Volume 45, 1998
Theory of Knowledge
Are Spinozistic Ideas Cartesian Judgements?
Some commentators maintain that Spinozistic active ideas are judgements. I shall call this view the common interpretation, since it is popular to interpret Spinoza as reacting against Descartes’ theory of ideas. According to this reading, Spinozistic ideas are considered not as Cartesian ideas but as Cartesian judgements. One clear difference between Descartes and Spinoza is that Spinoza holds that ideas are active, while Descartes does not. According to the common interpretation, Spinoza and Descartes use the concept of activity in the same way. Since Descartes holds that judgements are active, it is maintained that Spinozistic active ideas are like Cartesian judgements. I find this an overly superficial interpretation of Spinoza. I argue that, for Spinoza, activity denotes more than mere Cartesian activity. Whereas Spinoza wants to say that active ideas incorporate the property of truth or certainty, Descartes does not consider judgements in that way. In this way, Spinozistic active ideas can be called truth-expressing.