Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [spinoza-ethics] Experimenting with experience

Expand Messages
  • SunHunter9@aol.com
    ... In the sense of the common order and connection of causes, etc? That seems another avenue of investigation that is psychological in the sense that it
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 1 4:11 PM
    • 0 Attachment
      >I remembered as soon as I saw Loren's name in the credits, before the
      >film's action began, that the proprietress would eventually take out
      >a properly silenced pistol and shoot the Sophia Loren character.
      >Okay. Three or four times before the assassination scene I found
      >myself about to leave for the mowing chore, BUT EACH TIME HEARD
      >Question: Why did I want to stay to see that beautiful woman get
      >shot? And why, in fact, did I leave immediately after that scene?
      >A kind of answer (which is not so much an answer to my question as
      >SunHunter's): There is and must be an "intellectual order" that
      >culminated in my decision to await Sophia's assassination.

      In the sense of the "common" order and connection of causes, etc? That seems
      another avenue of investigation that is psychological in the sense that it
      involves conditioning via the common order of nature. However, because of
      the context in which Spinoza uses the phrase "intellectual order" I think
      that he means that other order of causality that descends from an intuitive
      knowledge of the true good, to reasoning about what inner and outer
      conditions are most conducive to its preservation (which is synonymous with
      seeking our own true advantage), and then using active imagination and memory
      to maximize the probability that the entire linkage will become thus
      activated associatively even when the mind has become otherwise confused and
      passive. That's my paraphrase, anyway. I think that everyone does this, but
      to a very limited degree, and rarely perhaps with what the Buddhists would
      call "right motive." In other words, often when I find myself envisioning
      how I will respond to possible difficulties, I also find that my motives tend
      to be defensive, arising from fear, as when I imagine how I will deal with
      confusing problems at work, or with my children, etc. This doesn't produce
      any understanding of the sort I'm after, as the upper links of my scheme are
      reached as soon as the negativity is neutralized. What Spinoza describes
      seems to encompass the complete potential of a human being to behave

      >I was not conscious of that order's unfolding, only of its final expression
      >a desire.

      Spinoza points out, as we are aware by now, that it is impossible to grasp
      that unfolding completely. That's a job for an attribute. At times,
      although not in this case, we may have awareness about a certain number of
      links leading up to the desire. If we fail to recognize that we are merely
      ignorant of the preceding causes, we may feel we have free will. I'm just
      taking this opportunity to remember how vital Spinoza says it is to
      understand the nature of volitions and the will. Otherwise, we're back to
      vice and virtue, etc.

      >Now, it is clear to me that this desire had nothing
      >whatsoever to do with the preservation of my body in its being,

      I sincerely feel doubtful about this. Spinoza speaks of referring an emotion
      to the mind, and of the conatus of ideas, but since desire (the awareness of
      the appetite to remain watching the film) is an emotion, it involves the
      mind's affirming of it's body a greater or lesser force for existence, by
      definition. I think that after a bit of reflection, Frank will agree, but
      more importantly, I feel that Spinoza's definition of an emotion reflects the
      reality of the situation. How conscious am I of every part of the body, and
      how conscious of it in totality? There are many possibilities, but using
      Occam's razor, I wonder if maybe certain parts during the observed incident
      may have been quite inert, and resistant to a contrary idea of going out to
      work. Is riding a mower so enjoyable that removing one's gaze from Sophia
      Loren in such a provocative role is achieved without any struggle? That
      could be, sometimes our duties are clear enough, but a more subtle aspect of
      these "experimental results" concerns the issues that arise from the fact
      that obviously the brain is also part of the body. I want to get into that
      more deeply at some point, as it's a source of confusion for me at times.
      Keeping the sensations of the brain in their proper place in the
      "intellectual order" presents some serious challenges, and may require at
      least some sense of the formless silence from which ideas arise in the mind,
      and the essential motion underlying all images and real things in extension.

      >but that there must have been some way to interpret the wish as an
      >expression of my mind's desire to preserve itself.

