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A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER - 1922 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire.
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.

 

A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos
Fénelon

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

 

INTRODUCTION

Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY


Its origin and character

PHYSICAL PERIOD
MONASTIC THEORIES
PLURALISTIC THEORIES

MORAL PERIOD
THE SOPHISTS
SOCRATES. Cynics and Cyrenaics

SYSTEMATIC PERIOD
PLATO
ARISTOTLE

Part II. PHILOSOPHY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

ETHICAL THEORIES
Stoicism. Epicureanism
Scepticism

RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES
Roman Moralists: Seneca, Epictetus, M. Aurelius
Alexandrian Mystics: Philo, Plotinus, Proclus

Part III. PHILOSOPHY OF MIDDLE AGES

THE PATRISTIC PERIOD Augustine and Church Fathers

SCHOLASTIC PERIOD Nominalism and Realism

PLATONIC INFLUENCE
Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard

ARISTOTELIAN INFLUENCE
1. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas
2. Duns Scotus, Francis of Assisi, William of Occam
 

Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY

TRANSITION PERIOD
1. Revival of Learning
2. Reformation
3. Rise of Sciences
Bruno, Böhme, Montaigne

REALISTIC TENDENCY
Bacon
Gassendi
Hobbes

IDEALISTIC TENDENCY
Descartes

PANTHEISTIC TENDENCY
Geulinx, Occasionalism
Malebranche, Pantheism
Spinoza, Acosmism

Part V. PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

[Introduction]

SECT. I. ENLIGHTENMENT IN BRITAIN
Empiricism-Locke
Development of empiricism-Berkeley
Sceptical Conclusion-Hume

THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Natural Philosophy
Theological Controversy
Ethical Theories
Scottish Philosophy

SECT. 2. ENLIGHTENMENT IN FRANCE
Earlier Rationalism
Bossuet, Fontenelle, Bayle, Montesquieu, Condillac, Helvetius
Materialistic Tendencies
Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert,  La Mettrie, Holbach, Rousseau

SECT. 3. ENLIGHTENMENT IN GERMANY
INDIVIDUAL IDEALISM—LEIBNITZ

FOLLOWERS OF LEIBNITZ
Thomasius, Tschirnhausen, Wolff

POPULAR PHILOSOPHY
Mendelssohn, Nicolai
Lessing

Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM


SECT. I. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY—KANT
INTRODUCTION

KANT'S THEORETIC PHILOSOPHY

KANT'S MORAL PHILOSOPHY

PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND RELIGION

SECT. 2. DEVELOPMENT OF IDEALISM

PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING
Hamann, Herder, Jacobi
Schiller and Humboldt

SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM—FICHTE
1. Science of Knowledge
2. Its Theoretic Principles
3. Its Practical Sphere

OBJECTIVE IDEALISM—SCHELLING
1. Philosophy of Nature
2. Philosophy of Identity
3. Mythology and Revelation

ROMANTIC SCHOOL
1. Novalis and Schlegel
2. Baader and Krause
3. Schleiermacher

 

SECT. 3. ABSOLUTE IDEALISM—HEGELIANISM
CONCEPTION AND METHOD
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
REACTION AGAINST HEGELIANISM
1. Herbart
2. Beneke
3. Schopenhauer

Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT


GERMAN THOUGHT—AFTER HEGEL
1. Influence of Hegelianism
2. Materialistic Tendency—Haeckel
3. Idealistic Tendency
Fechner, Lotze, Hartmann, Wundt
4. Modern Psychology
5. Neo-Kantianism
Dühring, Schuppe, Ritschl
6. Eucken and Activist Tendency

FRENCH THOUGHT—FROM THE REVOLUTION
1. Cousin and Eclecticism
2. Comte and Positivism
3. Religious Philosophy
4. Philosophy of Development—Taine, Renan, Fouillée

BRITISH PHILOSOPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
1. Utilitarianism—Bentham and Mill
2. Evolution—Darwin and Spencer. Maurice, Newman, Martineau
3. Influence of German Idealism. Caird, Green, Bradley, etc.

