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A perspective on the mind-body problem, with particular reference to the philosophy of Spinoza

Gullan-Whur, Margaret; (1996) A perspective on the mind-body problem, with particular reference to the philosophy of Spinoza. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Spinoza's thesis of non-reductive monism was conceived in critical response to earlier dualist and materialist theories of mind. He rejects dualism with respect to both God-Nature and mind-body, yet his principles mark off the mental as severely as is possible without forfeiting monism, showing his awareness that monism (attribute identity) threatens mental irreducibility. The constraints Spinoza imposes in order to preserve mental irreducibility and to make human beings partial expressions of one thinking and extended substance produce a tension between mental autonomy and mind-body identity. However, I propose that while this remains a serious philosophical problem, some degree of tension must persist in any non-reductive monism which succeeds in giving the mental a weighting equal to the physical, and that Spinoza's sensitivity to this requirement is instructive. I argue, on the other hand, that Spinoza's theory of mind is irrevocably damaged by his turning of the traditional Mind of God into the Mind of the Whole of Nature in so far as he extrapolates from this Mind of God-or-Nature to finite minds. In characterising finite minds as partial expressions of "God's" infinite intellect I believe Spinoza becomes caught between his unorthodox conception of God's Mind as all-inclusive and a retained conception of the Mind of God as all truths. I argue that by characterising our thoughts as fractions of the adequate and true ideas "in God", that is, by claiming them (i) to express in some measure immediate judgement; (ii) to have a state of our body as a necessary feature of their representational content, and (iii) to have a place in a determined, lawlike mental concatenation, Spinoza creates a tension between two mental perspectives, namely a metaphysical explanation of human mental states, and our ordinary mental experiences. I argue that he fails acceptably to characterise the latter and that his theory of mind is therefore unsatisfactory.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A perspective on the mind-body problem, with particular reference to the philosophy of Spinoza
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Mind-Body Problem; Spinoza, Baruch
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106157
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