The idea Paul has of Peter, Spinoza observes, expresses the nature of Peter less than it betrays that of Paul; and so an idea framed by a man of the consciousness of things in general reveals the mind of that man rather than the mind of the universe; but the mind of the man too may be worth knowing, and the illusive hope of discovering everything may lead him truly to disclose himself.
Unlike Spinoza, too, he did not go out of his way to inform them of his heterodox views, content to comprehend the crowd rather than be misunderstood by it. He knew that the bigger soul includes the smaller and that the smaller can never circumscribe the bigger.
It was therefore very natural for Nietzsche who consciously went back to the Greeks to hail Spinoza as his only philosophical forerunner, the only philosopher who dwelt with him on the highest mountain-tops, perilous only for those who are born for the base valleys of life.
Many others too, besides professional philosophers, began to read Spinoza with much sympathy and unbounded admiration. Goethe, Matthew Arnold, Heine, George Eliot, Flaubert, Coleridge, and Shelley to mention only a few distinguished lay names found in Spinoza a powerful, stimulating and, in varying degrees, congenial thinker.
If a Descartes, a Leibnitz, or an Edwards, for example, had seen the consequences of the scheme of necessity as clearly as they were seen by Spinoza, his moral nature would have recoiled from it with such force as to dash the premises to atoms.
Or, to put it in another way, the Universe perceptible to us is only one of an infinity of Universes. By which is not meant an infinite extension of galaxies in space, but the co-existence and, so to speak, interpenetration of an infinity of modes of existence imperceptible to us. To Spinoza, then, God is the totality of Being.
This world is no more the worst than it is the best of all possible worlds for man. Although man cannot completely alter his evil estate, he can better it. And the wisdom of philosophy consists in recognizing this fact and discovering what ways and means there are for bringing such betterment about. This Spinoza has in mind throughout the devious courses of his philosophy.
Mendelssohn's philosophy, if he had an original system, has long since passed into oblivion; Maimon's will be studied as long as Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Kant are in vogue.
Intention without deed is; though the two together call for the greatest punishment or reward. "A burnt offering," say the Rabbis, "atones for sinful thoughts; sin committed through compulsion is not punished." It is of interest here to know that Spinoza, as has been shown by Joel, owed his idea of man's freedom to Crescas.
Design is the miracle-worker in nature, which has put the world upside down; or as Spinoza says, has placed the last first, the effect for the cause, and thus destroyed the very idea of nature. Design in nature, especially in the department of living organisms, has ever been appealed to by those who desire to prove that the world is not self-evolved, but the work of an intelligent Creator."