Category Archives: Philosophy

Durant 1926: Paris: Oedipe (Voltaire)

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter V Section 1 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.

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I. Paris: Oedipe

At Paris in 1742 Voltaire was coaching Mlle. Dumesnil, to rise to tragic heights in a rehearsal of his play Mérope. She complained that she would have to have “the very devil” in her to simulate such passion as he required. “That is just it,” answered Voltaire; “you must have the devil in you to succeed in any of the arts.” Even his critics and his enemies admitted that he himself met this requirement perfectly. “Il avait Ie diable au corps—he had the devil in his body,” said Sainte-Beuve; and De Maistre called him the man “into whose hands hell had given all its powers.” 

Voltaire had the devil in his body.

Unprepossessing, ugly, vain, flippant, obscene, unscrupulous, even at times dishonest,—Voltaire was a man with the faults of his time and place, missing hardly one. And yet this same Voltaire turns out to have been tirelessly kind, considerate, lavish of his energy and his purse, as sedulous in helping friends as in crushing enemies, able to kill with a stroke of his pen and yet disarmed by the first advance of conciliation;—so contradictory is man.

But he was also kind and considerate.

But all these qualities, good and bad, were secondary, not of the essence of Voltaire; the astounding and basic thing in him was the inexhaustible fertility and brilliance of his mind. His works fill ninety-nine volumes, of which every page is sparkling and fruitful, though they range from subject to subject across the world as fitfully and bravely as in an encyclopedia. “My trade is to say what I think”: and what he thought was always worth saying, as what he said was always said incomparably well. If we do not read him now (though men like Anatole France have been formed to subtlety and wisdom by poring over his pages), it is because the theological battles which he fought for us no longer interest us intimately; we have passed on perhaps to other battle-fields, and are more absorbed with the economics of this life than with the geography of the next; the very thoroughness of Voltaire’s victory over ecclesiasticism and superstition makes dead those issues which he found alive. Much of his fame, too, came of his inimitable conversation; but scripta manent, verba volant—writtenwords remain, while spoken words fly away, the winged words of Voltaire with the rest. What is left to us is too much the flesh of Voltaire, too little the divine fire of his spirit. And yet, darkly as we see him through the glass of time, what a spirit!—“sheer intelligence transmuting anger into fun, fire into light”; “a creature of air and flame, the most excitable that ever lived, composed of more ethereal and more throbbing atoms than those of other men; there is none whose mental machinery is more delicate, nor whose equilibrium is at the same time more shifting and more exact.” Was he, perhaps, the greatest intellectual energy in all history? 

The astounding and basic thing in Voltaire was the inexhaustible fertility and brilliance of his mind.

Certainly he worked harder, and accomplished more, than any other man of his epoch. “Not to be occupied, and not to exist, amount to the same thing,” he said. “All people are good except those who are idle.” His secretary said that he was a miser only of his time. “One must give one’s self all the occupation one can to make life supportable in this world. … The further I advance in age, the more I find work necessary. It becomes in the long run the greatest of pleasures, and takes the place of the illusions of life.” “If you do not want to commit suicide always have something to do.”  

Votaire worked harder, and accomplished more, than any other man of his epoch.

Suicide must have been forever tempting him, for he was ever at work.” It was because he was so thoroughly alive that he filled the whole era with his life.” Contemporary with one of the greatest of centuries (1694-1778), he was the soul and essence of it. “To name Voltaire,” said Victor Hugo, “is to characterize the entire eighteenth century.” Italy had a Renaissance, and Germany had a Reformation, but France had Voltaire; he was for his country both Renaissance and Reformation, and half the Revolution. He carried on the antiseptic skepticism of Montaigne, and the healthy earthy humor of Rabelais;’he fought superstition and corruption more savagely and effectively than Luther or Erasmus, Calvin or Knox or Melanchthon; he helped to make the powder with which Mirabeau and Marat, Danton and Robespierre blew up the Old Regime. “If we judge of men by what they have done,” said Lamartine, “then Voltaire is incontestably the greatest writer of modern Europe. … Destiny gave him eighty-three years of existence, that he might slowly decompose the decayed age; he had the time to combat time; and when he fell he was the conqueror.”

Voltaire was so thoroughly alive that he filled the whole era with his life.

No, never has a writer had in his lifetime such influence. Despite exile, imprisonment, and the suppression of almost everyone of his books by the minions of church and state, he forged fiercely a path for his truth, until at last kings, popes and emperors catered to him, thrones trembled before him, and half the world listened to catch his every word. It was an age in which many things called for a destroyer. “Laughing lions must come,” said Nietzsche; well, Voltaire came, and “annihilated with laughter.” He and Rousseau were.the two voices of a vast process of economic and political transition from feudal aristocracy to the rule of the middle class. When a rising class is inconvenienced by existing law or custom it appeals from custom to reason and from law to nature—just as conflicting desires in the individual sparkle into thought. So the wealthy bourgeoisie supported the rationalism of Voltaire and the naturalism of Rousseau; it was necessary to loosen old habits and customs, to renovate and invigorate feeling and thought, to open the mind to experiment and change, before the great Revolution could come. Not that Voltaire and Rousseau were the causes of the Revolution; perhaps rather they were co-results with it of the forces that seethed and surged beneath the political and social surface of French life; they were the accompanying light and brilliance of the volcanic heat and conflagration. Philosophy is to history as reason is to desire: in either case an unconscious process determines from below the conscious thought above.

Voltaire forged fiercely a path for his truth, until at last kings, popes and emperors catered to him, thrones trembled before him, and half the world listened to catch his every word.

Yet we must not bend back too far in attempting to correct the philosopher’s tendency to exaggerate the influence of philosophy. Louis XVI, seeing in his Temple prison the works of Voltaire and Rousseau, said, “Those two men have destroyed France,’ —meaning his dynasty. “The Bourbons might have preserved themselves,” said Napoleon, “if they had controlled writing materials. The advent of cannon killed the feudal system; ink will kill the modern social organization.” “Books rule the world,” said Voltaire, “or at least those nations in it which have a written language; the others do not count.” “Nothing enfranchises like education”;—and he proceeded to enfranchise France. “When once a nation begins to think, it is impossible to stop it.” But with Voltaire, France began to think. 