THE TREND OF THOUGHT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Anti-Conceptualism—Bergson
Pragmatism—Wm. James
Neo-Realism. Revival of Idealism in Italy. The Philosophy of the Gifford Lectures

 

CONCLUSION

 

BOOKS OF REFERENCE

 

Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY

Chap. IV. Pantheism. Spinoza

3. Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) was born at Amsterdam. His parents were of Jewish-Portuguese extraction. From them he received a liberal education. His teacher in Hebrew was the celebrated Rabbi Marteira, who introduced him to the study of the Talmud and the Bible. He studied Latin also under the noted physician, Franz van der Ende. He was brought up in the Hebrew faith, but he was expelled from the Jewish communion on account of "frightful heresies." Though interested in Christianity and a warm admirer of the life and teaching of Jesus, he never formally accepted the Christian faith. He lived in great retirement engaged in his philosophical pursuits, and supporting himself by the polishing of lenses. He lived a frugal life.

 

He was not without friends and protectors, from whom, however, he refused to accept monetary aid. He was called to a professor's chair in Heidelberg, but declined it on the ground that he might be there hindered in the full liberty of thought. Of delicate constitution, he died at the age of 44 of consumption. He was a man of pure life and simple habits, kindly and gentle of disposition; unselfish, somewhat sad, free from hypocrisy and guile, devoted to the pursuit of truth, he was the image, as one has said, of a true sage. 

His writings are: The Principles of the Philosophy of Descartes, 1670; Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670; Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione; Epistolae; A Recently Discovered Treatise Concerning God and Man; and his Ethica, which was published by his friend Ludwig Mayer after his death. This latter work contains the gist of his system, and sets forth at once the principles and aim of his philosophy. It consists of five books. The first treats of God; the second, of the nature and origin of the mind, in which he deals not so much with the nature of the mind as with the spiritual life of man on its ethical side; the third book treats of the nature of the emotions and passions; the fourth deals with human bondage to the passions (De servitute humana sive affectuum viribus); the fifth treats of the "Power of the Intellect," or of "Human Freedom."

Most diverse estimates have been formed of Spinoza. By some he has been execrated as the arch enemy of religion. By others he has been extolled as the prophet of a higher cult. Dugald Stewart sees in his philosophy the seeds of blank atheism. Novalis, on the other hand, calls him "that God-intoxicated man."

While it must be admitted that Spinoza has little in common with doctrinal Christianity, denying as he does the personality of God and repudiating the idea of a divine revelation through the God-Man, no one can peruse his ethics without being impressed with the exalted spirituality of its tone and purpose, and it must be conceded that he himself regarded his philosophy as a vindication of the principles of true religion.

An atheist he by no means was, and it would probably be more correct to call him, as Hegel does, an Acosmist, rather than a Pantheist. He begins and ends with God. The world is in God, and we can only know it and ourselves through and by Him. In spite of his rigid method and abstract reasoning, his aim is purely practical. It is wholly ethical, as his principal work indicates; it is, as he himself calls it, a theory of freedom and redemption.

Descartes had split up mind and matter into two substances which were only united in a supreme substance— God. On the one side was placed God, and on the other the world. Spinoza perceived the duality. The first aim of all philosophy is to attain to unity. There can be only one substance—only one all-embracing being, of which all finite and individual things must be but accidents. The unity of all things in God is at once the starting-point and the central thought of Spinoza's system.

The outward form in which Spinoza presents his system, his mathematical or demonstrative method, creates not only its greatest difficulty, but also one of its chief defects.

