Spinoza, Ethics, Part 3

But i have already shown that they dont know what a

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Unformatted text preview: will say, of course, that the causes of buildings, paintings, and other such products of human skill can’t be stated purely in terms of the laws of physics; a human body - ·they will say· - couldn’t build a temple if it weren’t pushed and guided by the ·corresponding· mind. But I have already shown that they don’t know what a body can do, or what can be explained purely through its physical nature, and that they do know from experience that many things happen through the laws of ·material· Nature alone which they would never have thought could happen without the direction of the mind - such as the things sleepwalkers do in their sleep, which amaze them after they have woken up. Bear in mind also the ·astonishingly complex· structure of the human body, which in the ingenuity of its construction far surpasses anything made by human skill; not to mention the fact (shown above) that Nature produces infinitely many things under each of its attributes. [ii] As for the second ·objection·, human affairs would of course go better if it were equally in a man’s power to be silent or to speak! But experience teaches all too plainly that men have nothing less in their power than their tongues, and can do nothing less than moderate their appetites. That is why most men believe that Ÿthe only things we do freely are the ones we have a weak inclination towards (because desires for those things can be lessened by the memory of something else ·that is relevant·), and Ÿthat we aren’t at all free in doing things towards which we are strongly drawn, because those inclinations can’t be damped down by the memory of something else. But nothing would prevent them from believing that we are free in everything we do if they hadn’t found by experience that we do many things we afterwards repent, and that often we see the better and follow the worse (namely when we are conflicted, having contrary affects). So the infant thinks that he freely wants the milk, the angry child that he freely wants vengeance, and the timid that he freely wants to flee. The drunkard think it is from a free decision of the mind that he says things which when he sobers up he regrets having said. So the madman, the chatterbox, the child, and a great many people of this kind believe they speak from a free decision of the mind, when really they cannot contain their impulse to speak. So experience itself, no less clearly than reason, teaches that Ÿmen think they are free because they are conscious of their own actions and ignorant of the causes that make them 59 act as they do, and that Ÿthe decisions of the mind are nothing but the appetites themselves, so they vary as the disposition of the body varies. Everyone governs all his behaviour on the basis of his affects; someone who is conflicted, having contrary affects, doesn’t know what he wants; and someone who is not moved by any affect is very easily driven here and there. All these things, indeed, show clearly that Ÿthe decision of the mind and Ÿthe appetite and making of the body naturally exist together - or, rather, they are one and the same thing, ·which we label differently according to the context·. We say that we Ÿdecide to do something when we are thinking about and explaining the event through the attribute of thought; and we say that Ÿsomething makes us do it do it when we think about it - ·the very same event· - under the attribute of extension and explain it in terms of ·physics, that is·, the laws of motion and rest. This will be still more clearly evident from what I shall have to say shortly. First, there is something else I particularly wish to note here. We couldn’t do anything from a decision of the mind unless we recollected it; for example, we can’t speak a word unless we recollect it. And ·everyone knows that· it is not up to the mind to decide freely whether to recollect a thing or to forget it! That is why the mind’s ·freely exercised· power is restricted ·by the believers in such freedom· to deciding, given that we do recollect something, whether to be silent or to speak it. But ·even this very restricted theory of mental freedom is based on an impression of freedom that we know can’t be trusted·. When we dream that we speak, we think we speak from a free decision of the mind - and yet we don’t speak at all; or if we do it is from a spontaneous [here = ‘involuntary’] motion of the body. . . . So I should like to know: Are there in the mind two kinds of decisions - fantasizing ones ·in dreams· and free ones ·when we are awake·? And if you don’t want to carry this madness that far, you must admit that this decision of the mind that is believed to be free isn’t marked off in any way that the imagination or the memory can detect. In fact, there is nothing to it except the affirmation that the idea necessarily involves just because it is an idea (see II49). So these decisions of the mind arise by the same necessity as the ideas of things that actually exist; and those who think they speak o...
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This note was uploaded on 03/12/2013 for the course PHIL 105 taught by Professor Mendetta during the Spring '13 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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