Of the Power of the Understanding or of Human Freedom
Only links, comments, and endnotes are abridged, not Spinoza's Works. 

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

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JBY Notes for Part 5:

5-1. See JBY Notes for Part 1 for notes as applicable.

5-2. Text version.

Latin versions.

5-3. For a "study of the plan of Ethics 5" see Bk.XIX:341.

5-4. For Wolfson's "What is New in Spinoza?" see E5:Bk.XIV:xxvi.

5-5. Wolfson's summary of Part V.



E5 Preface:


Part V Proposition List: Book I:Pg. xix;

 5P1       5P2      5P3      5P4      5P5      5P6      5P7      5P8      5P9    5P10   

5P11    5P12    5P13    5P14    5P15    5P16    5P17    5P18    5P19    5P20    

5P21    5P22    5P23    5P24    5P25    5P26    5P27    5P28    5P29    5P30   

5P31    5P32    5P33    5P34    5P35    5P36 
  5P37    5P38     5P39    5P40   

5P41    5P42   


(5:Prf:1) At length I pass to the remaining portion of my Ethics, which is concerned with the way leading to freedom. (5:Prf:2) I shall therefore treat therein of the power of the reason, showing how far the reason can control the emotions, and what is the nature of Mental Freedom {PcM} or Blessedness; we shall then be able to see, how much more powerful the wise man is than the ignorant. (5:Prf:3) It is no part of my design to point out the method and means whereby the understanding may be perfected, nor to show the skill whereby the body may be so tended, as to be capable of the due performance of its functions. (5:Prf:4) The latter question lies in the province of Medicine, the former in the province of Logic. (5:Prf:5) Here, therefore, I repeat, I shall treat only of the power of the mind, or of reason; and I shall mainly show the extent and nature of its dominion over the emotions, for their control and moderation. (5:Prf:6) That we do not possess absolute dominion <E5:Bk.XV:283note162> over them, I have already shown. (5:Prf:7) Yet the Stoics have thought, that the emotions depended absolutely on our will, and that we could absolutely govern them. (5:Prf:8) But these philosophers were compelled, by the protest of experience, not from their own principles, to confess, that no slight practice and zeal is needed to control and moderate them: and this someone endeavoured to illustrate by the example (if I remember rightly) of two dogs, the one a house-dog and the other a hunting-dog. (5:Prf:9) For by long training it could be brought about, that the house-dog should become accustomed to hunt, and the hunting-dog to cease from running after hares. (5:Prf:10) To this opinion Descartes <E5:Bk.XV:283note162> not a little inclines. (5:Prf:11) For he maintained, that the soul or mind is specially united to a particular part of the brain, namely, to that part called the pineal gland, by the aid of which the mind is enabled to feel all the movements which are set going in the body, and also external objects, and which the mind by a simple act of volition ]willing[ can put in motion in various ways. (Prf:12):245 He asserted, that this gland is so suspended in the midst ]middle[ of the brain, that it could be moved by the slightest motion of the animal spirits: further, that this gland is suspended in the midst of the brain in as many different manners, as the animal spirits can impinge thereon; and, again, that as many different marks are impressed on the said gland, as there are different external objects which impel the animal spirits towards it; whence it follows, that if the will of the soul suspends the gland in a position, wherein it has already been suspended once before by the animal spirits driven in one way or another, the gland in its turn reacts on the said spirits, driving and determining them to the condition wherein they were, when repulsed before by a similar position of the gland. (5:Prf:13) He further asserted, that every act of mental volition ]willing[ is united in nature to a certain given motion of the gland. (5:Prf:14) For instance, whenever anyone desires to look at a remote object, the act of volition causes the pupil of the eye to dilate, whereas, if the person in question had only thought of the dilatation of the pupil, the mere wish to dilate it would not have brought about the result, inasmuch as the motion of the gland {part of the brain}, which serves to impel the animal spirits {electrical signals} towards the optic nerve in a way which would dilate or contract the pupil, is not associated in nature with the wish to dilate or contract the pupil, but with the wish to look at remote or very near objects. (5:Prf:15) Lastly, he maintained that, although every motion of the aforesaid gland seems to have been united by nature to one particular thought out of the whole number of our thoughts from the very beginning of our life, yet it can nevertheless become through habituation associated with other thoughts; this he endeavours to prove in the Passions de