Ideas as Thick Beliefs: Spinoza on the Normativity of Ideas

  • Martin LenzEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 29)


The question of whether beliefs are normative is often treated with regard to the fact that beliefs can be true or false. If I say something false, I seem to break a rule or deviate from a standard of semantic correctness. Accordingly, the contemporary dispute is about whether there is some sort of social normativity involved here or whether we just happen to deviate from the facts. Against Brandom’s interpretation, this paper argues that already Spinoza offers a fairly thorough account of the (natural) normativity of ideas. In construing ideas as propositional attitudes, I suggest that Spinoza’s ideas are beliefs that respond to two kind of normative constraints. On the one hand, beliefs count as naturally normative in that they are grounded in our striving for self-preservation (conatus). On the other hand, they exhibit a kind of socially rooted normativity in that they are governed by associations reinforced by custom and convention.


Propositional Attitude Content Determination Natural Normativity External Body External Thing 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the History of PhilosophyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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