Naturally Balanced > Body and mind > Ecophilosophy and ecopedagogy and the thought of Spinosa

Ecophilosophy and ecopedagogy and the thought of Spinosa

Published: 29/09/2023
Kazimierz Kopczyński
In my scientific and popularization activities , as well as teaching, I preach the idea of a holistic approach to Man, Earth and the Universe. I am an enthusiast of ecophilosophy, which points to the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of Nature.

Date of the last update: 29.09.2023

Let us remember that the physical world is only a mirror image of a deeper intelligence. Intelligence is the invisible organizer of all matter and all energy. We are a part of It, therefore the organizing power of the universe belongs to us. We are connected with it by thousands of links, so we must not poison either the air or water on our planet, but we should also not allow the mind to be poisoned, because every thought affects the entire field of all-intelligence. Pure life and sustainable. It is the highest good both for us and for the whole Earth. 

Deepak chopra

Each body, as it undergoes certain modifications upon itself, should be regarded as part of the whole universe. Which agrees with its wholeness and is related to the other parts. And as for the human soul, so is she. In my opinion, it is part of nature. For I suppose that there is also an infinite possibility of thought in nature, which, since it is infinite, contains all nature objectively, and its thoughts proceed in the same way as nature itself, which is of course its object. 


As G. Santayana rightly pointed out, Spinoza is one of those great men whose importance grows over the years. He is one of those few thinkers in the history of mankind whose thoughts are more alive today than in times past. One can probably also agree with H. Klenner, who believes that Spinoza’s philosophy will not be touched by time in the future as well. 

In his conception of substance, Spinoza considers infinite nature in its entirety. The infinity of nature includes its infinite complexity. The collection of objects is infinite, but also each of these objects is infinitely complex. Cognition realizes this infinity, rising from finite modes to an infinite universe. For Spinoza, the object of cognition is infinite substance. Infinite in scope and one where each object has an infinite number of predicates. It is, as B. Kuznetsov notes, the first 

in the history of philosophy, the definition of cognition as a transition from simpler to more complex, and in an ideal form – to infinitely complex(1). 

Table of contents:

  1. Ideal of modern science
  2. What does philosophy give us?
  3. The second revival of Spinozism
  4. Spinoza’s thoughts
  5. Summary

Ideal of modern science

And what is the ideal of modern science? Learn about local items in their relationship to the infinite universe. Spinoza turns out to be a precursor of such a way of seeing the world. His thought inspired many eminent scientists. Albert Einstein wrote in one of his letters that he believes in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of being. N. Bohr’s biographers mention two philosophers who particularly interested him: Kierkegaard and Spinoza. Connection into the unity of the dualism of God and the world, of thought and extension, of soul and body, it is very reminiscent – as R. S. Ingarden states – of the later “complementarism” of N. Bohr (2). B. Russell devoted much space in his works to the philosophy of Spinoza. 

Boris Kuznetsov noted that illustrations for Spinozian categories can be found more easily in modern science than in classical ones (3). The concept of infinity is introduced by Spinoza already in the initial definitions in connection with the concept of causa sui. Causa sui is something that exists by nature alone, independently of anything else. It is a substance. Nothing, whatever it is, limits the universe. Correspondingly, infinity generalizes here and includes the concept of infinity, and infinity itself in the narrower sense becomes a local, metric term. An illustration of the categories introduced by Spinoza turns out to be the separation of infinity and unlimitedness, about which G.F.B. Riemann spoke in 1854, and modern cosmology, in which the question of infinity is unambiguously resolved, while the question of infinity, or the metric of space, can be resolved in different ways for different reference systems. 

H. Seidel in his introduction to the German edition of Spinoza’s Ethics of 1987 wrote that this impressive pantheism created by Spinoza opened a new era of inspiration for the world (4). G.E. Lessing, J. G. von Herder. J.W. von Goethe, Novalis, F.D.E. Schleiermacher, F.W.J. von Schelling, G.W.F. Hegel were the heirs and heralds of the greatness of Spinozism, its uniqueness and universal significance. 

