Pro-Fil 21 (1) 2020: 41–50
THE THREE FINAL DOCTRINES OF SPINOZA:
INTUITION, AMOR DEI, THE ETERNITY OF THE MIND
MICHAELA PETRUFOVÁ JOPPOVÁ
Institute of Ethics and Bioethics, Faculty of Arts, University of Presov, Slovakia,
RESEARCH PAPER ▪ SUBMITTED: 18/3/2020 ▪ ACCEPTED: 20/5/2020
Abstract: The study deals with the matter of three of the most puzzling doctrines of Baruch
Spinoza’s system, the so-called ‘final doctrines’, which are intuitive knowledge, intellectual
love of God, and the eternity of the (human) mind. Contrary to many commentators, but also
in concordance with many others, this account strives to affirm the utmost importance of
these doctrines to Spinoza’s system as a whole, but mostly to his ethical theory. Focusing
specifically on the cultivation of the human mind, the paper offers partial analyses of the
central notions of these doctrines and their conceptual contexts. It is argued that the
cultivation of the human mind, i.e., its determination to its perfect activity, should be
considered as Spinoza’s ultimate ethical goal, and that the mind truly only advances to this
goal by means of these cognitive, affective, and intellectual transformations of thinking.
Keywords: Baruch Spinoza; intuition; love of God; intellect; eternity
Although the concept of intuitive knowledge is an undeniable part of Spinoza’s
theory, it does not belong to the most popular doctrines among Spinoza’s commentators.
As Hasana Sharp (2011) puts it, many of them perceive it as an elitist type of philosophical
knowledge inaccessible to ordinary thinkers. That is one of the reasons why Jonathan Bennett
simply calls this doctrine “a disaster” (Bennett 1984, 357); others express their concerns
in a more conciliatory manner and refer to it as too mystical or enigmatic (e.g. Melamed
2019). In our account of this doctrine – in concurrence with other interpretations – we aim
to demonstrate that it may not be as mystical as it may sound, and also to indicate that
without it, one is not able to completely understand Spinoza’s philosophy – and, most
importantly, his ethics, as we argue that it is necessary to incorporate this concept into what
we may call the ‘final stage’ of Spinoza’s ethical theory. At the same time, we acknowledge
that scientia intuitiva is one of the most abstract elements of this theory, thus also hard
to define, which we recognize as the reason of strong interpretative ‘cautiousness’ and often
uncertain approach on the part of Spinoza’s commentators.
The intuitive sight
We believe that we should approach this concept with the highest possible certainty;
and as such, we should pursue our understanding of intuition by means of something whose
nature seems more evident to us. It means that our starting point, taken Spinoza’s
epistemological schedule into account, must obviously be the concept of reason. Intuition
should be approachable through reason not only practically (as in, reason must necessarily
precede intuition in practical cognition), but also conceptually, which means that we may
define this concept through its presumed relation to reason as an affined kind of knowledge.
This is precisely how Sanem Soyarslan (2014) proceeds. According to her, the relation
between reason and intuition is accountable in two ways: we may perceive them both
as capable of arriving at the same conclusions (or ‘knowledges’), even though they differ
in respect to the methods used; or, we may perceive them as distinct not only
methodologically, but also in respect to their objects. That would mean that reason by itself
cannot ‘ascend’ to intuition and its objects. Soyarslan recognizes the first presumed
distinction as an account based on the difference of method, the other distinction
as an account based on the difference of representative content.
defines the intuitive method as knowledge proceeding from
an adequate idea of a certain attribute of God to the adequate idea of a particular thing’s
essence. Rational method, on the other hand, is in said scholium defined as knowledge
proceeding from adequate ideas of properties of things and the fact that we have common
notions (notiones communes). Christof Ellsiepen (2011) understands this account
of rationality as “an adequate knowledge of common properties”, that is, such properties for
which we have, or may have, common (human) terms and notions. We presume it is
an adequate understanding of this concept. Spinoza himself demonstrates the difference
of rational and intuitive method on a well-known example of the mathematical operation
of exponentiation: “Three numbers are given; it is required to find a fourth which is related
to the third as the second to the first” (ibid., i.e., E2p40schol2). He then describes two
possible variants of its solution. In the first variant there already must be some kind
of knowledge of mathematical principles and conventions, which is then used practically
in rational sequence of mathematical operations leading to the solution (rational
mathematics). The second variant, which we may describe as an intuitive-mathematical
solution, is simply described by Spinoza as a capacity (or ability) to “see” the whole sequence
“in one intuition” (uno intuitu videmus), so that this kind of thinking, or seeing, is able
to come to the result without the use of any rational mathematical operation.
