To put the point metaphorically, the economy of thought is just as rule governed as the economy of extensional nature for Spinoza a most un-Cartesian thought. Of course, given parallelism and E2p39, more explicitly , this means that these laws and rules, whatever their content, are going to have a high degree of generality and relatively little specificity. So what are common notions? First, common notions are about qualitative not quantitative properties of extension. The manner or magnitude of such properties is extrinsic and thus is not a common notion. This becomes clear by reflection on how Spinoza characterizes common notions: common notions are qualities that all bodies share regardless of their state see, especially, E2p38—9; to be clear, Spinoza does not use qualities to describe common notions.
Second, these properties do not just have a high degree of generality—they are common to all bodies E2le2, cited in E2p38c —but the manner in which they are present within each and all bodies is also equal E2p39d. This is no trivial matter. This requirement seems to introduce an arbitrary directionality and even geometry into mode continuation and preservation.
Given that Spinozistic laws of extension and laws of thought are, in some important sense, the same, such directionality would probably make a mockery of the very possibility of finding rules of thought that are identical to rules of extension and any other attribute. It is also by no means obvious how the directionality requirement can be derived or justified metaphysically.
So commentators that attribute to Spinoza the idea that his common notions enter into his science of motion saddle Spinoza with a decidedly unpromising physical science. Now it is possible that Spinoza did not recognize any of the problems I have indicated. Note, by the way, that I am not relying on later developments in physics. It is possible, of course, that even after Christian Huygens published Horologium oscillatorium sive de motu pendularium , which articulated how Galilean principles could be developed into a science of motion, Spinoza was unwilling to drop his alternative approach.
But given that Spinoza has so many criticisms of mathematical physics, a more obvious interpretation presents itself. Spinozistic common notions are not the foundation of a Spinozistic physical science analogous to Cartesian, Huygensian, Leibnizian, Newtonian mechanics.
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Rather, they capture secure knowledge of the modal qualities that are intrinsic to all modes of an attribute. This is not nothing, of course, and such common notions are significant because with Spinozistic metaphysics they provide hope that access to third kind of knowledge is available to mere mortals E2p47s. As we have seen, for Spinoza knowledge is about intellectual conception of eternal essences.
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While building on this proof, Spinoza refers to E1a3, which insists on causal necessity E5p33d. The necessity of causation is commonplace in the seventeenth century. Spinoza is, perhaps, a bit unusual in not accepting any exceptions to natural necessity either for God or for mankind. So it would be congenial to learn what it is knowledge of and how we obtain it.
According to Spinoza the source of the third kind of knowledge is within the mind itself e. According to the proof of E5p31 this is the case because to be a formal cause is synonymous with being an adequate cause of the third kind of knowledge. Helpfully, Spinoza clearly points out on four occasions that this does not involve what we tend to call knowledge of empirical nature. Beyond the p. With fully adequate knowledge, the knower and the known object coincide and dissolve each other as distinct beings—this is why the mind becomes eternal E5p To assign time and place to modes one must, as we saw in the passage about the denial of the vacuum E1p15s , use abstraction or imagination to discern determinate and separable regions of pure quantity see also E2p44c1s and E2p45s.
In a letter to Johannes Bouwmeester, Spinoza summarizes these complicated matters in simple fashion. All of this implies that according to Spinoza when we conceive of things at a place and time we are dealing with our lack of power and thus imperfect, fallible knowledge. We learn from the opening pages of the unfinished Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect that unsettled things cannot make us happy. It is no surprise, then, that Spinoza is quite critical of mathematical natural science. His epistemic concerns fit with his moral aims. It is therefore a mistake to understand Spinoza as a fellow traveler of the scientific revolution.
When it comes to having adequate ideas, then, we are not perceiving things outside of us in spatial and temporal places or locations i. Akkerman, Fokke, and Piet Steenbakkers, eds. Spinoza to the Letter.
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Making Knowledge the Most Powerful Affect | SpringerLink
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