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Spinoza's Psychological Theory (part I)

A quick introduction to Spinoza's psychology theory
by

Dany Vilela

on 24 February 2015

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Transcript of Spinoza's Psychological Theory (part I)

Spinoza's Psychological Theory
an introduction to Spinoza's philosophy
(Part I)
Mind & Body
In the previous presentation, we've seen what was Spinoza's concept of Nature...
Let's focus on us this time.
What are we?
We are:
a
body
a
mind
+
Our
body
is a composition of composition (...) of
particles
Our
mind
is the "
idea of our body
", that is to say, the
awareness
of it (the
consciousness
)
Well... contrary to Descartes, Spinoza didn't think
Mind
and
Body
were really separated.
They are
distinct
but not separated in Spinoza's philosophy.
The
Mind
has an influence on the
Body
...
The
Body
has an influence on the
Mind
...
(One does not control the other like a driver would control a car...)
Everything that happens in the
body
is reflected in your
mind
And everything that happen in your
mind
is reflected in your
body
We call this perspective:
parallelism
.
When we have alcohol in our blood, we are less able to think straight...
When we are anxious, we will start biting our nails...
nothing new, right?
"I have a
body
"
Actually, in Spinoza's perspective, we shouldn't even say:
but
"I am a
body
"
(a body necessarily comes with the awareness of it when we speak of a living creature)
Our power
We are also driven by a
conatus
:
The
conatus
is

an inclination to persist in our existence
It urges us to maintain the
compositions
of our
body
, that is to say... to keep on living
Our hability to fulfil our
conatus
is defined as our
power of acting
In French, the word for power is "
pouvoir
" (noun)
"
pouvoir
" (verb) also means "to be able to"
The
power of acting
really represents what you are able to do to maintain your existence
But this
power of acting
evolves in time...
When we are a baby, our
power of acting
is extremely limited for example
But in fact... this
power of acting
is constantly evolving... every nanosecond, it is
increasing
or
decreasing
...
Our
Joy & Sorrow
You see... our
body
makes us prone to be
affected
by external causes...
Spinoza defines this as:
an
affection
*: state our a body being affected by another body.
*affectio in latin
We are constantly being
affected
by our environment that surrounds us:
Light is affecting us most of the time, it basically allows us to see.

When we get sick, we are being affected by an external body destroying our compositions
We are also
affected
by our thoughts since they are a mental representation of something:
Every
affection
is reflected in our mind
When you picture a knife grinding on a plate, you will have a physical reaction: you will cringe.

When we remember a shameful moment of our past, we feel embarrassed...
Every
affection
has an infuence in our
power of acting
:
Some affections helps us
maintaining our compositions
increase
our
power of acting
are
good
for us.
Some affections
destroy our compositions
decrease
our
power of acting
are
bad
for us.
And this is where it gets interesting...
an increase of the
power of acting
is defined as
joy
(positive
affect
)
Joy
and
Sorrow
are two affects.
a decrease of the
power of acting
is defined as
sorrow
(negative
affect
)
This idea that
power of acting
evolves according to
affections
is an important part of Spinoza's philosophy.
He defines this as:
an
affect
*: transition from a level of power of acting to another one.
*affectus in latin
vs.
Desires
But there's more...
Desire
is also an affect...
Desire
is the expression of our
conatus
... it is our
conatus
oriented towards an external object...

We always
desire
what we think will increase our
power of acting
, that is to say, what will bring
joy
to us.
In other words...
desires
are expressions of our urge to persist in our existence...
Desiring
is all about looking for what's will increase our
power of acting
.
what helps us maintain our compositions
We desire what we think is
good
for us
what increase our
power of acting
what brings
joy
to us.
We don't
desire
something because it is good... but

it is perceived as good because we
desire
it...
But there's a subtility here:
The external object in itself actually has little to do in our
desire
process...
Also note that Spinoza's perspective on
desire
is really different from the classic view:
We don't
desire
something we miss.
Desire
is not the expression of a lack.
Desire
is the expression of our urge to persist in our existence.
Desire
is the expression of a positive force (conatus), not a negative one (lack of something)
Wait a minute... soooo if I want happiness, I just should follow my desires?
Yes!
But not so fast... it's not so easy...
But we'll tackle this in the next presentation
Thanks for watching!
Dany Vilela
@TheOnlyDany
Full transcript