot truly love another if we do not " love honour 
more." Even to say that " man's highest utility is the 
knowledge of God," or that we seek to know God be- 
cause the knowledge of God is of all things the most 
useful to us, is a formula which ceases to shock pious 
sensibilities when translated into this equivalent, that 
infinite intelligence is the supreme good of finite intelli- 
gence, or that it is in the knowledge of God that a rational 
nature finds its own perfection and blessedness. Now it 
is the identification of the true nature of man with rea- 
son or the divine element in him which furnishes the 
key to much in Spinoza's ethical teaching that sounds 
harsh and repulsive. The self which is affirmed in the 
" self-maintaining impulse," and of which the satisfac- 
tion and enlargement is identified with " virtue," is not 
the individual self as such, not the self of appetite and 
passion, but rather that which is repressed and limited 
thereby, which finds its freedom in rising above the self- 
ish desires and its proper sphere in " the life according 
to reason." " The human mind consists of adequate 
and inadequate ideas." x The essence of man, in other 
words, is the power to think. Even in the lower stage 
of imagination and inadequate ideas this its true essence 
manifests itself in the pain of repression or limitation by 
what is foreign to itself. In the stage of " reason " the 

i Eth. iii. 9, dem. 

238 Spimza. 

true self has shaken off the bondage of the non-rational 
and emerged into the sphere of pure self-activity. Here 
it knows nothing of pains and pleasures that refer only 
to the narrow individual self. Its " good " is no longer 
subjective or determined only by varying individual 
temperament, but a good that is common to all rational 
natures and determined by an objective standard. Finally, 
in the stage of "intuitive knowledge " the self has reached 
the point of enlargement at which all finite limits are 
left behind, and it sees and feels all things in the light 
of that which is universal and absolute. And here that 
impure self-reference to which the stigma of selfishness 
can be applied, has so completely vanished that even 
love ceases to seek a personal response. Though in the 
knowledge and love of God self -consciousness and self- 
affirmation still survive, yet the taint of subjectivity is 
so absolutely obliterated, that " he who loves God can- 
not seek that God should love him in return." 1 

3. Lastly, it is to be considered that there is an 
obvious distinction between selfishness and sel f -real i Ca- 
tion, between unselfishness and self-extinction. Moral 
disinterestedness does not mean, even at the highest, 
the cessation of self-consciousness or self-satisfaction. 
Moral action implies in the agent the idea of a self 
which realises itself in that which is done, which seeks 
and finds satisfaction in the act. The " good " of a 
conscious agent, whether it be sensual pleasure or the 
purest intellectual and spiritual enjoyment, whether it 
be low or high, must be a good fftr liim. Xo purer 
philanthropy can be conceived than finding <>n<'' mm 
satisfaction in the welfare of others. Even in self- 
i Eth. v. 19. 

Selfishness and Self -Realisation. 239 

sacrifice fur another there is present a reference to self, 
an idea of an object to be attained in which the agent 
seeks self-satisfaction. Without such reference even 
the purest self-denial is a conception that swims in the 
air. Though in unselfish acts the end sought is not 
one's own pleasure or gratification, yet we do find our- 
selves and our own satisfaction therein. Moreover, the 
self-affirmation, self-realisation, is increased, not dimin- 
ished, with the unselfishness of the act If in every 
benevolent feeling there must be a consciousness of self 
as well as of the object loved, in every benevolent act 
a consciousness of self as well as of the object attained, 
then the wider the range of benevolence, the more 
numerous the objects embraced in it, so much the fuller, 
richer, more complete becomes the self-consciousness or 
self-realisation of the subject. Even the knowledge and 
love of an infinite object is still my knowledge, my love, 
and the infinitude of the object implies a kindred ele- 
vation of the subject. Let slip the " my," and you sink 
into the spurious rapture of the mystic, or the self- 
annihilation of the pantheist. Whatever may be said 
of Spinoza's philosophy in general, in this part of it 
at least he knows nothing of such false self-abnegation ; 
yet as little does the doctrine of self-affirmation as the 
basis of morality introduce into his ethics a principle 
inconsistent with the purest moral disinterestedness. 
In other points of view, indeed, that principle is by no 
means unexceptionable, as will be seen when AVC ex- 
amine in detail the manner in which Spinoza applies it 
to the elaboration of his ethical system. 




WE have seen that Spinoza finds the origin and ex- 
planation of the active or moral life in the " self-main- 
taining impulse/' of which pleasure and pain, desire, 
and the innumerable varieties of feeling which spring 
from these fundamental emotions, are only different 
expressions or modifications. We have pointed out, 
further, that it is this self-maintaining impulse which 
constitutes the link between the intellectual and the 
emotional and active sides of man's nature, and which 
explains the close correspondence that can be traced 
between the successive stages of knowledge and the 
successive stages of the moral life. 

There is, however, in Spinoza's account of the nature 
of human knowledge one doctrine to which we have 
not yet adverted, and which seems to imply, not simply 
the correspondence, but the absolute identification of 
the intellectual and the moral life. Knowledge and 
will are not elements of man's spiritual nature which, 
though closely related and constantly acting and react- 
ing on each other, are yet different in nature and func- 
tion. Spinoza's assertion would seem to be that, when 

Intelligence and Will. 241 

closely examined, the active merges in the contempla- 
tive or theoretical life, and that feeling, passion, desire, 
volition, are only various phases of knowledge or intelli- 
gence. " There is in the mind," says he, 1 " no volition 
save that which an idea as idea involves." " ^Yill and 
understanding are one and the same. ... A particular 
volition and a particular idea are one and the same." 2 
If we examine the reasons why men think otherwise, 
and ascribe to themselves a faculty of will different 
from and of wider range than that of understanding, 
we shall find that they are all alike futile* For one 
thing, popular thought, while it supposes intelligence to 
be purely passive, and ideas to be merely "images 
formed in us by contact with external bodies," 3 regards 
all beyond such images as the product of the mind's 
own voluntary activity ; whereas, if we reflect on the 
nature of knowledge, we shall see that ideas are not 
mere images like " dumb pictures on a tablet," but that 
every idea involves in it an element of activity, a prin- 
ciple of self-affirmation ; in other words, that intelligence 
contains in it that free, voluntary activity which we 
commonly regard as the exclusive function of will. 
Common thought, again, distinguishes between truths 
to which we necessarily assent, which carry with them 
the assurance of their own reality, and arbitrary or 
obscure conceptions with respect to which we have the 
power to suspend our judgment, ascribing the former to 
the understanding and the latter to " the will or faculty 
of assent, which is free and different from the under- 
standing." 4 Closer examination, however, teaches us 

1 Eth. ii. 49. - Ibid., cor. and dem. 

3 Eth. ii. 49, schoL 4 Ibid. 

P. XII. Q 

242 Spinoza. 

that the real activity of the mind is common to both 
processes. The difference between them is simply the 
difference between " adequate " and " inadequate " ideas, 
and the suspense of judgment which is ascribed to a 
faculty of volition is nothing more than the conscious- 
ness of a confused and imperfect as distinguished from 
a clear and distinct idea. The conception of a winged 
horse implies mental activity as much as that of a horse 
without wings, only the latter includes the affirmation 
of existence or reality, which the former does not. If, 
again, there- be no faculty of will different from that of 
understanding, then it seems to the unreflecting mind 
that it would be justified in concluding that assent to 
what is false and evil is not essentially different from 
assent to what is true and good ; to which Spinoza's 
answer is, that the idea of what is false and evil is really 
the idea of that which has in it no positive reality, and 
the distinction in question is not between two equally 
affirmative acts, but between the affirmation of being 
and the affirmation of non-entity not between under- 
standing and will, but between a sound and a diseased 
or disordered understanding. Finally, to the popular 
objection that it is the prerogative of will to decide 
between conflicting motives, and that without such a 
faculty, where there is an equilibrium of motives (as 
in the famous example of " Buridan's ass "), action 
would be absolutely suspended, Spinoza's reply virtually 
is, that the supposed conflict of motives is, when we 
examine what we mean, only a conflict of ideas, and 
that ideas never really conflict save when one idea is 
adequate and another confused and imperfect ; that in 
the latter case reason is the true umpire, and that su*- 

Identity of the Two. 243 

pense or inaction would prove, not that reason fails to 
decide, but that the non-deciding agent is a fool or a 

From these and other considerations the conclusion 
which Spinoza reaches is, that the element of activity 
which is commonly regarded as peculiar to the will 
is one which belongs essentially to the understanding, 
or that " there is in the mind no volition save that 
which an idea as idea involves." On the other hand, 
if intelligence is thus held to be active, all activity, 
it is maintained, is intelligent, all the supposed ele- 
ments of man's active life seem, when closely examined, 
to be only modes of thought. Thought or intelligence is 
not one among many co-ordinate "faculties," but it is 
that which constitutes the very essence of the mind, and 
the underlying principle of all our mental experiences 
and activities. " Love, desire, or the affections of the 
mind, by whatever name they are designated," are 
essentially " modes of thought." l To all these modes 
of thought "the idea is prior in nature, and when the 
idea exists the other modes must exist in the same 
individual." 2 Spinoza would thus seem to reduce the 
whole content of man's spiritual life to thought or in- 
telligence and its modifications ; and though he treats 
of other elements which pertain to the active in contra- 
distinction from the intellectual part of man's nature 
of an impulse or endeavour in the mind to persist in its 
own being, of pleasure and pain, desire and aversion, 
and of particular emotions in elaborate detail to which 
this impulse gives birth yet when we examine the real 
significance of his teaching, these seemingly non-intel- 
i EtL ii. ax. 3. 2 Eth. ii. 11, dem. 

244 Spinoza. 

lectual elements, it has been held, lose their indepen- 
dence, and resolve themselves into the one all-absorbing 
principle of the theoretical intelligence. As " the essence 
of the mind consists of adequate and inadequate ideas," l 
so the self-maintaining impulse is nothing more than the 
self-affirmation by the mind of its own power of think- 
ing. 2 Will itself is only another name for this impulse, 
" when referred solely to the mind ; " 3 desire (cupidita*} 
is the same intellectual impulse, "in so far as it is con- 
ceived as determined to any action by some affection of 
itself ; " 4 emotions (affectus) are " ideas of affections of 
the body by which its power of acting is increased or 
diminished," 5 or again, " emotion which is called a 
passion (or passivity of the mind) is a confused idea by 
which the mind affirms of its body, or any part of it, a 
power of existing greater or less than before." 6 " Pleas- 
ure (Icetitia) is a passion by which the mind passes to 
a greater, pain a passion by which it passes to a less, 
perfection ; " 7 pleasure and pain, in other words, of 
which all the other emotions are only specifications, are 
not a new element different from anything in our purely 
intellectual nature, but are simply "the transition from 
a less to a greater or from a greater to a less perfection." 8 
The process by which moral progress is achieved is in 
the same way reduced to a purely intellectual activity. 
If there are any outward causes which help or hinder 
the activity of the body, and therefore the mind's 
power of thinking, the mind, in seeking to affirm or 

1 Eth. iii. 9, dem. 2 Eth. iii. 9. 

3 Eth. iii. 9, schol. 4 Eth. iii., aff. def. 1. 

5 Eth. iii., def. 3. 6 Eth. iii., aff. gen. def. 

7 Eth. iii. 11, dem. Eth. iii., aff. def. 2, 3. 

Morality identified with Intelligence. 245 

realise itself, endeavours to conceive or recollect the 
former, and, as far as possible, to exclude and forget 
the latter. 1 The stages of the moral life, by which it 
advances to its goal, and that goal itself, seem not merely 
to correspond but to be identified with its intellectual 
progress and perfection. As the dominion of the passions 
is that of inadequate ideas, so emancipation from their 
power is simply the formation of clear and distinct ideas. 2 
" The power of the mind is denned solely by knowledge, 
its weakness or passivity by the privation of knowledge." 3 
We are in moral bondage when the content of our con- 
sciousness is determined by that which is external or 
foreign to the mind, free when it is wholly due to the 
mind's own activity ; but the pure inner activity of the 
mind is that which it possesses when it apprehends it- 
self, the bodily affections, and all outward things, no 
longer in the confused and imperfect way in which 
sense and imagination present them, but from a uni- 
versal point of view, as part of a universal order or 
concatenation of things, in other words, when it un- 
derstands or thinks them according to the order of 
intelligence." 4 " The effort to understand is the first 
and sole basis of virtue." 5 "Good" and "evil" are 
simply equivalent to " that which helps or hinders our 
power to think or understand." 6 " In life it is of 
supreme importance to us to perfect the understanding 
or reason, and in this one thing consists man's highest 
happiness or blessedness." " Finally, the culmination of 
the moral life is attained when the understanding. by 

i Eth. iii. 12, 13. 2 Eth. v. 3. 3 Eth. v. 20, schol. 

* Eth. v. 10. 5 Eth. iv. 26, dem. Eth. iv. 27. 

7 Eth. iv., App. 4. 

246 Spinoza. 

the intuition of reason, grasps all the differences of finite 
things in their unity, discerns all ideas in their relation 
to the highest idea, the idea of God. "The absolute 
virtue of the mind is to understand ; its highest virtue, 
therefore, to understand or know God." l " Blessedness 
is the contentment of spirit which arises from the in- 
tuitive knowledge of God." 

From what has now heen said it will be seen that 
Spinoza's identification of intelligence and will is a prin- 
ciple which runs through the whole of his ethical sys- 
tem, and there appears to be substantial ground for the 
assertion which has often been made, that the moral 
life resolves itself, in his hands, into a purely intellec- 
tual or theoretical process. If this construction of his 
philosophy were the whole truth, his doctrine would 
seem to be, not merely that ignorance is the cause and 
knowledge the cure of moral imperfection, but that 
ignorance is itself the only moral disease, and know- 
ledge itself the true moral health and perfection of our 

Plausible, however, as this view of Spinoza's teaching 
seems to be, a careful study of the ' Ethics ' will, I think, 
lead us to regard it as one-sided and exaggerated. It is 
possible to maintain the essential unity of intelligence 
and will without obliterating all distinction between 
them. Spinoza's apparent identification of the practical 
with the theoretical side of man's nature is not incon- 
sistent with the recognition of the distinctive character 
and functions of the former ; and when we examine his 
doctrine more closely, many of the criticisms to which 
it has been subjected are seen to be irrelevant. 
1 EtL iv. '28, (!!. i. 

