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Collingwood's Reading of Spinoza's Psychology

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Near the end of his Ethics, Spinoza develops a theory that '[a]n affect which is a passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it.' Recent commentators have found this theory to be radically implausible in light of some of Spinoza's other metaphysical and epistemological commitments. I defend Spinoza on this point. Having done so, I examine R.G. Collingwood's reading of the theory, presented in The Principles of Art. Collingwood's reading proposes that passions, for Spinoza, are ideas of feelings that attempt to disown them--ideas that present one's own, wrongly, as not being one's own feelings. We form such ideas when, for some reason or other, we are psychologically resistant to accepting the reality of our effective condition. This, according to Collingwood, is what Spinoza means by calling passions 'confused' ideas of feelings. With the help of Collingwood's reading, I propose, Spinoza's theory may be made to appear very compelling and original.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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