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In some quotes from Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and the Ethics, Spinoza seems to say that emotions should be controlled; that humans who are controlled by emotions are like slaves.

Yet, he criticized Descartes' method to control emotions by the means of reason and will ([1]).

Spinoza seemed to say that emotions could only be replaced by other emotions, and with using reason as a means to better understand "things" ([2], Section 8. "Passions and reason").

On the other hand, Spinoza doesn't believe in free will.

So:

(1) Did Spinoza indeed believe it was (a) desirable to control our emotions (b) possible to control our emotions?

(2) If the answer (a) and/or (b) is positive, what advice did Spinoza give to control emotions?

(3) How is it possible to control our emotions if, according to Spinoza, we do not have free will?

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    It seems to me in my reading of Spinoza that nothing not even the human mind escapes the deterministic nature of nature. So we cannot control our emotions.
    – PDT
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 11:40
  • Nature is always the same, and its virtue and power of acting are everywhere one and the same, i.e., the laws and rules of nature, according to which all things happen, and change from one form to another, are always and everywhere the same. So the way of understanding the nature of anything, of whatever kind, must also be the same, viz. through the universal laws and rules of nature.
    – PDT
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 11:44
  • 1
    See Spinoza: The Affects: "Spinoza, because he denies freedom of the will, is more thorough than Descartes in his commitment to naturalism." Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 11:48
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA What does that mean?
    – Starckman
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 12:30
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    There is a clear tension (at least at first sight) in Spinoza's thought: no free will. Thus, what is really tha "control" of emotions? Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 13:03

2 Answers 2

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Freedom Without Free Will Comes from Understanding Emotions and Powers of Action

Answer Extensively Revised - 6/16/23

In The Ethics Spinoza describes an affect (emotion) as a feeling of desire, pleasure, or pain accompanied by an idea of its cause. He describes desire as appetite accompanied by consciousness thereof.

Select Quotes from article: Spinoza on Free Will and Freedom

https://iep.utm.edu/spinoza-free-will-determinsim/

Here again, Spinoza argues that humans believe themselves free because they are conscious of their own desires but ignorant of the causes of them. Discussing the will with the body, he then states that, as bodies and minds are identical, decisions of the mind are the same as appetites and determinations of the body, understood under different attributes.

Not only does he define these passions, but he also gives an account of their logic, which is paramount for understanding the origin of these passions, and thereby ultimately overcoming them.

For Spinoza, human freedom is very different from free will as ordinarily understood. It is not a faculty or ability apart from the intellect. Rather, it is a striving for a specific way of life defined by activity, reason, and knowledge instead of passivity and ignorance. Determinism is not opposed to this view of freedom, as freedom is understood as acting according to one’s own nature and not being compelled by external forces, especially passions. In this respect, it has many similarities to the view of freedom held by Hobbes and that of the Stoa in different respects. For Hobbes, being a materialist, freedom only applies properly to bodies and concerns the absence of external impediments to the motion of a body. Likewise, calling a human free indicates he is free “in those things which by his own strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he has a will to” (Leviathan XXI.1-2). However, Spinoza’s view of freedom differs substantially from Hobbes in that he has a more extensive view of what it means to be impeded by external forces, recognizing that the order of ideas and bodies are one and the same. For the Stoa, generally speaking, freedom consists in living a rational life according to nature. If one lives according to nature, which is rational, one can be free despite the fact that nature is determined because one conforms the desires to the order of nature through virtue. A famous illustration of such an understanding of freedom is given by a dog led by a cart. If the dog willingly follows the cart that is pulling it, it acts freely; if it resists the motion of the cart, being pulled along nonetheless, it lacks freedom (Long 1987, 386). For Spinoza, freedom does not conflict with determinism either, as long as human beings are active and not passive. Likewise, the greatest impediment to freedom are the passions, which can so overcome the power of an individual that they are in bondage or a slave. Spinoza famously writes “Man’s lack of power to moderate and restrain the affects I call bondage. For the man who is subject to affects is under the control, not of himself, but of fortune, in whose power he so greatly is that often, though he sees the better for himself, he is still forced to follow the worse” (IV Preface, 543). In these lines, Spinoza presents not only the problem that the passions present to human thriving but also situates this problem within the context of the classic enigma of akrasia, or weakness of will.

Question 1

(1) Did Spinoza indeed believe it was (a) desirable to control our emotions (b) possible to control our emotions?

Context (1)(a) - Desire is (unconscious) appetite accompanied by consciousness thereof. Desire to control emotion would arise as appetite accompanied by consciousness thereof.

Context (1)(b) - Decisions of the mind are the same as appetites and determinations of the body, understood under different attributes. Control of emotion would occur as appetites and determinations of the body which are the same as decisions of the mind.

Question 2

(2) If the answer (a) and/or (b) is positive, what advice did Spinoza give to control emotions?

Understand the origin of passions and thereby overcome them.

Questions 3

(3) How is it possible to control our emotions if, according to Spinoza, we do not have free will?

Humans believe themselves free because they are conscious of their own desires but ignorant of the causes of them. Decisions of the mind are the same as appetites and determinations of the body, understood under different attributes. Decisions of the mind, which are the same as appetites and determinations of the body under distinct attributes, transform from inadequate ideas in the mind to adequate ideas in the mind, as a result of understanding the passions. This improved ability to reason, via understanding the passions, generates freedom as the pleasure which accompanies increased power of action.

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Spinoza was inspired by Platon, i dont remenber all the stuff about Spinoza, but my statement come from this assumption. With "Ethics", Spinoza highlight humanity's values and principes as high representation ability of our sensibility where emotion is considered as low representation ability of our sensibility. The sensibilily can be explain by our physical disposal to retrace our physical environnement. Representation ability can be assimilated to our ability to rationalize and explain this sensibility. High and low mean how efficiently rationalized thinking can interfer with individual's experience regarding sensibility. By promoting humanity's values and principes, Spinoza assert that individual can shape his environnement's representation and interaction with it through ethics. Assuming absence of freewill, individual's ethics should be driven by social enties.

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