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This essay explores the metaphysical foundations of Spinoza's psychology. A particular focus is Spinoza's conatus principle according to which each thing strives not only to persevere in existence but also to increase its power of acting. This striving is, for Spinoza, the actual essence of each thing, and it forms the basis of the three fundamental affects desire, joy, and sadness--which are central to Spinoza's accounts of weakness of the will, self-deception, the imitation of the affects, egoism, altruism, and teleology. Throughout, the essay emphasizes the ways in which Spinoza's psychology manifests his naturalism, his view that everything –including human beings and their various affects or emotions – is governed by the same laws that are found throughout nature.
This chapter outlines the metaphysical views of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP). It discusses two methodological principles (principle of sufficient reason and the priority of the infinite) that play a central role in motivating Spinoza's metaphysics. The chapter then delves into the metaphysical issues of Spinoza's alleged pantheism, the identity of God's essence and existence, substance and attributes, and finally, the conatus. Spinoza's main reason for demanding that the proper order of philosophizing is to begin with God is primarily the need to avoid an anthropomorphic conception of God. The critique of anthropomorphic and anthropocentric thinking is clearly one of the major underlying themes of the TTP. The essence of God is the cause of all things. An effect is a property of the cause. Hence, all things are just God's properties that follow from his essence. As a result, Spinoza can say that whatever we know is nothing but God.
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