Some of the Hebrews seems to have seen this, as if through a cloud, when they maintained that God, God's intellect, and the things understood by him are one and the same.--Spinoza (E2P7S) [in Curley's translation]
In my previous three posts (here, here, here) on Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, I did not engage with Hazony's efforts at articulating the epistemology (chapter 6) and metaphysics (7) of the Hebrew Scripture. Chapter 6 is a fascinating meditation on Jeremiah. Here I focus on the latter. According to Hazony in "the Hebrew Bible...truth is not in the first instance a quality of that which is said, but of "objects and persons." "Objects" here are taken very widely to include "objects of the understanding more generally, including actions and circumstances." (195-196). In particular, that "which is true is something that is reliable, steadfast, faithful; while that which is false is something that cannot be counted upon, or which appears reliable but is not." (199) So to simplify: something is true iff it is a steadfast object. So, in addition to true being a property of objects (etc.) it is also a normative property. As Hazony writes, "that which is true is that which proves, through time and circumstance, to be what it ought." (202)
Hazony contrasts what one can label -- to introduce and deploy a Foucault-ish terminology -- "the Biblical regime of truth" with the traditional one he claims we have inherited from Aristotle. (Foucault nor Heidegger are mentioned by Hazony.) In the traditional regime truth is a "quality of speech" (thought, etc.); true speech is about a reality separate from speech and agrees with or corresponds to that reality. (195) Let's grant Hazony the conceptual possibility that there are different "regimes of truth." So, here I ignore the kind of criticism familiar from, say, Bernard Williams' "general point:" that "nothing that was not opposed to the false could be rightly represented as the "the true." (Truth and Truthfulness, 272; emphasis in original; Williams' passage was discussed recently in an illuminating lecture on Foucault's debts to Marcel Detienne by my Ghent colleague, Maarten Van Dyck.) Williams is not just making a narrow (and plausible) point about translation; the general point denies the possibility of different regimes of truth. Given that here I am merely describing the history of various regimes of truth I need not worry if alternative regimes to ours represent anything.
As an aside, in his brilliant book, Hume's Difficulty: Time and Idenity in the Treatise, Don Baxter insisted on the significance of steadfast objects to Hume's metaphysics. (Recall Jeff Bell's post; see also Stef Rocknak's terrific new book Imagined Causes.) The key passage in Hume's Treatise is this:
I know there are some who pretend, that the idea of duration is applicable in a proper sense to objects, which are perfectly unchangeable; and this I take to be the common opinion of philosophers as well as of the vulgar. But to be convinc’d of its falsehood we need but reflect on the foregoing conclusion, that the idea of duration is always deriv’d from a succession of changeable objects, and can never be convey’d to the mind by any thing stedfast and unchangeable. For it inevitably follows from thence, that since the idea of duration cannot be deriv’d from such an object, it can never in any propriety or exactness be apply’d to it, nor can any thing unchangeable be ever said to have duration.--22.214.171.124.
So, a "stedfast" object cannot be the source of our idea of duration nor can we apply duration to it. If we allow that God is the most important possible stedfast and unchangeable object then Hume is denying that such a God can (a) either be the source of the idea of duration nor (b) have duration. Hume's target may well be a theologically ambitious, influential thinker; in the General Scholium to Principia, Newton clearly embraced (b) and a version of (a): "He endures always and is present everywhere, and by existing always and everywhere he constitutes duration and space." (In Cohen's translation, 1999: 941) Now I also happen to disagree with Baxter's claim that Humean “stedfast objects” are (non-enduring) temporal simples. (30) On my reading of Hume the very (simple) idea of a stedfast object must itself be a fiction; it is to confound a complex impression as the source of a simple idea (see 126.96.36.199-2). If Hume thinks the vulgar and philosophers think of God as a "stedfast" and unchangeable object, my interpretation is probably not an unwelcome to Hume.
Okay, now it is time to turn to Spinoza. Spinoza shares with a lot of Early Moderns a suspicion of speech. He is, for example, very clear that speech and written word can only present confused or inadequate knowledge. (E2P40S2 and the Latin). But in itself this does not mean Spinoza (or his fellow Early Moderns) depart from the traditional regime of truth. One might think that "true ideas" stand in for "true speech."
Even so, it is worth noting that Spinoza does not define "truth." Rather, he just asserts axiomatically that a true idea must agree with its ideatum (E1A6; Idea vera debet cum suo ideato convenire.) When one starts reading the Ethics, one just assumes that this convenire just means something like 'corresponds' (as it does in the Logic books he was familiar with). But further reflection on the Ethics makes one realize that Spinoza frequently asserts an identity between a true idea and 'its' true extension. Parkinson offers a nice argument for this particular claim, which, as many commentators have recognized, relies crucially on E2p7, which asserts the identity between the causal order of the attributes; true ideas, which are actions (not passive objects), are automatically the same as their objects. [In fact, Spinoza's 'regime of truth' is held together by tying it to a notion of adequacy, which when defined (intrinsically) in the Ethics (E2D4), is explicitly contrasted with a correspondence account (Per ideam adæquatam intelligo ideam quæ quatenus in se sine relatione ad objectum consideratur). Adequate and clear ideas are the true.]
So, the "true" is a property of (a certain class of) objects, too, in Spinoza's metaphysics. Spinoza had already hinted at this view in Definition 8 of Book 1 of the Ethics, where 'eternity,' 'existence itself,' and conceiving as an 'eternal truth' are treated as synonyms. In particular, for Spinoza, when we are true to our true nature (our Conatus [E3p7 and Latin]), then our true (or active) ideas persist, or are steadfast (although not in a temporal sense). That is to say, Spinoza's "regime of truth" is in certain crucial respects closer to the Hebrew Bible than the traditional one.
Let me rest here.