E.E. Powell’s lezing van  Spinoza’s intellectus infinitus
Zoals in het vorige blog aangegeven, breng ik hier een interessante paragraaf uit het zesde hoofdstuk van Elmer Ellsworth Powell’s Spinoza and Religion (1906).
Ik zeg niet dat hij hier de “laatste waarheid” brengt over wat Spinoza met het “oneindige verstand” bedoelt en hoe hij het gebruikt, maar hij geeft een behandeling vanuit een intensieve lezing die ieders eigen denken over dit onderwerp verder kan helpen. Ik wijs er hier op dat een belangrijk onderdeel van zijn betoog een kritiek op Spinoza’s gebruik van het idee-begrip is. Volgens hem gooit Spinoza ideeën als ‘logische inhoud’ (ideeën als inhoud, als betekenis) en ideeën als psychische verschijnselen (zoals ze voor de psychologie bestaan) door elkaar.
THE CONTENT OF THE ATTRIBUTE OF THOUGHT.
The often misunderstood, but after all by no means uncertain, conception of absoluta cogitatio, we will do well to approach by considering in advance two things that are liable to be confounded with it. The first is the
This was a traditional conception which had originated in the speculations of Plato and Aristotle. It had played an important role in both Jewish and Christian thinking through the middle ages down to the beginning of the modern period. Spinoza simply adapted it to his own system.
Occasionally, by a sort of accommodation to traditional terminology, the expressions Intellectus Dei and the like are employed by him to designate absolute thought. This is the case in Eth. I. 15, schol., for example, which we shall have occasion to explain in another connection. It appears indisputably clear, however, from a number of passages, that Intellectus Infinitus properly denotes not absolute thought, but a certain definite mode of thought. “By intellect we do not mean absolute thought, but only a certain mode of thought,”  he says in the “Ethics.” A letter to Simon De Vries declares still more emphatically, if possible, the same thing: “I think I have demonstrated clearly enough, that intellect, although infinite, belongs to Natura Naturata, not properly to Natura Naturans, that is, according to Spinoza’s distinction between Natura Naturata and Natura Naturans, not to the Absolute.
When we seek to determine how this mode is more precisely to be conceived, we find that it is involved not only in the inconsistencies resulting from Spinoza s unclear use of “idea,” but also in those which characterize his reconciliation of the infinite and the finite. Moreover, we here move on the outer limits, so to speak, of his sphere of thought, where details have to be deduced from scattered and fragmentary expositions. We may conveniently begin with Eth. II. 11:
“Prop. The first thing that constitutes the actual being (esse) of the human mind is nothing else than the idea of some particular thing actually existing [existing in time].
“Dem. The essence of man is constituted of certain modes of attributes of God; namely [among others] of modes of thinking, of all which idea is by nature the most primary [prior]; and, when this is given, the other modes (namely, those to which “idea” is prior by nature) must be in the same individual. And so an idea is the first [most fundamental] thing constituting the human mind. But not an idea of a thing non-existent [in time]. For in that case (by cor. prop. 8) the idea itself could not be said to exist; therefore it will be an idea of a thing actually existing. But not of an infinite thing; for an infinite thing must necessarily always exist; but this is absurd. Therefore the first thing that constitutes the actual being of the human mind, is an idea of a particular thing actually existing.
“Cor. Hence it follows that the human mind is a part of the infinite intellect of God; and accordingly when we say the human mind perceives this or that, we say nothing else than that God, not so far as he is infinite, but so far as he is expressed by the nature of the human mind, or so far as he constitutes the essence of the human mind, has this or that idea. And when we say God has this or that idea not merely in so far as he constitutes the nature of the human mind, but in so far as at the same time with the human mind he has also the idea of another thing, then we say the human mind perceives a thing ex parte, or inadequately.”