Limits of the Doctrine. 247 

1. It is to be considered that objections to the doc- 
trine of the unity of knowledge and will, in order to be 
relevant, must contemplate knowledge and will as em- 
ployed about the same objects. Popular thought rightly 
distinguishes between knowledge and goodness, between 
intellectual and moral power. Great moral excellence is 
not incompatible with a feeble and uncultured intelli- 
gence, nor intellectual elevation with a low moral life. 
Spinoza does not maintain, nor could any one be so ab- 
surd as to maintain, that piety and virtue are inseparable 
from and commensurate with literary and scientific abil- 
ity, or that the qualities which constitute the mathema- 
tician, the philosopher, the artist, are necessarily and in 
equal measure combined with those which go to make 
the good citizen, the philanthropist, the saint. All that 
this proves, however, is only that intelligence in one 
province does not imply practical activity in another. 
To render the objection valid, what would need to be 
proved is, that within the same province, and when 
employed about the same objects, there is no necessary 
conjunction of knowledge and will. Now, so limited, 
Spinoza's doctrine, as we shall immediately see, is by no 
means indefensible. It may be possible to show that, 
within the province of the moral and spiritual, as well 
as within the province of what we call the secular life, 
knowledge and will are, if not identical, at least co- 
existent and commensurate that, e.g., practical good- 
ness or piety implies in every case a measure of spiritual 
insight which, though not speculative or scientific, is of 
the nature of knowledge, and is proportionate to the purity 
and elevation of the life ; and, on the other hand, that 
the man of science, the philosopher, the man of letters;, 

248 Spinoza. 

exerts in every act of his intellectual life a force and 
energy of will commensurate with the degree of intelli- 
gence that is called forth. 

2. But even when we thus narrow the ground to which 
Spinoza's doctrine applies, is there not much which 
seems to justify ordinary thought in denj'ing the sup- 
posed coincidence or even invariable conjunction of 
knowledge and will 1 Within the sphere of man's moral 
life are not knowing and willing not only distinguishable 
in thought, but in actual experience notoriously separ- 
able 1 Is it not a moral commonplace that our actions 
often fall short of our convictions ? There are ideas 
which are purely contemplative and theoretical, projects 
which never go beyond themselves, opinions about vir- 
tue and goodness, which, through indolence or irreso- 
lution or pravity of will, are never realised in action. 
Thought and will are not only not invariably coincident, 
but in individual actions, and even through the whole 
course of life, are not seldom in glaring contrast with 
each other. Nowhere, indeed, has this incongruity 
been more forcibly expressed than in Spinoza's own 
language : 

" The powerlessness of man," says he, 1 "to govern ami 
restrain his emotions, I call servitude. For a man who is 
controlled by his emotions is not his own master, but is 
mastered by fortune, under whose power he is often com- 
pelled, though he sees the better, to follow the worse." 
" I have shown why the true knowledge of good and evil 
awakens disturbances in the mind, and often yields to every 
kind of lust ; whence the saying of the poet, ' Video melion 
proboque, deteriora sequor ; ' and Ecclesiastes seems to have 

1 Eth. iv., Tref. 

All Intelligence is Active. 249 

had the same thought in his mind when he said, ' He that 
increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.' And this I say, 
. . . that we may determine what reason can and what it 
cannot do in governing the emotions." J 

Spinoza's doctrine of the unity of knowledge and will 
is, however, not really affected by this recognition of the 
notorious inconsistency between human thoughts and 
actions. What that doctrine really means is that, within 
the same limits, or when employed about the same ob- 
jects, intelligence and will are in our conscious experi- 
ence inseparably interwoven. Every act of intelligence 
is at the same time an act of will, every act of will also 
an act of intelligence. And his answer to the above ob- 
jection virtually is, that the thought or intelligence which 
we can conceive of as separate from or in conflict with 
will is not true thought, but thought falsely so called, 
or, in his own phraseology, thought which consists of 
"inadequate" i.e., "confused and imperfect ideas." 

All thought is essentially active, all will essentially 
intelligent. On the one hand, to represent thought as 
devoid of the element of activity or as a merely passive 
thing, is to reduce its content to " images or inanimate 
pictures formed in us by contact with external bodies." 
But mind does not become possessed of ideas as wax 
receives the impression of a seal, or blank paper the 
stamp of the printer's types. Every idea or process of 
thought is essentially an act or a series of acts of affirma- 
tion and negation. In the simplest perception there is 
something more than the passive reception of impres- 
sions from without. " Affections of the body " do not 
become the content of thought by a mere mechanical 
1 Eth. iv. 17, schol. 

250 Spinoza. 

transference. To elevate them into ideas or objects of 
rational thought implies a spontaneous activity of the 
mind, stripping them of the contingency and confusion 
of sense and imagination, fastening on " those properties 
in them which are common to all things," infusing into 
them its own universality. Every act of judgment or 
process of reasoning involves in it a reaction of the 
mind on the objects with which it deals, connecting 
them in relations other than those of immediate percep- 
tion, " arranging and associating them (not according to 
the natural but) according to the intellectual order." 
The idea of a triangle is, so to speak, the self-affirmation 
of its own content. " The idea of a triangle must in- 
volve that its three angles are equal to two right 
angles," and " this affirmation can neither be nor be 
conceived without the idea of a triangle." l To prove 
the proposition that " there is in the mind no volition 
save that which an idea as idea involves," Spinoza here 
selects his example from what ordinary thought regards 
as specially the province of contemplation or theoretic 
intelligence ; and the implied conclusion is, that if here, 
in what we deem its proper sphere, intelligence is shown 
to be essentially active, a fortiori the element of activity 
must pertain to it in what we account as more peculi- 
arly the sphere of practical activity. If inherent activ- 
ity is the characteristic of the idea when it is the idea 
of a geometrical figure, much more must it be the char- 
acteristic of the idea when it is that of a moral act. If it 
cannot be or be conceived within the domain of science 
save as self-realising, much less can it be or be conceived 
save as self-realising when it pertains to man's moral life. 
1 Eth. ii. 49, dem. 

All Will is Intelligent. 251 

On the other hand, all will or practical activity is 
essentially intelligent. "Will," says Spinoza, "is the 
endeavour to persist in one's being when that endeavour 
is referred solely to the mind." x "Will, in other words, 
presupposes thought. It is the conscious endeavour of 
the mind to realise itself and its own inherent power. 
Devoid of the element of intelligence, will ceases to be 
will, and becomes mere blind impulse or passion. " "We 
act when anything takes place in us of which we (or 
that intelligence which is our essence) are the adequate 
cause that is, when anything follows in us from our 
nature which that nature taken by itself makes clearly 
and distinctly intelligible. We are passive when anything 
takes place in us or follows from our nature, of which 
we are not the cause, save partially." 2 In modern 
language, will is distinguished from animal impulse by 
this, that in the former and not in the latter there is 
present the element of self-consciousness and self-deter- 
mination. The merely animal nature is lost in the 
feeling of the moment. Its experience is a succession 
of feelings or impulses, each of which expires with its 
immediate satisfaction ; it contains no constant element 
of self-consciousness to which the successive feelings are 
referred, no permanent self which realises itself in them. 
Its impulses and actions are not self -originated, but 
forced upon it from without. They are not woven into 
a continuous experience by reference to any universal 
centre of thought, and are connected together at most 
only by the general life-feeling that pervades them. In 
a rational or intelligent being, on the other hand, there 
is present throughout all its feelings the uniting element 
i Etb. iii. 9, schol. 2 Eth. iii., def. 2. 

252 Spinoza. 

of reference to one self-conscious subject, and through 
all its volitions the uniting element of self-determina- 
tion. In willing, it knows that it wills and what it 
wills ; it is conscious at once of the object willed and of 
itself as willing it. It is conscious of a self which is 
distinguished from, yet realised in, all its particular 
volitions and actions, and in each particular case as 
realised in this action and not another. Thought or 
self-consciousness, in short, is the common element of 
all voluntary acts, and that which gives them their 
special character and complexion as the acts of a moral 
agent. Now, though in Spinoza's philosophy individual 
minds are only modes of the Divine Substance, and as 
such are necessarily destitute of all independence or 
capacity of self-determination, yet he attributes to them 
a self-maintaining impulse which is identical with their 
very essence, and to this principle he assigns all the 
functions of a self-conscious, self-determining individu- 
ality. It is in virtue of this principle that he can 
maintain the distinction between the blindness of the 
passive impulses and emotions, and the self-conscious, 
intelligent activity of all human volitions. 

From what has now been said it is clear that Spinoza's 
doctrine of the unity of knowledge and will is to be 
understood as implying, not that these elements coexist 
side by side or in mechanical conjunction, but that they 
are inseparably interwoven with each other in our con- 
scious experience. He does not mean that our spiritual 
life, or any part of it, is made up of these two elements 
of an element of will added to an element of thought 
so that what we first think, we then will ; his doctrine 
is that no thought would be what it is if an element 

Answer to Popular Objection 253 

of will did not euter into it, no volition what it is if it 
were not essentially intelligent. "We can see, therefore, 
how, from Spinoza's point of view, the popular objection 
above noticed is to be met. If it be said that experience 
disproves the inseparableness of thinking and willing, 
that we are conscious of thoughts, opinions, convictions 
which are never realised in action, of actions which con- 
flict with our ideas and convictions the answer is, that 
in all such cases there is no real separation of knowledge 
from will, for the knowledge which is divorced from 
will is not true knowledge, the will that is divorced 
from knowledge not really will Knowledge that is 
inert or inactive is not real knowledge ; it does not consist 
of "adequate," but only of "confused and imperfect 
ideas." "When we see the right without willing it, our 
seeing is not the same seeing with that of the mind 
which both sees and wills. 1 We sometimes express this 
to ourselves by saying that there are things we cannot 
know unless we love them ; that there is no real percep- 
tion of beauty or goodness into which the element of 
feeling of love, admiration, self-devotion does not 
enter ; that it is only the pure in heart who can see 
God. The object that is before the mind which only 
inertly contemplates a moral and spiritual act, is some- 
thing essentially different from the object that is before 
the mind in which contemplation immediately and 
necessarily passes into action. In the former case, the 
mind is looking at an object as outside of and foreign 
to itself, the form of which may engage the powers of 
observation, comparison, reflection, or which it may 
classify under some general head or category, such as 
1 Cf. Green's Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 152 ff. 

254 Spinoza. 

" good," or " just," or " pious " ; in the latter, at an object 
which is regarded not merely as good, but as my good, that 
in which I discern the fulfilment and realisation of my 
own inmost nature. When this discernment is present, 
when the object of thought is apprehended as not for- 
eign or external, but one in which I find myself, with 
Avhich I identify myself, which is the medium of my 
own self-realisation there is no possible separation be- 
tween the act of knowing and the act of willing. The 
object known is known as that the affirmation of which 
is indissolubly bound up with my self-affirmation. I 
cannot know it without willing it, for not to will it, 
or to deny it, would be equivalent to self-negation. I 
cannot will it without knowing it, for to will it is to 
become conscious of myself as realised in it. 

Lastly, it is to be observed that Spinoza's doctrine 
of the unity of thought and will does not imply the 
denial of all distinction between the contemplative and 
the active life. Thought and will are present in all our 
mental employments alike, whether they be those which 
have for their end simply the acquisition of know- 
ledge, or those which have for their end the perform- 
ance of some outward act. It does not follow, how- 
ever, that the relation of these two factors is precisely 
the same in both cases, or that we cannot distinguish 
between thought and will as they are manifested in 
the theoretic, and thought and will as they are mani- 
fested in the practical life between, e.g., the attitude of 
the mind in the solution of a mathematical problem and 
the attitude of the mind in the performance of a moral 
act. Spinoza's philosophy is couched in too abstract a 
form to admit of any speculative treatment of the dis- 

Tlic Tlworctic and the Active Life. 255 

tinetion between the theoretic or scientific and the active 
life, yet in the ethical part of his system the distinction, 
though not formally, is virtually recognised. As modern 
thought represents it, the theoretic and the practical 
life are only different sides or aspects of the same pro- 
cess. In both there is a reconciliation between the ideal 
and the actual, between consciousness and its object, 
between thought and things. But the difference lies in 
this, that in the one case we begin with the actual, the 
objective, the particular, and end with the ideal, the 
subjective, the universal ; in the other the process is 
reversed. In both, the same elements are present a 
universal, undetermined yet determining element, and a 
particular or determined element and in both there is 
an effort to overcome the opposition between them. But 
in the theoretic life, or that of knowledge in the limited 
sense, the universal element is present at first only im- 
plicitly or potentially. In the endeavour to overcome 
the opposition between itself and the world, thought 
takes up at first a purely objective attitude. The mani- 
fold objects Avith which it deals present themselves as 
something external or foreign to the conscious subject. 
But the latent presupposition under which it acts is that 
the objects it contemplates are not really foreign to it- 
self, that the principle which constitutes its own essence 
is that which also constitutes the essence of things with- 
out, and that it is possible for reason or intelligence to 
find itself at home in the world. The whole process of 
knowledge, therefore, is a bringing back of the world 
into thought. Underlying the particularity, the diver- 
sity, the contingency of the phenomenal world, con- 
sciousness silently discerns the presence of that unity, 

256 Spinoza. 

universality, and necessity which are its own essential 
characteristics. And every step in this process is a 
step towards the complete transformation of the particu- 
lar into the universal, the actual into the ideal, the 
manifold and accidental objects of thought into the 
unity and necessity of self-consciousness. In the prac- 
tical life, on the other hand, the reconciliation between 
consciousness and the objective world begins from the 
opposite pole. That life may be described as the con- 
tinuous effort of the self-conscious subject to realise 
itself in the outward world. It starts where the theo- 
retical life ends. To that which is already a realised 
content of thought it seeks to give further realisation in 
some outward act. Whether it be an aesthetic or moral 
or religious ideal, the mind is conscious of a conception 
which involves in it the possibility, the desire, and the 
effort for its embodiment in some particular concrete 
form and under the conditions of the phenomenal 
world. The vision of beauty which exists in the crea- 
tive imagination of the artist, he seeks to infuse into the 
rudeness and unconsciousness of matter and material 
forms and colours. To the conception of righteous- 
ness, goodness, holiness, which dwells in the mind 
of the good or pious man, he seeks to give outward 
actuality or realisation, and so to make the mere 
physical relations of things and the functions of the 
animal life instinct with the life of spirit to make the 
outward world the expression of the inner world of 
thought. Thus, in both the theoretical and the prac- 
tical life, it is the same general result which is accom- 
plished viz., the reconciliation between the actual and 
ideal ; and in both cases alike the process is permeated 