With Voltaire, France began to think. 

”Voltaire,” that is to say, Francois Marie Arouet, was born at Paris in 1694, the son of a comfortably successful notary and a somewhat aristocratic mother. He owed to his father, perhaps, his shrewdness and irascibility, and to his mother something of his levity and wit. He came into the world, so to speak, by a narrow margin: his mother did not survive his birth; and he was so puny and sickly an infant that the nurse did not give him more than a day to live. She was slightly in error, as he lived almost to eighty-four; but throughout his life his frail body tormented with illness his unconquerable spirit. 

Voltaire owed to his father, perhaps, his shrewdness and irascibility, and to his mother something of his levity and wit. 

He had for his edification a model elder brother, Armand, a pious lad who fell in love with the Jansenist heresy, and courted martyrdom for his faith. “Well,” said Armand to a friend who advised the better part of valor, “if you do not want to be hanged, at least do not put off other people.” The father said he had two fools for his sons—one in verse and the other in prose. The fact that Francois made verses almost as soon as he could write his name, convinced his very practical father that nothing good would come of him. But the famous hetaira, Ninon de l’Enclos, who lived in the provincial town to which the Arouets had returned after the birth of Francois, saw in the youth signs of greatness; and when she died she left him 2000 francs for the purchase of books. His early education came from these, and from a dissolute abbe (a Jerome Coignard in the flesh) who taught him scepticism along with his prayers. His later educators, the Jesuits, gave him the very instrument of scepticism by teaching him dialectic—the art of proving anything, and therefore at last the habit of believing nothing. Francois became an adept at argument: while the boys played games in the fields, he, aged twelve, stayed behind to discuss theology with the doctors. When the time came for him to earn his living, he scandalized his father by proposing to take up literature as profession. “Literature,” said M. Arouet, “is the profession of the man who wishes to be useless to society and a burden to his relatives, and to die of hunger”;—one can see the table trembling under his emphasis. So Francois went in for literature. 

When the time came for Voltaire to earn his living, he scandalized his father by proposing to take up literature as profession. 

Not that he was a quiet and merely studious lad; he burnt the midnight oil—of others. He took to staying out late, frolicking with the wits and roisterers of the town, and experimenting with the commandments; until his exasperated father sent him off to a relative at Caen, with instructions to keep the youth practically in confinement. But his jailer fell in love with his wit, and soon gave him free rein. After imprisonment, now as later, came exile: his father sent him to the Hague with the French ambassador, requesting strict surveillance of the madcap boy; but Francois at once fell in love with a little lady, “Pimpette,” held breathless clandestine interviews with her, and “wrote to her passionate letters ending always with the refrain, ‘’I shall certainly love you forever.” The affair was discovered, and he was sent home. He remembered Pimpette for several weeks. 

Voltaire was wildly impulsive as a lad.

In 1715, proud of his twenty-one years, he went to Paris, just in time to be in at the death of Louis XIV. The succeeding Louis being too young to govern France, much less Paris, the power fell into the hands of a regent; and during this quasi-interregnum life ran riot in the capital of the world, and young Arouet ran with it. He soon achieved a reputation as a brilliant and reckless lad. When the Regent, for economy, sold half the horses that filled the royal stables, Francois remarked how much more sensible it would have been to dismiss half the asses that filled the royal court. At last all the bright and naughty things whispered about Paris were fathered upon him; and it was his ill luck that these included two poems accusing the Regent of desiring to usurp the throne. The Regent raged; and meeting the youth in the park one day, said to him: “M. Arouet, I will wager that I can show you something that you have never seen before.” “What is that?” “The inside of the Bastille.” Arouet saw It the next day, April 16, 1717. 

Because of his wild antics Voltaire was imprisoned in Bastille in 1717 at the age of twenty-three.

While in the Bastille he adopted, for some unknown reason, the pen-name of Voltaire,* and became a poet in earnest and at length. Before he had served eleven months he had written a long and not unworthy epic, the Henriade, telling the story of Henry of Navarre. Then the Regent, having discovered, perhaps, that he had imprisoned an innocent man, released him and gave him a pension; whereupon Voltaire wrote thanking him for so taking care of his board, and begging permission hereafter to take care of his lodging himself.

*Carlyle thought it an anagram for A-r-o-u-e-t l. j. (le jejune, the younger). But the name seems to have occurred among the family of Voltaire’s mother.

During this imprisonment Voltaire wrote his epic Henriade.

He passed now almost with a bound from the prison to the stage. His tragedy, Oedipe, was produced in 1718, and broke all the records of Paris by running for forty-five consecutive nights. His old father, come to upbraid him, sat in a box, and covered his joy by grumbling, at every hit, “Oh, the rascal! the rascal!” When the poet Fontenelle met Voltaire after the play and damned it with high praise, saying it was “too brilliant for tragedy,” Voltaire replied, smiling, “I must re-read your pastorals.” The youth was in no mood for caution or for courtesy; had he not put into the play itself these reckless lines?— 

Our priests are not what simple folk suppose;
Their learning is but our credulity. (Act iv, sc. 1); 

and into the mouth of Araspe this epoch-making challenge?—

Let us trust to ourselves, see all with our own eyes;
Let these be our oracles, our tripods and our gods. (ii, 5) 

The play netted Voltaire 4000 francs, which he proceeded to invest with a wisdom unheard of in literary men; through all his tribulations he kept the art not merely of making a spacious income, but of putting it to work; he respected the classic adage that one must live before one can philosophize. In 1719 he bought up all the tickets in a poorly planned government lottery, and made a large sum, much to the anger of the Government. But as he became rich he became ever more generous; and a growing circle of proteges gathered about him as he passed into the afternoon of life. 

Voltaire was a genius not only in play writing but also in investing his money. He was also quite generous with his fortune.

