Supplements and Footnotes in Ethics. Reason, Imagination, Understanding

Jolanta Żelazna



This sketch contains a rough analysis of Spinoza’s reasons for adding ”Footnotes” and ”Supplements” to his ”Ethics”, both of which containing many undefined words disrupting the coherence of the deductive order of exposition used in the main body of the work. Doubts raised by readers of the early versions of ”Ethics” and ”A Theologico-Political Treatise” and, most of all, several difficulties understanding the exposition, occasioned by the same parts of the work, independent of readers’ education, induced Spinoza to a more detailed survey into the cognitive process and the role of its particular elements. The ability to understand depends on ratio and intellect, whereas the real understanding is the result of association, recognition, imagination and memory. When referring to such ”ideal” object as the objects of geometry, these factors do not introduce any previously known content to the process of cognition, but when referred to previously gained experience they easily draw the activity of ratio and intellect away from the course of the deduction delineated in the text.


Baruch Spinoza; reason; intellect; imagination; understanding

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