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Horst Steinke


the imagination with the help of the senses, or [3


kind:] as Sub-



, apprehended by means of the intellect.

This contrast is woven through the entire letter, or, to mix

metaphors, executed as multiple variations on a theme. Between

these two epistemic poles that carry the main argumentative bur-

den, however, the remaining component of his epistemic struc-

ture, that is, the second kind of knowledge, is not absent either in

the letter. He refers to it by the term of «mental constructs», as

applicable to the notions of «Time», «Measure», and «Number».

These notions have their origin, not in the sense(d) data, but in

the «Modes» of «Duration» and «Quantity» understood as «the

affections of Substance», thus implicitly accessible only



third kind of knowledge. They serve as «aids to the imagination»,

and function, in effect, as «modes of thinking, […] modes of im-

agining». Spinoza’s example ostensibly is meant to provide phys-

ical proof of his infinity thesis, but, conversely, the physics, and

mathematics, of “fluid dynamics” is at the same time framed di-

rectly in terms of metaphysics


: «[…] if anyone were to attempt

to determine all the motions of matter that have ever been, re-

ducing them and their duration to a definite number and time, he

would be attempting to deprive corporeal Substance […] of its

affections, and to bring it about that Substance should not pos-

sess the nature which it does possess». The correct inference or

deduction of the «infinite» variation of the velocity of the fluid

(i.e. acceleration/deceleration), thus, for Spinoza, primarily fol-

lows from the third kind of knowledge; once this is estab-



, it can be verified from the “experimental” data. We

have before us an epistemic compartmentalization, and stratifica-

tion, that is isomorphic to that underlying Spinoza’s biblical-

criticism in


in the pursuit of science, physicists


, lacking

the benefit of «intuitive knowledge»

who, in Spinoza’s words,

«because of their ignorance of the true nature of reality, have de-

nied the actual existence of the infinite»

epistemologically, find