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A Note on the (human) Idea of Nature, Part 1

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  • Edward Moore
    Spinoza writes, in Paragraph 42 of the Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, that for the human mind to reproduce a faithful image of Nature, it must draw all
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 20, 2000
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      Spinoza writes, in Paragraph 42 of the Tractatus de Intellectus
      Emendatione, that "for the human mind to reproduce a faithful image of
      Nature, it must draw all its ideas from that idea which represents the
      source and origin of the whole of Nature, so that this may likewise
      become the source of other ideas" (tr. S. Shirley; Hackett 1992: p. 242).


      The human mind, for Spinoza, is a 'mode' of the single substance that is
      God, or Nature (Deus sive Natura). This means that each individual mind
      is a unique moment in the infinite unfolding of God's eternal nature.
      Existence for all finite beings is characterized by this reference back
      to the universal divine substance. However, in the above quote from the
      TIE it is evident that Spinoza is referring to an act on the part of the
      human mind -- "to reproduce a faithful image of Nature" -- that is to be
      carried out or undertaken before the mind has come to the realization
      that it is but a mode of the one universal substance that is God.

      In the TIE Spinoza makes it clear that "truth reveals its own self" (cf.
      Paragraphs 35 and 44), that is to say: the manner in which a 'thing'
      becomes known to us is a 'moment of truth' insofar as there can be no
      perception without a prior or 'propaedeutic' ground of certainty upon
      which the perception is made sensible to the mind as something having
      essence or real existence independent of the act of perception itself.
      That grand "idea which represents the source and origin of the whole of
      Nature," then, must be understood as an innate constitutive faculty or
      perceptive power which all existents 'carry around with them,' as it
      were, and which 'springs to life' as soon as a potential object of
      understanding is encountered (cf. Paragraph 39). This innate idea,
      because of its proximity to, or possibly even identity with, the human
      mind as such, gives rise to an even grander idea: that of "the most
      perfect Being" (Paragraph 39). How does this occur? When the human
      being realizes that s/he possesses an innate ability to know -- and
      therefore to order or arrange -- the perceptions that accompany
      existence, s/he will also realize that these perceptions are dependent
      upon the objects presented to the senses. The act of ordering or
      understanding that accompanies all true perception will then seem as a
      pale reflection of a more perfect ordering or even creative act on the
      part of a Being in which existence and essence are united (cf.
      Proposition 7 of the Ethics). The strictly human act is indeed only
      'representative' of the "source and origin" of Nature, or that Being
      which is the source of all objects of perception. The individual, then,
      in his or her acts of perception, represents or perhaps 'imitates' the
      universal substance, by 'creating,' within his or her own mind, a
      phenomenal realm which is totally dependent upon the acts of perception
      of that individual. It is within this 'realm' that other ideas arise,
      and serve to extend the infinite modality of/that is God.

      However, when all is said and done, it becomes clear that for Spinoza
      every idea, whether seemingly generated or developed by the human mind in
      relation to objects of existence and perception, or granted to the mind
      by God, is still a mode of universal substance -- i.e., of Nature or God.
      So why then does Spinoza, in the TIE, speak of 'representation' and
      'reproduction' in relation to the human mind's Idea of Nature?


      Edward Moore
      mailto:proteus28@...











      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Terry Neff
      Hi Edward, Having read this post several times over the past few weeks a few ... From: Edward Moore To: Sent:
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 7, 2000
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        Hi Edward,

        Having read this post several times over the past few weeks a few
        thoughts have come to mind:

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Edward Moore" <proteus28@...>
        To: <spinoza-tie@egroups.com>
        Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2000 9:39 PM
        Subject: [spinoza-tie] A Note on the (human) Idea of Nature, Part 1


        <snip>
        >
        > Spinoza writes, in Paragraph 42 of the _Tractatus de Intellectus
        > Emendatione_, that "for the human mind to reproduce a faithful image
        > of Nature, it must draw all its ideas from that idea which represents
        > the source and origin of the whole of Nature, so that this may
        > likewise become the source of other ideas" (tr. S. Shirley; Hackett
        > 1992: p. 242).
        >
        > The human mind, for Spinoza, is a 'mode' of the single substance that
        > is God, or Nature (Deus sive Natura). This means that each
        > individual mind is a unique moment in the infinite unfolding of God's
        > eternal nature. Existence for all finite beings is characterized by
        > this reference back to the universal divine substance. However, in
        > the above quote from the TIE it is evident that Spinoza is referring
        > to an act on the part of the human mind -- "to reproduce a faithful
        > image of Nature" -- that is to be carried out or undertaken before
        > the mind has come to the realization that it is but a mode of the one
        > universal substance that is God.

