Desire in Descartes and Spinoza

Jonathan Bennett

in Learning from Six Philosophers Volume 1

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780198250913
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597053 | DOI:

Series: Learning from Six Philosophers (2 Volumes)

 Desire in Descartes and Spinoza

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  • History of Western Philosophy


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Descartes tries to keep teleology out of his account of desire. Spinoza often seems to do likewise: he equates desire with ‘appetite’, which he firmly defines in non‐teleological terms. His extraordinarily ingenious and equally fallacious attempt to prove the ‘conatus’ doctrine—that everything strives to preserve its own being—is analysed and criticized. If enough allowances are made, the argument takes him to a kind of pseudo‐egoism, which he invalidly equates with egoism.

Keywords: conatus; Descartes; desire; egoism; Spinoza; teleology

Chapter.  8896 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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