Many Spinoza scholars have attempted to understand the metaphysics of the attributes – Thought and Extension – by first understanding the semantics of the terms we use to talk and think about them – ‘Thought’ and ‘Extension’. This is the linguistic approach to Spinoza’s attributes. Despite the recent popularity of this approach, no clear characterization or defense has been given for the methodology of the linguistic approach. Providing such a defense is my central aim in this paper. I believe the (...) linguistic approach is not only permissible on methodological grounds; it is essential in order to properly address central debates about the attributes. I argue on the basis of recent work in metametaphysics that resolving the debate about the reality of the attributes requires taking a linguistic approach to them. (shrink)
Spinoza’s recognition of the unpredictable fortunes of individuals, explicable through the interplay between their intrinsic natures and their susceptibility to external causes, informs his account of political success and – what for him is the same thing – political virtue. Thus, a state may thrive because it has a good constitution (an internal feature), or because it was fortunate not to be surrounded by powerful enemies. Normally, however, it is the combination of both luck and internal qualities that determines the (...) fate of things. What is true about the fate of states holds equally of the fate of other types of individual, both human and non-human. In a sense, even the fate of a theory is determined by the interplay between its intrinsic virtues, and mere historical luck. A quarter century ago, shortly after I began my graduate studies in philosophy at Yale, I started thinking about writing a dissertation on Spinoza’s philosophy. A good and caring friend in my graduate cohort advised me against the idea, which he believed was tantamount to “professional suicide” given the oddity of Spinoza’s thought. Indeed, the environment of analytic philosophy in the mid- and even late-1990s was not particularly auspicious for the academic study of Spinoza. Spinoza was – rightly – considered as having little commitment to commonsense, and commitment to commonsense – the most stubborn of prejudices – was (and still is) considered by many a minimal requirement for entry into the club of “decent” philosophers. Yet, things have changed over the past twenty-five years. So much so, that recently a (non-Spinozist) early modernist colleague of mine complained to me about the futility of changing the description of an event he planned from a ‘Spinoza workshop’ into an ‘early modern philosophy workshop,’ since “one way or another, most of the submitted abstracts are going to deal with Spinoza.” Indeed, in many ways, the interest and intensity of the study of Spinoza’s philosophy in the Anglo-American world has eclipsed that of almost all other early modern philosophers, and we seem to be facing a circumstance in which Spinoza is gradually competing with, if not replacing, Kant as the compass of modern philosophy. One can list many reasons for these dramatic developments: from Spinoza’s radical naturalism, to his dismissal of the fairytales of anthropomorphic and anthropocentric religion – while Kant on these issues could at best be said to kick the ghosts from the front door while inviting them back as ‘ideas’ or ‘postulates of practical reason’ through the back door –- to his unequivocal rejection of the illusions of humanism. Still, we lack a full explanation of the recent Spinozist upheaval in North American philosophy. (shrink)
This article is the SIXTH of several excerpts from my book The Nondual Mind: Vedānta, Kashmiri Pratyabhijñā Shaivism, and Spinoza (the full book is posted on this site). “I liked James H. Cumming’s The Nondual Mind a lot. It is beautifully written, thoughtful, and very clear.” (Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University) “James H. Cumming’s scholarly interpretation of Spinoza’s works, persuasively showing how 17th century European ideas that ushered in the Enlightenment find a precursor (...) in 10th century Kashmir, is a masterpiece of reason and philosophy that will leave the reader with profound thoughts on the meaning of history, God, and life itself. As a senior staff attorney in my chambers for many years at the California Supreme Court and a top scholar of ethics and philosophy of law, Mr. Cumming never ceased to amaze me with his outstanding research and intellect. This scholarly book is a must read for all who want to know why Spinoza continues to influence contemporary philosophy and how his work is still relevant in today’s challenging, interconnected world.” (Hon. Ming W. Chin, Associate Justice (Retired), Supreme Court of California, 1996–2020). (shrink)