It was well that he added an almost Hebraic subtlety of finance to his Gallic cleverness of pen; for his next play, Artemire, failed. Voltaire felt the failure keenly; every triumph sharpens the sting of later defeats. He was always painfully sensitive to public opinion, and envied the animals because they do not know what people say of them. Fate added to his dramatic failure a bad case of small-pox; he cured himself by drinking 120 pints of lemonade, and somewhat less of physic. When he came out of the shadow of death he found that his Henriade had made him famous; he boasted, with reason, that he had made poetry the fashion. He was received and feted everywhere; the aristocracy caught him up and turned him into a polished man of the world, an unequalled master of conversation, and the inheritor of the finest cultural tradition in Europe. 

Voltaire’s rise was rapid with his successes. He mingled with aristocracy and became very polished.

For eight years he basked in the sunshine of the salons; and then fortune turned away. Some of the aristocracy could not forget that this young man had no other title to place and honor than that of genius, and could not quite forgive him for the distinction. During a dinner at the Duc de Sully’s chateau, after Voltaire had held forth for some minutes with unabashed eloquence and wit, the Chevalier de Rohan asked, not sotto voce, “Who is the young man who talks so loud?” “My Lord,” answered Voltaire quickly, “he is one who does not carry a great name, but wins respect for the name he has.” To answer the Chevalier at all was impertinence·; to answer him unanswerably was treason. The honorable Lord engaged a band of ruffians to assault Voltaire by night, merely cautioning them, “Don’t hit hIs head; something good may come out of that yet.” The next day, at the theatre, Voltaire appeared, bandaged and limping, walked up to Rohan’s box, and challenged him to a duel. Then he went home and spent all day practicing with the foils. But the noble Chevalier had no mind to be precipitated into heaven, or elsewhere, by a mere genius; he appealed to his cousin, who was Minister of Police, to protect him. Voltaire was arrested, and found himself again in his old home, the Bastille, privileged once more to view the world from the inside. He was almost immediately released, on condition that he go into exile in England. He went; but after being escorted to Dover he recrossed the Channel in disguise, burning to avenge himself. Warned that he had been discovered, and was about to be arrested a third time, he took ship again, and reconciled himself to three years in England (1726-29). 

Voltaire got into trouble with aristocracy due to his impertinence and had to leave France for England.

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Durant 1926: The Influence of Spinoza

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter IV Section 6 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.

.

VI. The Influence of Spinoza

“Spinoza did not seek to found a sect, and he founded none”;  yet all philosophy after him is permeated with his thought. During the generation that followed his death, his name was held in abhorrence; even Hume spoke of his “hideous hypothesis”; “people talked of Spinoza,” said Lessing, “as if he were a dead dog.” 

Spinoza’s name was held in abhorrence during the generation that followed his death.

It was Lessing who restored him to repute. The great critic surprised Jacobi, in their famous conversation in 1784, by saying that he had been a Spinozist throughout his mature life, and affirming that “there is no other philosophy than that of Spinoza.” His love of Spinoza had strengthened his friendship with Moses Mendelssohn; and in his great play,. Nathan der Weise,* he poured into one mould that conception of the ideal Jew which had come to him from the living merchant and the dead philosopher. A few years later Herder’s Einige Gesprache ilber Spinoza’s System** turned the attention of liberal theologians to the Ethics; Schleiermacher, leader of this school, wrote of “the holy and excommunicated Spinoza,” while the Catholic poet, Novalis, called him “the god-intoxicated man.” 

*Nathan, the wise
**Some discussions about Spinoza’s system

But the great critic Lessing viewed Spinoza very favorably and restored him to repute.

Meanwhile Jacobi had brought Spinoza to the attention of Goethe; the great poet was converted, he tells us, at the first reading of the Ethics; it was precisely the, philosophy for which his deepening soul had yearned; henceforth it pervaded his poetry and his prose. It was here that he found the lesson dass wir entsagen sollen*—that we must accept the limitations which nature puts upon us; and it was partly by breathing the calm air of Spinoza that he rose out of the wild romanticism of Gotz and Wertker to the classic poise of his later life. 

*that we should renounce

When brought to his attention, Spinoza’s Ethics was greatly appreciated by the great poet Goethe.

It was by combining Spinoza with Kant’s epistemology that Fichte, Schelling and Hegel reached their varied pantheisms; it was from the conatus sese preservandi*, the effort to preserve one’s self, that Fichte’s Ieh was born, and Schopenhauer’s “will to live,” and Nietzsche’s “will to power,” and Bergson’s elan vital. Hegel objected that Spinoza’s system was too lifeless and rigid; he was forgetting this dynamic element of it and remembering only that majestic conception of God as law which he appropriated for his “Absolute Reason.” But he was honest enough when he said, “To be a philosopher one must first be a Spinozist.” 

*attempts to preserve

Appreciation by other great names followed.

In England the influence of Spinoza rose on the tide of the Revolutionary movement; and young rebels like Coleridge and Wordsworth talked about “Spy-nosa” (which the spy set by the government to watch them took as a reference to his own nasal facilities) with the same ardor that animated the conversation of Russian intellectuals in the halcyon days of Y Narod. Coleridge filled his guests with Spinozist table-talk; and Wordsworth caught something of the philosopher’s thought in his famous lines about 

Something
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue ~ky, and in the mind of man;- 
A motion and a spirit, which unpels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things. 

The influence of Spinoza then spread abroad to England and Russia.

Shelley quoted the Treatise on Religion and the State in the original notes to Queen Mab, and began a translation of it for which Byron promised a preface. A fragment of this MS. came into the hands of C. S. Middleton, who took it for a work of Shelley’s own, and called it “school-boy speculation … too crude for publication entire.” In a later and tamer age George Eliot translated the Ethics, though she never published the translation; and one may suspect that Spencer’s conception of the Unknowable owes something to Spinoza through his intimacy with the novelist. “There are not wanting men of eminence of the present day,” says Belfort Bax, “who declare that in Spinoza is contained the fulness of modern science.” 

