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Benedict de Spinoza’s Philosophy Essay

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Updated: Apr 17th, 2020

Spinoza was concerned with the common goal of promoting the well-being of all individuals through his philosophy, just like any other philosopher during or before his time. He believed that his philosophy was a guiding tool for human beings toward the realization of a common good. His ultimate goal in his philosophy was to identify the common good, which would eventually lead to human satisfaction.

He believed that perfection was a concept that could be attained by human beings. Spinoza walked in the shoes of the ancient philosophers by his suggestion of achieving a common good for human beings. His line of philosophy is distinguishable from that of Plato or Aristotle. He was highly concerned with the lives of Jewish and Christian believers, dating from earlier traditions.

Spinoza coupled his ideology with the ultimate good that gives the modern political philosophy essence and a point of reference. In following the philosophies of Jewish and Christian traditions, he espoused salvation, love, glory, and blessedness. The preceding discussion forms a cardinal part of his argument on freedom.

The main to understanding his philosophy is by understanding how the conception of the highest good combines the ancient, medieval and modern eras in a striking harmony. This combination opens up his work, making it of radical significance in understanding key religious concepts today. His promotion of freedom has not gone unchallenged since conservative religious and political forces of his time found it too liberal to be allowed in any society.

The wrath of the conservative religious groups of the time has been witnessed in opposing his liberal ideas (de Spinoza para. 27). This paper will apply Spinoza’s discussion of religion and politics in the “Theological-Political Treatise” to gay marriage.

Spinoza uses the three strains to ensure that his philosophy is a reflection of the Christian, Jewish and liberal ideologies. Spinoza attempts to answer the question of what is good and good to all human beings and can be achieved. The foregoing question has been under scrutiny by different philosophers in Europe and ancient Greece. There are no points of agreement on the right answer to that question.

Philosophers have consistently criticized one another based on the reasoning behind the said question. There is, however, a common agreement that common good is unique. In Spinoza’s wording, good is a goal that is achieved by a person after performing certain functions. The exercise of rationality has been held to be a unique element to every human being. This follows that the good can only be achieved within the limits of developing reason.

That attains a fundamental goal in human beings’ lives. The pursuance of happiness happens to be the ultimate goal at the end of every human being’s life. He asserted that the main goal behind coming up with a moral philosophy is to aid people in coming up with ways of achieving happiness. His philosophy highly borrows Aristotle’s arguments on the ultimate good.

He agrees with Aristotle that happiness is only achievable when the full development of the human reason has occurred. However, Spinoza rejects the argument that happiness is the perfection of human nature. His contrary view is based on the understanding that there is nothing imperfect or unfulfilled in nature. The concepts, good and bad, are not applicable in the things they are perceived to apply.

They are evaluated based on certain key tenets of analyses. The things human beings call ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are assessed in regard to the prevailing perspectives. Spinoza believed that since everything in the universe is in existence due to the power of God, it is unlikely to find something that is lacking anything.

He strongly affirmed that the existence of various aspects such as good and bad, perfection and imperfection are only based on human beings’ thoughts, but they do not, in reality, exist in the universe. These are concepts that human beings introduce to advance their self-interests and their main contributions. Spinoza believed that nature is always complete and any form of introducing such terms questions the completeness (Pollock, Frederick, and Jean 62).

The increase in the power to question ta he existence of the things human beings perceive makes human nature appear good or bad. The abi outlity to talk about perfection and imperfection is only realized during the increase or decrease of the power to consider the different concepts in the universe today. He rejected Aristotle’s teleological conception of nature by providing that nature has been in itself perfect.

Spinoza rejects the assertion that inthe the universe there are human beings who are more powerful than others. There are no living superior and inferior people since God’s power creates a level for all human beings and animals. The highest good notion has a different meaning to Spinoza. His critics have consistently accused him of being an atheist, although his religious activities largely remain unquestionable.

