Tag: Spinoza

Spinoza and the False Tag

“More than three centuries ago, Baruch Spinoza pointed out that the human mind cannot suspend disbelief in the truth or falsity of a statement and leave it hanging in logical limbo awaiting a “true” or “false” tag to be hung on it. To hear or read a statement is to believe it, at least for a moment. For us to conclude that something is not the case, we must take the extra cognitive step of pinning the mental tag “false” on a proposition. Any statement that is untagged is treated as if it is true. As a result, when we have a lot on our minds, we can get confused about where the “false” tag belongs, or can forget it entirely. In that case what is merely mentioned can become true. Richard Nixon did not allay suspicions about his character when he declared, “I am not a crook,” nor did Bill Clinton put rumors to rest when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Experiments have shown that when jurors are told to disregard the witness’s remarks, they never do, any more than you can follow the instruction “For the next minute, try not to think about a white bear.””

Pinker, Steven. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

Spinoza and William James on Freedom

From the essay, The Will, by William James:

Spinoza long ago wrote in his ethics that anything that a man can avoid under the notion that it is bad he may also avoid under the notion that something else is good. He who habitually acts sub specie mali, under the negative notion, the notion of the bad, is called a slave by Spinoza. To him who acts habitually under the notion of good he gives the name of freeman. See to it now, I beg you, that you make freemen of your pupils by habituating them to act, whenever possible, under the notion of a good. Get them habitually to tell the truth, not so much through showing them the wickedness of lying as by arousing their enthusiasm for honor and veracity.

Found in, The Heart of William James,
William James (Author), Robert D. Richardson (Editor).
(This book is filled with good stuff and is Highly Recommended. )

Also available here: Talks to Teachers, William James, via Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16287


From The Ethics, Benedictus de Spinoza:

PROP. LXVII. A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.

Proof.–A free man is one who lives under the guidance of reason, who is not led by fear (IV. lxiii.), but who directly desires that which is good (IV. lxiii. Coroll.), in other words (IV. xxiv.), who strives to act, to live, and to preserve his being on the basis of seeking his own true advantage; wherefore such an one thinks of nothing less than of death, but his wisdom is a meditation of life. Q.E.D.

Ethics, Benedictus de Spinoza via Project Gutenberg