College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, metaphysics, early modern philosophy


In this dissertation I argue for the central metaphysical importance of unconscious dimensions of thought in philosophical systems of Leibniz, Spinoza, and Hume, and analyze how these unconscious dimensions inform how each conceives of freedom and volition. I show that they develop robust accounts of unconscious perceptions, beliefs, desires, and habits of thinking, all of which participate significantly in shaping the processes by which we consciously make decisions. I claim that attention to this aspect of their philosophies, which has often been neglected, sheds important light on their reflections concerning whether and how individual freedom is possible. I show that, for all three of them, this kind of freedom is in fact possible, but only once we take into account these unconscious aspects of our determination as thinking subjects. For these philosophers, the unconscious dimensions of thought constitute limiting conditions for the possibility of individual freedom. I conclude by pointing to the categories of obscurity and involvement, which appear in each of their accounts, as being singularly useful for the project of exploring the unconscious of thought.