Volume 16, 2008
Spinoza on Universals
Spinoza’s stance against “bad” universals is well known but his own view on “good” universals is not obvious. In this paper we examine the ontological status of general terms in Spinoza against the background of his metaphysical ontology. We then move onto his view of universals in his discussions of the three kind of knowledge. I argue that Spinoza’s view may be best characterized as trope-conceptualism. Universals are, considered in things themselves, nothing but tropes, i.e., fully particularized properties of individual objects. In particular, I claim that what Spinoza calls “attributes” in his grand scheme of ontology are tropes, of which we can have “adequate” ideas. Spinoza’s theory is a lot more delicate and sophisticated than is usually construed.