Descartes had suggested that metaphysics might be dealt with in the same manner as mathematics, though he himself never fully carried out his idea. Spinoza, however, acting on this hint, thought that if he followed the same method as Euclid he would obtain for his reasonings the same certainty. But Spinoza failed to see that this method, though suitable to the finite sciences, is wholly inadequate to the treatment of speculative subjects. Euclid was dealing with a different subject-matter from that of Spinoza. Geometry proceeds on the assumption that the matter is given. Philosophy has to investigate what is given, and why it is given. Thus, while Spinoza starts with definitions, he gives us no reason why he should select just these definitions. When he has formally defined substance, he has said all about it that his method will admit. It is the mere abstract unity of all things in which everything is merged, but out of which nothing flows. Philosophy admits of no unexplained presuppositions, and a system which neglects to verify its own assumptions would require another to explain it. The strict and formal method which he has adopted has reacted both on his view of God's being and of man's freedom. Not only has it suggested a false idea of the infinite as that which has no limitations or qualifications, and of which only positive existence can be affirmed, but it has also caused him to reject a teleological conception of the world. A philosophy which regards all things as following by mathematical necessity from its first principles has obviously no room in it for any idea of a final cause or end of things. The world and the things of the world, man and his powers, are simply there, as necessary parts of a whole, just as the angles are there as necessary elements of a triangle. And so too with regard to human freedom. Where all things flow from the first principle with the same necessity as the properties of a geometric figure from its definition, individual freedom is an impossible idea. The illusion of liberty arises from the tendency of ordinary beings to take a part for the whole, and to see things separate from the conditions which determine them. But as a matter of fact, according to Spinoza, a man can no more act differently from what he does, than a false conclusion can follow from certain given premisses.

Having so far considered the general form, and particularly the method of Spinoza,—the source of many of its shortcomings,—we may now proceed to examine his philosophy more in detail.

According to Spinoza every fact that is known to us must come under one of three heads, which he calls Substance, Attributes, and Modes. On these three notions his whole system is based, consequently we have to speak of Substance, or his doctrine of God; of the Attributes, or the doctrine of mind and matter; of the Modes, or the doctrine of particular things.

(1) Substance. Spinoza starts with a definition of Substance. "Substance is that which is in itself, and is contained through itself, i.e. the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing in order to its formation." This substance he characterizes as infinite, indivisible, unique, free, eternal, as the cause of itself and of all things, and as consisting of an infinite number of infinite attributes, two only of which are cognisable by human intelligence. Furthermore, he expressly identifies this substance with God, whom he defines as "a being absolutely infinite, i.e. substance consisting of infinite attributes of which each expresses an eternal and infinite essence."

Spinoza follows Descartes in his definition of Substance, but he sees that there can be legitimately only one substance. It must be independent of all else, and it must be at once the Self-existent and All-embracing, at once "the cause of itself and the cause of all things."

Much discussion has taken place with regard to the expression causa sui, which at first sight would appear to be open to the objection that it contains a logical contradiction. To say that a thing is the cause of itself implies that the thing exists before itself, which is absurd. But all that Spinoza probably means is that substance is eternal and infinite cause. It is that which the mind necessarily thinks as the ground-notion of all being. "By the cause of itself," he says, "I mean something of which the essence involves existence, of which the nature is conceivable only as being in existence." To Spinoza, in other words, the self-existent is the starting-point of thought; it is the character of reality as a whole. From this notion he thought he could unfold the universe. The conception of causality in the sense of dependence as between cause and effect is absent from the very method by which he proceeds. With him the relation rather is a statical one of ground and consequent, and his constant parallel is geometrical properties in relation to their figure.

In thus beginning with the universal and descending to the particular, it has been objected that Spinoza neglects, or at least anticipates, experience, and attempts to explain the world simply by an à priori notion, arbitrarily chosen. Ought not the unity with which he starts, to be the goal rather than the beginning of knowledge? Is Spinoza not guilty of a premature and capricious generalization, taken up at haphazard without a preliminary examination of the facts of experience?

It may be sufficient to answer that, in one sense, Spinoza has only begun where philosophy in all ages has begun. Thus the Eleatics commenced with the τὸ ὄν; and if we are to explain the world at all we must present to our minds the totality of being, the unity of all things as the starting-point of thought.