This guide has an introduction and five chapters, one for each of the parts of Spinoza's Ethics. The Introduction includes background material necessary for productive study of the Ethics: advice for working with Spinoza's geometrical method, a biographical sketch of Spinoza, and accounts of important predecessors: Aristotle, Maimonides, and Descartes. The chapters that follow trace the Ethics in detail, including accounts of most of the elements in Spinoza's book and raising questions for further research. Chapter 1, "One Infinite Substance," covers (...) central arguments of Spinoza's substance monism. Chapter 2, "The Idea of the Human Body," follows Spinoza's detailed metaphysics of ordinary objects, his theory of mind, and his epistemology. Chapter 3, "Desire, Joy, and Sadness," works from Spinoza's broad theory of finite activity in the striving to persevere in being to his detailed accounts of human action and passion. Chapter 4, "Bondage to Passion," emphasizes Spinoza's formal theory of value, his intellectualism in ethics, and particular claims about value that follow from these commitments. Chapter 5, "The Power of the Intellect," begins with Spinoza's criticism of Descartes's account of our ability to control passion and moves to Spinoza's own theory, which emphasizes reason, the eternal part of the mind, and human blessedness. (shrink)
I examine Spinoza's claim in the Metaphysical Thoughts that the attributes of God are only distinguished by a distinction of reason. I contend that for Spinoza essential attributes, such as Thought or Extension, cannot be distinguished by Francisco Suarez's distinction of reasoning reason, as Martin Lin suggests, nor can he be using Suárez’ distinction of reasoned reason for this purpose, as Yitzhak Melamed believes. Since reasoning reason and the distinction of reasoned reason are the only two kinds of rational distinction (...) available to Spinoza, it follows that for him the distinction between God's essential attributes in the CM cannot be a distinction of reason. But I show that Spinoza is not mistakenly using Suarez's distinction in the CM. Rather, I argue, Spinoza consistently follows Suárez and uses reasoned reason to distinguish between God's necessary properties and not between God's essential attributes. (shrink)
El presente trabajo es un intento por repensar el modo en que ha sido interpretada la primera parte de la Ética de Baruch Spinoza por la tradición. Fundamentalmente, busca alejarse de las interpretaciones que llamamos “ontológicas” -que sostienen que las distinciones conceptuales allí postuladas refieren a diferentes ámbitos de lo real-, para defender una lectura que tenga al factor gnoseológico como principio explicativo de tales distinciones. Se intentará mostrar que mediante esta hipótesis de lectura se accede a aquello que nos (...) parece ser el más auténtico espíritu spinozista: aquel donde la multiplicidad de las perspectivas del conocimiento humano se vuelve coherente con la más absoluta univocidad de lo real. (shrink)
Spinoza claims that a person’s mind and body are one and the same. But he also claims that minds think and do not move, whereas bodies move and do not think. How can we reconcile these claims? I believe that Spinoza is building on a traditional view about identity over time. According to this view, identity over time is linked to essence, so that a thing that is now resting is identical to a thing that was previously moving, provided that (...) they share the same essence. I believe that Spinoza has a similar view about the identity of minds and bodies. In particular, a thing that is thinking in the attribute of thought is identical to a thing that is moving in the attribute of extension, provided that they share the same essence. (shrink)
I argue that, against what is commonly believed, Spinoza’s use of the relation of constitution to characterize the relation between attributes and the essence of a substance does not indicate that, for him, there must be a numerical identity between each attribute and the essence constituted by that attribute. To do this, I follow a twofold strategy. First, I contend that the claim that because in Spinoza’s time constitution was understood as a one- to-one relation is mistaken: the main logicians (...) of Spinoza’s time, all Cartesian philosophers, believe that the constitution of an essence can be a many-to-one relation. I show that Spinoza can both accept that constitution is a many-one relation and share Descartes’ understanding of this relation. Second, I defend the claim that Spinoza’s use of constitution in the Ethics is consistent with these logicians’ account of constitution. In particular, I focus on Spinoza’s inclusion of the intellect in the definition of attribute and his definition of God. (shrink)
