Nothing can be conceived of adequately without a conception of the whole


Ultimately, all learning has to be contextualised by a notion of the “whole” of knowledge, which is infinite. This means that learning cannot be “definite” and “certain” because we, as humans, cannot know everything. Learning must be thought of “in the round”; it must necessarily be tentative, since we cannot possibly know all that is out there. (pp. 10, P. 15)

Journey into Joy

Contextualise yourself: what chain of events led to you coming into being. Think about all the people who had to have sex, all the things that needed to reproduce, right back to the amoebae in the primal swamp, in order for you to exist now.



Everything is Connected

E.M. Forster’s epigraph to Howard’s End (Forster, 1910) is famously ‘Only connect…’ It’s this principle which informs Spinoza’s Ethics. For Spinoza God is “All-That-There-Is”. God is “immanent”; God is within everything. God is the forces which produce all of us and what connect us. This idea has profound implications for our conceptions of knowledge; it means that we have to see knowledge ultimately as “one” as “whole” because knowledge is God. (Spinoza, 1994a, p. 9 P.13)

Journey into Joy

Reflections: have a go at the following exercises, and then either write down your reflections on these activities or devise some kind of response to them (e.g. poem/music/discussion etc.)

  • Feel your pulse.
  • Listen: Stop for a moment, shut your eyes and just listen very carefully to all the sounds around you.
  • Eat your food very, very slowly, savouring every last drop.
  • Drink some water and concentrate on the sensation of it going through your body.
  • Look very carefully at people’s eyes for a few minutes when you are walking down the street.



God is defined in a Spinozist sense: God is not the “father in the skies” who purposefully acts in the world. God is not the law-maker and patriarch of the Bible and Koran. God is not a “he” or “she”; God just “is”. God is immanent. God or Nature. God is everything: God is Being and Becoming.

Journey into Joy

Question: What does the word “God” mean to you? What do understand by “Nature”? What are the similarities and differences between God and Nature in your view? What do you understand by immanence?


The problem of ‘essence’ in Spinoza is never ending, and you will find many very difficult texts trying to work it out — most unsuccessfully. One reading of Spinoza says that every object has its correlate idea in thought: this is because ideas are not ‘mute’; they are active conceptions. This is very counterintuitive because we think that thoughts arise from a Cartesian mind, whereas Spinoza is saying that ideas contain the activity of thought, and our minds are essentially a bundle of these ideas which contain their activity. This means that what seems to be a process of thinking carried out by a ‘thinking mind’ is actually only the activity of many ideas.


Learning happens every second of every day, learning is not limited to humans, but is in everything. Everything is learning. Existence is learning; getting to know the “stuff” that is around you, that produces who you are – more of this latter point later on. Being is necessarily learning. In Spinozist language, learning is “activity”.

Journey into Joy

Questions: How would you define learning? When have you learnt most in your life? Who are the best teachers you’ve had and why?


An individual is a cause, or put differently, all individuals create effects. This makes individuals and events inseparable, and relates individuals to activity (IP36).


From every cause, effects must necessarily follow.