Selection from – Ethics – Part III. On the Nature and Origin of the Emotions (Page 17)

Spinoza's Words: (there are many kinds of pleasure, pain and desires)

Proposition. LVI. There are as many kinds of pleasure, of pain, of desire, and of every emotion compounded of these... as there are kinds of objects whereby we are affected.

Desire is each man's essence or nature; therefore, according as his nature is disposed in this or that manner, so will his desire be of one kind or another, and the nature of one desire must necessarily differ from the nature of another desire.

Note.—Among the kinds of emotions the chief are luxury, drunkenness, lust, avarice, and ambition. By luxury, drunkenness, lust, avarice, ambition, we simply mean the immoderate love of feasting, drinking, venery, riches, and fame. These emotions have no contraries. For temperance, sobriety, and chastity, which we are wont to oppose to luxury, drunkenness, and lust, are not emotions, but indicate a power of the mind which moderates the last-named emotions.

However, I cannot here explain the remaining kinds of emotions, nor, if I could, would it be necessary. It is sufficient for our purpose, namely, to determine the strength of the emotions, and the mind's power over them, to have a general definition of each emotion.

It is sufficient, I repeat, to understand the general properties of the emotions and the mind, to enable us to determine the quality and extent of the mind's power in moderating and checking the emotions. Thus, though there is a great difference between various emotions of love, hatred, or desire, for instance between love felt towards children, and love felt towards a wife, there is no need for us to take cognizance of such differences, or to track out further the nature and origin of the emotions.


As men are vary changeable their desires vary depending, as it does, on the object desired. Spinoza recognizes the variations that exist in emotions as when, for example, we contrast love of children with love toward a wife.

However, what is important for us to understand is the strength and general definition of the emotions and that there is a power of the mind that can moderate them.

In general, it is Spinoza's position that people are in pain because the emotions are in control. We are afflicted with mental anxiety; daily fearing the loss or actually losing those things that we hold dear.