      It can be so interpreted, and isn't that Spinoza's main M.O? He omits the
      purely physical point of view because I think that since the attribute of
      thought possesses the idea of God expressed through this or that human mind,
      and of extension (as well as the ideas of the other attributes), it seems
      therefore to be especially conducive to our good, but the ratio between mind
      and body is always 1:1. The particularity of every synaptic impulse, however
      immeasurably minute, is perfectly and identically present in mind as an idea.
      So long as the physical body exists, Spinoza seems to say that this is so.
      The idea of the body that is the first idea in the essence of the mind, is
      compounded of adequate and inadequate ideas, and our knowledge of the body
      insofar as it is conceived to be composed of parts is inadequate. I'm sort
      of reviewing out loud here, and should anyone perceive an error in my
      paraphrase of Spinoza's expressed ideas, please speak up.

      "For the rest, I have neglected the outward modifications of the body
      observable in emotions, such, for
      instance, as trembling, pallor, sobbing, laughter, &c., for these are
      attributable to the body only, without any reference to the mind."

      >Given "the order and connection" of mind and body, then, I had to conclude
      >the "intellectual order" of my mind was involving my body in a
      >scenario unrelated to a rational pursuit of existence.

      "E2[A.III] Modes of thinking, such as love, desire, or any other of
      the passions, do not take place, unless there be in the
      same individual an idea of the thing loved, desired, &c."

      It is true that the loved "object" (for lack of a better term) may be
      incorporeal (that is the aim of Ethics) and unimaginable, but the desire we
      are observing here doesn't fit that, so mustn't the desire here observed be
      attributable to the images of things arising in the body as a result of its
      impressions in parallel with ideas? Mind cannot determine body, etc.
      Indeed, from the content of the post, the chains of causality of Frank's
      final desire seem more obscure to me looked at as mind rather than as
      physical inertia, so why, based on that observation alone, attribute it
      primarily to the mind?

      Of course, we must be careful to avoid Descartes, and all of that, though
      experience leads me ever in that direction...

      "Thus, when men say that this or that physical action has its origin in the
      mind, which latter has dominion
      over the body, they are using words without meaning, or are confessing
      in specious phraseology that they are ignorant of the cause of the said
      action, and do not wonder at it."

      I -- my body -
      >- was at the mercy of a virtually unconscious process, "unconscious"
      >because I did not know -- then or now -- what order of ideas had led
      >me to wish to wait for the assassination scene.

      Okay, grant that the causes, in the sense of psychology, were unknown, but
      again, are we still extrapolating from the premise that the body is in no way
      involved causally, which seems impossible, concerning a passion? Active
      emotions are another story...they arise from the attribute of thought. Then,
      their activity is reflected in the body, displacing any negative emotion that
      is of lesser force.

      "E520 Note.- We can in the same way, show, that there is no emotion
      directly contrary to this love, whereby this love can be destroyed;
      therefore we may conclude, that this love towards God is the most
      constant of all the emotions, and that, in so far as it is referred to
      the body, it cannot be destroyed, unless the body be destroyed also.
      (20:3) As to its nature, in so far as it is referred to the mind only,
      we shall presently inquire."

      >But, out of my understanding of the psychology Spinoza has taught me, I do
      know for
      >certain that the wish was an expression of confused ideas. My mind's
      >desire to preserve its "intellectual order" was (and remains)
      >contrary to any rational decision I might have made to preserve my
      >own being.

      I'm inferring that Frank affirms a certain necessity involved in the idea of
      his mowing the lawn at that time, that it was therefore a "reasoned good,"
      idea in contrast to a confused desire to remain watching TV until the fateful
      scene. So, I agree that we are dealing here with the inertia, that is, the
      passive conatus, of ideas, (as well as physical inertia, IMO) but again,
      according to the "common order." I've found little good myself in mowing the
      lawn, especially when it's hot.

      >My wish to see the reenactment of Miss Loren's murder
      >maintains (only) the integrity of my "informational" self.

      I find "integrity" a bit dissonant here, as I imagine opposing legions of
      brain cells ready to silently fire away at the slightest hint of association,
      accidental or otherwise. Would "inertial state" fit better, or "status quo"

      >I do not have to understand the content of that information in order to know
      >that it exists, and once I know, intuitively, that it is primarily
      >the product of confused ideas, I am brought in relation to that
      >string of information as the proprietress with the silenced revolver
      >was to Miss Loren. I am now master of my wish.

