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Baruch Spinoza

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Nathalie Morasch

on 5 April 2018

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Transcript of Baruch Spinoza

Spinoza's Monism
God is the infinite, necessarily existing, unique substance of the universe.
There is only one substance in the universe; it is God.
Everything else that is, is in God.
Baruch Spinoza
Dual aspect monism
There are 3 substances
finite mind
finite body
The essence of mind is thought, the essence of body is extension.
Eating the cake and having it too
Mind and body are really distinct, but also one and the same.
The double role of attributes
Attributes allow for
without implying
of substances.
D3: "By substance I understand what
is in itself and is conceived through itself
is something that needs nothing else in order to exist (formal reality) or be conceived (objective reality).
Baruch Spinoza
1632 born in Amsterdam
Groomed for a career as a rabbi
1656 was issued a writ of

(excommunication) by Sephardic community
Openly admitted of being faithless

Denies the immortality of the soul
Rejects the notion of a providential (having divine foresight) God
Major works:
Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
(1660, unfinished)
Ethics (1665)
Treatise on Theology and Politics (1669)
1677 died in The Hague
Life: 1632-1677
Notion of God
God is not a transcendent being.
God is not some goal-oriented planner.
God doesn't judge and need not be obeyed.
Reverence or worshipful awe is not an appropriate attitude to take before God.
There is only 1 substance
God & nature
This substance has infinitely many attributes, of which we can grasp 2: thought & extension. There exist infinite and finite modes.
The laws of thought & nature are the infinite modes of God.

Particular thoughts and physical objects are finite modes of God.
God has no plan for the universe.
God didn't create the universe.
The universe
simply follows from God's essence
in just the way that the properties of a triangle follow from the essence of a triangle.

If God didn't create the universe, he didn't create it for us!
It simply exists
No creation
Spinoza has an unrivaled optimism in the cognitive powers of human beings. He believes we can intuit the truth inherent within all of reality because we are a mode of how reality expresses itself.
Immanent Intuition
Attributes are merely different aspects of substance. We can still in principle understand nature fully, since each aspect offers us complete knowledge of nature.
"From this it is clear that although two attributes be conceived as really distinct, that is, one without the help of the other, still we cannot deduce therefrom that they constitute two entities, or two different substances" EIP10s
"The knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God which each idea involves is adequate and perfect" EIIP46
"The human mind has an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God" EII47
Does Spinoza claim that we are infinitely knowledgeable (in principle?), or does he merely claim this knowledge is somehow contained within us, but we have no real access to it as a finite mind?
There is an ethical component to Spinoza's epistemology. The acquisition of adequate ideas allows us to achieve
eternal joy
(by escaping ephemeral delights). It is the correct way to love God, namely intellectually.
D5: "By mode I mean the affections of substance; that is, that which is in something else and is conceived through something else". A
or property is something that needs a substance in order to exist, and cannot exist without a substance. Modes are
modifications of substance
D4: "By attribute I mean that which the intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence". An
is the essence the intellect perceives the substance as constituting (
perceived essence
God necessarily exists 1p11
Reductio ad absurdum
1. Suppose: It can be conceived that God does not exist.
(God is a substance having infinite attributes).
2. If 1, then God's essence does not involve existence.
3. A substance's essence involves existence (1p7).
4. God is a substance.
5. Anything whose essence involves existence cannot be conceived to lack existence.
6. If 3 and 5, then God's non-existence cannot be conceived.
[Consequent of 6 contradicts premise 1].
God necessarily exists
How many are there?

Find Spinoza's definitions for each ontological category.
Ontological Categories
God is the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused) unique, indivisible substance of the universe.
Not the anthropomorphic conception of God prevalent in the theology of his time...
Like for Descartes, substance is understood as a
causally independent
, and
subject independent
, thing.

Causal independence
is the ability to exist, or to remain in existence, independently of another thing's causal power.
Subject independence
is the ability for a thing to exist without depending on another thing to provide the subject "in which" it exists, i.e to not be a property (or accident or mode) of a substance, but to be a substance in its own right.
Short version:
All substances exist.
God is a substance.
Therefore, God exists.
1. Spinoza and Descartes agree on how many different kinds of substance there are in the universe.

