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On the Improvement of Understanding, by Benedict de Spinoza, [1883], at


Spinoza's Endnotes: Marks as per Curley, see Note 5 above. [a] (1) This might be explained more at large and more clearly: I mean by distinguishing riches according as they are pursued for their own sake, in or furtherance of fame, or sensual pleasure, or the advancement of science and art. (2) But this subject is reserved to its own place, for it is not here proper to investigate the matter more accurately.

[b] These considerations should be set forth more precisely. [c] These matters are explained more at length elsewhere. [d] N.B. I do no more here than enumerate the sciences necessary for our purpose; I lay no stress on their order.

[e] There is for the sciences but one end, to which they should all be directed.

[f] (1) In this case we do not understand anything of the cause from the consideration of it in the effect. (2) This is sufficiently evident from the fact that the cause is only spoken of in very general terms, such as—there exists then something; there exists then some power, &c.; or from the that we only express it in a negative manner—it is not or that, &c. (3) In the second case something is ascribed to the cause because of the effect, as we shall show in an example, but only a property, never an essence.

[g] (1) From this example may be clearly seen what I have just drawn attention to. (2) For through this union we understand nothing beyond the sensation, the effect, to wit, from which we inferred the cause of which we understand nothing.

[h] (1) A conclusion of this sort, though it be certain, is yet not to be relied on without great caution; for unless we are exceedingly careful we shall forthwith fall into error. (2) When things are conceived thus abstractedly, and not through their true essence, they are apt to be confused by the imagination. (3) For that which is in itself one, men imagine to be multiplex. (4) To those things which are conceived abstractedly, apart, and confusedly, terms are applied which are apt to become wrested from their strict meaning, and bestowed on things more familiar; whence it results that these latter are imagined in the same way as the former to which the terms were originally given.

[i] I shall here treat a little more in detail of experience, and shall examine the method adopted by the Empirics, and by recent philosophers.

[k] By native strength, I mean that not bestowed on us by external causes, as I shall afterwards explain in my philosophy.

[l] Here I term them operations: I shall explain their nature in my philosophy.

[m] I shall take care not only to demonstrate what I have just advanced, but also that we have hitherto proceeded rightly, and other things needful to be known.

[33note1] (1) In modern language, "the idea may become the subject of another presentation." (2) Objectivus generally corresponds to the modern "subjective," formalis to the modern "objective." [Trans.—Note 1]

[n] (1) Observe that we are not here inquiring how the first subjective essence is innate in us. (2) This belongs to an investigation into nature, where all these matters are amply explained, and it is shown that without ideas neither affirmation, nor negation, nor volition are possible.

[o] The nature of mental search is explained in my philosophy. [p] To be connected with other things is to be produced by them, or to produce them.

[q] In the same way as we have here no doubt of the truth of our knowledge.

[r] See below the note on hypotheses, whereof we have a clear understanding; the fiction consists in saying that such hypotheses exist in heavenly bodies.

[s] (1) As a thing, when once it is understood, manifests itself, we have need only of an example without further proof. (2) In the same way the contrary has only to be presented to our minds to be recognized as false, as will forthwith appear when we come to discuss fiction concerning essences.

[t] Observe, that although many assert that they doubt whether God exists, they have nought but his name in their minds, or else some fiction which they call God: this fiction is not in harmony with God's real nature, as we will duly show.

[u] (1) I shall presently show that no fiction can concern eternal truths. By an eternal truth, I mean that which being positive could never become negative. (2) Thus it is a primary and eternal truth that God exists, but it is not an eternal truth that Adam thinks. (3) That the Chimaera does not exist is an eternal truth, that Adam does not think is not so.

[x] (1) Afterwards, when we come to speak of fiction that is concerned with essences, it will be evident that fiction never creates or furnishes the mind with anything new; only such things as are already in the brain or imagination are recalled to the memory, when the attention is directed to them confusedly and all at once. (2) For instance, we have remembrance of spoken words and of a tree; when the mind directs itself to them confusedly, it forms the notion of a tree speaking. (3) The same may be said of existence, especially when it is conceived quite generally as an entity; it is then readily applied to all things together in the memory. (4) This is specially worthy of remark.

[y] We must understand as much in the case of hypotheses put forward to explain certain movements accompanying celestial phenomena; but from these, when applied to the celestial motions, we any draw conclusions as to the nature of the heavens, whereas this last may be quite different, especially as many other causes are conceivable which would account for such motions.

[z] (1) It often happens that a man recalls to mind this word soul, and forms at the same time some corporeal image: as the two representations are simultaneous, he easily thinks that he imagines and feigns a corporeal soul: thus confusing the name with the thing itself. (2) I here beg that my readers will not be in a hurry to refute this proposition; they will, I hope, have no mind to do so, if they pay close attention to the examples given and to what follows.

[61a] (1) Though I seem to deduce this from experience, some may deny its cogency because I have given no formal proof. (2) I therefore append the following for those who may desire it. (3) As there can be nothing in nature contrary to nature's laws, since all things come to pass by fixed laws, so that each thing must irrefragably produce its own proper effect, it follows that the soul, as soon as it possesses the true conception of a thing, proceeds to reproduce in thought that thing's effects. (4) See below, where I speak of the false idea.

[64b] (1) Observe that fiction regarded in itself, only differs from dreams in that in the latter we do not perceive the external causes which we perceive through the senses while awake. (2) It has hence been inferred that representations occurring in sleep have no connection with objects external to us. (3) We shall presently see that error is the dreaming of a waking man: if it reaches a certain pitch it becomes delirium.

[76z] These are not attributes of God displaying His essence, as I will show in my philosophy.

[76a] (1) This has been shown already. (2) For if such a being did not exist it would never be produced; therefore the mind would be able to understand more than nature could furnish; and this has been shown above to be false.

[78a] (1) That is, it is known that the senses sometimes deceive us. (2) But it is only known confusedly, for it is not known how they deceive us.

[83d] (1) If the duration be indefinite, the recollection is imperfect; this everyone seems to have learnt from nature. (2) For we often ask, to strengthen our belief in something we hear of, when and where it happened; though ideas themselves have their own duration in the mind, yet, as we are wont to determine duration by the aid of some measure of motion which, again, takes place by aid of imagination, we preserve no memory connected with pure intellect.

[91e] The chief rule of this part is, as appears from the first part, to review all the ideas coming to us through pure intellect, so as to distinguish them from such as we imagine: the distinction will be shown through the properties of each, namely, of the imagination and of the understanding.

[92f] Observe that it is thereby manifest that we cannot understand anything of nature without at the same time increasing our knowledge of the first cause, or God.