Spinoza and the Virtues

In book three of the Ethics, Spinoza lays out what our various emotions are. That is, he explains a whole gamut of experiences. Just some of the things he explains are: jealousy, love, joy, sadness, anger, envy, humility, pride, and pity. He explains each of these as a relationship between things we love and things we hate. For example, jealousy is that affection when we see something we want being had by another, the thing we long for is loved, creating joy in us, but it is taken away from us by another, creating sadness in us. This intermingling of love and sadness gets us jealousy. All sad things, Spinoza says, are something we try to eliminate. We want to eliminate the person restricting our access to thing we love, we want it from him. The sadness transfers to the person holding the thing we want, and we come to hate him because of it.

All joyful ideas of things increase our body’s power of acting or our mind’s power of willing. So, if I love something, the object of my love is supposed to increase one or both these things. We long to be possessors of our own actions, and these ideas of things enable us to do so. Joy and sadness are contagious in a way. Just like we feel sadness (hatred it turns out) toward the person who owns the thing we love, the situation turns itself on the person possessing.

This is a strange way to look at the world, especially since Spinoza sees himself to be doing metaphysics. From his metaphysics, these ideas must arise. Why is freedom (or the illusion thereof) so important to Spinoza? Why is this chief in our desire?

What about Spinoza was all will and appetite?

~ by Barky on September 16, 2011.

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