Nature, Number and Individuals: Motive and Method in Spinoza’s Philosophy
The problem I address in this essay is that of individuation in Spinoza’s system. The apparent contradiction in the system is that Spinoza holds substance (Nature, God) to be a unity, to be simple (i.e. not compound, or composed of parts), eternal (i.e. uncreated and having no duration), and infinite (i.e. not determinate and not denumerable); and yet he also holds that ‘in substance’ there is infinite differentiation, there are determinate and finite modes, there is duration, and there are real individuals. Nor is it, for Spinoza, a case of there being both this and that: substance and modes, eternity and duration, one and many. Rather, he proposes that the infinity of modes is identical with substance, or is just the way substance is: a unity which is nevertheless infinitely differentiated; a simple which has no parts, but is nevertheless individuated; an eternal being which somehow expresses itself in duration; and an infinity which yet constitutes determinate, finite modifications of itself necessarily, in its activity.
KeywordsHuman Mind Human Freedom Individual Essence Individual Thing Finite Mode
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- 1.Correspondence, trans. by R. H. M. Elwes Dover Publications, New York 1955, Letter LXXI (LXXXII), pp. 408–9.Google Scholar
- 2.Ibid., Letter III, pp. 279–82; and Spinoza’s letter to Oldenburg, XV (XXXII), pp. 290–3.Google Scholar
- 3.Ibid., Letter XXIX (XII), pp. 317–23.Google Scholar
- 4.Ibid., Letters XXXIX, XL (XXXV), XLI (XXXVI), pp. 351–8.Google Scholar
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