The Identity and Diversity of Attributes in the Absolute Idealism of Spinoza

Dissertation, University of Ottawa (Canada) (1989)
The issue addressed in this thesis is one in the absolute idealism of Spinoza. It is one of specifying an interpretation of substance-attribute identity as a solution to the problem of reconciling it with the diversity of the attributes and the oneness of substance. As a testing ground for any proposed solution, a list of questions is generated. Given the countable diversity of the attributes, can we conceive of the identity of each of them with the one substance? Why, if I am identical to a mode of each of infinite attributes, do I perceive only a body? What is the rational explanation for the infinite countable diversity of the attributes and our being directly acquainted with only two? In what manner can we reconcile the divisibility of substance with the activity of thought? How does one reconcile the order of extension seeming to be one of external relations with the essentially internal order of any finite thinking thing? How does one reconcile the independent being of modes of extension with the truth-functionality of ideas? In what manner is it possible to understand the appearance of the uniqueness of the one thing conceived under the idea of the body and the one-among-severalness of the same thing conceived under the idea of the individual's mind? In what manner can it be said that substance, consisting of infinite attributes, is accurately and completely conceived through any one of them while each is conceptually independent of every other? How can the one thing which is mind and body be wholly and accurately conceived to be a mode of either of their respective attributes while modes of differing attributes are also conceptually independent? The interpretations of substance-attribute identity given by John Clark Murray, T. L. S. Sprigge, and Errol E. Harris, in their writings in which they advocate reading Spinoza as an absolute idealist, are argued to be disadvantageous in dealing with the evident parallelism of the attributes. Finally, a proposed solution, offered by an alternative absolute idealist interpretation of substance-attribute identity, is developed in response to each of the above questions
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