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The Essentials of Mental Measurement
Medical Psychology, v, 4
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SPINOZA'S ANTICIPATION OF RECENT PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS
By M. HAMBLIN SMITH.
THE study of two subjects has occupied my leisure time for a number of years, that of the works of Spinoza, and that of psycho-analytic theory. These studies were, at first, carried on quite independently. Later, I began to realize that they ran concurrently, and that they were, in fact, closely connected. I do not claim the idea of this connection as original. But, so far as I am aware, the connection has never been worked out in any detail. This task I am now essaying. Every great discovery has had its anticipators, who have groped after the truth without finding it, and whose work has influenced their successors, whether those successors have, or have not, been conscious of such influence. This was the case with the Darwinian and other theories, and so it has been with Freud. But it is surprising, or so I venture to think, how far the Freudian theory has been anticipated by Spinoza, and how the latter's views, having regard to his phraseology, and to the time at which he wrote, can be accepted, without much alteration, by students of psycho-analytic theory to-day.
The special work of Spinoza to which I shall have to refer is the Ethics1. I may, perhaps, be allowed to remind my readers that the title "ethics" is used in a sense somewhat different from that which the word bears in common parlance. Ethics, to Spinoza, is the study of man's relations to the universe as a whole, not merely the study of his relations to his fellow-men. The object of the book is to point out how a complete adaptation to reality can best be obtained. This is, in itself, remarkably like the object of psycho-analysis2. The style of the Ethics is austere, and is, at first acquaintance, almost repellent. And the arrangement of the book is peculiar. A geometrical system is adopted, the subject being dealt with in a series of propositions and corollaries, with definitions, axioms, and postulates, quite in the manner of the text-books of Euclid
1 Except where otherwise stated, all references are to the Ethics, the Roman numerals indicating the Part, and the Arabic numerals indicating the Proposition. Quotations are from the translation by Boyle (Everyman's Library).
2 It is not, of course, implied that the 'reality' of Spinoza, and of other philosophers, is identical with the 'reality' referred to by writers on psycho-analysis.
Med. Psych. V
of our school-days. But this plan was not adopted arbitrarily. On the contrary, we shall see, later, why it was that Spinoza deliberately elected to present his subject ordine geometrico, as he puts it.
It would be interesting, but it would take us too far afield, to consider how far Spinoza's early training influenced his mental development. (He, like Freud, was a Jew by birth; and his family had been obliged to flee from their native land.) Nor can we consider here his expulsion from the synagogue, for the holding of heretical opinions, indicating his early breach with that authority which most people find so comfortable in religious matters, and his putting forth on the sea of uncharted thought. But there is one feature in Spinoza's system which we must deal with at the outset. He, like Freud, is an uncompromising determinist. I need not expand the fundamental position of determinism in Freud's system. Spinoza has well been called the "apostle of determinism." And scientific determinism, in its modern form, descends from Spinoza. I do not fail to recognize that determinism was taught before Spinoza's day, or that a theory, practically identical with determinism, has been held by many who would have regarded the views of Spinoza as anathema. But it seems to me that he was the first to teach determinism as a logical system in itself, and as quite apart from its effects upon ideas as to man's destiny in some supposed future state. In this connection, as in others, he has done much to clear away the anthropocentric view of the universe, as well as the anthropomorphic conception of God, although that is prominent enough even to-day. I need not elaborate the importance of this latter conception from the point of view of psycho-analysis, nor deal with its influence on the production of the father-complex. Spinoza's uncompromising exposition of determinism cannot be surpassed for convincing and logical clearness, and has, I venture to think, never been equalled. His insistence on determinism was one great cause of the opposition to Spinoza, as it is the cause of the opposition to Freud. For the longer I go on, the more convinced I am that it is his determinism which upsets Freud's opponents.
It is this which has caused the followers of Jung to break away from the great master. And to take matters into another field for a moment, it is this which is at the root of all difference of opinion upon the question of punishment. The ordinary man must have something for which he can blame those who offend against the laws of society. It is often said that determinism leaves practical questions exactly as they were before. Generally speaking, this statement is true. But it is not true in one important particular. All ground for blame, in the ordinary sense of