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JBY Notes:

1.  Unless  noted,  the  texts  are  the translations of the "Selected Letters"
     by  R. H. M. Elwes, (based on Bruder's 1843 Latin Text),  as printed
 by
     Dover Publications  (NY: 1955) in Book I.  This is, the book
 assures us,
     "an unabridged and unaltered republication  of the Bohn
 Library edition
     originally published  by  George  Bell and Sons in 1883.''  As  it  is more
 
     than a century old, it is incontestably in the public domain. 

2.  Page numbers given refer to Book I except where otherwise noted.

3.  See  Terry Neff  for  Selected Correspondence  from  Book 1.

4.  See Shirley's Bk.XIII for Shirley's translation and an "Introduction
     and Notes
" by Steven Barbone, Lee Rice, and Jacob Adler.
  
     See Note 8.
  

5.  Paragragh numbers, added by JBY, are shown thus [x].

6.  Symbols:
             (Spinoza's quote or the Latin word),
 
             [ Curley's Book VIII Translation variation or Footnote ],  
             ] Shirley's Book XIII or Book XIII Translation variation or Footnote [, 
             < Parkinson's Book XV Translation variation or Endnote >, 
            { JBY Comment }.         LINKS.  

7.   For letters not included see Book 1 or Book XIII Correspondence.

8.  Elwes's  Letter  Numbering  ( sorted according to correspondent )
     is  as  found  in  the  written-in-Latin  Opera  Posthuma.
  
 
     Letter Numbers shown green
(xx) are as arranged in Van Vloten's
     edition (sorted according to date) and are those used in
 Book XIII
     (
see Bk.1:2751). I recommend reading the Letters in Bk, XIII because 
     of its Introduction and informative footnotes.
  
 
     
For introduction to Oldenburg correspondence see LT:Bk.XIII:8.

9.  See Photocopy of end of L52(46):371 from Spinoza to Leibniz.
                Book XIII:248  

10.  Please report errors, clarification requests, disagreement, or  
       suggestions to josephb@yesselman.com.  

 
          Letters 1, 2, 3, 4, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 25A, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30,
                    31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 41A, 42,
49, 50, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64,
 
                    65, 66, 68b, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75. 

   JBY File:
  Bk.1 Letter # 
 (Bk.XIII Let #):
  Bk.1 Page #
     Writer to Receiver
         Place, Date
                           Remarks 
  EL:L01(01):275
  
   Oldenburg to Spinoza
  London,16/26 Aug.1661
     Bk.I:2751,2EL:[20]:xvi1.
 Oldenburg after complimenting Spinoza, asks him
 to enter into a philosophical correspondence.

 Bk.XIII:591.

 Oldenburg correspondence.

 

 EL:L02(02):276
Neff
  Spinoza to Oldenburg 
          Sept. 1661?
 Answer to L01(01):275. Spinoza defines "God" and 
 "attribute," and sends definitions, axioms, and
 first four propositions of Book I of Ethics.  Some
 errors of Bacon and Descartes discussed.

 Bk.XIII:612-11; Bk.XIA:6231, 32.
 

 EL:L03(03):279
   Oldenburg to Spinoza
  London, 27 Sept. 1661
 Oldenburg propounds several questions concerning
 God and His existence, thought, and the axioms of
 Ethics I.  He also informs Spinoza of a philosophical
 society, and promises to send Boyle's book.

 Bk.XIII:66
12; Bk.XVIII:75.
  
EL:L04(04):282
Neff
 Spinoza to Oldenburg 
Oct. 1661?
 Spinoza answers some of Oldenburg's questions
 and doubts, but has not time to reply to all, as he
 is just setting out for Amsterdam.

 Bk.XIII:6713-19.
 

 EL:L05(05):284
  Oldenburg to Spinoza
  London, 21 Oct. 1661
 Oldenburg sends Boyle's book, and laments that  Spinoza has not been able to answer all his doubts.
 
 Bk.XIII:70.
 

 EL:L06(06):285  Spinoza to Oldenburg
        Early 1662? 
 This letter refers to a question from Oldenburg in Letter  05 about the nexus by which things depend on the first  cause.
 
 Bk.XIII:83.
 

EL:L15(32):290   Spinoza to Oldenburg
 Voorburg, 20 Nov. 1665 
 {Famous letter of the "worm"}
 Spinoza writes to his friend concerning the reasons
 which lead us to believe, that "every part of nature
 agrees with the whole, and is associated with all
 other parts" {organic}. He also makes a few remarks  
 about Huyghens.

 
Bk.XIII:192
164-176.
 
 LT:L16(33):293    Oldenburg to Spinoza
    London, 8 Dec.,1665
 After some remarks on Spinoza's last letter, and an
 account of experiments at the Royal Society and at
 Oxford, Oldenburg mentions a report about the
 return of the Jews to Palestine.
Wolf.

 See Bk.XIII:198 for full letter.
 
Bk.XIII:198
177-183; Bk.XIA:10089.
 

 LT:L17(61):294    Oldenburg to Spinoza
    London, 8 Jun.,1675
1
     See Bk.I:2951, Bk.XIII:292,
                   &  Wolf
 Oldenburg thanks Spinoza for the TTP despatched
 but not received, and modifies an adverse verdict
 expressed in a former letter (now lost).

 Bk.XIII:292301, Bk.XIII:36Ep61; Bk.XIA:49121-124.
 

 LT:L18(62):295    Oldenburg to Spinoza
   London, 22 July.,1675
 Oldenburg rejoices at the renewal of correspondence,
 and alludes to the five books of the Ethics which
 Spinoza (in a letter now lost) had announced his
 intention of publishing.

 Bk.XIII:294302 - 304, Bk.XIII:36Ep62.
 

 EL:L19(68):296    Spinoza to Oldenburg
         Sept.,1675
 Spinoza relates his journey to Amsterdam for the
 purpose of publishing his Ethics; he was deterred
 by the dissuasions of theologians and  Cartesians.
 He hopes that Oldenburg will inform him of some of
 the objections to the Tractatus  Theologico-Politicus,
 made by learned men,  so that they may be answered
 in notes.

 Bk.XIII:294337 - 340, Bk.XIII:36Ep68; Bk.XIA:49125,126.
 

 EL:L20(71):297    Oldenburg to Spinoza
 London, 15 Nov.,1675
 Response to previous Letter 19.

 Bk.XIII:329356, Bk.XIII:36Ep71; Bk.XIA:50127,128.
 

 EL:L21(73):298
         
Neff
   Spinoza to Oldenburg
     Nov. or Dec.,1675
 Response to previous Letter 20.

 Bk.XIII:332362 - 364, Bk.XIII:37Ep73.
 

 EL:L22(74):299    Oldenburg to Spinoza
  
 London, 16 Dec.,1675
 Response to previous Letter 21.

 Oldenburg wishes to be enlightened concerning the
 doctrine  of  fatalism,  of  which  Spinoza  has  been
 accused. He discourses on man's limited intelligence
 and on the incarnation of the Son of God.

 Bk.XIII:335365 - 368, Bk.XIII:37Ep74.
 

 EL:L23(75):301
         
Neff
   Spinoza to Oldenburg
           Dec.,1675
 Response to previous Letter 22.

 Spinoza expounds to Oldenburg his views on fate
 and necessity, discriminates between miracles
 and ignorance, takes the resurrection of Christ as
 spiritual, and deprecates attributing to the sacred
 writers Western modes of speech.

 Bk.XIII:337369 - 373, Bk.XIII:37Ep75, 44Ep75; 
 Bk.XIX:1015. 
 

 EL:L24(77):304   Oldenburg to  Spinoza
 
 London, 14 Jan.,1676
 Oldenburg returns to the questions of universal
 necessity, of miracles, and of the literal and alle-
 gorical interpretation of Scripture.

 Bk.XIII:345, Bk.XIII:37Ep77.
 

 EL:L25(78):305
        Neff
   Spinoza to Oldenburg
 The Hague, 7 Feb.,1676 
 Spinoza again treats of fatalism.  He repeats that he
 accepts Christ's passion, death, and burial literally,
 but His resurrection spiritually.

 Bk.XIII:347385 - 386, Bk.XIII:37Ep78.
 

EL:L25A(79):307
  Oldenburg to  Spinoza
 
 London, 11 Feb.,1676
 Response to previous Letter 25.

 Oldenburg adduces certain further objections against
 Spinoza's doctrine of necessity and miracles, and
 exposes the inconsistency of a partial allegorization
 of Scripture.

 Bk.XIII:349387 - 388, Bk.XIII:37Ep79.
 

    L26(8):309
        
Neff
Simon de Vries to Spinoza
The Hague,
 24 Feb.,1663

      Bk.I:309fnotes; Bk.XIII:46.

 Simon de Vries, a diligent student of Spinoza's
 writings and philosophy, describes a club formed
 for the study of Spinoza's MS. containing some of
 the matter afterwards worked into the Ethics,
 and asks questions about the difficulties felt by 
 members  of  the  club.

 Bk.XIB:14414Bk.XII:421; Bk.XIII:8744-52.
 Bk.XIV:1:154
1; Bk.XVIII:66. 
 

    L27(9):313
        
Neff
Spinoza to Simon de Vries
 
          Feb.,1663?

            Bk.I:3131,2,3.

 Spinoza deprecates his correspondent's jealousy of
 Albert Burgh; and  answers  that distinction must be
 made  between  different  kinds  of  definitions
 He explains his opinions more precisely.

 Bk.XIII:91
53-58; Bk.XIV:1:1401,1526; Bk.XVIII:18, 66;
 Bk.XIX:35519, 3566, 35817.
 
   L28(10):316
        
Neff
Spinoza to Simon de Vries
 
          Mar.,1663?
 Spinoza, in answer to a letter from De Vries now lost,
 speaks  of  the  experience  necessary  for  proving a
 definition, and also of eternal truths.

 Bk.XIII:9559; Bk.XIX:424.
 

 E5:L29(12):305
        Neff
  Spinoza to Lewis Meyer
 
 Rijnsburg, 20 Apr.,1663
 {Famous letter on the Infinite
          {
 Disclaimer }
 Spinoza answers question on the infinite and in
 answering briefly explains the terms substance,
 mode, eternity, and duration.

 Bk.XIII:10163-69; Bk.XIX:3312.
 

   L30(17):325
        
Neff
  Spinoza to Peter Balling
  Voorburg, 20 Jul.,1664
            Bk.I:3251; Bk.XIII:46. 
 Concerning omens and phantoms.  The mind may
 have a confused presentiment of the future.

 
 Bk.XIB:304
114, 306155; Bk.XIII:12587 - 90.
 
 LT:L31(18):327
 
  Blyenbergh to Spinoza
 Dordrecht, 12 Dec.,1664
    Bk.I:3271EL:[21]:xvi5.
 Bk.XIII:12587-90Wolf.
 
Blyenbergh-Spinoza Correspondence. 


 
 LT:L32(19):331
        
Neff
  Spinoza to Blyenbergh
 Lg. Orchard, 5 Jan.,1665
 
     Bk.I:331—EL:[11]:xi1.
 Spinoza answers with his usual courtesy the question
 propounded by Blyenbergh.
  

 Bk.XIII:132
97-102; Bk.XIV:1:1434; Bk.XIX:587, 24831.
 
 LT:L33(20):336
 summary
 
 LT:Bk.XIII:137
 full letter
  Blyenbergh to Spinoza
 Dordrecht, 16 Jan.,1665
 A summary only of this letter is here given—Tr.
 
{Full letter taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:137 follows.}
 Bk.XIB:306161,162; Bk.XIX:587, 25140. 
 
 LT:L34(21):336
        Neff
  Spinoza to Blyenbergh
 Schiedam, 28 Jan.,1665

       This letter is important.

 Spinoza complains that Blyenbergh has misunder-
 stood him: he sets forth the true meaning.

 Spinoza wants no further correspondence. JBYnote1

  Bk.XIII:151
105-116; Bk.XIA:7075-79;
 Bk.XIV:1:1434;
  Bk.XIX:91
18, 25141.
 
 LT:L35(22):336
        
Neff
  Blyenbergh to Spinoza
 Dordrecht, 19 Feb.,1665
 This letter (extending over five pages) is only given
 here in brief summary.

 See Bk.XIII:159 for full letter and Notes 117-119.
 
Bk.XIX:248
32, 25037, 25242. 
 
 LT:L36(23):345
        
Neff
  Spinoza to Blyenbergh
 Voorburg, 13 Mar.,1665
 Spinoza replies, that there is a difference between
 the theological and the philosophical way of
 speaking of God and things divine.  He proceeds
 to discuss Blyenbergh's questions.

 Bk.XIII:165
120-122.
 Bk.XVIII:240;
 Bk.XIX:25037,38. 
 
   L37(24):350
  
Omitted in Bk. I
 
 LT:L37
(24):170
   
from Bk. XIII
  Blyenbergh to Spinoza
 Dordrecht, 27 Mar.,1665
 Blyenbergh, who had been to see Spinoza, asks the
 latter to send him a report of their conversation, and
 to answer five questions.

 Bk.XIX:202
3.
  
 LT:L38(27):350
        
Neff
  Spinoza to Blyenbergh
 Voorburg, 3 Jun., 1665
 Spinoza declines further correspondence with 
 Blyenbergh, but says he will give explanations
 of certain points by word of mouth. 
Wolf.

 See Bk.XIII:177 for Shirley's translation.
 
    L39(34):351
        
Neff
 Spinoza to John Hudde
 Voorburg, 7 Jan., 1665
           
Bk.XIII:40, Wolf. 
 Treating of the Unity of God.

 See Bk.XIII:201 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:201
184
E1:VIIIn2:48, 202185, Bk.XIII:41Ep34. 
 
    L40(35):353
        
Neff
 Spinoza to John Hudde
 Voorburg, 10 Apr., 1665
 Further arguments for the unity of God.

 See Bk.XIII:203 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:203
186 to 195, Bk.XIII:41Ep35.  
 
    L41(36):355
        
Neff
 Spinoza to John Hudde
        June, 1665?
 Further discussion concerning the unity of God.  
 Spinoza asks for advice about polishing lenses.

 See Bk.XIII:206 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:206
196,199, Bk.XIII:41Ep36. 
 
   L41a(28):358
        
Neff
 Spinoza to Bouwmeester
   Voorburg, June, 1665
            
Bk.I:358f:notes. 
 Spinoza urges his correspondent to be diligent in
 studying philosophy, promises to send part of the
 Ethics, and adds some  personal details.

 See Bk.XIII:203 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:203
186 to 195. 
 
 EL:L42(37):360
        
Neff
 Spinoza to Bouwmeester
 Voorburg, 10, Jun, 1666
            
Bk.XIII:46. 
 Concerning the best method, by which we may
 safely arrive at the knowledge of things.

 See Bk.XIII:211 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:211
200 to 203; Bk.XIX:1294, 1319, 13315, 
 140
32, 1476; Bk. 32:pg 113. 
 
 EL:L49(43):364
        Neff
  Spinoza to Isaac Orobio
      The Hague, 1671
        ]
to Jacob Ostens [
 A defence of the  Tractatus  Theologico-Politicus.


 Bk.XIII:237220 to 230, Bk.XIII:35Ep43, 3Ep43.
 

     L50(50):369
        Neff
   Spinoza to Jarig Jellis
The Hague, 2 Jun.,1674
 Of the difference between the political theories of
 Hobbes and Spinoza, of the Unity of God, of the
 notion of figure, of the book of a Utrecht professor
 against the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.

 Bk.XIII:258255 to 260.
 

    L56(52):376
        Neff
   Spinoza to Hugo Boxel
  The Hague, Sept.,1674 
                Bk.XIII:43. 
 Spinoza answers that he does not know what ghosts
 are, and can gain no information from antiquity.

 Bk.XIII:262, Bk.XIII:43Ep52. 
 

    L58(54):380
        Neff
   Spinoza to Hugo Boxel
 The Hague, Sept.,1674?
 Spinoza treats of the necessary creation of the world
 he refutes his friend's arguments and quotations.

 Bk.XIII:267270 to 273. 
 

    L60(56):385
        Neff
   Spinoza to Hugo Boxel
 The Hague, Sept.,1674?
 Spinoza again answers the argument in favour of
 ghosts.

