How Faustian Ethics Relates to Spinoza’s

Spinoza has a quirky way of ordering his Ethics. Quotes from his Ethics are within quotations marks.

Proposition 39

“He whose body is capable of the greatest amount of activity has a mind whose greatest part is eternal.”

Proposition 40

“The more perfection a thing has, the more active and less passive it is. Conversely, the more active it is, the more perfect it is.”

For Spinoza, one is active when they are aware by way of reason. When one is passive it is by way of emotion, thus unconscious in a sense. Freedom is when one lives by reason in an active life. Faustian ethics are taken straight from Spinoza, it’s passivity is bad, activity is the good, but its more nuanced with Spinoza in mind. Thus we get a man who ceaselessly strives driven by a higher spirit.

A quote from Faust

God says to Mephistopheles, “Man errs as long as he doth strive.”

Taken in another way it means striving entail error as friction with movement.

Corollary to Proposition 40:

“[P]art of the mind that survives, of whatever extent it may be, is more perfect than the rest. For the eternal part of the mind is the intellect, through which alone we are said to be active, whereas that part which we have shown to perish is the imagination through which alone we are to be passive.”

The eternal part of Faust that is saved at the end, is born up by the angels.

Chorus of Angels

“Ardous of Heaven!

Round whom they brood,

In life is given

Bliss with the Good.

Laud ye together,

Rise to your goal;

Cleansed is the ether,

Breathe thou, O Soul!

The caption then reads, *They rise aloft, bearing away Faust’s immortal part.

Goethe was greatly influenced by Spinoza but one way in which he differs from Spinoza is discovered in Faust’s Romantic sermon given to Gretchen. Unlike Spinoza, Faust attributes our awareness of God by way of feeling. Feeling connects us to everything including the divine. It’s a pantheistic prayer.
Here is his Romantic sermon (Taken from the Kline translation):

Faust “Sweetest being, don’t misunderstand me!
Who dares name the nameless?
Or who dares to confess:
‘I believe in him’?
Yet who, in feeling,3435

Self-revealing, Says: ‘I don’t believe’?
The all-clasping,
The all-upholding,
Does it not clasp, uphold,3440

You: me, itself?
Don’t the heavens arch above us?
Doesn’t earth lie here under our feet?
And don’t the eternal stars, rising,
Look down on us in friendship?3445

Are not my eyes reflected in yours?
And don’t all things press
On your head and heart,
And weave, in eternal mystery,
Visibly: invisibly, around you?3450

Fill your heart from it: it is so vast,
And when you are blessed by the deepest feeling,
Call it then what you wish,
Joy! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name3455

For it! Feeling is all:”

Enlightenment philosophers starting with the Greeks attributed reason to our chiefest part, but the Romantics rebelled against it because the feeling of sublimity, love, of awe are our transcendence. That’s why the moment Faust will trade every for is a moment that transcends time and space, a moment he can never tire of, and this is when the quarry becomes the chase. it turns Spinoza on its head because heaven on earth isn’t reason after all. It’s not a reason but an experience (or atleast a belief). And what is it that Faust charishes? It’s the experience of freedom as he believes his people are now free to work on a land they can call their own. Faust is overcome by the gift of giving, and what he believes he is giving is their freedom, where they these people can be active now. This is when Faust discovers the divinity within himself.