by Benedikts Spinoza

Other authorsVilnis Zariņš (Foreword), Brigita Cīrule (Translator)
Hardcover, 1998



Call number



[Rīga] : Zvaigzne ABC, [1998].


"Published shortly after his death in 1677, Ethics is undoubtedly Spinoza?s greatest work: a fully cohesive philosophical system that strives to provide a coherent picture of reality and to comprehend the meaning of an ethical life. Following a logical step-by-step format, it defines in turn the nature of God, the mind, human bondage to the emotions, and the power of understanding, moving from a consideration of the eternal to speculate upon humanity's place in the natural order, freedom, and the path to attainable happiness. A powerful work of elegant simplicity, Ethics is a brilliantly insightful consideration of the possibility of redemption through intense thought and philosophical reflection."--P. [4] of cover.

Media reviews

Beskrivelse: Verket er bygget opp rundt læresetninger, bevis og anmerkninger. Det er inndelt i fem deler som handler om Gud, om sjelens natur og opprinnelse, om følelsenes opprinnelse og natur, om menneskelig slaveri eller følelsenes makt og om hvordan fornuften kan frigjøre mennesket. Dette er Spinozas hovedverk. Bokas innledning setter verket inn i sin sammenheng.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
According to the introduction, “Baruch Spinoza, who wrote in the mid-seventeenth century, has been considered the first modern philosopher, for he was the first to write philosophy from a standpoint beyond commitment to any particular religious persuasion. He was also among the first philosophers in modernity to advocate democracy as the best form of government.” The introduction claims he was influenced by Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes as well as such figures of Judaic-Arabic thought as Maimonides. Ethics is Spinoza’s masterpiece--it came to my attention because it was on Good Reading’s list of “100 Significant Books.” In a way though, the title is a misnomer. Ethics, the study of right conduct, is only a small part of the treatise. Rather Ethics treats nearly the entirety of philosophy in its five parts.

The first part, “Concerning God” consists of a proof of God’s existence. It’s one of those ontological arguments, which I find among the most unconvincing of any attempts at a case for God. One of those that thinks the very definition of God is itself proof of existence. There’s a peculiar consequence though of how Spinoza defines God. He believes that a consequence of God’s very perfection is that “neither intellect nor will appertain to God’s nature.” After all, how can a perfect being wish to change any aspect of the universe? If God is infinite, how can he be outside Nature? Thus all is set, God does not and cannot intervene in the universe; there is no room for the supernatural. So Spinoza’s own definition and “proof” of God reduces him to triviality. God is just another word for all that exists--in which case, I don’t get why bother with the concept. (On the other hand, I understand it was precisely this line of argument which helped develop arguments for religious freedom and allowed free thinking, deism, and atheism to come out from hiding.) Part Two, “Of the Nature and Origin of the Mind” was the thorniest to read and understand. The best I can make out, contra Descartes, Spinoza denies any dichotomy between mind and body--both are expressions of an individual.

Part Three, Four, and Five are all closely connected. Part Three “On the Origin and Nature of Emotions” argues that “all emotions are attributed to desire, pleasure or pain” according to “each man’s nature,” recognizing individual differences in tastes and values. At the end he defines various emotions according to this system. Spinoza seems to argue for this being very deterministic, which makes me wonder, why bother with an ethical system at all, if humans are unable to conform to it? This is clarified somewhat in the next two parts, “Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of Emotions” and “Of Human Freedom”--which doesn’t deal with politics as you might think, but with Freedom from those pesky emotions, by “framing a system of right conduct” and developing a habit of conforming to reason. Politics was touched on more in Part Four, where the influence of Hobbes idea of the social contract was obvious.

It was from Section Four that I felt I took away something valuable. Much of the heart of Spinoza’s ethics is very reminiscent to me of Aristotle’s ethics, which established the whole line of “rational ethical egoism” which I find so much more appealing than appeals to disinterested altruism such as Kant’s rule-based “categorical imperative” that calls for conforming to ethical rules without caring about consequences--to yourself or others--or utilitarianism which asks you to calculate the greatest good for the greatest number without caring about tramping on individuals with hobnailed boots. Spinoza, like Aristotle, emphasizes that ethics is about human flourishing and happiness. But what I like about Spinoza, that I don’t remember from Aristotle (who admittedly I haven’t reread in years) is his emphasis on reciprocity and empathy--in other words, the Golden Rule that has been a near universal in moral thinking from Confucius to Jesus: “Every man should desire for others the good which he seeks for himself.” Spinoza recognizing humans flourish best with other humans argues it’s in a person’s self-interest, and makes a person happiest, when consequently people “are just, faithful, and honourable in their conduct.” I like that squaring of the circle of selfishness and altruism.

