Like any great philosopher, Spinoza takes an existing philosophical vocabulary and modifies it to his own purposes. But in addition, the Ethics contains three original ideas. Each is paradoxical, almost a contradiction in terms; each is central to his project, and there is a sense in which the three are identical. Each also receives little attention in the Ethics compared to the crucial role they play. They are the “Infinite Modes,” the “Second Kind of Knowledge,” and the “Active Emotions.” The first three parts of the Ethics contain those three original ideas. The last two parts constitute the real drama of the Ethics as each of those original ideas is confronted with its contrary. The first three parts show that there are finite and infinite modes, inadequate and adequate ideas, passive and active emotions, but do nothing to interrelate those opposed ideas. In the last two parts, we see how finite and infinite are interrelated, how the finite can constrain the infinite and how the finite can become infinite. These are the possibilities Spinoza calls human bondage and human freedom.
Keywords: infinite modes, adequate ideas, second kind of knowledge, active emotions, human bondage, freedom