Chapter 2: Axioms

Thinking things

God is a thinking thing (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 33, P1 Schol.). Man thinks. (pp. 32, A2).

We come to know the things that exist in the universe through “thought” and “extension”. It is the worlds of thought that are of primary interest to the pedagogue; what thinks, who thinks, what thinking is, why and how it happens, and how we can learn through thinking. One controversial reading of Spinoza is to argue that a God is a thinking thing; every physical thing has to have a corollary idea in our thinking processes. Thus, Spinoza both posits a “actual world” of things, of physical stuff, and a mental world of “thought”, and says that they run absolutely parallel to one another. Spinozist conceptions of thought must have profound implications for a pedagogy because they demand that we see all things as having a degree of sentience, with God being at the top of this hierarchy, and inanimate objects being at the bottom.

This diagram shows that everything is in God and as a result thinks in some kind of way.

Modes of thinking

Thinking and feeling are indistinguishable and could be termed a “thought-feeling”, this is what I interpret Spinoza to mean by an “affect”. (pp. 32, A3)

Journey into Joy

Questions: Do you think we live in a sentient universe? If not, how do you account for the fact that we evolved from the neutrons and protons of the Big Bang? Do you think animals think? Do you believe “thinking” separates us from animals?

Thought experiment: what thought processes would a stone have if it could think?

For more see Spinoza’s Letter 58 (Spinoza, October, 1674).