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Philosophy Today

Volume 64, Issue 1, Winter 2020

Marxism and New Materialism

Joshua Kerr
Pages 239-253

From Art to Philosophy

Spinoza has very little to say concerning the creative arts. A careful consideration of those passages in which he discusses art, however, reveals art to have an importance for him that far outstrips what his relative silence might suggest. In this paper, I argue that Spinoza situates art at the genesis of rational, philosophical knowledge. The importance of abstract reason, Spinoza’s “second kind” of knowledge to which most of philosophy belongs, has been well appreciated by scholars. In the Ethics, Spinoza offers a developmental account of this kind of knowledge: reason develops out of the knowledge of sense experience. By tracing his account of this process, I argue that art has an important role to play in the transition from sense experience to philosophical knowledge.

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