Wednesday, November 23, 2016

632: From metaphysics to psychology

Spinoza sought primarily to improve the character of human beings, both himself and others, by improving their self-understanding. 
He justified this endeavour ultimately on the grounds that it would bring human beings peace of mind as integral aspect of nature.

His ethical purposes are in many ways Hobbesian. Like Hobbes (1588 - 1679), a contemporary of Spinoza, he conceives of human beings as mechanisms in nature that are motivated 
by self-preservation and individual advantage, and who, by the mutual employment of reason, can improve their way of life. 
Hobbes's aim, however, is to show human beings how best to satisfy their desires by instituting mutually useful political and social constraints on their passions, 
and so to maximize their chances for a relatively long and pleasant life. 
Spinoza's aim, while encompassing Hobbes's, is much more ambitious. It is to show human beings how to achieve a mode of life, 
that largely transcends merely transitory desires and which has as its natural consequences autonomous control over the passions and participation in an eternal blessedness.
At the root of this endeavour we find Proposition 6: “Each thing, insofar as it is in itself, strives to persevere in its being”. 
Spinoza deduces this proposition from Proposition 4: “Nothing can be destroyed, except by a cause external to itself.”
Spinoza adds the general claim, that each thing not only strives to persist in existence, but also strives to prevent any decrease 
in what Spinoza calls power of acting ( potentia agendi) and indeed strives to do whatever will increase its power of acting.
So, we live in a world of things, of which we as a person are one of the many, which can only be destroyed by causes external to ourselves,
which entails that these things strive to persevere in being. In other words, when you do not kick the ball it will stay where it is forever, unless you punch a hole in it.
And the material of the ball will not deteriorate because of its power of acting, but it may by external causes.
We are now ready to turn to Spinoza's naturalistic derivation of psychology proper from the general account of the metaphysics of striving and power of acting.
The aspect of our psychology that Spinoza is most concerned to derive in this way consists of what he calls affects. 
The primary human affects are for Spinoza desire, joy and sadness. They are a part of nature 
insofar as each can be redescribed in terms of striving, a property which all particular things in nature share. 
Human passions are for Spinoza changes, that is, increases or decreases, in the power with which we, or parts of us, strive. Active affects are all increases in the power with which we strive.
As we have seen, for Spinoza, things in general strive to preserve themselves and to increase their power of acting. 
Spinoza's naturalism dictates that the same is true of human beings and, since the strivings of human beings are their desires, where desire is the consciousness of this striving.
It follows that, for Spinoza, all human beings desire to preserve themselves and to increase their power of acting.  
As a preliminary conclusion we could say, that Spinoza regards the human being,  in line with Hobbesian ideas, as a being primary guided by self-interest.
Sounds pretty familiar to me anno 2017….more than 300 years later…
Thank you…. ^_^
Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Spinoza: Tractatus de emendatione intellectus (1660)
Spinoza: Ethica (1677)
Dan Garrett, (ed.), “Cambridge Companion to Spinoza” (2001)

