Selection from – Ethics – Part III. On the Nature and Origin of the Emotions (Page 1)

Spinoza's Words: (preface to Part III – human emotions are part of nature)

Most writers on the emotions and on human conduct seem to be treating rather of matters outside nature than of natural phenomena following nature's general laws. They appear to conceive man to be situated in nature as a kingdom within a kingdom: for they believe that he disturbs rather than follows nature's order, that he has absolute control over his actions, and that he is determined solely by himself.

They attribute human infirmities and fickleness, not to the power of nature in general, but to some mysterious flaw in the nature of man, which accordingly they bemoan, deride, despise, or, as usually happens, abuse: he, who succeeds in hitting off the weakness of the human mind more eloquently or more acutely than his fellows, is looked upon as a seer. Still there has been no lack of very excellent men (to whose toil and industry I confess myself much indebted), who have written many noteworthy things concerning the right way of life, and have given much sage advice to mankind. But no one, so far as I know, has defined the nature and strength of the emotions, and the power of the mind against them for their restraint.


Spinoza begins his book about emotions by declaring that humans are part of nature and emotions are a natural phenomena. Further, he maintains writers on this subject decry and deride supposed flaws in the human character as lack of self-control. He also notes that many before him have spoken well concerning ethics but they haven't dwelt with the nature and strength of human emotions.