Spinoza’s theory of emotion in relation to Vygotsky’s psychology and Damasio’s neuroscience

Secker, Miles (2014) Spinoza’s theory of emotion in relation to Vygotsky’s psychology and Damasio’s neuroscience. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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In this thesis I consider the function of emotion in concept development as conceived by Lev Vygotsky. I offer an argument for considering mental concepts as the material product of emotional activity and social relations mediated by speech. I argue for a conception of mental development as arising at the interface of emotional activity considered as the neurophysiological activity of the body and speech shared in a dialogue. I attempt to demonstrate how speech in a dialogue obtains the development of higher mental functions by simultaneously transforming primary or passive emotions into the secondary, social or active emotions that motivate the speech for the development of concepts. To achieve an explanation of this process I consider Spinoza’s theory of emotion, conceived as consistent with Vygotsky’s interest in that theory in its methodological relation to the Spinozist theory of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. Following Vygotsky’s ‘testing’ of Spinoza’s theory against the Jamesian theory of emotion I ‘test’ Spinoza’s theory in the light of Damasio’s interpretation, for the purpose intended by Vygotsky.
In the course of this ‘methodological test’ I reveal the extent to which Vygotsky and Damasio agree in their interpretations of Spinoza. I show that the theory of Damasio, except in respect of Spinoza’s notion of active emotion, represents the theory of emotion to which Vygotsky would have appealed for his own ‘test’ of Spinoza’s theory of emotion as he explains in his monograph. I show especially that Vygotsky is relevant to Damasio in just that part where Damasio’s theory does not meet Vygotsky’s objections to the James-Lange theory. I explore the consequences for Damasio of his omissions from his theory of certain crucial parts of Spinoza’s own theory significant for Vygotsky and I show that following these omitted parts points to a theory of motivation which can only be completed by introducing Vygotsky’s theory of concept development. From the shared Spinozist perspectives of Damasio and Vygotsky I develop an explanation of speech motivation. In this, I explain the interaction between concept development and speech when the use of speech is motivated by emotional activity as a function of concept development. I argue that the development of social relations and concepts of them can only be traced in speech motivated by secondary emotions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 03 May 2016 13:31
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2018 00:38
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/58532


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