Although we tend to see desire as the proximate cause of action, we tend also to conceive of desire as involving teleology or final causes. If desire causes me to pick up the cup, what causes my desire? The common-sense answer is teleological: I have, as an end, coffee, and I am, in a sense, drawn toward it. Spinoza, though well-aware of the fact that we commonly suppose that there are teleological causes of our actions, denies that such causes are anything other than appetite.
Spinoza does not clearly deny, here, that there are teleological causes of action. For arguments against the view that Spinoza denies all teleology, see Garrett 2 and Lin 2. He does, however, identify such causes with efficient causes. He needs to show, then, how the ends of human action relate to the processes of efficient causation.
For this task, Spinoza introduces the other primary affects and a number of psychological laws associated with them. He introduces the primary passions at IIIp11s. The perfectionist language Spinoza uses is important for an understanding of the basis for ethics that he finds in psychology. Here, however, it may be understood in terms of striving.
Spinoza thus provides, in his account of the affects, the basis for an explanation of how it is that introspection into our conscious experience of desire might fail to bring us accurate knowledge of our own psychological processes. Our conscious experience in forming our desires, has an emotional component: we experience joy and sadness and varieties of these. But we may be unaware of why we feel joy or sadness or why, really, we desire what we desire.
If I imagine that coffee will lead to joy, then I will desire that joy and so that coffee. IIIp28, strictly speaking, is not an exhaustive characterization of objects of desire.
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It implies only that we desire anything which we imagine will lead to joy and are averse to whatever we imagine will lead to sadness and not that we might not have other kinds of desires also, desires unrelated to either joy or sadness. What may seem on introspection, then, to be a wholly teleological cause of action, the end represented by an object of desire, is for Spinoza a peculiar manifestation in consciousness of striving, which in turn is an efficient cause of action.
Perhaps the psychological view that Spinoza introduces at IIIp28 is susceptible to the sort of objection which one might raise against psychological hedonism, the view that human beings only desire pleasure, the avoidance of pain, and what is instrumental to these things. It may seem to some people that IIIp28 is not consistent with their own experience of their motives in acting.
So, someone with a strong sense of justice might say:. Spinoza attempts to show that there are many varieties of joy, sadness, and desire. Thus he might attempt to address the complaint by showing that its author offers a slightly inaccurate description of the situation:.
Far from insisting that there is one particular kind of emotion that moves people, Spinoza writes that there is an innumerable variety of affects:.
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IIIp51 assures us, moreover, that the same object might affect different people, or even the same person at different times, in different ways. So Spinoza protects himself from the charge that IIIp28 is obviously false albeit at the risk of forwarding an unfalsifiable psychological claim by arguing that, despite the seeming simplicity of that proposition, it cannot be falsified by the great variety of conscious human motives. Although Spinoza repeatedly insists that the variety of affects is innumerable, he nevertheless does characterize, in his own terms, many of the traditional passions, each of which is a kind of joy, sadness, or desire.
If continued perseverance in being is what virtuous agents seek, then, Spinoza will be committed to the view that pity is not a virtue. This revisionary tendency in his thought is tempered, however, by IIIp54, where he presents pity, and also the other traditional Christian virtues of humility and repentance, as, if not genuine virtues themselves, at least means to virtue, by which people are made more able to come to learn to follow the dictates of reason.
His remarks concerning the impossibility of controlling the passions and the desirability of controlling them nevertheless to the extent that we can V Preface similarly emphasize the ethical importance of self-knowledge and freedom from external influences. Active joy, which must include at least some types of warranted self-esteem, and active desires, among which Spinoza lists at IIIp59s tenacity animositas and nobility generositas , are wholly active however; that is, they are emotions and desires that people have only insofar as they are adequate causes, or genuine actors.
Notice that sadness cannot ever be an active emotion. People cannot, insofar as they are active bring it about that their power of acting is decreased, so passive sadness, unlike passive joy and desire, has no active counterpart. Moreover, his ethics, with its emphasis on self-esteem and self-knowledge appears in ways to be an individualistic one: the good, when I attain it, is a perfection of myself, not of society or the world. However, Spinoza does offer an argument IVp37 for the view that any good that I want for myself I will have reason to want for others as well, and, in the Ethics , this argument forms the basis of morality and the state IVp37s1 and s2, respectively.
As Spinoza defines it, it is a wholly active desire to join others in friendship and to aid them. It helps to supply, in Spinoza theory of the affects, a basis for the view that aiding others is virtuous and rational.
For a discussion of the connection between the affects and desire in 3p28, see LeBuffe a, Chapters 5—7 and Della Rocca b pp. Lloyd offers accounts of various particular affects. For a detailed discussion of self-esteem, see Rutherford So his discussions of good and evil and of human perfection in Part III provide the basis for the formal ethical argument which follows in Parts IV and V.
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If Martha calls music evil, then, what that indicates to one who knows about the human use of these terms is that the music is evil to Martha. Moreover, since the same music can be good or evil for different people, or for people in different states, the two-place predication reveals more about Martha than about the music. It must be some fact about the person, rather than some fact about the thing called good or evil, that is of central importance to the understanding of the label.
The ambitious man desires nothing so much as esteem and dreads nothing so much as shame. So, if it is true that we call a thing good only if we desire it, then it will also be true that anything we call good will be joy or what leads to it. However, Spinoza might be extending rather than merely restating his position at IIIp39s. Every kind of joy we experience is not presumably a result of conscious desire, and Spinoza allows at IIIP39s that these instances of joy i.
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So not only is whatever Martha desires good for her, but, in addition, anything which she does not desire but which nonetheless might bring her joy will also be good. At IV Preface Spinoza invokes a concept of perfection based upon a model of human nature that we set before ourselves. Thus Spinoza has two different accounts of human perfection which might contribute to the perfectionist language of the ethical argument that he develops in various ways in Parts IV and V. On the other hand, the first account might imply a different set of norms from IIIp39s: it seems that we may have different models of human nature that we set before ourselves, and that they may or may not include the various things that give us joy.
Perhaps the formal account of perfection at IId6 and later at IIIp11 give Spinoza a means of reformulating the idea of perfection as a model of human nature in a way which reconciles the two senses of the term: the ideal we set before ourselves will be a person who possesses the greatest possible power of action. This would be, in effect, to correlate our systematically distorted ways of perceiving ourselves—as free agents pursuing as an end a model of human nature—with the causes that really determine our actions.
The Human Being as Part of Nature 1. The Affects 2. The Psychological Basis for a Theory of Value 3.