Intersubjectivity in Early Modern Philosophy: A Case Study on Spinoza’s Philosophy of Mind – Martin Lenz

1 February, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In this paper, I would like to defend the claim that Spinoza endorses an intersubjective or, more precisely, an interactionist view of the mind. What does this mean? The basic assumption of such a view is that our minds do not cognize things prior to our relation to others. This means that the content of our thoughts is determined by our mind’s relation to other minds.

But why should you care whether Spinoza held such a view? Like most other early modern philosophers, Spinoza is portrayed as an individualist or subjectivist who adheres to the Cartesian view of the mind as a private place with private mental states. On this reading, early modern philosophy is pervaded by the idea that thinking requires nothing beyond an individual mind, a self that thinks; indeed, the cogito is the starting point for building up true knowledge. In contrast to this reading, I would like to show that quite a number of early modern authors endorsed an intersubjectivist view of the mind, a view that would deny the sufficiency of a subjective cogito. In this paper, I will confine myself to Spinoza who, as I see it, defends an intersubjective view that is rooted in his metaphysics, defining the individual by means of interrelations to others.

Prof. Martin Lenz is the chair of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He works in the area of medieval and early modern philosophy.


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