This seems to me to be a central lesson that runs throughout Ethics; our ideas, our thoughts, our feelings are part of nature, and subject to Nature’s causes and effects. However, we tend to think of ourselves as intellectual creatures who are “outside nature”, and not determined in this way.
The Woman in Black is possibly the most terrifying stage play you will ever see. It tells the story of a young solicitor, newly married, who goes to a remote house to unearth the contents of a deceased old lady’s will. It is cleverly set up so that the author of the story, who we are led to believe it really happened to, narrates the story, and a hired actor plays the role of the author, enacting out the “real story”. After a long build-up, the young solicitor finally enters the remote and creepy house, having to stay there during the night. At which point, the theatre becomes immersed in darkness, subject to random sounds, creaking doors and sudden apparitions. The fear we feel is the fear we feel of a “random” universe, where we do not know what terror will come next, the ultimate terror of cause being our own death. We are victims of these sudden and terrifying “affects”; this is what nature does to us. This is the genius of the play; it is not a ghost story at all, but the story of our affective relationship with nature: it haunts us with its darkness, its events and affects which we can never predict. However, as Spinoza attempts to show, we can begin to have a better understanding of it beyond seeing it as The Woman in Black; we can see beyond the superstitious interpretation of it as a malevolent ghost. This will not stop it haunting us, but we will understand the nature of our haunting better.
Journey into Joy
What do you think of “nature”? What do you think “nature” is? For Spinoza, Nature is God, who is everything, and we can never be outside it.
What scares you about nature? Your death? The deaths of your children? Disease? Pain? The unpredictability of events?