At first glance, it may seem that this mathematical example has nothing in common with
the ‘mystical’ intuition explicated in the fifth part of Ethics, which is a means of under-
standing the idea of God and obtaining blissfulness (beatitudo). However, Noa Naaman-
considers this example to be a very functional “seeing metaphor” (Naaman-
Zauderer 2019, 209), by means of which Spinoza seeks to describe an immediate, non-
conceptual, and non-deductive character of intuitive knowledge. In her view, intuition comes
to empirical understanding of objects of this kind of knowledge without the use of mediators,
such as (rational) general concepts and deductive movement within the dynamics of
temporality. We may thus say that what could take an ‘infinite’ time within the rational
sequencing, intuition is able to grasp in one ‘sight’. In such grasp, there is no temporal split
As Soyarslan states, among the commentators favoring the difference of method are, for example, Ronald
Sandler (2005) or Steven Nadler (2006); the difference in representative content is advocated by, for example,
Edwin Curley (1973) or Soyarslan (2014) herself.
Within this study we will refer to the quoted and referenced passages of Spinoza’s Ethics in the form
of standard abbreviations used in commentaries: E(-thics, indicates part of the book), cor(-ollary), DefAff
(Definitions of the Emotions in part 3 of the book), p(-roposition, in the said part of the book), pf (proof),
schol(-ium). All referenced passages come from the English translation by Samuel Shirley (Spinoza 2002a);
to complete some of the important passages, we use Latin text of Ethics from the Opera posthuma (Spinoza
We consider the cited recent work of this author (Naaman-Zauderer 2019) to be one of the best and most
elaborate interpretative studies devoted to the problem of intuition in Spinoza – we therefore strongly
recommend it to the reader.
between the process of understanding and the understanding itself. Looking back at
Soyarlan’s distinctions, we should conclude that there really is a fundamental difference
between reason and intuition on a methodological level.
As for the content of intuitive knowledge, from Spinoza’s example one might conclude that it
is identical with the content of rational knowledge: both kinds of knowledge may be used
to solve the same problem, and both are essentially able to come to a result. While it is
a perfectly understandable stance, we can see that it is not entirely true. The content
of rational knowledge must include – apart from the problem itself – also certain concrete
data in their immediate forms; in Spinoza’s example they might be, as already mentioned,
the acknowledging of ratio and its mathematical significance. But the content of intuitive
knowledge does not have to include anything else apart from the problem itself; the reason
for that is, in this particular mathematical example, that the ‘essences’ of mathematical
objects are perfectly satisfactory for their one-sighted grasping. In Treatise
on the Emendation of the Intellect, which marks his first journey into the epistemological and
methodological realms, Spinoza argues that “the true method” is nothing else but the “truth
itself, or the objective essences of things, or ideas (all these mean the same)” (Spinoza 2002d,
11). When one has an adequate idea of a triangle, i.e., understands the objective essence
of a triangle, one must also necessarily have an idea of a circle; the true idea necessarily
involves every other true idea within the idea of a thing. There is no need for intuition
to rationally analyse these ideal contents of such idea, for intuitive knowledge involves them
necessarily. The ‘one sight’ must, therefore, necessarily involve significantly more concrete
data than rational thinking does; these data simply do not need to be the immediate content
The intuitive effect
Intuition thus understands essences of things, not just their rational (adequate)
properties. According to Spinoza, one who adequately understands the essences of things,
also adequately understands God (E5p24); Soyarslan states in this context that intuition
by means of its essential character “[...] descends to a level of particularity that reason cannot
reach” (Soyarslan 2014, 248). Rational knowledge does not involve the knowledge of the
essences of things, nor can it grasp the idea of God, but deals exclusively with adequate ideas
of common, i.e., socially recognizable, properties, which – in our view – constitutes
the grounds for understanding reason and intuition as different also in respect to their
representative content. In the following propositions, however, we see another possible
distinction in these kinds of knowledge, which we propose as the difference of effect:
The more capable the mind is of understanding things by the third kind of knowledge,
the more it desires to understand things by this same kind of knowledge (E5p26);
The greater the number of things the mind understands by the second and third kinds
of knowledge, the less subject it is to emotions that are bad, and the less it fears death
(E5p38; emphasis added).