l'âme ]Passions of the Soul[ , I. 50. (5:Prf:16) He thence concludes, that there is no soul so weak, that it cannot, under proper direction, acquire absolute power over its passions. (5:Prf:17) For passions as defined by him are "perceptions, or feelings, or disturbances of the soul, which are referred to the soul as species, and which (mark the expression) are produced, preserved, and strengthened through some movement of the spirits." (Passion del l'âme,I.27.) (Prf:18):246 But, seeing that we can join any motion of the gland, or consequently of the spirits, to any volition, the determination of the will depends entirely on our own powers; if, therefore, we determine our will with sure and firm decisions in the direction to which we wish our actions to tend, and associate the motions of the passions which we wish to acquire with the said decisions, we shall acquire an absolute dominion over our passions. (5:Prf:19) Such is the doctrine of this illustrious philosopher (in so far as I gather it from his own words); it is one which, had it been less ingenious, I could hardly believe to have proceeded from so great a man. (5:Prf:20) Indeed, I am lost in wonder, that a philosopher, who had stoutly asserted, that he would draw no conclusions which do not follow from self-evident premisses, and would affirm nothing which he did not clearly and distinctly perceive, and who had so often taken to task the scholastics for wishing to explain obscurities through occult qualities, could maintain a hypothesis, beside which occult qualities are commonplace. (5:Prf:21) What does he understand, I ask, by the union of the mind and the body? (5:Pfc:22) What clear and distinct conception has he got of thought in most intimate union with a certain particle of extended matter? (5:Pfc:23) Truly I should like him to explain this union through its proximate cause. (5:Pfc:24) But he had so distinct a conception of mind being distinct from body, that he could not assign any particular cause of the union between the two, or of the mind itself, but was obliged to have recourse to the cause of the whole universe, that is to God. (5:Pfc:25) Further, I should much like to know, what degree of motion the mind can impart to this pineal gland, and with what force can it hold it suspended? (5:Prf:26) For I am in ignorance, whether this gland can be agitated more slowly or more quickly by the mind than by the animal spirits, and whether the motions of the passions, which we have closely united with firm decisions, cannot be again disjoined therefrom by physical causes; in which case it would follow that, although the mind firmly intended to face a given danger, and had united to this decision the motions of boldness, yet at the sight of the danger the gland might become suspended in a way, which would preclude the mind thinking of anything except running away. (Prf:27):247 In truth, as there is no common standard of volition and motion, so is there no comparison possible between the powers of the mind and the power or strength of the body; consequently the strength of one cannot in any wise be determined by the strength of the other. (5:Pfc:28) We may also add, that there is no gland discoverable in the midst of the brain, so placed that it can thus easily be set in motion in so many ways, and also that all the nerves are not prolonged ]extended[ so far as the cavities of the brain. (5:Prf:29) Lastly, I omit all the assertions which he makes concerning the will and its freedom, inasmuch as I have abundantly proved that his premisses are false. (5:Prf:30) Therefore, since the power of the mind, as I have shown above, isdefined by the understanding only, we shall determine solely by the knowledge of the mind the remedies against the emotions, which I believe all have had experience of, but do not accurately observe or distinctly see, and from the same basis ]this knowledge[ we shall deduce all those conclusions ]concerns[, which have regard to the mind's blessedness.


Ax. I. If two contrary actions be started in the same subject, a change must necessarily take place, either in both, or in one of the two, and continue until they cease to be contrary.

Ax. II. The power of an effect is defined by the power of its cause, in
so far as its essence is explained or defined by the essence of its cause. (This axiom is evident from IlI.vii.)

:247   Even as thoughts and the ideas of things are arranged and associated in the mind, so are the modifications of body or the images of things precisely in the same way arranged and associated in the body. {E5:Bk.III:258}

5P2:248   If we remove a disturbance of the spirit , or emotion, from the thought of an external cause, and unite it to other thoughts {of G-D}, then will the love or hatred towards that external cause, and also the vacillations of spirit which arise from these emotions, be destroyed. {Note 10,}  

5P3:248   An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.

