Forthcoming… & Sanem Soyarslan

Op het Southwest Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy dat van 16 – 17 February 2013 in Cal Poly Pomona aan het California State Polytechnic University zal worden gehouden [cf], zal o.a. Sanem Soyarslan een paper presenteren getiteld: “The Susceptibility of Intuitive Knowledge to Akrasia in Spinoza’s Ethical Thought.” Daar er niet zo heel veel over Spinoza’s derde kennissoort wordt geschreven, mag dit hier wel opgemerkt worden. Haar proefschrift ging er over; zie het blog waarin ik wijs op haar binnen te halen dissertatie: Reason and Intuitive Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics: Two Ways of Knowing, Two Ways of Living.
Hieronder neem ik de samenvatting over van haar komende lezing.

Verder wijs ik op een hoofdstuk van haar dat in een komend boek zal verschijnen en dat al ter inzage op internet is gezet. Het behandelt eveneens die derde kennissoort:

Sanem Soyarslan (Boston University), “From Ordinary Life to Blessedness: The Power of Intuitive Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics.” Forthcoming in The Moral Philosophy of Spinoza (edited by Andrew Youpa and Matthew Kisner) Oxford University Press. [hier]

Opmerkelijk vind ik wel: naast een boek waarvan al jaren aangekondigd wordt dat het op komst zou zijn, The Oxford Handbook of Spinoza (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ed. M. Della Rocca), waarvan ik vele artikelen in een blog van bijna twee jaar geleden kon signaleren, wordt alweer een te verschijnen Spinozaboek bij OUP aangekondigd. Bij Sanem Soyarslan, die er een hoofdstuk voor inleverde, heet het: The Moral Philosophy of Spinoza. Volgens het enige andere al aangekondigde artikel dat ik vond, kan het ook een andere titel krijgen:

Steven Nadler, “The Lives of Others: Spinoza on Benevolence”, in Michael LeBuffe, Matt Kisner, and Andrew Youpa, eds., The Ethics of Spinoza’s Ethics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Hier dan het abstract van haar te brengen paper:

Sanem Soyarslan (Boston University), “The Susceptibility of Intuitive Knowledge to Akrasia in Spinoza’s Ethical Thought” - abstract: For Spinoza whereas being virtuous and free consists in our power to moderate and restrain the passions, the lack of this very power is “bondage.”3 At the center of human bondage lies the phenomenon of akrasia: the situation wherein “even though [we] see the better for ourselves [we] are…forced to follow the worse.”4 Spinoza’s account of akrasia in the Ethics has recently received attention from commentators including Martin Lin5 and Eugene Marshall6, who addressed this account within the context of the relative power and weakness of reason (ratio) and passion (passio). Although these commentators thereby contributed a great deal to a better understanding of human bondage and freedom in Spinoza’s ethical thought, they did so by considering the power and weakness of solely one kind of adequate knowledge—namely, reason. According to Spinoza’s taxonomy of knowledge in the Ethics, however, reason is not the only kind of adequate knowledge. There is, in addition, intuitive knowledge (scientia intuitiva), which Spinoza describes as constituting “the greatest virtue of the mind”7 and “the greatest human perfection.”8 Spinoza explicitly states that intuitive knowledge is “more powerful”9 than reason. But what exactly does this greater power promise in the face of the passions? Is intuitive knowledge liable to akrasia? More specifically, can we conceive of a situation wherein both an intuitive idea and a passionate idea exert power at the same time, and yet we end up following the latter? Or, is there something in Spinoza’s system that guarantees that intuitive knowledge will not be overcome by the passions? In this paper, I consider to what extent (if at all) intuitive knowledge is susceptible to akrasia by addressing these relatively unexplored questions in Spinoza scholarship. I argue that, given our modal status, it is not plausible to claim that akrasia would never apply to intuitive knowledge.10 Yet, it can reasonably be held that this superior kind of cognition is less susceptible (if not absolutely invulnerable) to akrasia than reason thanks to its greater affective power.

In Section 1, I explain what the power of an idea consists in by having recourse to the unique relation between ideas and affects in Spinoza’s thought. This explanation is necessary in order to understand what constitutes an akratic action for him.11 In Section 2, I present Spinoza’s account of intuitive knowledge and the intellectual love of God (amor Dei intellectualis), which is an active affect that accompanies intuitive knowledge. I conclude this section by showing how, following EVP37—i.e., “There is nothing in Nature which is contrary to this intellectual love, or which can take it away” (my italics)—it appears that intuitive knowledge is not susceptible to akrasia. In Section 3, I argue that this appearance is misleading: Since intuitive ideas are the ideas of a finite mind actually existing in time, even the intellectual love of God accompanying these ideas cannot ensure absolutely that the power of these ideas will not be overridden by passionate ideas. In Section 4, I conclude by suggesting that akratic situations would nonetheless be less frequent in connection with intuitive knowledge than in relation to reason thanks to the greater power of the former. The greater power of intuitive ideas, I argue, consists in the fact that they are directly related to the essence of our mind, and thus involve ourselves more intimately than rational ideas, which relate to us only in a mediated and detached manner.

3 Preface to Part IV of the Ethics (E).

4 Ibid.

5 Lin (2006).

6 Marshall (2008).

7 Ethics, Part V, Proposition 25 (EVP25)

8 EVP27 Demonstration.

9 EVP36 Scholium.

10 The view that, unlike reason, intuitive knowledge is not susceptible to akrasia has been suggested by Ronald Sandler (2005). Sandler makes this point in order to explain in what sense intuitive knowledge is affectively more powerful than reason. His treatment of this issue, albeit intriguing, is too concise.

11 Akrasia is usually translated as “weakness of the will” or “incontinence.” However, as I show in Section 1, in Spinoza’s context “weakness of the will” would not be an appropriate description of the phenomenon at stake. This is simply because, for Spinoza, the mental power does not reside in a separate faculty called will. Rather, it resides in the idea itself. Since there is no will over and above ideas, we do just as our ideas determine us to do. Consequently, just as Spinoza does not attribute our control over the passions to the strength of the free will, he does not explain the lack of such control by appealing to the weakness of the will. In Section 1, I provide a detailed account of all this by having recourse to Michael Della Rocca’s (2003) reading of the relation between ideas and affects in Spinoza’s thought.


Della Rocca, Michael. (2003), “The Power of an Idea: Spinoza’s Critique of Pure Will,” Nous 37, 200–31.

Marshall, Eugene. (2008), “Spinoza on the Problem of Akrasia,” European Journal of Philosophy, 18 (1), 41-59.

Lin, Martin. (2006), “Spinoza’s Account of Akrasia,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 44.3, 395-414. Sandler, Ronald. (2005), “Intuitus and Ratio in Spinoza's Ethical Thought," British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13, 73-90.

Spinoza, Benedictus. (1985), The Collected Works of Spinoza, Vol.1, ed. and trans. Edwin Curley, Princeton University Press: Princeton.

[van hier]