But though Spinoza begins in his Ethica with definitions and axioms, he was not so wholly independent of a preliminary examination of experience as he seems to be. In another work, De Intellectus Emendatione, and also in the second book of the Ethics, he draws a distinction between the procedure of reason and imagination. He says it is the province of reason to grasp things in their totality and universality, and for this end we must get beyond the illusions of sense and the abstractions of ordinary thinking, and view things sub quadem specie aeternitatis. The defect of the ordinary unreflecting way of looking at things, which like Plato he calls "opinion," is that it is apt to take the part for the whole, to make the individual the standard of the universe, and, generally, to be satisfied with a partial, fragmentary view of things. But as a matter of fact, if we think of it, nothing is isolated. All things are connected and are parts of each other, linked together by an inner bond of causality. So it also is with the minds of men. Individuality is a mere semblance, caused by our narrow, one-sided way of looking upon life. Isolate men and you destroy their whole character as intelligent beings. No man lives to himself alone. Every life is inextricably bound up with the lives of others. Pure intelligence corrects this fragmentary view, and forces us to connect things together and regard the universe not as an aggregate of isolated facts, but as a unity.

The problem which presents itself to Spinoza, therefore, is, how are we to reach the apprehension of things in their unity? Must we simply proceed from part to part, from fact to fact, reach wider and ever wider generalizations? Or can we at once, from the standpoint of pure reason, seize the idea of an all-embracing unity in which all the parts are seen to have their necessary place and function? In other words, may we not at once view the world sub Specie aeternitatis? Spinoza holds that we can, and indeed must. "The essences of individual things are not to be discovered by looking at the series or order of their existence, for in that way we can only get external marks or relations, but not the explanation of things in themselves. For such an explanation we must look to that which is eternal and unchanging, in which, as on tables of stone, we find inscribed the laws according to which all individual things are produced and ordered. Nay, these changeable things are so intimately, and in their essence, dependent on those things which are eternal, that, apart from them, the former can neither exist nor be conceived" (De Intell. Emend., chap. XIV.).

It is obvious, he affirms, that our knowledge cannot be real or adequate except in so far as it is determined by the idea of the whole. He holds also that there are certain first principles to which the mind is capable of attaining, from and through which everything exists and may be known. His philosophy, therefore, begins with the idea of God, the one substance, the infinite unity, in which all things are. We can get no further back than that. The mind can rise no higher. Here then we must start. Of this ultimate idea, this basis of all thoughts and things, it must be affirmed that whilst all other ideas rest upon it, it rests itself on no other. It is beyond doubt or demonstration. It cannot be proved by anything outside itself. It can only be defined as "that which is in itself and is conceived through itself."

The position of Spinoza then is that the individual can only be explained in the light of the whole of which it is a part, that all differences in the finite world presuppose an ultimate unity. But when we ask what is the positive nature of the substance we perceive the unsatisfactoriness of Spinoza's doctrine. His infinite unity is merely abstract. The world of particulars is simply merged in it, not organically accounted for by it. The substance has really no contents. Finite things are nothing; the substance is all. This abstract conception of God arises from Spinoza's formal mathematical way of looking at things. His idea of the infinite is that which has no limits. The kernel and keynote of his system is his famous sentence,—"every determination is a negation" (omnis determitiatio est negatio). A determination would imply a defect of existence. Only that which has no qualifications is perfect, is real. All elements, therefore, which define God must be thought away. All ideas of number, degree, time, which imply separation or relation of parts; nay, all conceptions of good or evil, of human freedom or responsibility, must disappear. Special positive designations would reduce the substance to something finite. It must, therefore, be only described in negative terms. We do not know what God is; we can only say what He is not. He is the limitless infinite, indivisible, eternal essence. He is eternal in the same sense as space is eternal,—existence without limit. He is free also in the same sense,—negatively free, in so far as He is conditioned by nothing outside Himself.

It need hardly be pointed out that this idea of God is very different from the Christian conception of the Deity. All idea of personality is precluded. Spinoza expressly repudiates the notion of a personal being conceived in our own image. Every determination detracts from perfection. We can, therefore, ascribe to God neither passions nor purposes, neither intellect nor will. He is a Being absolutely perfect, "purged of all anthropomorphism." He is neither the "magnified man" of popular thought, nor the "All-wise Creator and Governor" of natural theology. He is simply the ground of all being, the infinite, all-embracing Substance.

