Spinoza: Scientist and Theorist of Scientific Method
Two questions concern me in this paper. First, what is the place and importance of Spinoza’s work as a practising scientist? Second, what did Spinoza think were the right rules to follow in carrying out specific scientific investigations?1 Coupling these two questions will, I believe, throw some new light on Spinoza’s work and thought. Our second question will occupy the larger part of this paper, since the answer depends upon Spinoza’s theory of the necessary inadequacy of the human mind and our almost total ignorance of how things are “linked together in the universal system of nature (totiusque naturae ordinem et cohaeren-tiam)” (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Gebhardt III, p. 191). In order to focus the discussion of the second question, I will introduce it by pointing to an apparent contradiction in what Spinoza wrote concerning the study of the emotions. In a well known passage in the Ethics he appears to take an a priorist stand, while in an echoing passage in the Tractatus Politicus he appears to take an empiricist position. The resolution of this apparent contradiction is central to an understanding of Spinoza’s theory of scientific method.
KeywordsCommon Property Adequate Idea Common Notion Hypothetical Explanation Individual Thing
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