In a letter Nietzsche made the following comment about Spinoza; "I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by “instinct.” Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness."

Beyond offering opinions but rather by employing textual references, how do the two philosophers compare in their thinking and in specifically which aspects?

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    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


Nietzsche addresses this specifically in Section 15 of The Second Essay of the Genealogy of Morals. He says:

This fact once Came insidiously into the mind of Spinoza (to the vexation of his interpreters, Kuno Fischer make a real effort to misunderstand him on this point), when one afternoon, teased by who knows what recollection, he mused on the question of what really remained to him of the famous morsus consclentia he who had banished good and evil to the realm of human imagination and had wrathfully defended the honor of his "free" God against those blasphemers who asserted that God effected all things sub ratione bom' ("but that would mean making God subject to fate and would surely be the greatest of all absurdities"). The world, for Spinoza, had returned to that state of innocence in which it had lain before the invention of the bad conscience: what then had become of the morsus conscientiae?

"The opposite of gaudium," he finally said to himself---"a sadness accompanied by the recollection of a past event that flouted all of our expectations." Eth.IlI, propos. XVIII; schol. I. II. Mischief-makers overtaken by punishments have for thousands of years felt in respect of their "transgressions" just asSpinoza did: "here something has unexpectedly gone wrong," not: "I ought not to have done that." They submitted to punishment as one submits to an illness or to a misfortune or to death, with that stout-hearted fatalism without rebellion through which the Russians, for exam- ple. still have an advantage over us Westerners in dealing with life.

So, the basic idea is that, like Nietzsche, Spinoza thinks of good and evil as an artefact of human psychology, with no reference in reality. This view arises from Spinoza’s doctrine of conatus, which holds that each being naturally seeks to maintain its existence and increase its power. The idea of good and evil arises only when humans suppose that that which acts counter to their own expression of power can be judged to be inherently evil. Spinoza further denies natural right theory, and instead holds that a being’s right is identical with its desire and its power to carry out that desire, i.e. beings have the right to do whatever is in their power to do. The constrains Spinoza puts on the power of the state are prudential only, insofar as a state being maximally corrupt will only work against its own power by alienating its populace and creating pockets of revolutionary resistance.

All of this is very similar to Nietzsche’s moral psychology, denial of rationalistic free will, and the like. In particular, the above quotation arises in the context of Nietzsche’s claim that the origin of punishment has its roots in pure expressions of power. Spinoza, too, finds the origin of the state to be in its facilitation of the drive to increase power and dominance.

  • Funny that the only answer to actually be in depth with textual references as required by the OP was down voted... +1
    – armand
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 0:16

Nietzsche sums it up pretty well:

  • "he denies the freedom of the will"

For Spinoza everything is caused by previous events in a strict determinism (Ethics book I), up to what he called "God or Nature", the entirety of things and ideas, which is its own cause. Everything including people's volitions and desires. So all of our actions are just the consequence of the state of the world, and it is not in our power to change its course. For if we have any desire to do so, this desire itself must have been caused by the state of the world, and so on.

Ethics book II, note on proposition XXXV: For instance, men are mistaken in thinking themselves free ; their opinion is made up of consciousness of their own actions, and ignorance of the causes by which they are conditioned. Their idea of freedom, therefore, is simply their ignorance of any cause for their actions. As for their saying that human actions depend on the will, this is a mere phrase without any idea to correspond thereto. What the will is, and how it moves the body, they none of them know

  • "he denies [...] teleology"

Spinoza denied that things existed for an ultimate purpose, including tools we create with a use in mind, as this purpose is valid for the human mind only but is no concern to God or the universe at large, as whatever we do it's still the universe realising itself as it was supposed to do from the beginning of time. It follows that people have no ultimate duty to follow.

Ethics, appendix to book I: All such opinions spring from the notion commonly entertained, that all things in nature act as men themselves act, namely, with an end in view. It is accepted as certain, that God himself directs all things to a definite goal (for it is said that God made all things for man, and man that he might worship him). I will, therefore, consider this opinion, asking first, why it obtains general credence, and why all men are naturally so prone to adopt it? secondly, I will point out its falsity ; and, lastly, I will show how it has given rise to prejudices about good and bad, right and wrong, praise and blame, order and confusion, beauty and ugliness, and the like. (also referenced in the preface to part 4)

  • "he denies [...] the moral world-order"
  • "he denies [...] evil"

It follows from the previous point that Spinoza denied absolute morality. People have no control over their desires and actions, no sacred duty. Also, he rejected the notion of absolute good and evil: goodness or badness are not property of things, but a relationship from things to other things (“Music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf.”) and therefore nothing is inherently good or bad (evil).

In Spinoza's mind virtue is its own reward by maximizing joyful affects and power to act, and only ignorant people behave virtuously by fear of punishment or hope of reward.

Ethics, preface to part IV: As for the terms good and bad, they indicate no positive quality in things regarded in themselves, but are merely modes of thinking, or notions which we form from the comparison of things one with another. Thus one and the same thing can be at the same time good, bad, and indifferent. For instance, music is good for him that is melancholy, bad for him that mourns ; for him that is deaf, it is neither good nor bad.