 EL:Bk.XIII:276276, Bk.XIII:43Ep56.
 Bk.XIA:3128; Bk.XIX:468. 
 

 TEI:L62(58):389
        Neff
 Spinoza to G. H. Schuller
   The Hague, Oct.,1674
 Spinoza gives his opinions on liberty and necessity.

 Bk.XIII:283287 to 293.
 

TEI:L64(60):395
        Neff
Spinoza to Tschirnhausen
   The Hague, Jan.,1675
 The difference between a true and an adequate idea
 is merely extrinsic, &c.

 Bk.XIII:290296 to 300.
 

   LT:L65(63):396
  
 G. H. Schuller to Spinoza
 Amsterdam, 25 Jul.,1675
 Schuller asks for answers to four questions of his
 friend Tschirnhausen on the attributes of God, and
 mentions that Tschirnhausen has removed the
 unfavorable opinion of Spinoza lately conceived
 by Boyle and Oldenburg.

 Bk.XIII:295305 - 316; Bk.XIX:12833.
 
 

   LT:L66(64):398
        Neff
Spinoza to Tschirnhausen
 The Hague, 29 Jul.,1675
 Spinoza answers by references to the first three books
 of the Ethics.

 Bk.XIII:298317 - 325; Bk.XIB:234101; Bk.XIV:1:1524.
 Bk.XIX:35
20, 4812, 11811, 14338, 2365. 
 

   L68b(72):404
        Neff
 Spinoza to G. H. Schuller
The Hague, 18 Nov.,1675
 Spinoza answers all the points in Schuller's letter,
 and hesitates to entrust his writings to Leibniitz.

 Bk.XIII:330357 - 361. 
 

    L70(81):407
        Neff
Spinoza to Tschirnhausen
 The Hague, 5 May,1676
 Spinoza explains his view of the infinite.

 See TL:L29(12):317 for famous letter on the infinite.
 Bk.XIII:352
391 - 393; Bk.XVIII:76;
 Bk.XIX:3312, 2026. 
 

    L72(83):409
        Neff
Spinoza to Tschirnhausen
 The Hague,15 Jul,1676
 Spinoza gives the required explanation. Mentions
 the treatise of Huet, &c.

 Bk.XIII:355
395 - 398; Bk.III:156, 210.
 Bk.XIV:1:237
4 Bk.XVIII:112. 
 
 EL:L73(67):410  Albert Burgh To Spinoza
   Florence, 3 Sept,1675
              
Bk.XIII:43.  
 Albert Burgh announces his reception into the Romish
 Church, and exhorts Spinoza to follow his example.
 The whole of this very long letter is not given here,
 but only such parts as seemed most characteristic, or
 are alluded to in Spinoza's reply.

 See Bk.XIII:303 for full letter.
 
Bk.XIII:44
Ep67 
 
 EL:L74(76):414
        Neff
  Spinoza to Albert Burgh
  The Hague, Dec. 1675
 Response to previous Letter 73.

 Spinoza laments the step taken by his pupil,
 and answers his arguments.

 See Bk.XIII:340 for Shirley's translation.
 
Bk.XIII:340
374 - 384. Bk.XIII:44Ep76 
 
     L75(69):419
        Neff
  Spinoza to L. Velthuysen
 The Hague, Autm. 1675
 Of the proposed annotation of the
 "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus."

  Bk.XIII:323341 to 344.
 


From Shirley's Bk.XIII:8—Introduction to Oldenburg correspondence.

The period from 1661 to 1665 includes an extended correspondence with       Bx. XIII:200183
Spinoza and  marks  a continued effort on Oldenburg's part to obtain a full 
understanding  of  Spinoza's  philosophy.  Spinoza's  reply to Oldenburg's 
offer  to  initiate  an  exchange  of  letters  (Ep2, dated September of 1661 
and sent from Rijnsburg)  reveals  both the enthusiasm generated by their 
earlier   meeting   and  his  respect  and  affection  for  his  correspondent. 
Hampered  in  part  by  his  theological inclinations and also by his lack of 
formal  training  in  philosophy,  Oldenburg was never to achieve this goal 
of  a  deep understanding of Spinoza's philosophy.  Spinoza's patient and 
detailed  replies to his queries, often elaborated with examples, make this     { Importance of 
block  of  correspondence  extremely valuable for understanding the more     correspondence } 
complex  sections  of the Ethics.  Meinsma's remark on this count is worth 
quoting:  

Despite  their  continual disagreements and misunderstandings in matters           JBYnote1 
of  philosophy  and  of  physics,  the  two  thinkers  retained  both respect 
and  deep  friendship  for  one  another throughout their many exchanges. 
The  first  four  letters (Ep l-4),  dated 1661, deal with general questions of 
philosophical  method,  and  probably  relate  directly to the conversations 
between them during Oldenburg's visit. 
 


From Bk.I:293
LT:L16(33):293.

                   Oldenburg to Spinoza. London, 8 Dec. 1665
                          
{Oldenburg responds to Spinoza Letter 15.}
                                 {Oldenburg correspondence.}

[After some remarks on Spinoza's last letter, and an account of experiments at the Royal Society and at Oxford,
Oldenburg mentions a report about the return of the Jews to Palestine].

                                        *         *         *         *        *       *
But I pass on to politics.
Everyone here is talking of a report that the Jews, after remaining scattered for more than two thousand years, are about to return to their country181. Few here believe in it, but many desire it. Please tell your friend what you hear and think on the matter. For my part, unless the news is confirmed from trustworthy sources at Constantinople, which is the place chiefly concerned, I shall not believe it. I should like to know, what the Jews of Amsterdam have heard about the matter, and how they are affected by such important tidings page 294 which, if true, would assuredly seem to harbinger the end of the world. * * * * *
Believe me to be    
                                        ]a world crisis ^ [ 

                                                                                         Yours most zealously, 
                                                                                                     HENRY OLDENBURG  

P.S. I will shortly, (D.V.) tell you the opinion of our philosophers on the recent comets.
 

Henry Oldenburg
London, 8 Dec.,1665
1 & 183 

[End] - L16(33):293


]Bk. XIII:200181.  The reference is to a movement led by Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676), who was a false messiah rather than a proto-Zionist. Spinoza's reply to this letter, unfortunately, is lost; but we know (see the TTP, Chapter 3) that he had no sympathy for proto-Zionism. For a summary of the Marrano {a Spanish or Portuguese Jew forced to convert to Christianity during the late Middle Ages} origins of many of the Zionist movements in the seventeenth century, see Gabriel Albiac, La synagogue vide: Les sources marranes du spinozisme, trs. M.-L. Copete and J.-F. Schaub (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994). On Zevi see Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [note spelling as 'Sevi']. Contemporary sources of Zevi's works include The Restauration of the Jewes (London: R.R., 1665); Several New Letters Concerning the Jevves (London: Printed by A. Maxwel, 1666); and God's Love of His People Israel (London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1666) [note different spellings of 'Maxwel(l)]. Peter Serrarius was no doubt Oldenburg's main source of information regarding Zevi. He was known to have been in contact with Oldenburg.[

]
Bk. XIII:200
183.  Following this Letter 16 there is a gap of approximately ten years in the correspondence between Spinoza and Oldenburg. This gap is partly explained by the war between England and Holland (1665-1667), the Great Fire (1666), and the imprisonment of Oldenburg in the Tower of London (30 June until 26 August 1667).[  
{
See Footnote 1.}
 


From Bk.I:294
LT:L17(61):294. 

                    Oldenburg to Spinoza. London, 8 Dec.,16751 & 183
                ] Known only From the O.P. The original is lost. The data, wrongly given
                                  in the Latin, is correctly given in the Dutch edition.
[
                                         {
Oldenburg correspondence}

[Oldenburg thanks Spinoza for the Tractatus Theoligico-Politicus despatched but not received, and modifies an adverse verdict expressed in a former letter (now lost).]

[L17:1]  I was unwilling to let pass the convenient opportunity offered me by the journey to Holland of the learned Dr. Bourgeois, an adherent of the Reformed religion, for expressing my thanks a few weeks ago for your treatise forwarded to me, but not yet arrived. But I am doubtful whether my letter was duly delivered. I indicated in them my opinion on the treatise; but on deeper and more careful inspection I now think that my verdict was hasty. Certain arguments seemed to me to be urged at the expense of religion, as measured by the standard supplied by the common run of theologians and the received formulas of creeds which are evidently biassed. But a closer consideration of the whole subject convinced me, that you are far from attempting any injury to true religion and sound philosophy, but, on the contrary, strive to exalt ]commend[ and establish the true object ]purpose[, {Mark Twain} of the Christian religion {Hampshire:202, JBYnote1} and the divine loftiness of fruitful philosophy.  

[L17:2]  Now that I believe that this is your fixed purpose ]intention[ , I would most earnestly beg you to have the kindness to write frequently and explain the nature of what you are now preparing and considering with this object to your old and sincere friend, who is all eager for the happy issue of so lofty a design ]divine undertaking[. I sacredly promise you, that I will not divulge a syllable to anyone, if you enjoin silence; I will only endeavour gently to prepare the minds of good and wise men for the reception of those truths, which you will some day bring before a wider public ]some day bring forth into the broader light of day[, and I will try to dispel the prejudices, which have been conceived against your doctrines ]thoughts[. Unless I am quite mistaken, you have an insight deeper than common into the nature and powers of the human mind, and its union with the human body. I earnestly beg you to favour me with your reflections on this subject. Farewell, most excellent Sir, and favour the devoted admirer of your teaching and virtue,  

                                                                                                   HENRY OLDENBURG.

London, 8 June, 16751 & 183
 

Oldenburg to Spinoza
London, 8 Dec.,1675
1


[End] - L17(61):294


1. The old edition gives the date 8 Oct., 1665; but this is obviously incorrect,
as the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
was not published till 1670.
183
  


From Bk.I:295
L18(62):295.

                  Oldenburg to Spinoza. London, 22 July.,1675
                     ]
Known only from the O.P. The original is lost. [
                                {Oldenburg correspondence}

[Oldenburg rejoices at the renewal of correspondence, and alludes to the five books of the Ethics which Spinoza (in a letter now lost) had announced his intention of publishing.]

[1]  Our correspondence being thus happily renewed, I should be unwilling to fall short of a friend's duty in the exchange of letters. I understand from your answer delivered to me on July 5, that you intend to publish your treatise in five parts.303 Allow me, I beg, to warn you by the sincerity of your affection for me, not to insert any passages which may seem to discourage the practice of religion and virtue; especially as nothing is more sought after in this degenerate and evil age than doctrines {that there is no good or bad} of the kind, which seem to give countenance to rampant vice.304 

[L18:2]  However, I will not object to receiving a few copies of the said treatise.
I will only ask you that, when the time arrives, they may be entrusted to a Dutch merchant living in London, who will see that they are forwarded to me. There is no need to mention, that books of the kind in question have been sent to me: if they arrive safely to my, keeping, I do not doubt that I can conveniently dispose of some copies to my friends here and there, and can obtain a just price for them. Farewell, and when you have leisure write to

                                                                              Yours most zealously,
                                                                                         HENRY OLDENBURG.

Oldenburg to Spinoza
London, 22 July.,1675

[End] - L18(62):293

]
Bk. XIII:200303.  In L(28) (1665, to Bouwmeester), Spinoza's plans appear to have been to divide the Ethics into three parts. By 1675 its division was the fivefold one138 in which it was finally published after his death.[

]
Bk. XIII:200304.  For the historical reasons for Oldenburg's adopting of a more cautious and perhaps even fearful attitude than that expressed in his earlier letters, see our Introduction, section 2.
 


From Bk. XIII (L28):179.

                To the learned and experienced Johan Bouwmeester, from Spinoza.

My very special friend, 

[L(28):1]  I don't know whether you have completely forgotten me, but there are many circumstances which make me think so. First, when I was about to set out on my journey and wanted to bid you good-bye, and felt sure, being invited by you yourself, that I would find you at home, I was told that you had gone to the Hague. I returned to Voorburg, confident that you would at least call on me in passing; but you, if it pleases the gods, have returned home without greeting your friend. Finally, I have waited three weeks, and in all that time I have seen no letter from you. So if you want to banish this opinion of mine, you will easily do so by a letter, in which you can also indicate some way of arranging our correspondence, of which we once talked in your house.

[L(28):2]  Meanwhile I should like to ask you in all earnestness,
indeed, to beseech and urge you by our friendship, to apply yourself with real energy to serious work, and to prevail on yourself to devote the better part of your life to the cultivation of your intellect and your soul. Now, I say, while there is yet time, and before you complain that time, and indeed you yourself, have slipped by.  

[L(28):3]  Next, to say something about our proposed correspondence
so as to encourage you to write more freely, you should know that I have previously suspected and am practically certain that you have rather less confidence in your abilities than is right, and that you are afraid that you may ask or propose something unbefitting a man of learning. But is it not seemly for me to praise you to your face and recount your gifts. Still, if you fear that I may communicate your letters to others to whom you would then become a laughing-stock, on this matter I give you my word that I shall henceforth regard them as sacred and shall not communicate them to any mortal without your leave. On these terms you Bk,XIII:180 can begin our correspondence, unless perchance you doubt my good faith, which I don't believe. However, I look to hear your views on this from your first letter.

[L(28):4]  At the same time
I also expect some of the conserve of red roses136 which you promised, although I have now for a long time felt better. On leaving there, I opened a vein once, but the fever did not abate (although I was somewhat more active even before the bloodletting because of the change of air, I think). But I have suffered two or three times with tertian fever, though by good diet I have at last rid myself of it and sent it packing. Where it went I know not, but I don't want it back.  

[L(28):5]  With regard to the third part of my Philosophy,
I shall soon be sending some of it to you, if you wish to be its translator, or to our friend de Vries.137 Although I had decided to send none of it until I had finished it, yet since it is turning out to be longer than expected, I don't want to keep you waiting too long. I shall send it up to about the eightieth proposition.138

[L(28):6]  I hear much about English affairs,139 but nothing certain. The people do not stop suspecting all kinds of evil, and no one can find any reason why the fleet does not set sail. And indeed the situation does not yet seem secure. I fear that our side want to be too wise and far-sighted. Still, the event will show in due course what they have in mind and what they are after—may the gods prosper it.140 I should like to know what our people there are thinking, and what they know for certain, but more than that, and above all else, that you consider me ...

                                                                                                   
                                                                                                     {
Signature added.}


]Bk. XIII:180136  Bouwmeester was a physician (see our introduction, section 3), and, as it was held that a conserve of red roses is remedial for diseases of the lungs, he probably prescribed this remedy to Spinoza. Note that this letter is the earliest indication we have of the tuberculosis which eventually killed Spinoza.[

]
Bk. XIII:180137,  Concerning de Vries, see our introduction, section 3.[

]
Bk. XIII:180138. The third part of the Ethics has only 59 propositions, not 80. We believe that Spinoza had originally thought that this work would include only three parts and that he decided to divide it into five parts.[

]
Bk. XIII:180139. At the time, the Dutch were at war with the English, and the Dutch navy remained in the harbours instead of engaging the English. Spinoza's worries turned out to be reasonable since when the Dutch did finally attack on June 13, 1665, it was a disastrous defeat for them.[

]
Bk. XIII:180140. There is more than one passage in which Spinoza refers to the gods (dei). Rather than reflecting any type of polytheism on Spinoza's part, it was probably just an idiomatic expression. Certainly Spinoza could not say 'G-D willing' and remain consistent with his own teaching. 'May the gods prosper it' is just a way of expressing a certain hope for the future.[
 
 


Letter 31(18):327—William De Blyenbergh to Spinoza. S91
                               Dordrecht, 12 Dec., 1664. 
   
[See Elwes Introduction, p. xvi. The correspondence with Blyenbergh was originally conducted in Dutch.]
        Amusing testimonies to Spinoza's reputation are afforded by the volunteered effusions of Blyenbergh.
 
