Spinoza's metaphysics of substance: The substance-mode relation as a relation of inherence and predication

In his groundbreaking work of 1969, Spinoza's Metaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation, Edwin Curley attacked the traditional understanding of the substance-mode relation in Spinoza, according to which modes inhere in substance. Curley argued that such an interpretation generates insurmountable problems, as had already been claimed by Pierre Bayle in his famous Dictionary entry on Spinoza. Instead of having modes inhere in substance Curley suggested that the modes’ dependence upon substance should be interpreted in terms of (efficient) causation, i.e., as committing Spinoza to nothing over and above the claim that substance is the (efficient) cause of the modes. These bold and fascinating claims generated one of the most important scholarly controversies in Spinoza scholarship of the past thirty-five years. In this paper I argue against Curley’s interpretation and attempt to reestablish the traditional understanding of Spinozistic modes as inhering in God and as predicated of God. I also criticize Curley’s philosophical motivation for suggesting this interpretation. In order to show that, for Spinoza, modes are predicated of - and inhere in - substance, I will proceed in the following manner. First, I will summarize Curley’s arguments against substance-mode inherence and present his alternative interpretation of the substance-mode relation. I will then present what I consider to be the most compelling arguments against Curley’s interpretation. Some of these arguments have already been suggested in the literature of the past thirty years (and by Bayle); however, as far as I know, most of the arguments I will be making are new. In the subsequent section I will respond to objections that Curley and Bayle advance against Spinoza’s view of God as the substratum in which all things inhere. Finally, I will address whether Spinozistic modes are predicated of (and not only inhere in) substance, and whether Spinoza considered modes to be particular properties (or “tropes,” in the jargon of contemporary metaphysics). Since Bayle’s claims will be used both in support of and against Curley’s interpretation, it would be appropriate to say a few introductory words on Bayle’s stance. In his Spinoza entry, Bayle criticizes Spinoza’s claim that all things are modes of God, claiming that it “is the most monstrous hypothesis that could be imagined, the most absurd, and the most diametrically opposed to the most evident notions of our mind.” Bayle, however, has no doubt that when Spinoza claims that all things are modes of God, Spinoza means that all things inhere in God. Curley embraces Bayle’s arguments against Spinoza, but uses them in order to claim that we should not ascribe to Spinoza a view which is allegedly shown by Bayle to be absurd. What we should do, Curley argues, is to reinterpret the substance-mode relation as a relation of causal dependence, which would set Spinoza free from Bayle’s hook. Interestingly, as we shall soon see, Bayle himself discusses and rejects a very similar revisionary interpretation of the substance-mode relation.
Keywords Substance  Inherence  Modes  Propria  Causation  Charitable interpretation  Spinoza  Tschirnhaus  Leibniz
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2008.00231.x
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References found in this work BETA
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Hutchinson & Co.
Word and Object.W. V. Quine - 1960 - MIT Press.
Science, Perception, and Reality.Wilfrid Sellars - 1963 - New York: Humanities Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume - 1739/2000 - Oxford University Press.
The Philosophical Writings of Descartes.René Descartes - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA
Spinoza on Essences, Universals, and Beings of Reason.Karolina Hübner - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (2):58-88.
Spinoza's Thinking Substance and the Necessity of Modes.Karolina Hübner - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (3):3-34.
Spinoza on Composition, Causation, and the Mind's Eternity.John Grey - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (3):446-467.

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