By Jonathan Bennett
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Extra resources for A Study of Spinoza's Ethics
The argument in question is p14d. Its bare outline is easily grasped: There must be a substance with every possible attribute; There cannot be two substances with an attribute in common; There cannot be more than one substance. Assuming that there cannot be a substance with no attributes, the conclusion follows. And I have finished with the 'no shared attribute' thesis which is the second premiss. What remains to be understood is Spinoza's acceptance of the first premiss. 2. His official case for it rests on p7,11 which I shall expound jointly.
The use of the term by Descartes, and even more by Spinoza and Leibniz, derives from the Categories, but something happened to it along the way. In a nutshell, substances came to be, by definition, items which are causally self-sufficient or indestructible. Descartes remarks that by this standard only God counts as a substance, because everything else owes its existence to the Creator who could take it away; he copes with this by proposing a weaker sense for 'substance' in which a substance depends causally on nothing except itself and God.
Further on, the point is better expressed: Spinoza says it is all right to 'attribute' several attributes to one substance, and speaks of the attributes which a substance 'has'. Because this is his main statement of the biggest difference between his metaphysic and Descartes's, it is a pity that the waters should be muddied by the suggestion that substances are attributes. I still like the suggestion I once made/ 3 that we get comfortable with 1p 1Os by translating constituere by something which does not imply identity.
A Study of Spinoza's Ethics by Jonathan Bennett