[L31:1]  Unknown Friend and Sir,—I have already read several times
with attention your treatise and its appendix recently published. I should narrate to others more becomingly than to yourself the extreme solidity I found in it, and the pleasure with which I perused it. But I am unable to conceal my feelings from you, because the more frequently I study the work with attention, the more it pleases me, and I am constantly observing something which I had not before remarked. However, I will not too loudly extol its author, lest I should seem in this letter to be a flatterer. I am aware that the gods grant all things to labour. Not to detain you too long with wondering who I may be, and how it comes to pass that one unknown to you page 328 takes the liberty of writing to you, I will tell you that he is a man who is impelled by his longing for pure and unadulterated truth, and desires during this brief and frail life to fix his feet in the ways of science, so far as our human faculties will allow; one who in the pursuit of truth has no goal before his eyes save truth herself; one who by his science seeks to obtain as the result of truth neither honor nor riches, but simple truth and tranquillity; one who, out of the whole circle of truths and sciences, takes delight in none more than in metaphysics, if not in all branches at any rate in some; one who places the whole delight of his life in the fact, that he can pass in the study of them his hours of ease and leisure. But no one, I rest assured, is so blessed as yourself, no one has carried his studies so far, and therefore no one has arrived at the pitch of perfection which, as I see from your work, you have attained. To add a last word, the present writer is one with whom you may gain a closer acquaintance, if you choose to attach him to you by enlightening and interpenetrating, as it were, his halting meditations.

[L31:2]  But I return to your treatise.
While I found in it many things which tickled my palate vastly, some of them proved difficult to digest. Perhaps a stranger ought not to report to you his objections, the more so as I know not whether they will meet with your approval. This is the reason for my making these prefatory remarks, and asking you, if you can find leisure in the winter evenings, and, at the same time, will be willing to answer the difficulties which I still find in your book, and to forward me the result, always under the condition that it does not interrupt any occupation of greater importance or pleasure; for I desire nothing more earnestly than to see the promise made in your book fulfilled by a more detailed exposition of your opinions. I should have communicated to you by word of mouth what I now commit to paper; but my ignorance of your address, the infectious disease, (The plague, which had prevailed on the Continent during 1664, was introduced into London in the very month in which this letter was written, perhaps from Holland.) and my duties here, prevented me. I must defer the pleasure for the present.

[L31:3]  However, in order that this letter may not be quite
page 329 empty, and in the hope that it will not be displeasing to you, I will ask you one question. You say in various passages in the "Principia," and in the "Metaphysical Reflections," either as your own opinion, or as explaining the philosophy of Descartes, that creation and preservation are identical (which is, indeed, so evident to those who have considered the question as to be a primary notion); secondly, that God has not only created substances, but also motions in substances—in other words, that God, by a continuous act of creation preserves, not only substances in their normal state, but also the motion and the endeavours {conatus} of substances. God, for instance, not only brings about by His immediate will and working (whatever be the term employed), that the soul {'soul' is not clear, not distinct—not hypothesized} should last and continue in its normal state; but He is also the cause of His will determining, in some way, the movement of the soul—in other words, as God, by a continuous act of creation, brings about that things should remain in existence, so is He also the cause of the movements and endeavours existing in things. In fact, save God, there is no cause of motion. It therefore follows that God is not only the cause of the substance of mind, but also of every endeavour or motion of mind, which we call volition {free-will - Mark Twain}, as you frequently say. From this statement it seems to follow necessarily, either that there is no evil in the motion or volition of the mind, or else that God directly brings about that evil. For that which we call evil comes to pass through the soul, and, consequently, through the immediate influence and concurrence of God. For instance, the soul of Adam wishes to eat of the forbidden fruit. It follows from what has been said above, not only that Adam forms his wish through the influence of God, but also, as will presently be shown, that through that influence he forms it in that particular manner. Hence, either the act forbidden to Adam is not evil, inasmuch as God Himself not only caused the wish, but also the manner of it, or else God directly brought about that which we call evil. Neither you nor Descartes seem to have solved this difficulty by saying that evil is a negative conception, and that, as such, God cannot bring it about. Whence, we may ask, came the wish to eat the forbidden fruit, or the wish of devils to be equal with God? page 330 For since (as you justly observe) the will is not something different from the mind, but is only an endeavour or movement of the mind, the concurrence of God is as necessary to it as to the mind itself. Now the concurrence of G-D, as I gather from your writings, is merely the determining of a thing in a particular manner through the will of G-D. It follows that God concurs no less in an evil wish, in so far as it is evil, than in a good wish in so far as it is good, in other words, He determines it. For the will of God being the absolute cause of all that exists, either in substance or in effort, seems to be also the primary cause of as evil wish, in so far as it is evil. Again, no exercise of volition takes place in us, that God has not known from all eternity. If we say that God does not know of a particular exercise of volition, we attribute to Him imperfection. But how could God gain knowledge of it except from His decrees? Therefore His decrees are the cause of our volitions, and hence it seems also to follow that either an evil wish is not evil, or else that God is the direct cause of the evil, and brings it about. There is no room here for the theological distinction between an act and the evil inherent in that act. For God decrees the mode of the act, no less than the act, that is, God not only decreed that Adam should eat, but also that he should necessarily eat contrary to the command given. Thus it seems on all sides to follow, either that Adam's eating contrary to the command was not an evil, or else that God Himself brought it to pass. {Blyenbergh has completely mis-understood the difference between G-D and God. See JBY Note 1.1.}

[L31:4]  These, illustrious Sir, are the questions in your treatise, which I am unable, at present, to elucidate. Either alternative seems to me difficult of acceptance. However, I await a satisfactory answer from your keen judgment and learning, hoping to show you hereafter how deeply indebted I shall be to you. Be assured, illustrious Sir, that I put these questions from no other motive than the desire for truth. I am a man of leisure, not tied to any profession, gaining my living by honest trade, and devoting my spare time to questions of this sort. I humbly hope that my difficulties will not be displeasing to you. If you are minded to send an answer, as I most ardently hope, write to, &c. 
                                                                                                William De Blyenbergh.
 
Dordrecht, 12 Dec., 1664

{See reply in following Letter 32(19).}

JBY Note 1Useless Correspondence:  World-View, Duck or Rabbit, Paradigm Shifts, Lord Russell, Hall:TB2:146, Hall:TB3:20, Hall:TB3:38. 

PHILOSOPHY IN A NEW KEY {Paradigms and World Views.}
{
I scanned this many years ago. Unfortunately, I did not record and have forgotten the source and cannot give it here.} 

....The aim of a lyrical poem in which occur the words 'sunshine' and 'clouds,' is not to inform us of certain meteorological facts, but to express certain feelings of the poet and to excite similar feelings in us. . . . Metaphysical propositions like lyrical verses have only an expressive function, but no representative function. Metaphysical propositions are neither true nor false, because they assert nothing {that can be proved or disproved—Ex. G-D exists} . . . . But they are, like laughing, lyrics and music, expressive. They express not so much temporary feelings as permanent emotional and volitional {the act of willing, choosing, or resolving} dispositions."

Lord Russell holds a very similar view of other people's metaphysics: 

And Wittgenstein:

From Professor James Hall's Lecture 25 - TB3:15—{Paradigms: Theistic / Non-theistic.}.  

From Prof. James Hall's Lecture 26 - TB3:20—{Relevance of world views to each other}. 

From Prof. James Hall's Lecture 27 - TB3:38—{Transcendence—Why belief in God is illogical.} 


Shirley's Bk. XIII:128 Note S91: 

End of Letter 31(18).
 
 


Taken with kind permission from Terry M. NeffLetter 32(19) 
Letter 32(19):331—Spinoza to Blyenbergh. Reply to Letter 31(18);
                               Long Orchard, near Amsterdam, Jan. 5, 1665. 
 
[Spinoza answers with his usual courtesy the question propounded by Blyenbergh.]
 

[L32:1]  Unknown Friend,—I received, at Schiedam, on the 26th of December, your letter dated the 12th of December, enclosed in another written on the 24th of the same month. I gather from it your fervent love of truth, and your making it the aim of all your studies. This compelled me, though by no means otherwise unwilling, not only to grant your petition by answering all the questions you have sent, or may in future send, to the best of my ability, but also to impart to you everything in my power, which can conduce to further knowledge and sincere friendship. So far as in me lies, I value, above all other things out of my own control, the joining hands of friendship with men who are sincere lovers of truth. I believe that nothing in the world, of things outside our own control, brings more peace than the possibility of affectionate intercourse with such men; it is just as impossible that the love we bear them can be disturbed (inasmuch as it is founded on the desire each feels for the knowledge of truth), as that truth once perceived should not be assented to. It is, moreover, the highest and most pleasing source of happiness derivable from things not under our own control. Nothing save truth has power closely to unite different feelings and dispositions. I say nothing of the very great advantages which it brings, lest I should detain you too long on a subject which, doubtless, you know already. I have said thus much, in order to show you better how gladly I shall embrace this and any future opportunity of serving you.

[L32:2]  In order to make the best of the present opportunity,
I will at once proceed to answer your question. This seems to turn on the point "that it seems to be clear, not only from G-D's providence, which is identical with His will, but also from G-D's co-operation and continuous creation page 332 of things, either that there are no such things as sin or evil, or that G-D directly brings sin and evil to pass." You do not, however, explain what you mean by evil. As far as one may judge from the example you give in the predetermined act of volition {Mark Twain} of Adam, you seem to mean by evil the actual exercise of volition, in so far as it is conceived as predetermined in a particular way, or in so far as it is repugnant to the command of G-D. Hence you conclude (and I agree with you if this be what you mean) that it is absurd to adopt either alternative, either that G-D brings to pass anything contrary to His own will, or that what is contrary to G-D's will can be good {3P9:5n}. {Nothing can occur contrary to G-D's will.}  

[L32:3]  For my own part, I cannot admit that sin and evil have any positive existence, far less that anything can exist, or come to pass, contrary to the will of G-D. On the contrary, not only do I assert that sin has no positive existence, I also maintain that only in speaking improperly, or humanly, {fashion of men} can we say that we sin against G-D, as in the expression that men offend G-D.97 JBY1

[L32:4]  As to the first point, we know that whatsoever is, when considered in itself without regard to anything else, possesses perfection, extending in each thing as far as the limits of that thing's essence: for essence is nothing else. I take for an illustration the design or determined will of Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. This design or determined will, considered in itself alone, includes perfection in so far as it expresses reality; hence it may be inferred that we can only concede imperfection in things, when they are viewed in relation to other things possessing more reality98: thus in Adam's decision, so long as we view it by itself and do not compare it with other things more perfect or exhibiting a more perfect state, we can find no imperfection: nay it may be compared with an infinity of other things far less perfect in this respect than itself, such as stones, stocks, &c. This, as a matter of fact, everyone grants. For we all admire in animals qualities which we regard with dislike and aversion in men, such as the pugnacity of bees, the jealousy of doves, &c.; these in human beings are despised, but are nevertheless considered to enhance the value of animals. This being so, it follows that sin, which indicates nothing save imperfection, cannot consist page 333 in anything that expresses reality, as we see in the case of Adam's decision and its execution.

[L32:5]  Again, we cannot say that Adam's will is at variance with the law of G-D,
and that it is evil because it is displeasing to G-D; for besides the fact that grave imperfection would be imputed to G-D, if we say that anything happens contrary to His will, or that He desires anything which He does not obtain, or that His nature resembled that of His creatures in having sympathy with some things more than others; such an occurrence would be at complete variance with the nature of the divine will.

[L32:6]  The will of G-D is identical with His intellect,
hence the former can no more be contravened than the latter; in other words, anything which should come to pass against His will must be of a nature to be contrary to His intellect, such, for instance, as a round square. Hence the will or decision of Adam regarded in itself was neither evil nor, properly speaking, against the will of G-D: it follows that G-D may—or rather, for the reason you call attention to, must—be its cause; not in so far as it was evil, for the evil in it consisted in the loss of the previous state of being which it entailed on Adam, and it is certain that loss has no positive existence, and is only so spoken of in respect to our and not G-D's understanding. The difficulty arises from the fact, that we give one and the same definition to all the individuals of a genus, as for instance all who have the outward appearance of men: we accordingly assume all things which are expressed by the same definition to be equally capable of attaining the highest perfection possible for the genus; when we find an individual whose actions are at variance with such perfection {modal}, we suppose him to be deprived of it, and to fall short of his nature. We should hardly act in this way, if we did not hark back to G-D does not know things through abstraction, or form general definitions of the kind above mentioned {same definition to all the individuals of a genusNominalism}, and as things have no more reality than the divine understanding and power have put into them and actually endowed them with, it clearly follows that a state of privation can only be spoken of in relation to our intellect, not in relation to G-D.

[L32:7]  
page 334 Thus, as it seems to me, the difficulty is completely solved. However, in order to make the way still plainer, and remove every doubt, I deem it necessary to answer the two following difficulties:—First, why Holy Scripture says that God wishes for the conversion of the wicked, and also why God forbade Adam to eat of the fruit when He had ordained the contrary? Secondly, that it seems to follow from what I have said, that the wicked by their pride, avarice, and deeds of desperation, worship G-D in no less degree than the good do by their nobleness, patience, love, &c., inasmuch as both execute G-D's will {by being a mode}.

[L32:8]  In answer to the first question,
I observe that Scripture, being chiefly fitted for and beneficial to the multitude, speaks popularly after the fashion of men. For the multitude are incapable of grasping sublime conceptions. Hence I am persuaded that all matters, which G-D revealed to the prophets as necessary to salvation, are set down in the form of laws. With this understanding, the prophets invented whole parables, and represented G-D as a king and a law-giver, because He had revealed the means of salvation and perdition, and was their cause; the means which were simply causes they styled laws and wrote them down as such; salvation and perdition, which are simply effects necessarily resulting from the aforesaid means, they described as reward and punishment; framing their doctrines more in accordance with such parables than with actual truth. They constantly speak of G-D as resembling a man, as sometimes angry, sometimes merciful, now desiring what is future, now jealous and suspicious, even as deceived by the devil; so that philosophers and all who are above the law, that is, who follow after virtue, not in obedience to law, but through love {knowledge and awareness of need; intellectual love of G-D, WHY? Spinoza's Religion.}, because it is the most excellent of all things, must not be hindered by such expressions.  

[L32:9]  Thus the command given to Adam consisted solely in this, that God revealed to Adam, that eating of the fruit brought about death; as He reveals to us, through our natural faculties, that poison is deadly. If you ask, for what object did He make this revelation, I answer, in order to render Adam to that extent more perfect in knowledge. Hence, to ask G-D why He had not bestowed on Adam a page 335 more perfect will, is just as absurd as to ask, why the circle has not been endowed with all the properties of a sphere. This follows clearly from what has been said, and I have also proved it in my Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, I.15.

[L32:10]  As to the second difficulty,
it is true that the wicked execute after their manner the will of G-D: but they cannot, therefore, be in any respect compared with the good. The more perfection a thing has, the more does it participate in the deity, and the more does it express perfection. Thus, as the good have incomparably more perfection than the bad, their virtue cannot be likened to the virtue of the wicked, inasmuch as the wicked lack the love of G-D, which proceeds from the knowledge of G-D, and by which alone we are, according to our human understanding, called the servants of G-D. The wicked, knowing not G-D, are but as instruments in the hand of the workman, serving unconsciously, and perishing in the using; the good, on the other hand, serve consciously, and in serving become more perfect.101

[L32:11]  
[N1] This, Sir, is all I can now contribute to answering your question, and I have no higher wish than that it may satisfy you. But in case you still find any difficulty, I beg you to let me know of that also, to see if I may be able to remove it. You have nothing to fear on your side, but so long as you are not satisfied, I like nothing better than to be informed of your reasons, so that finally the truth may appear. I could have wished to write in the tongue in which I have been brought up. I should, perhaps, have been able to express my thoughts better. But be pleased to take it as it is, amend the mistakes yourself, and believe me, 
 

Your sincere friend and servant.                                          
                                                                                             {
Signature added.}

Long Orchard, near Amsterdam, Jan. 5, 1665.

[Note N1]: The last paragraph (not found in the Latin version) is reprinted by kind permission from Mr. Pollock's translation from the Dutch original, Pollock's "Spinoza," Appendix C. [In P04] a misprint of "perfectioribus" for "imperfectioribus" is corrected from the original.  

Letter 32(19) Footnotes from Shirley's Bk.XIII: 

97:133. The anthropomorphism of ordinary language in dealing with God is dealt with in the Appendix to the             first part of the Ethics, as well as in TTP2 and TTP7

98:133. See the introduction to the fourth part of the Ethics for a more detailed exposition of the sense in which             'imperfection' is a creature of imagination.

