L'automa spirituale. La teoria della mente e delle passioni in Spinoza

Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy: Vita e Pensiero (1979)
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Preface 1. 'Anima' and 'res cogitans'. The Cartesian idea of nature and mind as a residual concept. The first chapter discusses the genesis of the concept of mind in Cartesian Philosophy; the claim is advanced that 'res cogitans' is a residual concept, defined on the basis of a previous definition of matter as 'res extensa'. As a consequence, a contradictory ontology of the mind is Descartes's poisoned bequest to the following tradition of 'scientific' psychology. 2. The Mathematical method in the theory of the mind and the passions. The second chapter discusses the first ambitious attempt in this direction, namely Spinoza's theory of the mind and the passions in Ethics II and III; the topics treated are Spinoza's program of a mathematical science of the mind and his transformation of the genre 'treatise of the passions' into a would-be mathematical science of the motions of the soul. 3. The definition of affections and the impossibility of reducing inadequate to adequate ideas. The third chapter discusses a tension in Spinoza project of a theory of the passions, namely a need to reduce concepts to pure mathematical definitions and the opposite need to keep inadequate imaginative definitions of the phenomena under scrutiny, namely the passions, in order to avoid a radical reduction of the subject-matter to the only truly existing reality (the world order in itself) that would leave the theory without any subject-matter at all. 4. 'Conatus', 'potentia', 'vis'. Concepts of force in the theory of passions and the impossibility of eliminating occult qualities. The fourth chapter discusses the troubles arising in the original project deriving from difficulties in the treatment of dynamic concepts, such as the notion of conatus, which were an unavoidable consequence of Cartesian assumptions. 5. Overview and discussion. Chapter five tries to draw a general discussion, focusing on the tension between the Cartesian assumptions and the actual practice in the new post-Galilean sciences, including attempts at giving birth to psychology or science of man. Appendices I. The mind-body problem in Spinoza. II. Concepts of force in Newton and Spinoza. III. Materialist readings of Newton and Spinoza. IV. On the opposition of materialism and spiritualism and Geisteswissenschaften and natural science. V. Conatus, the idea of liberation and social theory in Spinoza.

Author's Profile

Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi
University of Málaga


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