  • "he denies [...] the unegoistic"

Not sure what Nietzsche means by that, but I'll go on a limb and assume he refers to self mortification like guilt, shame, etc... Spinoza also believed that we can be motivated by two kinds of affects, sadness and joy, and greatly prefered joy, as it is the manifestation of an increase in our power to act. For example, prefer the joy to strive for bettering oneself rather than the shame of not being good enough.


Here is a book I just found after doing a search for Wagner and Spinoza “Goethe, Nietzsche, Wagner: Their Spinozan Epics of Love and Power” by T.K. Seung. https://www.amazon.com/Goethe-Nietzsche-Wagner-Their-Spinozan-ebook/dp/B00ELMFQ4S

Nietzsche was always learning from Wagner, whatever the ups and downs of their friendship. The reviews are interesting. I have never read this book but the idea for this book is not at all surprising to me. Who knows, it may contribute to the OPs research.

Something just hit me. This, shall we say, non-standard Spinoza can be brought back into religion by Ernst Bloch. This is why “Marx and the Bible” by Jose Miranda, ends with the work of Ernst Bloch, who was Jewish by birth and a big fan of Goethe. https://www.amazon.com/Marx-Bible-Critique-Philosophy-Oppression/dp/1592444857

In others words, there could be a true New Jerusalem and immortality right here. Ilyenkov, Bloch, Spinoza. And I think an ethics could be constructed too.

But it won’t come about automatically, behind our backs as in Hegel (Spirit), but through work, shaping, reproduction, ie Ilyenkov’s “ “thinking body”, in the context of his “activity philosophy”. (Bill Bowring, Birbeck College).

  • 1
    Spinoza defined human nature as 'conatus' or the urge to sustain one's life. A synonym for this urgency in Spinoza's terminology is 'desire'. When a person is conscious of their desire Spinoza called it 'appetite' . Nietzsche speaks of the 'will to power's as the root of human existence. That is one hint. A second, Spinoza speaks of 'mens aquiescentia', Nietzsche of 'Amor fanti'. Locate those two and you may 'see' the rest. Thank you for participating.
    – user37981
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 22:58
  • @CharlesMSaunders. Hi. At first I did not know if that small “answer” there would Post, so I am sorry there is a repetition in the comments to the original question. Also I apologize for being rude to you in my comment last night. We are all here for the same reason, to learn more about these thinkers, and your question came just at the right time to catch my interest in some things I was working on.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 23:07

Personally, I wouldn't trust Nietzsche on any philosophical predecessors. I doubt very much that Spinoza would have endorsed Nietzsche, he's a very different thinker.

Remember, Spinoza endorsed God. For example, in part I of his Ethics, concerning God, he writes:

By that which is itself self-caused, I mean that of which it's essence involves it's existence, or that of which is only concievanle of an existent.

This is a classical definition. It goes back to Aquinas notion of a Neccessary Being in the early 13th C. Whilst Nietzsche wanted to savagely uproot everything about Christianity and going back to Zarathrustha to do so. Thus also savagely uprooting Judaism and Islam. He called himself the Anti-Christ for a reason and is the Anti-Semite par excellance despite what his acolytes and disciples say.

So why was he nice about Spinoza? Because he idolised Schopenhauer and Spinoza was an influence on him.

  • Spinoza did not believe in a personal, creator God. To him God was one with the universe ("Deus sive Natura") as is evident from a simple reading of Ethics, beyond cherry picking a single quote. In his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus he explicitely states that religious stories about a personal God are fables to help intellectually limited people to grasp the higher truth. This pantheism was as close to atheism as one could get at the time, and he got expelled from the Jewish community and got in trouble with the Christian church for it (which shows how Aquinas compatible he was considered...)
    – armand
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 1:08
  • @Armand: Why are you opting for the popular notion of the Christian God to describe Spinoza's philosophy. Why not Islam? The so-called cherry picked quote applies a great deal more to Islam's notion of God bring unitarian and absolute than the Christian trinitarian and absolute. Moreover, his ancestors came from the Iberian pensula which for five hundred years years were under the influence of Moorish islam. The story you say about 'fables' is already in the Qu'ran though of course the Prophet does not call men 'intellectually limited' - they are all limited and finite next to God ... Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 2:44
  • @Armand: ... being understood. His pantheism is still religious and he is called a rationalist since he was rationalising religion: He wrote his Ethics in a geometric format, alluding to Euclid. However, he is not a rationalist in the way that term is understood today - as an athiest tout court. He has only been coopted into that framework at the behest of Nietzsche who only believed in the 'earth' and not the spirit. He is the materialist through and through. When it comes to paraphrasing philosophers, Nietzsche is not to be trusted, ... Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 2:49
  • @Armand: ... just as he put words into the mouth of Zarathrusta in his so-called opus Thus Spake Zarathrustha when everything he wrote in that book was totally against the religion of Zarathrustha. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 2:49
  • 1
    Yet Allah IS personal in Islam. He has a will, wants people to do so and so, chose a prophet... And how about the creator part ? Don't leave out half of the argument for your convenience. Allah is not creator in Islam ? Now, according to you, the Qran is a load of crap and Muhammad an impostor ? It has to be if we are to believe that Spinoza, who didn't believe nor in prophets, nor in sin, nor in moral laws is compatible in any way with Islam. The extend you are willing to go just to not admit your ignorance about Spinoza, or even just let it go, is baffling.
    – armand
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 23:51

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