Spinoza

Benedict de Spinoza
An Axiom System for God-Nature

  • Masterwork
    • Ethics, Proved in Geometrical Order (1677)
  • Themes
    • Monism
    • Pantheism
    • Axiom System
    • Ontological Argument

Monism

Spinoza was a monist, believing in one substance: God-Nature. Where Descartes regarded mind and matter as distinct substances, Spinoza viewed them as different aspects of the same underlying substance.

Pantheism

  • According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God is the transcendent creator of the universe. For Spinoza, God and Nature were the same.
    • “That eternal and infinite being we call God, or Nature, acts from the same necessity from which he exists.”

Spinoza’s Axiom System

  • Spinoza is unique among major philosophers in presenting his system axiomatically, like Euclidean geometry.
  • Spinoza actually presented five axiom systems, one in each part of the Ethics.
  • In each he lays out
    • Definitions
    • Axioms
    • Propositions with supporting proofs
  • Spinoza’s Axiom System for Part I

Spinoza’s Ontological Argument

  • Proposition 11.
    • God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists.
    • Proof 
      • If you deny this, conceive, if you can, that God does not exist. It would follow (by Axiom 7) that his essence does not involve existence. But (by Proposition 7) this is absurd. Therefore God necessarily exists. Q. E. D.
      • Axiom 7
        • The essence of anything that can be conceived as not existing does not involve existence.
      • Proposition 7
        • It belongs to the nature of substance to exist.

God’s Nature is to Exist

  • The argument in a nutshell:
    • The nature of God includes His existence. So the idea that God doesn’t exist is self-contradictory. God must therefore exist.
  • The argument is subject to Kant’s criticism that “existence is not a predicate,” discussed later.

plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/

  • “Nature is an indivisible, uncaused, substantial whole—the only substantial whole. Outside of Nature, there is nothing, and everything that exists is a part of Nature and is brought into being by Nature with a deterministic necessity. This unified, unique, productive, necessary being is just what is meant by ‘God’. Because of the necessity inherent in Nature, there is no teleology in the universe. God or Nature does not act for any ends, and things do not exist for any set purposes. God does not “do” things for the sake of anything else. The order of things just follows from God’s essence with an inviolable determinism. All talk of God’s purposes, intentions, goals, preferences or aims is just an anthropomorphizing fiction.”
  • “God is not some goal-oriented planner who then judges things by how well they conform to his purposes. Things happen only because of Nature and its laws. “Nature has no end set before it … All things proceed by a certain eternal necessity of nature.” To believe otherwise is to fall prey to the same superstitions that lie at the heart of the organized religions.”
  • “Nor does God perform miracles, since there cannot be departures from the necessary course of nature. This would be for God or Nature to act against itself, which is absurd. The belief in miracles is due only to ignorance of the true causes of phenomena.”