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Imagination and Reason in Spinoza

  • Theo Verbeek
Part of the Studies In The History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 8)

Abstract

The chapter examines Descartes’ successor and critic, Baruch Spinoza. Emphasis is put on clarifying the relation between threeconcepts that are central to Spinoza’s account of our knowledge and understanding of the human mind: the concepts of intellect, imagination, and reason. For Spinoza, the highest form of cognition is the intuitive understanding, which the mind is able to achieve with its intellect. This form of knowledge concerns particulars, and it comprehends their adequate essences. Whereas imagination is a passive faculty that registers what goes on in the body, the ideas of the intellect result from the activity of the intellect itself. In Spinoza’s account, reasoning and reason-based knowledge remain second in relation to intuitive knowledge. Reason provides general and abstract ideas which do not indicate any real existing entities but merely take part in the explanation of their relations, interconnections and differences, agreements and disagreements. By investigating these crucial distinctions, it is demonstrated how Spinoza struggles to change the ontological status Descartes gives to general notions, such as ‘substance’ and ‘attribute’ which “extend to all classes of things.” According to Spinoza, general notions are neither existing objects nor properties of such objects, but they are entia rationis. In the final analysis, general notions turn out to be entia imaginationis, products of imagination, and it is concluded that Spinoza’s notion of reason is in fact closer to the imagination than to the intellect.

Keywords

General notions imagination intellect reason Spinoza Descartes 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo Verbeek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUtrecht UniversityUtrecht

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