Spinoza on thinking substance and the non-substantial mind

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While Spinoza gives us the means to answer these questions, he would respond that this is the wrong way to approach his philosophy of mind. To start with the human mind is to try to understand a thing without understanding its causes, a strategy that leads to error. Starting with the human mind, as Descartes does, leads us to believe that it is an independent thing that perceives and thinks for itself. We assume that the mind directs its consciousness at objects that it represents in its ideas, and we assume that by virtue of its capacity to freely represent them, the mind transcends its objects. Spinoza explains that such assumptions are natural: we are self-reflexive thinking beings who take our own minds to be the free, independent, and sovereign owners of their contents. He aims to show that these assumptions are misguided, and to set out the true causal explanation for the human mind’s powers and limitations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Mind in the Early Modern and Modern Ages
EditorsRebecca Copenhaver
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780429019487
ISBN (Print)1138925357, 978-1138925359
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameThe History of the Philosophy of Mind


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