The Spinozist

writing by Paul Mendrik

The second birth and the meaning of Spinozism

January 24, 2020

The metaphor of the second birth, does it risk obscuring the meaning of Spinozism? On the contrary, it seems that through it, Spinoza himself gives us a deeper meaning of the Ethics. Its path indicates the way to the attainment of true conversion and the genesis of a new life. That this is the purpose of all philosophy and wisdom, is undeniable, but the central question is how effective these wisdoms are when they refer to a subject that is outside the field of religion. Spinoza meets this requirement in an exemplary way. It applies to knowledge only and the effort to comprehend which every man is capable of, and addresses any human spirit, providing it truly wishes to free itself from beliefs and imaginary passions.

These beliefs and passions are the source of much suffering and conflict and to conquer them spurs the individual to a truly new existence. Moreover, the reference to Desire and Joy calls for an existence that is not only new but is, above all, free and happy. Spinoza rightly refers to the new ethics as a new life and therefore as a kind of “rebirth”. In this last term, as in the metaphor of the “second birth”, we can read a reference to Joy in existence. Everyone knows that all nascent love is experienced as a blessed entrance into a new relationship but also into an intense life that is both true and “real”.

Remember this is exactly what Spinoza says: “So there is no rational life without understanding, and things are good only to the extent that they aid a man to enjoy the life of the mind that is determined by understanding. On the other hand, things that prevent man from being able to perfect his reason and enjoy the rational life, those are the ones, the only ones, I call bad”(Eth.IV V). 

It is through the deployment of wisdom as an effective procurement of freedom, self-awareness, the joy of being and one’s eternity, that it is possible, and relevant, to think of a new birth.

These beliefs and passions are the source of much suffering and conflict and to conquer them spurs the individual to a truly new existence. Moreover, the reference to Desire and Joy calls for an existence that is not only new but is, above all, free and happy. Spinoza rightly refers to the new ethics as a new life and therefore as a kind of “rebirth”. In this last term, as in the metaphor of the “second birth”, we can read a reference to Joy in existence. Everyone knows that all nascent love is experienced as a blessed entrance into a new relationship but also into an intense life that is both true and “real”.

Remember this is exactly what Spinoza says: “So there is no rational life without understanding, and things are good only to the extent that they aid a man to enjoy the life of the mind that is determined by understanding. On the other hand, things that prevent man from being able to perfect his reason and enjoy the rational life, those are the ones, the only ones, I call bad”(Eth.IV V). 

It is through the deployment of wisdom as an effective procurement of freedom, self-awareness, the joy of being and one’s eternity, that it is possible, and relevant, to think of a new birth.