Today, however, the development of science and technology is moving in a direction that raises more and more anxiety. As H. Skolimowski rightly notes, we have created wonderful wonders of technology, and we are spiritually poor. There is an inversely proportional relationship between the well-being of man – based on triumphant technology – and his spiritual state. The more powerful the technology that subjugates the world, the more reduced human spirituality becomes (5). Science today has become impersonal, and worse, so has academic philosophy. We have philosophers, but no sages. Their thoughts come from the brain, but not from the heart. Here comes the beautifully expressed message of William Butler Yeats: 

“God, save me from thoughts, 

that come from the brain itself; 

the one who sings the everlasting song 

thinks with bone marrow”

Today we have a crisis of values and a crisis of authority. Where to find a spiritual leader? Where to look for a signpost for modern civilization? Signpost – which would not only show the way, but walked it itself. 

Carl G. Jung writes in one of his letters that what is thought is often less important than who thinks, but we are diligent to overlook the latter (6). “The product of a philosopher,” says F. Nietzsche, “is his life (first before his works). This is his work of art. Every work of art is addressed first to the artist, then to other people”(7). A philosopher is a philosopher first for himself, then for others. But even by isolating himself like a hermit, he gives a certain lesson, a certain example, and is also a philosopher to others. 

What does philosophy give us?

So what does philosophy give us? Let us use the words of F. Nietzsche again: “The state, community, religion, etc. – all these institutions can ask: what has philosophy given us? What can it give us today? Well, culture” (8). 

Different fields of culture depend on the environment to a different extent and in different ways. E. Nowicka distinguished three types of cultural phenomena: zone technological and economic, social structure and vision of the world (9). The third sphere of culture, the vision of the world, includes the main values related to relations between people, the relationship of man to the world, as well as ideas about various phenomena of the external world. And it is this vision of the world, which in my opinion is the core of culture, that philosophy can have a great influence on. But just such a philosophy that combines work and life into a harmonious whole. 

It is of great importance for the people of our time, wrote A. Einstein, that they become acquainted with the lives and struggles of those outstanding personalities who have survived and overcome the spiritual distance in which we too will live, and in whose history of life and activity may allow us to insight into this heroic effort. Among such personalities, according to A. Einstein, Spinoza is one of the most outstanding”(10). 

The second revival of Spinozism

The second revival of Spinozism as an “absolute religion” had its most active supporters in Germany, where its “first revival” took place in its time, when at the end of the eighteenth century Lichtenberg made his famous statement about Spinozism as the universal religion of the future. At the beginning of the 20th century, K. Brunner (L. Wienheimer) was an enthusiastic promoter of Spinozism as a philosophy of religion and absolute in Germany, opposing I. Kant and A. Schopenhauer with “spiritual” activists of humanity who understood the truth in its adequate form – in the form of the absolute . Among them K. Brunner included Moses, Christ, Plato, and Eckhart-type mystics (incl Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Beethoven). To the greatest of them activists, also “the greatest of all men”, the deepest of sages, the personification of wisdom and truth, “the king of humanity”, K. Brunner considered Spinoza”. 

We have crossed the threshold of the 21st century. Time for the “third revival” of Spinozism. This time it is important not only for our spiritual growth, but also for survival. Environmental problems have now taken on global dimensions. Whatever happens in a remote corner of the world affects us all. An example of this is the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. 

The burning of tropical forests in Brazil will affect not only Brazil’s climate, but our own. At an ever-increasing pace, humanity is using natural resources, water is contaminated, acid rain is created, ozone is disappearing, and more and more toxins are released into the atmosphere. We lack respect for nature and responsibility for our own lives and for the further course of evolution. Species are irretrievably disappearing, to the destruction of which we ourselves contribute, we do not understand that species diversity is a condition for the maintenance of life on Earth and its further evolution. We have upset the ecological balance. The world needs reconstruction. This is the task of eco-philosophy. It assumes that the world is a sanctuary. This perspective, as H. Skolimowski notes, immediately changes everything: the nature of the world, the place of man in the cosmos, the nature of man himself, and values. The world seen as a sanctuary is taken care of by man. From such a conception of the world, that is, from the very structure of the world, which is intelligently read, an ecological ethic emerges, based on reverence, reverence for all life and responsibility for it (12). 

