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HIS330H5 Chapter Notes -Baruch Spinoza

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Kevin P.Coleman

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Spinoza's 'On the Origin and Nature of the Emotions' starts by discussing other
writers. Other writers on emotion typically argue that humans disrupt natures order and that
humans have ultimate control over everything. Spinoza disagrees with this account on emotions
on natures order.
He starts by simply saying don‟t count out emotions nor to even underestimate them.
Spinoza goes on to define certain terms. One important one to note is that emotion is defined as
“the active power of the said body is increased or diminished, aided or constrained, and also the
ideas of such modifications”. To the best of my understanding this means that something inside
of us that is excited or de-excited to get us to do(or not to do) some actions
Spinoza then proposes three postulates. The first postulate is that the change mentioned
above can occur in different ways and of course they can have no effect at all. He continues that
change may happen but it may result in keeping our active state (an activity). Spinoza then
discusses how all have human some good ideas and other incomplete or bad ideas and that in the
end our ideas are reliable and are usually good enough to be acted upon. We act and are active
(emotionally) more or less depending on the amount of good and incomplete thoughts.
The second postulate is about how the mind can‟t determine the body‟s actions just as the
body can‟t determine how the mind thinks. This might not makes sense in terms of biological
terms but philosophically he says that “motion and rest of a body must arise from another body,
which has also been determined to a state of motion or rest by a their body, and absolutely
everything which takes place in a body must spring from God.
The final postulate of Spinoza is that adequate ideas (which he already defined as ideas
that have a cause and effect on us) motivate us while inadequate ideas result in passive states.
Overall I feel very confused with this reading. I understand (I think I understand) the postulates
he proposes but his examples that he calls the „proof‟ provides additional confusion.
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