A Study of Spinoza's Ethics by Jonathan Bennett

By Jonathan Bennett

"With an remarkable erudition . . . and in a right away no-nonsense variety, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses. . . . not anyone can fail to benefit from it. Bennett has succeeded in making Spinoza a thinker of our time." --W. N. A. Klever, Studia Spinoza

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Briefly, the argument takes it to be a necessary truth-a matter of the definition or concept of God-that God has every property in some domain of properties of which existence is one of the members: the domain may be perfections, or kinds of reality, or whatever. , that necessarily God exists. It is widely agreed now that the existence of a concrete object-something other than an inhabitant of the third realm-never follows from a definition or from a description of a concept. In particular, you cannot infer § 18 Spinoza's monism: the official argument the existence of something from the premiss that existence belongs to its essence or its definition.

But are we to suppose that Spinoza intended his argument in that way, and simply forgot to review it in the light of his later thesis that substances can have more than one attribute? That is not credible, given how the pivotal p 14d depends on combining 'There is a substance which has every attribute' with (p5) 'Two substances cannot share any attribute'. Surely in this context Spinoza could not just forget that p5d assumed that no substance has more than one attribute! ' I think that that means 'Two substances which have no attributes in common have nothing in common'; but if instead it means 'Two substances which differ in respect of any attribute have nothing in common' then it implies that there cannot be two substances which share some but not all of their attributes; and that would nicely plug the gap I have pointed out in 1p5d.

Notice that on this account most of the stuff in the world does not consist of substances, or groups of substances, but merely of relatively unformed puddles and lumps and heaps. The genuine substances are those rare bits of the world that are highly 'formed' or organized and persist through radical change. That is in the Metaphysics. In the Categories, Aristotle enriches the concept of substance in a different way, adding to 'subject of predication .. ' the clause ' ... which cannot be predicated of anything else'.

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