The expression “essence of the human mind” is equivalent, of course, to “nature of the human mind,” and means the qualitative content of the mind as a part of reality. As he is here thinking of individual minds as ideas of particular actual bodies, the “essence” becomes in fact the nature of the actual mind as including both adequate and inadequate ideas. The meaning of the rest of the corollary is at first not quite obvious. Strictly speaking, “God” cannot be taken to mean either the Absolute or total reality; for, in either sense, the expression “in so far as at the same time with the human mind he has also the idea of another thing,” would have no meaning, since “God” in either sense, if he had any ideas at all, would always have ideas of other things at the same time that he would have that constituting the human mind. But the language could be made intelligible, if we should qualify “God” by “within the limits of the human mind,” thus bringing the expression into harmony with his frequent use of “God” for any part of reality; and if we should then recall Spinoza’s doctrine of inadequate ideas. These, as we saw, are, from one standpoint, to be regarded as “confused” they report something of the nature of the human body and also something of the nature of the bodies by which the human body is affected, but the two elements are an indistinguishable mixture. The expression “God has the idea of something else at the same time that he has that constituting the human mind” would accordingly mean, “reality within the limits of the human mind” (i. e., simply the human mind) has the idea of something else at the same time that it has the idea of its own body; or, in other words, it has an inadequate idea. This explanation would be in complete accord with Spinoza s account of sense perception.
The fatal objection to it is, that it views the inadequate ideas from an altogether different standpoint from that from which Spinoza is here regarding them. The last clause of the corollary shows that he is thinking of them, not as confused, but as incomplete, mutilated, as ex parte knowledge. We should seek to interpret the passage in harmony with this fact. This becomes possible by paraphrasing it as follows: When we say that the human mind apprehends this or that, we say nothing else than that God, not so far as he is infinite, but so far as he (reality) is included within the limits of that mode called the human mind, has this or that idea. And this we may say, whether the idea in question is adequate or inadequate; for, if the idea is inadequate (incomplete) as it appears in the human mind, it is complete when referred to God (totality). The fragment lying within the circumference of the human mind belongs to him, as well as does its complement which lies beyond that circumference. In such a case, therefore, it may be said that God possesses the idea, not merely in so far as he constitutes the human mind (has the idea of the human body), but in so far as he constitutes some other mind (has the idea of something else) within the area of which falls the complementary part of the inadequate idea. With reference to the human mind, the idea may appropriately be called ex parte knowledge.
That which particularly concerns us at present is the circumstance that the inadequate ideas are here attributed to God in such a way as to indicate that the human mind in its whole circumference is a part of the Intellectus Infinitus. Quite in harmony with this fact, the Intellectus Infinitus is evidently conceived as the sum of individual minds regarded as the ideas of changing, perishable objects. The “hence” which connects the corollary with the preceding demonstration excludes the possibility of any other interpretation.
In Ethics V. prop. 40, scholium, we have the Intellectus Infinitus referred to again: “Our mind, in so far as it understands (intelligit), is an eternal mode of thinking, which is determined by another eternal mode of thinking, and this again by another, and so on in infinitum, so that all together constitute the eternal and infinite intellect of God.” The expression “our mind in so far as it understands,”means the mind in so far as it is intellect in distinction from imagination and feeling; in so far, therefore, as it is an aggregate, or a system, of adequate ideas only. “Determined” cannot mean anything else than conditioned or limited, for in the case of “eternal” modes there can be no question of producing in temporal succession. Accordingly the Intellectus Infinitus would be the sum of all adequate ideas in the entire realm of reality in so far as these are eternal, i. e., changeless thought counterparts to eternal and changeless “real” modes.
We seem thus to come upon an account of the Intellectus Infinitus that is inconsistent with what we have just learned from Eth. II. 11. There it was conceived as composed of individual minds taken in their whole circumference; here it seems to embrace human minds only in so far as they are “intellect.” There a constituent mind was the idea of a body “actually [temporally] existing,” and not of anything that “must necessarily always exist,” as this would be “absurd;” here each constituent mind is an “eternal” mode. The two accounts cannot be wholly reconciled; but, in so far as the difference is real, it can be explained as a natural consequence of the indeterminate meaning for Spinoza of the word “idea.”
In the first place, Spinoza does not always distinguish between ideas as they exist for logic (ideas as content, meaning) and ideas as they exist for psychology (ideas as events). Because from the standpoint of logic they are relatively fixed, he regards them, as often as he has occasion to do so, as permanent possessions of the mind. In reality, of course, no idea exists for any mind except while it is being thought. No mind contains ideas as a permanent possession in any other sense than that it can re-think, re-create, them, or, to speak more exactly, think new ideas with the same logical content as that of ideas previously thought. Spinoza does not clearly see this, and hence, as often as it serves his purpose, regards logical conceptions as permanent facts. Especially if they are true, is this the case; for, on account of the circumstance that they cannot then be altered by subsequent correction, and can never become invalid, they are considered as even “eternal.” Again, as a result of his assumption that all things are animata, the “idea” of a given body may mean either its soul or the idea of that body formed by any knowing subject. Spinoza, as we have seen, habitually confounds the two.
