Affirmation, judgment, and epistemic theodicy in descartes and spinoza

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In this paper, I compare Descartes and Spinoza on the question of judgment. Both philosophers develop their accounts of judgment in the service of what might be called epistemic theodicy, in that they seek to show that human error is compatible with the existence of a perfect God. But because they have very different conceptions of God, they develop very different conceptions of judgment. In particular, Spinoza's conception of affirmation differs from Descartes's because, whereas, for Descartes, affirmation is an application of our free will, Spinoza denies that we possess any such faculty. But this raises the question of what does account for affirmation in Spinoza. I argue against recent interpretations according to which Spinoza's notion of affirmation is reducible to his notion of conatus or striving for self-preservation on the grounds that such interpretations fail to preserve the connection between affirmation and truth that Spinoza endorses. I suggest instead that, for Spinoza, every idea is affirmed in the sense that every idea purports to represent the world as it really is.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Act and Object of Judgment
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429787621
ISBN (Print)9781138351387
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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