Propositions 41-47: Knowledge

Proposition 40: Ideas that spring from adequate ideas in the human mind are also adequate themselves.

Proof: This proposition is self—evident.

Note 1: I have thus set forth the cause of those notions, which:

But there are other causes of certain notions, which it would be to the purpose to set forth by this method of ours.

  • We should detect the notions which are ill—founded.
  • We should discern whence the notions called secondary derived their origin.
  • Consequently, we should discern:
  • But I will skip this subject because:
  • Nevertheless, I will briefly set down the causes, whence are derived the terms styled transcendental, such as Being, Thing, Something.
  • Thus, (from 2. Prop. 17 Coroll., and 18) the human mind can distinctly imagine as many things simultaneously, as its body can form images simultaneously.
  • The same conclusion can be drawn from the fact that:
  • It only distinctly imagines that, in which all the individuals, in so far as the body is affected by them, agree.
  • For that is the point, in which each of the said individuals chiefly affected the body.
  • The mind expresses this by the name 'man'.
  • However, we must bear in mind that these general notions are not formed by all men in the same way.
  • For instance, those who admire the stature of man, will by the name of man, understand an animal of erect stature.
  • Those who have been used to regard some other attribute, will form a different general image of man
  • Note 2: In many cases, we perceive and form our general notions:
    1. From particular things represented to our intellect fragmentarily, confusedly, and without order through our senses (2.29. Coroll.).
  • (2.) From symbols, e.g., from the fact of having read or heard certain words we remember things and form certain ideas on them, similar to those through which we imagine things (2.18 note).
  • (3.) From the fact that we have notions common to all men, and adequate ideas of the properties of things (2.38 Coroll., 2.39 and Coroll. and 2.40.)
  • A single example will illustrate all three kinds of knowledge.

    [4] A Baconian phrase. Nov. Org. Aph. 100. [Pollock, p. 126, n.]

    Proposition 41. Knowledge of the first kind is the only source of falsehood.

    Proof: We have (in the foregoing note) assigned all those ideas, which are inadequate and confused, to the knowledge of the first kind.

    Proposition 42: Knowledge of the second and third kinds teaches us to distinguish the true from the false.

    Proof: This proposition is self—evident.  

    Proposition 43: A person who has a true idea simultaneously:

    Proof: A true idea in us is an idea which is adequate in God, in so far as he is displayed through the nature of the human mind (2.11. Coroll.). Note: I explained in the note to 2.21. what is meant by the idea of an idea.
  • As light displays both itself and darkness, so truth is a standard both of itself and of falsity.

    The difference between a true idea and a false idea is plain.

    I have explained very clearly the causes of falsehood in 2.19. and 2.35 with the note.

    How can a man be sure that he has ideas that agree with their objects?

  • We may add that our mind, as it perceives things truly, is part of the infinite intellect of God (2.11. Coroll.).

  • Proposition 44: It is not in the nature of reason to regard things as contingent, but as necessary.

    Proof: It is in the nature of reason to perceive things truly (2.41), namely (1. Ax. 6.), as they are in themselves—that is (1.29.), not as contingent, but as necessary. Q.E.D. Corollary 1: It follows that it is only through our imagination that we consider things, whether in respect to the future or the past, as contingent. Note: I will briefly explain how this way of looking at things arises. Corollary 2: It is in the nature of reason to perceive things under a certain form of eternity (sub quâdam æternitatis specie). Proof: It is in the nature of reason to regard things, not as contingent, but as necessary (2.44).   Proposition 45: Every idea of every body, or of every particular thing actually existing, necessarily involves God's eternal and infinite essence. Proof: The idea of a particular thing actually existing necessarily involves both the existence and the essence of the said thing (2.8). Note: By existence I do not here mean duration—that is, existence in so far as it is conceived abstractedly, and as a certain form of quantity.   Proposition 46: The knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God which every idea involves is adequate and perfect. Proof: The proof of the last proposition is universal; and whether a thing be considered as a part or a whole, the idea thereof, whether of the whole or of a part (by the last Prop.), will involve God's eternal and infinite essence.   Proposition 47: The human mind has an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God. Proof: The human mind has ideas (2.22), from which (2.23) it perceives itself and its own body (2.19.) and external bodies (2.16. Coroll. i. and II. xvii.) as actually existing; Note.—Hence we see, that the infinite essence and the eternity of God are known to all.   Proposition 48: In the mind there is no absolute or free will. Proof: The mind is a fixed and definite mode of thought (2.11), therefore it cannot be the free cause of its actions (1.17 Coroll. 2). Note: In the same way it is proved, that there is in the mind no absolute faculty of understanding, desiring, loving, etc.   Proposition 49: There is no volition or affirmation and negation in the mind, save that which an idea, as it is an idea, involves. Proof: There is no absolute faculty of positive or negative volition in the mind.

    Corollary: Will and understanding are one and the same.

    Proof: Will and understanding are nothing beyond the individual volitions and ideas (2.48 and note).

    Note: We have thus removed the cause which is commonly assigned for error.

  • When we say that a man acquiesces in what is false, and that he has no doubts on the subject, we do not say that he is certain.
  • Thus, although the man is assumed to acquiesce in what is false, we shall never say that he is certain.
  • To fully explain the foregoing proposition, I will:
  • I warn my readers to:
  • distinguish between the idea and words we use to signify things.
  • Images, words, and ideas are by many persons either:
  • Hence, people are generally ignorant, how absolutely necessary is a knowledge of this doctrine of the will, for:
  • Those who think that ideas consist in images formed in us by contact with external bodies, persuade themselves that the ideas of those things, whereof we can form no mental picture, are not ideas, but only figments, which we invent by the free decree of our will.
  • Those who confuse words with ideas, or with the affirmation which an idea involves, think that they can wish something contrary to what they feel, affirm, or deny.
  • Next, I will consider the objections against our doctrine.
    1. The first objection is from those who think that the will has a wider scope than the understanding, and is different from it.
  • The will is thus distinguished from the intellect.
  • The will becomes finite and the intellect infinite.
  • Experience seems to teach us clearly that we can suspend our judgment before affirming or negating the things we perceive.
  • Thirdly, one affirmation does not apparently contain more reality than another.
    1. In other words, we do not seem to need for affirming, that what is true is true, any greater power than for affirming, that what is false is true.
    2. However, we have seen that one idea has more reality or perfection than another, for as objects are some more excellent than others, so also are the ideas of them some more excellent than others.
    3. This also seems to point to a difference between the understanding and the will.
  • Fourthly, if man does not act from free will, what will happen if the incentives to action are equally balanced, as in the case of Buridan's ass?
    1. Will he perish of hunger and thirst?
    2. If I say that he would, I shall seem to have in my thoughts an ass or the statue of a man rather than an actual man.
    3. If I say that he would not, he would then determine his own action, and would consequently possess the faculty of going and doing whatever he liked.
    4. Other objections might also be raised, but, as I am not bound to put in evidence everything that anyone may dream, I will only set myself to the task of refuting those I have mentioned, and that as briefly as possible.
        If we regard the mind, these two affirmations are in the same relation to one another as being and not—being.  
    1. It teaches us to:
      1. act solely according to God's decree, and
      2. partake in the Divine nature, and so much the more, as we perform more perfect actions and understand God more.
    2. It teaches us how we should conduct ourselves with respect to the gifts of fortune, or matters not in our power, and do not follow from our nature. 3. This doctrine raises social life, as it teaches us to hate no man, neither to despise, to deride, to envy, or to be angry with any. 4. Lastly, this doctrine confers no small advantage on the commonwealth.