With these peculiarities of Spinoza s thinking in mind, it is possible to understand the differences between the two passages cited above. We have seen that the eternal “essence” of the human mind (which must be distinguished from its actual being, esse actuale referred to in Eth. II, II) is something more general than particular individuals, that it is common to them all, that it is derived by the direct causality from the attributes, and constitutes the immediate background on which individuals, created by the indirect causality, appear as transient particularizations at different points of time and space. It is described as existing only so far as it is “comprehended in the infinite idea of God,” i. e., only so far as it is qualitatively derivable from cogitatio, and partakes of existence in general, but not cum relatione ad tempus et locum and is said further to be contained uniformly or evenly (gelijkmatig) in the whole, individuals in their preactual state not being a reliquis distinctae.
Now if we will conceive this essence of human minds as not merely a concrete entity, but, in harmony with Spinoza s psychological intellectualism, as also “clear thought,” “truth,” “intellect,” rationality; the individual minds, in so far as they are constituted of adequate ideas, are in content co-incident with the common essence of all minds, which is, as we have seen, an eternal mode; and we can understand how Spinoza, mistaking this coincidence for identity, would regard the adequate ideas possessed by a particular mind, though transient, as a part of the eternal Intellectus Infinitus. But in this view what becomes of the inadequate ideas, which were treated in Eth. II. 11 as also parts, though mutilated parts, of the Intellectus Infinitus? As we shall see further on, they are frequently said to perish with the body. But this may be so understood as to appear compatible for Spinoza both with the assertion that only adequate ideas are parts of the Intellectus Infinitus and with the assumption that inadequate ideas are also parts, fragmentary parts, of the same; for he could say that these mutilated ideas which result from individualization, perish only in the sense that when the individual perishes the mutilation vanishes, this having existed in fact for the individual only. Viewed in connection with the totality of thought, mutilated ideas are whole, adequate, true, eternal. We shall therefore always regard the Intellectus Infinitus as the system of adequate and eternal ideas.
As the human mind is the idea of a highly composite object, its eternal essence would consistently be a complex idea, i. e., a system of ideas, each of which has for its object one of the constituents of the human body. As all human bodies are composed of essentially the same constituents, all human minds would, in their fundamental and eternal nature, be composed of the same ideas, namely the adequate ideas of these constituents. Upon the dissolution of an individual body, the associated mind would also lose its individuality, the single constituent ideas persisting in connection with the different substances that had composed the body. The mosaic of adequate ideas (if we may resort to spatial imagery) would remain intact; the fragments which had appeared in the vanished individual mind as inadequate ideas, would be completed by their complementary parts, while the adequate ideas of the same would remain unchanged (in content).
No change has taken place except the discontinuance of the ex parte appearance in the particular mind. But the same ideas re-appear, some adequately and some inadequately, in new individuals, which in turn are replaced by others, and so on in aeternum. The only things that are alike at all times and in all minds are the ideas in so far as they adequately present themselves. As ex parte appearances, they will exhibit a great variety of differences.
The question now arises whether Spinoza conceives the ideas constituting a human mind as selfconscious after the dissolution of the body. The word “idea” performs so peculiar a function in Spinoza’s thinking that it does not necessarily imply consciousness. When we reckon with his application of the word to the souls of all bodies, whether organic or inorganic, we are not warranted in supposing that it necessarily means more than a “real” object’s psychical counterpart, which is not of the nature of a volition or of a feeling, but of a presentation, i. e., an exact reflection in some sense of the object. But as the ideas (souls) of inorganic bodies have their place in the thought system, we must conceive them also as in their eternal relation components of the Intellectus Infinitus. This view might seem to be excluded by the fact that in Eth. V. 40 Spinoza makes only the rational part of the human mind an element of the Intellectus Infinitus, and apparently assumes that sub-human minds do not partake of rationality. But if we remember that these minds also have their “eternal essences,” which are necessarily “adequate ideas” in one sense at least, i. e., are exact counterparts of the bodily essences, the difficulty disappears. Now what grounds have we for assuming that these ideas, which are presumably unconscious in their temporal relation, are conscious in their timeless relation?
