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Being and ReasonAn Essay on Spinoza's Metaphysics$
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Martin Lin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198834151

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198834151.001.0001

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The Conatus Doctrine

The Conatus Doctrine

(p.137) 6 The Conatus Doctrine
Being and Reason

Martin Lin

Oxford University Press

Spinoza believes that all things “strive to persevere in their being.” This claim, known as Spinoza’s conatus doctrine, raises many questions. Does Spinoza believe that nature is goal directed? Does he think that all natural things, including ones that are typically classified as inanimate, such as particles of matter and stars in the sky have desires and goals? This chapter explicates the meaning of Spinoza’s conatus doctrine and argues that it must be interpreted teleologically despite the apparent tension between teleology and mechanism. It also examines Spinoza’s argument for the conatus doctrine and argues that it is not meant to follow from claims about the impossibility of self-destruction alone, as many commentators would have it. Rather, he must be relying on important assumptions about the nature of God and the expressive relationship that finite individuals bear to it. It concludes by considering the problem of goal-directed human action in Spinoza.

Keywords:   conatus, teleology, self-preservation, mechanism, divine providence, final causation, mental causation, wide causation, essence

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