The Ethics of Spinoza : second section

3 min readJan 26, 2021


I like Spinoza.

The text is unambiguous, and Spinoza helps to support the understanding.

The use of the language is simple, clean and clear. I read the text in French, and my familiarity with the French language makes reading enjoyable.

Lots of little definitions make the text a pleasure for the mind. For example, the author specifies that he uses the term concept (which indicates the Spirit’s action) instead of perception (which means what the Spirit suffers from an object). The text begins with definitions and then with axioms. Among the axioms, I like the fourth and fifth: We feel that a body (an entity) is affected (my favourite verb throughout the text) in many ways. We do not feel or perceive any particular thing, except bodies (entities) and thinking ways.

The word God in the text can somewhat disarm the modern reader. This is why I keep my Catholic religious reference at bay while reading. God is the infinite, the eternal, the other, beyond the contingent and the necessary. God’s power to think is equal to the same power to act. We are linked to God by way of ways and attributes, expressed in particular things.

The substance does not belong to the man’s essence, or the substance does not constitute the man’s form.

In the Scolia, Spinoza is more direct and proposes criticisms of the men of the time than him or those who have no time or desire to stop and reflect, to avoid confusion and wrong forms of judgment.

The variety of actions made and experienced by man as physical and emotional activity broadens man’s capacity to contain reality: “However, I say in general that the more an entity is able, concerning others, to act and to suffer in more ways at the same time, the more its Spirit is able, concerning others, to perceive more things at the same time: and the more the actions of a body depend on it alone, and the less other bodies concur with it in action, the more its mind can understand distinctly» (PROPOSITION XIII, SCOLIE)

The reflections about the range of experience make me think, for example, of Goodwin’s studies on archaeology, where the expert can interpret the signs with more ability having a more comprehensive range of situated knowledge.

Similarly, we can see how a composite individual can be affected differently — while preserving his nature in every way. More, there are the man’s tremendous capacities to affect/influence the others, and in multiple ways.

Something more that I liked:

Corollary II

“That the ideas that we have of exterior entities indicate rather the constitution of our entities than the nature of exterior entities.»

It stresses the glasses’ metaphor in interpreting reality, shaped by the time, space, context, and, for these long consolidates connections, so tricky to be aware. It is the invisible elephant in the room, where the room is our mind. Indeed, Spinoza says that memory is nothing else that a specific chain of ideas envelopes the nature of things outside the human body. This chain takes place in the mind according to the order and chain of events affecting the body.



The human mind perceives not only the affections of the body but also the ideas of these affections.


The mind does not know itself except in so far as it perceives the ideas of the body’s affections.

The intertwining is between knowledge, imagination, truth and falsity: Spinoza weaves his web of concepts. We, as readers, fall into his vision, letting ourselves be bitten.

In practice, Spinoza invites us to warn against our own thinking and to adopt a geometric/rational/reflective system to make free and proper conceptual distinctions: “So this idea of their freedom, it is that they don’t know any cause for their actions…




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