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Horst Steinke


they are relatively incidental, supportive, and not topically prom-

inent. In the current letter, the controversy seizes on the validity

of interpretations of experimental results, and their epistemic sta-

tus, and it surfaces in a very explicit and direct way. Now, Spino-

za characterizes his (and Boyle’s) interpretations as “hypothe-




Therefore it was not for me to prove, but merely to hypothesize […].

[…] it is apparent that every calx […] is well fitted to halt the motion

of particles of Nitre, and therefore, by my hypothesis, to redintegrate

the Nitre itself. […] I do not know why he [Boyle] calls the impossibil-

ity of a vacuum a hypothesis, since it clearly follows from the fact that

nothing has no properties.

And, to give a sense of how important this characterization of

scientific theorizing is for Spinoza, he “unpacks” the intended

force, not once, but redundantly, in rapid succession:

[1] I pass on to the experiments which I put forward so as to confirm

my explanation not in any absolute sense, but, as I expressly said, to

some degree. […][2] For, as I have expressly said, I did not put for-

ward these experiments to give complete confirmation to my asser-

tions, but only because they seemed to offer some degree of confirma-

tion to which I had said and had shown to be consistent with reason.

This reference to «reason» provides the necessary perspective

on the value and validity of any and all scientific interpretations

of experimental data; it fundamentally differs from the received

theory of the scientific process in which working hypotheses

have an honored place in the quest for scientific truth at a given

level of analysis


. For Spinoza, having data in hand, «reason»

in the form of «intuitive knowledge» of ultimate reality as sub-

stance, attributes (motion and rest foremost among them), and


must guide theorizing, but such scientific theories will

always remain at the level of the second kind of knowledge