101:136. Spinoza's account of the nature of evil is more complicated than this passage suggests, but perhaps he is              attempting to adjust his expression to what he perceives as the limitations in Blyenbergh's comprehension. See              William K. Frankena, "Spinoza on the Knowledge of Good and Evil," Philosophia 7 (1977), 15-44; and Wim              Klever, "Blijenbergh's Tussing with Evil and Spinoza's Response," Tijdschrift voor filosofie 55 (1993), 307-329.


End of Letter 32(19).



Letter 33(20):336—Blyenbergh to Spinoza. 
                               Reply to Letter 32(19);
Dordrecht, 16 Jan.,1665

                               [A summary only of this letter is here given.-TR.]
          {See full letter taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:137 of this very long letter, 14 Pages!} 
 
 
I have two rules in my philosophic inquiries:
i. Conformity to reason; ii. Conformity to scripture. I consider the second the most important {the source of prejudice}. Examining your letter by the first, I observe that your identification of G-D's creative power with His preservative power seems to involve, either that evil does not exist, or else that G-D brings about evil. If evil be only a term relative to our imperfect knowledge, how do you explain the state of a man who falls from a state of grace into sin? If evil be a negation, how can we have the power to sin? If G-D causes an evil act, he must cause the evil as well as the act. You say that every man can only act, as he, in fact, does act. This removes all distinction between the good and the wicked. Both, according to you, are perfect. You remove all the sanctions of virtue and reduce us to automata. Your doctrine, that strictly speaking we cannot sin against G-D, is a hard saying.
 
    
[The rest of the letter is taken up with an examination of Spinoza's
      arguments in respect to their conformity to Scripture.]

Dordrecht, 16 Jan., 1665. Blyenbergh to Spinoza. 
 
End of Letter 33(20) Summary.
 
Shirley's Bk.XIII:137 full letter of this very long letter follows.  


Letter 33(20):336—Blyenbergh to Spinoza. 
                               Reply to Letter 32(19);
Dordrecht, 16 Jan.,1665

                            {This is the full letter taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:137.}

                {A summary only of this letter is given above by the translator of Bk. I.} 

   [This letter was written in Dutch. The original is extant. The Latin version in the O.P. is a translation from the Dutch.]
  

To the esteemed BAS., from Willem de Blyenbergh

Sir, and esteemed Friend, 

[L(20):1]  When first I received your letter and read it through hastily, I intended not only to reply at once but also to make many criticisms. But the more I read it, the less matter I found to object to; and great as had been my longing to see it, so great was my pleasure in reading it.

[
L(20):2]  But before I proceed to ask you to resolve certain further difficulties for me, you should first know that there are two general rules which always govern my endeavours to philosophise. One is the clear and distinct conception of my intellect, the other {second} is the revealed Word, or will, of God. In accordance with the one, I try to be a lover of truth, while in accordance with both I try to be a Christian {this adjective will be the problem for Spinoza when Spinoza repliesprejudices} philosopher. And whenever it happens that after long consideration my natural knowledge seems either to be at variance with this Word or not very easily reconcilable with it, this Word has so much authority with me that I prefer to cast doubt on the conceptions I imagine to be clear rather than to set these above and in opposition to the truth which I believe I find prescribed for me in that book. And little wonder, since I wish to continue steadfast in the belief that that Word is the Word of God, that is, that it has proceeded from the highest and most perfect GodJBY1 who possesses far more perfection than I can conceive, and who has perhaps willed to predicate of himself and his works more perfection than I with my finite intellect can today perceive. {This is the illogicGod is so perfect He made you. Would you limit His power by having some other substance make and control you?} I say 'can today perceive', because it is possible that by my own doing {takes the blame off God} I have deprived myself of greater perfection, and so if perchance I were in possession of the perfection whereof I have been deprived by my own doing, I might realise that everything presented and taught to us in that Word is in agreement with the soundest conceptions of my mind. But since I now suspect myself of having by continual error deprived myself of a better state, and since you assert in Principia, Part 1, Proposition 15 that our knowledge, even when most clear, still contains imperfection, I prefer to turn to that Word even without reason, simply on the grounds that it has proceeded from the most perfect Being (I take this for granted at presentJBY1, since its proof would here be inappropriate or would take too long) and therefore must be accepted by me.

page 138 [L(20):3]  If I were now to pass judgment on your letter solely under the guidance of my first rule, excluding the second rule as if I did not have it or as if it did not exist, I should have to agree with a great deal of it, as indeed I do, and admire your subtle conceptions; but my second rule causes me to differ more widely from you.JBY1 However, within the limits of a letter, I shall examine them somewhat more extensively under the guidance of both the rules.

[
L(20):4]  First of all, in accordance with the first stated rule, I asked whether, taking into account your assertions that creation and preservation are one and the same thing and that God causes not only things, but the motions and modes of things, to persist in their state (that is, concurs with them {'concurs' is a contradictory word for it implies that someone else is doing the acting, not this infinitely perfect Being}) it does not seem to follow that there is no evil {yes, it does} or else that God himself brings about that evil {'event' is a better word} . I was relying on the rule that nothing can come to pass against God's will, since otherwise it would involve an imperfection; or else the things that God brings about, among which seem to be included those we call evil, would also have to be evil. But since this too involves a contradiction, and however I turned it I could not avoid a contradiction, I therefore had recourse to you, who should be the best interpreter of your own conceptions.  

[
L(20):5]  In reply you {Spinoza} say that you persist in your first presupposition, namely, that nothing happens or can happen against G-D's will. But when an answer was required to this problem, whether G-D then does not do evil, you say that sin is not anything positive, adding that only very improperly can we be said to sin against G-D And in the Appendix, Part 1, Chapter 6 you say that there is no absolute evil, as is self-evident; for whatever exists, considered in itself without relation to anything else, possesses perfection, which in every case is co-extensive with the thing's essence. Therefore it clearly follows that sins, inasmuch as they denote nothing but imperfections, cannot consist in anything that expresses essence. If sin, evil, error, or whatever name one chooses to give it, is nothing else but the loss or deprivation of a more perfect state, then of course it seems to follow that to exist is indeed not an evil or imperfection, but that some evil can arise in an existing thing. For that which is perfect will not be deprived of a more perfect state through an equally perfect action, but through our inclination towards something imperfect because we misuse the powers granted us {if you posit that there is no free-will, the remainder of this paragraph is meaningless}. This you seem to call not evil, but merely a lesser good, because things considered in themselves contain perfection, and secondly because, as you say, no more essence belongs to things than the divine intellect and power assigns to them and gives them in actual fact, and therefore they can display no more existence in their actions than they have received page 139 essence. For if the actions I produce can be no greater or lesser than the essence I have received, it cannot be imagined that there is a privation of a more perfect state. If nothing comes to pass contrary to G-D's will, and if what comes to pass is governed by the amount of essence granted, in what conceivable way can there be evil, which you call privation of a better state? How can anyone suffer the loss of a more perfect state through an act thus constituted and dependent? Thus it seems to me that you must maintain one of two alternatives: either that there is some evil, or, if not, that there can be no privation of a better state. For that there is no evil, and that there is privation {perfection} of a better state, seem to be contradictory.JBY1  

[
L(20):6]  But you will say that, through privation of a more perfect state, we fall back into a lesser good, not into an absolute evil. But you have taught me (Appendix, Part 1, Chapter 3) that one must not quarrel over words. Therefore I am not now arguing as to whether or not it should be called an absolute evil, but whether the decline from a better to a worse state is not called by us, and ought rightly to be called, a worse state, or a state that is evil. But, you will reply, this evil state yet contains much good. Still, I ask whether that man who through his own folly has been the cause of his own deprivation of a more perfect state and is consequently now less than he was before, cannot be called evil {nevertheless}.

[
L(20):7]  To escape from the foregoing chain of reasoning
since it still confronts you with some difficulties, you assert that evil does indeed exist, and there was evil in Adam, but it is not something positive, and is called evil in relation to our intellect, not to G-D's intellect. In relation to our intellect it is privation (but only in so far as we thereby deprive ourselves of the best freedom which belongs to our nature and is within our power), but in relation to G-D it is negation.  

[
L(20):8]  But let us here examine whether what you call evil, if it were evil only in relation to us, would be no evil; and next, whether evil, taken in the sense you maintain, ought to be called mere negation in relation to God.

[
L(20):9]  The first question I think I have answered to some extent in what I have already said. And although I conceded that my being less perfect than another being cannot posit any evil in me because I cannot demand from my Creator a better state, and that it causes my state to differ only in degree, nevertheless I cannot on that account concede that, if I am now less perfect than I was before and have brought this imperfection on myself through my own fault, I am not to that extent the worse. If, I say, I consider myself as I was before ever I lapsed into imperfection and compare myself with others who possess a greater page 140 perfection than I, that lesser perfection is not an evil but a lower grade of good. But if, after falling from a more perfect state and being deprived thereof by my own folly, I compare myself with my original more perfect condition with which I issued from the hand of my Creator, I have to judge myself to be worse than before. For it is not my Creator {Perfect Being} but I myself, who has brought me to this pass.JBY1 I had power enough {not power, but choice}, as you yourself admit, to preserve myself from error {of not perpetuating myself}.

[
L(20):10]  To come to the second question,
namely, whether the evil which you maintain consists in the privation of a better state—which not only Adam but all of us have lost through rash and ill-considered action—whether this evil, I say, is in relation to God a mere negation. Now to submit this to a thorough examination, we must see how you envisage man and his dependency on God prior to any error, and how you envisage the same man after error. Before error you depict him as possessing no more essence than the divine intellect and power has assigned to him and in actual fact bestows on him. That is, unless I mistake your meaning, man can possess no more and no less perfection than is the essence with which God has endowed him; that is to say, you make man dependent on G-D in the same way as elements, stones, plants, etc. But if that is your opinion, I fail to understand the meaning of Principia, Part 1, Proposition 15 where you {Descartes} say, "Since the will is free to determine itself, it follows that we have the power of restraining our faculty of assent within the limits of the intellect, and therefore of bringing it about that we do not fall into error." Does it not seem a contradiction to make the will so free that it can keep itself from error, and at the same time to make it so dependent on God that it cannot manifest either more or less perfection than God has given it essence?  

[
L(20):11]  As to the other question, namely, how you envisage man after error, you say that man deprives himself of a more perfect state by an over-hasty action, namely, by not restraining his will within the limits of his intellect. But it seems to me that both here and in the Principia you should have shown in more detail the two extremes of this privation, what he possessed before the privation and what he still retained after the loss of that perfect state, as you call it. There is indeed something said about what we have lost, but not about what we have retained, in Principia, Part 1, Proposition 15: So the whole imperfection of error consists solely in the privation of the best freedom, which is called error. Let us take a look at these two statements just as they are set out by you. You maintain not only that there are in us such very different modes of thinking, some of which we call willing and others understanding, but also that their proper ordering is such that we ought not to will things page 141 before we clearly understand them. You also assert that if we restrain our will within the limits of our intellect we shall never err, and, finally, that it is within our power to restrain the will within the limits of the intellect.

[
L(20):12]  When I give earnest consideration to this, surely one of two things must be true: either all that has been asserted is mere fancy, or God has implanted in us this same order. If he has so implanted it, would it not be absurd to say that this has been done to no purpose, and that God does not require us to observe and follow this order? For that would posit a contradiction in God. And if we must observe the order implanted in us, how can we then be and remain thus dependent on God? For if no one shows either more or less perfection than he has received essence, and if this power must be known by its effects, he who lets his will extend beyond the limits of his intellect has not received sufficient power from God; otherwise he would also have put it into effect. Consequently, he who errs has not received from God the perfection of not erring; if he had, he would not have erred. For according to you there is always as much of essence given us as there is of perfection realised.

[
L(20):13]  Secondly, if God has assigned us as much essence as enables us to observe that order, as you assert we are able to do, and if we always produce as much perfection as we possess essence, how comes it that we transgress that order? How comes it that we are able to transgress that order and that we do not always restrain the will within the limits of the intellect?

[
L(20):14]  Thirdly, if, as I have already shown you to assert, I am so dependent on God that I cannot restrain my will either within or beyond the limits of my intellect unless God has previously given me so much essence and, by his will, has predetermined the one course or the other, how then, if the matter be deeply considered, can freedom of will be available to me? Does it not seem to argue a contradiction in God, to lay down an order for restraining our will within the limits of our intellect, and not to vouchsafe us as much essence or perfection as to enable us to observe that order? And if, in accordance with your opinion, he has granted us that much perfection, we surely could never have erred. For we must produce as much perfection as we possess essence, and always manifest in our actions the power granted us. But our errors are a proof that we do not possess a power of the kind that is thus dependent on God, as you hold. So one of these alternatives must be true: either we are not dependent on God in that way, or we do not have in ourselves the power of being able not to err. But on your view we do have page 142 the power not to err. Therefore we cannot be dependent on God in that way.   {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}

[L(20):15]  From what has been said I think it is now clear that it is impossible that evil, or being deprived of a better state, should be a negation in relation to God. For what is meant by privation, or the loss of a more perfect state? Is it not to pass from a greater to a lesser perfection, and consequently from a greater to a lesser essence, and to be placed by God in a certain degree of perfection and essence? Is that not to will that we can acquire no other state outside his perfect knowledge, unless he had decreed and willed otherwise? Is it possible that this creature, produced by that omniscient and perfect Being who willed that it should retain a certain state of essenceindeed, a creature with whom God continually concurs so as to maintain it in that statethat this creature should decline in essence, that is, should be diminished in perfection, without God's knowledge? This seems to involve an absurdity. Is it not absurd to say that Adam lost a more perfect state and was consequently incapable of practising the order which God had implanted in his soul, while God had no knowledge of that loss and of that imperfection? Is it conceivable that God should constitute a being so dependent that it would produce just such an action and then should lose a more perfect state because of that action (of which God, moreover, would be an absolute cause), and yet God would have no knowledge of it?   {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}

[L(20):16]  I grant that there is a difference between the act and the evil adhering to the act; but that 'evil in relation to God is negation' is beyond my comprehension. That God should know the act, determine it and concur with it, and yet have no knowledge of the evil that is in the act nor of its outcomethis seems to me impossible in God. {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}

[L(20):17]  Consider with me that God concurs with my act of procreation with my wife; for that is something positive, and consequently God has clear knowledge of it. But in so far as I misuse this act with another woman contrary to my promise and vow, evil accompanies the act. What could be negative here in relation to God? Not the act of procreation; for in so far as that is positive, God concurs with it. Therefore the evil that accompanies the act must be only that, contrary to my own pledge or God's command, I do this with a woman with whom this is not permissible. Now is it conceivable that God should know our actions and concur with them, and yet not know with whom we engage in those actionsespecially since God also concurs with the action of the woman with whom I transgressed? It seems hard to think this of God.
  {
Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}
page 173
[L(20):18]  Consider the act of killing.
In so far as it is a positive act, God concurs with it. But the result of that action, namely, the destruction of a being and the dissolution of God's creature would God be unaware of this, as if his own work could be unknown to him? (I fear that here I do not properly understand your meaning, for you seem to me too subtle a thinker to perpetrate so gross an error). Perhaps you will reply that those actions, just as I present them, are all simply good, and that no evil accompanies them. But then I cannot understand what it is you call evil, which follows on the privation of a more perfect state; and furthermore the whole world would then be put in eternal and lasting confusion, and we men would become beasts. Consider, I pray, what profit this opinion would bring to the world.  {JBYnote1}

[L(20):19]  You also reject the common description of man, and you attribute to each man as much perfection of action as God has in fact bestowed on him to exercise. But this way of thinking seems to me to imply that the wicked serve God by their works just as well as do the godly. {JBYnote1} Why? Because neither of them can perform actions more perfect than they have been given essence, and which they show in what they practise. Nor do I think that you give a satisfactory reply to my question in your second answer, where you say:The more perfection a thing has, the more it participates in Deity, and the more it expresses God's perfection. Therefore since the good have incalculably more perfection than the wicked, their virtue cannot be compared with that of the wicked. For the latter are but a tool in the hands of the master, which serves unconsciously and is consumed in serving. But the good serve consciously, and in serving become more perfect. In both cases, however, this much is truethey can do no more; for the more perfection the one displays compared with the other, the more essence he has received compared with the other. Do not the godless with their small store of perfection serve God equally as well as the godly? For according to you God demands nothing more of the godless; otherwise he would have granted them more essence. But he has not given them more essence, as is evident from their works. Therefore he asks no more of them. And if it is the case that each of them after his kind does what God wills, neither more nor less, why should he whose achievement is slight, yet as much as God demands of him, not be equally acceptable to God as the godly?   {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}

[L(20):20]  Furthermore, as according to you we lose a more perfect state by our own folly through the evil that accompanies the act, so here too you appear to assert that by restraining the will within the limits of the intellect we not only preserve our present perfection but we even become more perfect by serving. I believe there is a contradiction here, page 144 if we are so dependent on God as to be unable to produce either more or less perfection than we have received essencethat is, than God has willedand yet we should become worse through our folly, or better through our prudence. So if man is such as you describe him, you seem to be maintaining nothing other than this, that the ungodly serve God by their works just as much as the godly by their works, and in this way we are made as dependent on God as elements, plants, stones, etc. Then what purpose will our intellect serve? What purpose the power to restrain the will within the limits of the intellect? Why has that order been imprinted in us?

