London Spinoza Circle

At the next meeting of the London Spinoza Circle we are very pleased to have Dr Andrea Sangiacomo (University of Groningen) who will speak on Spinoza’s account of common notions and the origin of rational ideas.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 30th November, 3pm-5pm in the Paul Hirst Room, Department of Politics, Birkbeck College, at 10 Gower Street London WC1E 6HJ,


An everlasting controversy in Spinoza scholarship concerns the origin of rational ideas. Two parties have been opposing each other. According to the empiricist approach, ideas of reason somehow derive from imagination, while innatism holds that they are built upon innate ideas. In this paper, I propose a revised version of the empiricist approach that is capable of fully accounting for Spinoza’s position.I argue that reason and imagination express different ways in which the body interacts with external causes. Imaginative ideas are the mental counterpart of interactions based on some form of disagreement in nature between the human body and external causes, while rational ideas based on common notions are the mental expression of agreement in nature between the human body and external cases. This reading of common notions as an expression of some degree of “agreement in nature” (natura convenire) among things leads to appreciate of the often neglected difference between universal and proper common notions, which in turns enables Spinoza to account for different degrees of generality that rational ideas can have.

All are welcome and no registration is required.


Please put these dates of future meetings in your diary.

January 25th, 2018 – Christopher Thomas (University of Aberdeen)

February 15th, 2018 – Prof Yitzhak Melamed (Johns Hopkins University)

March 1st, 2018 – Dr Daniel Whistler (Royal Holloway)

March 22nd, 2018 – Dr Alexander Douglas (St Andrews University)

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