Volume 43, Issue 1/2, Spring/Summer 2013
Spinoza on the Ideality of Time
When McTaggart puts Spinoza on his short list of philosophers who considered time unreal, he is falling in line with a reading of Spinoza’s philosophy of time advanced by contemporaneous British Idealists and by Hegel. The idealists understood that there is much at stake concerning the ontological status of Spinozistic time. If time is essential to motion then temporal idealism entails that nearly everything—apart from God conceived sub specie aeternitatis—is imaginary. I argue that although time is indeed ‘imaginary’—in a sense ‘no one doubts’ as Spinoza says—there is no good reason to infer that bodies, the infinite modes, and conatus are imaginary in the same sense. To avoid this conflation, we need to follow Spinoza (who follows Descartes) in carefully distinguishing between tempus and duratio. Duration is not only real; it has all the structure needed to ground Spinozistic motion, bodies and conatus.