Spinoza’s relationship with Descartes was always characterized both by proximity and distance. This ambivalence does not fail to affect the history of reception, from Spinoza’s death to the present day. However, the path of this history shows a remarkable paradigm-shift. From the anti-Cartesianism and anti-Spinozism of sixteenth and eighteenth centuries until the most authoritative contemporary reading, we move indeed from a perspective, in which Descartes’ thought would show germs of Spinozism – and Spinoza would therefore be in some sense more Cartesian than Descartes himself – to an opposition so radical as to reject any point of contact. In order to critically question both this relationship and the history of its interpretations, it is crucial to analyse the complex dialogue, which in his Ethics Spinoza establishes with Descartes’s Passions of the Soul. Although very dense, this dialogue has only been studied little in its detail.
The essay aims to examine the status of the subject in Descartes from viewpoint of the problem of the coexistence of the doctrines of the union and distinction of body and soul. After a brief reconstruction of the interpretative tendencies that prevailed in Cartesian literature, the essay analyses the positions of Descartes after the release of the Meditationes de prima Philosophia, both in the Responses to the Objections of Gassendi and Arnauld, and in the letters to Regius and to Princess Elisabeth. The analysis of two paragraphs of Principia Philosophiae confirms that Descartes, in the final phase of his philosophical production, conceived the subject as originally immersed in an opaque and obscure psychic dimension, from which he never definitively frees himself. The conclusions show that the Cartesian thought is a crossroads of different paths, including that of decentralized subjectivity and open to otherness.
This paper sketches how Spinoza’s theory of the emotions changed over his career. It begins with a contrast between the theories of the emotions found in Descartes’ Passions de l’âme and the account of the passions found in a variety of writings by Thomas Hobbes. A comparison of the accounts of the emotions that Spinoza offered in the early Korte Verhandeling (KV) and in the later Ethica then suggests that he moved from an initial commitment to a Cartesian conception of the emotions to a later view more influenced by Hobbes.
The article proposes a genesis of Eth III, pr. 2, schol. The first part aims to show the interpretative difficulties of Spinoza’s conception of physiology, trying to prove, following the most recent literature (Scribano), that his rejection is not clearly defined, and many passages and examples within this scholium reveal its cartesian origin. The second part aims to show the radicalization of the cartesian conception of the spontaneous movement of the body accomplished by Spinoza, which is marked by the total independence that he attributes to the body compared to the mind (against mind-body interaction), especially through the example of the sleepwalker. In this respect, the figure of the sleepwalker is emblematic, as well as the figure of the «awakewalker» – defined by Zourabichvili via Deleuze – which acts by dreaming with open eyes, proving the continuity between night dreams and daydreams, and the logical indistinction between sleep and wakefulness.
Contrary to what happens in Descartes’s philosophy, self-knowledge is problematic in Spinoza. The knowledge of one’s mind, in fact, is only that involved in the perception of the affections of one’s body. This thesis makes difficult to develop a satisfactory theory of pride which, according to Spinoza, implies a knowledge of the self as the cause of the joy caused in others. This difficulty was absent in the philosophy of Descartes. This difficulty is presented in the same terms in the philosophy of David Hume, and emerges in the discussion of the passion of pride. Both authors are united by the refusal of the Cartesian thesis of privileged access to the nature of their mind.
Descartes’ correspondence with Princess Elisabeth at times reads like a programme for what would later become known as Spinoza’s theory of ethics. Crucial elements in Spinoza, however, such as the notion of beatitude and the idea of internal emotions, link up with Descartes’ Passions de l’âme , rather than with the correspondence – and yet it is on these very subjects that Descartes and Spinoza part ways. Studying in some detail the example of the hunting dog and the accounts of mental change occurring in both authors, this article will argue that Spinoza was able to side-step Descartes’ explanation of mental transformation for the reason that he devoted himself to a completely different issue. Descartes’ focus in Les Passions de l’âme is on negative emotions and behavioral training, whereas Spinoza’s attention in the Ethics is on a remedy of the affects that may yield a naturalistic counterpart to the notion of religious salvation – a difference in philosophical motivation between the two authors that should give us reason to adjust commonplace interpretations of the Descartes-Spinoza controversy.
