Spinoza: The ethics of God

ethics-by-benedict-de-spinoza-profileIntroduction
He goes by the name of “Benedict de Spinoza“, using the Latin equivalent of the given name (“Baruch”, meaning “Blessed”) that he discarded in his youth following his excommunication by the Amsterdam Jewish community of his birth. Little concerned with wealth, fame, or the transitory pleasures that drives others, Spinoza is motivated by the pure love of truth to probe by deep identity of God with nature and, in doing so, to achieve with union with God-or-Nature that is to be supremely rational and yet also seemingly tinged with mysticism.
At heart of Spinoza’s metaphysics is the strict notion of substance as that which has completely independent existence; indeed, Spinoza leaves no room at all for the Cartesian sense. The uncompromising and radical nature of Spinoza’s position is not immediately apparent from definition of substance which is to be found at the start of the Ethics (his main work). Substance is there defined as “that which exists in itself and is conceived through itself”.
It is of some importance that Spinoza’s main work was called Ethics, although one who comes to read it for the first time may be inclined to think that the title is misnomer. It consists of five parts, in each of which the subject matter is set out in geometrical fashion, with axioms, definitions, and propositions which are said to be proved from those axioms in accordance with the definitions. The first part is ostensibly concerned with god, although it is in fact a highly metaphysical presentation of a theory concerning the nature of reality.
Ethics of God
definitions that related to this title:
Definition 3: By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, that is, that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be formed.
Definition 4: By Attribute I understand what the intellect perceives of a substance, as constituting its essence.
Definition 5: By mode I understand that affections of a substance, or that which is another which it is also conceived.
Definition 6: By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of an infinity of attribute, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence.
Prepositions and demonstrations:
Proposition 14: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.
Demonstration:  Since God is an absolutely infinite being, of whom no attribute which expresses an essence of substance can be denied, and he necessary exists, if there were any substance except God, it would have to be explained through some attribute of God, and so to substance of the same attribute would exist., which as absurd. and so except God, no substance can be or consequently, be conceived. for if it could be conceived, it would have to be conceived as existing. But this is absurd. Therefore, except for god, no substance can be or be conceived.
Corollary 1: From this it follows most clearly, first, that God is unique, that is, that in Nature there is only one substance, and that is absolutely infinite.
Corollary 2: It follows, second, that an extended thing and a thinking thing are either attributes of God, or affections of God’s attributes.
Proposition 15: Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God.
Demonstration:  Except for God, there neither is, nor can be conceived any substance, that is, thing that is in itself and is conceived through itself. But modes can be neither be nor be conceived without substance. So they can be in the divine nature alone. But except for substances and modes there is nothing. Therefore, nothing can be or be conceived without God.
Proposition 18: God is the immanent, not the transitive cause of all things.
Demonstration: Everything that is, is in God, and must be conceived through God, and so God is the Cause of things, which are in him. that is the first. And then outside God there can be no substance, that is, thing which is in itself outside God. That was the second. God, therefore, is the immanent, not the transitive cause of all things.
Proposition 20: God’s existence and his essence are one and the same.
Demonstration: God and all of his attributes are eternal, that is, each of his attributes expresses existence. Therefore, the same attributes of God which explain God’s eternal essence at the same time explain his eternal existence, that is, that itself which constitute God’s essence at the same time constitutes his existence. So his existence and his essence are one and the same.
Corollary 1: From this it follows, first, that God’s existence, like his essence, is an eternal truth.
Corollary 2: It follows, second, that God, or all of God’s attributes, are immutable. for if they changed as to their existence, they would also change as to their essence, that is, from being true become false, which is absurd.
Proposition 25: God is the efficient cause, not only of the existence of things, but also of their essence.
Demonstration: If you deny this, then God is not the cause of the essence of things; and so the essence of things can be conceived without God. But this is absurd. Therefore God is also the cause of the essence of things.
Proposition 29: In nature there is nothing contingent, but all things have been determined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.
Demonstration: Whatever is, is in God; but God cannot be called a contingent thing. For he exists necessarily, not contingently. Next, the modes of the divine nature have also followed from it necessarily and not contingently — either insofar as the divine nature is considered absolutely or insofar as it is considered to be determined to act in a certain way. Further, God is the cause of these modes not only insofar as they simply exist, but also insofar as they are considered to be determined to produce an effect. For if they have not been determined by God, then it is impossible, not contingent, that they should determined themselves. Conversely if they have been determined by God, it is not contingent, but impossible, that they should render themselves undetermined. So all things have been determined from the necessity of the divine nature, not only to exist, but to exist in a certain way, and to produce effects in a certain way.There is nothing contingent.