Their Distinction and Unity. 257 

by the presence and activity of the inseparable elements 
of thought and will Yet this nnity of the two is still 
consistent with their distinction as different aspects of 
the same process, inasmuch as the reconciliation is that 
wliich proceeds, on the one hand, from the object to the 
subject, from the particular to the universal; on the 
other, from the subject to the object, from the univer- 
sal to the particular. In Spinoza's philosophy there is 
not to be found any formal analysis of the process into 
its opposite yet related movements ; yet we should err 
in concluding that he ignores the distinction between 
them, or that his principle of the unity of thought and 
will implies the resolution of the moral life into a purely 
theoretical process. His account of the emotions and 
passions, his theory of the bondage of the human mind 
and of its freedom, and of the method by which that 
freedom is achieved the whole specially ethical part of 
his system, in short, constitutes an elaborate exposition 
of the active as distinguished from the purely intellectual 
life. And if, as we have seen, there is much in his 
treatment of ethical problems which seems to imply the 
identification of virtue with knowledge, of moral evil 
with ignorance, the true explanation is, that while 
he describes the moral life in terms of knowledge, 
knowledge with him is that highest kind of knowledge 
above referred to, which includes or " connotes " will, 
or which is instinct with the element of activity. All 
other knowledge is not really knowledge, but only "con- 
fused and imperfect ideas." Such ideas may be, nay, 
must be, inert. They not merely do not lead to moral 
action, but the mind that is the subject of them is the 
passive slave of its own " bodily affections," and the ex- 
p. xii. R 

258 Spinoza. 

ternal influences with which these affections are impli- 
cated. But "adequate ideas" are not doad or passive 
but living things. They are self-realising. To think 
them is to live them, to be quick with spiritual activity, 
to be master of one's self and the world. So far from 
man's moral life being reduced to a merely contemplative 
process, a thing of ideas without volitions, Spinoza's 
view is that no such ideas exist, or if they can be said 
to exist, that they belong not to the realm of true know- 
ledge, but to that of illusion and ignorance. An idea 
which is " adequate," or which alone deserves the name, 
is one which by its very essence asserts itself against 
all that is foreign and hostile to the mind ; it cannot 
coexist with confusion and error and the passions that 
are bred of them, any more than light can coexist with 
darkness. When the mind, or the self-maintaining im- 
pulse which is one with its essence, identifies itself with 
such an idea, it is ipso facto possessed of moral vitality 
and power. And when it rises to the highest kind of 
knowledge, the intuitive apprehension of that idea which 
comprehends and transcends all other ideas in other 
words, when the self -affirming impulse realises its true 
significance as not the affirmation of the individual self, 
but the self-affirmation of God in us then does it attain 
to the perfection of virtue and power. 1 The goal of the 
intellectual life is thus, at one and the same time, the 
culmination of the moral life, and the best expression 
for both is that " intellectual love " which consists in 
the consciousness of the mind's own perfect activity 
"combined with the idea of God as its cause." 
1 Etli. v. -27. 




IN the latter portion of his work Spinoza, as we have 
seen, contemplates the course of man's moral life as a 
movement from bondage to freedom, from the stage of 
passivity in which he is not, to that of activity or the 
" life according to reason," in which he is " the adequate 
cause of his own actions." Regarded as an individual 
mode amidst the infinite series of finite modes, he is 
only " a part of nature," a link in the endless concate- 
nation of causes and effects ; his self-activity is infinitely 
surpassed by the power of external causes, and the free- 
dom he ascribes to himself is only an illusory freedom, 
due to the fact that he is conscious of his own thoughts 
and actions, but not of the causes that determine them. 
Yet though thus, by the very essence of his finite 
nature, man is under a law of external necessity, the 
possibility of freedom is not thereby precluded. It is 
possible for him to elevate himself, through reason, above 
all encroachment of outward influences on his own self- 
determination. Accordingly, the last Book of the 
' Ethics ' is devoted to the development of the idea of 
freedom, or of that state of moral perfection in which 

260 Spinoza. 

man has become at once the source of his own spiritual 
life and sharer in. the life of God. 

The difficulty which meets us in this part of Spinoza's 
speculations is not simply that of his apparent reasser- 
tion of a doctrine he had formerly denied. For neces- 
sity and freedom are not predicated of the same subject 
at one and the same time, but are viewed as different 
stages in man's moral life. But though a transition 
from the bondage of natural necessity to spiritual free- 
dom is not inconceivable, the question arises whether it is 
conceivable under the conditions here laid down, or in 
the manner here described. If we start from the idea 
of man as but a unit amidst the infinite multiplicity of 
other finite units, a single force encompassed and deter- 
mined by the endless series of natural forces, is not 
freedom excluded by the very conditions of the problem 1 
To make freedom a possible achievement, there must be 
at least some fulcrum on which it can be made to rest, 
some qualitative distinction between the one force which 
is destined to triumph and the many forces which are to 
be overcome. If each finite mode, each member of the 
series of causes and effects, has precisely the same value 
as another, is not the possibility of freedom simply in 
the ratio of one to infinity 1 If individuality be only 
the " force by which each individual persists in his 
own existence," and that is infinitely surpassed by the 
multiplicity of similar external forces, is not individual 
freedom reduced to a numerical contradiction 1 Must 
not man be something more than " a part of nature " to 
begin with, in order to the possibility of escape from its 
bondage 1 

But even if we concede the possibility of freedom. 

Conditions of the Problem. 261 

can the transition be accomplished in the way in which 
Spinoza describes it ? The problem is that which arises 
from the conflict between the positive or self-asserting 
and the negative or passive elements of man's nature ; 
and Spinoza's manner of solving it is, as we shall see, 
simply by the elimination of the latter. The negative 
element disappears, leaving only the purely affirmative 
to hold the field. But as in the idea of God, so in that 
of man, pure affirmation, apart from negation, is an 
impossible conception. In the struggle with passion, 
according to Spinoza, reason prevails, but it prevails, not 
by overcoming and subordinating passion, but simply 
by abstracting from or excluding it. Yet if it is not 
shown that in some way the natural desires and passions 
can be rationalised, they are simply left behind as an 
unresolved element. As organic life does not maintain 
itself by the exclusion, but by the transformation, of 
mechanical and chemical elements, so the ideal of the 
rational life is that not of a passionless life, but of a 
life in which passion is transcended and transformed. 
In one sense man can never cease to be "a part of 
nature," but in the higher life nature has itself become 
a part of reason. 

The force of these and other criticisms of the con- 
cluding part of the ' Ethics ' will be seen by considering a 
little more in detail (1) Spinoza's conception of human 
bondage, and (2) his theory of the transition from bond- 
age to freedom. 


AVhon we examine what Spinoza means by " the 
bondage of man," we find that it ultimately resolves 

262 Spinoza. 

itself into that conditioned or determined nature which 
pertains to all individual finite things. Freedom is 
self-activity or self-determination, bondage is subjection 
to external causation. We act or are active " when 
anything takes place in us of which we are the adequate 
cause, or which can be deduced solely from the laws of 
our own nature " "we are passive, therefore, in so far 
as we are a part of nature a part, that is, which cannot 
be conceived by itself and without the other parts." 1 
But as "no individual finite thing can exist or be deter- 
mined to act unless it be determined to exist and act by 
another which is also finite and has a determined exist 
ence, as that also by a third, &c.," 2 it follows that " it 
is impossible that man should not be a part of nature or 
should be capable of undergoing only changes which can 
be understood through his own nature, and of which it 
is the adequate cause." 3 

It is true, as we have seen, that Spinoza introduces 
into his account of the individual nature an element 
which seems to modify the law of absolute external 
causation, a self-maintaining impulse or capacity to re- 
act on outward influences, and to " persevere in its own 
being." But inasmuch as this element of apparent 
independence belongs to all finite things alike, it does 
not in the least modify the preponderance of the whole 
or of the infinite multiplicity of external causes over 
each individual thing, or affect man's bondage as a 
part of nature. " The force by which a man persists 
in existing is limited and infinitely surpassed by the 
power of external causes." 4 Moreover, Avhen we con- 
sider the special case of man as an intelligent and moral 
i Eth. iv. 2, deni. 2 Eth. i. 28. 3 Eth. iv. 4. 4 Eth. iv. 2. 

The Bondage of Man. 263 

being, this all-dominating power of nature over the in- 
dividual loses nothing of its force. The medium by 
which nature exerts its power over him is the influence 
of the passions ; the struggle of the individual with the 
determining power of external causes becomes, in the 
case of man, the struggle of the mind or the idea of 
the body with the passive emotions. But the passive 
emotions are simply various modifications of the feelings 
of pleasure and pain, which reflect the affections of the 
body, or necessarily arise when the body is affected by 
external causes ; and the mind in the unequal struggle 
has no more power to resist the emotions than the body, 
as an individual mode of extension, to resist its affec- 
tions by external nature. " By pleasure," says Spinoza, 
" I mean a passim state by which the mind passes to a 
greater, by pain a pa^dve state by which it passes to a 
lesser, perfection." " Emotion, which is called a pas- 
sivity of the soul, is a confused idea by which the mind 
affirms of its body a force of existence greater or less 
than before, and by which it is determined to think one 
thing rather than another." l Thus the whole content of 
the mind's experience, all that moves or affects it, is 
due, not to its own activity, but to something that is 
external and foreign to it. If, under the sway of pas- 
sion, it has sometimes a feeling of increased as well as of 
diminished power, the former, alike with the latter, as 
being determined from without, is only the witness to 
its bondage. The strength of passion is only a spurious 
strength, an activity that is produced by passivity, and 
which, like the increased power produced by wine, is in 
reality a sign of weakness. Spinoza's conclusion there- 
1 Eth. iii., general def. of Emotion. 

264 Spinoza. 

fore is, that neither in mind nor body, neither as a 
mode of thought nor as a mode of extension, can 
the individual man be the free cause of his own ac- 
tions, that " in the mind there is no free will," l and 
that if men think themselves free, it is only because 
" they are conscious of their volitions and desires, and 
never dream of the causes which have disposed them so 
to will and desire." 2 " It is impossible," says he, " that 
man should not be a part of nature ; . . . hence it 
follows that he is necessarily always in subjection to 
passions, that he follows and obeys the general order of 
nature, and that he accommodates himself thereto as the 
nature of things requires." 3 "I have explained," he 
writes, at the conclusion of his account of the emotions, 
" the principal emotions and changes of mind which 
arise from the combination of the three primary emo- 
tions, desire, pleasure, and pain. It is evident from this 
that we are in many ways driven about by external 
causes, and like the waves of the sea driven by contend- 
ing winds, we are swayed hither and thither, uncon- 
scious of the issue and of our destiny." 4 

Such, then, is Spinoza's account of the state of bond- 
age from which man's moral history starts. That it is 
not a complete or exhaustive account of human nature, 
but only of its first or lowest stage, he himself expressly 
tells us. It is only the diagnosis of the disease which 
is necessary in order to the understanding of the cure. 
" It is necessary to know the infirmity of our nature "- 
its impotence, that is, under the sway of the passions 
" before we can determine what reason can do to liberate 

i Eth. ii. 48. - i., App. 

3 Eth. iv. -i and cor. 4 Ktli. iii. 59, scliol. 

Is such Bondage possible ? 265 

us from their control." l But before passing to what he 
has to say of " the course that is prescribed to us by 
reason," \ve may pause for a moment to consider whether 
his description of what lie calls " the impotence of hu- 
man nature " is self-consistent, and whether that impo- 
tence has not been so defined as to place it beyond the 
reach of remedy. In other words, we may inquire, in 
the first place, whether the conception of a conscious 
being under a law of causation in the same sense as a 
modification of matter, is a possible conception ; and 
secondly, whether, if conceivable, it can be made a basis 
for anything higher. Is such a state of bondage pos- 
sible for a conscious subject ] If possible, can he ever 
emerge from it 1 

1. The bondage of man, as we have seen, is or arises 
from that conditioned or determined nature which per- 
tains to all individual finite things. It is common to 
body and mind to man as a mode of extension, and to 
man as a mode of thought. In both points of view he 
is determined by what is external to his own being ; 
the mind is a link in the series of ideas in the same 
sense in which the body is a link in the series of material 
causes and effects. The former is no more the author of 
its own desires and volitions than the latter of its own 
affections of motion and rest. Both are under a law 
of external, mechanical causation. Mind is simply "a 
spiritual automaton." The order and connection of 
thoughts is the same as the order and connection of 
things. But unless the two processes are absolutely 
identical in which case the distinction between thought 
and extension would be a distinction without a difference 
1 Eth. iv. 17, schol. 