        Since Spinoza defines 'mode' as:

        ====== E1D5:
        "...the modifications of substance, or that which exists in, and is
        conceived through, something other than itself."
        ======

        and 'substance' as:

        ====== E1D3:
        "...that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself: in other
        words, that of which a conception can be formed independently of any other
        conception."
        ======

        it seems clear that:

        "that idea which represents the source and origin of the whole of Nature"

        is the idea of substance (ultimately God or "substance consisting in
        infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite
        essentiality.") The conception of any mode, in reality, involves the
        conception of substance. As long as we fail to see that substance comes
        before mode we fall victim to the confusions of the senses and imagination.
        Much of the TEI of course deals with the need to "distinguish and separate
        true ideas from other perceptions, and to keep the mind from confusing with
        true ideas those which are false, fictitious, and doubtful." If we try to
        imagine 'substance' as made up of or composed of modes (which we most
        readily do) then we have reversed the order of nature in our thinking:

        ======= TEI-P90(67):
        "Sometimes, while making no distinction between the imagination and the
        intellect, we think that what we more readily imagine is clearer to us; and
        also we think that what we imagine we understand. Thus, we put first that
        which should be last; the true order of progression is reversed, and no
        legitimate conclusion is drawn"
        =======

        also when we 'think' from our senses and modes only we tend toward
        abstractions and see all things as composed of parts. Hence we cannot form
        the idea of substance:

        ======= E1P15, Note:
        "...quantity is conceived by us in two ways; in the abstract and
        superficially, as we imagine it; or as substance, as we conceive it solely
        by the intellect. If, then, we regard quantity as it is represented in our
        imagination, which we often and more easily do, we shall find that it is
        finite, divisible, and compounded of parts; but if we regard it as it is
        represented in our intellect, and conceive it as substance, which it is very
        difficult to do, we shall then, as I have sufficiently proved, find that it
        is infinite, one, and indivisible."
        =======

        >
        > In the TIE Spinoza makes it clear that "truth reveals its own self"
        > (cf. Paragraphs 35 and 44), that is to say: the manner in which
        > a 'thing' becomes known to us is a 'moment of truth' insofar as there
        > can be no perception without a prior or 'propaedeutic' ground of
        > certainty upon which the perception is made sensible to the mind as
        > something having essence or real existence independent of the act of
        > perception itself. That grand "idea which represents the source and
        > origin of the whole of Nature," then, must be understood as an innate
        > constitutive faculty or perceptive power which all existents 'carry
        > around with them,' as it were,

        Is not Spinoza saying just the opposite? We do not carry this power
        around with us (as though we were some independent being) but rather, we are
        expressions of the Infinite and Eternal Being.

        > and which 'springs to life' as soon as
        > a potential object of understanding is encountered (cf. Paragraph
        > 39). This innate idea, because of its proximity to, or possibly even
        > identity with, the human mind as such, gives rise to an even grander
        > idea: that of "the most perfect Being" (Paragraph 39). How does this
        > occur? When the human being realizes that s/he possesses an innate
        > ability to know -- and therefore to order or arrange -- the
        > perceptions that accompany existence, s/he will also realize that
        > these perceptions are dependent upon the objects presented to the
        > senses. The act of ordering or understanding that accompanies all
        > true perception will then seem as a pale reflection of a more perfect
        > ordering or even creative act on the part of a Being in which
        > existence and essence are united (cf. Proposition 7 of the Ethics).
        > The strictly human act is indeed only 'representative' of the "source
        > and origin" of Nature, or that Being which is the source of all
        > objects of perception. The individual, then, in his or her acts of
        > perception, represents or perhaps 'imitates' the universal substance,
        > by 'creating,' within his or her own mind, a phenomenal realm which
        > is totally dependent upon the acts of perception of that individual.
        > It is within this 'realm' that other ideas arise, and serve to extend
        > the infinite modality of/that is God.
        >
        > However, when all is said and done, it becomes clear that for Spinoza
        > every idea, whether seemingly generated or developed by the human
        > mind in relation to objects of existence and perception, or granted
        > to the mind by God, is still a mode of universal substance -- i.e.,
        > of Nature or God. So why then does Spinoza, in the TIE, speak
        > of 'representation' and 'reproduction' in relation to the human
        > mind's Idea of Nature?
        >
        >
        > Edward Moore
        > <proteus28@...>
        >

        "Words are a part of the imagination" so Spinoza often uses terms and
        analogies in the same way in which someone say, having left Plato's Cave and
        then returning to his still fettered friends, might endeavor to use the
        shadows to explain the 'Reality' outside. Spinoza warns us repeatedly to
        distinguish between the imagination, words and true ideas:

        ======= E2P49C Note:
        "...Those who think that ideas consist in images which are formed in us by
        contact with external bodies, persuade themselves that the ideas of those
        things, whereof we can form no mental picture, are not ideas, but only
        figments, which we invent by the free decree of our will; they thus regard
        ideas as though they were inanimate pictures on a panel, and, filled with
        this misconception, do not see that an idea, inasmuch as it is an idea,
        involves an affirmation or negation."
        =======

        "...every idea, whether seemingly generated or developed by the human
        mind in relation to objects of existence and perception, or granted to the
        mind by God, is still a mode of universal substance -- i.e., of Nature or
        God. So why then does Spinoza, in the TIE, speak of 'representation' and
        'reproduction' in relation to the human mind's Idea of Nature?"

        We might as well ask: Why did Spinoza not simply communicate with us
        Mind to Mind?

        Just a few Words from a fellow Wonderer,
        With Warm Regards,
        Terry
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