[L(20):21]  And see,
on the other side, what we deprive ourselves of, namely, painstaking and earnest deliberation as to how we may render ourselves perfect in accordance with the rule of God's perfection and the order implanted in us. We deprive ourselves of the prayer and yearnings towards God wherefrom we perceive we have so often derived a wonderful strength. We deprive ourselves of all religion, and all the hope and comfort we expect from prayer and religion. For surely if God has no knowledge of evil, it is still less credible that he will punish evil. What reasons can I have, then, for not eagerly committing all sorts of villainy (provided I can escape the judge)? Why not enrich myself by abominable means? Why not indiscriminately do whatever I like, according to the promptings of the flesh? You will say, because virtue is to be loved for itself. But how can I love virtue? I have not been given that much essence and perfection. And if I can gain just as much contentment from the one course as the other, why force myself to restrain the will within the limits of the intellect? Why not do what my passions suggest? Why not secretly kill the man who gets in my way? See what an opportunity we give to all the ungodly, and to godlessness. We make ourselves just like logs, and all our actions like the movements of a clock. {JBYnote1.}

[L(20):22]  From what has been said it seems to me very hard to maintain that only improperly can we be said to sin against God. For then what is the significance of the power granted to us to restrain the will within the limits of the intellect, by transgressing which we sin against that order? Perhaps you will reply, this is not a case of sinning against God, but against ourselves; for if it could properly be said that we sin against God, it must also be said that something happens against God's will, which according to you is an impossibility, and therefore so is sinning. Still, one of these alternatives must be true: either God wills it, or he does not. If God wills it, how can it be evil in respect to us? If he does not will it, on your view it would not come to pass. But although this, page 145 on your view, would involve some absurdity, nevertheless it seems to me very dangerous to admit therefore all the absurdities already stated. Who knows whether, by careful thought, a remedy may not be found to effect some measure of reconciliation?  

[L(20):23]  With this
I bring to an end my examination of your letter in accordance with my first general rule. But before proceeding to examine it according to the second rule, I have yet two points to make which are relevant to the line of thought of your letter, both set forth in your Principia, Part 1, Proposition 15. First, you affirm that 'we can keep the power of willing and judging within the limits of the intellect'. To this I cannot give unqualified agreement. For if this were true, surely out of countless numbers at least one man would be found who would show by his actions that he had this power. Now everyone can discover in his own case that, however much strength he exerts, he cannot attain this goal. And if anyone has any doubt about this, let him examine himself and see how often, in despite of his intellect, his passions master his reason even when he strives with all his might.

[L(20):24]  But you will say
that the reason we do not succeed is not because it is impossible, but because we do not apply enough diligence. I reply that if it were possible, then at least there would be one instance found out of so many thousands. But from all men there has not been, nor is there, one who would venture to boast that he has never fallen into error. What surer arguments than actual examples could be adduced to prove this point? Even if there were just a few, then there would be at least one to be found; but since there is not a single one, then likewise there is no proof.

[L(20):25]  But you will persist and say:
if it is possible that, by suspending judgment and restraining the will within the bounds of the intellect, I can once bring it about that I do not err, why could I not always achieve this by applying the same diligence? I reply that I cannot see that we have this day as much strength as enables us to continue so always. On one occasion, by putting all my effort into it, I can cover two leagues in one hour; but I cannot always manage that. Similarly on one occasion I can by great exertion keep myself from error, but I do not always have the strength to accomplish this. It seems clear to me that the first man, coming forth from the hand of that perfect craftsman, did have that power; but (and in this I agree with you) either by not making sufficient use of that power or by misusing it, he lost his perfect state of being able to do what had previously been within his power. This I could confirm by many arguments, were it not too lengthy a business. And in this I think lies the whole essence of Holy Scripture, page 146 which we ought therefore to hold in high esteem, since it teaches us what is so clearly confirmed by our natural understanding, that our fall from our first perfection was due to our folly. What then is more essential than to recover from that fall as far as we can? And that is also the sole aim of Holy Scripture, to bring fallen man back to God.

[L(20):26]  The second point from the Principia, Part 1, Proposition 15
affirms that to understand things clearly and distinctly is contrary to the nature of man, from which you finally conclude that it is far better to assent to things even though they are confused, and to exercise our freedom, than to remain for ever indifferent, that is, at the lowest degree of freedom. I do not find this clear enough to win my assent. For suspension of judgment preserves us in the state in which we were created by our Creator, whereas to assent to what is confused is to assent to what we do not understand, and thus to give equally ready assent to the false as to the true. And if (as Monsieur Descartes somewhere teaches us (See Descartes' Principles of Philosophy I, XXXI; and also Spinoza's scholium to PPC1P15.)) we do not in assenting comply with that order which God has given us in respect of our intellect and will, namely, to withhold assent from what is not clearly perceived, then even though we may chance to hit upon truth, yet we are sinning in not embracing truth according to that order which God has willed. Consequently, just as the withholding of assent preserves us in the state in which we were placed by God, so assenting to things confused puts us in a worse position. For it lays the foundations of error whereby we thereafter lose our perfect state.

[L(20):27]  But I hear you say,
is it not better to render ourselves more perfect by assenting to things even though confused than, by not assenting, to remain always at the lowest degree of perfection and freedom? But apart from the fact that we have denied this and in some measure have shown that we have rendered ourselves not better but worse, it also seems to us an impossibility and practically a contradiction that God should make the knowledge of things determined by himself extend beyond the knowledge that he has given us. Indeed, God would thus contain within himself the absolute cause of our errors. And it is not inconsistent with this that we cannot complain of God that he did not bestow on us more than he has bestowed, since he was not bound so to do. It is indeed true that God was not bound to give us more than he has given us; but God's supreme perfection also implies that a creature page 147 proceeding from him should involve no contradiction, as would then appear to follow. For nowhere in created Nature do we find knowledge other than in our own intellect. To what end could this have been granted us other than that we might contemplate and know God's works? And what seems to be a more certain conclusion than that there must be agreement between things to be known and our intellect?

[L(20):8]  But if I were to examine your letter
under the guidance of my second general rule, our differences would be greater than under the first rule. For I think (correct me if I am wrong) that you do not ascribe to Holy Scripture that infallible truth and divinity which I believe lies therein. It is indeed true that you declare your belief that God has revealed the things of Holy Scripture to the prophets, but in such an imperfect manner that, if it were as you say, it would imply a contradiction in God. For if God has revealed his Word and his will to men, then he has done so for a definite purpose, and clearly. Now if the prophets have composed a parable out of the Word which they received, then God must either have willed this, or not willed it. If God willed that they should compose a parable out of his Word, that is, that they should depart from his meaning, God would be the cause of that error and would have willed something self-contradictory. If God did not will it, it would have been impossible for the prophets to compose a parable therefrom. Moreover, it seems likely, on the supposition that God gave his Word to the prophets, that he gave it in such a way that they did not err in receiving it. For God must have had a definite purpose in revealing his Word; but his purpose could not have been to lead men into error, thereby, for that would be a contradiction in God. Again, man could not have erred against God's will, for that is impossible according to you. In addition to all this, it cannot be believed of the most perfect God that he should permit his Word, given to the prophets to communicate to the people, to have a meaning given it by the prophets other than what God willed. For if we maintain that God communicated his Word to the prophets, we thereby maintain that God appeared to the prophets, or spoke with them, in a miraculous way. If now the prophets composed a parable from the communicated Word,that is, gave it a meaning different from that which God intended them to giveGod must have so instructed them. Again, it is as impossible in respect of the prophets as it is contradictory in respect of God, that the prophets could have understood a meaning different from that which God intended. 
page 148
[L(20):29]  You also seem to provide scant proof
that G-D revealed his Word in the manner you indicate, namely, that he revealed only salvation and perdition, decreeing the means that would be certain to bring this about, and that salvation and perdition are no more than the effects of the means decreed by him. For surely if the prophets had understood God's word in that sense, what reasons could they have had for giving it another meaning? But I do not see you produce a single proof to persuade us that we should prefer your view to that of the prophets. If you think your proof to consist in this, that otherwise the Word would include many imperfections and contradictions, I say that this is mere assertion {correct, an hypothesis to be tested}, not proof. And if both meanings were squarely before us, who knows which would contain fewer imperfections? And finally, the supremely perfect Being knew full well what the people could understand, and therefore what must be the best method of instructing them. {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity.}

[L(20):30]  As to the second part of your first question, you ask yourself why God forbade Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree when he had nevertheless decreed the contrary; and you answer that the prohibition to Adam consisted only in this, that God revealed to Adam that the eating of the fruit of the tree caused death just as he reveals to us through our natural intellect that poison is deadly for us. If it is established that God forbade something to Adam, what reasons are there why I should give more credence to your account of the manner of the prohibition than to that given by the prophets to whom God himself revealed the manner of the prohibition? You will say that your account of the prohibition is more natural, and therefore more in agreement with truth and more befitting God. But I deny all this. Nor can I conceive that God has revealed to us through our natural understanding that poison is deadly; and I do not see why I would ever know that something is poisonous if I had not seen and heard of the evil effects of poison in others. Daily experience teaches us how many men, not recognising poison, unwittingly eat it and die. You will say that if people knew it was poison, they would realise that it is evil. But I reply that no one knows poison, or can know it, unless he has seen or heard that someone has come to harm by using it. And if we suppose that up to this day we had never heard or seen that someone had done himself harm by using this kind of thing, not only would we be unaware of it now but we would not be afraid to use it, to our detriment. We learn truths of this kind every day.  

[L(20):31]  What in this life can give greater delight
to a well-formed intellect than the contemplation of that perfect Deity? For being concerned with that which is most perfect, such contemplation must also involve page 149 in itself the highest perfection that can come within the scope of our finite intellect. Indeed, there is nothing in my life for which I would exchange this pleasure. In this I can pass much time in heavenly joy, though at the same time being much distressed when I realise that my finite intellect is so wanting. Still, I soothe this sadness with the hope I havea hope that is dearer to me than lifethat I shall exist hereafter and continue to exist, and shall contemplate that Deity more perfectly than I do today. When I consider this brief and fleeting life in which I look to my death at any moment, if I had to believe that there would be an end of me and I should be cut off from that holy and glorious contemplation, then surely I would be more wretched than all creatures who have no knowledge of their end. For before my death, fear of death would make me wretched, and after my death I would be nothing, and therefore wretched in being deprived of that divine contemplation.

[L(20):32]  Now it is to this that your opinions seem to lead, that when I cease to be here,
I shall for ever cease to be. Against this the Word and will of God, by their inner testimony in my soul, give me assurance that after this life I shall eventually in a more perfect state rejoice in contem- plation of the most perfect Deity. Surely, even if that hope should turn out to be false, yet it makes me happy as long as I hope. This is the only thing I ask of God, and shall continue to ask, with prayers, sighs and earnest supplication (would that I could do more to this end!) that as long as there is breath in my body, it may please him of his goodness to make me so fortunate that, when this body is dissolved, I may still remain an intellectual being able to contemplate that most perfect Deity. And if only I obtain that, it matters not to me what men here believe, and what convictions they urge on one another, and whether or not there is something founded on our natural intellect and can be grasped by it. This, and this alone, is my wish, my desire, and my constant prayer, that God should establish this certainty in my soul. And if I have this (and oh! if I have it not, how wretched am I!), then let my soul cry out, "As the hart panteth after the water-brook, so longeth my soul for thee, O living God. O when will come the day when I shall be with thee and behold thee {in an "I-Thou" relationship}?" (Compare Psalms 42:1-2. The quotation is not exact.) If only I attain to that, then have I all the aspiration and desire of my soul. But in your view such hopes are page 150 not for me, since our service is not pleasing to God. Nor can I understand why God (if I may speak of him in so human a fashion) should have brought us forth and sustained us, if he takes no pleasure in our service and our praise. But if I have misunderstood your views, I should like to have your clarification. {Anthropomorphism—ascribing human form or attributes to a thing or a being not human, as to a deity. Blyenbergh posits the Scriptural God and not Spinoza's G-D.}

[L(20):33]  But I have detained myself,
and perhaps you as well, far too long; and seeing that my time and paper are running out, I shall end. These are the points in your letter I would still like to have resolved. Perhaps here and there I have drawn from your letter a conclusion which may chance not to be your own view; but I should like to hear your explanation regarding this. {Blyenbergh posits the Scriptural God and not Spinoza's G-D.}

[L(20):34]  I have recently occupied myself in reflecting on certain attributes of God,
in which your {Cogitata Metaphysica} appendix {not the Ethics Appendix} has given me no little help. I have in effect merely paraphrased your views, which seem to me little short of demonstrations. I am therefore very much surprised that L. Meyer says in his Preface that this does not represent your opinions, that you were under an obligation thus to instruct your pupil in Descartes' philosophy, as you had promised, but that you held very different views both of God and the soul, and in particular the will of the soul. I also see stated in that Preface that you will shortly publish the Cogitata Metaphysica in an expanded form. I very much look forward to both of these, for I have great expectations of them. But it is not my custom to praise someone to his face.

[L(20):35]  This is written in sincere friendship,
as requested in your letter, and to the end that truth may be discovered. Forgive me for having written at greater length than I had intended. If I should receive a reply from you, I should be much obliged to you. As to writing in the language in which you were brought up, I can have no objection, if at least it is Latin or French. But I beg you to let me have your answer in this same language, for I have understood your meaning in it quite well, and perhaps in Latin I should not understand it so clearly. By so doing you will oblige me, so that I shall be, and remain,

      Your most devoted and dutiful,
      Willem Van Blyenbergh.
      Dordrecht, 16 January 1665.

In your reply I should like to be informed more fully what you really mean by negation of G-D.
 

End of L(20) as given in Bk. XIII:137-150.

 


Taken with kind permission from Terry M. NeffLetter 34(21)
Letter 34(21):336—Spinoza to Blyenbergh.
 
                               Voorburg, 28 Jan.,1665; Reply to Letter 33(20).
   [Spinoza complains that Blyenbergh has misunderstood him: he sets forth the true meaning.]  
  {Blyenbergh misunderstood (or does not accept Spinoza's ideas on) good-evil, perfect-imperfect, and     privation-negation. This is an important letter in understanding these terms.}

[L34:1]  Friend and Sir,—When I read your first letter {L31}, I thought that our opinions almost coincided. But from the second {L33}, which was delivered to me on the 21st of this page 337 month, I see that the matter stands far otherwise, for I perceive that we disagree, not only in remote inferences from first principles, but also in first principles themselves; so that I can hardly think that we can derive any mutual instruction from further correspondence S91. I see that no proof, though it be by the laws of proof most sound, has any weight with you, unless it agrees with the explanation, which either you yourself, or other theologians known to you, attribute to Holy Scripture. However, if you are convinced that G-D speaks more clearly and effectually through Holy Scripture than through the natural understanding, which He also has bestowed upon us, and with His divine wisdom keeps continually stable and uncorrupted, you have valid reasons for making your understanding bow before the opinions which you attribute to Holy Scripture; I myself could adopt no different course. For my own part, as I confess plainly, and without circumlocution, that I do not understand the {theological} Scriptures, though I have spent some years upon them, and also as I feel that when I have obtained a firm proof, I cannot fall into a state of doubt concerning it, I acquiesce entirely in what is commended to me by my understanding, without any suspicion that I am being deceived in the matter, or that Holy Scripture, though I do not search, could gainsay it: for "truth is not at variance with truth," as I have already clearly shown in my appendix to The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy (I cannot give the precise reference, for I have not the book with me here in the country). But if in any instance I found that a result obtained through my natural understanding was false, I should reckon myself fortunate, for I enjoy life, and try to spend it not in sorrow and sighing, but in peace, joy, and cheerfulness, ascending from time to time a step higher. Meanwhile I know (and this knowledge gives me the highest contentment and peace of mind), that all things come to pass by the power and unchangeable decree of a Being supremely perfect.

