, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 17–37 | Cite as

Kant, Spinoza, and the Metaphysics of the Ontological Proof

  • Pierfrancesco BasileEmail author


This paper provides an interpretation and evaluation of Spinoza’s highly original version of the ontological proof in terms of the concept of substance instead of the concept of perfection in the first book of his Ethics. Taking the lead from Kant’s critique of ontological arguments in the Critique of Pure Reason, the paper explores the underlying ontological and epistemological presuppositions of Spinoza’s proof. The main topics of consideration are the nature of Spinoza’s definitions, the way he conceives of the relation between a substance and its essence, and his conception of existence. Once clarity is shed upon these fundamental issues, it becomes possible to address the proof in its own terms. It is then easy to see that Kant’s objections miss their target and that the same is true of those advanced by another of the ontological argument’s most famous critics, Bertrand Russell. Finally, several interpretations of Spinoza’s proof are proposed and critically evaluated; on all of them, the argument turns out to be either invalid or question-begging.


Kant Russell Spinoza Ontological argument Ideas Possibilities 



A previous version of this paper was read at the ETH, Zürich, in November 2009; I am indebted to the participants and especially to Prof. Michael Hampe, for the critical discussion and for important suggestions, and to Pauline Phemister for comments on an earlier draft.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BernBern 9Switzerland

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