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Spinoza's Ethics

A Guide

Michael LeBuffe

Publication Date - 20 December 2022

ISBN: 9780197629314

312 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock


Baruch Spinoza's Ethics was published in 1677 just after his death. Along with Descartes's Meditations (1641) and Leibniz's mature essays (1685-1714) the Ethics is regarded as among the most important philosophical work of continental Early Modern Europe. In this guide, Michael LeBuffe follows the Ethics closely and helps readers to understand Spinoza's masterpiece for themselves.

The Ethics is a hugely ambitious work that offers strong, controversial views on almost every aspect of philosophy. In a geometrical style, in which propositions build upon definitions and axioms, Spinoza contends that there is only one substance, God, and that everything that exists, including God and human beings, is subject to absolute necessity. Nevertheless, he also defends rich theories of human action and ethics. Spinoza maintains that we can and should work to overcome the harmful influence of passion and enjoy salvation and blessedness.

LeBuffe includes an introduction designed to supply first time readers with enough background to study the text productively. He then devotes a chapter to each of the Ethics' five parts: on God, mind, the affects or emotions, human bondage, and human freedom. The guide focuses on one manageable part of Spinoza's dense argument at a time, pausing frequently to raise and consider questions for further research. This accessible guide to the Ethics will help readers to understand the challenging text and to develop their own sophisticated interpretations of Spinoza.


  • A balanced guide designed to help readers arrive at their own interpretations of Spinoza's masterpiece
  • Includes detailed discussion of each part of the Ethics
  • Provides research questions in each section help readers recognize and consider central issues of the text

About the Author(s)

Michael LeBuffe is Professor and Baier Chair of Early Modern Philosophy at the University of Otago. He has broad interests in early modern philosophy and specializes in Spinoza. His books include From Bondage to Freedom: Spinoza on Human Excellence and Spinoza on Reason.

Table of Contents

    Preface: How to Use this Guide

    I. Working with the Geometrical Method
    II. Spinoza's Life
    III. Sources for the Ethics

    Chapter 1: One Infinite Substance
    1.1 The Definitions and Axioms of Ethics 1
    1.2 Existence: 1p1-1p15
    1.3 The One and the Many: 1p16-1p36
    1.4 Teleology and the Origin of Common Prejudice: Ethics 1 Appendix

    Chapter 2: The Idea of the Human Body
    2.1 From Infinite Substance to Thought and Extension: 2d1-2p9c
    2.2 The Human Mind and the Human Body: 2p10-2p18s
    2.3 Inadequate Knowledge of the Self and the External World: 2p19-2p36
    2.4 Genuine Knowledge: 2p37-2p49s

    Chapter 3: Desire, Joy, and Sadness
    3.1 Human Activity and Passivity: 3 Preface-3p3
    3.2 Striving to persevere in being and the Desire for Joy: 3p4-3p10
    3.3 Passion, Desire, and Objects of Imagination: 3p11-3p50
    3.4 Causation and Human Affects: 3p51-3p59

    Chapter 4: Bondage to Passion
    4.1 Formal accounts of good and evil: 4 Preface-4p8
    4.2 Knowledge is power: 4p8-4p28
    4.3 Human society: 4p29-4p37
    4.4 Goods and evils: 4p38-4p73

    Chapter 5: The Power of the Intellect
    5.1 Descartes, Passions of the Soul, and the Pineal Gland: 5 Preface
    5.2 Understanding and Imagination against the Passions: 5a1-5p10s
    5.3 Self-Knowledge and the Love toward God: 5p11-5p20s
    5.4 Eternity, Blessedness, and Salvation: 5p21-5p42s

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