In this contribution, I will concentrate on Descartes and Spinoza’s respective notions of «virtue», using them as a testing ground to understand two opposing conceptions of man and the sphere of the passions. Descartes’ reflection on virtue, understood as a magnanimity of the soul that ensues from a rational love of oneself, falls into the framework of the unity between mind and body elaborated in the Sixth Meditation and further discussed in his correspondence dating to the ’40s with Elisabeth and Pierre Chanut, as well as in the Passions de l’âme. Spinoza’s virtue, instead, is subordinated to a force (conatus) that coincides with the «essence» of man. This essence, as is explained in the third part of the Ethica, depends on the power of the infinite substance, causa sui in each existing mode. Descartes’ reflection on virtue extends the res cogitans into the realm of the affects (res sentiens), that he places within an integrated conception of man. Now, how can a law of nature, that by Spinoza’s own admission comes before (E4P22) all modal determinations – whether active or passive – be the «essence» that explains or the «cause» that produces the passage from human bondage to freedom? If considered against the backdrop of the natural effort to conserve oneself, these terms will reveal an insoluble conflict.
Descartes and Spinoza carry forward elements of a longstanding folk-psychology of love and hatred from the scholastics – that love and hatred are ‘natural’ passions, teleologically ordered, together, to self-preservation (or perseverance). Descartes recasts this psychology of love and hatred, in the Passions of the Soul, in functional terms that already ambiguate the role that hatred plays in self-preservation. Spinoza takes up Descartes reconfiguration of the relationship of love and hatred in the Passions of the Soul, and infers that hatred has no necessary role in securing self-preservation (or perseverance). Spinoza’s dissolution of the necessary coimplication of love and hatred, as it is figured in the longstanding folk-psychology, yields rival images of agency. In Spinoza’s view, hatred is a pathology of agency, a symptom of impotence of ‘animation’, in contrast to the view that hatred is ‘basic’ emotion that is constitutive of agency in that it can motivate resistance to threats to self-preservation and flourishing.
In this article, I intend to investigate the notion of God’s love in Descartes and Spinoza to highlight its differences. God’s love in Descartes is investigated by examining the letter to Chanut of 1647 and in the Passions of the Soul. While in Descartes the passion of love preserves the character of the union of the part with the whole, in the Ethics of Spinoza, it loses this characterization in order not to lose the ontological distinction between the human being and the infinite substance. Moreover, since in Spinoza God’s love is an effect of the third kind of knowledge, it has no connection with the imagination. In Descartes, however, God’s love as passion maintains an essential relationship with imaginative activity.
In the third part of the Passions of the Soul, while enumerating the «particular passions», Descartes makes a precise distinction between remorse, repentance and regret. Despite this distinction, in the correspondence with Princess Elizabeth, Descartes seems to use these terms interchangeably. In this paper I will set out to analyse first of all the relationship between these ‘sad passions’ in Descartes. I will then extend the investigation to Spinoza in order to highlight proximities and differences between him and Descartes in the classification of these passions, in their relative remedies and political implications.
My paper focuses on the analysis of the terms «dread» and «fear» both in The Passions of the Soul, where Descartes respectively indicates them as Crainte and Peur, and in Spinoza’s Ethics, where the author uses the words timor and metus. First of all, I underline the characteristics, the relevance and the usefulness of these affections, together with the strategies of control used to prevent their transformation into passions that inhibit rational action. I will then expose the divergence of views in Descartes and Spinoza pertaining the delineation of these affective conditions, as well as, in the second part of my paper, I focus on the analogies concerning the rational strategies the human being can assume in order to handle dread and fear. Besides Descartes e Spinoza, it is necessary to recall Hobbes’s Leviathan, since this work is a consistent and relevant source for Spinoza, as far as the conception of fear as a peculiar perception of past and present is concerned .
In the evaluation of human passions, compassion has always been among the most controversial, declined through several lexical variants (pietas, misericordia, miseratio, commiseratio, compassio) and the object of opposing judgments. Condemned as a pathology by Stoic thought, compassion becomes the fundamental attitude of Christian ethics, codified in the ‘works of mercy’. In the modern age compassion is rethought on the one hand in the light of a new approach to the affective dimension, regarded as natural and necessary (as attested by Vives’ reflections), and on the other hand in the context of the recovery of Stoic thought, which takes place under the banner of its conciliation with Christianity (Lipsius). Through the contributions of this rich tradition, but with the renewed aim of scientifically describing passions and considering their usefulness for life, Descartes en physicien and Spinoza more geometrico reflect both on compassion, studying its psychological dynamics, its ethical scope and its functionality for social living.
