Descartes and Spinoza: A Philosophical Comparison


The method

New conception of truth, there is the truth as adequacy, or the truth as authority. The new truth is the truth as certainty, as something indubitable truth, something that can not be doubted. For Descartes the certainty is linked to the clarity and distinction. One truth is clear, if present, is not transcendent, I have before. A truth is different if defined, if I can differentiate from others.

Descartes realizes that there are many truths we believe to be true, but soon discovered to be false. We must create a new building and a new philosophy in which everything is clear, where we can clearly distinguish what is truth and what is not. To do this, find a method with simple rules, you can apply either.

Four rules:

  • Evidence or questions, do not admit anything as true.
  • Analysis, dividing the complex into simpler parts every time.
  • Synthesis, reconstruct the knowledge from simple ideas to remake the truth, bringing to the complex.
  • List, review the whole process


Applying the method, Descartes will try to get to the simple, true, if only one, but a truth that no one can doubt it, a truth clearly and distinctly, so from that truth, to reconstruct a whole philosophy established on firm foundations, insurance. So the first thing Descartes will make the first step is to apply the rule of evidence or doubt. This is what is known as the methodical doubt.

Consist of methodical doubt be questioning all the knowledge we believe to be true, to try to reach a truth, if only one indubitable, clear and distinct.


Doubt the senses. Doubt what I see, even applying the question to the example of men with skin you see in the distance from your window. Doubt the simple reasoning that humans perform, reasoning in which we are often wrong. In fact, Scholastic has often tried to juggle with such reasoning.

Duda of science, of scientific knowledge.


As God deceives me, or you can cheat. It is the evil genius hypothesis.

Duda external reality, with the example of sleep and wakefulness. Everything I see and what I live, I can not distinguish sleep.

Nothing escapes the methodical doubt. It has been argued that doubt is a real question or a rhetorical question, that is, if Descartes and know in advance where they’re coming.

Solution of the doubt, the cogito. I can doubt everything, except my own question.
is the first truth, indubitable, clear and distinct from arriving. It is an intuition, an insurance principle, a truth that nothing can deny. The whole philosophy of Descartes is to be supported in that truth, I thought. Be the first philosophy of history resting on me in a really safe.


The consequences of this are immeasurable: the world, philosophy, God … Everything is supported in the self.




THE ego takes the place of God. The only criterion of truth is the self.

But now this new philosophy is to rebuild from me. It is the constructive part.

The reconstruction of philosophy

From the cogito is to rebuild the entire reality. If the concern was the destructive, the metaphysical is the constructive part. This article begins with the concept of substance. A substance is that it does not need another thing to exist. In fact, the only real substance is God. But Descartes, following the classical philosophical distinction between three substances: God, soul, world.

Begins rebuilding the soul. If I think that means I exist. Cogito, ergo sum. I exist, and who am I? I am a thinking thing. I am a res cogitans. I set of ideas, thoughts, dreams, memories … Flowing in my self.
TEXT 20 distinguishes three types of ideas that occur in the soul:

  • Adventitious or acquired from the senses. Can easily be wrong.
  • Factitious or artificial, created by uniting a number of adventitious ideas. (Centaur)
  • Innate, born of my own faculty intelligible. The idea of ​​infinity, or the idea of ​​God or the idea of ​​substance or cause. The example of the wax, as though my senses tell me to another reality, my innate essence idea leads me to know that it is the same reality.

God subsequently reconstructed. We have innate ideas as the idea of ​​perfection, that perfect someone must have put in me. It follows the existence of god.
As we see, the existence of the self, the soul, suggests the existence of God, and not vice versa, as had been throughout the history of philosophy. The existence of God shall be deducted the existence of knowledge, because if God exists, can not be bad, therefore the hypothesis of the evil genius can not be true.

Third, the world. My I have a clear and distinct idea that he thinks, but also has a clear and distinct idea of ​​having a subject, a body. As God is good, I can not cheat on this. Hence, the existence of my body, I infer the existence of the world of material reality. The body, the world is the extension. Mechanistic body, it is no freedom.

Dualistic conception of man, composed of body and soul together by the pineal gland.


Probably came from a family of Spanish or Portuguese Jews who fled to Holland with the obligation to become Catholics, Benedict de Spinoza was born in 1632 in Amsterdam. He began working in family businesses, subsequently devoted himself to polishing lenses. In 1656, because of their ideas, is excommunicated from the synagogue, expelled from it. But Spinoza did not retract, or returned to the Jewish religion. He lives in several Dutch cities, until it settles in The Hague.

France and England attack in 1672 the Netherlands and the Dutch De Witt Republican leader was killed. Spinoza received threats for supporting this leader. You are offered a professorship at Heidelberg, who refuses to fear losing their freedom. Meet Leibniz. Dies of tuberculosis at age 44 in 1677.

The main works are the theological-political Treaty, the Treaty of understanding reform, ethics demonstrated by the geometric method

It is a self-taught philosopher tremendously. He opposes the scholastic method, and the rabbinic method. Preferred in their works follow a geometric method, which works with definitions, proofs, axioms …

His philosophy focuses on explaining the three levels of reality that defends Descartes: God, self and world. Although considered an atheist by many authors, the poor are full of religiosity. God is understood as reality itself: Deus sive natura: God or nature (ie, God or the reality).

He is critical of religion because it thinks that focus on worship, prayer, but then not put into practice the ideas preached. Christian belief, for example, preaches peace, love, forgiveness., When Christians act with hatred, hostility and violence. The purpose of religion is not dogma, ideals, but to serve God, obey Him. Thus, we must distinguish clearly what is philosophy, which is the search for truth, and what is the theology that God is obedience.

Politically, Spinoza difference between the natural and civil state or society. Aristotle argued that human beings are social by nature, but in the seventeenth century developed the idea that society is not natural, but arising from a covenant, a contract between men, a theory that is called contractualism. This theory is advocated by Hobbes, who says that we make society human beings to survive, because if they existed, would act according to our instincts of hatred and violence.

The first situation of human beings is the natural state. In this situation, each acts as its own individual nature and according to your wishes and desires of the domain. This domain comes to the best of power each. Men, as they intend to exercise their power, are natural enemies (the influence of Hobbes)

If we concern ourselves with the natural state, could not develop or maintain our lives. So, we need unity, unity, ie, society, union with other men. The man who is guided by reason is more free in the state, which lives according to common decisions in isolation, which is due to himself. While defending an absolutist state Hobbes, Spinoza advocates a democratic state.

Faced with Hobbes, who says that man is a wolf to man, for Spinoza the man is a god to man.

To go from natural to social status requires agreement among all, because men are born not civilians, but they (critical to the theory of natural state of Aristotle). Through the pact, says Spinoza, each individual gives his own power to the state, whose terms must be obeyed. The state, which has the power, it must ensure freedom, the political form is acquired, whether monarchy, aristocracy or democracy.

But the state has to have limits and those limits are the rights of individuals, especially freedom of thought, expression, to teach what we think and the freedom to philosophize. With Spinoza gives the origin of parliamentary democracy.

Spinoza becomes a strong supporter of the state, because it is the basis for harmony between people. In his theory is constantly seen moments of his life in the community was once so driven by their thinking.