Selection from – Ethics – Part V. On the Power of the Intellect; or of Human Freedom (Page 14)

Spinoza's Words: (of the way forward- conclusion)

I have thus completed all I wished to set forth touching the mind's power over the emotions and the mind's freedom. Whence it appears, how potent is the wise man, and how much he surpasses the ignorant man, who is driven only by his lusts. For the ignorant man is not only distracted in various ways by external causes without ever gaining the true acquiescence of his spirit, but moreover lives, as it were unwitting of himself, and of (Deus sive Natura), and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, ceases also to be.

Whereas the wise man, in so far as he is regarded as such, is scarcely at all disturbed in spirit, but, being conscious of himself, and of (Deus sive Natura), and of things, by a certain eternal necessity, never ceases to be, but always possesses true acquiescence of his spirit.

If the way which I have pointed out as leading to this result seems exceedingly hard, it may nevertheless be discovered. Needs must it be hard, since it is so seldom found. How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.


Thus Spinoza finished his great work; in confidence that he had found the way of life he wanted and had left instructions for others who might desire to follow. Still he acknowledged that the journey to mental freedom is not an easy one.

What is really great about Spinoza

if we cannot follow or agree with every statement or proof made by Spinoza it does not lessen our admiration for his effort to help us understand the world. He had a very different set of initial understandings. We start from a different place. Our knowledge base is so much greater than his that it is truly startling that so much of what he said in 1665 is meaningful today.

For me there are three underlying themes the reverberate though Spinoza's Ethics and make it so important. One is his insistence on the unity of the natural world which includes the necessity of accepting its Laws and the complete rejection of other worldly supernaturalism.

Second, his call to use that which distinguishes our species – our ability to reason. Lastly, his insight that the basic motive of human actions is the primeval urge to continue to exist. This last means not existence in the narrow sense as simply to live in time but a much broader reasoned view. We exist as emotional creatures caring for things, and what we care for and the actions we take as a result of that caring determine who and what we are.

In the next to last paragraph of the Ethics he says that the wise man "never ceases to be." What does he mean? Is he at the end hinting at some kind of immortality? I will deal with this on a separate page to follow.