The monograph offers an original account of Spinoza’s philosophy and ethics concentrated on its concordance with selected modern neuroscientific theories. The book proceeds through the whole of Spinoza’s philosophy and by increasingly complex analytical account acquaints with its essential frameworks, terminology, and concepts, and is thus accessible also to readers who are not yet familiar with the thought of this peculiar thinker. The fundamental motives of this interpretation are the nature of the mind and the questions of human freedom and (...) human bondage, mainly in connection with the investigation of affects (passions and drives) that the mind tends to be bound with. In his philosophy, Spinoza not only offers brilliant analyses of human experience but in anticipation of modern psychotherapeutic techniques suggests practical methods for the realization of sufficiently functional affective-cognitive self-therapy aimed at the regulation and control of one’s passivity. The understanding of and working with one’s weaknesses is, according to Spinoza, the necessary condition for realizing one’s freedom, or – for being able to shift from pathetics to ethics. (shrink)
Selfhood is a topic of great interest in early modern philosophy. In this essay, I will discuss Spinoza’s radical position on the topic of selfhood. Whereas for Descartes and Leibniz, there is a manifold of thinking substances, for Spinoza, there is, crucially only one: God. Minds, for Spinoza, do not have substantial status, they are instead merely complexes of ideas, and thus complex modes of the one substance: God. Observations such as these often lead Spinoza’s readers to the conclusion that, (...) whereas for Descartes as for Leibniz, human beings have robust or genuine selves, this is not so for Spinoza. However, this reductionist interpretation is also challenged—in recent times most intriguingly by Koistinen. Koistinen has argued that there are, fundamentally, human selves of whom agency can be predicated in Spinozism. In this paper I discuss to what extent this is true. In section 1, I introduce the reductionist interpretation of selfhood in Spinoza’s thought. In section 2.1, I present and criticize Koistinen’s proposal. In section 2.2, I acknowledge the strength of Koistinen’s view that insofar as human beings act, they are God somehow. In section 3, I propose an alternative reading of human selfhood in terms of witnessing being acted out rather than in terms of being an agent. This view isprima facieparadoxical. In section 4, I nonetheless support it by highlighting that Spinoza seems to have seen practical benefits in knowing oneself to be acted out by God. I conclude the essay by pointing out some comparative directions for future research. (shrink)
In recent years, the notion of relational autonomy has transformed the old debate about the freedom of the individual in society. For Spinoza, individual humans are embedded in natural, social and political circumstances from which they derive their power and freedom. I take this to mean that Spinoza’s is best described as a constitutive theory of relational autonomy. I will show how by defining freedom in terms of power, Spinoza understands individual freedom as irreducibly relational. I propose that Spinoza develops (...) his theory of power to understand how individual power or freedom is limited and enhanced by the power of those around one. For Spinoza, the power of an individual is a function of that individual’s emotions, imaginative conceptions of itself and the world and its appetites. In this paper (1) I will argue that Spinoza reformulates a concept of freedom in terms of power. (2) His mature theory of freedom as power proposes that individual power is determined through social interaction, and is thus best understood as a relational theory of freedom. (3) I will show that as a consequence of Spinoza’s theory, individual power and empowerment relies on those around the individual, and thus, to achieve individual liberation we must pursue collective empowerment. (shrink)
In this paper, I investigate whether Spinoza theory of intellect can be considered as an Averroistic, Themistian or Alexandrian theory of intellect. I identify key doctrines of these theories that are argumentatively and theoretically independent from Aristotelian hylomorphism and thus can be accepted by someone rejecting hylomorphism. Next, I argue that the textual evidence is inconclusive: depending on the reading of Spinoza's philosophy accepted, Spinoza's theory of intellect can or cannot be considered as an Averroistic theory.
The example of the Spanish poet’s amnesia, mentioned by Spinoza in the scholium of proposition 39 of part IV of the Ethics in order to elucidate his conception of death, has given rise to many controversies in the scholarly interpretations, which in most cases maintain that the poet dies and that Spinoza himself thought this way. However, the matter is more complex than it at first appears and in this article I take a different path by reconstructing this scholium anew (...) and providing an alternative interpretation. The comparison with selected passages of part V highlights the presence of a bi-conditional between the ratio of motion and rest that a body possesses, and its aptitude to be affected and affect in many more ways. In particular, the latter allows us to acknowledge the continuity of the poet’s individuality, expressed in his mind–body union grounded by the parallelism theory. As a result, the poet case has a crucial explanatory role for Spinoza’s theory of the eternity of the human mind and if one misunderstands the former, the latter is also misconceived. (shrink)
Locke is often thought to have introduced the topic of personal identity into philosophy when, in the second edition of theEssay,he distinguished the person from both the human being and the soul. Each of these entities differs from the others with respect to their identity conditions, and so they must be ontologically distinct. In particular, Locke claimed, a person cannot survive total memory loss, although a human being or a soul can.
An exposition of Spinoza's views of the cause and cure of death. He holds death to be disruption of mind/body which need not involve becoming a corpse; amnesia counts. It follows that his criterion of personal identity includes memory, so Spinozistic immortality is impersonal. The cause of death is always something external, for nothing can destroy itself. (This principle, however, is not universally true; Spinoza was led to it by mistaken physics.) Suicide is irrational. Fear of death is to be (...) overcome by realization that since adequate ideas are eternal, to the extent that they consitute our minds we are eternal also. (But if so, isn't suicide rational after all? And since language depends on memory, the eternal understanding of adequate ideas is non-linguistic and non-symbolic; what then can it be?). (shrink)
With the proviso that Spinoza's concerns were philosophical, not medical, we examine the Ethics with a view to bringing out those aspects of it which are of import for mental health. We find that the Ethics surrounds the idea that man can be egoless in the Buddhist sense of that term. This concept provides a criterion of mental health. Further, according to Spinoza's theory of the Affections, those which are passive include some which are based on pain. These he 'enumerates (...) among the diseases'. And for them he provides, in Part V, specific 'remedies'. This in turn leads him to equate 'Mental Freedom or beatitude' with a 'healthy Mind'. We thus have in Part V additional possible criteria of mental health. Finally, there is the suggestion that philosophy for Spinoza was a kind of therapy.' There is not a philosophical method, though there are indeed methods, like different therapies. — The philosopher's treatment of a question is like the treatment of an illness. — A main cause of philosophical disease — a onesided diet . . . Wittgenstein This doctrine of knowledge first and action later is not a minor disease . . . My present advocacy of the unity of knowledge and action is precisely the medicine for that disease. Wang Yang-ming When asked by two disciples which of the views of each was correct, Wang replied: both are. Which is used depends on the kind of person you are trying to help. Some persons need this one, others that. (shrink)
Spinoza's avowed aim is to discover and present the essential stages in achieving the life of human blessedness. The most important element in this progression is knowledge, of one's own nature as man, and of one's place in the universe. Utility as opposed to truth of belief will not serve Spinoza's purpose. Spinoza assumes the unity of the human individual without question, and it is doubtful whether this assumption is justified on his own principles. The concept of the human individual (...) is examined first as a system of modifications of substance under the attributes of extension and thought, then as enduring and finally as an agent. The conclusion is reached that unity and self?identity are illusions, but the question then arises: Who or what could be under such illusions ? The possibility of false claims to self?identity is examined and found to be difficult to accept. Nevertheless, if Spinoza is taken as speaking suitably at varying levels of discourse, he has enlightening things to say about the human person, even though from one point of view his enterprise may be seen as self?stultifying. (shrink)