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Spinoza, Baruch - Ethics - Why are we here?

Identifier

001782

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

The sequence of the argument here needs to be preserved so I have included a succession of extracts on Spinoza’s concept of God and why we are here

A description of the experience

Baruch Spinoza - Ethics

men .. commonly .. maintain as certain that God himself directs all things to a certain end, for they say that God has made all things for man, and man that he might worship God.  So I shall begin by considering this prejudice asking why most people are satisfied it is true … and then I shall show its falsity..........

Men act always on account of an end …. on account of their own advantage … if they cannot hear from another, nothing remains but to turn towards themselves and reflect on the ends by which they are usually determined to do such things, so they necessarily judge the temperament of the other from their own temperament.........

they find … many means that are very helpful in seeking their own advantage, for example, eyes for seeing, teeth for chewing, plants and animals for food, the sun for light, the sea for supporting fish ..

hence, they consider all natural things as means to their own advantage.  And knowing that they had found these means, not provided for them for themselves, they had reason to believe that there was someone else who had prepared those means for their use.  For after they considered things as means, they could not believe that the things had made themselves, but from the means they were accustomed to prepare for themselves, they had to infer there was a ruler, or a number of rulers … endowed with human freedom, who had taken care of all things for them and made all things for their use.  And since they had never heard anything about the temperament of these rulers, they had to judge it from their own.  Hence they maintained that the gods direct all things for the use of men in order to bind men to them and be held by men in the highest honour...............

So it has happened that each of them has thought up from his own temperament different ways of worshipping God, so that God might love him above all the rest, and direct the whole of Nature according to the needs of their blind desire and insatiable greed..............

But while they sought to show that nature does nothing in vain – ie nothing not of use to men, they seem to have shown only that Nature and the gods are as mad as men.  Among so many conveniences in Nature they had to find many inconveniences; storms, earthquakes, diseases and the like.  These they maintain happen because the gods are angry on account of wrongs done to them by men, or on account of sins committed in their worship.  And though their daily experience contradicted this, and though infinitely many examples showed that conveniences and inconveniences happen indiscriminately to the pious and impious alike, they did not on that account give up their long standing prejudice.  It was easier for them to put this among the other unknown things, whose use they were ignorant of and so remain in the state of ignorance in which they had been born, than to destroy the whole construction and think up a new one..............

[Eventually of course they come to the conclusion that ...] the judgements of the gods far surpass man's grasp...............

God did all things for his own sake, not for the sake of the things to be created.  For before creation they can assign nothing except God for whose sake God would act.  And so they are necessarily compelled to confess that God lacked those things for the sake of which he willed to prepare means and that he desired them.

The source of the experience

Spinoza, Baruch

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References