Andrea Sangiacomo offers a new understanding of Spinoza's moral philosophy, how his views significantly evolved over time, and how he himself struggled during his career to develop a theory that could speak to human beings as they actually are--imperfect, passionate, and often not very rational.
This paper argues that Spinoza's notions of “conatus” and “power of acting” are derived by means of generalization from the notions of “force of motion” and “force of determination” that Spinoza discussed in his Principles of Cartesian Philosophy to account for interactions among bodies on the basis of their degrees of contrariety. I argue that in the Ethics, Spinoza's ontology entails that interactions must always be accounted for in terms of degrees of “agreement or disagreement in nature” among interacting things. (...) The notion of “power of acting” is used to express the extent to which a thing's conatus is aided or restrained by external causes on the basis of its degree of agreement or disagreement in nature with them. “Power of acting” generalizes the same approach and method of resolution at the basis of the notion of “force of determination” in order to account for causal interactions not only among the simplest bodies but also among more complex individuals. (shrink)
Integrates Spinoza's thought into the contemporary debate on interpersonal relationships and individual autonomy The question of how to understand autonomy has emerged as a critical issue in contemporary political philosophy. Feminists and others argue that autonomy cannot be adequately conceived without taking into consideration the ways in which it is shaped by our relationships with others. This collection of 13 new essays shows what Baruch Spinoza can add to our understanding of the relational nature of autonomy. By offering a relational (...) understanding of the nature of individuals centred on the role played by emotions, Spinoza offers not only historical roots for contemporary debates but also broadens the current discussion. At the same time, reading Spinoza as a theorist of relational autonomy underscores the consistency of his overall metaphysical, ethical and political project, which has been clouded by the standard rationalist interpretation of his works. (shrink)
This paper aims at reconstructing the ethical issues raised by Spinoza's early Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. Specifically, I argue that Spinoza takes issue with Descartes’ epistemology in order to support a form of “ethical intellectualism” in which knowledge is envisaged as both necessary and sufficient to reach the supreme good. First, I reconstruct how Descartes exploits the distinction between truth and certainty in his Discourse on the Method. On the one hand, this distinction acts as the basis (...) for Descartes’ epistemological rules while, on the other hand, it implies a “morale par provision” in which adequate knowledge is not strictly necessary to practice virtue. Second, I show that Spinoza rejects the distinction between truth and certainty and thus the methodological doubt. This move leads Spinoza to substitute the Cartesian Cogito with the idea of God as the only adequate standard of knowledge, through which the mind can attain the rules to reach the supreme good. Third, I demonstrate that in the Short Treatise Spinoza develops this view by equating intellect and will and thus maintaining that only adequate knowledge can help to contrast affects. However, I also insist that Spinoza's early epistemology is unable to explain why human beings drop conceive of the idea of God inadequately. Thus, I suggest that in his later writings Spinoza accounts for the insufficiency of adequate knowledge in opposing the power of the imagination and passions by reconnecting the nature of ideas with the mind's conatus. (shrink)
This paper aims to discuss Spinoza’s theory of consciousness by arguing that consciousness is the expression of bodily complexity in terms of adequate knowledge. Firstly, I present the link that Spinoza built up in the second part of the Ethics between the ability of the mind to know itself and the idea ideae theory. Secondly, I present in what sense consciousness turns out to be the result of an adequate knowledge emerging from the epistemological resources of a body as complex (...) as the human one. Thirdly, I address a possible objection that might arise in considering our daily-life experience of consciousness. I conclude that understanding consciousness in terms of adequate knowledge is coherent with both our phenomenological experience and Spinoza’s texts. Such an interpretation permits to underline the overthrow of Descartes’ account of consciousness by Spinoza. (shrink)
In this paper, I investigate Louis de La Forge's argument against body–body causation. His general strategy exploits the impossibility of bodies communicating their movement by transfer of motion. I call this the ‘non-transfer’ argument . NT allows La Forge both to reinterpret continuous creation in an occasionalistic fashion and to support his non-occasionalistic view concerning mind–body union. First, I present how NT emerges in Descartes’ own texts. Second, I show how La Forge recasts it to draw an occasionalistic account of (...) body–body interactions, and I discuss how La Forge supports NT with continuous creation. Third, I conclude by suggesting that this further step of his argument does not undermine his non-occasionalistic account of mind–body union. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThe ‘model approach’ facilitates a quantitative-oriented study of conceptual changes in large corpora. This paper implements the ‘model approach’ to investigate the erosion of the traditional art-nature distinction in early modern natural philosophy. I argue that a condition for this transformation has to be located in the late scholastic conception of final causation. I design a conceptual model to capture the art-nature distinction and formulate a working hypothesis about its early modern fate. I test my hypothesis on a selected corpus (...) of 25 works published in the Dutch academic milieu between 1607 and 1748. I analyse the corpus through a procedure based on concordancing of keywords associated with the model. I argue that the results obtained constitute a successful pilot study for the implementation of the model approach on larger scale research. (shrink)
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. in the appendix to the first part of the Ethics, Spinoza famously claims that “all final causes are nothing but human fictions”. From the very beginning of its reception until the (...) present day, supporters of Spinoza’s philosophy commonly praised this attack on final causes. In fact, Spinoza emphatically introduces the Appendix by making clear that a correct... (shrink)
This bibliographical essay reconstructs the scholarly debate concerning Spinoza’s account of the body over the last ninety years. The paper focuses on the notion of body considered only from a physical point of view. Questions concerning the ontological status of bodies, the nature of their essence, their power of operating, or the sources of Spinoza’s views have originated a long-standing discussion. This reconstruction presents the main solutions developed so far, and pinpoints the still understudied areas in the field.