The importance of Spinoza’s ideas for ecophilosophy is indicated by such scholars as A. Naess, J. Wetlesen, F. Wienpahl, H. Hubbeling and others (13). J. Wetlesen and A. Naess base their interpretation on a careful study of the text of the Ethics and draw parallels between Spinoza’s doctrine and Buddhism. P. Wienpahl, in translating and commenting on Spinoza’s works, referred to Zen philosophy. The ecological interpretation of spinozism has already been the subject of numerous studies. However, Spinoza’s thought can still inspire. Ecology and other natural sciences, medicine, psychology and pedagogy have not yet used many possibilities of creative development and application of some threads of Spinozism. 

Spinoza’s thoughts

Reading Spinoza’s works requires a lot of intellectual effort and emotional involvement. Studying Ethics is like climbing a mountain. Step by step we ascend higher and higher, often we have to stop for a longer time, the specific harsh mountain climate accompanies us all the time; but once we reach the top, it will turn out that our effort has been fully rewarded. We look at the wide horizon and see a beautiful panorama. From the top we can even see the whole land. From the peak to which we have risen after reading the Ethics, we embrace the Universe with our thoughts and hearts. But we also get a deep insight into ourselves. We feel inner harmony and unity with Nature. 

Some of Spinoza’s thoughts can give the right direction to modern scientific research. Philosophy without science is lame – as A. Einstein put it – and science without philosophy is blind. This is what modern science has become. The progress of science seems to be staggering. But – as H. Skolimowski beautifully expressed it – progress turned out to be a double-edged sword and brutally flayed the subtle ecological fabric, as well as the subtle fabric of the human soul (14). It’s time to stop, reflect, set the right direction for development. 

Each philosophy should be considered against the background of the epoch in which a given thinker was creating. Spinoza probably did not foresee the effects of scientific and technological progress that we have today. The natural environment in which he lived was radically different from the one in which we lived. But the truths he preached apply to modern times as well. Or perhaps today, more than three hundred years after the philosopher’s death, there is a special need to reach for his legacy. Many of Spinoza’s insightful thoughts can be applied and used in contemporary ecology. Even if today we read them in a different context than was possible in the era of Spinoza, it will only testify to the universality of these thoughts. 

Proposition XXXII: Everything we understand by means of the third kind of knowledge gives us pleasure, and this in conjunction with the idea of God as cause. Addendum: From the third kind of knowledge necessarily arises the rational love of God (amor Dei intelectualis). For from this kind of knowledge arises joy in connection with the idea of God as cause, i.e., love of God, not so far as we conceive him as present, but so far as we understand that God is eternal, and this is what we call the rational love of God. 

Proposition XXXVII: There is nothing in nature which is contrary to this rational love, or which can eliminate it. 

Proposition XVI: This love of God must possess the soul most. 

Proposition XVIII: No one can hate God. 

Proposition XX: This love of God cannot be affected by envy or jealousy, but it is fueled the more the greater the number of people. we conceive of them as bound to God by the same bond of love. 

Proof: This love for God is the highest good that we can desire according to the indications of reason, and it is something common to all people, so we wish that everyone should enjoy it. […] 

Proposition XXIV: The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God.” 

The above thoughts of Spinoza contained in book V of Ethics (15) can be read in the ecological, psychological and pedagogical context. The highest goal of man is getting to know spiritualized nature. By learning about individual phenomena in nature, by exploring every particle of nature, we get to know God better. Some modern scientists view nature from this perspective. But, alas, only some! Naturalists fragment nature, narrower and narrower specializations, e.g. in biology, mean that a botanist learning about a selected group of plants ignores the others, and animals do not interest him at all, sometimes he has to go to the zoologist disrespectful or even hostile attitude. And what is his attitude to learning about inanimate nature? Often embarrassing ignorance of the most elementary issues of physics or astronomy, a complete lack of interest in what lies outside the narrow specialty of a given scientist. Many good comments on this subject can be found in the book entitled. God particle. Authors L. Lendmark and D. Teresi state that in 1987 23 randomly selected Harvard graduates were asked if they knew why it was warmer in summer than in winter? Only two could give the correct answer. The authors write: “In the ignorance of graduates  Harvard – Harvard, for God’s sake! – the saddest thing is that they lose so much. They go through life without understanding the seasons” (16). 

