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Spinoza's Concept of Mind THOMAS CARSON MARK IN DISCUSSINGSPINOZA'SCONCI~PTOF MIND, I shall concentrate on three issues: the definition of the mind as the idea of the body, the existence of the body, and the identity of mind and body.' Although my interest in these particular aspects of Spinoza's system is partly motivated by the feeling I share with Hampshire that "in the philosophy of mind he is nearer to the truth at certain points than any other philosopher ever has been,"' I shall mainly be concerned to present an interpretation of Spinoza's concept of mind, not to attack or defend his views. For I believe that a number of important features of his position have been generally overlooked. I. Spinoza's theory of the mind is rendered complicated by the presence in it of two sorts of relation. Mind and body are related, first of all, as an idea is related to its object, or ideatum, and secondly, as a mode of thought is related to its corresponding mode of extension. That these are not the same relation is obvious when we consider that there can be instances of the first that are not at the same time instances of the second: this occurs within the attribute of thought when one idea has another idea as its object. However, every instance of the second relation-between a mode of thought and its correspondent mode of extension- is an instance of the first also (this from Spinoza's claim in E, 2, 13, note, that all things are "animate, though in different degrees"). Both these relations are necessary parts of Spinoza's theory of the human mind: it is the first, between idea and ideatum, that makes of Spinoza's theory a theory of mind (what I mean by this will be brought out subsequently); and it is the second, between corresponding modes of different attributes, that brings it about that the mind and the body are "one and the same thing expressed in two different ways" (E, 2, 7, note), thus providing the foundation for Spinoza's identity thesis. Spinoza can be said, therefore, to see the relation of mind and body as occupying the area of intersection of two different relations, each with general application in his philosophy, which combine to give us the concept of a person. The presence of these two sorts of relation has been noticed, usually to be deplored, by commentators . I shall argue that the two are not merely compatible and necessary for Spinoza's concept of mind, but more strongly that they (or some analogues) are ' The standard edition of Spinoza's works is Spinoza Opera, ed. Carl Gebhardt, 4 vols. (Heidelberg: Winter, 1925)(hereaftercited as Opera). In quoting fromthe Ethics I have usually followedthe WhiteStirlingtranslation , availablein "'Ethics" Preceded by "'Onthe lmprovement of the Understanding, " ed. James Gutmann (New York: Hafner, 1949).OccasionallyI haveused the Elwestranslation, availablein Chief Works of Spinoza, trans. R. H. M. Elwes,2 vols.(NewYork: Dover, 1951).Boththesetranslations will, it is hoped, be replacedbythe new edition of Spinoza's works now beingprepared by E. M. Curley. The Ethics is cited throughout as E, followedby part and proposition number. [4oll 402 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY necessary parts of any complete theory of mind. But this gets ahead of our story. First some remarks on the concept of idea. Spinoza's concept of idea is complex, and he is not entirely consistent in his use of the word; but despite terminological irregularities it is clear that ideas should generally be separated from images (which are roughly like percepts) and that ideas are in some sense active. The activity of ideas is stressed in Spinoza's definition of "idea" (E, 2, def. 3), although not all commentators agree just how this activity should be construed, whether as indicating that ideas are more like propositions than like concepts , or more strongly as the claim that ideas are judgments. Both these construals are defensible, but I shall here adopt a somewhat more radical view whereby ideas are episodes of understanding or knowing, and understanding and knowing are taken not as understanding or knowing that but as direct acquaintance. Ideas are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 401-416
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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