My aim in what follows is to expound and (if possible) resolve two problems in Spinoza’s theory of mind. The first problem is how Spinoza can accept a key premise in Descartes’s argument for dualism—that thought and extension are separately conceivable, “one without the help of the other”—without accepting Descartes’s conclusion that no substance is both thinking and extended. Resolving this problem will require us to consider a crucial ambiguity in the notion of conceiving one thing without another, the credentials (...) of Descartes’s principle that each substance has a principal attribute, and the prospect of neutral monism as a theory of the mind. The second problem is how Spinoza can maintain that each mental event is identical with some physical event (and conversely) while denying that there is ever any causal interaction between mental and physical events. If one mental event causes another and the first is identical with some physical event, must that physical event not cause the mental event? Resolving this problem will require looking into the reach of opacity in Spinoza’s philosophy and considering whether there are ever any legitimate exceptions to Leibniz’s Law. (shrink)
Durante su intercambio epistolar con Spinoza, Tschirnhaus defiende la imposibilidad de deducir la naturaleza de los cuerpos particulares a partir de la sola extensión. El motivo de esta objeción reside en su dificultad para desmarcarse de la concepción sustancial de los cuerpos como partes finitas de la extensión sostenida por Descartes. Esta dificultad inicial, sin embargo, queda ensombrecida por la intervención de Leibniz en un momento clave de la correspondencia que convertirá la disputa de carácter físico en una controversia teológica. (...) Este artículo demuestra que el problema metafísico detectado por Leibniz consiste en la afirmación radical del principio de plenitud contenida en la proposición 16 de la primera parte de la Ética y las consecuencias heréticas que de ésta se desprenden. El examen del papel que la crítica de Leibniz jugó en el desarrollo de la discusión permitirá leer bajo una nueva luz tanto la paradójica actitud de Tschirnhaus como las enigmáticas y elusivas respuestas de Spinoza. (shrink)
This paper argues that Spinoza held substances other than God to be inconceivable. It uses this claim to develop a novel response to the Problem of Other Substances, the problem of explaining why some of Spinoza’s proofs for God’s existence cannot be used to prove the existence of a non-divine substance instead.
"Alexandre Matheron is considered one of the most important interpreters of Spinoza's philosophy in the 20th century. These 20 essays, translated into English for the first time, focus on ontology, knowledge, politics and ethics in Spinoza, his predecessors and his contemporaries."--Publisher description.
The tenth proposition of Spinoza’s Ethics reads: ‘Each attribute of substance must be conceived through itself.’ Developing and defending the argument for this single proposition, it turns out, is vital to Spinoza’s philosophical project. Indeed, it’s virtually impossible to overstate its importance. Spinoza and his interpreters have used EIp10 to prove central claims in his metaphysics and philosophy of mind (i.e., substance monism, mind-body parallelism, mind-body identity, and finite subject individuation). It’s crucial for making sense of his epistemology (i.e., Spinoza’s (...) account of knowledge and response to skepticism) and in resolving puzzles within the Ethics (i.e., explaining human ignorance of all but two attributes). Even those who do not attribute some of the above claims to Spinoza need EIp10 to defend much of what they believe about Spinoza’s system. This paper locates a previously unnoticed argument for this proposition in Spinoza’s Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well Being. There, Spinoza shows himself concerned with a powerful and underappreciated form of philosophical skepticism, one with surprising echoes in the work of his contemporary Leibniz as well as in the later Wittgenstein. Spinoza’s introduction of E1p10 in the Ethics circumvents this form of skepticism, solving the problem the Short Treatise envisions while also explaining that text’s argument’s absence from the explicit justificatory structure of the Ethics. (shrink)
ABSTRACTMost of Spinoza’s arguments for God’s existence do not rely on any special feature of God, but instead on merely general features of substance. This raises the following worry: those arguments prove the existence of non-divine substances just as much as they prove God’s existence, and yet there is not enough room in Spinoza’s system for all these substances. I argue that Spinoza attempts to solve this problem by using a principle of plenitude to rule out the existence of other (...) substances and that the principle cannot be derived from the PSR, as many claim.Abbreviation: PSR: Principle of Sufficient Reason. (shrink)