His excommunication from Torah was a turning point in his life. Thus the critics’ arguments hold some water. His use of the words ‘glory, love and blessedness’ is said to be a reflection of his past life. His reasoning and ideas are liberal in the sense that religion being conservative cannot accommodate them. Spinoza rejects the idea of God being a king and a judge since he believed that it is a misuse of an individual’s free will to decide.

In the broad categories that explain his theories, he sticks to the explanation that God cannot limit the free will of an individual. It is this argument that has caused the perception that his liberal thoughts were of an atheist.

The thoughts of the theological authors’ have throughout time been seen to promote what would be essential in conserving what has been there. Many ancient philosophers deliberately disregarded thoughts that seemed liberal in the sense they could not form part of the views supported for ages (de Spinoza para. 71).

Spinoza’s philosophy alters the traditional views on religions. Thus it is seen as a threat to the existing principles. In explaining the reason why he took an interest in philosophy, he states that most of the goals that human beings follow are incapable of satisfying them. He pointed out that fame and wealth were the particular goals that did not offer satisfaction to human beings.

He asserted that love of fame and wealth was short-lived since it deprived one’s happiness since those things do not last. Pleasure ends in disappointment since it does not give us the things that would otherwise satisfy us. Since the goods that bring about this pleasure are less and only accessed by few, it follows that some people would not achieve them; hence making happiness and satisfaction a monopoly for a few in a given society.

Other forms of conflict such as envy are also supported, making the world a conflict zone. He suggests that eternal things have the power to offer satisfaction without disappointments.

Such things include love. Spinoza questions the capacity of human beings to attain happiness and satisfaction through their endeavors. The eternal qualities that are vital in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions are very essential. He was of the view that the ‘Eternal Infinite Being’ can be considered as nature or God (de Spinoza para. 72).

The traits that a Christian would want to foster in his or her Christian life ought to be based on the power of an individual to dwell on the eternal qualities other than personal endeavors. It is imperative to note that Spinoza’s philosophy was largely overlapped by the scientific ideologies of Galileo and Newton, which substituted the word God for nature.

By meeting the said scientists, he attempted to buy their ideology by incorporating the word nature in his philosophy. It was later established that Spinoza’s understanding of nature was concurring with the modern science that emerged in years preceding his death. Nature is an intelligible connection between the laws and regulations in every religion and the events that happen around them.

The grasping of the things to do and the things to avoid is based on the understanding of the effects they cause in the relationships created with the people we live with. By providing that God could be substituted for nature, it follows that if one knows natural laws and regulations, they know God.

Spinoza offers an elaborate distinction between how those ways could be appreciated through scientific knowledge or reasoning. Knowledge of God and the understanding of nature, in this case, become identical. Spinoza asserts that the highest form of knowledge is attained through the love of God (Mason 61).

It is not the entire philosophy of Spinoza that Christians find it hard to take, but it is the liberal ideas and the equating of science to Christianity. The fact that God cannot act as a judge against a sinner means that Christians’ actions are unchecked, thus they can, in some instances, act in a way that could compromise their relationships and create conflicts. The knowledge of God has been held by Spinoza to be the highest form of knowledge.

The universal meaning of the highest good is based on the approach of Spinoza’s political, as well as the personal goals that are products of our acts. The actions are the determining factors in instances whereby the freedom of another is the highest good. Spinoza had a great liking to the issue of freedom. This is evident in all his philosophical works.

He points out that freedom of the will is an illusion that does not, in all situations, provide the infinite substance. His argument about God was to the effect that the existence of God is not through acts but through the necessity of God’s nature of existence. He observed that God is self-caused to explain the part of the universe that human beings do not understand.

Drawing examples from the need to have a fulfilling universe where all human beings think about is fulfilled, it is essential to have a power that checks on human beings and their acts.

The decisions that happen in the day-to-day activities of every human are pegged on the mind and body, in addition to other causes. The mind in this case plays a significant role. Spinoza, therefore, observed that it could only be achieved if the mind was free from any causal influences (Lord 86).

