Brief Comments About Spinoza’s Bio



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Brief Comments About Spinoza’s Bio

  • Brief Comments About Spinoza’s Bio

  • The Geometric Method

  • Substance, Attribute, Mode

  • God or Nature

  • The “Properties” of God



  • Born 1632 in Amsterdam; father imported dried fruits and nuts; member in good standing of Jewish community.

  • Studied with Menasshe ben Israel, Isaac Aboab, Saul Levi Morteira

  • Went into business with his brother.

  • Began to study Latin and secular subjects.

  • Put in Cherem on July 27, 1656, probably for theological doctrines and doubts about the divinity of Scriptures.



In late 1650’s, work on the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and the Short Treatise on God, Man, and Well-Being

  • In late 1650’s, work on the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and the Short Treatise on God, Man, and Well-Being

  • 1663, Principles of Descarte’s philosophy

  • Writes in 1670, the Theological Political Treatise

  • 1675 – decides first to publish, then not to publish, the Ethics

  • Dies in 1677



  • Geometrical method may have been adopted primarily with the Cartesians involved.

  • He starts out with definitions and axioms that in are in themselves familiar to the Cartesians.

  • And proceeds in a geometric fashion, as if to say, “You must accept my conclusions, since they follow from your definitions and premises.”

  • Also, this was his pedagogic tool.



  • “By substance I understand what is in itself, and is conceived through itself, i.e., that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it is formed.”

  • Contrast this with five classic definitions of substance:

    • The concrete particular: this table, this man, this thing.
    • The essence of something: what is the substance of your remarks.
    • The center of change. What remains of something when its properties change.
    • The bearer of properties; what underlies the various properties.
    • That which possesses independent existence.


By mode I mean the affections of substance; that is, that which is in something else and conceived through something else.

  • By mode I mean the affections of substance; that is, that which is in something else and conceived through something else.

  • What is the distinction between substance and mode?

  • Substance is ontologically independent of anything else; it is dependent on nothing else for its existence.



Furthermore, in order to conceive substance, it is not necessary to refer to anything else.

  • Furthermore, in order to conceive substance, it is not necessary to refer to anything else.

  • This is what Spinoza means when he says that substance is conceived through itself.

  • A mode, however, is ontologically and epistemologically dependant upon substance; it exists as a modification of substance, and is understood through reference to substance.



By attribute I mean that which (the) intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence.

  • By attribute I mean that which (the) intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence.

  • What is the relationship of substance and attribute?

  • Substance is rendered intelligible through attribute; otherwise we would know no more about substance than what follows from its definition; we would not know its nature.

  • Two examples are given

    • By 'Israel' I understand the third Patriarch; by Jacob I understand the same. But I also understand why the name was given -- because he seized the brother's heel.
    • By flat I mean what reflects all rays of light without any change; I understand the same by white, except that it is called white in relation to a man looking at a flat surface


Were there more than one substance, they could not have a shared attribute.

  • Were there more than one substance, they could not have a shared attribute.

  • Hence, no causal interaction

  • Were there more than one substance there would have to be a cause of that particular number.

  • Explanatory rationalism.



It pertains to the nature of substance is self-caused.

  • It pertains to the nature of substance is self-caused.

  • Substance is indivisible.

    • No parts of substance
  • God, a substance absolutely infinite, of which one expressing an eteranal and infinite essence, exists of necessity.



God as efficient cause of everything.

  • God as efficient cause of everything.

  • God’s actions are both free and necessary.

  • Determinism (P33) – Things could have been produced by God in no other order than they have been produce.




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