Meaning in Spinoza's Method

By Aaron V. Garrett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Emendative therapy and the Tractatus de
Intellectus Emendatione

In the last two chapters I have discussed a number of issues preliminary to considering Spinoza's method. In chapter 1, I discussed the analogy of the worm in the blood and the problem of how we — natural beings — come to understand nature. In chapter 2, I considered a number of key concepts that all have bearing on the solution that Spinoza proposed to the worm's problem, specifically on Spinoza's definition of God. In this chapter and the three that follow it I will present what Spinoza and some philosophers who Spinoza drew on have to say about method. By “method” I understand what the Scholastics called a “via” and Spinoza calls a mos, a way or means to discover those truths “that can lead us, by the hand as it were, to the knowledge of the human Mind and its highest blessedness” (II “Preface”). For Spinoza this via is intertwined with what I call an “emendative therapy.” Why and that they are interconnected is the concern of this chapter.

The first two sections concern the idea of “emendation” in Spinoza's Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione. In these sections I will try to show that in the TIE Spinoza draws on and alters Francis Bacon's theory of mental tools, Gersonides' theory of emendation, and Descartes' account of innate ideas, and uses them for his own ends. The final section will emphasize that emendation is the crucial first step to understanding Spinoza's account of definition and the mos geometricus. I will discuss the definition of emendation in greater detail later on, but by emendation I understand the process of ridding oneself of confusions in order to think and act more clearly.


METHOD IN THE TREATISE ON THE EMENDATION OF THE
INTELLECT

Spinoza's earliest extant attempt to supply a philosophical method capable of explaining where our definitions come from is in the TIE. The relation between the TIE and the Ethics has always been a matter of some dispute. It is not clear when the TIE was written, if the KV or the TIE was written

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