We can see that according to Spinoza, the greater ratio of intuition in the mind (as opposed
to the imaginative types of thinking) leads to the greater desire of the mind to think in such
a way. Therefore, the effect of intuition on the mind consists of determining the mind
The fact that these concrete data do not have to be the immediate content of thinking does not imply that there
are no data present at all. Antonio Damasio (2005), who devoted many of his works and thoughts to find
relevant scientific links between Spinoza’s philosophy of mind and modern neuroscientific research, remarks
in the context of intuitive content that “[…] we may know far more than we believe we know as we reach
an intuitive conclusion” (Damasio 2005, 54).
to activity, which is exclusively a positive and affirmative effect. However, when we add
reason to the ‘equation’, the conjunctive effect of both these kinds of knowledge cannot
be expressed as exclusively positive anymore. We believe that the answer to this lies
in the character of reason, which is a form of negation – to have an adequate idea
of a property of a thing necessarily means that other adequate ideas of its other properties are
not considered. This does not happen on the level of intuitive knowledge, which – by its
definition – is the truth (or idea) itself. The conjunctive effect of reason and intuition
on the human mind is thus defined negatively, in the sense of negation of the passive,
or negative, affects. The immediate positivity (affirmativeness) of intuition is substituted
by mediated positivity, i.e., the negation of a negation. We might say, then, that
the immediate effect of intuition on the mind is its own activity, following from the principle
of affirmation of adequate ideas; while activity is also, in the end, the effect of both of these
kinds of knowledge, only it is mediated through the principle of negating inadequate ideas.
Naaman-Zauderer (2019) also stresses the importance of the ability of intuition to determine
the activity of the mind; she builds her account of Spinoza’s ethics as a way to freedom
on differencing between two types of freedom: rational freedom and intuitive freedom. Her
perspective was formed mostly by this well-known theoretical ‘split’ of Ethics:
And now I have completed all that concerns this present life. For, as I said at the
beginning of this scholium, in this brief account I have covered all the remedies against
the emotions. [...] So it is now time to pass on to those matters that concern the duration
of the mind without respect to the body (E5p20schol).
This particular scholium is interpreted by many commentators as an indicator of finalizing
the ‘practical’ part of Spinoza’s ethics and a transition to its more speculative, mystical,
idealistic contexts. But in our view, Spinoza’s ethical theory is actually properly articulated
in the final part of his Ethics, and not the other way around. As for Naaman-Zauderer, she
interprets this quote as changing focus from one specific type of freedom to another – from
rational freedom to intuitive freedom – and for her, it is actually this intuitive freedom that
is the true “freedom of the mind” following from “the mind’s ability to experience itself only
in its formal reality, as pure activity” (Naaman-Zauderer 2019, 213). The basis for her dual
account of freedom is (what she calls) Spinoza’s dual perspective in respect to existence
itself, which he outlines in E5p29schol: the perspective of time or duration (sub specie
temporis seu durationis), by which we conceive things according to the specific time and
place of their duration; and the perspective of eternity (sub specie æternitatis), by which
we conceive things in respect to their necessary involvement in eternal God’s essence. If we
conceive our own mind and its activity sub specie æternitatis, we necessarily experience our
own eternity, as Spinoza claims in the following scholium:
Yet it is impossible that we should remember that we existed before the body (nos ante
Corpus exstitisse), since neither can there be traces of this in the body nor can eternity be
defined by time, or be in any way related to time. Nevertheless, we feel and experience
that we are eternal (sentimus experimurque, nos æternos esse). For the mind senses those
things that it conceives by its understanding just as much as those which it has in its
memory. Logical proofs are the eyes of the mind, whereby it sees and observes things. So
although we have no recollection of having existed before the body, we nevertheless
sense that our mind, insofar as it involves the essence of the body under the form
of eternity, is eternal, and that this aspect of its existence cannot be defined by time, that
is, cannot be explicated through duration (E5p23schol).