Lederman and Teresi rightly observe that “science is nothing else than an attempt to discover the unity hidden in the diversity of nature”(17). The model of such science is found in Spinoza. Nowadays, ecology is the most suitable for this model. But there is more to Spinoza’s model of science. We are not only supposed to know nature. We are to love her! The intellectual love of God! Spinoza talks a lot about love. Where is love in modern science? Not only that there is no place, but all feeling from science is carefully eliminated. Nature known by the modern scientist (with few exceptions) is devoid of spirit. Harmony, intricate connection and interplay of all elements are not noticed in it. The whole divinity of nature is not perceived. Science has become dry and dispassionate. Objectification, logic, statistics at all costs. Even the science of man is moving in this direction. Psychology studies the statistical man, without blood and without spirit. Yes, there are attempts to oppose it, even more frequent” (18). But a broader vision is needed to confront this dehumanized psychology and drive it out of a dead end. Such a vision is provided by spinozism. Man is part of spiritualized nature, he is part of God. Each person is unique, and the human soul, as it knows and loves God, is eternal. Through the love of God, the human soul is perfected (this aspect of Spinoza’s philosophy is pointed out, among others, by L. Kołakowski (19). This leads to important postulates for ecophilosophy and ecopedagogy. How to teach? Not only by providing students with dry knowledge, often assimilated by memory, without understanding, without capturing the connections between what is taught in individual subjects. Only some pedagogues notice that the student must first of all be interested. Most teachers identify interests with the selective perception and cognition of phenomena. And here it is not only about perception and cognition, but also – and even above all – about experiencing feelings related to the acquisition and possession of knowledge (20). 

In the Short Treatise, Spinoza writes: “[…] for it is absolutely true that God can create everything with the perfection with which it is conceived in his idea. Similarly, things conceived by it cannot be conceived by it more perfectly than they are conceived, and therefore all things can be produced by it with such perfection that they could not be more perfect. (21) “So then, the better knowledge is, the better the object with which it unites. The most perfect man, therefore, is the one who unites himself with God – the most perfect Being – and rejoices in God.”(22) 

“Now, love is born of the concept and knowledge we have of the things at the greater it is, the more greatness and magnificence the given thing reveals to us. […] It is necessary, on the other hand, that we are not free from love, because the weakness of our nature makes it impossible for us to exist without enjoying something with which we are united and which gives us strength.’ (23) 

The previously quoted passages from the Ethics refer to the “intellectual love of God”, the above excerpts from the Short Treatise, as well as some of Spinoza’s letters, point to his pantheism and mystical attitude towards Nature. How to understand this pantheism and mysticism of Spinoza? Opinions are divided here – from attributing atheism to Spinoza, through variously understood pantheism, to panentheism (discussed, for example, in A. Donagan’s book Spinoza) (24). Spinoza’s letters are important in this context. In the letter XXX (according to the numbering provided by L. Kołakowski), Spinoza writes that one of the motives that prompted him to prepare The Theological-Political Treatise was “the opinion about me widespread among the masses, constantly accusing me of atheism; I am forced to deal with it as far as possible”(25). In the letter LXXIU he writes: 

“Indeed, I regard God as immanent, as it is said, and not transcendent the cause of all things. I say that everything is in God and everything is in God moves […]. However, those who think that the Theological-Political Treatise is based on the principle of the identity of God and Nature (by which they mean a certain mass or bodily matter) are completely mistaken.[26] 

Leszek Kołakowski in an essay entitled A mathematician and mystic writes: “Mathematics is morally indifferent, the devil too, we guess, can be an excellent mathematician. Morality in the proper sense rests on the distinction between good and evil, and that which is beyond good and evil is morally vain. But mysticism – and perhaps this is the core of the matter – is beyond good and evil. Certainly mystics, at least in the circle of European culture, when they encounter God, they encounter Him as the source of love, moreover, as love itself. For the mystic, however, his own love is not an affect, not a passion, but rather an attempt to achieve the most perfect possible passivity to the point where he abandons his own personality to identify himself with the source of being. And this love, or this search for unity with God, must exist so all-encompassing and so exclusive that love for people, if not impossible, then reduces to a secondary obligation”(27). 

