Selection from – Ethics – Part IV. Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions (Page 20)

Spinoza's Words: (a rational man lives more freely under law of society than alone)

Proposition LXXIII. The man, who is guided by reason, is more free in a State, where he lives under a general system of law, than in solitude, where he is independent.

The man, who is guided by reason, does not obey through fear but, in so far as he endeavours to preserve his being according to the dictates of reason, that is he endeavours to live in freedom, he desires to order his life according to the general good and, consequently to live according to the laws of his country. Therefore the free man, in order to enjoy greater freedom, desires to possess the general rights of citizenship.

Note.—These and similar observations, which we have made on man's true freedom, that every man should desire for others the good which he seeks for himself. We may also repeat that the strong man has ever first in his thoughts, that all things follow from the necessity of the divine nature; so that whatsoever he deems to be hurtful and evil, assumes that appearance owing to his own disordered, fragmentary, and confused view of the universe.

Wherefore he strives before all things to conceive things as they really are, and to remove the hindrances to true knowledge, such as are hatred, anger, envy, derision, pride, and similar emotions, which I have mentioned above. Thus he endeavours as far as in him lies, to do good, and to go on his way rejoicing. How far human virtue is capable of attaining to such a condition, and what its powers may be, I will prove in the following Part.


Spinoza has established that a man must have others to live a good life and will want nothing for himself that he does not want for his fellow man. Living with others in harmony under law is, therefore, more conducive to freedom than attempting to live alone.

In the note that follows Spinoza points out that things that are hurtful or evil seem so because of a poor understanding of the necessity of things under natural law. As an example, death, in the light of eternity (sub specie aeternatatus) is part of the process of living and, to the rational mind, not an evil. Do well and rejoice, says Spinoza. He says also that he will explain how that state of mind can be obtained in Part V.