Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2010
The second half of Ethics, Part 5, presents Spinoza's theory of the participation of human minds in the eternal. Although this theory constitutes the culmination of the Ethics, it has often proven opaque to even its most attentive and penetrating readers. Edwin Curley has written candidly, “In spite of many years of study, I still do not feel that I understand this part of the Ethics at all adequately” (1988, 84). Jonathan Bennett memorably declared this part of the Ethics to be “an unmitigated and seemingly unmotivated disaster” and “rubbish which causes others to write rubbish” (1984, 357, 374). Spinoza's central doctrines in this portion of the Ethics include the following: “1. There is in God an idea of the formal essence of each human body. / 2. An idea of the formal essence of the human body remains after the destruction of the human body, and for this reason there is a part of the human mind that is eternal. / 3. The wiser and more knowing one is, the greater is the part of one's mind that is eternal.” Each of these three central doctrines seems, on its face, to be inconsistent with the rest of Spinoza's philosophy; in fact, for each of the three doctrines, there are two different ways in which it seems inconsistent with the rest of his philosophy.