In Spinoza’s metaphysics, we encounter many puzzling doctrines that appear to entangle metaphysical notions with cognitive, logical, and epistemic ones. According to him, a substance is that which can be conceived through itself and a mode is that which is conceived through another. Thus, metaphysical notions, substance and mode, are defined through a notion that is either cognitive or logical, being conceived through. He defines an attribute as that which an intellect perceives as constituting the essence of a substance. Intellectual (...) perception, something cognitive, is used to define an attribute, something metaphysical. And he claims that if something exists there is a reason why it exists and if something doesn’t exist there is also a reason why it doesn’t. Thus, a reason, something cognitive or epistemic, is necessary for existence or nonexistence. What are we to make of the intimate connections that Spinoza sees between metaphysical, cognitive, logical, and epistemic notions? Between being and reason? In this book, I argue for what might be called a realist interpretation: although Spinoza is confident that the order of being mirrors the order of reason, he believes that they are two orders, not one. There is inherence over and above conceptual dependence; there is causation in addition to causal explanation; the world has a nature that we can grasp and that our way of grasping it does not interpose an impenetrable conceptual veil between it and us. (shrink)
François Lamy, a Benedictine monk and Cartesian philosopher whose extensive relations with Arnauld, Bossuet, Fénélon, and Malebranche put him into contact with the intellectual elite of late-seventeenth-century France, authored the very first detailed and explicit refutation of Spinoza’s Ethics in French, Le nouvel athéisme renversé. Regrettably overlooked in the secondary literature on Spinoza, Lamy is an interesting figure in his own right, and his anti-Spinozist work sheds important light on Cartesian assumptions that inform the earliest phase of Spinoza’s critical reception (...) in the seventeenth-century. I begin by presenting Lamy’s life and the contentious state of Spinoza’s French reception in the 1680 and 1690s. I then discuss a central argument in Lamy’s refutation, namely the Cartesian objection that Spinoza’s account of the conceptual independence of attributes is incompatible with the theory of substance monism. Contrasting Lamy’s objection with questions put to Spinoza by de Vries and Tschirnhaus, I maintain that by exhibiting the direction Spinoza’s views on substance and attribute took in maturing we may accurately assess the strength of Spinoza’s position vis-à-vis his Cartesian objector, and I argue that, in fact, Spinoza’s mature account of God as an expressive ens realissimum is not vulnerable to Lamy’s criticism. In conclusion, I turn to Lamy’s objection that Spinoza’s philosophy is question-begging in view of Spinoza’s account of God, and I exhibit what this point of criticism tells us about the intentions of the first French Cartesian rebuttal of the Ethics. (shrink)
Spinoza's guiding commitment to the thesis that nothing exists or occurs outside of the scope of nature and its necessary laws makes him one of the great seventeenth-century exemplars of both philosophical naturalism and explanatory rationalism. Nature and Necessity in Spinoza's Philosophy brings together for the first time eighteen of Don Garrett's articles on Spinoza's philosophy, ranging over the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political philosophy. Taken together, these influential articles provide a comprehensive interpretation of that (...) philosophy, including Spinoza's theories of substance, thought and extension, causation, truth, knowledge, individuation, representation, consciousness, conatus, teleology, emotion, freedom, responsibility, virtue, contract, the state, and eternity-and the deep interrelations among them. Each article aims to resolve significant problems in the understanding of Spinoza's philosophy in such a way as to make evident both his reasons for his views and the enduring value of his ideas. At the same time, Garrett's articles elucidate the relations between his philosophy and those of predecessors and contemporaries like Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, and Leibniz. Lastly, the volume offers important and substantial replies to leading critics on four crucial topics: the necessary existence of God (Nature), substance monism, necessitarianism, and consciousness. (shrink)
This paper compares two readings of Baruch Spinoza – those of Gilles Deleuze and Rama Kanta Tripathi – with a particular focus on three features of Spinoza’s philosophy: the relationship between substance and attribute; the problem of acosmism and unity; and the problem of the parallelism of attributes. Deleuze and Tripathi’s understanding of these three issues in Spinoza’s thought illustrates for us their own concerns with becoming over substance and māyā, respectively. This investigation provides not just two interesting and contradictory (...) interpretations of Spinoza, but also gives us insight into Deleuze’s metaphysics and Tripathi’s Vedāntic philosophy. (shrink)
This book reconstructs Spinoza's theory of the human mind against the backdrop of the twofold notion that subjective experience is explainable and that its successful explanation is of ethical relevance, because it makes us wiser, freer, and happier.