266 Spinoza. 

can we attach any meaning to the conception of an 
idea externally operated on by another idea, or of a mind 
externally acted on by its passions, as one material thing 
or body by another] Ideas, Spinoza himself tells us, 
"are not mere images formed in us by contact with ex- 
ternal bodies like lifeless pictures on a panel." "We can 
think one body or mode of extension as lying outside of 
and acting on another ; but can we conceive of the pro- 
cess as exactly reflected or paralleled in the relation of 
the idea of one body to that of another 1 We can, of 
course, think or have an idea of mechanical causation, 
but the idea of a mechanical effect is not mechanically 
determined by the idea of a mechanical cause. A passion 
is " a confused idea, by the presence of which the mind 
is determined to think one thing rather than another." 
A passion, that is to say, is " present to the mind," and 
then, by its operation on the mind, thoughts and desires 
spring up therein. But a passion, a feeling of pleasure 
or pain, cannot be first present to the mind in the sense 
of being externally in contact with it, and then begin to 
operate upon it. Being present to the mind means that 
the mind is conscious of it, that it is already, in a sense, 
in the mind, and therefore the subsequent mental changes 
thoughts, desires, volitions are not the result of a 
merely external causation. The change in the mind is 
not determined by the passion, as one physical event is 
determined by an antecedent event, but the mind is 
determined by a condition of which it is itself the 
source. The earliest or lowest stage at which we can 
date the beginning of man's mental history is one in 
which he is not " a part of nature," in the sense of being 
subjected to appetites, impulses, passions which are out- 

Motives not External Causes. 267 

side of the nature that is to be determined by them. It 
may, indeed, be possible to conceive of a lower stage than 
this of sensitive creatures that are under the control of 
blind impulse, and therefore absolutely determined from 
without. But if the lower animals be such creatures, 
self-conscious beings from the very outset of their con- 
scious life belong to a different order. If there is a 
stage at which man can be regarded as a being of merely 
animal impulses and passions, so long as it lasts his 
moral history has not begun. A conscious impulse is 
not the same as a merely natural or animal impulse. 
The infusion of the element of consciousness changes 
its nature. In becoming a motive of human action, 
an appetite or passion undergoes a radical transforma- 
tion. It is no longer an external motor acting on the 
mind ; it has already been taken out of the sphere of 
externality, and in its character of motor become a 
thing, in a sense, of the mind's own creation. In so 
far, therefore, as the passions are natural forces, and 
man can be regarded as a part of nature under the 
bondage of external causation, he is not yet a think- 
ing, conscious being ; and the moment you conceive 
of him as such, it ceases to be possible for you to 
account for his actions by a law of external causation 
an element of self-determination enters into all 
that determines him. Unmotived volition and action 
is indeed an absurd and impossible notion, but equally 
absurd is that of a conscious being impelled by 
purely external causes. " Human bondage," therefore, 
in Spinoza's sense of the words, is not thinkable, 
and could only be made to seem thinkable by a 
false separation between motives and volition IT- 

268 Spinoza. 

tween passions acting on the mind, and the mind on 
which they act. 

2. It may be urged as a further objection to Spinoza's 
doctrine, that if man were under such a bondage he could 
never escape from it Spinoza proceeds to show how 
reason liberates man from the slavery of passion and 
elevates him into participation in the freedom and bless- 
edness of God. But his conception of human freedom, 
however true in itself, is not legitimately reached. His 
" free man " is not the man with whom he started, and 
it is only by an unconscious modification of his original 
conception that he contrives to rear upon it his doctrine of 
freedom. To make freedom a possible attainment, there 
must be some germ of it to begin with. Imagination 
may picture to itself the transformation of a stone or plant 
or animal into a rational nature, but for thought there 
can be no such transformation. The stone or organism 
does not become a man, but the idea of the former is 
dropped and that of the latter substituted for it. In the 
same way Spinoza's bondsman may be represented as 
becoming a free man ; but from his definition of the 
former the transformation is for imagination only, not 
for thought. If the agencies that constitute nature or 
the system of being lie outside of the individual mind, 
and dominate it from without, they can never cease to do 
so. Mind can only become free in the presence of what 
is external to it, by supposing it from the outset capable 
of finding itself therein that is, by supposing in it that 
which has virtually annulled the externality. Limiting 
conditions can never cease to limit a nature that is not 
from the first potentially beyond the limits. A slave 
could never become a free citizen of the State unless lie 

Transition to Freedom. 269 

were capable of finding himself in the constitution and 
laws of the State. If animal passions rule man from 
without, an animal he must remain. Reason indeed 
may, as Spinoza shows, attain the supremacy in man's 
life ; but it is only because man is from the beginning 
something different from the being of whom Spinoza 
speaks, for only that being which, in some sense, creates 
the forces that act on it, can have in it the latent capa- 
city to control them. It is, in short, the presence in 
mind of something which is not subject to the bondage 
of externality, that constitutes the fulcrum by which its 
freedom can be achieved. 


Spinoza's conception of human bondage is, as we have 
seen, self-contradictory. A being who is subject to a 
law of purely external causation is incapable of freedom, 
and therefore incapable of bondage. To be a part of 
nature would be no bondage to man if he could be a part 
of it. The A'ery term " bondage " implies that essentially 
ami from the first he is something more. One mode of 
matter is not in bondage to another, a physical effect is 
not in bondage to its cause; to be so related is simply 
the expression of its very nature. Subjection to tin-. 
passions would be no slavery ; the vicious man would be 
as innocent as an animal, if like the animal he were blind- 
ly determined by his appetites. Spinoza's "bondage," 
as interpreted by the proof he gives of it, is simply 
modality or h'nitude, and it applies to man as a mode of - 
thought precisely as it applies to him as a mode of ex- 
tension. It implies no more reaction in the individual 
mind than in a stone, against the determining power <>f 

270 Spinoza. 

the infinite series of external causes. But, in order to 
lend to "bondage" the deeper signification which the 
term implies, and to make it the basis of a theory of 
freedom, Spinoza unconsciously shifts the definition of 
the subject of bondage. What he wants in mind is a 
self which can be the source of its own activity, and 
which, in so far as it is not so, is in bondage. Man 
must be something more than an individual in a world 
of individuals, a larger universal nature must be ascribed 
to him, if the limits of individuality are to be dealt with 
as hindrances to freedom. A life controlled by passion 
can be stamped as " impotence," only if reason be 
assumed to be the essence, and a rational life the proper 
destiny of the being so controlled. To make this assump- 
tion possible, Spinoza changes and deepens the signifi- 
cance of that which constitutes the essence of mind. 
The self-maintaining impulse in mind, which is identical 
with its essence, in order to be " infinitely surpassed " by 
that of all other finite natures, is at first nothing more 
and deeper in the former than in the latter. As en- 
dowed with it, the individual mind is, at most, only 
quantitatively distinguished from the infinite multipli- 
city of other individuals, one force amidst the infinitude 
of forces, to which it necessarily succumbs. But to 
make it at once capable of the bondage of nature and of 
rising above it, it has to be invested with the functions 
and to play the part of a self-conscious, self-determining 
subject. Its essence is understanding or reason, its 
essential function is knowledge or the capacity of 
adequate ideas that knowledge Avhich, as we have seen, 
is not inert or merely theoretical knowledge, but know- 
lodge which is instinct with the activity of will ; and 

The Subject of Bondage. 271 

the goal of which is " the consciousness of the mind's 
own perfect activity combined with the idea of God." 

"The effort of self-maintenance," Spinoza writes, 1 "is 
nothing but the essence of a thing itself, ... its power of 
doing those things which follow necessarily from its nature. 
But the essence of reason is nothing but our mind in so far as 
it clearly and distinctly understands. . . . The effort of the 
mind by which it endeavours to persevere in its own being 
is nothing else than understanding, and this effort at under- 
standing is the first and sole basis of virtue," the source, 
that is, of its moral and spiritual life. " The essence of the 
mind consists in knowledge, which involves the knowledge 
of God, and without it, it can neither be nor be conceived." 2 
" Man acts absolutely according to the laws of his own nature 
when he lives under the guidance of reason." 3 " To act 
rationally is nothing else than to do those things which follow 
from the necessity of our own nature considered in itself 
alone." 4 "We know assuredly nothing to be good save 
what helps, nothing to be evil save what hinders, under- 
standing." 5 

By this tacit modification of the definition of mind, 
Spinoza, as we have said, infuses into it that element of 
self-determination which makes it a possible subject of 
bondage and of a process of emancipation from bondage. 
(1.) As to the former: human bondage, instead of 
being merely another name for finitude, or the deter- 
mination of a single mode by the infinite series of ex- 
ternal modes, becomes now the subjection of reason or 
of a being essentially rational to the irrational. It is no 
longer simply the relation of one "part of nature" to 

1 Eth. iv. 26, dem. 2 Ibid., 37, dem. 

3 Eth. iv. 35, cor. 1. 4 Eth. iv. 59, dem. 

* Eth. iv. -J7. 

272 Spinoza. 

the whole, but it is the subjection of the spiritual to the 
natural. Eeason or intelligence is essentially active, a 
rational nature has in it the spring of perpetual activity. 
It is of its very essence to realise itself, to be the ade- 
quate cause of its own thoughts and volitions, to make 
its whole experience the expression of its own essence ; 
and as pain and all painful emotions are the indications 
of restrained or diminished power, it is the characteristic 
of a rational nature to be a stranger to pain, to revel, so 
to speak, in the unbroken consciousness of its own 
energy. But, through the medium of the passions, a 
foreign element gains access to the mind, ideas intrude 
upon it which are no longer its own creation, but which 
reflect the involuntary affections of the body by the 
external world. A host of desires and emotions arise 
in it of which it is not itself the source ; the presence 
of pain, and of emotions coloured by pain, betrays its 
repressed activity ; and even its pleasurable or joyous 
emotions, and the sense of power that accompanies them, 
are not of legitimate origin, biit, being due to external 
stimulus, are the sign of the mind's weakness, not of its 
strength. Again, it is of the very essence of a rational 
nature, not only to determine itself, but to determine 
itself by uniform and invariable principles of action. 
" Whatever the mind conceives under the guidance of 
reason, it conceives under the same form of eternity or 
necessity, and it is affected by it with the same certi- 
tude" 1 i.e., independently of all variable conditions or 
of the accidents of time and place. The good which is 
its satisfaction is an absolute good, a good which cannot 
be diminished by distance or lapse of time, and which 
i Eth. iv. 62, deni. 

Reason and the Passions. 273 

is the same for all minds. But it is of the very nature 
of the passions to introduce into the mind an element of 
fitfulness and caprice, and to determine our actions by a 
good which is contingent and fluctuating. Pleasure and 
pain, reflecting as they do the affections of the body, 
vary with individual temperament, with the accidental 
and ever-changing relations of the individual to outward 
things, with the nearness or distance in time and space 
of the objects that affect us. Hence the inroad on the 
mind of a whole brood of emotions of desire and aver- 
sion, hope and fear, pride and humility, timidity and 
daring, exultation and remorse, &c. which disturb its 
equanimity, and render it the slave of accident and irra- 
tionality. Hence, too, the tyranny of warring passions, 
and the disturbance of that harmony and repose which 
constitute the atmosphere of reason. For Avhilst the 
objects of reason are the same for all minds, and they 
who seek them seek a good which is common to all, 
which can never be diminished by the multiplicity of 
participants, and which each individual must desire that 
others should seek ; l on the other hand, pleasure and 
pain, from which the passions spring, are in their nature 
purely individual. Not only do their objects affect dif- 
ferent men in an infinite variety of ways, so that what 
one desires and loves, another may hate and shun, but 
their appropriation by one implies the loss of them to 
all besides. Envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, all the malign 
passions, beset those who make 'pleasure their good. In 
these and other ways Spinoza shows that the passions, 
as the word indicates, imply the passivity or bondage of 
man's true nature. The essence of the mind is reason, 

i Eth. iv. 18, 36, 37. 
P. XII. S 

274 Spinoza. 

the autonomy of reason its freedom ; but in so far as the 
mind is under the control of passion, our actions " no 
longer follow from the laws of our own nature, but are 
determined by what is alien to it." To let passion rule 
is a kind of suicide, for a suicide is one " who is over- 
come by external causes, and those which are contrary 
to his own nature." l On the other hand, "man is free 
in so far as he is led by reason, for then only is he 
determined to act by causes which can be adequately 
understood by his own nature alone." 2 " We see thus 
the difference between a man who is led solely by emo- 
tion or opinion and a man who is led by reason. The 
former, whether he will or no, does those things of 
Avhich he is utterly ignorant; the latter does those things 
only which he knows to be of the highest importance in 
life, and which therefore he desires above all. There- 
fore I call the former a slave, the latter a free man." a 

(2.) The conception of human bondage Avhich Spino/.a 
has now reached supplies him with a basis for his doc- 
trine of freedom, and indicates the process by which the 
transition from bondage to freedom is mediated. So 
long as bondage is identical with determination or 
finitude, freedom is impossible, or possible only by the 
annulling of the very existence of the being to whom it 
pertains. But if the freedom of man be conceived, not 
:is indetermination but as determination by the laws of 
his own nature, the possibility thereof resolves itself 
into the question whether that nature can rise above the 
external influences which dominate it. As the lowest 
stage of knowledge is that of imagination or inadequate 
ideas, so the lowest stage of the moral life is that nf 
i Eth. iv. 20, schol. -' Tract, Pol., cap. ii. 11. Eth. iv. 66, srhnl. 

How Freedom is to be Attained. 275 

bondage to the passions, which are, if not simply an- 
other form of inadequate ideas, necessarily generated by 
them. Can we rise from this state ; and if so, how 1 
Is freedom possible ; and if possible, what is the process 
by which it is achieved 1 

As to the first of these questions, it may be said that 
the answer is involved in the doctrine that the activity 
of reason is essentially pleasurable, and that pain belongs 
only to the passions. The pain of bondage is the pro- 
phecy of freedom. Pain, in other words, is the con- 
sciousness of limitation or repressed activity, and the 
mind that is conscious of its limits is already virtually 
beyond them. If man could be perfectly happy under 
the dominion of passion, his moral condition would be 
hopeless. The fact that in the lowest stage of selfish 
indulgence there is an element of unrest is the witness 
to the presence in man of a nature greater than his pas- 
sions, and capable of rising above them. 

But granting the possibility of freedom, how is it to 
be attained? In the conflict of passion what are the 
weapons at the command of reason 1 In answer to this 
question, Spinoza enumerates what he terms " the 
remedies of the emotions, or what the mind, considered 
in itself alone, can do against them." l The more im- 
portant of these " remedies " we shall briefly consider. 

1. "The mind's power over the emotions consists, 
first, in the actual knowledge of the emotions." The 
knowledge of passion destroys passion. " An emotion 
which is a passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we 
form a clear and distinct idea of it." 2 Spinoza's proof 
of this proposition is in substance this that a passion 
i Eth. v. 20, schol. 2 Eth. v. 3. 

