Selection from – Ethics – Part I. Appendix (Page 10)

Spinoza's Words: (Order and disorder do not exist in Nature - only necessity)

Having shown that evil in the world forces the feeble excuse from believers that their God's action is "beyond human understanding" Spinoza continues his Appendix to Part I with other attacks against a purposeful universe and the arguments for religion.

Everything in nature proceeds from a sort of necessity, and with the utmost perfection.

However, I will add a few remarks, in order to overthrow this doctrine of a final cause utterly. The followers of this doctrine have imported a new method of argument —namely, a reduction to ignorance.

For example, if a stone falls from a roof on to someone's head, and kills him, they will demonstrate by their new method, that the stone fell in order to kill the man. Perhaps you will answer that the event is due to the facts that the wind was blowing, and the man was walking that way. "But why," they will insist, "was the wind blowing, and why was the man at that very time walking that way?" If you again answer, that the wind had then sprung up because the sea had begun to be agitated the day before, the weather being previously calm, and that the man had been invited by a friend, they will again insist: "But why was the sea agitated, and why was the man invited at that time?" So they will pursue their questions from cause to cause, till at last you take refuge in the will of God—in other words, the sanctuary of ignorance. So, again, when they survey the frame of the human body, they are amazed; and being ignorant of the causes of so great a work of art, conclude that it has been fashioned, not mechanically, but by divine and supernatural skill.

When men are ignorant of the true causes of things they take refuge in the idea that their God did it. The, Spinoza calls this "an argument from ignorance." Note that he says that the intricacy of the human body is the result of natural causes, a position Charles Darwin advocated 190 years later.

Hence anyone who seeks for the true causes of miracles, and strives to understand natural phenomena as an intelligent being, and not to gaze at them like a fool, is set down and denounced as an impious heretic. by those, whom the masses adore as the interpreters of nature and the gods. Such persons know that, with the removal of ignorance, the wonder which forms their only available means for proving and preserving their authority would vanish also. But I now quit this subject, and pass on to my third point.

Here Spinoza males the point that the interpreters of nature and the gods (the priests) would lose their power if miracles where intelligently examined.

After men persuaded themselves, that everything which is created is created for their sake they were bound to form abstract notions for the explanation of the nature of things, such as goodness, badness, order, confusion, warmth, cold, beauty, deformity, and so on... Everything which conduces to health and the worship of God they have called good, everything which hinders these objects they have styled bad;

Such persons firmly believe that there is an order in things. When phenomena are of such a kind, that the impression they make on our senses requires little effort of imagination, and can consequently be easily remembered, we say that they are well-ordered. If the contrary, that they are ill-ordered or confused.

Further, as things which are easily imagined are more pleasing to us, men prefer order to confusion – and say that God has created all things in order; thus, without knowing it, attributing imagination to God. If this be their theory, they would not be daunted by the fact that we find an infinite number of phenomenas which confound its weakness. But enough has been said on this subject.


The common man's estimate of the worth of things is held by Spinoza to be a matter of his own predilections. They are based on the notion that the world was created for mankind's benefit. Spinoza goes further and suggests that the order or disorder we see in the universe depends on our perception. Disorder is the name we give to phenomena that are not easily understood by us. As he sees the world there can be no disorder in Nature.