Spinoza uses no language that requires us to conceive of them in this way. The application of the word “idea” to the surviving elements of the mind after the dissolution of the body, therefore, would not be a conclusive reason for supposing them to be conscious. The view which presents the least difficulties seems to be this: After the dissolution of the individual body, the adequate ideas which composed its associated mind will survive as elements of consciousness only in the sense that their content will be repeated in successive individuals. Of this, we shall have to speak more at length in another connection.
In a previous chapter we found that there exists a series of eternal modes. The question arises, therefore, where in this series does the Intellectus Infinitus belong? The question is answered in a letter to C. H. Schuller. The young friend had asked for examples of modes immediately produced by God and of modes produced mediately through these. Spinoza replied: “Examples ... of the first kind are in Thought Intellectus absolute Infinitus; in Extension, Motus et Quies; but of the second kind, Facies Totius Universi, which, although it varies in infinite ways, remains always the same; concerning which see schol. 7 of the lemma before proposition 14, Part 2.”
The Intellectus Infinitus is then an infinite mode of the first order. The same thing is affirmed also, by the “Short Treatise.” As to Intellectus in the thinking being, it is .... also a Son, a Creature, or immediate product of God.” To find the essence of the human mind and other ultimate eternal modes related without intermediate modes directly to the Intellectus Infinitus, an eternal and infinite mode of the first order, is not what we should expect. This apparent inconsistency has its analogue in another of which we must now speak.
The letter just cited names only one mode of the second order, Facies Totius Universi. It has been inferred that this is a modification, not of extension alone, but of nature as a unit, a modification therefore which partakes of the qualities of both (or of all) attributes. But that this is not the case, is clear from Eth. II. lem. 7, schol., to which Spinoza refers his pupil for further light. The expression tota natura found there is evidently synonymous with facies totius naturae occurring in the same connection, and relates only to extension. It requires therefore a counterpart on the side of thought, which is not given either here or elsewhere. It would seem that, in regard to the eternal modes in general, Spinoza never worked out the details of his thought into consistency. From the point of view of parallelism it would have been consistent for Spinoza to posit a special Intellectus Infinitus (an intellect relatively infinite) comprehending all particular minds actually existing and all particular ideas as psychological events. It would have had its counterpart in the facies totius universi of the “Ethics,” which “varies in infinite ways” without altering its total value, and in the Natura Naturata Particularis (Extensa) of the “Short Treatise” while the Intellectus Infinitus in another sense, embracing all eternal modes of thought, would have reflected the Natura Naturata Generalis. That he mentions no such special Intellectus Infinitus is probably due to the same motive that caused him to suppress the original distinction between Natura Naturata Generalis and Natura Naturata Particularis, it would have emphasized the chasm (already too obtrusive) between the system of eternal modes and the system of particular things, a chasm that was especially inconvenient in the thought-realm, inasmuch as Spinoza was interested in putting actual human minds in close relation with the realm of eternal and changeless realities. His failure to distinguish clearly between ideas as logical content and ideas as psychological facts served him well at this point, permitting him conveniently to do, in the thought-realm, what he could not easily do in the extension-realm, namely, to unite the changing and the changeless worlds. By treating the ideas of actually existing minds as logical content only, he was enabled to obliterate the distinction between the two.
The relation of the Intellectus Infinitus, so far as we have now determined it, may be represented by the following simple diagram.
For the sake of simplicity we have thusfar ignored the infinite number of unknown attributes. When we take these into account, we must make important changes in our diagram. We must then regard the counterpart of the Intellectus Infinitus as “expressed” not only under the attribute of extension,but under an infinite number of other attributes. Accordingly its relation to remaining reality may be provisionally represented as follows:
It will be seen not only that the asserted equilibrium between extension and thought is destroyed, in that thought acquires an infinite preponderance, but also that consistently the human mind ought to be acquainted with the unknown attributes. For the mind is the expression of substance under the attribute of thought, and the modifications of all other attributes, not merely those of extension, are analogous “expressions” of the same substance. This obvious inconsistency was pointed out to Spinoza himself by his young correspondent Tschirnhaus:
“Whence it is seen to follow,” he writes, “that that modification which constitutes my body, although one and the same modification, is expressed in infinite ways; in one way through thought, in another through extension, in a third way through an attribute of God unknown to me, and so on to infinity; because there exists an infinite number of attributes of God, and the order and connection of modifications seems to be the same in all. Hence the question now arises, why the mind, which represents a certain modification and which same modification is expressed not only in extension, but in an infinite number of other ways; why, I say, it perceives only that modification which is expressed through extension, that is, the human body, and no other expression through the other attributes.”
