When Baruch Spinoza composed his philosophical masterpiece, the
Ethics, he knew that his ideas (particularly those of God) would be considered heretical
in the extreme, leading to any number of unpleasant consequences. This was the reason
that the Ethics were published in 1677, posthumously (p.97)1. His apprehensions are well
justified in the light of what he writes in the Appendix (p.145-149) to Part1: Concerning
God (p.129-145) regarding the prejudices present in the minds of human beings. For, it is
here that Spinoza directly challenges the prevalent religious orthodoxy and seeks to
remove the very dogma that was the basis of their power.
Spinoza asserts in the Appendix (p.145) that there exist certain prejudices
in the minds of people that prevent them from understanding (and accepting as true) the
conclusions that he reaches after a thoroughly logical and indeed, geometrical process of
reasoning. The root of all these prejudices, he further clarifies, is the almost universal
belief that all Natural things exist and act with some definite goal being pursued. Further,
he presents for scrutiny the very strong anthropomorphism inherent in most human minds
that makes these people believe in the universe having been created for their sake. Lastly
comes the religious part of this picture, wherein mankind exists so that it may worship
God, thereby closing the circle of creation.
Spinoza (naturally, considering his philosophy) rejects this picture and
thereby attempts in the Appendix to argue on the following crucial points: 1) The reason
1 Roger Ariew & Eric Watkins. Modern Philosophy: An anthology of primary sources.
Note: All references to Spinoza will be to this text unless otherw...
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...e former, Spinoza replies, “...the perfection of things should be measured solely from
their own nature and power” and not with respect to definitions in the imagination.
Furthermore, God had no free will in creating the universe, (from Cor. 1 Pr. 32, p.142 as
described previously) and (from Pr.16, p.137) “from the necessity of the
divine..(follows)..everything that can come within the scope of infinite intellect”.
Therefore, God must, of necessity, be the cause of everything, perfect and imperfect!
In conclusion, Spinoza provides an immaculate argument that should
readily convince the reader of the truth of his main proposition in the Appendix, i.e. that
the major reason for obstacles in the path of understanding is the anthropocentric view
of Nature that most people hold on to, irrespective of the enormity of the contradictions
inherent in that view.