Today’s debates present ”occasionalism’ as the position that any satisfying account of divine action must avoid. In this paper I discuss how a leading Cartesian author of the end of the seventeenth century, Pierre-Sylvain Régis, attempted to avoid occasionalism. Régis’s case is illuminating because it stresses both the difficulties connected with the traditional alternatives to occasionalism and also those aspects embedded in the occasionalist position that should be taken into due account. The paper focuses on Régis’s own account of secondary (...) causation in order to show how the challenge of avoiding occasionalism can lead to the development of new accounts of divine action. (shrink)
This paper outlines the role of the bodily essence in Spinoza’s epistemology. Spinoza maintains in the Ethics that the power of the imagination depends on bodily affections and it explains the inadequateness of imaginative ideas. However, Spinoza also exploits the capabilities of the human body to work out his account of common notions, which grounds the adequate knowledge provided by reason. Moreover, the essentia corporis plays a crucial role in the fifth part of the Ethics. Indeed, the “eternal part” of (...) the mind depends on the adequate idea of the eternal essence of the human body. By connecting this idea with other ideas, the mind has the power of ordering its ideas according to the intellect. Thus, the mind increases the number of the ideas it conceives of sub specie aeternitatis. In this sense, the bodily essence is not only the ground of Spinoza’s epistemology but also of Spinoza’s doctrine of the eternity of the mind. (shrink)
The Tractatus de intellectus emendatione was considered by a great part of scholars an incomplete work. In this essay, instead, the Author tries to explain how, on one hand, all is demanded by the method’s argument there’s in fact in the text, so its incomplete aspects are just formal, not about content. On the other hand, the theory, about the best knowledge of singular things should be deduced by the infinite order of ideas and eternal things, has many hard problems, (...) because the infinite can’t be never totally known, and so adequately. That’s properly the aporia inside spinozism, and we can find it, at the best, in this first work. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Although natural philosophy underwent dramatic transformations during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, studying its evolution as a whole remains problematic. In this paper, we present a method that integrates traditional reading and computational tools in order to distil from different resources a representative corpus for mapping the evolution of natural philosophy. In particular, we focus on gathering authors and works that were engaged with the teaching of natural philosophy in the early modern academic milieu. We offer a preliminary assessment (...) of the relevance of our corpus by investigating one aspect of this evolution, namely the trends in the acknowledgments of authorities linked with different and competing approaches to natural philosophy. The results not only corroborate existing knowledge, but they also show distinctive features and differences within these trends that were not observed previously, thus illustrating the heuristic potential of our computational method for corpus collection. (shrink)
In this essay a theoretical comparison is presented between the perspective developed by Heidegger in Being and time regarding authentic existence and the analogous one afforded by the ethics of Spinoza. The bearing thesis is that these two perspectives have a common theoretical presupposition: the essence of every entity is founded in its rooting in the world or nature in which it exists. Nevertheless, it appears that the results which the two authors reach are opposite. While Heidegger develops a radically (...) contingentist approach that through the concept of being-for-death and anticipatory decision transforms being-in the-world itself into a mere unfounded accident, Spinoza’s ontology works out this affiliation in terms of absolute necessitarianism, ultimately identifying the essence of every entity with the activity that it carries out in nature. This leads to a diametrically opposite conception of freedom: while for Heidegger this must be thought of first of all as emancipation from dispersion and dejection in the world, for Spinoza being free means being adequate causes of the effects that necessarily derive from one’s nature.". (shrink)
This new Cambridge Critical Guide to Spinoza’s Ethics offers an extensive, thought-provoking, and up-to-date state of the scholarly conversation that surrounds one of Spinoza’s most studied masterpieces. The first six chapters address topics mostly related to parts one and two of the Ethics. Don Garrett discusses the identity of the attributes. Warren Zev Harvey suggests that Maimonides’s critique of final causes can be considered as an important source for Spinoza’s treatment of the same topic in the appendix to part one. (...) John Morrison argues that Spinoza’s treatment of the nature of the human mind entails a rejection of the indiscernibility of the identicals. Martin Lin contributes a new interpretation of... (shrink)
In the third intermède of Le Malade Imaginaire, Molière imagines a sort of medical convention in which "the wisest experts and professors of Medicine" examine whether a bachelor candidate can be deemed to enter the medical profession. As the first question in this examination, the "Chief physician" asks, "What is the cause and reason [causam et rationem] why opium induces sleep?" The candidate answers without the least hesitation: "Because it contains a sleeping virtue [virtus dormitiva], whose nature is to put (...) the senses to sleep." The answer is followed by a jubilant reaction by the choir: "Good, good, good, he answers well, he is worthy of entering in our wise gild."1The scene is intended to be a... (shrink)