To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Spinoza's Ethics is one of the most significant texts of the early modern period, important to history, philosophy, Jewish studies and religious studies. It had a major influence on Enlightenment thinkers and the development of the modern world. In Ethics, Spinoza addresses the most fundamental perennial philosophical questions concerning the nature of God, human beings and a good life. His startling answers synthesize the longstanding traditions of ancient Greek and Jewish philosophy with the developments of the emerging scientific revolution. The resulting philosophical system casts out the willing, personal God of Abrahamic religions and takes up the challenge of reconceiving the natural world and human beings in an entirely secular way. This volume offers a new translation based on a new critical edition, reflecting the state of the art in Spinoza scholarship, and also includes an introduction, chronology and glossary to help make this notoriously difficult text accessible.
We showed in the previous chapter that the divine law which makes men truly happy and teaches the true life, is universal to all men. We also deduced that law from human nature in such a way that it must itself be deemed innate to the human mind and, so to speak, inscribed upon it. As for ceremonies, or those at least which are narrated in the Old Testament, these were instituted for the Hebrews alone and were so closely accommodated to their state that in the main they could be practised not by individuals but only by the community as a whole. It is certain, therefore, that they do not belong to the divine law and hence contribute nothing to happiness and virtue. They are relevant only to the election of the Hebrews, that is (as we showed in chapter 3), to the temporal and material prosperity and peace of their state, and therefore could have relevance only so long as that state survived. If in the Old Testament they are ascribed to the law of God, that is only because they were instituted as the result of a revelation or on revealed foundations. But since reasoning, no matter how sound, carries little weight with ordinary theologians, I propose now to adduce the authority of the Bible to confirm what I have just proved. Then, for yet greater clarity, I will show why and how these ceremonies served to establish and preserve the Jewish state.
 In the previous chapter we dealt with the foundations and principles of knowledge of Scripture, and proved that these amount to nothing more than assembling an accurate history of it. We also showed that the ancients neglected this form of enquiry, essential though it is, or if they did write anything about it and handed it down, it has perished through the injury of time, and thus most of the foundations and principles of this knowledge have disappeared. Now we could live with this if later writers had kept within proper limits and faithfully passed on to their successors what little they had received or discovered and not contrived novelties out of their own heads. For this is how it has come about that the history of the Bible has remained not only incomplete but also rather unreliable, that is, the existing basis of our knowledge of the Scriptures is not just too sparse for us to construct an adequate history, it also teems with errors.
 My aim is to correct this situation and remove our prevailing theological prejudices. But my attempt, I am afraid, may be too late. For the situation has now almost reached the point that men will not allow themselves to be corrected on these questions but rather obstinately defend whatever position they have taken up, in the name of religion.
 Hitherto our concern has been to separate philosophy from theology and to establish the freedom to philosophize which this separation allows to everyone. The time has now come to enquire how far this freedom to think and to say what one thinks extends in the best kind of state. To consider this in an orderly fashion, we must first discuss the foundations of the state but, before we do that, we must explain, without reference to the state and religion, the natural right (jus) which everyone possesses.
 By the right and order of nature I merely mean the rules determining the nature of each individual thing by which we conceive it is determined naturally to exist and to behave in a certain way. For example fish are determined by nature to swim and big fish to eat little ones, and therefore it is by sovereign natural right that fish have possession of the water and that big fish eat small fish. For it is certain that nature, considered wholly in itself, has a sovereign right to do everything that it can do, i.e., the right of nature extends as far as its power extends. For the power of nature is the very power of God who has supreme right to [do] all things. However, since the universal power of the whole of nature is nothing but the power of all individual things together, it follows that each individual thing has the sovereign right to do everything that it can do, or the right of each thing extends so far as its determined power extends.