A Study of Spinoza's Ethics by Jonathan Bennett

By Jonathan Bennett

"With an mind-blowing erudition . . . and in an instantaneous no-nonsense sort, Bennett expounds, compares, and criticizes Spinoza’s theses. . . . nobody 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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Extra info for A Study of Spinoza's Ethics

Sample text

Anyway, whatever Spinoza's route to it, causal self-sufficiency is clearly part of his concept of substance, and he seems to take that as implying not only that a substance cannot be created or annihilated but that it cannot be acted on in any way by anything else. We shall see in due course that Spinoza also connects substantiality with not having parts: he is at pains to insist that God, the one substance, does not have parts, apparently thinking that substantiality requires this. It is not clear whether this is because he thinks that things with parts must be causally vulnerable, or because he thinks, with Leibniz, that such things are adjectival upon their parts.

For example, Spinoza may be able to argue that if x had only At while y had both A1 and A2, the demand of his explanatory rationalism to know why x did not have A2 as well could not be satisfied. Explanatory rationalism is certainly at work in another argument Spinoza gives for p5, at the end of p8s2. , from what he here calls the 'definition' which lays down what A is. But he has maintained earlier, plausibly, that 'no definition expresses any certain number of individuals, since it expresses nothing other than the nature of the thing defined'.

Indeed, Spinoza's definition of substance says, primarily, that a substance is something 'conceived through itself', which he explains as meaning that 'the concept of it does not have to be formed from the concept of something else' ( ld3). Although 'conceived' sounds psychological, 'concept' can be logical, and there can be no doubt that substance is here being defined in terms of some kind of logical independence or self-sufficiency. A little later Spinoza offers two arguments running from ld3 to the conclusion that 'a substance cannot be produced by anything else' ( 1p6c).

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