“It is the part of a wise man to refresh and restore himself, in moderation, with good food and drink, with perfumes, with the beauty of lush plants, with decoration, with music, with sports, with the theater, and with other things of this kind, which one can enjoy without harm to another.”
—Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
(Tierney Gearon for The New York Times)
Corbett, Sara. ” The Weird, Scary and Ingenious Brain of Maria Bamford.” The New York Times. 17 Jul. 2014.
The author is building interconnected readings of imagination, error and desire in Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics, a philosophical treatise published in 1677. On Spinoza’s theory of the passions, we can misjudge our own natures and fail to understand the sorts of beings that we really are; we are not well known to ourselves, and the self-knowledge that is the foundation of virtue and freedom is elusive and fragile.
5p2: “If we separate emotions, or affects, from the thought of an external cause and join them to true thoughts, then love or hate toward an external cause and also the vacillation of mind that arises from these affects are destroyed.”
Love and hate are passions in which laetitia [joy] or tristitia [sadness] accompanies the thought of some external cause. So, we might say, for example, that Anna’s love for Vronski is a kind of happiness that she has in thinking of him, and that, by 5p2, she might overcome this harmful passion — both the trouble that it causes now, “vacillation,” and also the trouble that, as a passion it is likely to lead to — by separating that happiness from the thought of this external object, Vronksi, who causes it.
. . . So, by the definition of love, if Anna no longer thinks of Vronski, it follows uninterestingly that her passion, whatever it is, can no longer be a variety of love.
. . . Spinoza emphasizes the right understanding of passion and its subsequent transformation at 5p3 and 5p4:
5p3: “An effect that is a passion ceases being a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it.”
5p4: “There is no affect of the body, of which we cannot form some clear and distinct concept.”
These propositions suggest that it is not enough for Anna simply not to think of Vronski. In order to transform her own feelings and to avoid the harm they cause, Anna must also be self-reflective and try to understand herself and her emotions.
. . . To take the example of a passion, Anna may contemplate Vronski, and think of his him as the cause of her harmful passion, but, on Spinoza’s account of imagination, besides being mistaken about Vronski, Anna may be entirely wrong in thinking him the underlying source of the passion and the problem. It would be a mistake, on Spinoza’s account of imagination, to say that detaching her passion from the thought of Vronksi is good for Anna just because in doing so, she comes no longer to dwell on the external cause of her passion.
She certainly may have been dwelling on Vronski; her real problem, however, may be a failure to have recognized the true external cause of her passion (her unhappy marriage; her sense of confinement, and her separation from good company) at all. Detaching her passion from the thought of Vronski would be better understood as an important first step for Anna in doing what she can do for herself, which is to understand her passion as it is in her and insofar as it produced by her.
. . . However, nobility and tenacity are not immune to the other hazards of this method. Spinoza acknowledges generally in several passages in the Ethics that human beings may always be overpowered by external causes. . . . Some passions, we may assume, will always be overwhelming. This point I think is clear in the way that Spinoza qualifies 5p10 itself:
5p10: “So long as we are not agitated by affects that are contrary to our nature, we have the power of ordering and connecting the affections of the body following the order the intellect.”
LeBuffe, Michael. From Bondage to Freedom: Spinoza on Human Excellence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 45-46, 75, 96-97. Print.
“I will do well because I am not defined by a show. I think we are defined by the way we treat ourselves, and the way we treat other people.”
—Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and philanthropist
60 Minutes, 1986.
Another question which from the very beginning occupied Reich’s mind was how the general deconstruction of natural living functioning could be prevented.
In our civilization, as in most other civilizations, it is the adults (that is the more or less twisted characters) who set the goals for the education, (that is the formation) of children and adolescents, and in general it must be said that they set the goals so as to serve their own convenience and to perpetuate their own prejudices. Only some rather primitive peoples, such as the Eskimos, take quite a different view of education and of the upbringing of children.
According to the ancient religion of the Eskimos, an aspect which Christianity has only partly succeeded in destroying, the child is the wisest of all, and therefore the worst misdeed a man can do is to thwart a child. To the Eskimos, this is not just a theoretical or theological belief, but they act according to it, to the amazement of all ‘civilized’ observers.
Raknes, Ola. “Chapter 2: Psychoanalytic Period.” Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy : the great psychologist and his controversial theory of life energy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1970. 24-25. Print.
“Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail.” By Paul Redford and Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing. NBC, Los Angeles. 28 Feb. 2001.
Q: So where does the term “heterosexual” come from?
“Thanks to psychiatrists in the 1880s and 1890s — a part of the medical profession that was deeply unscientific at that time. It meant that somebody with a medical degree and all of the authority it brings could stand up and start making value judgments using specialized medical vocabulary and pass it off as authoritative, and basically unquestionable.
Psychiatry is responsible for creating the heterosexual in largely the same way that it is responsible for creating the various categories of sexual deviance that we are familiar with and recognize and define ourselves in opposition to. The period lasting from the late Victorian era to the first 20 or 30 years of the 20th century was a time of tremendous socioeconomic change, and people desperately wanted to give themselves a valid identity in this new world order.
One of the ways people did that was establish themselves as sexually normative. And it wasn’t the people who were running around thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a man and I like to sleep with other men, that makes me different,’ who were creating this groundswell of change; it was the other people, the men who were running around going, ‘I’m not a degenerate, I don’t want to sleep with other men, I am this thing over here that is normative and acceptable and good and not pathological and right, that’s what I am. That’s what I need people to understand about me, because I need people to understand that I am a valid person and I need to be taken seriously.'”
Rogers, Thomas. “The invention of the heterosexual.” Salon. 22 Jan. 2012.