Selection from – Ethics – Part V. On the Power of the Intellect; or of Human Freedom (Page 2)

Spinoza's Words: (understanding of the necessity of things gives the mind power)

Proposition VI. The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.

Note.—The more that the knowledge, that things are necessary, is applied to particular things the greater is the power of the mind over the emotions, as experience testifies. For we see, that the pain arising from the loss of any good is mitigated, as soon as the man who has lost it perceives, that it could not by any means have been preserved.

So also we see that no one pities an infant, because it cannot speak, walk, or reason, or lastly, because it passes so many years, as it were, in unconsciousness. Whereas, if most people were born full-grown and only one here and there as an infant, everyone would pity the infants; because infancy would not then be looked on as a state natural and necessary, but as a fault or delinquency in Nature; and we may note several other instances of the same sort.


This is an odd sort of note. The sentences about infant inabilties come as surprise.

Reason tells us that nature just is; that it is not good or bad. Some things, like death, are necessary in the sense that death is part of the order of things. In the note Spinoza says that our life experience tells us that understanding that fact helps the mind cope with such thoughts. If a person knows that nothing can be done to prevent a bad thing from happening the painful emotion when it does happen is reduced.