Selection from – Ethics – Part I. Appendix (Page 11)

Spinoza's Words: (men see imperfection because of their lack of understanding)

We need no longer wonder that there have arisen all the controversies we have witnessed... What seems good to one seems bad to another; what seems well ordered to one seems confused to another; what is pleasing to one displeases another, and so on.

I need not further enumerate, because this is not the place to treat the subject at length, and also because the fact is sufficiently well known. It is commonly said: "So many men, so many minds; everyone is wise in his own way.." All of which proverbs show, that men judge of things according to their mental disposition, and rather imagine than understand: for, if they understood phenomena, they would be convinced by what I have urged.

We have now perceived, that all the explanations commonly given of nature are mere modes of imagining, and do not indicate the true nature of anything, but only the constitution of the imagination; and, although they have names, as though they were entities, existing externally to the imagination, I call them entities imaginary rather than real; and, therefore, all arguments against us drawn from such abstractions are easily rebutted.

Many argue in this way. If all things follow from a necessity of the absolutely perfect nature of (Deus sive Natura), why are there so many imperfections in nature? such, for instance, as things corrupt to the point of putridity, loathsome deformity, confusion, evil, sin, &c. But these reasoners are, as I have said, easily confuted... Things are not more or less perfect, according as they delight or offend human senses, or according as they are serviceable or repugnant to mankind.

To those who ask why (Deus sive Natura) did not so create all men, that they should be governed only by reason, I give no answer but this: because matter was not lacking for the creation of every degree of perfection from highest to lowest; or, more strictly, because the laws of nature are so vast, as to suffice for the production of everything conceivable by an infinite intelligence.


To those who have thought that Spinoza was an atheist it should by now be clear that he was not. He believed that an infinite intelligence necessarily existed. The concept that he termed (Deus sive Natura) is so different from the common use of the word God that for any commentator at the time, and for decades after, Spinoza was clearly an unbeliever, hence an atheist. They simply could not follow his conception.

The infinite intelligence that Spinoza speaks of is the cumulative intelligence of this world. He has shown us via Prop. XVIII. (Deus sive Natura) is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things that any intelligence that exists must be in this world. All things are made by the processes of nature. The working out of those processes is a kind of intelligence in that it is a non-random process.

In the section above Spinoza points out that the true understanding of nature is clouded by men's self-preferential imaginings. The perfection of things is not dependent upon human likes and dislikes. And as he has said everything in nature proceeds from a sort of necessity, and with the utmost perfection.