If mysticism is understood in this way, as presented by L. Kołakowski, then Spinozism would rather not correspond to this understanding. Maybe more Buddhism with its basic concept of nirvana. Spinozism can be treated as rational mysticism (H. Skolimowski). Mysticism does not have to mean losing one’s own personality, and the search for unity with God does not exclude love for other people. Love for God is the highest, says Spinoza, and the soul human is part of God. As H. Skolimowski rightly notes, recognizing oneself as part of God results in an extraordinary responsibility for nature and for other people. After all, there is nothing closer and more useful to a human being than another human being, Spinoza clearly points out. 

Spinoza’s mysticism is conducive to self-knowledge and self-development. In proposition XV of Book V of the Ethics he says: “Whoever understands himself and his affects clearly and distinctly loves God, and all the more. the more he understands himself and his affects” (28). And in the previously quoted proof of Theorem XX Spinoza says that we wish that all of us they enjoyed God’s love. This implies the need to care for other people and enabling them to experience this love, e.g. by making them aware, teaching and upbringing. 

It should also not be forgotten that Spinoza called his philosophical system Ethics. As H. Seidel notes, the naturalistic and rationalistic assumption of Spinoza’s ethics is fulfilled in his metaphysical science of substance. In this pantheistic God-Nature, the order and connection of things is isomorphic to the order and connection of ideas, action in accordance with nature is tantamount to rational action. But when Spinoza derives his ethics from the science of substance, he does so in the context of his central philosophical question: How can morality be possible in a world of necessity, can one then speak of free human acts? How is a man woven into the web of causality to act in order to achieve the highest good and lasting happiness? But it follows from this that the designation of a philosophical system as “ethics” hits the heart of that philosophy. 

Spinoza’s mysticism can therefore be reconciled with self-development and love for other people. Self-development in Spinoza’s approach takes into account the intellectual sphere and feelings. It is probably the most optimal model of human development. This development takes place through mystical exploration of nature, intellectual and emotional union with it. Rationalism and mysticism are not incompatible. And nowhere are they so in harmony with each other as in Spinoza. 

Modern natural science, mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics devote a lot of space to the problem of the mathematical nature of nature. There are real mystics among creative mathematicians and physicists. Command processes become a mystical experience for them. Spinoza put it succinctly and beautifully: “The eyes of the soul with which it sees and perceives things are, namely, evidence.” (32) L. Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus expressed the idea that what is mystical is the feeling of the world as a limited whole. Looking at the world as a limited whole is, as L. Wittgenstein writes, looking at it sub specie aeterni (31). It was Spinoza who wrote that as far as we understand things in their relation to the infinite causal system of nature, we understand them from the “point of view of eternity” (sub specie aeternitatis) (32). 


For ecological awareness, the vision of the world proposed by Spinoza may be of fundamental importance. Perceive the world as an intellectual and aesthetic phenomenon, in which each particle harmoniously interacts with the whole, and experience nature understood in this way, uniting with it with mind and heart. Admire the diversity of species and at the same time appreciate the role of each of them in nature. To be convinced that we are not a pawn in the game of blind forces of nature, but a conscious part of nature, to the laws of which we must intelligently adapt. Therefore, to know nature, to love it and to protect it – and not for other purposes than for nature itself and for our happiness, which flows precisely from the knowledge and love of God, i.e. Nature. If these ideas could be implanted in people just after entering the 21st century, especially those who are responsible for the technological and economic sphere, have an impact on shaping the social structure, on teaching and upbringing, then further development of humanity will go in a positive direction – this is a challenge to eco-philosophy; this is the challenge for ecophilosophy – in the broad sense of the word – and ecopedagogy! 