Eminent men thought that in Spinoza is contained the fullness of modern science.

Perhaps so many were influenced by Spinoza because he lends himself to so many interpretations, and yields new riches at every reading. All profound utterances have varied facets for diverse minds. One may say of Spinoza what Ecclesiastes said of Wisdom: “The first man knew him not perfectly, no more shall the last find him out. For his thoughts are more than the sea, and his counsels profounder than the great deep.”

Spinoza’s wisdom was so profound that people found more riches in every reading.

On the second centenary of Spinoza’s death subscriptions were collected for the erection of a statue to him at the Hague. Contributions came from every corner of the educated world; never did a monument rise upon so wide a pedestal of love. At the unveiling in 1882 Ernest Renan concluded his address with words which may fitly conclude also. our chapter: “Woe to him who in passing should hurl an insult at this gentle and pensive head. He would be punished, as all vulgar souls are punished, by his very vulgarity, and by his incapacity to conceive what is divine. This man, from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men the way of blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, ‘The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps here.'” 

Two hundred years after his death, Spinoza was truly loved all over the educated world.

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Durant 1926: The Political Treatise (Spinoza)

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter IV Section 5 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.

.

V. The Political Treatise

There remains for our analysis that tragic torso, the Tractatus Politicus, the work of Spinoza’s maturest years, stopped suddenly short by his early death. It is a brief thing, and yet full of thought; so that one feels again how much was lost when this gentle life was closed at the very moment that it was ripening to its fullest powers. In the same generation which saw Hobbes exalting absolute monarchy and denouncing the uprising of the English people against their king almost as vigorously as Milton was defending it, Spinoza, friend of the republican De Witts, formulated a political philosophy which expressed the liberal and democratic hopes of his day in Holland, and became one of the main sources of that stream of thought which culminated in Rousseau and the Revolution. 

Spinoza formulated a political philosophy which expressed the liberal and democratic hopes of his day in Holland, and became one of the main sources of that stream of thought which culminated in Rousseau and the Revolution. 

All political philosophy, Spinoza thinks, must grow out of a distinction between the natural and the moral order—that is, between existence before, and existence after, the formation of organized societies. Spinoza supposes that men once lived in comparative isolation, without law or social organization; there were then, he says, no conceptions of right and wrong, justice or injustice; might and right were one. 

Nothing can exist in a natural state which can be called good or bad by common assent, since every man who is in a natural state consults only his own advantage, and determines what is good or bad according to his own fancy and in so far as he has regard for his own advantage alone, and holds himself responsible to no one save himself by any law; and therefore sin cannot be conceived in a natural state, but only in a civil state, where it is decreed by common consent what is good or bad, and each one holds himself responsible to the state. … The law and ordinance of nature under which all men are born, and for the most part live, forbids nothing but what no one wishes or is able to do, and is not opposed to strife, hatred, anger, treachery, or, in general, anything that appetite suggests.

Sin cannot be conceived in a natural state, but only in a civil state, where it is decreed by common consent what is good or bad, and each one holds himself responsible to the state.

We get an inkling of this law of nature, or this lawlessness of nature, by observing the behavior of states; “there is no altruism among nations,” for there can be law and morality only where there is an accepted organization, a common and recognized authority. The “rights” of states are now what the “rights” of individuals used to be (and still often are), that is, they are mights, and the leading states, by some forgetful honesty of diplomats, are very properly called the “Great Powers.” So it is too among species: there being no common organization, there is not among them any morality or law; each species does to the other what it wishes and can. 

“There is no altruism among nations,” for there can be law and morality only where there is an accepted organization, a common and recognized authority. 

But among men, as mutual needs begets mutual aid, this natural order of powers passes into a moral order of rights. “Since fear of solitude exists in all men, because no one in solitude is strong enough to defend himself and procure the necessaries of life, it follows that men by nature tend towards social organization.” To guard against danger “the force or strength of one man would hardly suffice if men did not arrange mutual aid and exchange.” Men are not by nature, however, equipped for the mutual forbearance of social order; but danger begets association, which gradually nourishes and strengthens the social instincts: “men are not born for citizenship, but must be made fit for it.”

Men are not by nature equipped for the mutual forbearance of social order; but danger begets association, which gradually nourishes and strengthens the social instincts.

Most men are at heart individualistic rebels against law or custom: the social instincts are later and weaker than the individualistic, and need reinforcement; man is not “good by nature,” as Rousseau was so disastrously to suppose. But through association, if even merely in the family, sympathy comes, a feeling of kind, and at last of kindness. We like what is like us; “we pity not only a thing we have loved, but also one which we judge similar to ourselves”; out of this comes an “imitation of emotions,” and finally some degree of conscience. Conscience, however, is not innate, but acquired; and varies with geography. It is the deposit, in the mind of the growing individual, of the moral traditions of the group; through it society creates for itself an ally in the heart of its enemy—the naturally individualistic soul. 

Most men are at heart individualistic rebels against law or custom: the social instincts are later and weaker than the individualistic, and need reinforcement; man is not “good by nature.”

Gradually, in this development, it comes about that the law of individual power which obtains in a state of nature, yields in organized society to the legal and moral power of the whole. Might still remains right; but the might of the whole limits the might of the individual—limits it theoretically to his rights, to such exercise of his powers as agrees with the equal freedom of others. Part of the individual’s natural might, or sovereignty, is handed over to the organized community, in return for the enlargement of the sphere of his remaining powers. We abandon, for example, the right to fly from anger to violence, and are freed from the danger of such violence from others. Law is necessary because men are subject to passions; if all men were reasonable, law would be superfluous. The perfect law would bear to individuals the same relation which perfect reason bears to passions: it would be the coordination of conflicting forces to avoid the ruin and increase the power of the whole. Just as, in metaphysics, reason is the perception of order in things, and in ethics the establishment of order among desires, so in politics it is the establishment of order among men. The perfect state would limit the powers of its citizens only as far as these powers were mutually destructive; it would withdraw no liberty except to add a greater one. 

