The third part of Spinoza’s ethics: the DESIRE
What is the desire for Spinoza?
We all have wishes. For me, we can understand desire as a wish or objects/situations/things to grasp and experience (is it the same thing or not? — if I am not wrong, we have the desire and the wish in English and only the word “desiderio” in Italian for both the reference).
For Spinoza, desire is a drive to be mixed/influenced/contaminated by the other and, in turn, to control the other in some way. Like energies in-tension to be freed from and invaded. Like Deleuze’s desire machines…
Spinoza’s vision is almost one of osmosis between us / the others / the environment: an exchange of energetic fluids that deviate and with which we divert the action of the other and his possibility of expression (a holistic and systemic vision of topicality, which Bronfebrenner evokes).
For Spinoza, this dynamic of energetic fluids (free interpretation) acts positively or negatively on our power to act. But how much power to act do we have from existence?
This power to act is linked to the will, which is not absolute (as we might think) but always conditioned by a cause. When we believe we are acting with our will, in reality, we are still conditioned by something else, which animates us and moves us. The will is not inscribed in the soul, but we only have particular wills. The image of things, the words with which we refer to things and ideas about things concerning each other: “it remains to define how much of this doctrine is useful for the use of life”, Spinoza asks himself.
The following points, that he proposes as a conclusion in the second sections, are adorable:
- We act by the action of God (as we can interpret this term today) and we participate in the divided Nature. Our efforts are, therefore induced to accomplish that of actions that advise love and morality.
- She teaches us how to behave with things over which we have no power, or something that does not come from our Nature: to accept that everything follows and derives from divine necessity.
- Not to hate anyone considering that we all participate in Reason according to the times and the modalities that things demand.
- How to be governed not to be slaves.
The third part opens with a fantastic truth (banal but real): we have treated feelings and emotions as something outside the human being’s Nature. Also, we consider man as a being who commands an empire, with absolute and self-determined power in his action. Spinoza quotes for the first time a great author, Descartes. According to Spinoza, Descartes has shown nothing about sentiments “except the penetration of his great intelligence” — believing that the spirit possesses absolute power.
Spinoza doesn’t care who prefers to detest or erase emotions and feelings (as in many processes of regressions or avoidance), rather than understand their Nature. Since Nature is the same everywhere, even negative feelings say Spinoza, are there to follow the same necessity and the same virtue of Nature.
I limit myself to cite two postulates of the third section:
- The human body is conditioned by external entities, making his or her “power to act” increased or decreased due to the influence.
- The human body can undergo many changes and retain the impressions or traces of objects and the images of things themselves.
The second postulate makes me think of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome … and how the body keeps the pain “score”…