      Perhaps this is where some of the emotive power of the "intellectual order"
      begins to arise. I have formed the idea that we need to begin to discuss
      this in more depth. In getting into our emotions, is the aim to neutralize
      the "evil" emotions so that I may go on reasoning away, or does it go much
      further, such that reasoning yields to a conception of complete, perfect and
      total integrity as the third kind of knowledge emerges through the specific
      adequate ideas in the essence of the mind? Spinoza says that God is the cause
      of our being under the form of eternity, which is obviously something
      conceived entirely differently from our existence in the common order of
      nature. The Tibetan Buddhists say that every atom in the universe has it own
      Buddha. The seems similar to Spinoza's assertion of a certain conatus in
      every thing and idea, considered either as a part of a whole, or as a thing
      in itself.

      >I was always the origin of my wish, but because I was not at the
      >moment the wish occurred conscious of my "mastery," (the
      >understanding came later as I rode around on the mower), I was not
      >then living my life in a rational, purposeful way. I was at the
      >mercy of "external causes" (though these "external causes" might just
      >as easily be termed "internal").

      I begin to wonder now, "Who is this 'I' person anyway Is this sensation of
      "I," a certain "thinker," "role-players", all under the same assumed name, in
      a virtual theater of selves, just the ideas/sensations arising in parallel
      with movements in a relatively restricted area of the brain?

      I think I want to clarify something about the exchangeability of "external"
      and "internal." I grant that the image of a thing actually existing in front
      of me, (more vivid, hence more energetic and compelling), is qualitatively
      identical with one that arises from memory with respect to ability to
      comprise part of a confused idea, which is what I think Frank is implying.
      However, there are causes that underlie the very essences of things as they
      are in themselves, and these are what come to mind for me when I think of the
      phrase "internal cause."

      >If the human mind has a "designed function" (treat the "designed"
      >part as a rhetorical device) it is to work for the survival of
      >whatever I think that I am.

      I think "designed" is implicit in the "function" concept. My sense is that
      it's still a bit towards the "ghost in the machine," as much as Frank was
      sensitive to the fact. However, I think Spinoza agrees with the basics here.

      Prop. [IX] The mind, both in so far as it has clear and distinct
      ideas, and also in so far as it has confused ideas,
      endeavours to persist in its being for an indefinite
      period, and of this endeavour it is conscious.

      >But because we often think we are our
      >minds, we find that "designed function" operating not for our
      >survival but for the survival of the mind itself. And what
      >constitutes "survival" for a mind is nothing more than the
      >maintenance of consistency in its "ideas."

      Damn this is good stuff! This really nails a big aspect of the apparent
      dilemma, doesn't it? But we can't think we are our minds in this sense when
      a powerful active emotion is attentive awareness of our totality. Even the
      beginnings of this sort of understanding fill the being with joy, and
      awareness of the body as a whole is integral to this. I think this is part
      of what Spinoza is saying in the note to E520 cited above.

      >With confused and
      >fragmented ideas as its original strata of understanding -- we got
      >that early on from our parents and teachers -- the mind has an uphill
      >struggle to make of its "content" a truly survival oriented amalgam.

      A lot of truth there, seems to me. Spinoza says that a conditioned thing can
      never render itself unconditioned. But the good news is that I think he also
      seems to say that the real "original strata" (that which actually "stands
      under" all the particularities of conditioning) is by nature conceived to be
      formless. Can we notice that as reason contemplates common notions, such as
      necessity in certain relations, that our minds are moving in the direction of
      total integration? That is what Einstein theorized about scientifically with
      his unified field theory, and, as we know, he was likewise a Spinozist. The
      trap is that we misinterpret the significance implicit in that movement of
      reason toward unity. We may begin to think that the infinite can be reached
      by moving more and more in that direction. That is the science/philosophy
      addiction that is that very phenomenon of the brain dominating the totality
      of the body which I think Frank's experience in part points up. Going back
      to Einstein, we find that in his physics, an object reaching the speed of
      light will have infinite mass. And we find Jesus, the inner scientist,
      saying that when the understanding is perfected (eye is sound), which I take
      to mean transcending the finite movement of thoughts to comprehend the
      essence of thought/extension itself via the third kind of knowledge, that the
      body is full of light. That is, I will say, a verbal curiosity along the
      way, which may or may not contain some meaning. But my point is that the
      movement of reason toward integration is sort of like the old grade school
      brain teaser about how long it will take to go a mile if we traverse half the
      remaining distance every ten minutes.

