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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 54, Issue 1, March 2014

Matthew Homan
Pages 75-87
DOI: 10.5840/ipq20141223

Spinoza and the Problem of Mental Representation

Spinoza’s mind-body thesis states that the mind is the idea of the body. At the same time, Spinoza is clear in affirming that we have ideas of external bodies. There is a question, therefore, of how to reconcile two contending objects of perception: the human body qua object of the mind, on the one hand, and the myriad bodies external to ours, on the other. After evaluating various commentators’ attempts to address the issue, I make two primary claims: (1) the object of sense perception in Spinoza is the human body only (not any type of duality or mixture of human body and external body); and (2) the tension in Spinoza’s account of representation stems from its relationship to his doctrine of the attributes.