Sixteen Quotes by Spinoza (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes by Spinoza. These quotes are all genuine and details about the book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Quotes that begin with a section of bold text are my personal favourites. Without further ado, here are sixteen philosophical quotes by Spinoza:

Just as men, in the beginning, were able to make the easiest things with the tools they were born with (however laboriously and imperfectly), and once these had been made, made other, more difficult things with less labor and more perfectly, and so, proceeding gradually from the simplest works to tools, and from tools to other works and tools, reached the point where they accomplished so many and so difficult things with little labor, in the same way the intellect, by its inborn power makes intellectual tools for itself, by which it acquires other powers for other intellectual works, and from these works still other tools, or the power of searching further, and so proceeds by stages, until it reaches the pinnacle of wisdom.

– Spinoza, The Emendation of the Intellect, trans. E. Curley

The attempt, however, to show that nature does nothing in vain (that is to say, nothing which is not profitable to man), seems to end in showing that nature, the gods, and man are alike mad.

– Spinoza, Ethics, I, Appendix, trans. W. H. White

The human mind is a part of the infinite intellect of God, and therefore, when we say that the human mind perceives this or that thing, we say nothing else than that God has this or that idea—not indeed insofar as He is infinite, but insofar as He is manifested through the nature of the human mind, or insofar as He forms the essence of the human mind.

– Spinoza, Ethics, II, Prop. 11, Corol., trans. W. H. White

Men are deceived because they think themselves free, and the sole reason for thinking so is that they are conscious of their own actions and ignorant of the causes by which those actions are determined.

– Spinoza, Ethics, II, Prop. 35, Schol., trans. W. H. White

It will doubtless seem a marvelous thing for me to endeavor to treat by a geometrical method the vices and follies of men. … The following is my reason for so doing. Nothing happens in nature which can be attributed to any vice of nature, for she is always the same and everywhere one. Her virtue is the same, and her power of acting—that is to say, her laws and rules, according to which all things are and are changed from form to form—are everywhere and always the same. So there must also be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever—that is to say, by the universal laws and rules of nature.

– Spinoza, Ethics, III, Introduction, trans. W. H. White

We do not desire a thing because we adjudge it to be good, but, on the contrary, we call it good because we desire it, and consequently everything to which we are averse we call evil. Each person, therefore, according to his affect judges or estimates what is good and what is evil, what is better and what is worse, and what is the best and what is the worst. Thus the covetous man thinks plenty of money to be the best thing and poverty the worst. The ambitious man desires nothing like glory, and on the other hand dreads nothing like shame. To the envious person, again, nothing is more pleasant than the misfortune of another, and nothing more disagreeable than the prosperity of another. And so each person according to his affect judges a thing to be good or evil, useful or useless.

– Spinoza, Ethics, III, Prop. 39, Schol., trans. W. H. White

With regard to good and evil, these terms indicate nothing positive in things considered in themselves. … For one and the same thing may at the same time be both good and evil or indifferent. Music, for example, is good to a melancholy person, bad to one mourning, while to a deaf man it is neither good nor bad. But although things are so, we must retain these words. For since we desire to form for ourselves an idea of man upon which we may look as a model of human nature, it will be of service to us to retain these expressions in the sense I have mentioned. By good, therefore, I understand … everything which we are certain is a means by which we may approach nearer and nearer to the model of human nature we set before us. By evil, on the contrary, I understand everything which we are certain hinders us from reaching that model.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Preface, trans. W. H. White

To act absolutely in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting according to the laws of our own proper nature. But only insofar as we understand do we act. Therefore, to act in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting, living, and preserving our being as reason directs, and doing so from the ground of seeking our own profit.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 24, Demonstration, trans. W. H. White

The highest good of the mind is the knowledge of God, and the highest virtue of the mind is to know God.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 28, trans. W. H. White

He who wishes to avenge injuries by hating in return does indeed live miserably. But he who, on the contrary, strives to drive out hatred by love fights joyfully and confidently, with equal ease resisting one man or a number of men and needing scarcely any assistance from fortune. Those whom he conquers yield gladly, not from defect of strength, but from an increase of it.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 46, Schol., trans. W. H. White

A man who lives according to the dictates of reason endeavors as much as possible to prevent himself from being touched by pity.

The man who has properly understood that everything follows from the necessity of the divine nature and comes to pass according to the eternal laws and rules of nature will in truth discover nothing which is worthy of hatred, laughter, or contempt, nor will he pity anyone, but, so far as human virtue is able, he will endeavor to do well, as we say, and to rejoice. We must add also that a man who is easily touched by the affect of pity and is moved by the misery or tears of another often does something of which he afterward repents, both because from an affect we do nothing which we certainly know to be good, and also because we are so easily deceived by false tears. But this I say expressly of the man who lives according to the guidance of reason. For he who is moved neither by reason nor by pity to be of any service to others is properly called inhuman, for he seems to be unlike a man.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 50, Corol.; Schol., trans. W. H. White

Shame, although it is not a virtue, is nevertheless good, insofar as it shows that a desire of living uprightly is present in the man who is possessed with shame, just as pain is called good insofar as it shows that the injured part has not yet putrefied. A man, therefore, who is ashamed of what he has done, although he is sorrowful, is nevertheless more perfect than the shameless man who has no desire of living uprightly.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 58, Schol., trans. W. H. White

It will easily be seen in what consists the difference between a man who is led by affect or opinion alone and one who is led by reason. The former, whether he wills it or not, does those things of which he is entirely ignorant, but the latter does the will of no one but himself and does those things only which he knows are of greatest importance in life and which he therefore desires above all things. I call the former, therefore, a slave, and the latter free.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Prop. 66, Schol., trans. W. H. White

There is nothing by which a person can better show how much skill and talent he possesses than by so educating men that at last they will live under the direct authority of reason.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Appendix IX, trans. W. H. White

Human power is very limited and is infinitely surpassed by the power of external causes. … Nevertheless, we shall bear with equanimity those things which happen to us contrary to what a consideration of our own profit demands, if we are conscious that we have performed our duty, that the power we have could not reach so far as to enable us to avoid those things, and that we are a part of the whole of nature, whose order we follow.

– Spinoza, Ethics, IV, Appendix XXXII, trans. W. H. White

Everyone endeavors as much as possible to make others love what he loves and to hate what he hates … and so we see that each person by nature desires that other persons should live according to his way of thinking. But if everyone does this, then all are a hindrance to one another, and if everyone wishes to be praised or beloved by the rest, then they all hate one another.

– Spinoza, Ethics, V, Prop. 18, trans. W. H. White

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