Spinoza on Power in His “Ethics”. 

Spinoza had mentioned the power many times in “Ethics”, such as following:

"want of power", 

"power as is self-evident", 

"ability to exist is power", 

"the more power it will have to exist", 

"an absolutely infinite power of existence", 

"the power of their external cause", 

"the power of God", 

"the power of God the free will of God", 

"the power of destroying everything", 

"the power of God is nothing else than the actual essence of God", 

"human power", 

"God's power of thinking", 

"his actual power of acting", 

"he has absolute power over his actions", 

"universal power of nature", 

"the human mind had absolute power over its actions", 

"power of acting", 

"the power of the mind over the nature and force of the emotions", 

"the power of action of the body", 

"the power of the body", 

"the mind which has power over the body", 

"the power of the mind alone to speak or be silent", 

"the power of thinking", 

"the power in men to be silent were the same as that to speak", 

"their power than the control of their appetites", 

"the free power of the mind to remember or forget anything", 

"the power of the mind is the ability to keep to ourselves or speak", 

"human lack of power in moderating and checking the emotions", 

"power over himself". 


Please see references from "Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order" by Baruch Spinoza. (1677): 

“To be able not to exist is want of power, and on the other hand, to be able to exist is power (as is self-evident).”

“For since ability to exist is power, it follows that the more reality belongs to the nature of some thing, the more power it will have to exist; and accordingly a being absolutely infinite, or God, has an absolutely infinite power of existence from itself, and on that account absolutely exists.”

“For those things which are produced by external causes, whether they consist of many parts or few, whatever perfection or reality they have, it is all due to the power of their external cause, and therefore their existence arises merely from the perfection of some external cause and not their own.”

“Now all that is in the power of God necessarily exists.”

“The generality of people understand by the power of God the free will of God and his right over all things that are, and so these are commonly considered contingent.”

“For they say that God has the power of destroying everything and reducing it to nothing. Moreover, they very often compare the power of God to that of kings.”

“...we showed that the power of God is nothing else than the actual essence of God: and accordingly it is as impossible for us to conceive God inactive as to conceive him non-existent.”

“And if I may pursue this subject further, I could furthermore point out that the power which the generality attribute to God is not only human power (showing that they conceive God to be a man or like to one), but also involves want of power.”

“For no one can rightly perceive what I wish to point out unless he takes the greatest care not to confound the Power of God with the human power or right of kings.”

“Hence it follows that God's power of thinking is equal to his actual power of acting: that is, whatever follows formally from the infinite nature of God, follows also invariably objectively from the idea of God in the same order and connection, in God.”

“For they believe that man disturbs rather than follows the order of nature, and that he has absolute power over his actions, and is not determined by anything else than himself.”

“They then attribute the cause of human weakness and inconstancy not to the universal power of nature, but to some defect or other in human nature, wherefore they deplore, ridicule, despise, or, what is most common of all, abuse it: and he that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine.”

“I know that the most illustrious Descartes, although he also believed that the human mind had absolute power over its actions, endeavoured to explain the human emotions through their first causes, and to show at the same time the way in which the mind could have complete control over the emotions: but, in my opinion, he showed nothing but the greatness and ingenuity of his intellect, as I shall show in its proper place.”

“Nothing happens in nature which can be attributed to a defect of it: for nature is always the same, and its virtue and power of acting is everywhere one and the same, that is, the laws and rules of nature according to which all things are made and changed from one form into another, are everywhere and always the same, and therefore there must be one and the same way of understanding the nature of all things, that is, by means of the universal laws and rules of nature.”

“And so I shall treat of the nature and force of the emotions, and the power of the mind over them, in the same manner as I treated of God and the mind in the previous parts, and I shall regard human actions and appetites exactly as if I were dealing with lines, planes, and bodies.”

“By affect I understand the modifications of the body by which the power of action of the body is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time the ideas of these modifications.”

“The human body can be affected in many ways whereby its power of acting is increased or diminished, and again in others which neither increase nor diminish its power of action.”

“For no one has thus far determined the power of the body, that is, no one has yet been taught by experience what the body can do merely by the laws of nature, in so far as nature is considered merely as corporeal and what it cannot do, save when determined by the mind.”

“Whence it follows when men say that this or that action arises from the mind which has power over the body, they know not what they say, or confess with specious words that they are ignorant of the cause of the said action, and have no wonderment at it.”

“But they will say that whether they know or not how the mind moves the body, they have found by experience that unless the mind is apt for thinking the body remains inert: again, that they have learnt from experience that it is in the power of the mind alone to speak or be silent, and many other things which they therefore believe to depend on the decision of the mind.”

“For when the body is asleep and at rest the mind, at the same time, remains asleep, and has not the power of thinking that it has when awake.”

“As for their second point, surely human affairs would be far happier if the power in men to be silent were the same as that to speak.”

“But experience more than sufficiently teaches that there is nothing less under men's control than their tongues, or less in their power than the control of their appetites.”

“Again, it is not within the free power of the mind to remember or forget anything.”

“Wherefore it is believed that all that is within the power of the mind is the ability to keep to ourselves or speak, according to the decision of the mind alone, the thing we recollect.”

“Human lack of power in moderating and checking the emotions I call servitude.”

“For a man who is submissive to his emotions does not have power over himself, but is in the hands of fortune to such an extent that he is often constrained, although he may see what is better for him, to follow what is worse.”


Audrey E Randles

12/12/12 London

Copyright © Audrey E Ransles. All rights reserved.

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