Spinoza's Views On The Nature Of The Body

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For Spinoza, the freedom of the human will hinges on its ability to act independently of desire and appetite, to control the body with will. Spinoza questions this idea of control by examining the nature of the body, namely if it can be completely understood, and thereby controlled. Sleepwalking is a prime example of an ability held by the body that functions in the absence of the will of the mind, thus Spinoza concludes the nature of the body is yet to be determined. After finding that no one has rightly determined or explained all of the possible qualities of the body, he writes, “this shows well enough that the body itself, simply from the laws of its own nature, can do many things which it mind wonders at.” Continuing with this idea of…show more content…
To determine the nature of the union of mind and body, Spinoza turns his attention to the will of the mind. From experience, Spinoza finds humans lacking the ability to act freely, rather stating that they can only moderate their appetites. Humans are conscious of their own actions but ignorant of the causes which determine them. In addition to our lack of knowledge, Spinoza argues that our idea of decision-making is an illusion of the mind. When an individual dreams, he performs actions which he believes to be of free decision of the mind, yet these actions are not actually performed. Spinoza finds that unless an epistemological distinction can be drawn between the decisions we make freely and those we make during sleep, there…show more content…
Spinoza cites the source of the misconception of freedom as man’s inability to understand himself and the causes of his actions. Spinoza expounds on this confusion, “So, experience itself, no less clearly than reason, teaches that men believe themselves free because they are conscious of their own, and ignorant of the causes by which they are determined, that the decisions of the mind are nothing but the appetites themselves, which therefore vary as the disposition of the body.”(p.157) Spinoza conceives decisions and determination to be the same thing, but considered under different lights. When being considered through the lens of thought, the idea is considered a decision; while through the light of extension, it is considered determination, an action caused by laws of motion and rest. Though considered differently, the source of both of these ideas are caused by the striving of the human will, and thus dependent on
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