Second Major



Peterson, John F.

Advisor Department





Spinoza, modality, essence, existence, necessitarianism, ex absurdo contradictorio, substance, mode, attribute, Deus sive Natura, Descartes, Natura naturans, Natura naturata, Leibniz, God, causality, Maimonides, absolutely infinite intellect, dynamics, acosmism, mediate infinite modes, immediate infinite modes, duration, time, eternity, infinity

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“In thought, as in nature, there is no creation from absolute nothing.” I have taken on the daunting project of giving an account of Spinozaʼs metaphysics, and laying out the reasoning behind his doctrines. In a letter written in December 1675, barely over a year before his death, Spinoza told Henry Oldenburg that the fatalistic necessity (which was disturbing readers of his philosophy) was in fact the “principal basis” of his Ethics. Since all of his metaphysical doctrines are entwined with this necessity, it is my task to piece this puzzle together. In this thesis, I will begin by discussing his definitions and axioms, and proceed to unfold his substance monism. I will then discuss his proofs of the existence of God, followed by his doctrine of Godʼs simplicity, causality, and eternality. I will then examine the relation of modes to substance, and the classifications of modes. From all of this I will conclude with an account of Spinozaʼs necessitarianism. There are a number of objections that have been raised against Spinoza: that he arbitrarily defines his basic metaphysical terms, “stacking the deck” in favor of his system, that he assimilates the causal relation to the relation of logical implication, that there is a problem of divine attributes, that he does not adequately show that substance must produce modes, and that he does not show how the infinite mediate modes are deduced from the infinite immediate modes, or how motion follows from extension. In my discussion of Spinozaʼs metaphysics, I will touch on all of these issues.


Definition and relation of substance and mode, the definition of attribute, relations and causality between substances, the identity of indiscernibles, the no-shared attribute thesis, Leibniz's objection to 1p5, the unity of substance, essence and existence, infinity of substance, misconceptions about substance, the relation between substance and attribute, Spinoza's proofs for God's existence, the indivisibility of substance, God's conceptual priority, the impossibility of a vacuum, infinity of extension, psychology of the division of quantity, causality of God (universal cause, efficient cause, cause through himself, first cause, principal cause, free cause, immanent cause, proximate cause), duration and time, eternity, immediate infinite modes, motion and extension, dynamics, the absolutely infinite intellect, mediate infinite modes, finite modes, acosmism, causality and logic, necessitarianism, the problem of attribute (subjectivism and objectivism).