The easiness of these claims and their certainty deservedly induce interpretative confusion,
taking into account the rigorous character of his philosophical thought and work, since he
himself admits that we have no real proofs of the mind’s supposed eternity. They also seem
to be contrary to Spinoza’s claims in the precedent works and theses of Ethics: mainly, the
claims that human beings are finite things (Spinoza 2002b, 61), and that the human body –
and its mind – will definitely die (E5p23 and proof). So how is it possible to ‘feel and
experience’ one’s own eternity? Or, if we indeed ‘feel’ this – is such a ‘feeling’ adequate?
The intuitive perspective
In order to answer these questions, we must understand the internal connection
of the so-called ‘final doctrines’ of Spinoza’s philosophical theory: intuition, the eternity
of the mind, and the intellectual love of God. We have already demonstrated that intuitive
knowledge understands things through their true essences and that, according to Spinoza,
the knowledge of these essences is caused by ‘seeing’ them through their eternal truths
(in God) – this means that scientia intuitiva is actually the perspective of eternity (sub specie
æternitatis), which the human being is capable of. Rational knowledge is, on the other hand,
temporal knowledge; the “order and connection” (E2p7) of things and ideas is necessarily
temporal, as we believe is exhibited in Spinoza’s mathematical example – we cannot come
to the conclusion without adequately arranging given ideas in the process. But arrangements
of things do not constitute their essences, and since ‘God’s knowledge’ is essential
knowledge, God does not understand things through their rational proportions.
The proportions of things can be deduced from their essential definitions and effectivity – but
the essential knowledge cannot be deduced from anything else apart from the thing’s essence
itself. Intuition is thus the ‘perspective of God’; and, as Spinoza claims, everything that
the mind is able to grasp through this ‘perspective’, it necessarily delights in (E5p32), or, as
he states in E5p27, the “highest possible contentment of mind (Mentis acquiescentia)” arises
from this kind of knowledge.
This delight or contentment of the mind Spinoza characterizes as an intellectual love of God,
or amor Dei intellectualis (E5p32cor). Why would Spinoza use the term ‘love’ for this
special kind of feeling, if he defined this affect as a passive state in E3? One must remember
the complete definition of love, which is joy accompanied by the idea of its cause
(E3DefAff6); then, we believe, it seems logical and appropriate to use this definition for this
kind of feeling, because it really is joy accompanied by the idea of its cause – it is only
the cause that is different.
The cause of amor Dei intellectualis is the idea of God as
an eternal and infinite ens, which, understandably, differs from temporal and unstable causes
of affective states of love. According to Spinoza, it is not even possible to stop loving God
(intellectually), precisely because the cause of such love is eternal, which means that this
feeling must also be eternal. We might even allege that the ‘eternality’ of such love really
transcends the temporal conditions, which also means the body and ‘bodily’ mind, and as
such, it might continue even after death of these concrete durational existences. Definition-
wise, it certainly seems that way. But how can it be? In E5p40schol, Spinoza states that
the human intellect is part of the infinite intellect of God, constituted by adequate ideas
of Himself and all things in Him. The infinite intellect–intellect relation comprises the central
spot of Spinoza’s panentheistic doctrine, alleged by the well-known claim that “all things
[…] are in God and move in God (in Deo esse & in Deo moveri)” (letter 73; Spinoza 2002c,
942), and as such strongly resembles the archetypal religious ideas of human soul which is
immortal and ‘by’ God, apart from the flesh, which is mortal and ‘un-God-like’. We believe
that this relation, and the archetypal ideas behind it, is the reason why Spinoza does not
recommend lying even in the face of an imminent death (E4p72 and proof) – we shall not
hurt or soil our intellect, or ‘soul’, in any way, because it will be soiled for all eternity.
