The Principles of Descartes' Philosophy


In Histories of Philosophy Spinoza's name stands inseparably associated with Pantheism if it has not become practically synonymous with that term. His earlier writings, therefore, are of value primarily for the light they throw upon his later thought. While it is true that some of them have intrinsic worth, for the most part it is because they illumine the mysteries of his mystical Pantheism that these early writings are preserved and read. We need not hesitate to say that this is pre-eminently true of the Principles of Descartes' Philosophy translated below. At the very beginning of this work we are confronted with the assertion that this professes to be only a new, a more logical presentation of the truth which Descartes had already set forth with such admirable clearness. Nevertheless, as we hope will appear, while the content of this work may not be absolutely essential for understanding Spinoza's Ethics, it is still far too important to be neglected.

It has long been a tacit assumption that Spinoza's system of philosophy is found complete in the Ethics, that since this was the latest, most mature product of his thought there is little need to refer to anything outside of this work in order to understand his system of Pantheism. Such an assumption, however, would be very difficult to justify, for, while it is true that the Ethics contains the outline of a theory of reality and of human experience, it is not in mastering the outline that the trouble appears. The chief difficulty in understanding the Ethics is not in mastering the broad out-

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • La Salle, IL
Publication year:
  • 1943


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