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Spinoza's Epistemological Views

  • J. J. MacIntosh

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I propose, in this paper, to offer a simple, even perhaps a simplified, version of Spinoza's metaphysical views, and to show how these views sometimes affected his epistemological views.

When they did affect his epistemological views the effect was always a bad one, since Spinoza's metaphysical system is quite unworkable. It is helpful, and sometimes even inspiring, but it is wrong. In the end, with the epistemology as with the metaphysics, nothing of substance will be salvageable, but Spinoza's new and even radical perspective is worth observing for its own sake, and there are points of detail along the way, ranging from inspired falsehoods to cloudy truths, that still deserve the effort to untangle them.

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page 28 note 1 Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, trans. Wedeck, H. E. (London, 1961) Appendix, pt. 1, ch.3. References to Spinoza's correspondence in what follows will be by letter number to Wolf's edition (Correspondence of Spinoza, trans. Wolf, A., London, 1928). I have used the translation by W. H. White and A. H. Stirling of the Ethics (Oxford, 1927) and the Elwes translation of the Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (hereafter referred to as DIE) in The Chief Works of Spinoza, trans. Elwes, R. H. M., 2 vols. (London, 1883, New York, 1955 and 1956).

page 37 note 1 In what follows I do not consider the possibility that Spinoza espoused the version of the correspondence theory which Joachim attributes to him. That Spinoza was not guilty of this particular mistake has been clearly shown by G. H. R. Parkinson in his book, Spinoza's Theory of Knowledge. Nor is this the only point at which I am indebted to Mr Parkinson's work, whether or not I have ultimately agreed with its conclusions.

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