2. According to Spinoza mind and body are different ways of conceiving the same entity.

3. Spinoza and Descartes shared the same notion of God.

4. According to Spinoza, the universe follows from God's essence. God didn't create the universe.
True or false?
Distinction: created independent substance &
uncreated independent substance.
Spinoza's proof for substance monism
1. No two substances can share an attribute.
2. It is in the nature of substance to exist.
3. God exists (2 & definition 'God').
4. No other substance than God exists (1 & 3 & Def. of 'God').
5. Everything that exists is either God or a mode of God. (from 3 & 4 & def. of 'mode').
The substantial premises are 1 & 2.
We will look at each one in turn.
1p7: Existence is in the nature of substance.
Substance cannot be produced by anything else (1p6).
Therefore, substance is self-caused.
Therefore, substance necessarily involves existence (1d1).
Why (1p6)? Suppose that a substance could be produced by something else, then "the knowledge of substance would have to depend upon the knowledge of its cause" (1a4), and so it would not be a substance (1d3).
Justification for 1a4
The knowledge of an effect depends on, and involves, the knowledge of the cause.
Let's treat 'knowledge' as roughly synonymous with 'conception' or 'understanding'. Spinoza thinks that for B to cause A is, at least in part, for A to be explained in terms of B. And for A to be explained in terms of B is, at least in part, for A to be conceived or understood through B. Thus, if B causes A, conceiving A involves and depends upon conceiving B.
One objection:
SEP entry "ontological arguments"
God is the only substance that exists
1p5: In the universe there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.
The argument for 1p5 rests on the definition of 'substance', 'attribute' and 'mode', as well as 1p1 and 1p4. We've already looked at the definitions, so let's proceed to 1p1 and 1p4.
1p1 A substance is prior to its modes.
This means that substances have metaphysical (is in itself) and conceptual (conceived through itself)
priority over modes
1p4 Principle of the identity of indiscernibles
If two things are distinct, then they either
differ in their attributes or their modes
The proof for 1p5 is obscure. It goes something like the following:
1. Suppose there are two substances S1 and S2.
2. Then due to PII: S1 and S2 must differ in either their attributes or modes.
3. Principle at work (?) -- Principle of sufficient reason**: If S1 and S2 are different substances, then there must be some
intrinsic feature f
of S1 and S2 in virtue of which they are different and by which
we can conceive that they are different
3. Due to substance priority, we cannot individuate substances in terms of their modes (or attributes). Hence we cannot conceive of such an intrinsic feature f prior to conceiving of the substances as different.
4. Therefore, there can't be two distinct substances S1 and S2.
**PSS is a thoroughgoing demand for the intelligibility of reality -- controversial.
Change in reading assignment...
1. God is an absolutely infinite being having all attributes (1d6)
2. God exists necessarily (1p11)
3. If there were to exist a substance other than God, it would share at least one of God's attributes (from 1 &2)
4. It is impossible for there to be two (or more) substances with the same attribute (1p5)
5. There cannot be a substance other than God (from 1, 2 & 4).
Besides God no substance can exist or be conceived (1p14)
Short version: God has all attributes,
exists necessarily, and cannot share attributes.
Therefore, God is the only substance!
Leibniz's objection to the "no sharing rule" 1p5
" I reply that there seems to be a concealed fallacy here. For two substances can be distinguished by their attributes and still have some common attribute, provided they also have others peculiar to themselves in addition. For example,
may have attributes
, and
the attributes
" Leibniz, "On the Ethics of Benedict de Spinoza (1678).
Spinoza didn't find the objection persuasive, but never offered an explicit reply.
"Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the
reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance
. [...]"
Quote from Bacon:
You will get a pretty good sense of the kind of discourse Bacon had in mind today!
Spinoza is not a metaphysical minimalist** (neither was Descartes).
** adopting unnecessary and contentious metaphysical assumptions.
The double role of attributes
How can attributes allow for variety without implying multiplicity of substances?
"By attribute I mean that which the intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence" 1d4.
"From this it is clear that although two attributes be conceived as
really distinct
, that is, one without the help of the other, still we can
deduce therefrom that they
constitute two entities
, or two different substances" 1p10s
Thought and extension "really distinct", but also one and the same
sometimes called "the parallelism doctrine"
"The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things" 2p7
Recall that the mind body problem arose from Descartes' metaphysics. How can entities from two radically distinct ontological spheres interact?

