Volume 41, 2016
On the Alleged Exceptional Nature of Thought in Spinoza
Since modes of the attribute of thought are ideas of the modes of all the other attributes in Spinoza, the scope of thought appears to be equal to that of all the other attributes combined. This suggests that thought is exceptional, and threatens to upset Spinoza’s doctrine of parallelism, according to which thought is just one among an infinity of attributes each expressing the divine essence in its own unique way. After providing an overview of attempts to solve the problem of thought’s scope in the literature, I outline two reasons why the problem is not the problem it has been taken to be: (1) quantitative comparisons have no place between attributes, and (2) with knowledge of only two attributes, it is impossible to speak of norms and anomalies. I also explain how my view undercuts debate about where Spinoza lies on the idealism–dualism–materialism spectrum, and refocuses attention on the identity of the order and connection of causes regardless of the attribute under consideration.