[L34:2]  To return to your letter {
L33}, I owe you many and sincere thanks for having confided to me your philosophical opinions; but for the doctrines, which you attribute to me, and seek to infer from my letter {L32}, I return you no thanks at all. What ground, I should like to know, has my page 338 letter afforded you for ascribing to me the opinions; that men are like beasts, that they die and perish after the manner of beasts, that our actions are displeasing to G-D, &c.? Perhaps we are most of all at variance on this third point. You think, as far as I can judge, that G-D takes pleasure in our actions, as though He were a man, who has attained his object, when things fall out as he desired. For my part, have I not said plainly enough, that the good worship G-D, that in continually serving Him they become more perfect, and that they love G-D? Is this, I ask, likening them to beasts, or saying that they perish like beasts, or that their actions are displeasing to G-D? If you had read my letter with more attention, you would have clearly perceived, that our whole dissension lies in the following alternative:—Either the perfections which the good receive are imparted to them by G-D in His capacity of G-D, that is absolutely without any human qualities being ascribed to Him—this is what I believe; or else such perfections are imparted by God as a judge, which is what you maintain. For this reason you defend the wicked, saying that they carry out God's decrees as far as in them lies, and therefore serve God no less than the good. But if my doctrine be accepted, this consequence by no means follows; I do not bring in the idea of G-D as a judge, and, therefore, I estimate an action by its intrinsic merits, not be the powers of its performer; the recompense which follows the action follows from it as necessarily as from the nature of a triangle it follows, that the three angles are equal to two right angles. This may be understood by everyone, who reflects on the fact, that our highest blessedness consists in love towards G-D {intellectual love of G-D}, and that such love flows naturally from the knowledge of God, which is so strenuously enjoined on us. The question may very easily be proved in general terms, if we take notice of the nature of God's decrees, as explained in my appendix. However, I confess that all those, who confuse the Divine Nature with human nature {G-d at <100% °P}, are gravely hindered from understanding it.

[L34:3]  I had intended to end my letter at this point,
lest I should prove troublesome ]boring[ to you in these questions, the discussion of which (as I discover from the extremely pious postscript added to your letter) serves you as a pastime ]derision[ and a page 339 jest, but for no serious use ]value[. However, that I may not summarily deny your request, I will proceed to explain further the words privation and negation, and briefly point out what is necessary for the elucidation of my former letter.  

[L34:4]  I say then,
first, that privation {or evil} is not the act of depriving, but simply and merely a state of want, which is in itself nothing: it is a mere entity ]construct [ of the reason, a mode of thought framed in comparing one thing with another.107 We say, for example, that a blind man is deprived of sight, because we readily imagine him as seeing, or else because we compare him with others who can see, or compare his present condition with his past condition when he could see; when we regard the man in this way, comparing his nature either with the nature of others or with his own past nature, we affirm that sight belongs to his nature, and therefore assert that he has been deprived of it. But when we are considering the Nature and decree of G-D {clay}, we cannot affirm privation of sight in the case of the aforesaid man any more than in the case of a stone; for at the actual time sight lies no more within the scope of the man than of the stone; since there belongs to man and forms part of his nature only that which is granted to him by the understanding and will of G-D. Hence it follows that G-D is no more the cause of a blind man not seeing, than he is of a stone not seeing. Not seeing is a pure negation. So also, when we consider the case of a man who is led by lustful desires, we compare his present desires with those which exist in the good, or which existed in himself at some other time; we then assert that he is deprived of the better desires, because we conceive that virtuous desires lie within the scope of his nature. This we cannot do, if we consider the nature and decree of G-D. For, from this point of view, virtuous desires lie at that time no more within the scope of the nature of the lustful man, than within the scope of the nature of the devil or a stone. Hence, from the latter standpoint the virtuous desire is not a privation but a negation. [L34:5]  Thus privation is nothing else than denying of a thing something, which we think belongs to its nature; negation is denying of a thing something, which we do not think belongs to its nature.  

[L34:6]  We may now see,
how Adam's desire for earthly things page 340 was evil from our standpoint, but not from G-D's. Although G-D knew both the present and the past state of Adam, He did not, therefore, regard Adam as deprived of his past state, that is, He did not regard Adam's past state as within the scope of Adam's present nature. Otherwise G-D would have apprehended something contrary to His own will, that is, contrary to His own understanding. If you quite grasp my meaning here and at the same time remember, that I do not grant to the mind the same freedom as Descartes does—L[ewis] M[eyer] bears witness to this in his preface to my book —you will perceive, that there is not the smallest contradiction in what I have said. But I see that I should have done far better to have answered you in my first letter with the words of Descartes, to the effect that we cannot know how our freedom and its consequences agree with the foreknowledge and freedom of G-D (see several passages in my appendix), that, therefore, we can discover no contradiction between creation by G-D and our freedom, because we cannot understand how G-D created the universe, nor (what is the same thing) how He preserves it. I thought that you had read the preface, and that by not giving you my real opinions in reply, I should sin against those duties of friendship which I cordially offered you. But this is of no consequence ]matter[.

[L34:7]  Still,
as I see that you have not hitherto thoroughly grasped Descartes' meaning, I will call your attention to the two following points. First, that neither Descartes nor I have ever said, that it appertains to our nature to confine the will within the limits of the understanding ]intellect[; we have only said, that G-D has endowed us with a determined understanding and an undetermined will {you can understand only so much; but you have infinite will (wants)}, so that we know not the object for which He has created us. Further, that an undetermined or perfect will {wants} of this kind not only makes us more perfect, but also, as I will presently show you, is extremely necessary for us.

[L34:8]  Secondly:
that our freedom is not placed in a certain contingency nor in a certain indifference, but in the method of affirmation or denial; so that, in proportion as we are less indifferent {improve our data base} in affirmation or denial {2P49}, so are we more free. For instance, if the nature of G-D be known to us, it follows as necessarily from our nature to page 341 affirm G-D exists, as from the nature of a triangle it follows, that the three angles are equal to two right angles; we are never more free, than when we affirm a thing in this way. As this necessity is nothing else but the decree of G-D (as I have clearly shown in my appendix), we may hence, after a fashion, understand how we act freely and are the cause of our action, though all the time we are acting necessarily and according to the decree of G-D. This, I repeat, we may, after a fashion, understand, whenever we affirm something, which we clearly and distinctly perceive, but when we assert something which we do not clearly and distinctly understand, in other words, when we allow our will to pass beyond the limits of our understanding, we no longer perceive the necessity nor the decree of G-D, we can only see our freedom, which is always involved in our will; in which respect only our actions are called good or evil. If we then try to reconcile our freedom with G-D's decree and continuous creation, we confuse that which we clearly and distinctly understand with that which we do not perceive, and, therefore, our attempt is vain. It is, therefore, sufficient for us to know that we are free, and that we can be so notwithstanding G-D's decree, and further that we are the cause of evil, because an act can only be called evil in relation to our freedom. I have said thus much for Descartes in order to show that, in the question we are considering, his words exhibit no contradiction.

[L34:9]  I will now turn to what concerns myself,
108 and will first briefly call attention to the advantage arising from my opinion, inasmuch as, according to it, our understanding offers our mind and body to G-D freed from all superstition. Nor do I deny that prayer is extremely useful to us.109 For my understanding is too small to determine all the means, whereby G-D leads men to the love of Himself, that is, to salvation. So far is my opinion from being hurtful, that it offers to those, who are not taken up ]hampered[ with prejudices and childish superstitions, the only means for arriving at the highest stage of blessedness.

[L34:10]  When you say that,
by making men so dependent on G-D, I reduce them to the likeness of the elements, plants or stones, you sufficiently show that you have page 342 thoroughly misunderstood my meaning, and have confused things which regard the understanding with things which regard the imagination. If by your intellect only you had perceived what dependence on G-D means, you certainly would not think that things, in so far as they depend on G-D, are dead, corporeal, and imperfect (who ever dared to speak so meanly of the Supremely Perfect Being?); on the contrary, you would understand that for the very reason that they depend on G-D they are perfect; so that this dependence and necessary operation may best be understood as G-D's decree, by considering, not stocks and plants, but the most reasonable and perfect creatures {I-Thou}. This sufficiently appears from my second observation on the meaning of Descartes, which you ought to have looked to.

[L34:11]  I cannot refrain from expressing my extreme astonishment
at your remarking, that if G-D does not punish wrongdoing that is, as a judge does, with a punishment not intrinsically ]not entailed by the wrongdoing itself[ {moral agent} connected with the offense, for our whole difference lies in this), what reason prevents me from rushing headlong into every kind of wickedness ]crime[? Assuredly he, who is only kept from vice by the fear of punishment (which I do not think of you), is in no wise acted on by love, and by no means embraces virtue. For my own part, I avoid or endeavour to avoid vice, because it is at direct variance with my proper nature110 and would lead me astray from the knowledge and love of G-D.   

[L34:12]  Again, if you had reflected a little on human nature and the nature of G-D's decree (as explained in my appendix ]of the Cogitata Metaphysica 2: 7-9[ and perceived, and known by this time, how a consequence ]inference[ {effect} should be deduced from its premises {causes}, before a conclusion is arrived at; you would not so rashly have stated that my opinion makes us like stocks ]logs[, &c.: nor would you have ascribed to me the many absurdities you conjure up ]imagine[.

[L34:13]  As to the two points which you say,
before passing on to your second rule, that you cannot understand; I answer, that the first may be solved through Descartes, who says that in observing ]only[ your own nature you feel that you can suspend your judgment. If you say that you do not feel, that you have at present sufficient force to keep your judgment suspended, this would appear to Descartes to be the page 343 same as saying that we cannot at present see, that so long as we exist we shall always be thinking things, or retain the nature of thinking things; in fact it would imply a contradiction.

[L34:14]  As your second difficulty,
I say with Descartes, that if we cannot extend our will beyond the bounds of our extremely limited understanding, we shall be most wretched—it will not be in our power to eat even a crust of bread, or to walk a step, or to go on living112, for all things are uncertain and full of peril.

[L34:15]  I now pass on to your second rule,
and assert that I believe, though I do not ascribe to {Theological} Scripture that sort of truth which you think you find in it, I nevertheless assign to it {the Sacred parts} as great if not greater authority than you do. I am far more careful than others not to ascribe to Scripture any childish and absurd doctrines, a precaution which demands either a thorough acquaintance with philosophy or the possession of divine revelations. Hence I pay very little attention to the glosses put upon Scripture by ordinary theologians, especially those of the kind who always interpret Scripture according to the literal and outward meaning: I have never, except among the Socinians {Shirley's Bk.XIII:49}, found any theologian stupid enough to ignore that Holy Scripture very often speaks in human fashion of God and expresses its meaning in parables; as for the contradiction which you vainly (in my opinion) endeavour to show, I think you attach to the word parable a meaning different from that usually given. For who ever heard, that a man, who expressed his opinions in parables, had therefore taken leave of his senses? When Micaiah said to King Ahab, that he had seen God sitting on a throne, with the armies of heaven standing on the right hand and the left, and that God asked His angels which of them would deceive Ahab {Shirley—1Ki 22:19 and 2Ch 18:18}, this was assuredly a parable employed by the prophet on that occasion (which was not fitted for the inculcation of sublime theological doctrines), as sufficiently setting forth the message he had to deliver in the name of God. We cannot say that he had in anywise taken leave of his senses. So also the other prophets of God made manifest God's commands to the people in this fashion as being the best adapted, though not expressly enjoined by page 344 God, for leading the people to the primary object of Scripture, which, as Christ Himself {Mat 22:37} says, is to bid men love G-D above all things, and their neighbour as themselves. Sublime speculations have, in my opinion, no bearing on Scripture. As far as I am concerned I have never learnt or been able to learn any of G-D's eternal attributes from Holy Scripture.
{
If you say, you can not accept a clear and distinct proof of a working hypothesis that is not in accordance with God's (Theological) Word, you will never advance your knowledge.}

[L34:16]  As to your fifth argument
(that the prophets thus made manifest the word of God, since truth is not at variance with truth), it merely amounts, for those who understand the method of proof, to asking me to prove, that Scripture, as it is, is the true revealed word of God. The mathematical proof of this proposition could only be attained by divine revelation. I, therefore, expressed myself as follows: "I believe, but I do not mathematically know, that all things revealed by God to the prophets," &c. Inasmuch as I firmly believe but do not mathematically know, that the prophets were the most trusted counsellors and faithful ambassadors of God. So that in all I have written there is no contradiction, though several such may be found among holders of the opposite opinion.

[L34:17]  The rest of your letter (to wit the passage where you say,
"Lastly, the supremely perfect Being knew beforehand," &c; and again, your objections to the illustration from poison, and lastly, the whole of what you say of the appendix and what follows) seems to me beside the question.   

[L34:18]  As regards Lewis Meyer's preface,
the points which were still left to be proved by Descartes before establishing his demonstration of free will, are certainly there set forth; it is added that I hold a contrary opinion, my reasons for doing so being given. I shall, perhaps, in due time give further explanations. For the present I have no such intention.

[L34:19]  I have never thought about the work on Descartes
nor given any further heed to it, since it has been translated into Dutch. I have my reasons, though it would be tedious to enumerate them here. So nothing remains for me but to subscribe myself, &c.
 
 
                                                                                             
                                                                                              {
Signature added.}
Spinoza to Blyenbergh. 
Voorburg, 28 Jan.,1665. 

Letter 34(21) Footnotes from Shirley's Bk.XIII: 

107:153. The notion of 'evil' or 'privation' as arising from the formation of universal concepts is discussed in the Preface               to E4. See also E4P64 ("Knowledge of evil is inadequate knowledge") and E4P64Cor ("Hence it follows that if               the human mind had only adequate ideas, it could not form any notion of evil").

108:155. In the previous two paragraphs, Spinoza has been summarising Descartes' position, in order to contrast it with              his own, which follows. He provides a more detailed summary of Descartes' position on error in PPC1P15s1. 

109:155. Prayer for Spinoza is not a means of influencing or securing favour with G-D.

110:156. Spinoza again emphasizes the extent to which Blyenbergh's concept of evil and privation rests on inadequate               universal concepts, rather than an adequate knowledge of particular things.  {JBYnote1.}

112:157.  It is in this sense, and this sense only, that Spinoza can agree with Descartes that will extends beyond                intellect. He amplifies this point in his discussion of various objections to his own position on the identity of                will and intellect in E2P49n1, where he criticizes Descartes.

 

End of Letter 34(21).

 


Letter 35(22):345—Blyenbergh to Spinoza;
                              Dordrecht, 19 Feb.,1665.  Reply to Letter 34(21) 
 
This letter (extending over five pages) is only  given here in brief summary. ]
{See full letter taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:159 of this very long letter.} 
 

The tone of your last letter is very different from that of your first. If our essence is equivalent to our state at a given time, we are as perfect when sinning as when virtuous: God would wish for vice as much as virtue. Both the virtuous and the vicious execute God's will—What is the difference between them? You say some actions are more perfect than others; wherein does this perfection consist? If a mind existed so framed, that vice was in agreement with its proper nature, why should such a mind prefer good to evil? If God makes us all that we are, how can we "go astray"? Can rational substances depend on God in any, way except lifelessly? What is the difference between a rational being's dependence on God, and an irrational being's? If we have no free will, are not our actions God's actions, and our will God's will? I could ask several more questions, but do not venture.

P.S. In my hurry I forgot to insert this question: Whether we cannot by foresight avert what would otherwise happen to us?

Blyenbergh to Spinoza.
Dordrecht, 19 Feb., 1665.
 
End of Letter 35(22):345 Brief Summary. 
See Shirley's Bk.XIII:159 for full letter of 6 pages.
 
