Spinoza in Retrospect

  • Errol E. Harris
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idees International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 59)


Anxiety about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is scarcely sensible for one who believes that all events are determined by eternal laws. He will find it futile to worry about anything beyond that for which he is personally responsible, and if he is responsible only for actions based on, and expressive of, clear and distinct knowledge, he will not be given to futile remorse or unproductive regrets about passionate and unwise conduct committed in the past. Responsible action, moreover, will be simply the natural and unimpeded activity of the intellect following its own laws and principles — free, in the sense that it is self-determined and unimpeded by passion, not in any sense of indeterminate arbitrament. The free man, cognizant of the wholeness of nature and the over-riding importance of synoptic awareness, will be unmoved by the trivial inconveniences of daily occurrence, which seem frustrating only by reference to shortsighted affective judgement. He will be tolerant of his neighbour’s petty misdemeanours and recalcitrance. He will be generous and charitable and will in consequence enjoy peace of mind. Such joyous tranquillity, neither ascetic nor libidinous, is what Spinoza’s philosophy offers. It has much in common with, though it also differs in significant ways from, the doctrine of the Stoics, whom Spinoza admired; but how far is it acceptable to the modern mind? How far is it a dated outlook restricted to the conditions and limitations of a bygone age? How far an impossible ideal founded upon a misconception of the nature of man and the world?


Modern Reader Unwise Conduct Modern Mind Dated Outlook Impossible Ideal 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Errol E. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityUSA

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