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Scharfstein, B. Ostow, M. (1952). The Unconscious Sources of Spinoza's Philosophy. Am. Imago, 9(3-4):221-237.

(1952). American Imago, 9(3-4):221-237

The Unconscious Sources of Spinoza's Philosophy

Ben-Ami Scharfstein, Ph.D. and Mortimer Ostow, M.D., Med.sc.D.

Almost everyone now pays lip-service to the theory that our abstract ideas have subterranean psychological roots in early childhood. Yet this theory, though true, has been poorly exploited, except within a relatively narrow range of psychiatric writing. With all its present limitations, it has taught us much less than it is able to, for those who have applied it have ordinarily done so in a gross and superficial way.

To choose Spinoza as the subject of a psychological analysis is both interesting and dangerous. It is interesting, of course, because it is dangerous, but also because Spinoza is a philosopher-hero, the philosopher-hero, one is tempted to say, whose personal and philosophical courage were each the equal of the other, and whose life was untainted by weakness or wickedness. It was the truth he wanted, and he searched for it undeviatingly in the face of dangers he appreciated but did not resent. This conventional picture of the hero, Spinoza, while not really false, is not especially revealing; but since unconscious motives wear no halos, any attempt to exhibit them may appear to be an attack on him. We know, however, that unconscious motives are universal, irrational, and often carnal, and not a matter for either praise or blame.

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