276 Spinoza. 

is, or rests on, " a confused idea," and that forming a 
clear and distinct idea of it is equivalent to the vanish- 
ing of the confusion. Error is extinguished, and its 
power over the mind ceases when we know it as error. 
Moreover, a passion is a confused idea " of an affection 
of the body" But there is no affection of the body of 
which we cannot form a clear and distinct idea. We 
can rise above the confusion of ordinary knowledge to 
the clear intelligence of reason. When, therefore, we 
think a passion, what remains of it is not the passion 
itself, but the true idea of it, or that is involved in it. 
It is thus transferred from the sphere of our passivity to 
that of our activity. Eeason not only masters passion, 
but receives a fresh accession of power ; it not only de- 
tects the illusion, but becomes possessed of the truth 
that underlies it, so that what we sought blindly from 
passion AVC now seek intelligently or from rational 

Stripped of its technical form, the drift of Spino/a's 
argument seems to be this : When it is asserted that 
by the knowledge of our passions we gain the mastery 
over them, or " that every one has the power clearly and 
distinctly to understand himself and his emotions, and 
therefore, if not absolutely, yet in part, of bringing it 
about that he should not be subject to them," l it is 
obviously not meant that to have a theoretical know- 
ledge of passion is to be exempt from its control, which 
would be as absurd as to say that the diagnosis of a 
disease is equivalent to its cure. Xor, again, is Spinoza's 
doctrine simply the commonplace maxim, that as an 
enemy we know is comparatively harmless, so by study - 
1 Eth. v. 4, schol. 

Thought transforms Passion. 277 

ing our passions we learn how to be on our guard 
against them. But what he means is, that when we gain 
the point of view of true knowledge, passion loses its hold 
over us. As, in the intellectual sphere, the aspect of the 
world as it is for imagination, in which all things are 
regarded from a purely individual standpoint, is of 
necessity annulled when we rise to the higher stand- 
point of reason, in which all things are discerned in 
their universal and necessary relations, so, in the 
ethical sphere, the attitude of purely individual feeling, 
in which things are good or evil only as they contribute 
to the satisfaction of our appetites and passions, vanishes 
away when we rise to that higher attitude in which we 
identify ourselves with the universal interests, and look 
on our particular pleasures and pains in the light of that 
universal order of which we are but an insignificant 
part. So viewed, our particular satisfactions lose their 
deceptive importance. They become no more to us, or 
to reason in us, than those of other individuals, and 
infinitely less than the interests of that universe of 
being to which we and they belong. Thus, regarded 
from the point of view of reason, the passions cease to 
exist for us except in so far as they are functions of 
the universal, or forms under which reason itself is 

These considerations explain to us also the sequel of 
Spinoza's argument, in which he maintains that in thus 
knowing our passions we transform them into elements 
of the mind's activity. "To all actions," he writes, " to 
which we are determined by passion, we can be deter- 
mined without passion by reason." 1 "Every desire," it 
1 Eth. iv. 59. 

L>7S Spiiwza. 

is added, " which springs from an emotion wherein the 
mind is passive, would become useless if men were guided 
by reason." l And again : " All appetites or desires are 
passions only in so far as they spring from, inadequate 
ideas, and the same results are ranked as virtues when 
they are aroused or generated by adequate ideas. For 
all desires by which we are determined to any action 
may arise as well from adequate as from inadequate 
ideas." 2 There is, in other words, a rational meaning or 
end underlying the passions, and what we seek blindly 
under the influence of passion we may seek deliberately 
under the guidance of reason. When we know or form 
an adequate idea of a passion, we discern this under- 
lying end, and make it an object of conscious deliberate 
pursuit. "We must endeavour to acquire as far as 
possible a clear and distinct idea of every emotion, in 
order that the mind may be thus, through emotion, 
determined to think of those things which it clearly and 
distinctly perceives and in which it fully acquiesces, and 
thus that the emotion itself may be separated from the 
thought of an external cause and connected with true 
thoughts ; whence it will come to pass, not only that 
love, hatred, etc., will be destroyed, but also that 
appetites and desires which usually arise from such 
emotions will become incapable of excess." 3 Even the 
lowest appetites are capable of being thus transferred 
from the sphere of passion to that of reason, from the 
passive to the active side of our nature. The wise or 
free man is no longer impelled by hunger or lust, but 
by the rational endeavour after that to which these 
appetites point the preservation and continuance of 
1 Eth. iv. 59, schol. - Eth. v. 4, schol. 3 Ibid. 

The Pass iu /is become Nationalised. 279 

the life of the individual and the race. Ambition and 
kindred passions are based on the desire "that other 
men should live after our fashion ; " but this is only an 
irrational aim when it is the dictate of blind, selfish 
impulse ; in a nature that is elevated to the universality 
of reason it becomes simply the endeavour that all men 
should lead a rational life. Animal courage or daring 
purged of its impulsive character, becomes that wise 
presence of mind which may express itself as much in 
evading danger as in facing and overcoming it. 1 Even 
those emotions, such as pity or compassion, which we 
are wont to regard as good and praiseworthy, are, con- 
sidered merely as emotions, bad and hurtful ; 2 but reason 
or the rational man extracts the valuable element in 
them, and instead of being impulsively moved by the 
calamities and tears of the wretched, seeks on rational 
grounds to ameliorate their condition. 3 Thus, in general, 
the knowledge of passion annihilates passion, and sub- 
stitutes for it the calm and deliberate activity of reason. 
A perfectly wise man would be absolutely passionless, 
and therefore absolutely free. He " would hate no man, 
envy no man, be angry with no man," and for the same 
reason, would love and pity no man, do nothing at the 
mere dictate of feeling, but would order his life from 
purely rational motives for the general good. 4 

2. As another and kindred " remedy for the passions," 
or means of attaining freedom, Spinoza points out that 
" the mind can bring it about that all bodily affections 
or images of things should be referred," (a) to "the 
common properties of things or deductions therefrom," 

i Eth. iv. 69. 2 Eth. iv. 50. 

a Ibid., dein. 4 Eth. iv. 73, dem. and schol. 

280 Spiiwza. 

or (b) to " the idea of God." l This " remedy for the 
passions " is only the converse or correlate of that which 
we have just considered. Thought or reason transforms 
the object as well as the subject of passion. When I 
think or know myself, the passion vanishes ; when I 
think or know the world, it ceases to be that world 
which appeals to passion. The latter result is, indeed, 
already involved in the former. Even from Spinoza's 
peculiar point of view, thought and its outward object 
stand or fall with each other. The world, as it was for 
inadequate thought, no longer exists for that which has 
become adequate; thought cannot rise from the indi- 
vidual to the universal without implying a parallel ele- 
vation in the extended world which is its object. 

But though the one transformation implies the other, 
it is possible, following our author, to consider them 
separately. The dominion of passion may be conceived 
of as the dominion of the world and the things of the 
world over a nature larger than themselves of the 
world as it is for sense and imagination- over a nature 
the essence of which is reason, of the things of the 
world in their fictitious reality and independence 
over a nature the essence of which is the idea or self- 
affirmation of God. The " bondage," on that supposi- 
tion, would be that of an infinite nature imprisoned in 
the finite, of a being whose essence is light, harmony, 
eternal order and unity, in a world of darkness and dis- 
cordancy. The deliverance from this bondage is that 
" remedy for the passions " to which Spinoza here point*. 
Annihilate the world, and the passions which were re- 
lated to it die a natural death. But the world on which 
* Etb. v. 14 aud 12. 

The World transformed for Reason. 281 

passion fed has no real existence. Nothing really is as 
to imagination it seemed to be. The individual things 
to which the affections of the body were referred, and 
which, through these affections, became the objects of 
desire and aversion, love and hate, are purely illusory. 
The body and its affections, and all bodies which affect 
it, are nothing save as determined by universal relations 
of cause and effect, which link the whole order or sys- 
tem of things into one vast unity. The mind that is 
the prey of the passions is Avasting itself on a vain 
show, fastening on that as real and permanent which is 
fugitive and evanescent. Thought or reason dissolves 
the show, and with it the passions to which it gave 
birth. Passion, again, in its fluctuation and variable- 
ness, is based on relations to a world which is the scene 
of arbitrariness and accident. But there is no such 
world. The "common properties," the universal laws, 
of things determine their relations by an absolute neces- 
sity, and when we " refer the affections of the body " to 
these, when the world puts off the mask of change and 
contingency, and the presence of eternal order and ne- 
cessity confronts us, the restless alternations of satiety 
and discontent vanish with the illusory world they re- 
flected. " If we remove a disturbance of the mind or 
an emotion from the thought of an external cause, and 
connect it with other thoughts, then will love or hatred 
towards the external cause, and also the fluctuations 
of the mind which arise from these emotions, be de- 
stroyed." l But further, in the real world which sup- 
plants the illusory world of imagination, there is some- 
thing deeper even than the " common properties " which 
1 Eth. v. 2. 


reason discerns. Thought, even when it has grasped 
the universal principles or laws which bind all finite 
things in the bonds of an unchangeable necessity, falls 
short of apprehending their deepest meaning. "The 
mind can bring it about that all bodily affections and 
images of things should be referred to the idea of God." l 
It is possible, as we have seen, for thought to rise to a 
point of view from which the world is contemplated, 
not merely as a system of tilings conditioning and con- 
ditioned by each other, but as a system in which all 
things are seen in the light of that absolute unity of 
which they are only the infinitely varied expression. 
The true " existence of things " is that which is ascribed 
to them because of this, that from the eternal necessity 
of the nature of God an infinity of things follows in 
infinite ways." * The system of the world, in other 
words, contains an element of unresolved diversity till 
the particular existence of things, and their mediating 
link of causation, are no longer independent, and by the 
glance of immediate " intellectual intuition " we can, so 
to speak, see the whole at once all diversity in unity, 
all thinking things, all objects of thought as expressions 
of that "idea of God" which is their immanent prin- 
ciple and essence. In this highest and truest knowledge 
of the world lies the secret of complete emancipation 
from the bondage of passion, and of the attainment of 
perfect freedom. In the sphere of the passions that 
emotion is most vivid and powerful which is referred to a 
present rather than an absent object, or to a greater rather 
than a lesser number of objects, or to objects that most 
frequently recur; and an emotion possessing all these 
1 Eth. v. 14. a Eth. ii. 45, schol. 

The final Emancipation. 283 

characteristics would prevail over every other. But if 
there be one object or idea which, is ever present and 
incapable of being excluded by any other, which all 
things and thoughts suggest, and from which everything 
else derives its significance and reality then must that 
idea, and the emotion to which it gives rise, dominate 
every other in the mind in which it dwells. Now, just 
such is the idea of God. It is the idea to which it is 
possible for the mind " to refer all bodily affections or 
images of things," and in the mind which has achieved 
this result, to which all things speak of God, or are seen 
only as they exist in God, all passions that relate only 
to things finite and transient are quelled, and every other 
emotion is absorbed in that " intellectual love " which is 
only another aspect of the intuitive knowledge of God. 
Finally, whilst every other emotion limits the mind's 
activity, this is the expression of its highest freedom. 
For whilst all passion "springs from pleasure or pain, 
accompanied with the idea of an external cause," this 
emotion springs from a cause which is no longer outward 
or foreign to the mind, but is its own inmost essence. 
Subjection to absolute truth is the freedom of intelli- 
gence. For the mind, the essence of which is that self- 
affirming impulse which is in reality the self-affirmation 
of God in it, and for which the world is a world in 
which all things are seen in God, or awaken the thought 
and love of God, subjection to what is external ceases ; 
every object it contemplates, everything that stirs the 
fount of feeling, only contributes to its own purest activ- 
ity. The mind that is one with God is free of a uni- 
verse in which itself and all things live and move and 
have their being in God. 

284 Spinoza. 

In reviewing this theory of the transition from bondage 
to freedom, it may be pointed out that its main defect 
seems to lie in the abstract ideal of man's highest life on 
which it is based. Freedom is pure self-affirmation or 
self-activity, all passion is negation of that activity. The 
ideal, therefore, of the moral life is that of an absolutely 
passionless life. The " life according to reason " is that 
in which the agent is determined " by reason without 
passion." Reason and passion cannot coexist. "Where 
emotion is contrary to reason, it is noxious ; where it 
coincides with reason, it is useless : in either case, it 
is an invasion from without on that purely self-affirming 
activity in which the mind's freedom consists. The 
triumph of reason is not the subjugation but the ex- 
tinction of passion. To think a passion is to kill it. 
Thought and passion are opposed as activity and pas- 
sivity, and the positing of the former is equivalent to 
the annulling of the latter. Further, it follows from 
this that the free or rational life is one from which 
pain or sorrow is absolutely excluded. Pain is the 
indication of repressed activity ; pleasure, in the sense 
in which it is not of the nature of passion, of unimpeded 
or expanding activity. Into the spiritual life, therefore, 
no feeling of which pain or sorrow is an element can 
enter ; and judged by this criterion, humility, penitence, 
pity, compassion, and kindred emotions must be pro- 
nounced to be evil. 1 

But it is to be remarked that a freedom which is thus 
identified with passionless intelligence, or the pure self- 
affirmation of reason apart from negation, is either an 
impossible notion, or a notion which is only a moment 
i Eth. iv. 50, 53, 54. 

