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On the Improvement of Understanding, by Benedict de Spinoza, [1883], at


[17] (1) Yet, as it is necessary that while we are endeavoring to attain our purpose, and bring the understanding into the right path we should carry on our life, we are compelled first of all to lay down certain rules of life as provisionally good, to wit the following:—I. (2) To speak in a manner intelligible to the multitude, and to comply with every general custom that does not hinder the attainment of our purpose. (3) For we can gain from the multitude no small advantages, provided that we strive to accommodate ourselves to its understanding as far as possible: moreover, we shall in this way gain a friendly audience for the reception of the truth.

II. (17:4) To indulge ourselves with pleasures only in so far as they are necessary for preserving health.

III. (5) Lastly, to endeavor to obtain only sufficient money or other commodities to enable us to preserve our life and health, and to follow such general customs as are consistent with our purpose.

[18] (1) Having laid down these preliminary rules, I will betake myself to the first and most important task, namely, the amendment of the understanding, and the rendering it capable of understanding things in the manner necessary for attaining our end. (2) In order to bring this about, the natural order demands that I should here recapitulate all the modes of perception, which I have hitherto employed for affirming or denying anything with certainty, so that I may choose the best, and at the same time begin to know my own powers and the nature which I wish to perfect.

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