, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 17-27
Date: 26 Jun 2007

Spinoza on Having a False Idea

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Naturalism pervades Spinoza’s doctrines of The Ethics, but the contours of it often bewilder us. In this light, I consider the account of falsity, or having a false idea, as presented by Spinoza in Proposition thirty_five of the Second Part, its demonstration, and the subsequent note. Based on my interpretation I argue for the claim that his account has coherence and makes sense. Further, I examine the significance of what Spinoza says about falsity for comprehension of his philosophy overall, especially as regards its contrasts with the philosophy of Descartes.

I owe the impetus for this paper to Michael Lebuffe and his thought-provoking piece “Ideas of Imagination and Error in Spinoza’s Ethics,” a presentation he gave, and I commented on, at the American Philosophical Association, Central Division, in April 2005. Of course, in this present paper all persisting errors of Spinoza interpretation, if such there be, are entirely my own.