The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to restrain them by fear; rather it is so to free each man from fear that he may live and act with full security and without injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, a free reason; that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.

The perfect state would limit the powers of its citizens only as far as these powers were mutually destructive; it would withdraw no liberty except to add a greater one. 

Freedom is the goal of the state because the function of the state is to promote growth, and growth depends on capacity finding freedom. But what if laws stifle growth and freedom? What shall a man do if the state, seeking, like every organism or organization, to preserve its own existence (which ordinarily means that office-holders seek to keep themselves in office), becomes a mechanism of domineering and exploitation? Obey even the unjust law, answers Spinoza, if reasonable protest and discussion are allowed and speech is left free to secure a peaceful change. “I confess that from such freedom inconveniences may sometimes arise; but what question was ever settled so wisely that no abuses could spring therefrom?” Laws against free speech are subversive of all law; for men will not long respect laws which they may not criticize. 

The more a government strives to curtail freedom of speech, the more obstinately is it resisted; not indeed by the avaricious, … but by those whom good education, sound morality, and virtue have rendered more free. Men in genera! are so constituted that there is nothing they will endure with so little patience as that views which they believe to be true should be counted crimes against the laws, … Under such circumstances they do not think it disgraceful, but most honorable, to hold the laws in abhorrence, and to refrain from no action against the government. … Laws which can be broken without any wrong to one’s neighbor are counted but a laughing-stock; and so far from such laws restraining the appetites and lusts of mankind, they rather heighten them. Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.*

*(“We always resist prohibitions, and yearn for what is denied us.”) 

Laws against free speech are subversive of all law; for men will not long respect laws which they may not criticize. 

And Spinoza concludes like a good American constitutionalist: “If actions only could be made the ground of criminal prosecutions, and words were always allowed to pass free, sedition would be divested of every semblance of justification!”

“If actions only could be made the ground of criminal prosecutions, and words were always allowed to pass free, sedition would be divested of every semblance of justification!”

The less control the state has over the mind, the better: for both the citizen and the state. Spinoza, while recognizing the necessity of the state, distrusts it, knowing that power corrupts even the incorruptible (was this not the name of Robespierre?); and he does not look with equanimity upon the extension of its authority from the bodies and actions to the souls and thoughts of men; that would be the end of growth and the death of the group. So he disapproves of state control of education, especially in the universities: “Academies that are founded at the public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as; to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be better cultivated to the full if everyone that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, at his own cost and risk.” How to find a middle way between universities controlled by the state and universities controlled by private wealth, is a problem which Spinoza does not solve; private wealth had not in his day grown to such proportions as to suggest the difficulty. His ideal, apparently, was higher education such as once flourished in Greece, coming not from Institutions but from free individuals—“Sophists”—who traveled from city to city and taught independently of either public or private control. 

The less control the state has over the mind, the better: for both the citizen and the state. Spinoza’s ideal was higher education coming not from Institutions but from free individuals and taught independently of either public or private control. 

These things premised, it makes no great difference what is the form of government; and Spinoza expresses only a mild preference for democracy. Any of the traditional political forms can be framed “so that every man … may prefer public right to private advantage; this is the task” of the law-giver. Monarchy is efficient, but oppressive and militaristic. 

Experience is thought to teach that it makes for peace and concord to confer the whole authority on one man. For no dominion has stood so long without any notable change as that of the Turks; and on the other hand there were none so little lasting as those which were popular or democratic, nor any in which so many seditions arose. Yet if slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of household management to change a father’s right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by handing over the whole authority to one man.

Any of the traditional political forms can be framed “so that every man … may prefer public right to private advantage; this is the task” of the law-giver.

To which he adds a word on secret diplomacy: 

It has been the one song of those who thirst after absolute power that the interest of the state requires that its affairs should be conducted in secret. … But the more such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they will lead. … Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens. They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.

Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens.

Democracy is the most reasonable form of government; for in it “every one submits to the control of authority over his actions, but not over his judgment and reason; i. e., seeing that all cannot think alike, the voice of the majority has the force of law.” The military basis of this democracy should be universal military service, the citizens retaining their arms during peace; its fiscal basis should be the single tax.* The defect of democracy is its tendency to put mediocrity into power; and there is no way of avoiding this except by limiting office to men of “trained skill.” Numbers by themselves cannot produce wisdom, and may give the best favors of office to the grossest flatterers. “The fickle disposition of the multitude almost reduces those who have experience of it to despair; for it is governed solely by emotions, and not by reason.” Thus democratic government becomes a procession of brief-lived demagogues, and men of worth are loath to enter lists where they must be judged and rated by their inferiors. Sooner or later the more capable men rebel against such a system, though they be in a minority. “Hence I think it is that democracies change into aristocracies, and these at length into monarchies”; people at last prefer tyranny to chaos. Equality of power is an unstable condition; men are by nature unequal; and “he who seeks equality between unequals seeks an absurdity.” Democracy has still to solve the problem of enlisting the best energies of men while giving to all alike the choice of those, among the trained and fit, by whom they wish to be ruled. 

*”The fields and the whole soil, and (if it can be managed) the houses, should be public property, … let at a yearly rental to the citizen; … and with this exception let them all be free from every kind of taxation in time of peace.”

Democracy is the most reasonable form of government; for in it “every one submits to the control of authority over his actions, but not over his judgment and reason. The defect of democracy is its tendency to put mediocrity into power.

Who knows what light the genius of Spinoza might have cast upon this pivotal problem of modern politics had he been spared to complete his work? But even that which we have of this treatise was but the first and imperfect draft of his thought. While writing the chapter on democracy he died. 

Spinoza could not complete his treatise on Politics because of his death.

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Durant 1926: Religion and Immortality (Spinoza)

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter IV Section 4.4 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.

.

