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Spinoza and Consciousness

Steven Nadler
Mind
New Series, Vol. 117, No. 467 (Jul., 2008), pp. 575-601
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30166314
Page Count: 27
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Spinoza and Consciousness
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Abstract

Most discussions of Spinoza and consciousness-and there are not many-conclude either that he does not have an account of consciousness, or that he does have one but that it is at best confused, at worst hopeless. I argue, in fact, that people have been looking in the wrong place for Spinoza's account of consciousness, namely, at his doctrine of 'ideas of ideas'. Indeed, Spinoza offers the possibility of a fairly sophisticated, naturalistic account of consciousness, one that grounds it in the nature and capacities of the body. Consciousness for Spinoza, I suggest, is a certain complexity in thinking that is the correlate of the complexity of a body, and human consciousness, for Spinoza, is nothing but the correlate in Thought of the extraordinarily high complexity of the human body in Extension. In this respect, Spinoza anticipates the conception of mind that is presently emerging from studies in the so-called 'embodied mind' research program. Moreover, this research program, in turn, may hold out hope for a clearer understanding of some of Spinoza's more difficult claims.

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