Scholium: Before I proceed further, I wish to to explain here — or rather to advise [the reader] — what we must understand by Natura naturans and Natura naturata. for from the proceeding I think it is already established that by Natura naturans we must understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, or such attributes of substance as express an eternal and infinite essence, that is, God, insofar as he is considered as a free cause.
By Natura naturata I understand whatever follows from necessity of God’s nature, or from any of God’s attributes, that is, all the modes of God’s attributes in so far as they are considered things which are in God, and can neither be nor be conceived without God.
Proposition 30: An actual intellect, whether finite or infinite, we must comprehend God’s attributes and God’s affections, and nothing else.
Demonstration: A true idea must agree with its subjects, that is (as is known through itself), what is contained objectively in the intellect must necessarily be in Nature. But in Nature there is only one substance, namely, God, and there are no affections other than those which are in God and which can neither be nor be conceived without God. Therefore, an actual intellect , whether finite or infinite, must comprehend God’s attributes and god’s affections, and nothing else.
Proposition 31: The actual intellect whether finite, or infinite, like will, desire, love, and the like, must be referred to Natura naturata, not to Natura naturans.
 Demonstration: By intellect (as is known through itself) we understand not absolute thought, but only a certain mode of thinking, which mode differs from others, such as desire, love and the like, and so must be conceived through absolute thought, that is, it must be so conceived through an attribute of God, which expresses the eternal and infinite essence of thought, that it can neither be nor be conceived without [that attribute]; and so, like the other modes of thinking, it must be referred to Natura naturata, not to Natura naturans.
Scholium: The reason why I speak here of actual intellect is not because I concede that there is any potential intellect, but because, wishing to avoid all confusion, I wanted to speak only of what we perceive as clearly as possible, that is, of the intellection itself. We perceive nothing more clearly than that. For we can understand nothing that does not lead to more perfect knowledge of the intellection.
Proposition 33: Things could have been produced by God in no other way, and in no other order than they have been produced.
Demonstration: For all things have necessarily followed from God’s given nature, and have been determined  from the necessity of God’s nature to exist and produce and effect in a certain way. Therefore, if things could have been of another nature, or could have been determined to produce an effect in another way, so that the order of Nature was different, then God’s nature could also have been other than it is now, and therefore that [other nature] would also have had to exist, and consequently, there could have been two or more Gods, which is absurd. So things could have been produced in no other way and no other order, and so on.
Proposition 34: God’s power is his essence itself.
Demonstration: For from the necessity alone of God’s essence it follows that is the cause of himself and by of all things. Therefore God’s power, by which he and all things are and act, is his essence itself.
Proposition 35: Whatever we conceive to be in God’s power, necessarily exists.
Demonstration: For whatever is in God’s power must be so comprehended by his essence that is necessarily follows from it, and therefore necessarily exists.
Proposition 36: Nothing exists from whose nature some effect does not follow.
Demonstration: Whatever exists expresses the nature, or essence of God in a certain and determinate way, that is, whatever exists expresses in a certain and determinate way the power of God, which is the cause of all things.  So, from [NS: everything which exists] some effect must follow.
spinozaSpinoza being the Ethics with arguments to prove the there must be a single self-subsistent substance, to be identified as “God or Nature”, which is the cause, directly or indirectly, of all things, and which is self-created. This statement is the denial of the possibility of the transcendent creator, distinct from his creation, and the denial of the first principles of Judaism and Christianity. God must be immanent in the natural order, the creator in its creation, if we are to avoid incoherence of thinking of two substances in reality: a creator distinct from his creation. There could not have been an act of creation, as Jews and Christians claim and there has been; this world imply that God had reason to choose to create the actual world than other possible worlds. But what reason could there be other than the creator’s nature which made the actual world the only possible world? We must think of the natural order as the unfolding of God’s nature in accordance with eternal laws which constitutes his essential nature. The origin of things is not to be found in an act of laws which constitute his essential nature. the origin of things is not to be found in an act of will, but rather in the rational order which constitutes God or Nature. These arguments for God’s immanence undermine the orthodox tradition of Western morality and metaphysics, and they remove the need for any intermediary between God and man in the form of a Church and of a priesthood. We do not need any privileged revelation of God’s intentions and we must not apply to god any part of the vocabulary that is applicable to finite human minds.
Spinoza offered a strikingly unique conception of God, in which he identified God with the whole cosmos. His famous formula was God or Nature, as if to say that these two words are inter changeable. Although this Pantheism could be found in such Biblical descriptions of God as He “in whom we live and move and have our being,” Spinoza stripped the idea of God of earlier meanings by emphasizing not the relation between God and humanity but in a basic unity between them: “Whatever is,” he said, “is in God, and nothing can exist or be conceived without God.” The clue to Spinoza’s unique conception of God is found in his definition: “God I understand to be a being absolutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence.” Spinoza’s especial thoughts revolve around the ideas of substance and its attributes.