An elaborate conceptual differentiation of love caused by either external or internal causes can be found
in a recent study by Yitzhak Y. Melamed (2019).
However, eternity does not have any relation to time (E5p23schol), which must mean that it
does not actually matter when – within human life – an individual either soils or understands
its own eternity. Understanding mind must be eternal in its own right for all of eternity.
The love that makes the mind eternal
At first glance, this is certainly confusing; but on the other hand, this doctrine is
perfectly compatible with Spinoza’s emphasis on emending the intellect as the highest good
that any human being is able to obtain. The more we succeed in obtaining adequate ideas
in this lifetime, the ‘more eternal’ we are in eternal God’s mind; or, to be more precise, we
already are eternal to the extent that we will obtain adequate ideas in this lifetime. Amor Dei
intellectualis thus may be interpreted as some form of consciousness of this eternal
intellectual involvement, as Spinoza claims that “the mind’s intellectual love toward God is
the love of God wherewith God loves Himself […] insofar as He can be explicated through
the essence of the human mind considered under a form of eternity (sub specie æternitatis)”
(E5p36). In subsequent proof he specifies that this ‘love’ is related to the active nature
of the mind, or, it is “[…] an activity whereby the mind regards itself accompanied by
the idea of God as cause” (E5p36pf). Intellectual love of God is therefore most of all
the consciousness of the activity of one’s own mind, and since activity is nothing but
the active essence of God, the consciousness of one’s activity is – at least to some extent –
also the (adequate) consciousness of God’s active essence. We could say, then, that through
the human mind, insofar as it is adequately active (and thus conscious), God’s essence itself
is conscious, too. For Spinoza, intellectuality is God’s contemplation on Himself.
From this it must be apparent that Spinoza’s love of God may not be reduced to love towards
His modifications; as Herman De Dijn states: “Intellectual love of God is not simply a joy
of the intelligibility of things” (De Dijn 1996, 257). Joy of such character may also be
induced by the adequate use of reason, or the negation of a negation, but the true freedom and
understanding (which are the same thing) are nothing but the absolute positive affirmation
of one’s essence as existing in the eternity of God: “Intuitive knowledge, as well as
the accompanying love for God, are always accompanied by the idea of oneself and one’s
own body as eternal essences pertaining to God” (De Dijn 1996, 258). That returns us
to the ‘problem’ of the eternal part of the mind, which De Dijn characterizes as its ‘eternal
essence’. We believe that it had been sufficiently demonstrated that the mysterious
‘something’ that remains after the destruction
of the body and its (actual) mind, as Spinoza
claims in E5p23, is the mind’s intellect; but we have not yet sufficiently explicated why it
should be eternal in the first place, especially since the mind and the body are the same thing
explicated through two different attributes (E2p21schol), and we know for a fact that
the body will die. The answer to this, as we understand it, lies in the different attributive
natures of the body and the mind.
Insofar as we understand the mind as a determined mode of Thought of which real or actual
object is the body, we conceive it under the form of temporality and in respect to two
different attributes of God. In this conception of the mind there is no possibility of conceiving
it as eternal; as the actual object of the mind dies, so does the mind itself. However, the mind
is not constituted only by the idea of its object. Apart from the idea that constitutes the actual
being of the mind, there is also an idea constituting its formal essence (or being) (cf. Spinoza
Melamed (2012) or Steven Nadler (2018) point to the intellectual love of God as to one of the many parallels
between Spinoza’s and Maimonides’ philosophies. There is no doubt that Spinoza is to be considered an explicit
follower of Maimonides’ teachings, especially regarding his very specific form of philosophical theology.
In Spinoza’s system, destruction is only possible due to external causes, since it is not possible for the essence
of a thing to involve any definitive contradiction (E3p4).
