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Spinoza’s Will to Power: How Does the Conatus Become a Desire to Increase Power?

Spinoza’s Will to Power: How Does the Conatus Become a Desire to Increase Power?

Chapter:
(p.77) Chapter 3 Spinoza’s Will to Power: How Does the Conatus Become a Desire to Increase Power?
Source:
Spinoza and the Cunning of Imagination
Author(s):
Eugene Garver
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226575735.003.0004

Every finite thing tries to preserve itself. That desire for self-preservation, the conatus, is the actual essence of the individual. However, Spinoza argues that individuals—all or some—not only try to maintain themselves, but to increase their power. Guided by the imagination alone, though, the desire for more power can endanger the desire to preserve oneself, and they are only identical in an activity the imagination cannot grasp, that of increasing one’s rationality. Spinoza never posits a natural desire for knowledge, and it is only through the cunning of imagination that such a desire could ever develop out of a mind limited to the imagination. Crucial to that development is the development of sociability, as we find that we best both preserve and increase our power through interaction with other people. Human social relations are unique because it is only there that one individual can increase its power without decreasing the power of something else.

Keywords:   bootstrap empowerment, self-acquiescence, sociability, conatus, human nature, desire, pleasure and pain, power

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