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BOOK REVIEWS 105 Spinoza's Theory o! Truth. By Thomas Carson Mark. (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1972. Pp. xiv + 137) Professor Thomas Mark begins his carefully written, crisply and intelligently argued little book by setting before us the following puzzle: "If we ask about a person's theory of truth, we may be taken to be asking whether the person maintains a correspondence theory or a coherence theory." With regard to Spinoza, most writers have answered coherence, but some correspondence, and indeed "evidence for both theories can be found in the Ethics" (p. 1). Did Spinoza, then, hold the coherence theory, the correspondence theory, both, or neither? Mark's answer is neither. "Spinoza does not hold the coherence theory as commonly formulated" (p. 47). Nor does he hold "the correspondence theory of truth as ordinarily understood" (p. 66). Spinoza is best seen as holding the theory of ontological truth. Mark disqualifies the coherence theory ("as commonly formulated"), claiming (p. 46) that Spinoza explicitly contradicts it with his statement that "the form of true thought must exist in the thought itself, without reference to other thoughts" (Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, Opera, ed. Gebhardt, II, 26-27). Furthermore, "according to the coherence theory, if we wish to determine whether an idea is true we must examine its relation with other ideas," but "Spinoza has been at pains to say that such a procedure leads to an infinite regress," and he "has refused to accept any theory that led to an infinite regress." All this indicates that coherence is not Spinoza's criterion of truth, but since "truth is its own criterion" (Ethics, II, 43, note), Mark concludes that coherence cannot be Spinoza's definition of truth (p. 47). In addition, Mark argues, it is a claim of coherence theorists "that since the only perfectly true idea is the idea of the whole, we can have no perfectly true ideas." But Spinoza, although arguing that the idea of the whole (or God) is the only idea that is perfectly true, "does not say that we have no true ideas, but rather that all true ideas are manifestations of the idea of God or substance," and thus Spinoza rejects "the doctrine of degrees of truth commonly associated with the coherence theory" (p. 81). Nonetheless, Mark concedes that Spinoza did hold "a form of the doctrine of internal relations" (p. 84; cf. p. 82). Spinoza "did believe that nature was arranged in a coherent, intelligible fashion" (p. 83). Furthermore, Spinoza "did not think that one could speak intelligibly about any subject matter without some grasp of its relation to the rest of reality" (p. 3). But, Mark insists, "a coherence theory of nature is not the same thing as a coherence theory of truth," although the former may be a necessary condition of the latter (p. 83). That is, Spinoza's claim that each finite mode is related to every other does not imply either (1) "that all of a thing's relations with other things are essential to the thing's being what it is" or (2) "that the being of an individual thing consists only in its relations with other things" (pp. 82-83). In short, Spinoza's theory of truth, according to Mark, does not say enough to be classified as coherence theory ("as commonly formulated"). Mark disqualifies the correspondence theory ("as ordinarily understood"), even in the face of Ethics, I, Axiom 6: "A true idea must agree with that of which it is the idea." For this Axiom, explains Mark, "is evidence that Spinoza thought it intelligible in his system to talk of the agreement of an idea and its ideatum, but it is not conclusive evidence that he took such agreement to provide a definition of truth" (p. 53; but cf. pp. 108, 114!). Moreover , Mark is even willing to admit that Axiom 6 is treated by Spinoza "as a necessary and sufficient condition of truth," but he argues that "Spinoza accepts the traditional formula, but it takes on an altogether new significance in the context of his philosophy" (p. 55; cf. p. 66). Mark even allows that correspondence theory may be a "special case" (concerning truth...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 105-107
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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