Baruch de Spinoza, A Treatise on How to Mend the Intellect (1-18) [1] After experience taught me that everything that happens frequently

in common life is vain and futile, and I saw that everything that was for me the cause or object of fear had nothing in it that was good or bad, except insofar as the soul was agitated by it, I decided at last to inquire whether or not there was something that was a true good, capable of being communicated and by means of which alone, everything else having been rejected, the soul would be affected—indeed, whether or not there was something whose discovery and acquisition would permit me to experience a continuous and supreme joy for eternity. [2] I say, “I decided at last”: for at first glance it seemed ill advised for me to want to lose something certain for something else uncertain. I doubtless saw the advantages that are acquired from honor or wealth, and which I would be forced to abstain from seeking if I wanted to apply myself seriously to another new thing. If supreme happiness were contained in them, I perceived that I would be deprived of it; but if it were not contained in them and I applied myself exclusively to these advantages, then I would also be deprived of the highest happiness. [3] And so I was agitated in my soul: would it perhaps be possible to attain a new practice, or at least a certainty of its subject, without changing the order and common practice of my life? This is what in vain I often tried to do. For what most often occurs in life and what is valued among human beings, to judge by their works, as the highest good, reduces to three: wealth, honor, and lust. The mind is so distracted by these three that it is hardly possible to think of any other good. [4] For, when it comes to lust, the soul is suspended by it so much—as if it had found rest in some good—that it is completely hindered from thinking about anything else. But after the enjoyment that lust provides, follows the highest sadness, which, if it doesn’t suspend the mind, nonetheless confuses and dulls it. [5] Pursuing honors and wealth also greatly distracts the mind, especially when wealth is sought only for itself, because then they are supposed to be the highest good. In truth honor distracts the mind much more often, for it is always supposed to be good in itself and as the final end toward which everything leads. Moreover, in these two cases, there is not, as in the case of lust, repentance; on the contrary, the more one possesses, the more joy increases, and consequently we are more and more incited to increase them. But if we are on some occasion frustrated in hope, then the highest sadness arises. Finally, honor is a great impediment, insofar as, in order to obtain it, life must be guided according to the capacity of human beings, that is to say, fleeing from what the vulgar flee and seeking what the vulgar seek. [6] When I saw, therefore, that all these things [wealth, honor, and lust] greatly obstructed establishing a new practice, and were even so opposed that it was necessary to abstain from one or the other, I was compelled to inquire into what would be most useful to me. As I have said, I seemed to want to lose a certain good for an uncertain good. But after having brooded a little over this matter, I discovered first that if I abandoned these things [wealth, honor, and lust] to make ready a new practice, I would abandon a good that was by its nature uncertain—as we can clearly conclude from what has been said—for a good that was uncertain not in fact by its nature (for I sought a stable good) but only with respect to its attainment.