2002b, 104). This idea does not have an actual, but only an ideal object, i.e., the mind itself;
in such a conception of the mind, we need only one of God’s attributes to conceive it
(Thought), as the formal idea or essence of the mind is immediately constituted by God’s
thinking essence, which is His infinite intellect. The infinite intellect of God is the immediate
infinite mode of the attribute of Thought (E1p16pf),
and, from the perspective of infinite
every existing thing is necessarily part of these modes, and thus also infinite. Not
even the human body – after its destruction – ‘vaporizes’ into Nothingness as it if never even
existed; individuals constituting its form simply modulate their (effective) essences according
to intense external causes affecting them, and thus change themselves in existence, i.e.,
the living thing becomes a non-living thing, but on the level of infinite motion-and-rest,
nothing ever happens (yet also everything happens). We may consider the human mind
in similar contexts: if anything exists in any attribute of God, then it is – by necessity
of the eternity of God – eternal, forever present (even if in other essences or forms).
Existence itself is eternity in the same way that God’s essence is His existence.
To look at one’s own mind sub specie æternitatis means to understand it as an active element
of infinite activity, dynamics, and, as Errol E. Harris puts it, a part of “concrete and complete
wholeness” (Harris 1995, 24), which the substance of Spinoza’s philosophical theology
certainly might be characterized as. The more the mind understands it, the more infinite and
eternal it is, but it is also important to stretch – along with, for example, Don Garrett (2009),
that Spinoza does not imply by this doctrine the continuous existence of personal
consciousness, personality, or any form of what we may call ‘personal eternity’. Everything
that makes us human – in this lifetime – such as a specific kind of perception, feelings,
consciousness of one’s body and so on, will, logically, follow the decay of the body. Is there
anything, then, that we may experience as eternal both in this lifetime and within God’s
intellect? Spinoza certainly implies so (“we feel and experience that we are eternal”).
According to Naaman-Zauderer (2019), the specific ‘consciousness’ that is present both
in our bodily minds and our eternal minds is the consciousness of one’s mind as a pure
thinking activity, which, in her view, resonates with Cartesian cogito, in which the certainty
of the existence of the meditator follows from the “immediate consciousness” of his thinking
processes (Naaman-Zauderer 2019, 217). Similar Cartesian association is presented,
for example, by Olli Koistinen (2009), according to whom it would be necessary for Spinoza
to reformulate “I think, therefore I am” into more adequate “The more I think, the more I am”
(Koistinen 2009, 165).
Koistinen also asks what exactly the object of this eternal part of the mind is (as a complex
formal idea) and suggests that it may be the formal essence of the body. He views this formal
essence of the body as an a priori condition for the human mind to be embodied in time
(Koistinen 2009, 167–169), which in our view seems a little far-fetched, especially since
there is no actual proof in Spinoza’s philosophy to assume that the temporal existence
of the body needs any other ‘a priori conditions’ than the essence of Extension as it follows
from the essence of God. But this objection may be overcome by understanding such
‘a priori conditions’ not as essential conditions, but logical ones; we may state, then, that
While the immediate infinite mode of the attribute of Extension is the dynamics of motion-and-rest (cf.
The concept of infinite modes is one of the class of concepts of Spinoza’s philosophy which have not met with
a great interpretative response. According to Melamed (2018), the reason for this is that it is one of Spinoza’s
few original concepts, i.e., concepts which are not to be found in his philosophical predecessors. There are,
however, commentators who attempted a comprehensive interpretation; for example, Errol E. Harris (1995, 22–
51), Melamed (2013, 2018), or Kristin Primus (2019).
For Spinoza’s grasp of these modes, see E1p21–23 in Ethics, or letters 63 and 64 from his correspondence
(Spinoza 2002c, 916–919).
the intellect is an infinite, eternal, and an a priori condition for our finite being in the sense
of a logical relation of the finite to the infinite in Spinoza’s system. This relation, as we see it,
is not even a relation in the strict sense of the word – it is probably more appropriate
to articulate it as a form of mutual definitory dependence: the finite is the only necessary
definitive condition for the infinity of the finite (as explicated in Spinoza’s concept of infinite
modes), and the infinite is the only necessary definitive condition for the finiteness
of infinity. The infinite–finite problem, however, falls beyond the scope of this paper.