I suggest a solution to two puzzles in Spinoza's metaphysics. The first puzzle involves the mind and the idea of the mind, in particular how they can be identical, even though the mind thinks about bodies and nothing else, whereas the idea of the mind thinks about ideas and nothing else. The second puzzle involves the mind and the idea of a thing that belongs to an unknown attribute, in particular how they can be identical, even though the mind thinks (...) about bodies and nothing else, whereas the idea thinks about things belonging to the unknown attribute and nothing else. I suggest that Spinoza would respond to both puzzles by rejecting the Indiscernibility of Identicals. (shrink)
Since modes of the attribute of thought are ideas of the modes of all the other attributes in Spinoza, the scope of thought appears to be equal to that of all the other attributes combined. This suggests that thought is exceptional, and threatens to upset Spinoza’s doctrine of parallelism, according to which thought is just one among an infinity of attributes each expressing the divine essence in its own unique way. After providing an overview of attempts to solve the problem (...) of thought’s scope in the literature, I outline two reasons why the problem is not the problem it has been taken to be: (1) quantitative comparisons have no place between attributes, and (2) with knowledge of only two attributes, it is impossible to speak of norms and anomalies. I also explain how my view undercuts debate about where Spinoza lies on the idealism–dualism–materialism spectrum, and refocuses attention on the identity of the order and connection of causes regardless of the attribute under consideration. (shrink)
I argue that there are two meanings of ‘attribute’ for Spinoza. It can refer to 1) an essential feature of substance, or 2) a perception by the infinite intellect of such a feature. I put this forth as a reading of Spinoza’s definition of ‘attribute’ (E1d4), which is notoriously framed in terms of the perceptions of the intellect. The primary benefit of this reading is that it provides a uniquely powerful and much-needed answer to the puzzle of how the mentalistic (...) character of E1d4 is consistent with an “objectivist” picture of Spinoza’s metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
At the opening of Spinoza’s Ethics, we find the three celebrated definitions of substance, attribute, and God: E1d3: By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, i.e., that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be formed [Per substantiam intelligo id quod in se est et per se concipitur; hoc est id cujus conceptus non indiget conceptu alterius rei, a quo formari debeat]. E1d4: By attribute I understand what (...) the intellect perceives of a substance, as constituting its essence [Per attributum intelligo id, quod intellectus de substantia percipit, tanquam ejusdem essentiam constituens]. E1d6: By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence We are accustomed to think of these paramount definitions as a fixed and settled formulation of the core of Spinoza’s metaphysics, but if we look at the development of Spinoza’s thought, the picture we get is quite different. In the early drafts of the Ethics and in his early works, Spinoza seems to have experimented with various conceptualizations of the relations between substance, attribute, and God. Some of Spinoza’s works make barely any use of the notions of substance and attribute, and the testimony of Spinoza’s letters suggests that, at a certain stage in his philosophical development, the concept of attribute may have been put on the back burner, if not completely dropped. Indeed, another closely related concept—accident [accidens]—was fated to be pulled out of the system (and for good reasons ). The final version of the Ethics makes hardly any use of this notion, but Spinoza’s letters show that in early drafts of the Ethics he used the term ‘accident’ to refer to what cannot be or be conceived without substance. In this paper I will attempt to provide a brief outline of the genealogy of Spinoza’s key metaphysical concepts. This genealogy, like any other, can help us to reexamine and reconsider what seems to us natural, stable and obvious. In the first part of the paper, I rely on Spinoza’s letters to trace the development of his definitions of substance and attribute in the early drafts of the Ethics. The letters, whose dates are more or less established, also provide a temporal grid for our subsequent discussions. The second part surveys Spinoza’s discussion and conceptualization of substance and attributes in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, the Theological-Political Treatise (1670), and briefly, Spinoza’s 1663 book on Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy, and its appendix on Metaphysical Thoughts, the Cogitata Metaphysica. The third part of the paper is dedicated to Spinoza’s understanding of substance and attribute in the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being. I conclude with some remarks on the stability of Spinoza’s final position on the issue, as expressed in the published version of the Ethics . (shrink)
This paper argues that Spinoza does not take extension in space to be a fundamental property of physical things. This means that when Spinoza calls either substance or a mode “an Extended thing”, he does not mean that it is a thing extended in three dimensions. The argument proceeds by showing, first, that Spinoza does not associate extension in space with substance, and second, that finite bodies, or physical things, are not understood through the intellect when they are conceived as (...) extended in space. I conclude by articulating some suggestions about where we should go from here in trying to understand Spinoza’s account of the attribute of extension and of the physical world. (shrink)
The paper offers a new account of Spinoza's conception of “substance”, the fundamental building block of reality. It shows that it can be demonstrated apriori within Spinoza's metaphysical framework that (i) contrary to Idealist readings, for Spinoza there can be no substance that is not determined or modified by some other entity produced by substance; and that (ii) there can be no substance (and hence no being) that is not a thinking substance.
