Selection from – On the Improvement of the Understanding (Page 4)

Spinoza's Words: (suggesting that there is something to preserve our being)

I saw that all these ordinary objects of desire would
be obstacles in the way of a search for something different and new...

Further reflection convinced me that if I could really get
to the root of the matter I should be leaving certain evils for a
certain good. All the objects pursued by the multitude not only bring no remedy that tends
to preserve our being, but even act as hindrances, causing the death
not seldom of those who possess them, and always of those who are possessed by them.

There are many examples of men who in pursuit
of wealth have exposed themselves to so many dangers, that they have
paid away their life as a penalty for their folly. Examples are
no less numerous of men, who have endured the utmost wretchedness for
the sake of gaining or preserving their reputation. Lastly,
are innumerable cases of men, who have hastened their death through
over-indulgence in sensual pleasure.


There are two points to be made here. Note the careful logic of Spinoza's explanation of what we know will be his decision. He is going to leave the pursuit of wealth, fame and sensual pleasure behind because he wants to obtain something that will not perish. And note the phrase which will become so important to his ethics – no remedy that tends to preserve our being. The effort to preserve our being is at the heart of Spinoza's ethical position and it is at center of what nature demands.