The difficult position in which Spinoza found himself before this question was one more consequence of the unclearness, lying on the threshold of his system, in regard to the relation that obtains between the attributes and substance. Tschirnhaus s objection was valid; but, on account of the actual limitations of our knowledge, Spinoza was bound at any cost to hold fast his conception of the mind as idea corporis. Accordingly in his reply, he simply ignores the consequences which his friend draws from the unity of substance, and defends himself by reminding him of the heterogeneity of the attributes:
“But in reply to your objection, I say that, although each thing is expressed in an infinite number of ways in the infinite intellect of God, yet those infinitely numerous ideas with which it is expressed are unable to constitute one and the same mind (mens) of a particular thing, but an infinite number; although each of these infinitely numerous ideas have no connexion with one another.”
The statement that the ideas which represent things as they are “expressed” in the unknown attributes constitute countless minds of particular things, admits of but one explanation. If we conceive “thing” as a modification of the one substance, in the way Spinoza does here, we must attribute to every individual thing an infinite number of separate minds which reflect the countless coordinate “expressions” of the infinitely numerous heterogeneous attributes. Everything has therefore, not simply the one mind described as idea corporis, but an infinite number of others. On account of the novelty of the thought, one may perhaps be inclined to seek some other interpretation; but no other is possible. If we limit the word mens to idea corporis, and attempt to distribute the countless ideas of a given thing among different minds of this sort, we contradict Spinoza’s fundamental assumption that idea corporis can only know extension and thought. Moreover, this letter, written two years before his death, harmonizes completely with the differently expressed representations of the “Short Treatise” composed in his youth, where he speaks of the nature of souls: “I say [the idea] of an object actually existing, etc., without further qualification, in order to include thereunder not only the modifications of extension, but also the modifications of all the infinite attributes, which just as well as those of extension have [each] a soul.”
As the ideas of the modifications of the different attributes have no relation (nullam connexionem) to one another, there exists corresponding to each attribute a separate Intellectus Infinitus. We must assume, therefore, an infinite number of relatively infinite intellects, which, taken together, constitute the Intellectus Absolute Infinitus. This suggests Spinoza’s definition of God; and in fact it corresponds in a way to that “ens absolute infinitum hoc est, substantiam constantem infinitis attributis.” But it would be a mistake to suppose that it is the thought counterpart of the unmodified attributes. It represents only modifications of the attributes, and belongs to Natura Naturata. Its place in the system of reality is shown in the following diagram:
The kind of unity possessed by this mode is especially to be remarked. As Intellectus Absolute Infinitus it falls, as we have seen, into an infinite number of absolutely separate Intellecti Infiniti, of which it is expressly said that they have no connecion with one another. Still they are regarded as constituting one mode. The unity can be only that which may be predicated of an aggregate of units having a common root. The infinite parts are all derived from absoluta cogitatio, to be sure, but they have no direct relation to one another. But what unity may be ascribed to the separate Intellecti Infiniti? It ought to be that which obtains among the modes of any one attribute, and would be analogous therefore to that existing among different bodies. Here again the unity is only a community of origin. There is this difference, however, that in the case of the separate Intellecti Infiniti there exists a special homogeneity of qualitative content which he supposed could not obtain between the thought modes corresponding to several heterogeneous attributes. The attribute of thought, which constitutes the ultimate ground of all thought-modes, is the unity to which they may be traced back. This, in which all single ideas, or mentes, mediately or immediately are rooted, establishes a union among them; some what as the trunk of a tree, if we may express ourselves in physical imagery, constitutes a union among the several leaves. This assumption is the only one, as we shall see, that can be harmonized with what Spinoza has to say about cogitatio absoluta.We must next determine what he means by t
 Eth. I, 31, dem.
