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The Regulation of the Organism by Social Dynamics

Spinoza also uses affects as an organismic regulator to show: (1) how the human organism defends a functioning that is its own; and (2) how it is regulated by social systems that direct it toward political, theological, economic, and military goals. This theme is developed in A Political Treatise,22 in a section where Spinoza discusses the relationship between individual and social rights.

Spinoza takes the example of a person who has given his word that he would accomplish a particular action. From the point of view of this person, his promise remains valid so long as the will of him that gave his word remains unchanged❠(Spinoza, 1677b, 11.12, p. 296). At this point, the individual has not engaged the power of his organism, only his words.

Spinoza continues by taking the case of two persons who have gone into a partnership based on this given word. They gather the power of the two organisms. The greater the number of partner organisms, the greater the power of the group, and the more right they all collectively possess❠(Spinoza, 1677b, 13, p. 296). The functioning of the group can help or hinder the power mobilized in each organism and consequently, the power of the group. This implies that a system can influence the way a subsystem (the organism) self-regulates. Because the affects are regulators of the power of the organism, the impact of the group influences the functioning of the affects. All of this occurs automatically and in a nonconscious way.

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