Propositions 1 to 10

by Spinoza Icon
  1. The modifications of body or the images of things are arranged and associated in the body precisely in the same way that the thoughts and the ideas of things are arranged and associated in the mind.

  2. If we remove a disturbance of the spirit, or emotion, from the thought of an external cause, and unite it to other thoughts, then will the love or hatred towards that external cause, and also the vacillations of spirit which arise from these emotions, be destroyed.

  3. An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof. Proof= An emotion, which is a passion, is a confused idea (by the general Def. of the Emotions). If, therefore, we form a clear and distinct idea of a given emotion, that idea will only be distinguished from the emotion, in so far as it is referred to the mind only, by reason (2.21, and note). Therefore (3.3.), the emotion will cease to be a passion. Q.E.D.

Corollary= An emotion therefore becomes more under our control, and the mind is less passive in respect to it, in proportion as it is more known to us.

  1. There is no modification of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception. Proof= Properties which are common to all things can only be conceived adequately (2.38). Therefore (2.12. and Lemma 2 after 2.13.) there is no modification of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception. Q.E.D.

Corollary= Hence it follows that there is no emotion, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception. For an emotion is the idea of a modification of the body (by the general Def. of the Emotions), and must therefore (by the preceding Prop.) involve some clear and distinct conception.

Note= Everything is followed by an effect (1.36),.

We clearly and distinctly understand whatever follows from an idea, which in us is adequate (2.40.). It follows that everyone has the power of clearly and distinctly understanding himself and his emotions, if not absolutely, at any rate in part. Consequently, he should become less subject to them by bringing it about. Therefore to attain this result, we must chiefly direct our efforts to acquiring , as far as possible, a clear and distinct knowledge of every emotion,so that the mind may thus, through emotion, be determined to think of those things which it clearly and distinctly perceives, and wherein it fully acquiesces. Thus, the emotion itself may be separated from the thought of an external cause, and may be associated with true thoughts. From where it will come to pass that= love, hatred, etc. will be destroyed (5.2.), and and the desires, which arise from such emotions, will not be excessive (4.41.). It must be especially remarked, that a person’s active and passive desire is one and the same. For instance, everyone wants his fellow man to live after his own fashion (3.31. note). In a man not guided by reason, this appetite is called ‘ambition’. It does not greatly differ from pride. Whereas in a wise man, it is an activity or virtue called piety (4.37. note. 1. and second proof). Similarly, all appetites or desires are only passions, as they spring from inadequate ideas. The same results are accredited to virtue, when they are aroused or generated by adequate ideas. For all desires, whereby we are determined to any given action, may arise as much from adequate as from inadequate ideas (4.59.). Than this remedy for the emotions (to return to the point from which I started), which consists in a true knowledge thereof, nothing more excellent, being within our power, can be devised. For the mind has no other power save that of thinking and of forming adequate ideas, as we have shown above (3.3.).

  1. An emotion towards a thing, which we conceive simply, and not as necessary, or as contingent, or as possible, is, other conditions being equal, greater than any other emotion.

  2. 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 this knowledge, that things are necessary, is applied to particular things, which we conceive more distinctly and vividly, the greater is the power of the mind over the emotions, as experience also 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.

  3. Emotions which are aroused or spring from reason, if we take account of time, are stronger than those, which are attributable to particular objects that we regard as absent.

  4. An emotion is stronger in proportion to the number of simultaneous concurrent causes whereby it is aroused.

  5. So long as we are not assailed by emotions contrary to our nature, we have the power of arranging and associating the modifications of our body according to the intellectual order.

Proof= The emotions, which are contrary to our nature, that is (4.30.), which are bad, are bad in so far as they impede the mind from understanding (4.27.).

Note= By this power of rightly arranging and associating the bodily modifications we can guard ourselves from being easily affected by evil emotions.

For (5.7.) a greater force is needed for controlling the emotions, when they are arranged and associated according to the intellectual order, than when they, are uncertain and unsettled. Therefore, the best we can do, so long as we do not possess a perfect knowledge of our emotions, is to frame a system of right conduct, or fixed practical precepts. These will commit it to memory, and to apply it forthwith[16] to our particular circumstances in life, so that our imagination may= become fully imbued with them, and be always ready to our hand. For instance, we have laid down among the rules of life (4.46. and note), that hatred should be overcome with love or high-mindedness, and not required with hatred in return. This precept of reason may be always ready to our hand in time of need. We should often think over and reflect on= the wrongs generally committed by men, and how they may be best warded off by high-mindedness. We shall thus associate the idea of wrong with the idea of this precept, which accordingly will always be ready for use when a wrong is done to us (2.18.).

The wrong, or the hatred, which commonly arises will occupy a very small part of our imagination and will be easily overcome if= we keep ready the notion of=

  • our true advantage, and
  • the good which follows from mutual friendships and common fellowships

We remember=

  • that complete acquiescence is the result of the right way of life (4.52.)
  • that men, no less than everything else, act by the necessity of their nature.

If the anger which springs from a grievous wrong is not overcome easily, it will nevertheless be overcome, though not without a spiritual conflict, far sooner than if we had not thus reflected on the subject beforehand. In the same way, we should from 5.6-5.8 reflect on courage as a means of overcoming fear. Life’s ordinary dangers should frequently be brought to mind and imagined, together with the means whereby we can avoid and overcome them through=

  • readiness of resource and
  • strength of mind.

But we must note, that in arranging our thoughts and conceptions we should always bear in mind that which is good in every individual thing (4.43. Coroll. and 3.59.), in order that we may always be determined to action by an emotion of pleasure. For instance, if a man sees that he is too keen in the pursuit of honour, let him think over=

  • its right use,
  • its end, and
  • the means he may attain it.

Let him not think of=

  • its misuse,
  • its emptiness, and
  • mankind’s fickleness, and the like.

whereof no man thinks except through a morbidness of disposition. With thoughts like these, the most ambitious most torment themselves, when they despair of gaining the distinctions they hanker after. They thus give vent to their anger and would fain to appear wise. Wherefore those, who cry out the loudest against the misuse of honour and the vanity of the world, are those who most greedily covet it. This is not peculiar to the ambitious, but is common to all who are ill-used by fortune, and who are infirm in spirit. For a miserly poor man also will talk incessantly of the misuse of wealth and of the vices of the rich. He merely torments himself in this. He shows the world that he is intolerant of his own poverty and also of other people’s riches. Those who have been ill-received by a woman they love think of nothing but the inconstancy, treachery, and other stock faults of women. They consign all to oblivion, directly they are again taken into favour by their sweetheart.

Thus he who governs his emotions and desires solely by the love of freedom strives to=

  • know the virtues and their causes, and
  • fill his spirit with the joy which arises from their true knowledge.

He will in no wise desire to dwell on men’s faults, or to carp at his fellows, or to revel in a false show of freedom. Whosoever will diligently observe and practise these precepts (which are not difficult) will verily, in a short time, be mostly able to direct his actions according to the commandments of reason.

[16] Continuo. Rendered “constantly” by Mr. Pollock on the ground that the classical meaning of the word does not suit the context.


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