Criticism of the Theory. 285 

or factor in the true idea of freedom. It is true that the 
affirmation of a self which is above and beyond the pas- 
sions, though not in itself spiritual freedom, is a step in the 
process towards it. It is of the very essence of a spiritual 
nature to be conscious of a self which is more than any or 
all particular desires and affections, which does not come 
and go with the succession of feelings, but underneath 
all their transiency and changefulness remains ever one 
with itself, posits or affirms itself in opposition to their 
negativity. But though this self-affirmation is an element 
of the process, it is only an element. A purely self- 
affirming intelligence, or, otherwise expressed, a rational 
will which has no materials of activity outside of itself, 
is a mere abstraction. It is a determiner without any- 
thing to determine, a universal without the particular, 
the blank form of the moral life without any filling or 
content. Reason can never realise itself merely by will- 
ing to be rational ; it can only do so by willing particular 
acts which come under the form of rationality. And 
this implies that the general principle or aim of reason 
can only fulfil itself through particular desires, impulses, 
passions, which have their own ends or objects. An 
intelligence feeding only on itself dies of inanition, or 
rather, never begins to live. But whilst thus the ex- 
tinction of passion would be the extinction of spirit- 
iial life, or whilst an intelligence that could annihilate 
passion would annihilate the very materials of its own 
existence, yet, on the other hand, the passions, in so far 
as they remain an element of the spiritual life, do not 
remain unchanged. Reason, if it does not annul, trans- 
mutes them. In the moral strife the conquest is not that 
of a victor who slays his enemies, but who makes thfia 

286 Spinoza. 

his own thralls. Or rather it is more thau that ; for in 
the conflict with the passions reason achieves its own 
freedom by infusing into them its own rationality. It 
realises itself by elevating the natural impulses and 
desires into its own universality. As the touch of art 
glorifies matter, transnmtes stones and pigments into the 
beauty and splendour of the ideal ; or as organic life, 
whilst it takes up inorganic materials into itself, leaves 
them not unchanged, but assimilates and transforms 
them, suffuses them with its own power and energy, so 
the impulses and passions of the natural self are but the 
raw material which the spiritual self transforms into the 
organs of its own life. The free man, the man who has 
entered into the universal life of reason, is still a creature 
of flesh and blood; he hungers and thirsts, he is no 
stranger to ordinary appetites and impulses, or to those 
wider passions which animate the most unspiritual 
natures. But in living, not for his individual pleasure, 
but for the higher ends of the spirit, the passions, whether 
as the mere organic basis of the spiritual life, or as con- 
trolled and denied for the sake of it, or as used up as its 
resources, become, to the spirit, instinct witli its own 
vitality and freedom. 




SPINOZA'S doctrine of immortality is, in one point of 
view, only another form of his doctrine of freedom. It 
is the passions or passive emotions which hinder the 
mind's inherent activity and subject it to the control of 
a foreign element. But so long as the body exists, the 
passions must more or less limit the autonomy of reason. 
For the passions correspond to and reflect the affections 
which the body receives from external bodies ; or, other- 
wise expressed, they are due to the illusory influence of 
the imagination, which contemplates outward objects in 
their accidental relations to the body and gives to them a 
false substantiality and independence. A passion is " a 
confused idea by which the mind affirms greater or less 
power of it* body than before, and by the presence of which 
it is determined to think one thing rather than another." 
<: AVhatsoever hinders the power or activity of the body, 
the idea of that thing hinders that of the mind." 1 
Whilst, therefore, the body endures, we must be more or 
less the slaves of imagination and passion. If the mind 
were wholly imagination it would perish with the body 
i Eth. iii. 11. 

288 Spinoza. 

and its affections. The illusory world and the ideas 
that reflect it would vanish together. But, as we have 
just seen, there is that in the mind which enables it to 
rise above the slavery of passion, to emancipate itself 
from the illusions that are generated by ideas of bodily 
affections. The true essence of mind is reason, which 
sees things, not under the fictitious limits of time, but 
under the form of eternity and in their immanent rela- 
tion to the idea of God. It is this essence of the mind 
which constitutes what Spinoza calls its " better part," 
and in which lies the secret at once of its freedom and its 
immortality. It makes man free, for it raises him above 
the desires that are related to the accidental and transient, 
and brings him under the dominion of that "intellec- 
tual love " which is the expression of his own deepest 
nature. It makes man immortal, for, having no relation 
to the body and its affections, it has in it nothing that 
can be affected by the destruction of the body. " There 
is nothing in nature that is contrary to this intellectual 
love or can take it away." 1 "It is possible for the 
human mind to be of such a nature that that in it which 
we have shown to perish with the body is of little im- 
portance in comparison with that in it which endures." '' 
"The eternal part of the mind is the understanding, 
through which alone we are said to act ; the part which 
we have shown to perish is the imagination, through 
which alone we are said to be passive." 8 

There is, however, another and very peculiar aspect 

of Spinoza's doctrine of immortality which remains to 

be explained. We naturally ask how any such survival 

of the mind after the destruction of the body as is here 

1 Eth. v. 37. - Eth. v. 38, schol. 3 Eth. v. 40, cor. 

The " Essence " of the Body. 289 

maintained, is consistent with the fundamental doctrine 
of the uniform parallelism of thought and extension, or 
with the principle that to all that takes place in the 
human mind as a mode of thought there must be some- 
thing corresponding in the human body as a mode of 
extension. Spinoza's answer to this question turns on the 
distinction which, according to him, obtains between the 
" essence " and the " actual existence " of the body. The 
mind's survival does not leave us with something in the 
sphere of thought to which nothing in the sphere of ex- 
tension corresponds. For though the particular mode of 
extension which we designate this actually existing body, 
or the body " in so far as it is explained by duration and 
can be defined by time," ceases to exist, there is never- 
theless an " essence " of the body which can only be 
conceived through the essence of God or under the 
form of eternity, and which therefore endures when 
everything corporeal of which we can speak in terms of 
time passes away. " God," says Spinoza, " is the cause 
not only of the existence of this or that human body, 
but also of its essence." l " There is necessarily in God 
(and therefore in the human mind) an idea which ex- 
presses the essence of the human body." 2 It would 
therefore appear that not only the mind, but the body 
also, survives death. The parallelism of thought and 
extension is not affected by the destruction of the actually 
existing body. In both there is something that passes 
away, in both something that remains. If that particu- 
lar mode of extension which we call the actually exist- 
ing body passes away, so also does that mode of thought 
which constitutes the idea of the actually existing body. 

i Eth. v. 22, clem. - Eth. v. 23. lem. 

P. XII. T 

290 Spinoza. 

On the other hand, if the immortal element in mind 
is the reason, which contemplates all things under the 
form of eternity, in like manner the immortal element in 
the body is that " essence of the body " which is the 
object of reason. The " form of eternity " belongs alike 
to the essence of the body and to the essence of the 

1. In criticising this theory, it may be remarked that 
in such phrases as " the duration of the mind without 
relation. to the body," "the mind does not imagine, &c., 
save while the body endures," Spinoza employs language 
which, as addressed to the ordinary ear, is misleading, 
inasmuch as it suggests the notion of an incorporeal im- 
mortality, a survival of the purely spiritual element of 
man's nature when the material element has passed away. 
Such phraseology perhaps betrays an unconscious con- 
cession to the popular conception of the material as the 
grosser, the mental as the nobler element, and of immor- 
tality as the emancipation of the spirit from the bondage 
of matter. In any case, such language is obviously 
inconsistent with Spinoza's doctrine as above explained. 
Spinoza knows nothing of the false spiritualism which 
recoils from the supposed grossness or " pravity " of 
matter. To him, on the contrary, matter is as divine 
as mind, modes of matter are as much the expression of 
God as modes of mind. On his principles it would be 
equally true and equally false to say that the body sur- 
vives the mind, and to say that the mind survives the 
body. To each he ascribes an "essence" which is dis- 
tinct from its "actual existence " ; and if the essence of 
the mind survives the body regarded as a particular, 
transient modification of matter, the essence <>f the body 

Criticism of the Doctrine. 291 

survives the mind regarded as the idea of that modifica- 
tion, or the particular modification of thought which 
corresponds to it. 

2. It is a more important criticism of Spinoza's doc- 
trine that it ascribes to death or the destruction of the 
body what is really due to reason, as the destroyer of 
the illusions of imagination. The triumph of mind is 
not the destruction of the body, but the destruction of a 
false view of it. It is not achieved by the cessation of 
the body's existence, but by the dissipation of the illu- 
sory reality ascribed to it. The immortality which is 
predicated of the mind is not continuity of existence 
after death, but its capacity to rise above the category 
of time and to see itself, the body and all things, under 
the form of eternity. To speak of this as something 
future, or as a capacity of living on after a certain date, 
or of surviving a certain event, is simply to explain in 
terms of time that the very nature of which is to tran- 
scend time. The immortality which is sanctioned by 
Spinoza's principles is not a quantitative but a qualitative 
endowment not existence for indefinite time, but the 
quality of being above time. It is an immortality, there- 
fore, which may be attained here and now. In so far as 
we rise to the stage of intuitive intelligence and intel- 
lectual love, we have an immediate experience of it, we 
enter at once into the sphere of eternity, and the old 
world of imagination vanishes away. And if we ask, 
What is the relation of this eternal consciousness to the 
life or death of the body? it might be answered that 
the moral acceptance of death is the supreme act of 
liberation. For the mind that sees things under the 
form of eternity, the body, as a phenomenon in time, 

292 Spinoza. 

has already vanished, the disillusioning power of reason 
has anticipated in a deeper way the physical disinte- 
gration of death. Spinoza knows nothing of the Pla- 
tonic notion of the corporeal state as an imprisonment 
of the soul, from which death liberates it. The mind 
that knows God has already achieved its liberation, and 
the eternity in which it dwells is neither hindered nor 
helped by the destruction of the body. According to 
his own principles, therefore, it is an obvious inconsist- 
ency in Spinoza to speak of a subjection of the mind to 
imagination and passion " so long as the body endures," 
or of the " destruction of the body " as contributing in 
any measure to its emancipation. For the higher con- 
sciousness of the mind, the body has been already de- 
stroyed, and the only emancipation of which the mind 
is capable is one which reason, and not the destruction of 
the body, has accomplished. 

3. Spinoza's doctrine implies a tacit ascription to the 
mind of a superiority over the body which is inconsistent 
with their parallelism as modes of thought and extension. 
That doctrine is, as we have seen, that there is an essence 
of mind and an essence of body which both alike tran- 
scend the category of time, and are part of the eternal 
nature of God. But whilst Spinoza's conception of the 
nature of mind supplies a ground for its superiority to 
time, its permanence through all change, he assigns no 
similar ground for the perpetuity of the body. Modes 
of thought are determined by other modes ; but besides 
this, there is a reduplication of thought upon itself ; in 
other words, thought thinks itself. Modes of extension 
are determined by other modes, but there is no similar 
return of each mode of extension upon itself, nor, from 

Inconsistency of the Doctrine. 293 

the very nature of the thing, is any such return con- 
ceivable. Xow, though the conception of mind as not 
only idea of the body, but as the idea of that idea, does 
not amount to what is involved in the modern doctrine 
of self-consciousness, yet in Spinoza's speculations it 
performs in some measure the functions which that 
doctrine ascribes to the mind. As conscious of itself, 
mind contains in its very essence a principle of continu- 
ity, a unity which remains constant through all phenom- 
enal changes. It can abstract from all determinations, 
and it is that to which all determinations are referred 
the living, indestructible point of centrality to which 
the thoughts and feelings that compose our conscious 
life are drawn back. But there is nothing approximat- 
ing to this principle of self-centrality in Spinoza's con- 
ception of the body. " The human body is composed," 
he tells us, 1 "of many individual parts of diverse 
nature, each one of which is extremely complex," and 
" these individual parts of the body, and therefore the 
body itself, are constantly being affected by external 
bodies." In all this diversity and change there is no 
principle of unity ; the unity to which the body as a 
composite thing is referred is not in itself, but in the 
" idea of the body," or the mind that thinks it. 

4. Spinoza's conception of immortality, or of the eter- 
nal element in mind, is, as we have seen, simply that of 
a mind for which the illusion of time has disappeared. 
But to drop or eliminate an illusion is not to account for 
it, or to explain its relation to our mental and spiritual 
life. Spinoza points out as a fact that time as well as 
figure, number, measure, are only illusory forms of ima- 
1 Eth. ii., post. 1 and 3. 

294 Spinoza. 

gination, and that reason rises above them. But even 
an illusion must be in some way grounded in the intel- 
ligence that experiences it. It can be explained only 
by tracing its origin, and by showing that it forms a 
necessary stage in the development of the finite mind. 
Time, in other words, is not explained even as an illu- 
sion, unless in the eternal there is shown to be a reason 
for it ; nor is the eternal which rises above time to be 
understood unless the negation of time is shown to be 
contained in it. If the aspect of things " under the 
form of eternity " has no necessary relation to their 
aspect as things in time, the latter is a mere excrescence 
in the system, and for any reason that appears, might 
have been omitted altogether. If thinking things under 
the form of time is not a necessary stage in the process 
towards true knowledge, there is no reason why the 
mind should not have started at once from the point 
of view in which nothing is illusory, and in which 
eternal realities are immediately apprehended. Spinoza 
contrasts reason and imagination, the point of view in 
which tilings are regarded as independent realities, and 
the point of view in which they are seen in the light of 
the idea of God, or under the form of eternity. But he 
makes no attempt to show the relation between the 
lower and the higher point of view. He simply pro- 
nounces the former to be false and illusory, and the 
latter to be an attitude of mind in which the former is 
dropped or left behind. But is there no way, it may be 
asked, in which it can be shown that the determination 
of things in time, not merely empirically precedes, but is 
a necessary presupposition of their determination under 
the form of eternity 1 Is it not possible to discern that 

Ilhisioii of Time uncxplainnf. 295 

the rise from imaginative to rational knowledge is not 
an accident in the history of thought, but a necessary 
step in the process by which a self-conscious intelli- 
gence realises itself and its own inherent wealth ] The 
answer to this question may be said to be involved in 
the very nature of intelligence. The relation of im- 
agination to reason is simply the relation, in modem 
language, of consciousness to self-consciousness. The 
consciousness of self implies relation to objects which 
are opposed to self, and yet which, as related to self, 
form a necessary element of its life. It is only by the 
presentation to itself of an external world i.e., of a 
world conceived of under the forms of externality that 
mind or intelligence can, by the relating or reclaiming of 
that world to itself, become conscious of its own latent 
content Thought, in other words, is not a resting 
identity, but a process, a life, of which the very 
essence is ceaseless activity, or movement from unity 
to difference and from difference to unity. It is not 
by brooding on itself in some pure, supersensuous 
sphere of untroubled spirituality, but by going forth 
into a world that, in the first instance, is outside of 
and foreign to itself, and of which the constituent 
elements in their self-externality in space and succes- 
sion in time, are the contradiction of its own inherent 
unity, and then by the recognition of that world as not 
really foreign or independent or discordant, but in its 
real or essential natiire related to and finding its mean- 
ing and unity in thought it is by this perpetual process 
of differentiation and integration that self-conscious in- 
telligence ceases to be a lifeless abstraction, and becomes 
a concrete reality. But if this be so, the differentiat- 

296 Spinoza. 

ing movement is presupposed in the integrating, the 
world of imagination is no longer a mere illusion which 
somehow the mind outlives, a dream from which it 
awakes, but a necessary step in the life of spirit and 
in its 'progress to higher things. Time is not a mere 
subjective deception which passes away, but a form of 
objectivity which it is of the very essence of spirit to 
posit and transcend. It is only by the affirmation and 
negation of time that we can rise to the contemplation 
of things under the form of eternity. The eternal life 
is not that which abstracts from the temporal, but that 
which contains while it annuls it. 