IV.4 Religion and Immortality

After all, as we perceive, Spinoza’s philosophy was an attempt to love even a world in which he was outcast and alone, again like Job, he typified his people, and asked how it could be that even the just man, like the chosen people, should suffer persecution and exile and every desolation. For a time the conception of the world as a process of impersonal and invariable law soothed and sufficed him; but in the end his essentially religious spirit turned this mute process into something almost lovable. He tried to merge his own desires with the universal order of things, to become an almost indistinguishable part of nature. “The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole nature.” Indeed, our individual separateness is in a sense illusory; we are parts of the great stream of law and cause, parts of God; we are the flitting forms of a being greater than ourselves, and endless while we die. Our bodies are cells in the body of the race, our race is an incident in the drama of life; our minds are the fitful flashes of an eternal light. “Our mind, in so far as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking, which is determined by another mode of thinking, and this one again by another, and so on to infinity; so that they all constitute at the same time the eternal and infinite intellect of God.” In this pantheistic merging of the individual with the All, the Orient speaks again: we hear the echo of Omar, who “never called the One two,” and of the old Hindu poem: “Know in thyself and All one self-same soul; banish the dream that sunders part from whole.” “Sometimes,” said Thoreau, “as I drift idly on Walden Pond, I cease to live and begin to be.” 

Spinoza tried to merge his own desires with the universal order of things, to become an almost indistinguishable part of nature.

As such parts of such a whole we are immortal. “The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the human body, but there is some part of it which remains eternal.” This is the part that conceives things sub specie eternitatis; the more we so conceive things, the more eternal our thought is. Spinoza is even more than usually obscure here; and after endless controversy among interpreters his language yet speaks differently to different minds. Sometimes one imagines him to mean George Eliot’s immortality by repute, whereby that which is most rational and beautiful in our thought and our lives survives us to have an almost timeless efficacy down the years. Sometimes again Spinoza seems to have in mind a personal and individual immortality; and it may be that as death loomed up so prematurely in his path he yearned to console himself with this hope that springs eternally in the human breast. Yet he insistently differentiates eternity from everlastingness: “If we pay attention to the common opinion of men, we shall see that they are conscious of the eternity of their minds; but they confuse eternity with duration, and attribute it to imagination or memory, which they believe will remain after death.” But like Aristotle, Spinoza, though talking of immortality, denies the survival of personal memory. “The mind can neither imagine nor recollect anything save while in the body.” Nor does he believe in heavenly rewards: “Those are far astray from a true estimate of virtue who expect for their virtue, as if it were the greatest slavery, that God will adorn them with the greatest rewards; as if virtue and the serving of God were not happiness itself and the greatest liberty.” “Blessedness,” reads the last proposition of Spinoza’s book, “is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself.” And perhaps in the like manner, immortality is not the reward of clear thinking, it is clear thought itself, as it carries up the past into the present and reaches out into the future, so overcoming the limits and narrowness of time, and catching the perspective that remains eternally behind the kaleidoscope of change; such thought is immortal because every truth is a permanent creation, part of the eternal acquisition of man, influencing him endlessly. 

Clear thought is immortal because every truth is a permanent creation, part of the eternal acquisition of man, influencing him endlessly. 

With this solemn and hopeful note the Ethics ends. Seldom has one book enclosed so much thought, and fathered so much commentary, while yet remaining so bloody a battleground for hostile interpretations. Its metaphysic may be faulty, its psychology imperfect, its theology unsatisfactory and obscure; but of the soul of the book, its spirit and essence, no man who has read it will speak otherwise than reverently. In the concluding paragraph that essential spirit shines forth in simple eloquence: 

Thus I have completed all I wished to show concerning the power of the mind over emotions, or the freedom of the mind. From which it is clear how much a wise man is in front of and how stronger he is than an ignorant one, who is guided by lust alone. For an ignorant man, besides being agitated in many ways by external causes, never enjoys one true satisfaction of the mind: he lives, moreover, almost unconscious of himself, God, and things, and as soon as he ceases to be passive, ceases to be. On the contrary the wise man, in so far as he is considered as such, is scarcely moved in spirit; he is conscious of himself, of God, and things by a certain eternal necessity; he never ceases to be, and always enjoys satisfaction of mind. If the road I have shown to lead to this is very difficult, it can yet be discovered. And clearly it must be very hard when it is so seldom found. For how could it be that it is neglected practically by all, if salvation were close at hand and could be found without difficulty? But all excellent things are as difficult as they are rare. 

The wise man, in so far as he is considered as such, is scarcely moved in spirit; he is conscious of himself, of God, and things by a certain eternal necessity; he never ceases to be, and always enjoys satisfaction of mind. 

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Durant 1926: Intelligence and Morals (Spinoza)

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter IV Section 4.3 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.

.

IV.3 Intelligence and Morals

Ultimately there are but three systems of ethics, three conceptions of the ideal character and the moral life. One is that of Buddha and Jesus, which stresses the feminine virtues, considers all men to be equally precious, resists evil only by returning good, identifies virtue with love, and inclines in politics to unlimited democracy. Another is the ethic of Machiavelli and Nietzsche, which stresses the masculine virtues, accepts the inequality of men, relishes the risks of combat and conquest and rule, identifies virtue with power, and exalts an hereditary aristocracy. A third, the ethic of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, denies the universal applicability of either the feminine or the masculine virtues; considers that only the informed and mature mind can judge, according to diverse circumstance, when love should rule, and when power; identifies virtue, therefore, with intelligence; and advocates a varying mixture of aristocracy and democracy in government. It is the distinction of Spinoza that his ethic unconsciously reconciles these apparently hostile philosophies, weaves them into a harmonious unity, and gives us in consequence a system of morals which is the supreme achievement of modern thought. He begins by making happiness the goal of conduct; and he defines happiness very simply as the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. But pleasure and pain are relative, not absolute; and they are not states but transitions. “Pleasure is man’s transition from a lesser state of perfection” (i. e., completeness, or fulfillment) “to a greater.” “Joy consists in this, that one’s power is increased.”* “Pain is man’s transition from a greater state of perfection to a lesser. I say transition; for pleasure is not perfection itself: if a man were born with the perfection to which he passes he would be without … the emotion of pleasure. And the contrary of this makes it still more apparent.” All passions are passages, all emotions are motions, towards or from completeness and power. 