A substance, then, is independent of any other causes, and thus must be regarded as its own cause. Spinoza now moves on to demonstrate that a substance so defined cannot be finite, since “finite” has been defined as that which can be “limited by something else of the same nature”, and it has already been shown that there cannot be two substances of the same nature. A substance, then, is necessarily infinite. Henceforth, this self-causing infinite substance is identified with God, preciously defined as an “absolutely infinite being”; and it is further shown that this being is indivisible, unique, eternal, and all-inclusive. From this last position, which Spinoza expresses by saying “whatever is, is in God”, there follow a strikingly unorthodox thesis which was seen by many as talking the author of Ethics perilously close to atheism. God, we are told in Proposition 18, cannot be regarded as the transcendent cause of the universe, but must be the “immanent cause of all things”. So far from being something outside of universe, God is in a sense identical with the universe; he is “that eternal and infinite Being we call God or Nature.
Spinoza does not contrast God and the world as if they were as different and distinct as cause and effect, as though God were the immaterial cause and the world the material effect. he has already established that there is only one substance and that the word God is interchangeable with Nature. But Spinoza does distinguish between two aspects of Nature, using for this purpose the two expressions natura naturans and natura naturata. By natura naturans Spinoza means substance ans its attributes, or God insofar as He is conceived to act by the reqirements of his own nature. On the other hand, by natura naturata, he means “everything which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of anyone of God’s attributes.” Further, “by natura naturata  I understand…all the modes of God’s attributes insofar as they are considered as things which are in God, and which without God can neither be nor can be conceived.” What in earlier language was called the world, Spinoza now call the modes of God’s attributes. The world is not distinct from God but is God expressed in various modes of thought and extension, of thought and corporeality.
As the world consists of the modes of God’s attributes, everything in the world acts in accordance with necessity — that is, everything is determined — for the modes in which thought and extension take form in the world are determined by God’s substance, or, as Spinoza says, these modes represent “everything which follows from the necessity of the nature of God.” Spinoza gives us a picture of tight universe where every event unfolds in the only possible way in which it can occur, for “in the nature of things nothing contingent is granted, but all things are determined by the necessity of divine nature for existing and working in a certain way.” In a special way God is free, not that he could have created a different kind of world but that thought He had to create just what he did, He was not forced to do this by some external cause, only by his own nature. On the other hand, people are not even that free, for they are determined to exist and behave according to God’s substance, of whose attributes humanity is a mode. All modes of God’s attributes are fixed from eternity, for “things could not have been produced by God in any other manner or order than that in which they were produced.” All the things we experience “are nothing else than modifications of attributes of God [Nature], or modes by which attributes are expressed in a certain and determined manner.” Thus, everything is intimately connected, the infinite substance providing a continuity through all things, particular things being simply modes or modifications of the attributes of substance, or Nature, or God.
God or Nature, the one substance, is infinite and includes within itself everything that exists. but human beings, who are a composite unity of body and mind, necessarily think of reality as divided into two distinct categories of existents: material objects in space and thoughts. Nature is a whole, and every living and persisting individual within it, must be thought of as a composite unity of body and mind, of Extension and Thought….For Spinoza Thought and Extension (bodies in space) are two aspects of a single reality, as reality presents itself to human beings. We can switch from considering reality under one heading to considering things under the other, always recognizing that thoughts can only be explained by other thoughts and the movements of bodies by the movements of other bodies….They each equally represent the common order of nature, but we must not in our mind mix and confuse the two necessarily distinct orders of causes. A thought, or a state of mind , does not really explain the movement of a body, which can only be adequately explained by physical laws of motion: equally a thought or a mental state is not to be adequately explained by the movement of the person’s body, but rather by the laws of thought which give sense to the thought. When I smile, a thought explains the pleasure which the smile conveys; the movements of the lips is properly explained by the events in the brain and nervous system.
Reality is inexhaustible, and there must be infinite ways in which it can be thought of. But human beings conceive, not only of themselves, but of everything in nature either as a configuration of thoughts (desires and perceptions) or as a configuration of compound objects and of simple objects within them (e.g. atoms and molecules).
References
Cottingham, John. (1988). The Rationalists. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Garret, Don. (2001). Introduction. In Spinoza Ethics. Translated by W.H. White.
                    Hertforshire: Wordsworth Edition LImited.
Hampshire, Stuart. (1996). Introduction. In Spinoza, Benedict de. (1996). Ethics. Edited and
                    translated by Edwin Curley. London: Penguin Books
Spinoza, Benedict de. (1996). Ethics. Edited and translated by Edwin Curley.
                   London: Penguin Books
Stumpf, Samuel Enoch. (1999). Socrates to Sartre: History of Philosophy. (6th ed.).
                   New York: Mcgraw-Hill Company.

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