Selection from – Ethics – Part IV. Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions (Page 17)

Spinoza's Words: (humility and repentance are not virtues)

Proposition LIII. Humility is not a virtue, or does not arise from reason.

Humility is pain arising from a man's contemplation of his own infirmities

Proposition LIV. Repentance is not a virtue, or does not arise from reason; but he who repents of an action is doubly wretched or infirm.

Note.—As men seldom live under the guidance of reason, these two emotions, namely, Humility and Repentance, as also Hope and Fear, bring more good than harm; hence, as we must sin, we had better sin in that direction. For, if all men who are a prey to emotion were all equally proud, they would shrink from nothing, and would fear nothing; how then could they be joined and linked together in bonds of union? The crowd plays the tyrant, when it is not in fear; hence we need not wonder that the prophets, who consulted the good, not of a few, but of all, so strenuously commended Humility, Repentance, and Reverence. Indeed those who are a prey to these emotions may be led much more easily than others to live under the guidance of reason, that is, to become free and to enjoy the life of the blessed.


"As we must sin...." here Spinoza makes us smile. He recognizes the weakness of his fellow humans. Reason tells us that pridefulness is dangerous to society and leaders are correct to encourage humility and repentance. Rational men, however, will not experience this discomfort. They will simply do well and rejoice. They will enjoy their freedom from the bondage of the emotions.