A crucial part of learning in the Spinozist sense must involve distinguishing “accurately between an idea, or concept, of the mind, and the images of things which we imagine” (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 64, P49 Schol.). It is this transition between absorbing the immediate sensation of something and then thinking hard about what it means which is being suggested here. I believe it is similar to the notions behind Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning, where remembering and imitating is at the very bottom of the hierarchy of learning, and then understanding is next, followed by what Bloom believes are “higher level” intellectual skills such as analysing, evaluating, creating.
However, I think that a Spinozist pedagogy would put a much heavier emphasis upon understanding, and might be represented like this:
In this diagram, we see that understanding is the “set” and the sub-sets of the different levels of knowledge are contained within it. God has a complete understanding of everything, while the person with the third level of knowledge has “intuitive” understanding, and the person with the second level of knowledge has “reasoned” understanding, while the person with the first level of knowledge has “imaginative” understanding. The diagram shows that the “imaginative realm” of knowledge is not someone who is completely wrong – although they may be – but someone who could just have a partial picture. For example, a student who has studied Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have knowledge of the story and characters in the play having watched the film of the play, but little genuine understanding of the language. They would, in my view, be categorised as having an “imaginative” understanding of the play. To truly “affirm” their knowledge of the play, they would need to understand the language in itself, and have knowledge of the forces which led the play’s language to create meaning and drama.