 


Letter 35(22):159—Blyenbergh to Spinoza. 
                               Dordrecht, 16 Jan.,1665;  Reply to Letter 34(21);
 

                {A summary only of this letter is given above by the translator of Bk. I.} 

                          {This is the full letter taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:159.}

[The original, which is extant, was written in Dutch and was printed in the Dutch edition of the O.P. The Latin version is a translation from the Dutch. 117 ]
  
To the highly esteemed BAS., from Willem Van Blyenbergh

Sir, and worthy friend,

[L
(22):1]  I received your letter of 28 January in good time,
but affairs other than my studies have prevented me from replying sooner. And since your letter was liberally besprinkled with sharp reproofs, I scarce knew what to make of it. For in your first letter of 5 January you very
generously offered me your sincere friendship,
assuring me that not only was my letter of that time very welcome, but also any subsequent letters. Indeed, I was urged in a friendly way to put before you freely any further difficulties I might wish to raise. This I did at some greater length in my letter of 16 January. To this I expected a friendly and instructive reply, in accordance with your own request and promise. But on the contrary I received one that does not savour overmuch of friendship, stating that no demonstrations, however clear, avail with me, that I do not understand Descartes' meaning, that I am too much inclined to confuse corporeal with spiritual things, etc., so that our correspondence can no longer serve for our mutual instruction.

[L
(22):2]  To this I reply in a friendly way that I certainly believe that you understand the above-mentioned things better than I, and that you are more accustomed to distinguish corporeal from spiritual things. For in metaphysics, where I am a beginner, you have already ascended to a high level, and that is why I sought the favour of your instruction. But never did I imagine that I would give offence by my frank objections. I heartily thank you for the trouble you have taken with both your letters, page 160 especially the second, from which I grasped your meaning more clearly than from the first." 118  Nevertheless, I still cannot assent to it unless the difficulties I yet find in it are removed. This neither should nor can give you cause for offence, for it is a grave fault in our intellect to assent to a truth without having the necessary grounds for such assent. Although your conceptions may be true, I ought not to give assent to them as long as there remain with me reasons for obscurity or doubt, even if those doubts arise not from the matter as presented, but from the imperfection of my understanding. And since you are very well aware of this, you should not take it amiss if I again raise some objections, as I am bound to do as long as I cannot clearly grasp the matter. For this I do to no other end than to discover truth, and not to distort your meaning contrary to your intention. I therefore ask for a friendly reply to these few observations.

[L
(22):3]  You say that no more pertains to the essence of a thing than that which the divine will and power allows it and in actual fact gives to it, and when we consider the nature of a man who is governed by desire for sensual pleasure, comparing his present desires with those of the pious or with those which he himself had at another time, we then assert that that man is deprived of a better desire, because we judge that at that time the virtuous desire pertains to him. This we cannot do if we have regard to the nature of the divine decree and intellect. For in this respect the better desire no more pertains to that man at that time than to the nature of the Devil, or a stone, etc. For although God knew the past and present state of Adam, he did not on that account understand Adam as deprived of a past state, that is, that the past state pertained to his present nature, etc. From these words it seems to me clearly to follow, subject to correction, that nothing else pertains to an essence than that which it possesses at the moment it is perceived. That is, if I have a desire for pleasure, that desire pertains to my essence at that time, and if I do not have that desire, that non-desiring pertains to my essence at the time when I do not desire. Consequently, it must also infallibly follow that in relation to God I include as much perfection page 161 (differing only in degree) in my actions when I have a desire for
pleasure as when I have no such desire,
when I engage in all kinds of villainy as when I practise virtue and justice. For at that time there pertains to my essence only as much as is expressed in action, for, on your view, I can do neither more nor less than what results from the degree of essence I have in actual fact received. For since the desire for pleasure and villainy pertains to my essence at the time of my action, and at that time I receive that essence, and no more, from the divine power, it is only those actions that the divine power demands of me. Thus it seems to follow clearly from your position that God desires villainy in exactly the same way as he desires those actions you term virtuous.

[L
(22):4]  Let us now take for granted that God, as God and not as judge, bestows on the godly and the ungodly such and so much essence as he wills that they should exercise. What reasons can there be why God does not desire the actions of the one in the same way as the actions of the other? For since God gives to each one the quality for his action, it surely follows that from those to whom he has given less he desires only proportionately the same as from those to whom he has given more. Consequently God, regarded only in himself, wills the greater and the lesser perfection in our actions, wills the desires for pleasure and the virtuous desires, all alike. So those who engage in villainy must of necessity engage in villainy because nothing else pertains to their essence at that time, just as he who practises virtue does so because the divine power has willed that this should pertain to his essence at that time. So again I cannot but think that God wills equally and in the same way both villainy and virtue, and in so far as he wills both, he is the cause of both, and to that extent they must both be pleasing to him. It is too hard for me to conceive this of G-D.

[L
(22):5]  I see indeed that you say that the pious serve G-D. But from your writings I can only understand that serving G-D is merely to carry out such actions as G-D has willed us to do, and this is what you also ascribe to the impious and the licentious. So what difference is there in relation to God between the service of the pious and the impious? You say too that the pious serve God, and by their service continually become more perfect. But I cannot see what you understand by 'becoming more perfect', nor what is meant by 'continually becoming more perfect'. For the impious and the pious both receive their essence, and likewise their preservation or continual creation of their essence, from God as God, not as judge, and both fulfill God's will in the same way, that is, in accordance with God's decree. So what difference can there be between the two in relation to God? For the page 162 'continually becoming more perfect' derives not from their actions but from the will of God. So if the impious through their actions become more imperfect, this derives not from their actions but only from the will of God; and both only carry out God's will. So there can be no difference between the two in relation to God. What reasons are there, then, why these should become continually more perfect through their actions, and the others be consumed in serving?  {JBYnote1.}

[L(22):6]  But you seem to locate the difference between the actions of the one and the other in this point, that the one includes more perfection than the other. I am quite sure that herein lies my error, or yours, for I cannot find in your writings any rule whereby a thing is called more or less perfect except as it has more or less essence. Now if this is the standard of perfection, then surely in relation to God's will villainy is equally as acceptable to him as the actions of the pious. For God as God, that is, in regard only to himself, wills them in the same way, since in both cases they derive from his decree. If this is the only standard of perfection, errors can only improperly be so called. In reality there are no errors, in reality there are no crimes; everything contains only that essence, and that kind of essence, which G-D has given it; and this essence, be it as it may, always involves perfection. I confess I cannot clearly comprehend this. {Does not comprehend mean that Blyenbergh does not accept (willing to posit) Spinoza's G-D; if so, further correspondence is useless.} You must forgive me if I ask whether murder is equally as pleasing to God as almsgiving, and whether, in relation to G-D, stealing is as good as righteousness. If not, what are the reasons? If you say yes, what reasons can I have which should induce me to perform one action which you call virtuous rather than another? What law or rule forbids me the one more than the other? If you say it is the law of virtue itself, I must certainly confess that by your account I can find no law whereby virtue is to be delineated or recognised. For everything depends inseparably on God's will, and consequently the one action is equally as virtuous as the other. Therefore I do not understand your saying that one must act from love of virtue, for I cannot comprehend what, according to you, is virtue, or the law of virtue. You do indeed say that you shun vice or villainy because they are opposed to your own particular nature and would lead you astray from the knowledge and love of G-D.119 But in all your writings I find page 163 no rule or proof for this. {Proof is not possible; you posit it as a working hypothesis or you do not.} Indeed, forgive me for having to say that the contrary seems to follow from your writings. You shun the things I call wicked because they are opposed to your particular nature, not because they contain vice in themselves. You avoid them just as we avoid food that we find disgusting. Surely he who avoids evil things just because they are repugnant to his nature can take little pride in his virtue.

[L
(22):7]  Here again a question can be raised; if there were a mind to whose particular nature the pursuit of pleasure or villainy was not repugnant but agreeable, could he have any virtuous motive that must move him to do good and avoid evil? But how is it possible that one should be able to relinquish the desire for pleasure when this desire at that time pertains to his essence, and he has in actual fact received it from God and cannot free himself from it?

[L
(22):8]  Again, I cannot see in your writings that it follows that the actions which I call wicked should lead you astray from the knowledge and love of God. For you have only done what God willed, and could not have done more, because at that time no more was assigned to your essence by the divine power and will. How can an action so determined and dependent make you stray from the love of God? To go astray is to be confused, to be non-dependent, and this according to you is impossible. For whether we do this or that, manifest more or less perfection, that is what we receive for our essence at that point of time immediately from God. How, then, can we go astray? Or else I do not understand what is meant by going astray. However, it is here, and here alone, that must lurk the cause of either my or your misapprehension.

[L
(22):9]  At this point there are still many other things I should like to say and ask.

[L(22):10]  There are many other questions I should like to raise, but I dare not ask so much of you. I simply look forward to receiving first of all your answer to the foregoing pages. Perhaps thereby I shall better be able to understand your views, and then we could discuss these matters rather more fully in person. For when I have received your answer, I shall have to go to Leiden in a few weeks, and shall give myself the honour of greeting you in passing, if that is acceptable to you. Relying on this, with warm salutations I say that I remain,

Your devoted servant,
W.v. Blyenbergh.
Dordrecht, 19 February 1665.

If you do not write to me under cover, please write to Willem Van Blyenbergh,
Grainbroker, near the great Church.

P.S. In my great haste I have forgotten to include this question, whether we
cannot by our prudence prevent what would otherwise happen to us.


Letter 35(22) Footnotes from Shirley's Bk.XIII:
 
117:159. The Dutch original was in the possession of the United Baptists of Amsterdam. A number of letters from or to Spinoza were discovered at a Collegiant Orphanage (De Oranjeaphel) in Amsterdam, which was built in 1675. Jarig Jelles is known to have contributed to its maintenance. It is also possible that he, Schuller, and Meyer worked there when they prepared the Opera Posthuma.

118:160. In the preceding letter Spinoza
had taken more care to distinguish his position carefully from that of Descartes on the nature of will. Even with that qualification, however, some of the difficulties which Blyenbergh has are due to Spinoza's truncated statements in the second letter. Part of this is no doubt due to Spinoza's desire to terminate the correspondence.  

119:162.  As the following lines make clear,
Blyenbergh is still having difficulty understanding the full extent of Spinoza's nominalism
{the philosophical doctrine that general or abstract words do not stand for objectively existing entities and that universals are no more than names assigned to them}, though this is partly due to Spinoza's failure to make his own position clear to his correspondent. Blyenbergh wants to approach virtue and vice through the concept of a generic 'human nature' common to all humans, and interprets Spinoza as holding that there may be some human beings with whose nature vicious action may accord; whereas Spinoza insists on looking at each nature as distinctive and operating from the rules of its own essence. See Steven Barbone, "Virtue and Sociality in Spinoza," Iyyun 42 (1993), 383-395; and Lee Rice, "Le nominalisme de Spinoza," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24 (1994), 19-32. Spinoza's position for affective responses on the part of individual natures is most clearly stated in E3P57. {Correspondence is fruitless if each argues from a different foundation rocka different working hypothesis: See JBY Note 1 and S91.}

  

 End of Letter 35(22) Bk. XIII:159.

 


Taken with kind permission from Terry M. NeffLetter 36(23). 
Letter 36(23):345—Spinoza to Blyenbergh;  
                               Voorburg, 13th March, 1665.  Reply to Letter 35(22):345.  

[Spinoza replies, that there is a difference between the theological and the philosophical way of speaking of G-D and things divine. He proceeds to discuss Blyenbergh's questions.]

[L36:1]  Friend and Sir,—I have received two letters from you this week; the second, dated 9th March, only served to inform me of the first written on February 19th, and sent to me at Schiedam. In the former I see that you complain of my saying, that "demonstration carried no weight with you," as though I had spoken of my own arguments, which had failed to convince you. Such was far from my intention. I was referring to your own words, which ran as follows: —"And if after long investigation it comes to pass, that my natural knowledge appears either to be at variance with the word (of Scripture), or not sufficiently well, &c.; the word has so great authority with me, that I would rather doubt of the conceptions, which I think I clearly perceive," &c. You see I merely repeat in brief your own phrase, so that I cannot think you have any cause for anger against me, especially as I merely quoted in order to show the great difference between our standpoints.

[L36:2]  Again,
as you wrote at the end of your letter that your only hope and wish is to continue in faith and hope, and that all else, which we may become convinced of through our natural faculties, is indifferent to you; I reflected, as I still continue to do, that my letters could be of no use to you, and that I should best consult my own interests by ceasing to neglect my pursuits (which I am compelled while writing to you to interrupt) for the sake of things which could bring no possible benefit. Nor is this contrary to the spirit of my former letter, for in that I looked upon you as simply a philosopher, who (like not a few who call themselves Christians) possesses no touchstone of truth save his natural understanding, and not as a theologian. However, you have taught me to know better, and have also shown me that the foundation, on which I was minded to build up our friendship, has not, as I imagined, been laid.

[L36:3]  As for the rest,
such are the general accompaniments of controversy, so that I would not on that account transgress the limits of courtesy: I will, therefore, pass over in your second letter, and in this, these and similar expressions, as though they had never been observed. So much for your taking offense; to show you that I have given you no just cause, and, also, that I am quite willing to brook contradiction. I now turn a second time to answering your objections.

[L36:4]  I maintain, in the first place,
that G-D is absolutely and really the cause of all things which have essence, whatsoever they may be. If you can demonstrate that evil, error, crime, &c., have any positive existence
{objective}, which expresses essence, I will fully grant you that G-D is the cause of crime, evil, error, &c., I believe myself to have sufficiently shown, that that which constitutes the reality of evil, error, crime, &c., does not consist in anything, which expresses essence, and therefore we cannot say that G-D is its cause. {JBYnote1} For instance, Nero's matricide, in so far as it comprehended anything positive, was not a crime; the same outward act was perpetrated, and the same matricidal intention was entertained by Orestes; who, nevertheless, is not blamed—at any rate, not so much as Nero. Wherein, then, did Nero's crime consist? In nothing else, but that by his deed he showed himself to be ungrateful, unmerciful, and disobedient. Certainly none of these qualities express aught of essence, therefore G-D was not the cause of them {the subjective ways you look at it}, though He was the cause of Nero's act and intention.

[L36:5]  Further,
I would have you observe, that, while
{when} we speak philosophically, we ought not to employ theological phrases. For, since theology frequently, and not unwisely, represents God as a perfect man, it is often expedient in theology {for pedagogical reasons} to say, that God desires a given thing, that He is angry at the actions of the wicked, and delights in those of the good. But in philosophy, when we clearly perceive that the attributes which make men perfect can as ill be ascribed and assigned to G-D, as the attributes which go to make perfect the elephant and the ass can be ascribed to man; here I say these and similar phrases have no place, nor can we employ them without causing extreme confusion in our conceptions. Hence, in the language of philosophy, it cannot be said that G-D desires anything of any man, or that anything is displeasing or pleasing to Him: all these are human qualities and have no place in G-D.  

[L36:6]  I would have it observed,
that although the actions of the good (that is of those who have a clear idea of G-D, whereby all their actions and their thoughts are determined) and of the wicked (that is of those who do not possess the idea of G-D, but only the ideas of earthly things, whereby their actions and thoughts are determined), and, in fact, of all things that are, necessarily flow from G-D's eternal laws and decrees; yet they do not differ from one another in degree only, but also in essence. A mouse no less than an angel, and sorrow no less than joy depend on G-D; yet a mouse is not a kind of angel, neither is sorrow a kind of joy. I think I have thus answered your objections, if I rightly understand them, for I sometimes doubt, whether the conclusions which you deduce are not foreign to the proposition you are undertaking to prove.

[L36:7]  However,
this will appear more clearly, if I answer the questions you proposed on these principles. First, Whether murder is as acceptable to G-D as alms-giving? Secondly, Whether stealing is as good in relation to G-D as honesty? Thirdly and lastly, Whether if there be a mind so framed, that it would agree with, rather than be repugnant to its proper nature, to give way to lust, and to commit crimes, whether, I repeat, there can be any reason given, why such a mind
should do good
and eschew evil?

