Consciousness, ideas of ideas and animation in Spinoza’s Ethics

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In the following article, I aim to elucidate the meaning and scope of Spinoza’s vocabulary related to ‘consciousness’. I argue that Spinoza, at least in his Ethics, uses this notion consistently, although rarely. He introduces it to account for the knowledge we may have of the mind considered alone, as conceptually distinct from the body. This serves two purposes in Spinoza’s Ethics: to explain our illusion of a free will, on the one hand, and to refer to the knowledge we have of our mind as something eternal, on the other. I contend, therefore, that we should not confuse Spinoza’s technical use of the notion of ‘consciousness’ with the ‘degrees of animation’ that he also evokes in the Ethics. Consciousness, for Spinoza, is neither a faculty, nor a property specific to certain minds or ideas. Furthermore, consciousness does not come in degrees. Indeed, Spinoza’s account of consciousness is not intended to differentiate kinds of minds in terms of awareness of their respective ideas.
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Archival date: 2019-11-08
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