Spinoza opines that it is not possible for a person to get away from external influences, but it is possible that eternal free thoughts are paramount in determining internal satisfaction. According to his understanding of freedom, human beings are not born free. He argues that human beings are both weak and without the power to reason.

This exists in those circumstances under the mercy of both natural and social forces, which exist in a more powerful state than them. It is out of luck that human beings achieve freedom in those circumstances. This is achievable through consistent assistance of those who know what it feels like to be free. This means that human beings cannot achieve freedom on their own, but with the aid of those who are free.

It can be inferred that without freedom from others then freedom is not attainable. In other words, other people are needed in making sure that individuals become rationally self-determined. The society cannot be free if individuals in it are not free. This means that the freedom of society depends on individuals’ freedom.

Thus individuals’ freedom must be achieved for the society to be free. The society must continue to support the quest for its inhabitants to be free (Pollock, Frederick, and Jean 62).

The foregoing discussion clearly shows a person who was opposed to all forms of tyranny. Although his liberal thoughts are considered as free and atheist, it is evident that he opposed both religious as well as political tyranny. Anything that deprives a human being the ability to think was considered tyrannical. Thus Spinoza did not support any of the above-mentioned forms of tyranny.

The freedom that Spinoza advocates for should come from within, as well as from other external forces. The coordination between the body and the mind in the freedom sense is very important since it instantly eliminates all forms of forces. The contentious issue of gay marriages has taken various forms of debates. There are some commentators who feel that gay marriages portray a scientific abnormality that should be investigated.

Christians have observed that it is against the will of God, thus homosexuality should not be allowed since it is equivalent to allowing what God has forbidden. Regulations to limit the practice have been put in place in different countries. Borrowing from Spinoza’s understanding of freedom, the liberals have observed that disallowing gay marriages is interfering with individuals’ freedom.

This amounts to political and religious tyranny; political in the sense that an individual is barred by legislation from exercising what he or she feels is right. On the other hand, it is religious tyranny since someone dictates to an individual without letting them decide for themselves (Grossman 45).

Gay marriages have been opposed in many religious arenas. This cuts across all forms of religion. There is an agreement that they should not be allowed. According to Spinoza’s philosophy, this has the effect of classifying gay marriages as evil, while it is a point infringing on someone’s freedom. Spinoza believed that there is no sin and God does not judge human beings.

In that reasoning, it is clear that the internal quest to marry a fellow gay should be allowed. If religion forbids that from happening, then it means that individual rights are suppressed. It has been Spinoza’s assertion that society becomes free if all individuals are free. Thus, gay marriages should be allowed to make society free (de Spinoza para. 12).

Conclusion

Spinoza’s philosophy has been challenged by various theological philosophers in the sense that it deviates from the conservative nature of religion. Philosophers find it hard to reconcile the teachings of religion with the freedom quest advocated by Spinoza. That explains why many considered him to be an atheist. The eternal freedom, according to religion, ought to be regulated by God.

Spinoza’s critics consider God to be a judge who judges everyone for the sins that they commit. The foregoing assertion is rejected by Spinoza, who instead substitutes the word ‘God’ for ‘nature’. The strict observance of the philosophy indicates that every person should not be prevented from doing what they feel is good for them to do. The highest good is freedom, which should be observed by political as well as religious institutions.

It is imperative to point out the suggested freedom has been objected by religious groups and political authorities. Allowing gay marriages should not be assessed in the form of the effects on the society since the nature of freedom is private. The society should not enjoy a right to the detriment of the persons.

Works Cited

De Spinoza, Benedict. . 1669. Web.

Grossman, N. Healing the Mind: The Philosophy of Spinoza Adapted for a New Age. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2003. Print.

Lord, B. Spinoza Beyond Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. Print.

Mason, R. The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

Pollock, F., and Jean C. Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy. Whitefish, MN: Kessinger, 2000. Print.

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