The seventeenth century was an important period in the conceptual development of the notion of the infinite. In 1643, Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647)—Galileo’s successor in the chair of mathematics in Florence—communicated his proof of a solid of infinite length but finite volume. Many of the leading metaphysicians of the time, notably Spinoza and Leibniz, came out in defense of actual infinity, rejecting the Aristotelian ban on it, which had been almost universally accepted for two millennia. Though it would be another two (...) centuries before the notion of the actually infinite was rehabilitated in mathematics by Dedekind and Cantor (Cauchy and Weierstrass still considered it mere paradox), their impenitent advocacy of the concept had significant reverberations in both philosophy and mathematics. In this essay, I will attempt to clarify one thread in the development of the notion of the infinite. In the first part, I study Spinoza’s discussion and endorsement, in the Letter on the Infinite (Ep. 12), of Hasdai Crescas’ (c. 1340-1410/11) crucial amendment to a traditional proof of the existence of God (“the cosmological proof” ), in which he insightfully points out that the proof does not require the Aristotelian ban on actual infinity. In the second and last part, I examine the claim, advanced by Crescas and Spinoza, that God has infinitely many attributes, and explore the reasoning that motivated both philosophers to make such a claim. Similarities between Spinoza and Crescas, which suggest the latter’s influence on the former, can be discerned in several other important issues, such as necessitarianism, the view that we are compelled to assert or reject a belief by its representational content, the enigmatic notion of amor Dei intellectualis, and the view of punishment as a natural consequent of sin. Here, I will restrict myself to the issue of the infinite, clearly a substantial topic in itself. (shrink)
A relação entre os modos e a substância na filosofia de Espinosa é tida tradicionalmente como de inerência, de maneira semelhante, grosso modo, à relação entre os acidentes e as substâncias na filosofia aristotélica. Essa concepção de inerência foi contestada por Edwin Curley a partir de 1969. Esta monografia, no primeiro capítulo, procura defender que a relação entre os modos e a substância em Espinosa é de inerência, contra Curley, explicando em que consiste essa relação e diferenciando-a da concepção aristotélica (...) de inerência. No segundo capítulo, são apresentadas e respondidas objeções elaboradas por Pierre Bayle ainda no século XVIII contra a concepção de inerência dos modos na substância em Espinosa e que serviram como apoio para os ataques de Curley. (shrink)
Until recently, Spinoza's standing in Anglophone studies of philosophy has been relatively low and has only seemed to confirm Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's assessment of him as "a dead dog." However, an exuberant outburst of excellent scholarship on Spinoza has of late come to dominate work on early modern philosophy. This resurgence is due in no small part to the recent revival of metaphysics in contemporary philosophy and to the increased appreciation of Spinoza's role as an unorthodox, pivotal figure - indeed, (...) perhaps the pivotal figure - in the development of Enlightenment thinking. Spinoza's penetrating articulation of his extreme rationalism makes him a demanding philosopher who offers deep and prescient challenges to all subsequent, inevitably less radical approaches to philosophy. While the twenty-six essays in this volume - by many of the world's leading Spinoza specialists - grapple directly with Spinoza's most important arguments, these essays also seek to identify and explain Spinoza's debts to previous philosophy, his influence on later philosophers, and his significance for contemporary philosophy and for us. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify Spinoza’s views on some of the most fundamental issues of his metaphysics: the nature of God’s attributes, the nature of existence and eternity, and the relation between essence and existence in God. While there is an extensive literature on each of these topics, it seems that the following question was hardly raised so far: What is, for Spinoza, the relation between God’s existence and the divine attributes? Given Spinoza’s claims that there are (...) intimate connections between God’s essence and his existence – “God’s essence and his existence are one and the same”(E1p20) – and between God’s essence and the attributes – “By attribute I understand what the intellect perceives of substance, as constituting its essence” (E1d4), we would naturally expect that by transitivity, there is a significant relation between God’s existence and the attributes. Yet, as far as I know, there