5P4:248   There is no modification of the body, whereof we cannot form some clear and distinct conception. 

5P5:249   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. 

5P6:250   The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.

5P7:250   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. 

5P8:251   An emotion is stronger in proportion to the number of simultaneous concurrent causes whereby it is aroused.

5P9:251   An emotion, which is attributable to many and diverse causes which the mind regards as simultaneous with the emotion itself, is less hurtful, and we are less subject thereto and less affected towards each of its causes, than if it were a different and equally powerful emotion attributable to fewer causes or to a single cause.

5P10:252   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. 

5P11:254   In proportion as a mental image is referred ]related[ to more objects, so is it more frequent, or more often vivid, and occupies the mind more. 

5P12:254   The mental images of things are more easily associated with the images referred to things which we clearly and distinctly understand, than with others.

5P13:255   A mental image is more often vivid, in proportion as it is associated with a greater number of other images. 

5P14:255   The mind can bring it about, that all bodily modifications or images of things may be referred to the idea of G-D.

5P15:255   He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions loves G-D, and so much the more in proportion as he more understands himself and his emotions. 

5P16:255   This love towards G-D must hold the chief place in the mind. 

{"Love G-D" says "be aware that you NEED G-D—everything, conceived as a Unity—for your very own PERPETUATION".

Everything is in G-D as every part of you is in thee.
Every part should LOVE the other parts. It would obey the Law of Organisms; it would insure the flourishing PERPETUATION and evolution of the Organism.}

5P17:255   G-D is without passions, neither is he affectedby any emotion of pleasure or pain. {G-D at 100% °P}

5P18:256   No one can {rationally} hate G-D {or His parts}.
                     {The cash value is the organic interdependence of all things.}  

5P19:256   He, who loves G-D , cannot endeavour that G-D should love him in return. {E5:Endnote 18:1}

5P20:256   This love towards G-D cannot be stained by the emotion of envy or jealousy: contrariwise, it is the more fostered, in proportion as we conceive a greater number of men to be joined to G-D by the same bond of love.

5P21:259   The mind can only imagine anything, or remember what is past, while the body endures. E5:Endnote 21

5P22:259   Nevertheless in G-D there is necessarily an idea, which expresses the essence of this or that human body under the form of eternity. <E5:Bk.XV:283note169> {E5:Bk.III:258}

5P23:259   The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but there remains of it something which is eternal. {E5:Bk.VIII:606note13Sham.} <E5:Bk.XV:283note169>

5P24:260   The more we understand particular things, the more do we understand God.

5P25:260   The highest endeavour of the mind, and the highest virtue is to understand things by the third kind of knowledge. 

5P26:260   In proportion as the mind is more capable of understanding things by the third kind of knowledge, it desires more to understand things by that kind.

5P27:261   From this third kind of knowledge arises the highest possible mental acquiescence {PcM}. 

5P28:261   The endeavour or desire to know things by the third kind of knowledge cannot arise from the first, but from the second kind of knowledge. 

5P29:261   Whatsoever the mind understands under the form of eternity, it does not understand by virtue of conceiving the present actual existence of the body, but by virtue of conceiving the essence of the body under the form of eternity.

5P30:262   Our mind, in so far as it knows itself and the body under the form of eternity, has to that extent necessarily a knowledge of G-D, and knows that it is in G-D, and is conceived through G-D. 

5P31:262   The third kind of knowledge depends on the mind, as its formal cause, in so far as the mind itself is eternal. {E5:Bk.III:258.}

5P32:263   Whatsoever we understand by the third kind of knowledge, we take delight in, and our delight is accompanied by the idea of God as cause. 

5P33:263   The intellectual love of G-D, which arises from the third kind of knowledge, is eternal. 

5P34:264   The mind is, only while the body endures, subject to those emotions which are attributable to passions.

5P35:264   God loves himself with an infinite intellectual love. {E5:Bk.XV:285note175, In the analogy of your body, this is like saying that you "love" yourself. }

5P36:264   The intellectual love of the mind towards G-D is that very love of G-D whereby G-D loves himself, not in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he can be explained through the essence of the human mind regarded under the form of eternity; in other words, the intellectual love of the mind towards G-D is part of the infinite love wherewith God loves himself. 