 Cf. Korte Verhand., Anhang.
 The Italics are ours.
 Here we have a good example of the accommodated use of the word “God” to which we have referred (p. 158). It is employed in the sense of the sum of all modes. “God, not so far as he is infinite, but, etc.” means a single mode. The qualitative uniformity of reality makes it possible for Spinoza at one time to conceive of an “absolute” extension and thought, calling it “God,” and at another time to speak of the sum of the modes, or of any one mode, as “God,” inasmuch as every mode is, so to speak, a piece, though a modified piece, of the same stuff.
 But what is called esse actuale in Eth. II, 11 is also called essentia in Eth. Ill, 3 and 9. The esse actuale is not the eternal essence, but the temporal essence. Cf. Eth. II, 8.
 Eth. II, 8, Cor.
 Eth. V, 30, dem. Res igitur sub specie aeternitatis concipere, est res concipere, quatenus per Dei essentiam involvunt existentiam. "Ut entia realia" means in so far as things have a qualitative content. On the meaning of existentia here, see Eth. II, 45, scholium.
 Eth. V, 29, Scholium.
 Korte Verhandeling, Opera III, 102.
 Eth. II, 8 and 9.
 Eth. II, 15. Idea, quae esse formale humanae mentis constituit, non est simplex, sed ex plurimis ideis composita.
 As the essence of any body is a certain ratio of motion and rest, the essence of the composite human body ought to be represented by a very complex formula, the various elements of which represent its constituent parts. In the “Short Treatise” (Deel II, Voorreeden, notes 12-14) where he suggests that the nature of the human body might be expressed by the formula 1:3, either he did not think of the matter very precisely, or else he meant this for a general formula which in detail could be resolved into more complex relations.
 But they are not necessarily ideas of the objects inthe sense that they have those objects for their content. Spinoza’s unclear use of the word “idea” must be borne in mind, on account of which they are, or are not, ideas in this sense, according to the connection in which they are thought.
 Spinoza seems to conceive the contents of consciousness sometimes as “ideas” of physiological changes and sometimes as “ideas” of the components of the body. When their psychological character is prominent to his mind, they tend to become “ideas” of physiological changes; when their logical character is thought of, they tend to become “ideas” of the physical constituents. Eth. II, props, 11-17. In the “Short Treatise” (Deel II, Voorreeden, note 13) the physiological change appears in consciousness as “feeling.” Analogous to this is his application of Eth. II, prop. 7, “Ordo et connexio idearum idem est, ac ordo et connexio rerum,:” both in the temporal and in the logical sense.
Intellectus Infinitus must therefore be considered as conscious in so far as it
is coincident with actually existing minds, but this does not imply unity of
consciousness. Whether it is conscious also in so far as it transcends the sum
of individuals, or whether it does transcend the sum of individuals, is a
question to be answered, if at all, by inference.
The Intellectus Infinitus may be represented to the imagination as analogous to a sea with a many-colored surface when the wind (indirect causality) strikes it into a multitude of choppy waves. The waves represent the individuals, in which some colors appear entire (adequately) and some in part (inadequately).
 See the chap, on Immortality.
 See p. 139.
 Epist. 63 (olim 65)
 Epist. 64 (olim 66).
 Korte Verhandeling, Cap. 9, Deel I.
 Et si sic porro in infinitum pergamus, facile concipimus, totam Naturam unum esse Individuum, cujus partes, hoc est omnia corpora, infinitis modis variant, absque ulla totius Individui mutatione.
 Kuno Fischer s Diagram (Geschichte d. neueren Philosophie, II, 414, fourth edition) is therefore mistaken.
 Epis. 65 (olim 67).
 Epis. 66 (olim 68).
 Korte Verhandeling, pp. 101-2. Ik zeg van een voorwerp dat dadelijk wesentlijk is, enz. zonder meer bezonderheid, om dan hieronder te begrijpen niet alleen de wijzingen van de uytgebreidheid, maar ook de wijzingen van alle de oneyndige eygenschappen, de welke mede, zo wel als de uytgebreidheid, een ziele hebben. All this Is a further confirmation of the assumption that souls and not literal ideas are the constituents of the Intellectus Infinitus.