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Substance, essence and attribute in Spinoza, Ethics I

Donagan, Alan (1987) Substance, essence and attribute in Spinoza, Ethics I. Humanities Working Paper, 122. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

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Both Descartes before Spinoza and Leibniz after him continued the medieval Aristotelian tradition of 'supernaturalizing' Aristotle's conception of God as first substance, and of treating God as the creator of natural substances. Because Spinoza adopts the terminology of that tradition, while identifying Nature with God, he is widely taken to supernaturalize Nature. This presupposes that he conceives his metaphysical axioms as the medievals did theirs, as true of all logically possible worlds, and per se nota to the human intellect. Unlike them, however, he holds that the "mechanical principles of nature," while per se nota, are true only of the actual world. This suggests that his conception of what is per se no tum in metaphysics is holistic, and presumes experience of the actual world. Assuming this, it is shown that his theory of substance in Ethics I must be elucidated on naturalist lines. The objection raised by de Vries to ElplOs, that really distinct attributes cannot, as Spinoza maintains, constitute one and the same substance (or essence of a substance), is shown to be valid on the 'supernaturalizing' interpretation of Spinoza's theory, and Spinoza's replies to it in Ep9 and ElplOs are shown to be question-begging. However, on the naturalist interpretation of it, Spinoza's doctrine in ElplOs is shown to be defensible. Pollock's explanation of why his arguments in ElplOs and Eplld are incompatible with the naturalist interpretation is adopted.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Additional Information:This paper is to be presented to a conference on Spinoza sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, April 1-7, 1987.
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:122
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20111031-140437887
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Official Citation:Donagan, Alan. Substance, essence and attribute in Spinoza, Ethics I. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1987. Humanities Working Paper, No. 122.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:27528
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:04 Nov 2011 18:03
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 03:24

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