Spinoza thought that the experience of passion is one that reduces the proba- bility of survival. Unlike an emotion, which is linked to a specific thought, passion is not associated with any particular thought. So, Spinoza distinguishes between emotions and passions. A child’s love for its mother is an emotion, whereas a general emo- tional upheaval exemplifies passion because it is not directed at anything specific. Because passion can cause nonadaptive behavior, it must be harnessed by reason.
Behavior and thoughts guided by reason are conducive to survival, but behavior and thoughts guided by passion are not. By understanding the causes of passion, reason gives one the power to control passion, just as knowing why rivers flood villages allows the control of floods. Spinoza’s insis- tence that we can improve ourselves by clarifying our ideas through an analysis of them and by ratio- nally controlling our passions comes very close to Freudian psychoanalysis. In fact, if we replace the term passion with unconscious determinants of behav- ior, we see how similar Spinoza’s position is to Freud’s. In their history of psychiatry, Alexander and Selesnick (1966) actually refer to Spinoza as the greatest of the pre-Freudian psychologists.
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