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Benedict Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) lived out his life as a lens grinder in
Amsterdam.[xxxvii] He was relatively obscure and uninfluential during his
lifetime. The Ethics, his most important work,[xxxviii] was published
posthumously. The title of his work reflects his central aim: he wished to establish a
way of life that was ethically correct and satisfying. In this context, psychology was a
necessary step toward ethics.
Methodologically, Spinoza was both rationalistic and deductive. Sharing
Descartes' enthusiasm for a geometric ideal, Spinoza began with self-evident axioms
from which he proposed to deduce the nature of reality. He presented his views in
geometrical form, that is, each new point was derived from preceding points. His
conception of science admirably reflects his rationalistic method. The order of natural
objects and the order of knowledge of them are coextensive; "the order and
connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things." [xxxix]
Spinoza's views are firmly rooted in his conception of God. [xl] God is infinite
and is the only substance. Thought and extension are but attributes of God. To think
of "things," ie., the objects of the world as we know them, is incorrect; instead of
things, there are modes of substance, and whatever is, is a modification of the one
substance that is God. A body is an abstraction, a finite way of regarding the infinite
substance that is God. The human mind is no more than an aspect of the mind of
God. [xli]
Man is a unitary individual and has the modes or forms of attributes of body
(extension) and mind (thought).[xlii] To Spinoza, mind and body are not separate, as
they are to Descartes. They are one; they are two aspects of the same reality. Neither
body nor mind is autonomous; man has modes of the attributes of both extension and

thought. This is a form of parallelism -- monistic parallelism. Every bodily event

coexists with and is coordinate to a mental event. Body and mind correlate, but they
do not cause one another any more than the convex side of a glass causes the
concave. Apparent interaction arises from ignorance on our part and shows only the
coincidence of actions; it is a matter of appearance, not a reflection of reality.

Spinoza clearly states that it follows from this that the body cannot determine the

mind to think nor can the mind determine the body to motion or rest.
Unlike Descartes, Spinoza thought of the mind as an automaton, a term he
explicitly applied to it. [xliv] Mind and body both were to be studied deterministically,
Spinoza was perhaps the first modern thinker to view the world, including man, from
a strictly deterministic standpoint. Both mind and body are of equal status, and both
are subject to natural law.[xlv] Spinoza saw clearly that his deterministic view of man
required that there be laws of nature which are applicable to man. He mentions, for
example, remembering by similarity and by contiguity as examples of the laws which
we should seek.[xlvi]
Time and again he tells us that the will is not free. [xlvii] The mind has no free
will; it is determined by a cause that in turn is determined by another cause, and so
on. This determinism brought Spinoza to something of a dilemma. How can man be
ethically influenced -- and ethics is after all, his main theme -- if there is strict
determinism? Throughout his works the answer is offered that man's nature may be
improved by improving his understanding and by encouraging him to follow ethical
principles that may be learned. The behavior of ignorant man is determined from
without while the wise man can act in line with greater knowledge of nature. Acting
in the light of necessity is man's highest freedom, [xlviii] and freedom is one with
In contrast to Descartes' view of the mind as primarily cognitive, Spinoza
emphasizes the conative or drive aspect of mental life. Central to Spinoza's

psychology is the concept of conatus, something similar to what we would call an

impulse toward self-preservation.[xlix] The striving for self-preservation is desire when
it is conscious of itself; it is appetite when it is not. [l] In another place he speaks of
man being led more by "blind desire" than by "reason." [li]
When unconscious desire is coupled with his emphasis on conation in general
and his acceptance of determinism, it is hardly surprising that Spinoza should be seen
as anticipating Freud. [lii] But although this may be of some incidental interest, it must
be pointed out that Spinoza's thinking was arrived at from a perspective vastly
different from that of Freud; and although he was familiar with the works of Spinoza,

Freud shows no evidence of a direct influence.


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), one of the inventors of the calculus,
was also a philosopher, scientist, historian, diplomat, logician, and lawyer, and after
his death, a leading intellectual force in Europe. [liv] Among his many concerns, he
investigated the issue of body-mind relationships.
Leibniz's unique contribution to our understanding of the nature of the mind is
to be found in the theory of the "monad," his term for the individual units of all
substances, indicating that he was guided by a molecular prescription. He held that
the world consists of an infinite number of monads. [lv] As a unit, each monad is
unextended. Extension is rejected by Leibniz as an attribute of substance, and this
leaves the monads -- all monads-- with mind as their essential attribute. Each monad
is a psychic entity. In denying substance, he denied the reality of matter also, and in its
place substituted an infinity of monads. Although mental, each of the monads has
some of the properties of a physical point, and when collected into an aggregate, they

create an appearance of extension.[lvi] The tree and the stones of everyday life,
although appearing to the senses as objects, are actually aggregates of monads, and in
themselves are not phenomenal. Thus, Leibniz satisfied the need for an explanation
of at least the appearance of extension in the world.
Each monad acts independently, but is crated by God to act in pre-established
harmony with other monads.[lvii] The monads may appear to interact, but they do
not. This takes the place of the untenable position that they influence one another.

There is no causality between monads. There is no causal relation between

monads, not even between those of the mind and those of the body. For our present
discussion this is most important. Non-interaction of body and mind is but a special
case of the parallelism of monads. Mind and body follow their own laws but show
perfect agreement, and give the impression of interaction. But actually there is a
parallelism. The situation is similar to the interplay of the instruments of a symphony
orchestra, in which each player follows the score and yet gives the impression of one
instrument responding to another. In a similar manner God composed the score,
which is then played out according to pre-established harmony.
Stripped of the trappings of the monads, Leibniz's conception of parallelism
was a forerunner of the doctrine of parallelistic dualism or psychophysical parallelism
that was to be so important to Wilhelm Wundt and others of the early
introspectionistic psychologists.
To Leibniz, all units of the world are endowed with life and motion and so are
somewhat akin to consciousness. Even lifeless matter is only relatively unconscious;
it has the least possible degree of consciousness. [lix] Living organisms are composed
of monads with varying degrees of consciousness.
Mental events, that is to say, the activity of monads, have degrees of clarity
ranging from the totally unclear to the most definitely conscious or clearly grasped.

To Leibniz, this was more a matter of focal and peripheral attention than of

consciousness as we would use the term. [lxi] Nevertheless, in view of the closeness of
meaning, it was later seen as a conception of the continuum of consciousnessunconsciousness. At one extreme there are mental events of which we are totally
unconscious, while at the other extreme are those that are clearly grasped or to use the
technical term, apperceived.
The degree of consciousness is a relative matter.[lxii] The supposedly
unconscious has the possibility of becoming conscious. There are lower degrees of
consciousness -- petites perceptions, to use Leibniz's term. These, when actualized,
are apperceived. Hearing the roar of the surf is apperception, because it is the sum of
all the drops of water we would not be conscious of if they were heard only one by
one. The sound of a single drop is unconscious perception; sum up many drops at
once and there is apperception.