Spinoza on Intentionality, Materialism, and Mind-Body Relations

Philosophers' Imprint 19 (43) (2019)

Authors
Karolina Hübner
University of Chicago (PhD)
Abstract
The paper examines a relatively neglected element of Spinoza's theory of mind-body relations: the intentional relation between human minds and bodies, which for Spinoza constitutes their “union”. Prima facie textual evidence suggests, and many readers agree, that because for Spinoza human minds are essentially ideas of bodies, Spinoza is also committed to an ontological and explanatory dependence of certain properties of human minds on properties of bodies, and thus to a version of materialism. The paper argues that such dependence would contradict Spinoza's key epistemological commitments, including the explanatory closure of mental and physical realms, and Spinoza’s claim that all knowledge is knowledge of a thing's causes. The paper argues that Spinoza's dual-reality theory of representation allows us to interpret the intentional relation between human minds and bodies in a way that does not commit Spinoza to a problematic dependence of minds on bodies. This is possible if we take Spinoza's references to properties of bodies in his account of the human mind as references to objectively real bodies, that is as references to the immanent representational content of human minds.
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