Propositions 14-19

Proposition 20. The more every man endeavours, and is able to seek what is useful to him—in other words, to preserve his own being—the more is he endowed with virtue; Proof: Virtue is human power, which is defined solely by man's essence (4. Def. 8), that is, which is defined solely by the endeavour made by man to persist in his own being. Note: No one, therefore, neglects seeking his own good, or preserving his own being, unless he be overcome by causes external and foreign to his nature.   Proposition 21. No one can desire to be blessed, to act rightly, and to live rightly, without at the same time wishing to be, act, and to live—in other words, to actually exist. Proof: The proof of this proposition, or rather the proposition itself, is self-evident, and is also plain from the definition of desire.   Proposition 22. No virtue can be conceived as prior to this endeavour to preserve one's own being. Proof: The effort for self-preservation is the essence of a thing (3.7.). Corollary: The effort for self-preservation is the first and only foundation of virtue.   Proposition 23. Man, in so far as he is determined to a particular action because he has inadequate ideas, cannot be absolutely said to act in obedience to virtue. Proof: In so far as a man is determined to an action through having inadequate ideas, he is passive (3.1.), that is (3. Deff. 1., and 3), he does something, which cannot be perceived solely through his essence, that is (by 4 Def. 8), which does not follow from his virtue.   Proposition 24. To act absolutely in obedience to virtue is in us the same thing as to act, to live, or to preserve one's being (these three terms are identical in meaning) in accordance with the dictates of reason on the basis of seeking what is useful to one's self. Proof: To act absolutely in obedience to virtue is nothing else but to act according to the laws of one's own nature.   Proposition 25. No one wishes to preserve his being for the sake of anything else. Proof: The endeavour, wherewith everything endeavours to persist in its being, is defined solely by the essence of the thing itself (3.7.).   Proposition 26. Whatsoever we endeavour in obedience to reason is nothing further than to understand; neither does the mind, in so far as it makes use of reason, judge anything to be useful to it, save such things as are conducive to understanding. Proof: The effort for self-preservation is nothing else but the essence of the thing in question (3.7.), which, in so far as it exists such as it is, is conceived to have force for continuing in existence (3.6.) and doing such things as necessarily follow from its given nature (see the Def. of Appetite, 3.9. note).   Proposition 27. We know nothing to be certainly good or evil, save such things as really conduce to understanding, or such as are able to hinder us from understanding. Proof: The mind, in so far as it reasons, desires nothing beyond understanding, and judges nothing to be useful to itself, save such things as conduce to understanding (by the foregoing Prop.).   Proposition 28. The mind's highest good is the knowledge of God, and the mind's highest virtue is to know God. Proof: The mind is not capable of understanding anything higher than God, that is (1. Def. 6), than a Being absolutely infinite, and without which (1.15.) nothing can either be or be conceived; therefore (4.26. and 27), the mind's highest utility or (4. Def. 1) good is the knowledge of God.