Spinoza Past and Present: Reviewed by Steven Nadler, University of Wisconsin, Madison What is remarkable about the explosion of interest in Spinoza over the past twenty years is not just its intensity, but also its breadth. It is manifest not only in the field of philosophy, but also in intellectual and political history, religious studies especially Jewish Studiesliterary studies, and other disciplines.
A low-intensity electrical current then charges the motor nuclei, enabling the patient to move their hands without a tremor and to walk normally. The woman's expression immediately changed to one of sadness. Then she began to cry and to speak of her hopelessness, her sense of worthlessness, of disappearing down a dark hole.
The doctors realised something was wrong and switched off the current. In less than two minutes her behaviour returned to normal. She was a habitually cheerful woman who had no history of psychiatric disorder personally or in her family.
She had not even experienced the mood changes that sometimes come with Parkinson's. It was as if the symptoms of depression had simply been switched on with the charge to a particular point in her brain and switched off again just as quickly. Before getting out his knife, the surgeon has to identify the brain areas that must not be removed because they do essential work controlling speech and vision, for instance.
This is done by stimulating the brain with electricity and watching the results. In the case of one patient, stimulation to a number of closely located sites had the effect, in Antonio Damasio's words, of "consistently and exclusively locating laughter". The patient would be shown a picture of a horse.
Under normal conditions, she would see it as a regular kind of horse. But when the relevant segment of the supplementary motor area of the left frontal lobe was stimulated, she would consider it the most hilarious equine on God's earth.
Is it possible that such profound and all-embracing essentials might have a physical location in some particular small corner of the brain? That feelings are in the most literal sense nothing more or less than a form of neural electricity?
For some, there will be shades of Huxley's Brave New World in these images of white-coated lab technicians probing electrodes into the brain in order to artificially stimulate depression and laughter.
But who is to say which stimuli are artificial and which are natural?
All sorts of things stimulate us into sadness or joy: Whatever the cause, an investigation into the mechanics of strong feeling has much to promise. There is an ancient philosophical tradition that associates feeling with the body and reasoning with the mind.
Cartesian philosophy begins by imagining a disembodied mind the cogito - "I think therefore I am" ; the body and the material world become the thing thought about res cogitans. Damasio is a distinguished neuro-scientist who came to prominence outside his specialist field just under a decade ago when he published a book called Descartes' Error, which argued that new knowledge about the workings of the brain called into question the old distinctions between reasoning and feeling, mind and body.
Damasio's particular expertise is in the area of brain injury: What do we learn about the nature of consciousness from, say, amnesiacs who retain all their core biological functions but have lost their sense of individual identity?
Case after case analysed by Damasio in both Descartes' Error and his next book, The Feeling of What Happens, has confirmed him in the view that things traditionally kept apart by philosophers such as rational decision-making and emotional mood actually happen together in the brain and, further, that the brain functions by mapping the body.
The Cartesian thought-experiment of a disembodied mind is a contradiction in terms, since the mind only exists in conjunction with the body. Damasio has always trusted an instinct of William James's: In his new book, Damasio finds another, more surprising precedent for his vision: Damasio considers, for instance, Spinoza's proposition that "love is nothing but a pleasurable state, joy, accompanied by the idea of an external cause".
Whereas Descartes always seemed to begin from an idea, Spinoza begins here from a body-state: The mental process of assigning a cause comes second.
By beginning from the body Spinoza proved himself a proto-biological thinker. Two centuries before Darwinian evolution and the work of Ernst Haeckel, father of scientific ecology, Spinoza proposed that the starting-point for our thinking about the nature of humankind should be physiology and the process of life-regulation.
As Darwin and Dawkins have discovered, when you start thinking about humankind in biological terms you will swiftly run into trouble with religion.While in Rijnsburg, he worked on the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, an essay on philosophical method, and the Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being, an initial but aborted effort to lay out his metaphysical, Spinoza on .
Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam and was given a Jewish traditional upbringing. He was educated at the congregation’s academy where he received all the necessary education in regard to the perceptions of the Jewish community at that time.
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews is an Essays on Spinoza, Spinozism, and Spinoza Scholarship, Brill, , pp., $ The chapter "Causation and Intelligibility in the TTP" considers the contentious issue of religious "truths" by looking at the agreement between Spinoza's account of Scripture in the Theological-Political Treatise.
Syndicate this Essay. Support Aeon Donate now His books include Spinoza: A Life (), A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (), The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A . Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain "An Essay on the Principles of Human Action".
Like Spinoza and Damasio, Hazlitt begins with the body. · Antonio Damasio appears at. He is looking for a definite certainty, The purpose of this essay will be to explore Descartes' reasoning and proofs of God's existence. In the third meditation, Descartes states two arguments attempting to prove God's existence, Descartes Versus Spinoza on the Existence of God.