is little, if any, attempt in the existing literature to explicate such a relation, and it is one of my aims of this study to both raise the question and answer it. Eventually, I will argue that for Spinoza God is nothing but existence, and that the divine attributes are just fundamental kinds of existence, or, what is the same, as I will later argue, the intellect’s most fundamental and adequate conceptions of existence. In the first part of the paper I provide some background for Spinoza’s brief discussion in the TTP of God’s name and essence by studying the claims of Maimonides in the Guide of the Perplexed that God’s true essence is necessary existence, and that this essence is denoted by the ineffable Hebrew name of God, the Tetragrammaton (YHVH). In the second part of the paper I point out similar claims Spinoza presents in the TTP, and show how they respond to and echo Maimonides’ discussion in the Guide. In the third part, I examine Spinoza’s apparently conflicting claims in the Ethics about the relationship between God’s essence and existence. In some places Spinoza claims that God’s essence and existence are strictly identical (E1p10: “God’s essence his existence are one and the same”), but in other passages he makes the apparently much more modest claim that God’s essence involves existence (E1d1, E1p7d and E1p11d), which may lead one to believe that there is more to God’s essence than mere existence. I show that Spinoza’s understanding of the relation denoted by the Latin ‘involvit’ is consistent with the strict identification of essence and existence in God, and that Spinoza identifies God’s essence with self-necessitated existence, or eternity. Indeed, Spinoza’s understanding of eternity [aeternitas] as self-necessitated existence (E1d8) is one of the very few Spinozistic concepts that has no trace in Descartes. In this part I will also solve the long-standing problem of the sense in which the infinite modes can be called ‘eternal.’ In the fourth part I turn to the relation between the divine attributes and God’s existence and argue that, for Spinoza, the attributes are self-sufficient and adequate conceptions of existence. Finally, I will attempt to explain what brought Spinoza to deify existence. -/- Part I: “In that Day shall God be One, and his Name One”- Maimonides on God’s Name and Essence. -/- 1.1 Before we delve into the texts, let me suggest a few distinctions between various views on the issue of the relation between essence and existence in God. The view I suspect both Maimonides and Spinoza subscribe to can be termed the divine essence-existence Identity Thesis. -/- Identity Thesis (IT): God’s essence is existence and nothing but existence. We should distinguish the Identity Thesis from the much more common view according to which God’s essence contains existence, or (which I take to be roughly the same) that existence is one of the properties or perfections which constitute God’s essence. The latter view allows for the possibility (though it does not demand) that there is more to God’s essence than bare existence (e.g., God’s essence may include omniscience, omnipotence, etc.). I will term this view the divine essence-existence Containment Thesis. (shrink)
Since it has generally been accepted that to Spinoza attributes are real features of substance, the interpretation of his attribute definition has become a notorious problem. The reason is that interpreters have failed to see that the definition formulates a purely epistemological account of the state of affairs. The article presents and justifies such an interpretation. It will be shown that the definition in spite of its epistemological character implies a real ontological definition, which specifies the critical features of an (...) attribute. As to the reason why Spinoza has stated the definition in an ‘indirect way’, it is shown that it is likely that he has done so in order to have a more efficient, a more unambiguous and a more elegant definition. The relevance of the new interpretation is not only that it provides us with an interpretable, transparent attribute definition, but it also contributes to the establishment of a coherent picture of Spinoza’s metaphysics around this definition. (shrink)
In this paper, I put forward some remarks supporting a reading of Spinoza's metaphysics in terms of process ontology, that is, the notion that processes or activities, rather than things, are the most basic entities. I suggest that this reading, while not the only possible one, offers advantages over the traditional substance-properties interpretation. While this claim may sound implausible vis-à-vis Spinoza's language of ‘substance’ and ‘attributes’, I show that process ontology illuminates important features of Spinoza's thought and can facilitate solutions (...) to some interpretive problems. (shrink)