Spinoza (in a sense) denies that mind and body belong to radically distinct ontological spheres. Still, he needs to account for voluntary action (mind-to-body communication) and sense perception (body-to-mind communication).
Mind-body interaction
Mind and body are not causally related, but intrinsically related. Each acts simultaneously with the other.
"For example, a circle existing in Nature and the idea of the existing circle, which is also in God, are one and the same thing, which is explained through different attributes [...] Therefore, whether we conceive Nature under the attribute of extension, or under the attribute of thought, or under any attribute,
we shall find one and the same order
, or
one and the same connection of causes
, that is, that the same things follow one another." (2p7s)
Thought is a closed causal system.
Mind is a closed causal system.
"The body cannot determine the mind to think, nor can the mind determine the body to motion or rest, or to anything else (if there is anything else" 3p2.
Contrast with Descartes:
"Strictly speaking, a
real distinction
exists only between two or more substances; and we can perceive that two substances are really distinct simply from the fact that can clearly and distinctly understand one apart from the other" (Principles, 60).
Descartes wants a strict separation between mind and body in order to allow for a fully
mechanistic explanation
of the physical world. He doesn't want to take recourse to any Aristotelian explanation involving ____________.

Having sharply separated the mind & body, he has to explain their evident causal interaction.
Spinoza and Descartes agree on the epistemological separation between mind and body, but not about the ontological one.
True or false?
No mind-body causation
Under the attribute of Thought, I am a finite mode -- an idea or mind. Under the attribute of Extension, I am a finite mode, that is, a body. My mind and my body are one and the same. Whatever causal relation my body bears to other modes of Extension, my mind will bear to the other modes of Thought.
What are some problematic results of the subjectivist interpretation of attributes (mere human projections into substance)?
"By attribute I mean that which the intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence" 1d4.
How does our reading of Spinoza's attributes affect our understanding of how he attempts to dissolve the mind-body problem?
"The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things" 2p7
According to the objectivist interpretation there are ___ many attributes to be found in substance.
According to the subjectivist interpretation there are ___ many attributes to be found in substance.
"The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things" 2p7
2 attributes: Every mode under the attribute of Thought is associated with a mode of Extension, and
vice versa
and the relations between modes in one attribute are
in the other.
Infinitely many attributes: Much more complex... One option that has been advanced is that Thought is a special attribute and encompasses ideas of all the modes in all the other attributes. Why the priority of the attribute of Thought, over other attributes?
God is the immanent, not the transitive cause of all things. This is the denial of the traditional idea of God as the creative, transcendent cause of the world. Insofar as God is the unique substance of which everything else is a mode, all modes will be in God and God will be their indwelling cause.
Immanent cause?
An immanent cause is an "indwelling cause". It is inseparable from its effects.
Example: The numbers 1 and 2 are immanent causes of the number 4 insofar as they are factors of it. Although 1 and 2 can be separated from 4 by analysis, they are nevertheless always "in" it.
The crucial message of the Ethics is (as the title suggests) ethical in nature:
our happiness and well-being lie not in a life
enslaved to the passions
and to the transitory goods we ordinarily pursue, nor in the related
unreflective attachment
to the superstitions that pass as religion, but rather in
the life of reason
See SEP entry 'Baruch Spinoza'
For Spinoza a cause is the logical ground from which a consequent follows.
Think of a toy carved out of wood.
Is it causal or subject independent (from the toy maker) or both?
Is an idea (finite thought) causal or subject independent?
Let's begin with 2...
Weakness... provided something exists, substance must exist.

How do we know something exists?
Spinoza must be taking the Cogito for granted. We know that sense data exist.
Homework: Read Ethics II first 1/2
Proposition P7!!!
A little tangent...
In the subjectivist interpretation the attributes are
projections of the finite mind
, therefore the finite mind can never come to know the infinite substance as it is in itself. This seems to contradict Spinoza's claim that the finite mind can have adequate, that is,
perfect knowledge of God's essence
Spinoza identifies the attributes and God (cf. 1P4, 1P19 and 1P20Cor.). Again, as projections of the finite intellect, the attributes
do not properly pertain to the substance
, and therefore cannot be identical to it.
Objection 1
Objection 2
Attributes = God?
Knowledge through attributes must yield true, or adequate knowledge (ok -- good). Then the attributes must really be accurately representative of substance. Hence, substance really has these attributes in it and
is not a unity
What are some problematic results of the objectivist interpretation of attributes (mere human projections into substance)?
Objection 1
Objection 1 continued...
Spinoza claims that there are infinitely many principles (even though we can only grasp 2). That divides the "unity" of substance/ God into infinitely many parts.
Knowledge is illusory!
Subjective: Prioritizes the unity (invented multiplicity). We (finite minds) project attributes onto substance, as if they are there. (Hegel)

Objective: Prioritizes multiplicity (discover multiplicity). Infinite intellect perceives substance as having these attributes, which are in fact constituting it. (Standard)
Subjectivist vs. objectivist
Let's take a closer look at the definition...
What's the ambiguity here?
Which intellect perceives the essence of substance?
Full transcript