Mind you, this was difficult, dry reading. Philosophy doesn’t have to be. I found Plato, with his dialogue format and use of metaphor and story quite fun, and Aristotle quite lucid. In comparison to Spinoza's Ethics, Descartes Discourse on Method is easy. Spinoza writes as if he’s setting out a geometry text. His arguments are set out as definitions, axioms, corollaries, postulates, and especially propositions and their proofs. There are, mercifully, notes where he does set out his arguments in a more conventional narrative form, but especially in Part Two, when dealing with such concepts as the relationship between body and mind, and how we know what we know--well, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Plato and Aristotle write as if their audience are ordinary people--Spinoza as if his audience consists of mathematicians, scientists and philosophers. So no, I’m not saying that in giving this a rating Goodreads equates with “Really Liked It” I’m saying this was a fun read, and I can’t even say on first read on my own I felt I fully comprehended and got out of this all that I could. I possibly should have read more about Spinoza by popularizers before tackling this--it was hard going. But Spinoza is definitely a thinker worth encountering.
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LibraryThing member CharlesFerdinand
A difficult book but worth it. And if you try the Latin, it is beautifully written (if even more difficult) It is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. As such it is much more interesting than the rather facile rationalism of Descartes, although Descartes is, of course much easier to understand. Interestingly, the Ethics begins with a thorough examination of human knowledge, and those conclusions actually undermine the basic thesis of the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member mirta
Ethics is a presentation of a monolithic metaphysical system, derived from axioms and definitions. It possesses austere beauty and psychological insight, the latter in the case particularly of Spinoza's enumeration of the basic emotions, the elaboration of these, and his solution to the problems they cause human beings. (Everything in the Ethics is idiosyncratic, but taking that into account this section is at the least interesting and quite possibly accurate about the human condition.) Spinoza invests a lot in the elaboration of his higher metaphysics, relating to his versions of God, man, and nature. After a couple of hundred pages or so establishing all this, in perfect order, on that foundation he deals with political philosophy in just one page. The results is frightening.

At one point Spinoza, by his relentless geometrical method, derives the conclusion that it is perfectly ok for humans to cause serious suffering to animals, because we are somehow, in curious Spinozistic fashion, special. Perhaps, all other things being equal, everything in the Ethics is true even, or can be reconstructed to be truthful. But all other things are never equal and reading this book might a good exercise in understanding that. From high-flown abstract principles to the justification of extremely cruel treatment of animals is a harsh inference.

At the higher level, his idea of body and thought as being just two of limitless modes of what he calls God, and the only two accessible to us (though Spinoza believes he can infer there are more), is very interesting. Einstein said the God he believed in was the Spinozist God. This is a major influence on enlightenment philosophy and a classic statement of the non-existence of free will, a book you should read if you really want to, and pass by without guilt if you don't. I did enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Baruch you beautiful magnificent bastard. Within these two hundred dense pages of Euclidean geometric proofs axioms and postulates you manage to construct an ethical system , upend the traditional conception of monotheistic G-dd, and instead make him synonymous with the Laws of Nature. This is the best last expression of scholastic theology, and one of the most influential and astonishing philsophers of ever. It is a system which is both beautiful in its logic and yet kind and sympathetic in its recognition of the flaws, and refuting the Descartian mind-body dualiity, and yet preeemptivly going after Leibnizs Just World tripe, recognizing the imperfections and nature of human beings yet offering a coherent method to their betterment through reason and Caring For Others - not some empty cliche but instead a necessry outlet for understanding the universe and maintaining positive emotion

As an additional benefit, such a system is comptible with some of the recent materialist neurological discoveries of modern science, stating that the mind can be inlfuenced by the body, and taht we must understand physical causes in order to make progress with the mentl/abstract. We must cultivate our gardens.

Spinoza is the foundations of philosophy and even mysticism and religion for even the most doubtful and venomous of skeptics, offering up the Universe and the Mathematical Laws of Nature instead of the dusty antiquated God of Bronzze Age massacres who demands foreskins for marriage. Perhaps a few others with benefit s of additional centuries of thought might yet construct a more applicable or cogent system but he is the base of it. He has the foundation, our Rock upon which the new Church is to be founded.

(Written in sleep-deprived haze on a trans-Pacific flight. Typos and other mistakes preserved. May write a better review later, but this will serve for now.)
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LibraryThing member ostrom
Difficult, exacting. But I think he got it right.
LibraryThing member pansociety
Formidable reading; but no list of Pantheist thought can be complete without the leading publication by the founder of western Pantheism.
LibraryThing member MarkBeronte
Published shortly after his death in 1677, Ethics is undoubtedly Spinoza’s greatest work—a fully cohesive philosophical system that strives to provide a coherent picture of reality and to comprehend the meaning of an ethical life. Following a logical step-by-step format, it defines in turn the nature of God, the mind, human bondage to the emotions, and the power of understanding, moving from a consideration of the eternal to speculate upon humanity’s place in the natural order, freedom, and the path to attainable happiness. A powerful work of elegant simplicity, Ethics is a brilliantly insightful consideration of the possibility of redemption through intense thought and philosophical reflection.… (more)



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9984046117 / 9789984046112

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