The first modern philosopher?



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The first modern philosopher?





1632: b. Amsterdam

  • 1632: b. Amsterdam

  • Rabbinical education

  • 1656: excommunicated for unorthodoxy

  • 1663: Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy

  • 1670: Theologico-Political Treatise

  • 1677: Death

  • 1678: Publication of Ethics



“Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down, and cursed be he when he rises up; cursed be he when he goes out, and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not pardon him; the anger and wrath of the Lord will rage against this man, and bring upon him all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law, and the Lord will destroy his name from under the Heavens.”

  • “Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down, and cursed be he when he rises up; cursed be he when he goes out, and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not pardon him; the anger and wrath of the Lord will rage against this man, and bring upon him all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law, and the Lord will destroy his name from under the Heavens.”

    • From: A. Wolf, ed., The Oldest Biography of Spinoza (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1927), 146.


“To be a philosopher you must first be a Spinozist: if you have no Spinozism, you have no philosophy.” Hegel

  • “To be a philosopher you must first be a Spinozist: if you have no Spinozism, you have no philosophy.” Hegel

  • “Indisputable masterpiece” J. Bennett

  • “One of the major and most influential works in philosophy” E. Curley

  • “Spinoza is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme.” Bertrand Russell

  • “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” Spinoza







“I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

  • “I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

  • Albert Einstein



Incontrovertible certainty

  • Incontrovertible certainty

  • “It is the nature of reason to perceive things under a certain species of eternity.” e2p44c2

  • “For the eyes of the mind, by which it sees and observes things, are demonstrations.” e5p23s



Central definitions (Part I):

  • Central definitions (Part I):

    • Substance (Monism)
    • Attributes (Property-Dualism)
    • Modes (Pantheism)
  • Deus sive Natura (God, or in other words Nature): Nature is a unified whole, and we must grasp the nature of this whole before we can understand the parts.

  • Self-caused, existing, necessarily infinite, indivisible, extended (corporeal), immutable, infinitely powerful, without freedom of will, immanent cause

  • Which are most controversial?



  • Prop. 5: In the universe there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

  • Why?

    • Because then nothing could possibly distinguish them.
  • Prop. 7: It belongs to the nature of substance to exist.



Prop. 11: God, or substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists.

  • Prop. 11: God, or substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists.

  • Reductio ad absurdum (“reduction to the absurd”—assume the opposite of what you want to prove and derive a contradiction or absurdity, thus proving the affirmative)

  • God doesn’t exist.

  • Therefore his essence doesn’t involve existence. (contra. Prop. 7)

  • Thus, God exists.



An a posteriori proof:

  • An a posteriori proof:

  • Axiom: to be able not to exist is a weakness; to be able to exist is a power.

  • If what necessarily exists is only finite entities, then they are more powerful than an absolutely infinite entity, which is absurd.

  • Thus, since we exist, so must an absolutely infinite entity.

  • Prop. 14: There can be, or be conceived, no other substance but God.

  • A perfect substance possesses all attributes. (def. 6)

  • There can’t be more than one substance possessing an attribute. (prop. 5)

  • Thus, only one perfect substance exists, since there are no attributes left over for another substance.



Everything that happens is determined by two factors—the standing nature of God (i.e., the laws of nature) and previous conditions likewise determined back through infinite time

  • Everything that happens is determined by two factors—the standing nature of God (i.e., the laws of nature) and previous conditions likewise determined back through infinite time

  • Central propositions: 25 & 29 & 33

  • A problem? Props. 23 & 28

  • Appendix on Human Prejudices: Against the Doctrine of Final Causes, i.e., that Nature has an end (or that God has a will)—this doctrine negates the perfection of God



1. Teaches us to act solely in accordance with the command of God and participate in divine nature…and to act out of love.

  • 1. Teaches us to act solely in accordance with the command of God and participate in divine nature…and to act out of love.

  • 2. Proper attitude towards fortune

  • 3. Social life: teaches us to hate no one, despise no one…be content and help our neighbors

  • 4. Society in general: how citizens should be governed—not as slaves, but as free men



Philosophy of Mind, Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology), Philosophy of Science

  • Philosophy of Mind, Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology), Philosophy of Science

  • What are the two known attributes of God?

  • Thought and Extension

  • Descartes and the Mind/Body Problem

  • Spinoza’s solution: mind-body identity theory and psychophysical parallelism

  • The mind is just the idea of the body, i.e., a mode of thought that is identical with the body and has the body as its object.

  • Because each is causally self-contained, there is no question of bodily events causing mental ones or vice versa.



Prop. 7: The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.

  • Prop. 7: The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.

  • Prop. 11: The first thing that constitutes the actual being of the human mind is simply the idea of some particular thing which actually exists.

  • Corollary: The human mind is part of the infinite intellect of God.

  • Prop. 13: the object of the idea constituting the human mind is the body, or, a certain actually existing mode of extension, and nothing else.



Criterion of truth: an adequate idea: Def. 4

  • Criterion of truth: an adequate idea: Def. 4

  • Nature of Falsity (error, sin):

  • Prop. 35: Falsity consists in the privation of knowledge which inadequate, i.e. mutilated and confused, ideas involve.

  • Falsity is not a positive characteristic of ideas, but rather a kind of privation or mutilation. Because things must be understood through their causes, an idea of a thing that doesn’t include knowledge of its cause is incomplete and partial.

  • Examples: “Humans are free.” “The sun is 200 feet away.”



First, Opinion or Imagination

  • First, Opinion or Imagination

  • Disorganized, confused knowledge from senses and experience. (Only source of falsity)

  • Second, Reason

  • Understand essential properties of things clearly and distinctly; understand causal process and how things follow deductively.

  • Third, Intuition

  • To “see” self-evident truths without explicit conscious processes of reasoning.

  • An example: A common property of proportionals 1, 2, 3, …?




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