Descartes and Spinoza define gratitude in similar ways but they differ on its appreciation. For Descartes, gratitude is always a virtue. For Spinoza, in Short Treatise, this feeling cannot be proved by a perfect man. The paper analyses first the reasons why, in Short Treatise, Spinoza posits such a paradoxical thesis. Then it examines the suprising change about the valuation of Gratitude in the Ethics and the distinction between its active and passive aspect. Spinoza distinguishes the true thankfulness belonging to the free men guided by raison from the tricky gratitude of the ignorants that is nothing but a business transaction or an entrapment. Therefore it is necessary to define a good use of gratitude and a way of living among ignorants to avoid corrupted links and poisoned gifts.
The article compares Descartes’ and Spinoza’s theory of passions through an analysis of their treatment of pity or commiseration, envy, favor and indignation. By analyzing these affects, the article seeks to accomplish two objectives. on the one hand, it aims to show that complexities of the relationship between Spinoza’s Ethica and Descartes’s Passions de l’ame are ignored if the latter is considered simply as a polemical target of the former. on the other hand, it aims to clarify how Spinoza, starting from anthropological premises opposed to Descartes’, can present a model of a strong or generous man that has many elements in common Descartes’.
My aim is to point out the way in which the theories of passions are the roots from which the rising modern subject develops. This is particularly clear in drama and in politics: both audience and people are stimulated by scenic actions and by government promises or deeds. Conflicting affects relating to outward display or to the heart cause an increase or a lowering of virtue in the subject. I consider Descartes and Spinoza, and the members of the Nil volentibus arduum society – Spinoza’s friends like Lodewijk Meyer and Johannes Bouwmeester. Unlike Descartes, the latter examine the use of the passions at both an artistic and political level. This brings out their homology based on the identity of the processes that engender the passions on the stage and in society. On one side, a passion can be dispelled only by a stronger passion; on the other, this determines a prevalence of appearance over reality. Creating illusions is the secret of both the theatre and of government. The issue for the philosopher is that these illusions should lead to virtue and what the truth of virtue is.
The paper sets out to bring into focus some philosophical implications of the government of the passions as this is presented in Descartes’ Les Passions de l’âme and in Spinoza’s Ethica. It does not, however, tackle the issue straightforwardly, but by means of a contemporary frame of reference, that established by Michel Foucault in his late writings on the government of the self. It is argued that this frame of reference provides useful conceptual tools for an analysis of the different ways in which Descartes and Spinoza conceive the relation between use and maîtrise.
The article aims to interpret the theory of passions in Descartes and Spinoza in the light of two posterior models, namely the Husserlian intersubjectivity and the Simondonian transindividuality. This anachronistic reading of the two authors makes possible to shed light on the opposition between, on the one hand, a theory of passions as properties of a subject preceding the relations, and, on the other hand, a theory conceiving the subject itself as constituted by the complex web of passions. In fact, the domain of passions in Spinoza does not coincide with the interiority of the subject, but rather with the web of relations between individuals.
This article looks at the philosophical production of Francesco Tomatis. Starting from an original interpretation of Schelling’s thought, the Author elaborates a negative mysticism and a philosophy as hermeneutics. These two paths can be understood as a negative philosophy and a positive philosophy. One of the central elements in this thought is represented by the mountain, which is understood by the Author as a topic of listening and origin of movement. In this sense, Tomatis’ thought can be defined as a real itinerant philosophy.
The paper retraces and critically discusses the essays contained in the two volumes at stake, which are dedicated to the «categories» in the history of Western thought. By shifting freely between the two parts of the project, the proposed analysis aims to highlight both the possible connections and the problematic points that arise from the treatment of concepts so central that they are sometimes, and paradoxically, uncritically assumed. In this panorama the historical reconstruction and the theoretical investigation cooperate, in order to effectively render the richness and complexity of the picture.
D. Costa, Esistenza e persistenza (C. De Florio) - A.F. De Toni - E. Bastianon, Isomorfismo del Potere. Per una teoria complessa del potere (P. Gomarasca) - S. Fumagalli, Wege zu einer neuen hänomenologie: Landgrebe, Fink und Patočka in Dialog (M. Barcaro) - R. Pozzo, Kant y el problema de una introducción a la lógica (M. Sgarbi)