  1. Por. B. Kuzniecow: Historia filozofii dla fizyków i matematyków, Warszawa 1980. 
  2. Por. R. S. Ingarden: Fizyka i fizycy. Studia i szkice z historii i filozofii fizyki, Toruń 1994. 
  3. Por. B. Kuzniecow: Historia filozofii….op. Cit. 
  4. Por. H. Seidell: Identität von Philosophie und Ethik. Bemerkungen zu Spinozas philosophischem, Hauptwerk, [w:] B. Spinoza: Ethik, Leipzig 1987 
  5. Por. H. Skolimowski: Technika a przeznaczenie człowieka. Warszawa 1995. 
  6. Por. C. G. Jung: O istocie psychiczności. Listy 1906-1961. Warszawa 1996. 
  7. F. Nietzsche: Pisma pozostałe 1862-1875, Kraków 1993. s. 266. 
  8. Ibidem: s. 266. 
  9. Por. E. Nowicka: Świat człowieka— świat kultury. Warszawa 1991. 
  10. Por. A. Einstein: Introduction. [w:] R. Kayscr: Spinoza. New York 1946. 
  11. Por. W. W. Sokolow: Filosofija Spinozy i sowriemiennost. Moskwa 1964; E. Altkirch: Maledictus und Benedictus, Leipzig 1924. 
  12. Por. H. Skolimowski: Technika…. op. cii.; Idem: Nadzieja matką mądrych. Łódź (b.d.w). 
  13. Por. A Naess: Spinoza und Ecology. [w:] S. Hessing: Speculum Spinozanum (1677-1977), 
  14. London 1978; J. Wetlesen: The Saga and the Way. Spinoza’s Ethics of Freedom, Assen 1979; 
  15. P. Wienpahl: The Radical Spinoza, New York 1979; H. Hubbeling: Spinoza, Freiburg-Munchen 1978. 
  16. Por. H. Skolimowski: Technika…, op. cii. 
  17. Por. B. Spinoza: Etyka, Warszawa 1954. 
  18. L. Lederman, D. Teresi: Boska cząstka. Warszawa 1996, s. 518. 
  19. Ibidem: s. 519. 
  20. Por. S. Gerstmann: Podstawy psychologii konkretnej. Warszawa 1987; K Kopczyński: Monografia psychologiczna jako metoda o kluczowym znaczeniu empirycznej psychologii człowieka, [w:] Osobliwości przedmiotowo-metodologiczne w nauce, pr. zbiór, pod red. J. Sucha, M. Szczęśniaka, Poznań 1996. 
  21. Por. L. Kołakowski: Jednostka i nieskończoność. Wolność i antynomie wolności w filozofii Spinozy, Warszawa 1958. 
  22. Por. A. Gurycka: Rozwój i kształtowanie zainteresowań. Warszawa 1987; K. Kopczyński: Zainteresowania i system wartości u nieletnich zagrożonych samobójstwem, Warszawa 1 994; Idem: Kształtowanie i rozwój zainteresowań u osób niepełnosprawnych, [w:] „Folia Padagogica” 1999, nr 3. 
  23. B. Spinoza: Pisma wczesne, Warszawa 1969, s. 237. 
  24. Ibidem: s. 267. 
  25. Ibidem: s. 268. 
  26. Por. A. Donagan: Spinoza, New York, 1988. 
  27. B. Spinoza. Listy mężów uczonych do Benedykta de Spinozy oraz odpowiedzi autora wielce pomocne dla wyjaśnienia jego dzieł, Warszawa 196 1. s. 156. 
  28. Ibidem: s. 316. 
  29. L. Kołakowski: Mini-wykłady o maxi-sprawach, Kraków 1997, s. 106. 
  30. B. Spinoza: Etyka, op. cit., s. 351. 
  31. Por. H Seidel: Identitat mn Philosophic…, op. cii. 
  32. B. Spinoza: Etyka, op. cii., s. 358. 
  33. Por. L. Wittgenstein: Tractatus logico-philosophtcus, Warszawa 1970. 
  34. Por. B. Spinoza. Etyka, op. cit. 
Kazimierz Kopczyński
In my scientific and popularization activities , as well as teaching, I preach the idea of a holistic approach to Man, Earth and the Universe. I am an enthusiast of ecophilosophy, which points to the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of Nature. I am currently a researcher at Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce and at the Higher School of National Economy in Kutno. I graduated from the department of psychology at the University of Lodz, specialty- clinical psychology. I am a graduate of postgraduate studies in Geology at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Ecology and Environmental Protection at the University of Lodz, , Medical Law, Bioethics and Medical Sociology at the University of Warsaw , and Geriatrics and Long-Term Care at the Jagiellonian University. I am a member of the Polish Botanical Society, the Polish Mycological Society, the Polish Copernicus Society of Naturalists and the Polish Suicidological Society.