Spinoza and consciousness

Mind 117 (467):575-601 (2008)
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Most discussions of Spinoza and consciousness—and there are not many— conclude either that he does not have an account of consciousness, or that he does have one but that it is at best confused, at worst hopeless. I argue, in fact, that people have been looking in the wrong place for Spinoza's account of consciousness, namely, at his doctrine of "ideas of ideas". Indeed, Spinoza offers the possibility of a fairly sophisticated, naturalistic account of consciousness, one that grounds it in the nature and capacities of the body. Consciousness for Spinoza, I suggest, is a certain complexity in thinking that is the correlate of the complexity of a body, and human consciousness, for Spinoza, is nothing but the correlate in Thought of the extraordinarily high complexity of the human body in Extension. In this respect, Spinoza anticipates the conception of mind that is presently emerging from studies in the so-called ‘embodied mind’ research program. Moreover, this research program, in turn, may hold out hope for a clearer understanding of some of Spinoza's more difficult claims. CiteULike    Connotea    Del.icio.us    What's this?



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Steven Nadler
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Citations of this work

Seventeenth-century theories of consciousness.Larry M. Jorgensen - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Theories About Consciousness in Spinoza's Ethics.Michael LeBuffe - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (4):531-563.
Two Ethical Ideals in Spinoza’s "Ethics": The Free Man and The Wise Man.Sanem Soyarslan - 2019 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (3):357-370.
Consciousness, ideas of ideas and animation in Spinoza’s Ethics.Oberto Marrama - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (3):506-525.

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