5P37:266   There is nothing in Nature, which is contrary to this intellectual love, or which can take it away.

5P38:266   In proportion as the mind understands more things by the second and third kind of knowledge, it is less subject <acted on by> to those emotions which are evil, and stands in less fear of death. {E5:Endnote 38:0}

5P39:267   He, who possesses a body capable of the greatest number of activities, possesses a mind whereof the greatest part is eternal.

5P40:268   In proportion as each thing possesses more of perfection, so is it more active, and less passive; and, vice versâ, in proportion as it is more active, so is it more perfect.

5P41:268   Even if we did not know that our mind is eternal, we should still consider as of primary importance piety and religion, and generally all things which, in Part IV, we showed to be attributable to courage and high-mindedness.

5P42:270   Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself; neither do we rejoice therein, because we control our lusts, but, contrariwise, because we rejoice PcM} therein, we are able to control our lusts. {E5:Bk.III:261note13}


End of Book V of V.



End of The Ethics - From Wolfson's Bk.XIV:2:329 - Rare.

Spinoza's Daring— From Wolfson's Bk.XIV:xxvi— Summary of what is New in Spinoza?

From Wolfson's Bk.XIV:2:352— What is New in Spinoza? continued.

What is New in Spinoza? Added to definition of G-D by JBY.



E5:Endnote Part 5 Title - From Pollack's Bk.XII:280note1 - Title

E5:Endnote N.5-5. - From Wolfson's Book XIV:2:262 - Summary.

E5:Endnote Prf:10— From Bk.XV:283162 - Free-will.

E5:Endnote 10:5— From Bk.XV:283note167 - Right Way of Living

E5:Endnote 18:1—

E5:Endnote 18:3 - Peace of Mind.

E5:Endnote 20:18 - From Bk.XV:283note169 - Parkinson on Duration of the Mind.
                                                                       De Dijn, Curley,
Pollock, Wolfson.

E5:Endnote 20:20—From Bk.VIII:606notes13 - Curley on Duration of the Mind.
                                                                     De Dijn, Parkinson, Pollock, Wolfson.

E5:Endnote 23:6— From Bk.VIII:606note14 - Curley on Duration of the Mind. cont.

E5:Endnote 21—From Bk.III:258 - De Dijn on Eternity of the Mind.
                                                      Curley, Parkinson, Pollock, Wolfson.

From Isaac Bashevis Singer "The Spinoza of Market Street" Page 7. LoC #: 61-13676. Intellectual Love of G-D (Amor Dei Intellectualis)

E5:Endnote 23:2— From Bk.XV:284note170 - Parkinson's "Duration of the Mind" continued from:

E5:Endnote 31:1— Analogy.

E5:Endnote 32:2c— From Bk.XV:284173 - Intellectual Love of G-D.

E5:Endnote 35— From Bk.XV:285note175 - G-D Loves Himself. {As in the analogy "you love yourself."}

E5:Endnote Preface 1:2— From Bk.XIX:130notea. Beatitude - Blessedness.

E5:Endnote 36:3 - Glory.

Hebrew—kaw-vode'; weight, splendor, glory, honor: Strong: 3519, 3513;
See Psalm 19:2—The heavens declare the glory of G-D, ....

E5:Endnote 36:3n— From Bk.XV:285note176 - Self-contentment.

E5:Endnote 36:4n— From Bk.XIV:2:311note2 - immortality.

E5:Endnote 36:7— From Bk.XV:285177 - Power of Intuition.

E5:Endnote 38:0—Unending Stream.
From Book XVI:242

E5:Endnote 41:5— From Bk.VIII:615note20 - Multitude.

E5:Endnote 42— From Bk.III:261note13 on Bk.III:247note13 - Blessedness.


End of Endnotes for Part V of V.

Abridged and formatted for eBook conversion 

Issued: October 20, 2000 
Revised: March 12, 2004

by Joseph B. Yesselman

"A Dedication to Spinoza's Insights"