Adequate and Inadequate Ideas in Spinoza

History of Philosophy Quarterly 31 (2):119-136 (2014)

Blake McAllister
Hillsdale College
Adequate and inadequate ideas play a central role in Spinoza’s system. A number of recent commentators have suggested that the internality or externality of an idea’s immediate cause is a necessary and sufficient condition of the idea’s adequacy or inadequacy, respectively. I show that this thesis is subject to counterexample and briefly explore the significance of this critique for recent interpretations. I offer an alternative interpretation on which adequate and inadequate ideas are characterized by the manner in which they grasp their objects. Adequate ideas conceive of their objects as following from God. Inadequate ideas conceive of their objects as affecting the body at a time and place.
Keywords Spinoza  Ideas  Adequate  Inadequate  Knowledge  Jonathan Bennett
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