5. The most important question as to Spinoza's doc- 
trine of immortality still remains, and that is the ques- 
tion, not whether the individual mind can in any way 
be said to survive the body, but whether in their 
relation to God there can be said to be any real survival 
of either. The view which we take of man's nature 
implies and must be based on a corresponding view 
of the nature of God. Whatever independence we 
ascribe, to the finite involves as its correlate an idea 
of the infinite which admits of and is the ground 
of that independence. Does Spinoza's idea of God 
admit of and furnish a basis for his doctrine of human 
freedom and immortality? The peculiarity of the view 
of man's nature and destiny which we have now ex- 
plained is that it is just at the point where the limit 
between the finite and infinite vanishes, and where 
indeed there is the strongest reassertion of the doctrine 
that the finite is and is conceived only through the in- 
finite, that instead of being suppressed or indistinguish- 
ably absorbed, the finite mind is represented as attain- 

Individuality iwt obliterated. 297 

ing the most complete individuality and activity. " The 
eternal part of the mind is the understanding through 
which alone we are said to act, the part which we have 
shown to perish is the imagination through which only 
we are said to be passive." 1 The state which consti- 
tutes the supreme or eternal destiny of man is not 
simply that of absolute unity with God, but that in 
which man attains to the consciousness of that unity, 
and in which the distinction between itself and God is 
not only not obliterated but intensified. " The mind as 
eternal has a knowledge of God which is necessarily 
adequate and is fitted to know all those things which 
follow from this knowledge, . . . and the more potent 
any one becomes in this kind of knowledge, the more 
completely is he conscious of himself and of God." ~ 
Xot only is it a state in which the mind has attained 
the maximum of self-originated activity, and therefore 
its highest individual perfection, but with the con- 
sciousness of this comes also the highest joy or blessed- 
ness. For " if joy consists in the transition to a greater 
perfection, assuredly blessedness must consist in the 
mind being endowed with perfection itself." " He 
who knows things by this kind of knowledge passes to 
the highest human perfection, and therefore is affected 
by the highest joy, and that a joy which is accompanied 
by the idea of himself and of his own virtue." 4 Finally, 
all these elements of individual perfection freedom, 
activity, self - consciousness, self - determination are 
summed up in that attitude of mind which Spinoza 
designates "intellectual love," which he defines as "joy 

1 Eth. v. 40, cor. - Eth. v. 31, dein. and mr. 

*"Eth. v. 33, schol. * Etls. v. 27, clem. 

298 Spinoza. 

or delight accompanied by the idea of one's self, and 
therefore by the idea of God as its cause." * The per- 
fection of human nature, in other words, is a state of 
blessedness in which the consciousness of self is not lost 
in God, but actually based on the consciousness of God. 

Can we find in Spinoza's idea of the divine nature 
any room or ground for this conception of the nature 
and destiny of man? The answer must be, that the 
idea of God on which Spinoza's whole system is osten- 
sibly based is one which involves the denial of any 
reality or independence to the finite. It is by negation 
of all individual finite things that that idea is reached. 
It is by abstracting from all distinctions material and 
mental, and even from the distinction of matter and 
mind itself, that we attain to that pure, indeterminate 
unity, that colourless, moveless abstraction of substance 
which is Spinoza's formal conception of the nature of 

But this though formally is not really the idea of 
God on which Spinoza's system rests. What he sought 
to reach was a principle which would constitute the ex- 
planation of man and the world, from which "an infi- 
nite number of things in infinite ways must necessarily 
follow," and from the adequate knowledge of which the 
mind could proceed to the adequate knowledge of the 
nature of things." 2 And though the idea of God which 
he formulates does not constitute such a principle, yet 
in the course of his speculations we find that idea under- 
going various modifications which, if carried out to their 
logical results, would have involved the complete recon- 
struction of his philosophy. 

1 Eth. v. 32, cor. - Etli. ii. 40, sell. 2. 

Jui mortality and Idea of God. 299 

(1.) His constant use of the phrase qiiatenim is really an 
acknowledgment of the inadequacy of the premiss it is 
introduced to qualify an expedient, in other words, for 
surreptitiously reaching results not logically justifiable on 
his own principles. The infinitude Avhich is conceived 
of as pure indetennination would be tampered with if 
any finite existence could be regarded as an expression 
of the essential nature of God; yet Spinoza is not 
content with a barren infinitude an infinitude which 
leaves nature and man unaccounted for. Hence the 
frequent recurrence of such expressions as these : "The 
idea of an individual thing actually existing has God for 
its cause, not in so far as He is infinite, but in so far as 
He is regarded as affected by another idea of an individ- 
ual thing, &c. ; " a " God has this or that idea, not in so 
far as He is infinite, but in so far as He is expressed 
by the nature of the human mind or constitutes the 
essence of the human mind ; " 2 " The intellectual love 
of the mind toward God is the very love with which 
He loves Himself, not in so far as He is infinite, but in 
*> far as He can be expressed by the essence of the 
human mind conceived under the form of eternity." a 
The infinite can never be expressed by a nature which 
is nothing but the negation of the infinite. Yet this 
inevitable conclusion Spinoza will not let himself ac- 
knowledge. The whole moral use and value of his 
philosophy would vanish if man could not find the 
origin and end of his being in God, and so the self- 
contained, self-identical infinite must break through its 
isolation and reveal itself in the essence of the human 
mind. How or on what philosophical ground this rev- 
i Eth. ii. 9. 2 Eth. ii. 11, cor. 3 Eth. v. 36. 

300 Spinoza. 

elation is to be conceived Spinoza does not attempt 
to explain ; but to speak of " God in so far as He 
is expressed by the human mind," or of the human 
mind as surviving in its individuality "in so far as God 
can be expressed by its essence under the form of 
eternity," would be to employ words without meaning 
if this " in so far " did not point to something positive 
and real in the nature of God. To say that a thing 
exists or survives in so far as the divine idea is ex- 
pressed in it, would be absurd if Spinoza believed that the 
divine idea did not express itself in it at all. The ever- 
recurring phrase must have been to its author something 
more than a transparent artifice or a petitio prindpii. 

(2.) Whilst Spinoza rejects the anthropomorphic idea 
of God as a being who acts on nature from without or 
whose essence contains arbitrary elements after the 
analogy of man's imperfect thought and will, he yet 
constantly ascribes activity to God. An indeterminate 
absolute is a dead and moveless absolute. Whilst 
God's activity cannot proceed from any external cause 
or constraint, but must be the expression of an internal 
necessity, yet He is essentially and eternally active. 
" The omnipotence of God has been from eternity actual, 
and will to eternity remain in the same actuality." 1 
"From God's supreme power or infinite nature an 
infinite number of things in infinite ways that is, all 
things have necessarily flowed forth." 2 And this con- 
ception of the essential productive activity of the divine 
nature is based on the principle that the more reality a 
thing has, the more properties follow therefrom, and 
therefore the infinite nature " has absolutely infinite 
1 Eth. i. 17, sch. 2 ibid. 

Self -Consciousness of God. 301 

attributes, of which each expresses infinite essence in its 
own kind." * The infinite which is the negation of all 
properties or determinations thus becomes the infinite 
which has an infinite number of properties or deter- 

(3.) It is true indeed, as we formerly saw, that the 
properties or attributes which Spinoza ascribes to God he 
is compelled by stress of logic to remove from the nature 
of God or Substance, absolutely viewed, and to regard as 
having an existence only relatively to finite intelligence. 
They are not distinctions which pertain to the divine 
essence as it is in itself, but only distinctions " which the 
understanding perceives as constituting that essence." 
They do not exist, in other words, for or through God's 
own thought, but for or through the thought of finite 
minds. Yet it is to be observed that there are in- 
dications that, however illogically, the attributes had for 
him the significance of absolute and not relative distinc- 
tions in the divine nature ; and further, that it is not 
the human but the divine intelligence in and for which 
he conceived them to exist. "By God," says he, 2 
"I understand a being absolutely infinite that is, 
Substance consisting of infinite attributes of which 
each expresses eternal and infinite essence." "By attri- 
butes of God is to be understood that which expresses 
the essence of the divine Substance." 3 "The attri- 
butes of God which express His eternal essence, express 
at the same time His eternal existence." 4 Further, as 
we have seen, though in his formal doctrine Spinoza 
places thought on a level with extension and all other 

1 Eth. i. 16, dem. 2 Eth. i., def. 6. 

s Eth. i. 19, dem. 4 Eth. i. 20, dem. 

302 Spinoza. 

possible attributes, he really ascribes to the former an 
altogether higher and more comprehensive function. It 
is thought or intelligence in man for which both exten- 
sion and thought exist ; and as all other possible attributes 
exist for some intelligence, not only are the infinitude of 
attributes accompanied each by a parallel attribute of 
thought, but each and all of them exist for thought. 
In this conception of an infinite number of intelligences 
for which the attributes of God exist, Spinoza is hover- 
ing on the brink of the idea of an infinite intelligence 
as not an attribute or distinction outwardly ascribed to 
God, but the principle of distinction in the divine essence 
from which all attributes or distinctions flow. But he 
goes further still than this. Infinite intelligence is for 
him not merely the aggregate of an indefinite number of 
finite minds, it is infinite in a truer sense. For, as 
we have attempted to show, the conception of "the 
absolutely infinite intellect," as one of what Spinoza 
terms "infinite modes," is simply a device by which he 
is unconsciously seeking to introduce into the idea of 
God that element of activity which neither his abstract 
substance nor even its attributes contain. The gulf be- 
tween the moveless infinite and the finite world is thus 
bridged over by an expedient which, ostensibly without 
affecting the indeterminateness of the absolute substance, 
makes it quick with the life of creative thought intro- 
duces into it, in other words, what is virtually the prin- 
ciple of self-consciousness and self-determination. 



THE last word of Spinoza's philosophy seems to be the 
contradiction of the first. Not only does he often fluc- 
tuate between principles radically irreconcilable, but he 
seems to reassert at the close of his speculations what he 
had denied at the beginning. The indeterminate in- 
finite, which is the negation of the finite, becomes the 
infinite, which necessarily expresses itself in the finite, 
and which contains in it, as an essential element, the 
idea of the human mind under the form of eternity. 
The all-absorbing, lifeless substance becomes the God 
who knows and loves Himself and man with an infinite 
" intellectual love." On the other hand, the conception 
of the human mind as but an evanescent mode of the 
infinite substance, whose independent existence is an 
illusion, and which can become one with God only by 
ceasing to be distinguishable from God, yields to that 
of a nature endowed with indestructible individuality, 
capable of knowing both itself and God, and which, in 
becoming one with God, attains to its own conscious 
perfection and blessedness. The freedom of man, which 
is at first rejected as but the ilhision of a being who is 
unconscious of the conditions under which, in body and 
mind, he is fast bound in the toils of an inevitable neces- 

304 Spinoza. 

sity, is reasserted as the essential prerogative of a nature 
which, as knowing itself through the infinite, is no 
longer subjected to finite limitations. The doctrine of a 
final cause or ideal end of existence, which was excluded 
as impossible in a world in which all that is, and as it is, 
is given along with the necessary existence of God, is 
restored in the conception of the human mind as having 
in it, in its rudest experience, the implicit consciousness 
of an infinite ideal, which, through reason and intuitive 
knowledge, it is capable of realising, and of the realisa- 
tion of which its actual life is the process. At the out- 
set, in one word, we seem to have a pantheistic unity in 
which nature and man, all the manifold existences of the 
finite world, are swallowed up ; at the close, an infinite 
self-conscious mind, in which all finite thought and being 
nnd their reality and explanation. 

Is it possible to harmonise these opposite aspects of 
Spinoza's system, and to free it from the inherent weak- 
ness which they seem to involve 1 ? Can we make him 
self-consistent, as many of his interpreters have done, 
only by emphasising one side or aspect of his teaching, 
and ignoring or explaining away all that seems to con- 
flict with it by clearing it of all individualistic elements, 
so as to reduce it to an uncompromising pantheism, or 
by eliminating the pantheistic element as mere scholastic 
surplusage, in order to find in it an anticipation of 
modern individualism and empiricism? 

The answer is, that though Spinoza's philosophy can- 
not, in the form in which he presents it, be freed from 
inconsistency, yet much of that inconsistency is due to 
the limitations of an imperfect logic, and that the philo- 
sophy of a later time has taught us how it is possible to 

Negation and Ecasscrtion of the Finite. 305 

embrace ill one system ideas which in him seem to be 
antagonistic. There is a point of view which he at most 
only vaguely foreshadowed, in which it is possible to 
maintain (1) at once the nothingness of the finite world 
before God and its reality in and through God, and (2) 
the idea of an infinite unity transcending all differences, 
which nevertheless expresses itself in nature and man, 
in all the manifold differences of finite thought and 

1. The negation of the finite by which Spinoza rises 
to the idea of God is, in one sense, an element which en- 
ters into the essence of all spiritual life. But when we 
consider the twofold aspect in which Spinoza himself 
represents this negative movement, that, on the one 
hand, which is involved in the principle that all de- 
termination is negation ; and that, on the other hand, 
which is involved in the rise of the human mind from 
the lower to the higher stages of knowledge, we can 
discern in his teaching an approximation to the idea 
of a negation which is only a step to a higher affirma- 
tion in other words, of that seZ/-negation or self-renun- 
ciation which is the condition of self-realisation in 
the intellectual, the moral, and the religious life. It 
is the condition of the intellectual life. Scientific 
knowledge is the revelation to or in my consciousness 
of a system of unalterable relations, a world of object- 
ive realities which I can neither make nor unmake, 
and which only he who abnegates his individual fancies 
and opinions can apprehend ; and all knowledge rc>t> 
on the tacit presupposition of an absolute truth or 
reason, which is the measure of individual opinion, 
which cannot be questioned without self-contradiction, 

p. xu. u 

which in our very doubts and uncertainties we assume, 
and to which in its every movement the finite intelli- 
gence must surrender itself. The intellectual life is one 
which I can live only by ceasing to assert myself or to 
think my own thoughts, by quelling and suppressing all 
thought that pertains to me as this particular self, and 
identifying myself with an intelligence that is universal 
and absolute. Yet the negation of which we thus speak 
is not an absolute negation. The finite intelligence is 
'not absorbed or lost in the infinite to which it surrenders 
itself. Surrender or subjection to absolute truth is not 
the extinction 'of the finite mind, but the realisation of 
its true life. The life of absolute truth or reason is not 
a life that is foreign to us, but one in which we come to 
our own. The annulling of any life that is separate 
from or opposed to it, is the quickening, the liberation, 
the reassertion of our own intelligence. 

