Understanding Freedom: What is the Sanctuary of Ignorance?

The intricacy of assigning final causes as the cause of causes and the perverse attribution of why a certain cause caused the other is what influenced Spinoza to come up with the analogy of the sanctuary of ignorance. The persistence of unending questions that one can ask regarding why certain things happened at a particular time, place, and to someone, asking the causes of causes can only be answered by retreating or taking refuge to the will of God, what he terms as the sanctuary of ignorance (Spinoza, 2006). According to Spinoza (2006) preachers for example, associate certain occurrences as happening for a certain reason, seeking miracles in justification of the final causes. In the analogy of the stone falling and killing a person, this way of arguing will attempt to give prove that the stone fell to kill the person since if this was not its purpose of falling, how should one explain such concurrence (Spinoza, 2006). Spinoza is attempting to show that God does not act for a particular end, and so, in order to defend the final causes one can only use some means unknown of reduction such as ignorance, since concurrence of such causes will always be, fleeing to the will of God as the sanctuary of ignorance.

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Discuss the Paradox of Buridan’s Ass

The paradox of the Buridan’s ass is an example or illustration of a hypothetical situation in the conception of freewill. An ass placed in a middle point between a pail of water and a stack of hay will fail to make a rational decision regarding which choice of these too it will go for, and instead can die of both thirst and hunger in failure to choose one over the other. In assessment of this paradox, when the incentives to action for example, are balanced equally such as in this paradox, unlike the ass which is irrational, a person confronted with this dilemma may apply reason to choose the best choice at the moment (Spinoza, 2006, pp. 122).

Why Does a Free Man Think of Life Instead of Death?

The nature of a free man is living in control and guidance of reason (Spinoza, 2006). When a freeman is under the guidance of reason, one often desires what is good rather than bad things (Spinoza, 2006). Rather than thinking of death, a situation that ends the freedom of a freeman, a freeman will seek to preserve his existence or being by contemplating in his wisdom on how to improve own life rather than anything regarding to death (Spinoza, 2006). Therefore, a free man will think of life instead of death because he lives by the dictates of reason that does not characterize the fear of death, which is in its entirety a bad thing, rather endeavoring in his freeness to strive to enhance ones own state of being.

Why Does the Mind’s Understanding of All Things as Necessary Leads to the Possibility of Human Freedom?

In the nature of a human person, reason provides a stratum for a person to be able to tame own appetitive dispositions that are much influenced by the body. Since emotions originate from bodily desires that show inadequacy of reason, when they are guided by reason, they produce ethical or virtuous actions (Spinoza, 2006). When the mind therefore, understands that all things are necessary, it has supremacy over emotions, presupposing a free being. In such a condition, the mind thus, does not subject beings to emotions (Spinoza, 2006). For example, when a person acts emotionally, one is likely to curtail the freedom of the other person. A person who acts out of emotions acts so by favoring the self, without taking into account the other beings. In this case, in the emotional endeavor to satisfy the self, the aspect of freedom is not considered. However, when a mind understands all things as necessary, it is able to suppress the emotional aspects and thereby enable human freedom.

According to Spinoza (2006), as far as one has the knowledge of the necessity of things, one is able to conceive them more vividly and in a distinct way, owing to the ability of the mind to supersede emotions. For example, things that exist are as they are following God’s will, and as such, God’s will is necessary in existence, thus one can infer freedom of created beings. On the other hand, if things were not necessary created, then they cannot be free because they are curtailed by purpose. For Spinoza (2006), the power of the intellect to dictate human actions is concomitant to human freedom and the ability to perceive necessary connections between that which exists, fosters human freedom.

In articulation to the will of God as a sanctuary of ignorance, Spinoza (2006) seeks to provide a way of solving the problem of causes where people often associate a cause with another final cause. In examination of the paradox of the Buridan’s ass, its applicability to a human person who is characterized by rationality is a bit limited (Spinoza, 2006). In as much as a person may be faced with a task of choosing from two ethical dilemmas that appear correct, the power of reason can either or both and provide the correct way to do so. Moreover, a free man thinks of life instead of death because when one is free, one acts in guidance of reason, which desires good things rather than bad.



Spinoza, B. (2006) The Ethics. Middlesex: Echo Library.

Spinoza, B. (2006). Improvement of the Understanding, Ethics and Correspondence. (R.H.M.

Elwes, Trans.). New York: Cosimo Inc.

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