PHILOSOPHICAL SURVEY IN THE MORALITY OF
SPINOZA IN THE LIGHT OF HIS EVIL AND GOOD.
The problem of good and evil in the world of ours has become
questionable. Good and evil without doubt have constituted lots of discomfort,
havoc and other problems in human life. Consequently, so many thinkers of
different epochs have contributed in one way or the other according to their
own understanding, to unravel this dilemma. Nevertheless, throughout the
different periods starting from ancient era to contemporary era, the problem of
good and evil have continued to occupy the minds of philosophers. Even at that,
no consensus has been reached with regard to a solution.
Moreover, it may interest us to know that in this write up,
we are to witness how Spinoza scrupulously did not delve into good and evil
from the same perspective with others. His rigorous experiences of the
retrospection on the previous philosophers on this topic allured him to
conceive good and evil as being subjective.
this solves the numerous problems of some questions people do ask: whether there
should be evil in the world created by all-powerful, all-knowing and
all-merciful God. He thus based his conception of good and evil on individual
differences: “Everyone, therefore, according to his particular emotions, judges
or estimates what is good and what is evil.”1 This implies that what is good for one person
may be evil for another. In fact, the problem of good and evil in the morality
of Spinoza can be summarized with one of the popular dictums, which says, “One
man’s protein is another man’s poison”. Hence, Spinoza’s good and evil should
provide solution to the aged problem of good and evil which when mentioned
remains fresh as can be seen in the work of Joseph Eno Inah who said “The
problem of good and evil whenever mentioned, remains fresh and alive despite
the fact that it started long ago.”2 The
problem at stake has continued to remain a mystery as ever.
OF THE STUDY
fact, that many philosophers of different epochs have dwelt on good and evil
with different mindsets and came out with misconception of what good and evil
are, Spinoza as against these views conceived the idea of good and evil in a
However, the purpose of this work is
to expose and appraise the conception of good and evil in the morality of
Spinoza. To show how his conception of good and evil differs from that of other
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
of the early thinker’s view on this topic, which are as aged as humanity, the
problem still lingers. The problem at stake seem to have confused its history
with the history of mankind and have being the bone of contention among
philosophers, theologians and even among humanists of all schools and epochs.
Now, one may ask, what is the solution to this problem of good and evil, which
has persistently continued to occur? Alternatively, has the problem become
insoluble or is there any hope of overcoming this problem? The above questions
are relevant questions which when considered properly as exposed by Spinoza
brings solutions to the innumerable questions philosophers do ask about good
this research is an attempt to find solution to the questions above. We hope
that our exposure to the conceptions of Spinoza about good and evil would help
us to some extent in resolving the problematic notion of good and evil.
1.3 SCOPE OF WORK
Man as it were from time immemorial
associates and dissociates himself with what is good and evil respectively.
Such is man’s desire for good and aversion to evil: “Man by nature desires what
is good and averts to what is evil.”3
As such, his enquiries, deliberations and thoughts on good and evil have been
an outstanding issue from time immemorial until now. My work is a journey in search of what good
and evil really are in the views of Spinoza
addition, I pondered on some philosophers conceptions about good and evil right
from ancient period to contemporary period. It should be obvious that grasping
of Spinoza’s teaching about good and evil will quench the thirst that
eventually could lead to the misconception of the idea of good and evil, which
leads to apportioning blames on the creator of the universe.
of research, which I applied in my work is both expository and appraisal. It is
expository in the sense that it shows in detail the works of Spinoza on good
and evil. It is also appraisal in the sense that his own conception of good and
evil creates much room to desire good and to avert evil which when done, human
race will turn from its evil ways of life to good ways of life.
1.5 DIVISION OF WORK
understanding and grasping of this work, I divided this work into five
one is the general introduction, purpose of the study, statement of the
problem, scope of work, methodology, Division of work and a brief profile of
Baruch de Spinoza.
two is the literature review of philosophers on good and evil. Chapter three
treats in detail the Spinozistic conception of good and evil. Chapter four is
all about peculiar things in Spinoza’s concept of good and evil. Finally,
chapter five is the evaluation and conclusion that ends this research.
1.6 A BRIEF PROFILE OF BENEDICT B. DE SPINOZA
Baruch de Spinoza was born in 1632 in Amsterdam as a son of Jewish Marrano
immigrants from Portugal. He was educated as a Jew and excommunicated in the
year 1656. He earned his livelihood first by commerce and later by grinding
also learned Latin in the Franciscus Van den Enden where he conversed with a
circle of Amsterdam collegiants, who were dedicated to Cartessianism.
lived in Rijnsburg near Leiden in 1660 – 1663, moved to Voorburg near the Hague
in 1663-1670 and finally in Hague in 1670. Some of the works of Spinoza are
Descarte’s principles of Philosophy in 1663 – Renati Descartes principiorum
philosophiae, part 1et II.
theological – Political Treatise in 1670 (Tractatus Theologico – Politicus)
died in 21 February 1677. Then his friends published his other works.
1B Spinoza, transl. by R.H.M Elwes, Works of Spinoza, vol 11, (New York: Dover publications,1951)
2 O. J. Eno Inah, Theses on the
problem of evil, (Bigard memorial Seminary, 1981), P. V111
3 R.H.M Elwes, Works of Spinoza,
Vol. 11, ( New York: Dover publications,1951 ), P.205