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Home The Conatus of the Body in Spinoza’s Physics

The Conatus of the Body in Spinoza’s Physics

Sean WINKLER*

Abstract: In Part 3 of his Ethics, Baruch Spinoza identifies the conatus of the mind as „will‟ and of the mind and body together as „appetite‟/„desire,‟ but he does not identify the conatus of the body. This omission is curious, given that he describes „motion-and-rest‟ and conatus in such ways that they appear to be one and the same thing. In this paper, however, I propose that motion-and-rest and conatus (in the attribute of extension) can be understood as two distinct aspects, relational and singular, of Spinoza‟s theory of the individuation of bodies. In Section 1, I explain Spinoza‟s account of the body. In Section 2, I reject the notion that the conatus of the body is a principle of rectilinear inertia. In Section 3, I indicate that besides conatus, Spinoza uses other terms throughout his texts to denote the concept of striving, each of which alludes to a relational and singular aspect of his theory of individuation. In Section 4, I show that for Spinoza, motion-and-rest refers to the relational („preindividual‟) aspect of the body and that conatus (in the attribute of extension) refers to the singular (individuated) aspect of the body.

Keywords: Spinoza, physics, individuation, body, conatus, inertia, motion, rest.

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