certainly. Such love is what must be desired energetically and sought with all one’s strength. However. [9] Moreover. what happens when one loves perishable things. and even those who.2 [7] However. but they even hinder it and frequently are the cause of the ruin of those who possess them—and always the cause of the ruin of those who are possessed by them. it can be seen that these ills would seem to pertain to the fact that all happiness or unhappiness depend on one thing alone. But love for an eternal and infinite thing delights the soul with joy alone. lust. This is also the case for “perfect” and “imperfect. no fear. For on account of one who is not loved. after the true good became more and more known. in truth. and glory were harmful only to the extent that they were sought for themselves and not as means to something else. so as to enrich themselves. And although in the beginning these intervals were rare and lasted for a short amount of time. just as a sick person suffering from a deadly illness. there arise many quarrels. it must be noted that “good” and “bad” are said only in a relative way—to the point that one and the same thing can be called good and bad according to diverse respects. who. 12] Here I should say briefly what I understand by a true good and at the same time what is the highest good. [8] There are. namely. however uncertain.” In fact. then they have their limit. as we shall demonstrate in its place. I then saw myself plunged into the highest danger and forced to seek a remedy. however uncertain. the quality of the object to which love attaches us. the intervals were more frequent and longer—especially after having seen that the acquisition of money. There are no fewer examples of those who. an assiduous meditation led me to see then that if only I could thoroughly deliberate. with all his or her might—for doubtless here lies all his or her hope. and glory. when he or she foresees a certain death if he or she doesn’t apply a remedy. in fact. no jealousy if he or she is possessed by another. and it is devoid of all sadness. [10] It is. not without reason that I have used the words: “if only I could thoroughly deliberate. it also turned away from those things and thought seriously about a new practice—which was a great comfort to me. I would let go of certain ills for a certain good. in order to obtain or defend their honor. have exposed themselves to so many dangers that they have wound up paying with their life for their folly. nevertheless. nothing considered in its nature is said to be perfect or imperfect. For I saw that these ills were not of such a condition that they couldn’t yield to remedies. nonetheless I could not get rid of all greed. and they scarcely harm but contribute much to the end for which they are sought.” For as clearly as the mind perceives this. especially when we know that everything that happens is produced in accordance with an eternal order and with certain laws of nature. Finally. [11] I saw only one thing: as long as the mind was turning around these thoughts. This is. lust. is forced to seek. no hate. and . in a word. have suffered miserably. there are innumerable examples of those who have greatly hastened their death by lust. all those things that the vulgar pursue not only carry no remedy to preserve our being. such as all those of which we have just spoken. In order to understand correctly. he or she will have no sadness if he or she perishes. But if they are sought as means. no commotions of the soul. [13] But since human feebleness cannot grasp this order by thought and in the meantime a human being conceives of human nature as much stronger than his or her own. very many examples of those who have suffered persecution to death because of their wealth. with all my might.

For there is no small benefit that we can acquire from it. (Translated by Ted Stolze from the Latin text of Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione. I should begin by providing myself with what must be done above all else: to mend the intellect and render it capable of understanding things in such a way that is necessary for us to attain our goal. For that to happen. it is necessary to have an understanding of Nature that would be sufficient for acquiring such a nature. mechanics is in no way to be condemned. 3. it is necessary to reflect on the means of mending the intellect and. Because health is not a small means to pursue this end. is to manage to enjoy such a nature—with other individuals. edited by Pierre-François Moreau [Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Oeuvres I: Premiers écrits. Finally. Also.) . the order that is natural to us requires that I summarize here all the modes of perceiving I have used until now to affirm or deny something without doubting it. to reach the highest human perfection. and to follow the customs of the commonwealth which are not opposed to our goal. [17] But because. and as well as possible. That is to say. What this nature is we shall demonstrate in its place: it is knowledge of the union that the mind has with all of Nature. it is necessary to elaborate a complete medicine. In addition. it is necessary to apply oneself to moral philosophy and to the education of children. And everything that can be a means to attain it is called a true good. 2. In other words. we are forced above all else to propose the following as good rules for living: 1. To enjoy pleasures to the extent that they suffice for preserving health. provided that we concede as much as is possible. to seek money or any other thing only to the extent that it suffices to sustain life and health. in a word. without error. all our actions and at the same time all our thoughts must be led to this end. But above all. and we can gain a lot of time and commodities. in order to choose the best of all and at the same time begin to know my strength and nature. [14] Therefore. which I desire to perfect. [15] In order to attain this. [16] On this basis each could see that I want to lead all the sciences to a single end and goal. To speak according to the capacity of the vulgar and work on everything that prevents us from attaining our goal. as we have said. to purge it so as to understand things successfully. if possible. while we work to attain it and we apply ourselves to lead the intellect back to the correct path. though. established by Filippo Mignini and published in Spinoza. this is the end toward which I tend: to acquire such a nature and to strive that many acquire it with me. namely. so that their understanding and their desire agree entirely with my understanding and my desire. The highest good. Next. it is necessary to live. then to form a society as desired that would permit the greatest number possible to reach it as easily and securely as possible. as much as is allowed at the beginning. [18] Having proposed these rules. because many difficult things are made easier by art.3 simultaneously sees nothing that prevents acquiring such a nature. 2009]. it also belongs to my happiness to ensure that many others share in my understanding of things. Finally. is incited to seek means leading to such a perfection. and so everything in the sciences not advancing us toward our end should be rejected as useless. in this way we will find friendly ears to hear the truth.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful