Models pp 231-254 | Cite as

Action and Passion: Spinoza’s Construction of a Scientific Psychology

  • Marx W. Wartofsky
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 48)


Spinoza’s construction of a scientific psychology is one of the most striking historical examples of the heuristic function of metaphysics in the genesis of scientific theory.1 It is, at the same time, an example of how the requirements of a scientific theory are related to the construction of a metaphysics. That these two propositions are not mutually exclusive, I hope to show in this essay; and that they are both true requires us only to believe that science and metaphysics mutually interact, and help to shape each other, especially in those periods of great discovery and courageous theorizing which mark the youth of a new science.


Adequate Idea External Body Composite Body Scientific Psychology Distinct Idea 
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  1. 1.
    See my ‘Metaphysics as Heuristic for Science,’ Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, III, R. S. Cohen and M. W. Wartofsky (eds.), (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1965), pp. 123–170. Reprinted in this volume, pp. 40–89.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This mereological principle is best expressed, perhaps, in Giordano Bruno’s phrase, “wholly in the whole, and wholly in every part of the whole” (De Immenso et Innumer-abilibus, II, xiii, cited by H. F. Hallett, Aeternitas, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1930, pp. 155–156). We know that a related solution is sought by Leibniz, in the Monadology, and it shares much in common with Spinoza’s; but it does not share Spinoza’s insistence on the equal ontological status of matter with that of mind.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Cf. Arne Naess, ‘Freedom, Emotion and Self-Subsistence,’ and Jon Wetlesen, ‘Basic Concepts in Spinoza’s Social Psychology,’ both in Inquiry, 12, 1 (Spring 1969).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    However, see G. H. R. Parkinson’s discussion of some difficulties in Spinoza’s theory of falsehood and error: Spinoza’s Theory of Knowledge, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964, esp. pp. 120–127.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    D. Bidney, The Psychology and Ethics of Spinoza, Yale U.P., New Haven, 1940, pp. 100–111Google Scholar
  6. 6a.
    J. M’artineau, A Study of Spinoza, Macmillan, London, 1895, p. 260 (cited in Bidney).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Aristotle, Eth. Nic., 1152b ff.; Rhet., 1369b 33 ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See, for a discussion on this point, L. S. Vygotskii, ‘Spinoza’s Theory of the Emotions in the Light of Contemporary Psychoneurology,’ Voprosy filosofii, 1970, 6, tr. E. E. Berg, in Soviet Studies in Philosophy, Spring 1972, pp. 362–382. This essay by Vygotskii, excerpted from the last chapter of a monograph bearing the same title, is part of the last of a seven-volume collection of his work, presently in preparation, which will also include ‘Spinoza’s Theory of the Passions.’ Vygotskii contrasts Dilthey and Lange, among others, with respect to ‘descriptive’ (phenomenological) and ‘explanatory’ (causal) psychologies of the emotions.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

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  • Marx W. Wartofsky

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