*Nietzsche: “What is happinessP The feeling that power increases. that resistance is overcome.” 

Spinoza begins by making happiness the goal of conduct; and he defines happiness very simply as the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. All passions are passages, all emotions are motions, towards or from completeness and power. 

“By emotion (affectus) I understand the modifications of the body by which the power of action in the body is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time the ideas of these modifications.” (This theory of emotion is usually credited to James and Lange; it is here formulated more precisely than by either of these psychologists, and accords remarkably with the findings of Professor Cannon.) A passion or an emotion is bad or good not in itself, but only as it decreases or enhances our power. “By virtue and power I mean the same thing”; a virtue is a power of acting, a form of ability; “the more a man can preserve his being and seek what is useful to him, the greater is his virtue.” Spinoza does not ask a man to sacrifice himself to another’s good; he is more lenient than nature. He thinks that egoism is a necessary corollary of the supreme instinct of self-preservation; “no one ever neglects anything which he judges to be good, except with the hope of gaining a greater good.” This seems to Spinoza perfectly reasonable. “Since reason demands nothing against nature, it concedes that each man must love himself, and seek what is useful to him, and desire whatever leads him truly to a greater state of perfection; and that each man should endeavor to preserve his being so far as in him lies.” So he builds his ethic not on altruism. and the natural goodness of man, like utopian reformers; nor on selfishness and the natural wickedness of man, like cynical conservatives, but on what he considers to be an inevitable and justifiable egoism. A system of morals that teaches a man to be weak is worthless; “the foundation of virtue is no other than the effort to maintain one’s being; and man’s happiness consists in the power of so doing.”

A passion or an emotion is bad or good not in itself, but only as it decreases or enhances our power. A virtue is a power of acting, a form of ability. Egoism is a necessary corollary of the supreme instinct of self-preservation.

Like Nietzsche, Spinoza has not much use for humility; it is either the hypocrisy of a schemer or the timidity of a slave; it implies the absence of power—whereas to Spinoza all virtues are forms of ability and power. So is remorse a defect rather than a virtue: “he who repents is twice unhappy and doubly weak.” But he does not spend so much time as Nietzsche in inveighing against humility; for “humility is very rare”; and as Cicero said, even the philosophers who write books in its praise take care to put their names on the title-page. “One who despises himself is the nearest to a proud man,” says Spinoza (putting in a sentence a pet theory of the psychoanalysts, that every conscious virtue is an effort to conceal or correct a secret vice). And whereas Spinoza dislikes humility he admires modesty, and objects to a pride that is not ”tenoned and mortised” in deeds. Conceit makes men a nuisance to one another: “the conceited man relates only his own great deeds, and only the evil ones of others”; he delights in the presence of his inferiors, who will gape at his perfections and exploits; and becomes at last the victim of those who praise him most; for “none are more taken in by flattery than the proud.”

Humility is fine as modesty but one should not despise himself; nor should one be conceited.

So far our gentle philosopher offers us a rather Spartan ethic; but he strikes in other passages a softer tone. He marvels at the amount of envy, recrimination, mutual belittlement, and even hatred, which agitates and separates men; and sees no remedy for our social ills except in the elimination of these and similar emotions. He believes it is a simple matter to show that hatred, perhaps because it trembles on the verge of love, can be more easily overcome by love than by reciprocated hate. For hatred is fed on the feeling that it is returned; whereas “he who believes himself to be loved by one whom he hates is a prey to the conflicting emotions of hatred and love, since (as Spinoza perhaps too optimistically believes) love tends to beget love; so that his hatred disintegrates and loses, force. To hate is to acknowledge our inferiority and our fear; we do not hate a foe whom we are confident we can overcome. “He who wishes to revenge injuries by reciprocal hatred will live in misery. But he who endeavors to drive away hatred by means of love, fights with pleasure and confidence; he resists equally one or many men, and scarcely needs at all the help of fortune. Those whom he conquers yield joyfully.” “Minds are conquered not by arms but by greatness of soul.” In such passages Spinoza sees something of the light which shone on the hills of Galilee. 

Emotions, such as, envy, recrimination, mutual belittlement, and even hatred, should best be eliminated. Hatred can be more easily overcome by love than by reciprocated hate. “Minds are conquered not by arms but by greatness of soul.”

But the essence of his ethic is rather Greek than Christian. “The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue”—nothing could be more simply and thoroughly Socratic. For “we are tossed about by external causes in many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.” We think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate, whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ancestral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipitate reaction which meets only part of the situation because without thought only part of a situation can be perceived. A passion is an “inadequate idea”; thought is response delayed till every vital angle of a problem has aroused a correlative reaction, inherited or acquired; only so is the idea adequate, the response all that it can be.* The instincts are magnificent as a driving force, but dangerous as guides; for by what we may call the individualism of the instincts, each of them seeks its own fulfillment, regardless of the good of the whole personality. What havoc has come to men, for example, from uncontrolled greed, pugnacity, or lust, till such men have become but the appendages of the instinct that has mastered them. “The emotions by which we are daily assailed have reference rather to some part of the body which is affected beyond the others, and so the emotions as a rule are in excess, and detain the mind in the contemplation of one object so that it cannot think of others.” But “desire that arises from pleasure or pain which has reference to one or certain parts of the body has no advantage to man as a whole.” To be ourselves we must complete ourselves. 

*To phrase it In later terms: reflex action is a local response to a local stimulus; instinctive action is a partial response to part of a situation; reason is total response to the whole situation. 

“The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.” A passion is an “inadequate idea.” Each instinct seeks its own fulfillment, regardless of the good of the whole personality. To be ourselves we must complete ourselves. 

