Descartes vs. Spinoza on Substance Essay

Descartes vs. Spinoza on Substance Essay

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Throughout the history of metaphysics the question, What is? has always been answered in an incomplete,unsatisfactory or complicated manner, but Spinoza tried to answer this question in an exceptional way simply by describing God and His essence. Based on Spinoza’s views, God’s qualities can be referred to as attributes and modes are merely affections of a substance. This paper will provide a detailed view of Spinoza’s key ontological definition of God as the only substance, his attributes, and their co-relations. The study goes further to explore the major scholarly argument between Spinoza and Descartes, in regard to their view of substance, and its attributes.

Descartes and Spinoza appear to hold different perceptions in regard to the existence of substance. However, both scholars have some comparable perceptions of the same in some aspects. They both refer to God as the primary substance. One thing that both Spinoza and Descartes seem to agree in general is the definition of substance. According to Spinoza, a substance is nothing but a thing that subsists in a manner that it does not depend on any other thing for its survival. In the introduction of his work, Ethics, Spinoza illustrates substance as 'what it is conceived through itself and in itself'. He elaborated this to mean that a substance does not require a sense of anything else to exist, which also seem to coincide with Aristotle's interpretations of how a substance exists, that it is independent of all other things. (1).
The fundamental feature of substance, as expressed by Spinoza, is its independence. Spinoza defines God as a substance that is completely unbounded, or a substance "comprising of infinity of attributes", of which every one of them illustrates an in...


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... FS 1953, Spinoza’s Definition of Attribute, Philosophical Review, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 499-513.
Kline, G 1977, On the Infinity of Spinoza’s Attributes, London: Routledge.
Melamed, Y 2012.The Building Blocks of Spinoza’s Metaphysics: Substance, Attributes and Modes (08.14.11). Johns Hopkins University. Available at: http://
philosophy.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2013/08/Spinozas-Metaphysical-BuilBlocksFinal.pdf [Accessed December 5-15 2013]
Nadler, S 2006, Spinoza’s ethics: an Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pollock, F 1966, Spinoza: His Life and Thought,New York: American Scholar Publication.
Rocca, MC 2008, Spinoza: The Routledge Philosopher Series, London: Routledge.
Scruton, R 1999, Spinoza. London: Orion.
Woolhouse, RS 1993,Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: the Concept of Substance in 17th Century Metaphysics, London: Routledge.

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