Thursday, February 15, 2018

Four Benefits of Ethics

For all that Spinoza and the other modern philosophers got wrong, he got a few things wonderfully right. Near the end of Part 2 of his classic work, Ethics (which had unfortunately little discussion of ethics in the sections we covered in class, by the way), Spinoza lists four ways in which people can benefit from studying his philosophy.

The first of these ways includes knowing that we are part of God (in some weird, metaphysical way), which means, in part, that "we share in the divine nature." He also wrote that "virtue itself . . . is happiness itself," which I think is just beautiful.

The second way we can benefit from Spinoza's deterministic view of the universe is that it teaches us "to expect and endure with patience both faces of fortune [good fortune and bad fortune]." This sounds incredibly "zen" to me, and might be the source of the "complete tranquillity of mind" that he mentions within the first way his philosophy can help us.

The third way is that it teaches us to be patient with others, remembering that their actions are also determined, as all events are, and that they, too, are a part of God.

And the fourth way we can benefit from Spinoza's philosophy is by using it to build a stable and virtuous society.

I don't agree with everything Spinoza wrote, and I don't think that all of these benefits he says follow from his philosophy actually do that. Yet, as I read the benefits he claims his philosophy unlocks, I found that he gets pretty close to speaking of eternal truths and blessings of eternal and temporal value. Again, I don't think all of these blessings can come from following Spinoza, but I do think that all of these blessings, and many more, can come from following God.

No comments: