The Status of Consciousness in Spinoza's Concept of Mind
In Consciousness: From Perception to Reflection in the History of Philosophy. Springer (2007)
Let me start with my conclusions: like most other philosophers of his era, Spinoza did not have well-developed views on consciousness and its place in the mind. Somewhat paradoxically, however, a basic tenet of his metaphysics generated a problem which might have been solved if he had thought more about those issues. So in the end, then, Spinoza did not have much to say about consciousness even though the coherency or at least the plausibility of his system demanded it. With such being my assessment of Spinoza’s views on consciousness, it will come as no surprise that I regard the prospects for a robust and coherent Spinozistic theory of consciousness as dim. As explained later, I differ in this respect from some prominent Spinoza scholars. At the same time, even if we won’t find much guidance from Spinoza for thinking about consciousness, I believe that he has much to teach us about the mind. In my view, Spinoza’s philosophy of mind is instructive precisely because it attempts to understand the mind without reference to consciousness. This can and should be a healthy corrective to contemporary philosophy of mind, which is prone to inflate the place of consciousness in the mind. To make and defend all of these points, I divide my chapter into four sections. In the first, I offer a sketch of consciousness in seventeenth-century philosophy generally and Spinoza’s work specifically, a sketch which is intended to show that consciousness did not feature prominently in their accounts of the mind. Then, I note how a major problem plagues Spinoza’s account of the relationship between the physical and the mental, and I show how two attempted solutions of this problem both fail. By way of conclusion, I suggest why Spinoza might be interesting to philosophers of mind today, his silence on consciousness notwithstanding.
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Sartre and Spinoza on the Nature of Mind.Kathleen Wider - 2013 - Continental Philosophy Review 46 (4):555-575.
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