How We Experience the World: Passionate Perception in Descartes and Spinoza

Lisa Shapiro

in Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199579914
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745959 | DOI:
How We Experience the World: Passionate Perception in Descartes and Spinoza

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Both Descartes and Spinoza, though in importantly distinct ways, provide us with a different model of our sensory experience of the world than the familiar one. On the familiar account, sensations inform us of the properties of things in the world, while emotions are responsive to that information and motivate us. Descartes and Spinoza reject this model to acknowledge an essentially affective dimension of sensory experience, For Descartes, emotions and sensations are both intentional states that refer to, or represent, the ways in which things benefit and harm us; they are distinguished by what they afford the cognizer awareness of, Spinoza conceives of our experience differently, taking imagination, rather than sensation as central. I argue that for him, our imagining the objects we do, our perceiving, or awareness of the objects we perceive, is explained in part by our affective response.

Keywords: Descartes; Spinoza; perception; sensation; passions; motivation; representation; affect; imagination; awareness

Chapter.  13509 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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