Selection from – Ethics – Part III. On the Nature and Origin of the Emotions (Page 11)

Spinoza's Words: (on feeling good while doing good)

Proposition. XXX. If anyone has done something which he conceives as affecting other men pleasurably, he will be affected by pleasure, accompanied by the idea of himself as cause; in other words, he will regard himself with pleasure. On the other hand, if he has done anything which he conceives as affecting others painfully, he will regard himself with pain.

Note.—As love is pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause, and hatred is pain accompanied by the idea of an external cause; the pleasure and pain in question will be a species of love and hatred. But, as the terms love and hatred are used in reference to external objects, we will employ other names for the emotions now under discussion: pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause we will style Honour, and the emotion contrary thereto we will style Shame... Again, as it may happen that the pleasure, wherewith a man conceives that he affects others, may exist solely in his own imagination, and as everyone endeavours to conceive concerning himself that which he conceives will affect him with pleasure, it may easily come to pass that a vain man may be proud and may imagine that he is pleasing to all, when in reality he may be an annoyance to all.


It feels good to do good. It hurts to give others pain. Today we call a person who enjoys inflicting pain on others inhuman or mentally deranged.

Spinoza clarifies his terms; calling honor and shame variations of love and hate that are not related to external objects, as they are, but refer rather to causes that result in a person's feelings of pleasure or pain. He adds that it is possible for a person to feel he is doing good but it can be his self-enhancing imagination because, in reality, his actions may be a pain in the butt to others.