Correspondence, by Benedict de Spinoza, , at sacred-texts.com
[The place of this letter is between Letters XIII. and XIV. It was written apparently in September, 1665. It mentions the plague, which was then at its height, the war, and the labours of the Royal Society, and especially of Boyle. Then comes the passage here given. The letter terminates with references to the comets, and to Huyghens.]
* * * * * *
I see that you are engaged not so much in philosophy as in theology, if I may say so. That is, you are recording your thoughts about angels, prophecy, and miracles, but you are doing this, perhaps, in a philosophical manner; however that may be, I am certain that the work 1 is worthy of you, and that I am most anxious to have it. Since these most difficult times prevent free intercourse, I beg at least that you will not disdain to signify to me in your next letter 2 your design and aim in this writing of yours.
Here we are daily expecting news of a second 3 naval battle, unless indeed your fleet has retired into port. Virtue, 4 the nature of which you hint is being discussed among your friends, belongs to wild beasts not to men. For if men acted according to the guidance of reason, they would not so tear one another in pieces, as they evidently do. But what is the good of my complaining? Vices will exist while men do; 5 but yet they are not continuous, but compensated by the interposition of better things.
289:1 The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.
289:2 Spinoza's answer to this letter is not extant.
289:3 The English fleet twice defeated the Dutch in 1665, on June 3rd and Sept. 4th. Secundo perhaps means "successful," but this hardly agrees with Oldenburg's politeness.[TR.]
289:4 "Virtus, de quâ disceptare inter vos innuis, ferina est, non humana." I do not think that, in the absence of the previous letter from Spinoza here referred to, the precise meaning of this sentence can be ascertained.[Tr.]
289:5 The same phrase occurs in Tract. Pol. I. ii.