Volume 11, 1998
Bennett on Spinoza’s Philosophical Psychotherapy
Spinoza's philosophy has a practical aim. The Ethics can be interpreted as a guide to a happy, intellectually flourishing life. Spinoza gives us principles about how to guard against the power of passions which prevent the mind from attaining understanding. In what follows, I consider Spinoza's techniques for guarding against the passions by turning to Jonathan Bennett's criticisms of Spinozistic psychotherapy. Bennett finds three central techniques for freeing oneself from the passions: (i) reflecting on determinism; (ii) separating and joining; and (iii) turning passions into actions. Bennett believes that all of these techniques are in some sense flawed. I contend that Bennett offers good criticism against technique (i), but his criticisms against (ii) and (iii) are unfounded.