What Spinoza taught me about my body

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Or what exactly I have learned about the body in general reading Spinoza.

It is not very common to link philosophy to fitness, philosophy being a discipline of the mind and rational thinking. However it is such a vast world that the reader can find any topic analyzed by philosophers. Philosophy is maybe the only real lesson of life.

Baruch Spinoza was a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.  Hegel said about him: “The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.” His philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted Gilles Deleuze to name him “the ‘prince’ of philosophers”.

Being a big critic of dualism, Spinoza’s philosophy focused on monism starting with the body and he wrote the following:

“We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body”.

In other words, humans aren’t free unless they know the causes of their actions. The cause is in the body. To understand this idea, Spinoza describes life as a series of occursus or encounters. Therefore, we encounter everything: people, events, phenomenons, viruses etc. Each and every encounter affects us differently, depending on each one’s body characteristics and forces.

I learned this lesson seriously and I started to observe my body’s reactions to almost any encounter, including food, fitness exercises, some tasks at work and so on. Progressively, I began to add some little adjustments to my daily life based on my observations. Would you believe me if I say that Spinoza was a life changer?

I recommend reading Spinoza, specially his masterpiece Ethics. You can never go wrong.

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