And the same thing is true of the moral life. Here, 
too, it is possible to reconcile Spinoza's denial of any 
reality to the finite in the face of the infinite, with his 
reassertion of its reality in and through the infinite. 
For in the moral life of man negation is ever a necessary 
step to affirmation, it is only through the renunciation 
of the natural life that we rise into the spiritual. The 
natural life is that of the individual regarded as a being 
of natural tendencies, of impulses, instincts, appetites 
which look to nothing beyond their immediate satisfac- 
tion. They pertain to him as this particular self, and 
they seem to point to 1:0 other end than his own private 
pleasure. But man never is a mere individual, or, in 
this sense, a particular self, and his passions are al- 
ways so far transformed by self-consciousness that the 

TJie Jfiu'df iul Hi'/i'/in/i* Lif<\ 307 

attainment of their immediate objects is never their 
complete satisfaction. He has, so to speak, not only 
to satisfy them, but to satisfy himself ; and the self 
he has thus to satisfy is not his own individuality as a 
being separate from others, but a self which is developed 
in him, just in proportion as he makes himself an instru- 
ment to the life of others. Hence it is of the very 
essence of a moral being that to be himself he must 
be more than himself. Shut up within the limits of 
purely isolated satisfactions, infinitely the larger part of 
his nature remains undeveloped. To realise the capaci- 
ties of his own being he must take up into it the life of 
the other members of the social organism. It is in pro- 
portion to the deepening and widening of his sympathies 
that his life grows richer and fuller ; and its ideal purity 
and perfection are conceivable only as the identification 
of himself with a life which is universal and infinite. 
But if this be so, then the higher or spiritual life implies 
the negation of the. lower or natural life. It is impos- 
sible to lead at the same time a life that is merely partic- 
ular and a life that is universal, to be at once boiinded 
by individual impulses, and giving free play to capacities 
that are virtually limitless. In the very act of living 
for others we die to self. And as the intellectual life 
involves the abandonment of all thought that is merely 
our own, so the moral life involves the abnegation of 
all desire, volition, action that begins and ends with the 
will of the individual self. 

Lastly, the religious life is, above all, that which con- 
forms to the idea of self-realisation through self-negation. 
For if true religion is not the appeasing of an alien 
power, or the propitiating of it for the attainment of our 

308 Spinoza. 

own ends, neither can it be the mere prostration of the 
finite before the infinite. With Spinoza we can discern 
that it involves the negation of all that pertains to the 
individual as " a part of nature " ; and yet admit the 
justice of his condemnation of asceticism as a tristi* <.f 
torva superstitio, and of his assertion that joy is itself 
a progress to a greater perfection. We can see a mean- 
ing in the doctrine that finite beings have no existence 
save as vanishing modes of the divine substance, and 
at the same time in the seemingly contradictory doc- 
trine that the self-affirming impulse, Avhich is the very 
essence of the finite, reaches its highest activity in abso- 
lute union with God. We can perceive, in one word, 
how the negation of the finite before God, may be the 
beginning of a process which ends with the reafiirmation 
of the finite in and through God. 

2. Finally, this negation and reaffirmation of the 
finite through the infinite involves a correlative con- 
ception of the divine nature which harmonises elements 
that in Spinoza appear to be irreconcilable. The unity 
which transcends and the unity which comprehends all 
the differences of the finite world; the God who is at 
once absolutely undetermined and infinitely determined, 
beyond whom is no reality, yet from whom an infinite 
number of things in infinite ways necessarily proceeds, 
who must be conceived of as the negation of finite 
thought and being, yet who expresses or reveals Him- 
self in nature and in the human mind, is there any 
point of view from which ideas so discordant can be 
harmonised 1 Can thought compass a conception which 
will read a meaning at once into the featureless, move- 
less infinite whose eternal repose no breath of living 

Idea, of God. 309 

thought or feeling can disturb, and into the infinite, 
who knows and loves Himself in His creatures with an 
infinite " intellectual love " ? The answer is, that what 
Spinoza was feeling after tlrrough all these contradictory 
expressions, is to be found in the conception of God as 
absolute Spirit. For when we examine what this con- 
ception means, we shall find that it includes at once what 
Spinoza sought in the unity which lies beyond all deter- 
minations and in the unity which is itself the source of 
all the determinations of the finite world. All philosophy 
must rest on the presupposition of the ultimate unity of 
knowing and being on the principle, in other words, that 
there is in the intelligible universe no absolute or irre- 
concilable division, no element which in its hard, irredu- 
cible independence is incapable of being embraced in 
the intelligible totality or system of things. All the 
manifold distinctions of things and thoughts must be so 
conceived of as to be capable of being comprehended 
in one organic whole capable, that is, in the utmost 
diversity that can be ascribed to them, of being brought 
back to unity. All philosophy, moreover, which is not 
atheistic, must find that ultimate unity in the idea of 
God. Without rending the universe and falling into 
dualism, whatever reality and independence are ascribed 
to nature and man, that reality and independence must 
not only have its source in God, but must not be pressed 
beyond the point at which it is still consistent with the 
relation of all things to God. To say that God is abso- 
lutely infinite, is to say that in His nature must be con- 
tained a reason for the existence of the finite world, 
and also that nothing in the finite world can have or 
retain any existence or reality that is outside of God. 

310 Spinoza. 

What this implies is an idea of the nature of God as 
a unity which reveals, yet maintains and realises, itself 
in all the distinctions of the finite world. Xow the 
one idea which perfectly fulfils this condition is that 
of God as infinite, self-conscious Spirit. For only in 
thought or self-consciousness have we a unity whose 
nature it is to be infinitely determined, yet which in 
all its determinations never goes beyond itself, but in 
all this multiplicity and variety is only and ever real- 
ising itself. Of this unity we find the type, though 
only the imperfect type, in our own minds. The philo- 
sophic interpretation of the world may be said to be 
uhe application to nature and man of a principle with 
whose action we are conversant in our own intelligence. 
It is of the very nature of thought to reveal itself, to 
give itself objectivity, to discover to itself its own in- 
herent wealth by going forth to objects that are opposed 
to, and in one sense external and foreign to itself. 
Mind or intelligence is no abstract, self-contained identity, 
having its whole reality in its own self-included being. 
A consciousness that is conscious of nothing, a think- 
ing subject which opposes to itself no external object, 
is a mere blank, an abstraction which has no reality. 
Without a world of objects in time and space, without 
other kindred intelligences, without society and his- 
tory, without the ever-moving mirror of the external 
world, consciousness could never exist, mind could 
never awaken from the slumber of unconsciousness and 
become aware of itself. But it is also of the very 
nature of mind in all this endless objectivity to main- 
tain itself. The self that thinks is never borne away 
from or lost to itself and its own oneness in the 

God and the Worla. 311 

objects of its thought. It is the qne constant in their 
ever-changing succession, the indivisible unity whose pres- 
ence to them reclaims them from chaos. But further, 
it not only maintains but realises itself in and through 
the objects it contemplates. They are its own objects. 
If it begins by opposing the world to itself, its next 
movement is to retract the opposition, to annul the 
seeming foreignness, to find itself therein. Knowledge 
is a revelation, not simply of the world to the observ- 
ing mind, but of the observing mind to itself. Those 
unchangeable relations which we call laws of nature are 
nothing foreign to thought; they are rational or intel- 
ligible relations, discoveries to the intelligence that 
grasps them of a realm that is its own, of which in the 
very act of apprehending them it comes into possession. 
And still more do our social relations in the family, the 
community, the state, become to us a revelation of our- 
selves, a revelation of a life which, though in one sense 
other and larger than our own, is still our own. Thus 
the whole process of knowledge is a gradual annulling 
by the mind of that self-externality which is thought's 
first attitude towards the outward world, and a gradual 
self-creation or realisation of its own content. Con- 
sciousness, in other words, through the mediation of 
externality realises itself or becomes self-consciousness. 

Xow the principle with whose action in our own 
consciousness we are thus conversant is one which is 
applicable, not simply to our intelligence, but to all 
intelligence, and above all to that intelligence of which 
our own is the highest finite expression. It is the 
essential characteristic of spirit as spirit to be object to 
itself, to go forth into objectivity and return upon itself. 

312 Spinoza. 

To conceive of God as an abstract, self-identical infinite 
would be to make Him not greater but less than finite 
intelligence less by all that spiritual wealth which is 
involved in our relations to nature and man. The 
abstract or merely quantitative infinite excludes the 
consciousness of any existence other than itself. It 
can remain " secure of itself " only by the reduction of 
all finite thought and being to unreality and illusion. 
But the infinitude which is preserved only by the ab- 
solute negation of the finite world is a barren infinitude. 
Its greatness is the greatness of a metaphysical figment, 
the greatness which is attained by leaving out from it 
all those elements of life and thought and love which 
constitute the wealth of a spiritual nature. On the 
other hand, an infinite whose essence is intelligence or 
self-consciousness, whilst it contains in it the necessity of 
relation to a finite world, is not limited by that necessity. 
For in so conceiving of it, as we have seen, the limitation 
we ascribe to it is a limitation which is the medium of 
its own self-realisation a going forth from itself which 
is no lessening or loss, but only a step in the process by 
which it returns upon itself in a complete fulness of 
being. Viewed in the light of this conception, nature 
and man are neither severed from God nor lost in God, 
but have all their significance as expressing or manifest- 
ing God. The external world, instead of being deprived 
of reality, is endowed with that highest reality which 
arises from this, that from the lowest inorganic matter 
to the highest forms of organic life, reason or thought 
underlies it ; and that ideal unity of nature which 
science partially discloses, which art, by its imaginative 
creations, foreshadows, is only then clearly apprehended 

Infinite Spirit. 313 

when we recognise it as the unity of one spiritual prin- 
ciple, one infinite self-consciousness which goes forth to 
the utmost verge of self-externality in a world that exists 
under the conditions of space and time, yet in all this 
manifold objectivity remains ever one with itself. Above 
all, in the light of this idea of God as infinite Spirit we 
can see how man has a being and reality of his own, 
which yet is no limit to the nature of God, but the only 
medium of its complete manifestation. For only in the 
communication of its own life to kindred intelligence is 
there what can be termed, in the full sense of the word, 
a revelation of the Being whose nature is thought and 
love. Only in its relation to finite intelligence do we 
see the veil removed from that twofold movement that 
going forth from itself and return upon itself which is 
the very life of infinite Spirit Only in man does the 
divine Spirit go forth from itself ; for what God gives 
to man is nothing less than Himself, a reproduction of 
His own nature, a participation in His own life and 
In 'ing. Thought, indeed, in us is limited in this sense, 
that the knowable world exists independently of our 
knowledge of it, and that there are boundless possibilities 
of knowledge which for us have not become actual ; but 
in the very fact that thought or self-consciousness can be 
limited by nothing which lies outside of itself, that every 
conceivable advance in knowledge is only a realisation of 
ourselves, and that the very consciousness of our limits 
implies that there is that in us which transcends them 
in this lies the proof that it is of the essence of finite 
spirit to share in the infinitude from which it springs. 
Yet in this communication of Himself to man there is no 
outflow from the infinite source which does not return 

31 4 Spinoza. 

upon itself. Without life in the life of others spirit 
would not be truly spirit. In spiritual life, giving and 
receiving, loss and gain, self-surrender and self-enrich- 
ment are ideas which implicate and pass into each other. 
Infinite intelligence is not limited but fulfilled by the 
existence of finite, for, as we have seen, it is the charac- 
teristic of the latter that to realise itself it must abnegate 
itself. To renounce every thought and volition that is 
merely its own, to become the transparent medium of 
the infinite mind and will, to be conscious of its dis- 
tinction from God only that it may return into indivisible 
unity with God this is its only possible way to self- 
realisation. For this self-abnegation, rightly interpreted, 
is not the subjugation of the finite intelligence to an out- 
ward and absolute authority, but it reaches its perfection 
when the thought and will to which it surrenders itself 
is recognised as its own in it as well as above it ; when 
it is not two concurrent voices that speak in its thought, 
but the one voice of infinite reason ; when duty has ceased 
to be self-denial, and the dictates of the absolute will 
blend indivisibly witli the affirmation of its own. In so 
far as this ideal is realised it may be said that in the 
utmost activity of the spiritual life in man God never 
breaks through the charmed circle of His own infinitude. 
It is His own knowledge that is reflected in the human 
mind, His own love that comes back upon Him through 
the channel of human hearts. It is not the finite as 
finite which God knows and loves, nor the finite as 
finite which seeks to be known and loved, but the 
finite which is transfigured with an infinite element, the 
finite that is not a thing of time, but that is and knows 
itself under the form of eternity. We have here a point 

Unity of I-njimrr. ami Finite. 315 

of view in which the contradictions under which Spinoza's 
thought seems ever to labour can be regarded as the acci- 
dents of an unconscious struggle after a deeper principle 
in which they are solved and harmonised. In the light 
of that principle we can speak with him of an indeter- 
minate and infinite unity in which all finite distinctions 
lose themselves, and with him we can see that there is 
no paradox in the assertion that "he who loves God 
does not desire that God should love him in return." 
We can discern at the same time a profound meaning 
in those apparently mystical utterances in which he seems 
to gather up the final result of his speculation " God 
loves Himself with an infinite intellectual love ; " " God 
in so far as He loves Himself loves man ; " " the intel- 
lectual love of the mind to God is part of the infinite 
love whereAvith God loves Himself ; " " the love of God 
to man and the intellectual love of man to God are one 
and the same." 




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