      As we recognize with greater clarity that this primordial "common notion"
      from whence our particularity arises is the source of being, our "minds" as
      we "experience" them seem to grow simpler, quieter, and very much less
      "all-encompassing." Don't scientist say that the whole "I, me mine"
      experience appears to occupy a small percentage of the brain? Perhaps
      something is reflected in the other uncharted parts when the totality of the
      incorporeal is united with, or at least a certainty about that possibility is
      at hand. But I think Spinoza means that this direction toward merger with
      "integrated sameness" comes about more by observing for the very essence of a
      passion, such as desire, rather than by trying to get in mind the great
      complex of modal causes. I sense all 'round agreement on that issue.

      >We struggle heartily, but for every rational, life-sustaining
      >breakthrough we are able to "engineer," there seem to be a hundred
      >others there to take its place -- "mind-sustaining" ideas that may
      >contribute to no survival other than their own.

      Not to say there is no benefit to "rearranging the furniture," the thing
      about "the intellectual order," Spinoza seems to say, is that when we
      acquiesce with some of these intuitive, adequate ideas that are supposed to
      be in the essence of the mind, and are more and more revealed as we observe
      what passions are, in themselves, why then the "furniture" rearranges itself.
      In Buddhism, I think this effect is called a "mandala." For the
      pseudo/philosophic babblers like me, I'd liken it to the pattern assumed by
      iron filings when an electromagnet is activated. There is no struggle
      involved, in fact, all the action is in the source of the electricity. Well,
      another analogy...
      >SunHunter also asked:
      >"What experiments can be devised to go into these ideas?"
      >I regard the above exercise as an example of such an "experiment"
      >Perhaps we should rather call methods of this sort "experience," but
      >if our lives are in fact possible of rational existence, then it
      >seems reasonable and proper to refer to these experiences as
      >experiments. I cannot, however, conceive that our lives are only
      >experiments, but neither can I deny that the possibility for actual
      >mastery to occur suggests a beyondness not strictly deducible from
      >the pure empiricism of the experienced life. We may not be involved
      >in the work of a "good God," but we are certainly capable of seeing
      >ourselves as creators of a world more perfect for human existence
      >than the one into which we were born.

      "Pt.2, Ch.18-P02:
      In the first place, it follows therefrom that we are truly
      servants, aye, slaves, of God, and that it is our greatest
      perfection to be such necessarily. For, if we were thrown back upon
      ourselves, and thus not dependent on God, we should be able to
      accomplish very little, or nothing, and that would justly give us
      cause to lament our lot; especially so in contrast with what we now
      see, namely, that we are dependent on that which is the most
      perfect of all, in such a way that we exist also as a part of the
      whole, that is, of him; and we contribute, so to say, also our
      share to the realization of so many skilfully ordered and perfect
      works, which depend on him. [N1]"
      -Short Treatise

      So, I've gotten to the end of an extremely long-winded post, only to feel
      that I have just begun to get into what I feel Spinoza means to indicate are
      vital aspects of the causality of passions which are most needful to be
      known. That is, that there is a so to say "vertical" axis of causality that
      intersects the web of temporal causes at a certain point, as Frank noticed
      while on his mower, and it is the links along this "ladder" that lead to
      direct intuition of the conatus of being, self-actuated joy, and ultimately
      perhaps, blessedness. Thanks, readers, for providing an opportunity to bring
      out these expressions for further development.
    • ethel jean saltz
      ... etc. etc. etc. Great posting, SunHunter. Now, for a dream. Berkeley Chapter of Spinoza Society protesting using Spinoza s ETHICS. Wait a minute: revision
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 2 7:55 AM
      • 0 Attachment
        > Message: 1
        > Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2002 19:11:23 EDT
        > From: SunHunter9@...
        > Subject: Re: Experimenting with experience
        > In the sense of the "common" order and connection of causes, etc? That seems
        > another avenue of investigation that is psychological in the sense that it
        > involves conditioning via the common order of nature. However, because of
        > the context in which Spinoza uses the phrase "intellectual order" I think
        > that he means that other order of causality that descends from an intuitive
        etc. etc. etc.

        Great posting, SunHunter. Now, for a dream. Berkeley Chapter of Spinoza
        Society protesting using Spinoza's ETHICS. Wait a minute: revision --
        Berkeley Chapter Spinoza Society -- period ;)

        Be-ahavah oo-ve-shalom oo-ve-emet, Ethel Jean Saltz
        Mac(hiavelli)-Niet(zsche)-Spin(oza)-Gal(ileo), 392 A.G. (after Galileo)
        mailto: nietgal@...
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.