[L36:8]  To your first question,
I answer, that I do not know, speaking as a philosopher, what you mean by the words "acceptable to G-D." If you ask, whether G-D does not hate the wicked, and love the good? whether G-D does not regard the former with dislike, and the latter with favour? I answer, No. If the meaning of your question is: Are murderers and almsgivers equally good and perfect? my answer is again in the negative. To your second question, I reply: If, by "good in relation to G-D," you mean that the honest man confers a favour on G-D, and the thief does Him an injury, I answer that neither the honest man nor the thief can cause G-D any pleasure or displeasure. If you mean to ask, whether the actions of each, in so far as they possess reality, and are caused by God, are equally perfect? I reply that, if we merely regard the actions and the manner of their execution, both may be equally perfect. If you, therefore, inquire whether the thief and the honest man are equally perfect and blessed? I answer, No. For, by an honest man, I mean one who always desires, that everyone should possess that which is his. This desire, as I prove in my Ethics (as yet unpublished), necessarily derives its origin in the pious from the clear knowledge which they possess, of G-D and of themselves. As a thief has no desire of the kind, he is necessarily without the knowledge of G-D and of himself
in other words, without the chief element of our blessedness. If you further ask, What causes you to perform a given action, which I call virtuous, rather than another? I reply, that I cannot know which method, out of the infinite methods at His disposal, G-D employs to determine you to the said action. It may be, that G-D has impressed you with a clear idea of Himself, so that you forget the world for love of Him, and love your fellow-men as yourself; it is plain that such a disposition is at variance with those dispositions which are called bad, and, therefore, could not co-exist with them in the same man.

[L36:9]  However,
this is not the place to expound all the foundations of my Ethics, or to prove all that I have advanced; I am now only concerned in answering your questions, and defending myself against them.

[L36:10]  Lastly, as to your third question,
it assumes a contradiction, and seems to me to be, as though one asked: If it agreed better with a man's nature that he should hang himself, could any reasons be given for his not hanging himself? Can such a nature possibly exist? If so, I maintain (whether I do or do not grant free will), that such an one, if he sees that he can live more conveniently on the gallows than sitting at his own table, would act most foolishly, if he did not hang himself. So anyone who clearly saw that, by committing crimes, he would enjoy a really more perfect and better life and existence, than he could attain by the practice of virtue, would be foolish if he did not act on his convictions. For, with such a perverse human nature as his, crime would become virtue.

[L36:11]  As to the other question, which you add in your postscript,
seeing that one might ask a hundred such in an hour, without arriving at a conclusion about any, and seeing that you yourself do not press for an answer, I will send none.

I will now only subscribe myself, &c.
                                                                                             
                                                                                              {
Signature added.}
Spinoza to Blyenbergh;  
Voorburg, 13th March, 1665.
 
End of Letter 36(23):345. 

 


Letter (24):170—Blyenbergh to Spinoza;
{Taken from Shirley's Bk.XIII:170.} 
 
To the esteemed BAS., from Willem Van Blyenbergh 

[The original, which was written in Dutch, is extant, and is printed
     in the Dutch edition of the O.P.  The Latin is a translation.]

Sir and Friend,

[L(24):1]  When I had the honour of visiting you, time did not allow me to stay longer with you. And far less did my memory permit me to retain all that we discussed, even though on parting from you I immediately gathered all my thoughts so as to be able to remember what I had heard. So on reaching the next stopping-place I attempted on my own to commit your views to paper, but I found that in fact I had not retained even a quarter of what was discussed. So please forgive me if once again I trouble you by raising questions regarding matters where I did not clearly understand your views, or did not well remember them. (I wish I could do you some service in return for your trouble.) These questions are:

[L(24):2]  First, when I read your Principia and Cogitata Metaphysica,
how can I distinguish between what is stated as Descartes' opinions and what is stated as your own?

[L(24):3]  Second, is there in reality such a thing as error, and wherein does it consist?

[L(24):4]  Third, in what way do you maintain that the will is not free?

[L(24):5]  Fourth,
what do you mean by having Meyer say in the Preface (The quotation following is from Balling's Dutch translation of the PPC and CM. In his previous letters, Blyenbergh has quoted the original Latin edition.) "that you do indeed agree that there is a thinking substance in Nature, but you nevertheless deny that this constitutes the essence of the human mind. You hold that just as Extension is infinite, so Thought is not limited, and therefore just as the human body is not Extension absolutely but only Extension determined in a definite way according to the laws of extended Nature through motion and rest, so too the human mind is not Thought absolutely but only Thought determined in page 171 a definite way according to the laws of thinking Nature through ideas; and this mind is necessarily inferred to exist when the human body comes into being"?  

[L(24):6]  From this I think it seems to follow that just as the human body is composed of thousands of small bodies, so too the human mind is composed of thousands of thoughts; and just as the human body on its disintegration is resolved into the thousands of bodies of which it was composed, so too our mind, when it leaves the body, is resolved again into the multitude of thoughts of which it was composed. And just as the separated bodies of our human body no longer remain united with one another and other bodies come between them, so it also seems to follow that when our mind is disintegrated, the innumerable thoughts of which it was composed are no longer muted, but separated. And just as our bodies, on disintegrating, do indeed remain bodies but not human bodies, so too after death our thinking substance is dissolved in such a way that our thoughts or thinking substances remain, but their essence is not what it was when it was called a human mind. So it still appears to me as if you maintained that man's thinking substance is changed and dissolved like corporeal substances, and indeed in some cases, as you (if my memory serves me) maintained of the wicked, they are even entirely annihilated and retain no thought whatever. And just as Descartes, according to Meyer, merely assumes that the mind is an absolutely thinking substance, so it seems to me that both you and Meyer in these statements are also for the most part merely making assumptions. Therefore I do not here clearly understand your meaning.

[L(24):7]  Fifth,
you maintained both in our conversation and in your last letter of 13 March that from the clear knowledge that we have of G-D and of ourselves there arises our steadfast desire that each should possess his own {moral virtue}. But here you have still to explain how the knowledge of G-D and of ourselves produces in us the steadfast desire that each should possess his own {moral virtue}; that is, in what way it {being a moral agent} proceeds from the knowledge of G-D , or lays us under the obligation, that we should love virtue and abstain from those actions we call wicked. How does it come about (since in your view killing and stealing, no less than almsgiving, contain within them something positive) that killing does not involve as much perfection, blessedness, and contentment as does almsgiving? {Blyenbergh misunderstands Spinoza's concept of SIN, which includes that society should protect itself against the sinner by incarceration or quarantine.}

[L(24):8]  Perhaps you will say, as you do in your last letter of 13 March, that this question belongs to Ethics, and is there discussed by you. But since without an explanation of this question and the preceding questions I am unable to grasp your meaning so clearly that there still do not page 172 remain absurdities which I cannot reconcile, I would ask you kindly to give me a fuller answer, and particularly to set out some of your principal definitions, postulates and axioms on which your Ethics, and this question in particular, is based. Perhaps you will be deterred by the amount of trouble and will excuse yourself, but I beseech you to grant my request just this once, because without the solution of this last question I shall never be able to understand what you really mean. I wish I could offer you some recompense in exchange. I do not venture to limit you to one or two weeks, I only beg you to let me have your answer here before your departure to Amsterdam. By so doing you will lay me under the greatest obligation, and I shall show you that I am, and remain, Sir,

Your most devoted servant,
Willem Van Blyenbergh.
Dordrecht, 27 March, 1665

To Mr. Benedictus de Spinoza, staying at Voorburg. Per couverto.


End of Letter 37(24):170.
Taken from Shirley's Bk. XIII.

 


Letter 38(27):350—SPINOZA TO BLYENBERGH.
                                 Voorburg, 3rd June, 1665.
 

(The true date of this letter is June 3rd, as appears from the Dutch original
  printed in Van Vloten's Supplementum. The former editors gave April.)

[Spinoza declines further correspondence with Blyenbergh
{JBYnote1.},
 but says he will give explanations of certain points by word of mouth.]
 

[L38:1]  FRIEND AND SIR,When your letter, dated 27th March, was delivered to me, I was just starting for Amsterdam. I, therefore, after reading half of it, left it at home, to be answered on my return: for I thought it dealt only with questions raised in our first controversy. However, a second perusal showed me, that it embraced a far wider subject, and not only asked me for a proof of what, in my preface to "Principles of Cartesian Philosophy," I wrote (with the object of merely stating, without proving or urging my opinion), but also requested me to impart a great portion of my Ethics, which, as everyone knows, ought to be based on physics and metaphysics. For this reason, I have been unable to allow myself to satisfy your demands. I wished to await an opportunity for begging you, in a most friendly way, by word of mouth, to with-draw your request, for giving you my reasons for refusal, and for showing that your inquiries do not promote the page 351 solution of our first controversy, but, on the contrary, are for the most part entirely dependent on its previous settlement. So far are they not essential to the understanding of my doctrine concerning necessity, that they cannot be apprehended, unless the latter question is understood first. However, before such an opportunity offered, a second letter reached me this week, appearing to convey a certain sense of displeasure at my delay. Necessity, therefore, has compelled me to write you these few words, to acquaint you more fully with my proposal and decision. I hope that, when the facts of the case are before you, you will, of your own accord, desist from your request, and will still remain kindly disposed towards me. I, for my part, will, in all things, according to my power, prove myself your, &c.


                                                                                             
                                                                                              {
Signature added.}
Spinoza to Blyenbergh
Voorburg, 3rd June, 1665.
 
End of Letter 38(27):350. 

 


Letter 65(63):396—G. H. Schuller to Spinoza. 
                               Amsterdam, 25 July, 1675.  

      [ In the Opera Posthuma this letter is arranged, so as to seem to be from the person who puts
        the questions himself, and the names of Schaller and Tschirnhausen are suppressed.]

   [Schaller asks for answers to four questions of his friend Tschirnhausen on the attributes of God, and       mentions that Tschirnhausen has removed the unfavourable opinion of Spinoza lately conceived by Boyle       and Oldenburg.] {For information concerning Tschirnhaus and Schuller, see Bk. XIII:26.}
 
[L65:1]  Most Distinguished and Excellent Sir,I should blush for my silence,
which has lasted so long, and has laid me open to the charge of ingratitude for your kindness extended to me beyond my merits, if I did not reflect that your generous courtesy inclines rather to excuse than to accuse, and also know that you devote your leisure, for the common good of your friends, to serious studies, which it would be harmful and injurious to disturb without due cause. For this reason I have been silent, and have meanwhile been content to hear from friends of your good health: I send you this letter to inform you, that our noble friend von Tschirnhausen is enjoying the same in England, and has three times in the letters he has sent me bidden page 397 me
convey,
his kindest regards to the master, again bidding me request from you the solution of the following questions, and forward to him your hoped-for answer: would the master be pleased to convince him by positive proof, not by a reduction to the impossible, that we cannot know any, attributes of God, save thought and extension? Further, whether it follows that creatures constituted under other attributes can form no idea of extension? If so, it would follow that there must be as many, worlds as there are attributes of G-D. For instance, there would be as much room for extension in worlds affected by other attributes, as there actually exists of extension in our world. But as we perceive nothing save thought besides extension, so creatures in the other world would perceive nothing besides the attributes of that world and thought.  

[L65:2]  Secondly, as the understanding of G-D differs from our understanding as much in essence as in existence, it has, therefore, nothing in common with it ; therefore (by 1P3) G-D's understanding cannot be the cause of our own.

[L65:3]  Thirdly (in 1P10n) you say, that nothing in nature is clearer than that every entity must be conceived under some attribute (this I thoroughly understand), and that the more it has of reality or being, the more attributes appertain to it. It seems to follow from this, that there are entities possessing three, four, or more attributes (though we gather from what has been demonstrated that every being consists only of two attributes, namely, a certain attribute of G-D and the idea of that attribute).

[L65:4]  Fourthly, I should like to have examples of those things which are immediately produced by G-D, and those which are produced through the means of some infinite modification. Thought and extension seem to be of the former kind; understanding in thought and motion in extension seem to be of the latter.

[L65:5]  And these are the points which our said friend von Tschirnhausen joins with me in wishing to have explained by your excellence, if perchance your spare time allows it. He further relates, that Mr. Boyle and Oldenburg had formed a strange idea of your personal character, but that he has not only removed it, but also given reasons, which have not only led them back to a most worthy and page 398 favourable opinion thereof, but also made them value most highly the Theologico-Political Treatise. Of this I have not ventured to inform you, because of your health. Be assured that I am, and live,
 
                                     Most noble sir,
    for every good office your most devoted servant,
                                                            G. H. Schuller.
 
G. H. Schuller to Spinoza.
 
Amsterdam, 25 July, 1675.  

Mr. à Gent and J. Riewverts dutifully greet you.
 

End of Letter 65(63):396.
 

 

Letter 66(64):398Spinoza to Tschirnhausen.
                               The
Hauge, 29 July, 1675. 

[Spinoza answers by references to the first three books of the Ethics.]
{
For information concerning Tschirnhaus and Schuller, see Bk. XIII:26.}

[L66:1]  Dear Sir,I am glad that you have at last had occasion to refresh me with one of your letters, always most welcome to me. I heartily beg that you will frequently repeat the favour, &c.

[L66:2]  I proceed to consider your doubts:
to the first I answer, that the human mind can only acquire knowledge of those things which the idea of a body actually existing involves, or of what can be inferred from such an idea. For the power of anything is defined solely by its essence (3P7); the essence of the mind (2P13) consists solely in this, that it is the idea of body actually existing; therefore the mind's power of understanding only extends to things, which this idea of body contains in itself, or which follow therefrom. Now this idea of body does not involve or express any of G-D's attributes, save extension and thought. For its object (ideatum), namely, body (by 2P6), has G-D for its cause, in so far as He is regarded under the attribute of extension, and not in so far as He is regarded under any other; therefore (1Ax.6) this idea of the body involves the knowledge of G-D, only
page 399 in so far as He is regarded under the attribute of extension. Further, this idea, in so far as it is a mode of thinking, has also (by the same proposition) G-D for its cause, in so far as He is regarded as a thinking thing, and not in so far as He is regarded under any other attribute. Hence (by the same axiom) the idea of this idea involves the knowledge of God, in so far as He is regarded under the attribute of thought, and not in so far as He is regarded under any attribute. It is therefore plain, that the human mind, or the idea of the human body neither involves nor expresses any attributes of G-D save these two. Now from these two attributes, or their modifications, no other attribute of G-D can (1P10) be inferred or conceived. I therefore conclude, that the human mind cannot attain knowledge of any attribute of G-D besides these, which is the proposition you inquire about. With regard to your question, whether there must be as many worlds as there are attributes, I refer you to 2P7n.  

[L66:3]  Moreover this proposition
might be proved more readily by a reduction to the absurd; I am accustomed, when the proposition is negative, to employ this mode of demonstration as more in character. However, as the question you ask is positive, I make use of the positive method, and ask, whether one thing can be produced from another, from which it differs both in essence and existence; for things which differ to this extent seem to have nothing in common. But since all particular things, except those which are produced from things similar to themselves, differ from their causes both in essence and existence, I see here no reason for doubt.

[L66:4]  The sense in which
I mean that G-D is the efficient cause of things, no less of their essence than of their existence, I think has been sufficiently explained in 1P25n and corollary. The axiom in the note to 1P10n, as I hinted at the end of the said note, is based on the idea which we have of a Being absolutely infinite, not on the fact, that there are or may, be beings possessing three, four, or more attributes.

[L66:5]  Lastly,
the examples you ask for of the fist kind are, in thought, absolutely infinite under- standing; in extension, motion and rest; an example of the second kind is the
page 400 sum of the whole extended universe (facies totius unniversi), which, though it varies in infinite modes, yet remains always the same. Cf. note to Lemma vii. before 2P14.

[L66:6]  Thus,
most excellent Sir, I have answered, as I think, the objections of yourself and your friend. If you think any uncertainty remains, I hope you will not neglect to tell me, so that I may, if possible, remove it.
                                                                                             
                                                                                              {
Signature added.}
Spinoza to Tschirnhausen;  
The Hauge, 29 July, 1675.
 
End of Letter 66(64):398. 



Endnote to Letter 49: From Will Durant's "Story of Philosophy"; Washington Square Press; 18th Printing, 1965; Page 185—Determinism. 

Endnote to Letter 49: From Wolfson's Bk. XIV:2:288—Determinism. 

 End of "The Letters".

 


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