All this is, of course, the old philosophic distinction between reason and passion; but Spinoza adds vitally to Socrates and the Stoics. He knows that as passion without reason is blind, reason without passion is dead. “An emotion can neither: be hindered nor removed except by a contrary and stronger emotion.” Instead of uselessly opposing reason to passion—a contest in which the more deeply-rooted and ancestral element usually wins—he opposes reasonless passions to passions coördinated by reason, put into place by the total perspective of the situation. Thought should not lack the heat of desire, nor desire the light of thought. “A passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it, and the mind is subject to passions in proportion to the number of adequate ideas which it has.” “All appetites are passions only so far as they arise from inadequate ideas; they are virtues … when generated by adequate ideas”;* all intelligent behavior—i. e., all reaction which meets the total situation—is virtuous action; and in the end there is no virtue but intelligence. 

*Notice the resemblance between the last two quotations and the psychoanalytic doctrine that desires are “complexes” only so long as we are not aware of the precise causes of these desires, and that the first element in treatment is therefore an attempt to bring the desire and its causes to consciousness—to form “adequate ideas” of it and them. 

Thought should not lack the heat of desire, nor desire the light of thought. “A passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it…”

Spinoza’s ethics flows from his metaphysics: just as reason there lay in the perception of law in the chaotic flux of things, so here it lies in the establishment of law in the chaotic flux of desires; there it lay in seeing, here it lies in acting, sub specie eternitatis—under the form of eternity; in making perception and action fit the eternal perspective of the whole. Thought helps us to this larger view because it is aided by imagination, which presents to consciousness those distant effects of present actions which could have no play upon reaction if reaction were thoughtlessly immediate. The great obstacle to intelligent behavior is the superior vividness of present sensations as compared with those projected memories which we call imagination. “In so far as the mind conceives a thing according to the dictates of reason, it will.be equally affected whether the idea be of anything present, past, or future.” By imagination and reason we turn experience into foresight; we become the creators of our future, and cease to be the slaves of our past. 

The great obstacle to intelligent behavior is the superior vividness of present sensations as compared with those projected memories which we call imagination.

So we achieve the only freedom possible to man. The passivity of passion is “human bondage,” the action ·of reason is human liberty.. Freedom is not from causal law or process, but from partial passion or impulse; and freedom not from passion, but from uncoordinated and uncompleted passion. We are free only where we know.* To be a superman is to be free not from the restraints of social justice and amenity, but from the individualism of the instincts. With this completeness and integrity comes the equanimity of the wise man; not the aristocratic self-complacency of Aristotle’s hero, much less the supercilious superiority of Nietzsche’s ideal, but a more comradely poise and peace of mind. “Men who are good by reason—i. e., men who, under the guidance of reason, seek what is useful to them—desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of mankind.”** To be great is not to be placed above humanity, ruling others; but to stand above the partialities and futilities of uninformed desire, and to rule one’s self. 

*Professor Dewey: “A physician or engineer is free in his thought and his action in the degree in which he knows what he deals with. Possibly we find here the key to any freedom.” 

**Whitman: “By God, I will not have anything that all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.” 

We are free only where we know. To be a superman is to be free not from the restraints of social justice and amenity, but from the individualism of the instincts.

This is a nobler freedom than that which men call free will; for the will is not free, and perhaps there is no “will.” And let no one suppose that because he is no longer “free,” he is no longer morally responsible for his behavior and the structure of his life. Precisely because men’s actions are determined by their memories, society must for its protection form its citizens through their hopes and fears into some measure of social order and cooperation. All education presupposes determinism, and pours into the open mind of youth a store of prohibitions which are expected to participate in determining conduct. “The evil which ensues from evil deeds is not therefore less to be feared because it comes of necessity; whether our actions are free or not, our motives still are hope and fear. Therefore the assertion is false that I would leave no room for precepts and commands.” On the contrary, determinism makes for a better moral life: it teaches us not to despise or ridicule anyone, or be angry with anyone; men are “not guilty”; and though we punish miscreants, it will be without hate; we forgive them because they know not what they do. 

Precisely because men’s actions are determined by their memories, society must for its protection form its citizens through their hopes and fears into some measure of social order and cooperation.

Above all, determinism fortifies us to expect and to bear both faces of fortune with an equal mind; we remember that all things follow by the eternal decrees of God. Perhaps even it will teach us the “intellectual love of God,” whereby we shall accept the laws of nature gladly, and find our fulfillment within her limitations. He who sees all things as determined cannot complain, though he may resist; for he “perceives things under a certain species of eternity,” and he understands that his mischances are not chances in the total scheme; that they find some justification in the eternal sequence and structure of the world. So minded, he rises from the fitful pleasures of passion to the high serenity of contemplation which sees all things as parts of an eternal order and development; he learns to smile in the face of the inevitable, and “whether he comes into his own now, or in a thousand years, he sits content.” He learns the old lesson that God is no capricious personality absorbed in the private affairs of his devotees, but the invariable sustaining order of the universe. Plato words the same conception beautifully in the Republic: “He whose mind is fixed upon true being has no time to look down upon the little affairs of men, or to be filled with jealousy and enmity in the struggle against them; his eye is ever directed towards fixed and immutable principles, which he sees neither injuring nor injured by one another, but all in order moving according to reason; these he imitates, and to these he would, as far as he can, conform himself.” “That which is necessary,” says Nietzsche, “does not offend me. Amor fati,”—love of fate—“is the core of my nature.”* Or Keats: 

To bear all naked truths, 
And to envisage circumstance, all calm: 
That is the top of sovereignty.

*It was rather Nietzsche’s hope than his attainment. 

Above all, determinism fortifies us to expect and to bear both faces of fortune with an equal mind; we remember that all things follow by the eternal decrees of God.

Such a philosophy teaches us to say Yea to life, and even to death—“a free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a meditation not on death but on life.” It calms our fretted egos with its large perspective; it reconciles us to the limitations within which our purposes must be circumscribed. It may lead to resignation and an Orientally supine passivity; but it is also the indispensable basis of all wisdom and all strength. 

The philosophy of determinism may lead to resignation and an Orientally supine passivity; but it is also the indispensable basis of all wisdom and all strength. 

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