Pantheism, substance and unity

  • Michael P. Levine


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  1. 1.
    Alasdair MacIntyre, “Pantheism,”Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 5, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan and Free Press, 1967), p. 34. There are many important distinctions between “unity” and “oneness.” The two are not equivalent and it is unity rather than oneness that is central to pantheism. Nevertheless, I shall use them to mean more or less the same thing. For a discussion of some of these distinctions, especially in Aristotle'sMetaphysics, see Michael C. Stokes,One And Many In Presocratic Philosophy, (Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 1971), pp. 13–21. Aristotle (Physics 185bff.) asks “in which of its many senses the Eleatics applied the term “one” to what is” (Stokes, p. 1). “Aristotle ⋯ maintains that the early monists had believed in the unity of things in the sense that their one substance remained the same through change, without coming-to-be or passing-away” (p. 34). Also, see Raphael Demos, “Types of Unity According to Plato and Aristotle,”Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 6 (1945–6): p. 534. For additional sorting out of types of unity see Marvin Farber, “Types of Unity and the Problem of Monism,”Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (1943–4). D. W. Hamlyn says, “it is arguable ⋯ that simplicity is always a relative matter (as Plato in effect saw when he said inRepublic 7 that ‘one’ is a relative term, so that something can be called ‘one’ only if there is already available an answer to the question ‘One what?’” in D. W. Hamlyn,Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 63.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Christopher Rowe, “One and Many in Greek Religion,” inOneness and Variety, ed. Adolf Portman and Rudolf Ritsema (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980), p. 57. Contrary to Rowe, H. F. Cherniss denies that Anaximander thought that the world sprang from a single undifferentiated substance. H. F. Cherniss, “The Characteristics and Effects of Presocratic Philosophy,” in D. Furley and R. Allen,Studies in Presocratic Philosophy (London: RKP, 1970), vol. I p. 7. Stokes (One and Many in Presocratic Philosophy, p. 40), citing Vlastos says ⋯ the Greeks were accustomed to speak of an ‘originative substance’ as if it were also the stuff of which things are made in their finished state ⋯ If this were so ⋯ it would be dangerous to distinguish too sharply between ‘originative stuff’ and ‘constituent stuff.’ The early Greeks would talk naturally in terms of both when they talked of either. Stokes argues that the Milesians didnot believe in the unity of all things (p. 64), nor in one single stuff of which the many things in the world were made [p. 244] ⋯ It was only after Parmenides, and probably in acceptance, so far as possible, of his argument against differentiation, that the doctrine arose of the world's unity in one stuff ⋯ Nor did Xenophanes [an Eleatic] certainly believe in one God coextensive with the world's plurality [p. 249].Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arthur Schopenhauer, “A Few Words On Pantheism,” inEssays From The Parerga and Paralipomena, trans. T. Bailey Saunders (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1951), pp. 40–41. This passage is briefly discussed in F. C. Copleston, “Pantheism in Spinoza and the German Idealists,”Philosophy 21 (1946): p. 42.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Although the notion of substance has been extensively criticized in post-Cartesian philosophy, and theories as to what substance is and what the “problem of substance” is have changed, it remains a viable notion among some contemporary metaphysicians. For example, see D. W. Hamlyn,Metaphysics, p. 64–69), “⋯ there must be substances in any world with reference to which it is possible to speak of change and identity through time” (p. 69). Also, David Wiggins,Sameness and Substance (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    In what follows about Aristotle on substance I rely in part on D. W. Hamlyn,Metaphysics, and D. J. O'Connor, “Substance and Attribute,”Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 8. Page numbers in this section of the text refer to these works. O'Connor says (p. 37), Aristotle's main purpose in theCategories is to contrast the independent way of existing proper to substances with the parasitic mode of being of qualities and relations. Substances can exist on their own ⋯ The notion of essences as substances is treated at length by Aristotle in theMetaphysics and seems to be his preferred sense of the term ⋯Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Secondary substances, inCategories, are species or genera of primary substances. “Of secondary substances, the species is more truly substance than the genus, being more nearly related to primary substance” (Categories 2B7). See Hamlyn,Metaphysics, pp. 60–61. Secondary substances are predicable of a subject. “For instance, ‘man’ is predicated of the individual man” (Categories 2A 21–22) (O'Connor, p. 37).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    H. P. Owen,Concepts of Deity (London: Macmillan, 1971), pp. 71–72. Owen does not base his rejection on experience alone, but on other considerations as well; for example, the implications of denying that experience counts against A/R.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Note that if God exists necessarily he need not exist “independently” or vice versa. Necessary existence and independent existence do not mutually entail one another. God could depend necessarily for necessary existence upon some other necessarily existent object or being. Alternatively, it does not follow from God's independence that God must exist necessarily if he exists at all. God might not depend upon any necessary condition, internal or external, for existence, but there may be sufficient conditions for God's existence. Or, contrary to theistic doctrine, it might be just a matter of chance that God exists. Apart from the truth of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, there may not even be a sufficient reason for God's existence. Also relevant is my article “Divine Unity and Superfluous Synonymity,”Journal of Speculative Philosophy 4 (1990): 211–236; and bookPantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity (London and New York: Routledge, 1992) (forthcoming).Google Scholar

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael P. Levine
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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