Spinoza and secularism

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Deus sive natura.

Spinoza (1632-1677) shatters the dominant theology of the time (and ours), which means that nature has been created for man by a higher being that resembles it (anthropomorphic).

Yet Spinoza is not an atheist. God is cited repeatedly in ethics. But he is merged with nature (Deus sive natura).


God and Nature are equivalent.

Spinoza and secularism

 There is only one substance (today we speak of the universe) and it is infinite. It forms a coherent whole, although it appears to us in different forms, different attributes, different modes finishes, such as:

  • space (material things, stone, tree, cow, our body, the moon …) ;
  • and thought (mind, ideas …)

This heretical view of God takes away all moral dimension. And Spinoza to be worth some problems …

My double-illusion

I think I’m free, because my actions (I eat, I sleep) have consequences (I’m not hungry, I rested). I think : I’m acting for a definite purpose (being healthy for example). I think my decision (to set the table or bed) is the « first cause ». But that’s because I live in illusion. I did not understand that it is nature that triggered in me the feeling of hunger and sleep.

Free will is a complete illusion.

Unaware, I think all my actions have a purpose. And I apply that same fallacy to the nature that surrounds me: I use wood to heat me, the cow and the pig to feed me. Clearly this nature is not there by accident but was created for my well-being. I have invented a creator : a God. A God who knows what I want, how I operate. He must look like me.

The meaning of my life

If my actions have no purpose, what is the meaning of my life ? Spinoza finds that each mode (the plant, the lizard, even the stone …) seeks to « persevere in its being. » We find in Schopenhauer the same idea (wanting) and Nietzsche (the will of power).

As a man, I can not escape this rule: I try to persevere in my being. It is as if the purpose of my life was finally life that wants itself, which always seeks more intensification.

Moreover, it is easy for me to note that I am naturally attracted to things that make me feel good, that increases my power and flee the contrary, that decreases this power. My nature pushes me to know to understand my nature and to finally enjoy life.

The child (or ignorant) does not know. He undergoes its nature, events are external. They feel joy, but a passive joy.

The good and the bad are relative

I know I’m looking for things that make me feel good, that increase the intensity of my life, like this chocolate resting on the coffee table. But I know what is bad : this rotten meat in the trash but that makes the delight of a colony of rats. I realize then that this meat is not bad « in itself » but bad « for me ». There is no absolute good. The property is not an intrinsic property of the object or person, but is relative. So I will not say « good » but « good for me ». Similarly, I will not « evil » but « bad for me. »

The ignorant maintains the pleasant memory of the chocolate. He has no more the object of its desire before him but he feels (in thought) an ersatz of pleasure : the desire of an extra dessert. As he does not know where does his pleasure come from, he imagines it comes from the chocolate and only the chocolate. He thinks the pleasure as an intrinsic property of the chocolate. He concludes that there are objects (or people) good, in all circumstances, and at the same time others are wrong in absolute terms, for everyone, anytime, anywhere. This is of course a big mistake.

Moral as thought police

But the ignorant goes further. Convinced of the existence of a creator God, he concludes that the world was divinely separated into two: on one side the absolute good and the other evil. That’s where comes its moral and, with it, the moral of theologians. The moral is prohibition, commandments that hold back freedom and knowledge. We find this idea almost word for word from Nietzsche.


Spinoza plebiscite appropriate passions, active and non-sustained, not caused by external events, those that increase the intensity of our life and rejects the sad passions.

There are three types of men who embody the sad passions:

  1. The slave sad passions : hatred, guilt (hatred turned against itself), pity, jealousy, regret, shame, revenge. The slave is helpless prisoner of his emotions that paralyze ;
  2. The tyrant : which operates in its favor, the sad passions, poisoning the life by concepts such as good and evil, sin and merit, sin and redemption; the king by divine right is surely referred here. The Free State is one that offers freedom rather than rewards or medals;
  3. The priest , the accomplice of the tyrant.

Spinoza, in the continuity of atomic, of Descartes , Montaigne, Giordano Bruno, already inaugurates the thought-dynamite Nietzsche will make Christianity the archetype of sad passion to fight.