You’ve probably come across the sayings of Baruch Spinoza at one time or another. In fact, he’s one of the world’s most quoted thinkers. Indeed, his words are as relevant today as they were when he was alive. This Dutch philosopher was one of the three great exponents of rationalism in the 18th century.
Baruch Spinoza and his thinking
Spinoza’s sayings mainly concern values. His thinking was a mixture of Descartes’ rationalism, scholastic philosophy, and Judaism. In fact, in his words, we can identify the rigorously logical along with an attempt to reconcile reason and religion.
Despite speaking the great truths of his time, Spinoza was banished from many places. He was even considered a heretic and some suggested he was the pioneer of atheism. Nothing could’ve been more untrue. Let’s get to know his thinking a little more through some of his quotes.
“Minds, nevertheless, aren’t conquered by arms, but by love and generosity.”
Baruch Spinoza on remorse
This is one of Spinoza’s sayings that, despite being written almost three centuries ago, has lost none of its validity today. It concerns the inner torment of humans. He said, “He who repents what he did is twice miserable i.e. impotent”.
Like other philosophers, Spinoza believed that remorse is completely useless. Furthermore, it escalates the importance of the wrongdoing that caused these feelings in the first place. For this reason, instead of getting carried away by feelings of regret, it’s better to try and set things right and learn from your mistakes.
Spinoza agreed with other thinkers who warned of the dangers of being too familiar with the past. Indeed, if you don’t address what’s happened in the past, you’re likely to keep replaying those events in your head time and time again.
Spinoza said, “If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past”. He recognized that mistakes tend to be repeated time and again if they’re not understood and dealt with. In fact, if anyone makes the same mistake two or three times, they simply haven’t got to grips with it.
Fear as a cause
Superstition formed a part of Spinoza’s reflections. He stated, “Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear”. As you know, superstition is an unfounded belief which speaks of magical or supernatural causes.
At the root of such belief lies ignorance and, above all, fear. Not knowing leads to fear and then to superstition. For example, when someone feels anxious about their future and tries to find out what’s going to happen to them by consulting oracles or other sources that claim to predict the future.
Precision and error
Spinoza said, “Most errors consist only in our not rightly applying names to things”. In this case, he meant that our lack of precision in the words we use is a continuous source of error.
Therefore, when you fail to name something correctly, you distort its reality and, hence, move away from understanding it. Distortion leads to misconception.
Another of Spinoza’s sayings was, “Nothing exists from whose nature some effect doesn’t follow”. This seems to be a simple statement, but it actually is very deep. It suggests that everything is important no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to be.
Therefore, if something exists, it has an effect. Big or small, significant or trivial, it always gives rise to a consequence. This means that everyone around you will exert some form of influence on what happens in your life. This is worth remembering.
Baruch Spinoza and the absence of love
This is a marvelous saying that speaks about the essence of love. Spinoza said, “For strife will never arise on account of what is not loved, nor will there be sadness if it perishes, nor envy if it’s possessed by another, nor fear, nor hatred. In a word, no disturbances of the mind”.
This means that only when there’s love, other feelings are generated, even if they might be negative. On the other hand, when there’s an absence of love, there’s nothing. Consequently, emotions like envy, fear, and rejection only occur due to love.
We could fill pages with Spinoza’s thoughts. He was an extremely prolific thinker who’s considered more highly today than he was in his own time.