Reason and Intuitive Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics: Two Ways of Knowing, Two Ways of Living

Dissertation, Duke University (2011)

Sanem Soyarslan
North Carolina State University
In this dissertation, I explore the distinction between reason (ratio) and intuitive knowledge (scientia intuitiva) in Spinoza’s Ethics in order to explain the superior affective power of the latter over the former. In addressing this fundamental but relatively unexplored issue in Spinoza scholarship, I suggest that these two kinds of adequate knowledge differ not only in terms of their method, but also with respect to their content. I hold that unlike reason, which is a universal knowledge, intuitive knowledge descends to a level of particularity, including the adequate knowledge of one’s own essence as it follows directly from God, which is a superior form of self-knowledge. Since, for Spinoza, there is an intrinsic relationship between the pursuit of knowledge and how we live our lives, my interpretation of these two ways of knowing is that they are at the same time two ways of living.
Keywords reason  intuitive knowledge  Spinoza
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