Some remarks on the 'objective' and 'subjective' interpretations of the attributes

Inquiry 20 (1-4):447 – 456 (1977)
Abstract
This paper is an attempt to clarify the 'objective' and 'subjective' interpretations of Spinoza's position on the attributes of substance. It is argued that (a) the dispute between objectivists and subjectivists survives resolution of the question concerning correct translation of 'tanquam' in definition iv, Part I of the Ethics , (b) the objective interpretation, unlike the subjective one, requires rejection of the notion of 'absolute' identity, unless Spinoza's position is inconsistent, and (c) the subjective interpretation is best characterized as holding that, although each attribute constitutes the essence of substance, there is only a (Suarezean) distinction of reasoned reason (distinctio rationis ratiocinatae) between the attributes, and between any attribute and God. (Spinoza will depart from Suarez, however, in holding that there can be a distinction of reasoned reason between A and B , when the concepts of and are adequate [or clear and distinct].) The dispute is thus held -to concern Spinoza's conception of identity, and the objectivity of the distinction between the attributes, not the objectivity of the attributes themselves. A partial defense of the subjective interpretation, when conceived in the above way, is then provided.
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