In the following concluding remarks, we will briefly try to summarize the main
points, thoughts, and findings of this paper. As must already be clear from our approach
to this problem (of the three ‘final doctrines’), we do not consider them as theoretically
‘disastrous’. Quite the opposite. Intellect, as the part of the mind that is eternal; intuition,
as the true intellectual method of acquiring essential knowledge; and love of God, as
the highest possible contentment of the mind, we consider as some of the most complex,
philosophically richest, and arguably theoretically ‘successful’ concepts in Spinoza’s
philosophy as a whole. We fully agree with Naaman-Zauderer’s (2019) stance that intuition is
the key concept of Spinoza’s ethics – the reason for this being that it is the only
epistemological method bringing the utmost certainty of (adequate) thinking and action. And
that is precisely what Spinoza’s ethical system was presumably wished to be built upon:
certainty. As for the eternal part of the mind, or intellect, it is the only way to be ‘close’
to God – which we also think was Spinoza’s utmost ethical goal. This is also evident from his
concept of amor Dei intellectualis, which, we argue, effects the human mind solely
positively, affirmatively, and actively, and it does so in such an essential way that nothing
else can. These ‘final doctrines’ are to be considered the ethical conclusion of Spinoza’s
metaphysical ‘cycle’, which starts at the idea of causa sui,
and ends at the idea of God (and
intellectual love for Him). Without these doctrines, we believe that the ultimate goal
of Spinoza’s philosophical efforts – which we regard to be ethics, or activity – simply could
not be reached.
The core of the critique of many commentators that has been outlined in the introduction, i.e.,
that intuitive knowledge – and by means of it also the intellectual love of God – is
an exclusive and elitist concept inaccessible to most people, can be answered by the words
of Spinoza himself, who claims that the path to adequate understanding and blissful life may
seem very difficult, “[...] yet it can be found” (E5p42schol). Hynek Tippelt (2010) articulates
this belief in such a way that God “[…] is therefore accessible to every mind, and since this
idea constitutes the greatest affection of joy in mind, every mind is also at its disposal
to the greatest satisfaction and eternity” (Tippelt 2010, 155; emphasis added). Every human
being – or, more precisely, every corporeal being with mind constituted by the (eternal)
intellect – truly possesses the ability to be eternal only through an adequate understanding,
i.e., becoming aware of this eternal involvement in eternity. Spinoza thus offers a much more
We would like to clarify here that we view the causa sui model of God as only functional at the metaphysical
level of Spinoza’s thought. It would (probably) be impossible to base ethical system on this concept alone. We
therefore differentiate (function-wise) between the two models of God: God as causa sui, the mysterious ‘id’
as the basis for existence; and God as causa immanens as the basis for ethics. The concept of causa immanens
signifies the immanent relation of God’s essence to the things (i.e., its modifications) which it necessarily
involves. The concept of causa sui, on the other hand, signifies God’s relation to (His own) existence.
Charlie Dunbar Broad (1930) interprets these ‘final doctrines’ as the “[…] philosophical expressions
of certain religious and mystical experiences which Spinoza […] may have enjoyed and which seem supremely
important for those who have them” (Broad 1930, 15; emphasis added). He therefore similarly views them
as important, and perhaps the most characteristic parts of his system.
complex and more inclusive – Nadler even uses the term “more liberal” in this context
(Nadler 2018, 311) – image of a man capable of achieving this degree of (moral) perfection
than, for instance, Maimonides, in whom Spinoza apparently found inspiration. Indeed,
a human being does not need to be a full-blooded philosopher or part of some higher
intellectual elite to become a conscious participant in God’s perfection. The starting point
may be the simplest – our own cogito; Spinoza’s philosophically exposed God is somewhere
This study was supported by the Scientific Grant Agency of the Slovak Republic under the grant
VEGA No. 2/0110/18 Genealogy of Conscience, Phenomenality of Action and Existence in the
Dialogue with Others – Points of Departure and their Problems.
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