The Discussion

[13:20] Ciska Riverstone: thanx
[13:20] Ciska Riverstone: how does a ball strive?
[13:21] CB Axel: I think Spinoza was thinking of only living things.
[13:21] herman Bergson: this concept of striving does not mean an active behavior....
[13:21] Ciska Riverstone: so what does it mean?
[13:21] Ciska Riverstone: being?
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but a ball does not increase its will of acting, it just preserves its state according to newtons motion laws
[13:21] herman Bergson: the law of inertia, Ciska....
[13:22] CB Axel: Or it could be like Bejiita said last week that striving could be atoms trying to hold themselves together.
[13:22] herman Bergson: when no expertnal influence is on the ball it will strive to be in being as it is...
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): might be like this cb
[13:23] herman Bergson: Striving is not meant here as a psychological is a physical concept
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cause atoms and matter in general want to stay together, that is as long its not for ex nitroglycerin in wih case the opposte is true and it goes kaboom instead
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): to form compounds that are more stable and thus will strive to keep together
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the basis of all chemistry
[13:24] herman Bergson: I guess it is something like that they had in mind, Bekiita
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:24] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): did Spinoza knew that in those days?
[13:25] herman Bergson: But the problem is....
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): same with acids bases and water, both acids and bases want to be like water, that is neutral so they react with most stuff to try form neutral salts
[13:25] Ciska Riverstone: well but he used it for describing psychology - no?
[13:25] herman Bergson: No Beertje, neither did Democrites know about atoms, but yet his brain produced such an insight in matter....
[13:25] herman Bergson: that is very amazing....
[13:25] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes
[13:26] herman Bergson: Just by logical reasoning and deductions getting to such ideas...
[13:26] herman Bergson: But THAT is the way of the rationalist....
[13:26] herman Bergson: Deducing from clear and distinct ideas his conclusions...
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:27] herman Bergson: But as I said ...the problem is tat Spinoza isn't really clear about what he means  wit proposition 6...
[13:28] herman Bergson: did he have just matter in mind or did he have human beings in mind....
[13:29] herman Bergson: I have read a number of articles on this matter, but it is way beyond our comprehension....
[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): human beings are matter as well?
[13:29] herman Bergson: It get so specific, so detailed...
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: well for me it  sounds like a classical stimulus response model which works for a lot of material stuff and lead to physics in a clear and simple way
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes we are and in that sense subject to the laws of nature according to Spinoza....
[13:30] CB Axel: I wonder if Spinoza could have imagined that what he was writing would be read and discussed in 2016.
[13:31] herman Bergson: Indeed CB....but the important point here is that he had thoughts which are still relevant....have meaning today...and that is amazing...
[13:31] CB Axel: If he had imagined this, I wonder if he would have made it clearer to understand.
[13:31] herman Bergson: that is the problem with dead philosophers...:-)
[13:31] CB Axel: °͜°
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): we can't ask them anymore :)
[13:32] herman Bergson: you can not ask them for a further explanation on what they mean
[13:32] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia) chuckles
[13:32] CB Axel: The authors of the Bible are just as bad.
[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): for Spinoza himself it was all clear
[13:32] CB Axel: And the US Constitution, for that matter.
[13:32] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia): so then is pointing out how matter must behave when manifested as a human being?
[13:32] herman Bergson: soyu get scholars writing long and complicated articles about what he REALLY meant by proposition 6 of Part III of the Ethica....
[13:33] herman Bergson: If I read you correctly Valentine...the idea how matter MUST behave....
[13:33] CB Axel: Thanks to him many scholars are employed. He's a job creator!
[13:34] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia): or may behave
[13:34] herman Bergson: That was Spinoza's thing....
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): could he really write clear? because these thoughts were very dangerous in his time
[13:34] herman Bergson: according to natural there was no free will in his opinion
[13:34] herman Bergson: That is another problem indeed, Beertje
[13:35] CB Axel: Ah, so Spinoza and I agree on the free will issue. °͜°
[13:35] herman Bergson: But I think we just must grasp the main points that emerge from the philosophy of Spinoza...
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well CB...I got a serious point there indeed....
[13:36] herman Bergson: If we are matter and matter is governed by laws odf nature, which means determined causality, then there is no chance or free will...
[13:36] herman Bergson: just causality
[13:37] CB Axel: Exactly.
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm
[13:37] herman Bergson: ANd some neuroscientists claim that the material causal activity in our brain makes us act...not our free will
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): (head spins)
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): soif I slam someone on the face it's not my fault?
