Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard E. Aquila

Committee Members

Sheldon M. Cohen, Kathleen E. Bohstedt, Thomas E. Burman


This dissertation analyzes the doctrine of mind-body identity in Baruch Spinoza to discover if there is something in his metaphysical doctrine that is analogous to the way that Thomas Aquinas views the nature of the relationship between mind and body in human beings. The argument put forth in this work is that Aquinas’s hylomorphism, in which the human soul is the form of the human person, both bodily and mentally, is echoed in Spinoza’s doctrine of the conatus. No dependence upon Aquinas is implied in this comparative study, but merely the argument that the ways that Spinoza and Aquinas conceive of the mind-body relationship specifically, and human existence more broadly, have some very interesting parallels that have not been observed sufficiently by other interpretation of their work. Furthermore, it is a part of the purpose of this dissertation to suggest that the ways that Spinoza and Aquinas analyze the nature of human existence in the universe, especially organic existence, can provide helpful insights that could enrich contemporary philosophy as it tries to work, in conjunction with modern science, to understand the way that mind and body are present in human beings.

The study is divided into six chapters which provide the following steps in the argument. The first chapter introduces the problems related to the subject of mind and body in both Spinoza and Aquinas, establishing the parameters of the research. Chapter two looks at the Aristotelian background of hylomorphism and argues that it is still a philosophically respectable theory. Aquinas’s further development of the doctrine of hylomorphism beyond Aristotle’s own foundational theory is the focus of the third chapter. Chapter four turns to Aquinas’s discussion of the nature of mind and body identity. The next chapter deals substantively with Spinoza’s doctrine and in a preliminary way points to the affinity he has with Aquinas’s doctrine. Chapter six points explicitly to their similarities and shows how each of them argued for the immortality of the human “soul.” In this chapter, suggestions are made as to how Spinoza and Aquinas can be dialogue partners in contemporary philosophy of mind.

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