Philosophical Survey In The Morality Of Spinoza In The Light Of His Evil And Good

Philosophical Survey
Philosophical Survey
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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.

Hence, 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.


For the 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 different way.

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 philosophers.


Inspite 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 and evil.

Therefore, 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.


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

In 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.


The method 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

For easy understanding and grasping of this work, I divided this work into five chapters.

Chapter 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.

Chapter 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.


Benedict 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 lenses. Philosophical Survey

He also learned Latin in the Franciscus Van den Enden where he conversed with a circle of Amsterdam collegiants, who were dedicated to Cartessianism. Philosophical Survey

He 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.

The theological – Political Treatise in 1670 (Tractatus Theologico – Politicus). Philosophical Survey

He died in 21 February 1677. Then his friends published his other works. Philosophical Survey

1B Spinoza, transl. by R.H.M Elwes, Works of Spinoza, vol 11, (New York: Dover publications,1951) ,                     p.156

2 O. J. Eno Inah, Theses on the problem of evil, (Bigard memorial Seminary, 1981), P. V111. Philosophical Survey

3 R.H.M Elwes, Works of Spinoza, Vol. 11, ( New York: Dover publications,1951 ), P.205. Philosophical Survey

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