[13:38] CB Axel: Yes.
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm indeed then you could blame a murder on mother nature
[13:39] herman Bergson: well.......
[13:39] CB Axel: If I ever assault anyone, I'll use that defense in court.
[13:39] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia) chuckles
[13:39] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia): I will watch that trial intently
[13:39] CB Axel: LOL
[13:40] CB Axel: You realize, of course, that the outcome of the trial has also already been determined.
[13:40] herman Bergson: For Spinoza there was free will in the sense that a person is free if there is no external restraint acting on him...
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes CB....Determinism is a fat chapter in philosophy :-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Could dedicate a whole project to such a subject....
[13:41] CB Axel: But the laws of physics are a restraint themselves.
[13:41] herman Bergson: I did more or less by discussing free will
[13:42] herman Bergson: That is a statement to think about, CB :-))
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm this can get really interesting if we continue on
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and complex!
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well...dont be taken along by language...
[13:43] herman Bergson: the word restrain has a connotation of action by someone/something...
[13:44] CB Axel: There can be passive restraints.
[13:44] herman Bergson: so if you say "the laws of physics are a restraint themselves" might suggest an exterior active force...
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: well if there are natures of law there is a natural restraint ;)
[13:45] CB Axel: Gravity restrains me from floating away.
[13:45] herman Bergson: Is a stone restrined to be a stone?
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: yes - for example
[13:46] herman Bergson: Matter just is...
[13:46] CB Axel: Only if the stone wants to become, say, a butterfly.
[13:46] herman Bergson: we have no idea where it came from...
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: well in Spinoza’s language a stone would want to be a stone anyway - strive to be that - without being pushed outside it would stay in itself
[13:46] herman Bergson: That is poetry and animism CB :-)
[13:46] CB Axel: Right, Ciska.
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:47] CB Axel: Yes. I'm the poet of this little group. °͜°
[13:47] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia) chuckles
[13:47] herman Bergson: I know CB :-)
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: yes which basically  means without a consciousness there are no decisions
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: to be something "else"
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: just to be then
[13:47] herman Bergson: indeed Ciska
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: so as usually the stress starts with consciousness ,)
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): it's enough to be:)
[13:48] Ms. Valentine (beloved.valencia): lol Ciska
[13:48] herman Bergson: True Ciska...:-)
[13:48] herman Bergson: It is almost as if I hear Sartre here....
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: and maybe with the fact that we do know really know if a stone has one ,)
[13:48] herman Bergson: we are condemned to consciousness
[13:49] herman Bergson: But it is exactly how Spinoza reasons too....
[13:49] CB Axel: Condemned to consciousness. Who's being poetic now. °͜°
[13:49] herman Bergson: This striving is not a psychological act....
[13:49] herman Bergson: it is just plain being in itself.....
[13:50] herman Bergson: but the consciousness of this striving...this being...
[13:50] herman Bergson: which makes it a wanting to be
[13:50] herman Bergson grins at CB
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:52] herman Bergson: So here we are....matter and consciousness
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:52] herman Bergson: Well..thinking about it.....I need a vacation ^_^
[13:53] herman Bergson: To be more specific...
[13:53] herman Bergson: Tomorrow we will leave for Schiermonnikoog in RL and stay there for a week :-)
[13:53] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aa nice
[13:53] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Yay!
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: have fun
[13:53] herman Bergson: class next week....
[13:53] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): love Schier
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje :-)
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): looked like a really nice place when i checked it out
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes it is Bejiita...
[13:54] herman Bergson: no cars...900+ inhabitants ...
[13:54] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): silence:)
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:54] CB Axel: Sounds lovely!
[13:54] herman Bergson: and this time of the year hardly any tourists either....just the diehards :-)
[13:55] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): like you
[13:55] herman Bergson: indeed Beertje.....:-)
[13:55] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): can I carry your suitcase?
[13:55] CB Axel: Like Mackinac Island in the US. No cars.
[13:55] herman Bergson: and my wife ^_^
[13:55] herman Bergson: Good question Beertje :-))))
[13:56] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :) that means a yes?
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:56] herman Bergson grins
[13:56] herman Bergson: deserve a vacation too :-)
[13:56] CB Axel: You could be his valet.
[13:57] herman Bergson: So, thank you all again for your participation...
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:57] CB Axel: Thank you.
[13:57] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...:-))