(2) Attributes. Having thus defined Substance as the alone existent, it might be assumed that there was nothing more to be said. But the question still presses, how are we to account for the world as we know it? How are we to explain the variety and manifoldness of existence? For even though it be a negation, an illusion, it must be justified. The answer to this question is contained in Spinoza's doctrine of attributes and modes. Substance is not merely causa sui, it is also causa omnium rerum. The unity as we know it differentiates itself into infinite attributes and then into finite and infinite modes. The first thing we are conscious of is a distinction of mind and matter. How are these to be reconciled with our idea of the infinite substance and with one another? Descartes had assumed two derivative substances, the one, spirit, the other, extension. But obviously these cannot be regarded as real in the same sense as the one substance is real. There was only one course left for Spinoza in order to account for thought and extension. They must be conceived as attributes of the substance, that is to say, as different modes for us of expressing it. They must be regarded as the two sides of the same thing. God in Himself has no attributes. But when we think of Him, we must think of Him under the form of our intelligence. And, therefore, the attributes are but the necessary categories under which the mind represents God. "By attribute," he says, "I understand that which the intellect perceives in Substance as (tanquam) constituting its essence." In other words, an attribute does not constitute the real essence of the substance in itself, but only in relation to the finite intelligence which contemplates it. Though Spinoza says there must be an infinite number of attributes in an infinite substance, which might be discernible to minds differently constituted from ours, only two are cognisable by the human mind, viz., thought and extension. These attributes, though seemingly distinct, do not constitute two different entities. The one cannot be produced by the other. Each expresses by itself the whole reality of the substance. He represents the relation by various illustrations. They are like the different ways of reflecting the same light, or they are like the two names of the patriarch, Jacob and Israel, each of which included the whole reality of the man. There is a complete parallelism of thought and extension. Each covers the whole notion. Thought does not contain more, or less, of God than does extension. The contents of both are absolutely the same.

It is by an application of this same principle that Spinoza explains the relation of body and mind in man. To every mode of thought a mode of extension corresponds, and we may say of every existing thing that it may be regarded as a modification, both of thought and extension. Of man, we may say he is composed of mind and body, but these are not two opposing elements; they both express the man in different aspects. "The soul is the idea of the body"; the body is the objective of the soul. Though there is no identity or dependence, there is complete agreement between them, "just as the idea of a circle and a real circle are the same thing, now under the attribute of thought, now under that of extension." Body and mind, nature and spirit, are everywhere united, as type and antitype, subject and object. Running through all nature, in man, as everywhere else, there is this inseparable dual aspect, through which the single substance is expressed. There is no necessity here to resort to the Deus ex machina of Descartes, or to the "occasional causes" of Geulinx or the "pre-established harmony" of Leibnitz, to explain the relation of body and mind. Each is a whole in itself. There is no interaction to be explained. As two equal triangles completely coincide, so body and mind each represents completely the whole action of God, contemplated only in different aspects.

Spinoza's theory of Attributes lays itself open to various criticisms.

1. One cannot but feel that the attributes are not derived from the substance, but are merely brought, as Hegel has pointed out, from without. According to his own definition, the very idea of Substance would seem to exclude any difference or determination. Thought and extension are not given in the definition. The blank substance is at one stroke filled with contents, and without any explanation that which he defined as purely indeterminate, suddenly becomes possessed of an infinite number of qualities.

 

  2. The attributes are, moreover, arbitrarily chosen. There is no justification offered for their number or their relation to each other. There is no necessity shown why the Deity should manifest Himself just in these and no others. To say simply that a number of attributes coheres in one substance is not to explain their unity or necessity. Thought and extension are not shown to be organically connected with each other or with the substance. They simply lie within it, in an external formal manner.

3. But a more fatal objection is that Spinoza has conceived a mind outside of the Substance. Whence comes this intelligence of which he speaks? The mind, he says, apprehends the attributes as constituting the nature of the Substance, but yet he also says that thought cannot be ascribed to the Substance as such. Hence an external understanding must bring with it the attributes of thought and extension, in order that it may conceive the substance. In other words, in order to apprehend the substance Spinoza has to suppose a man outside of it. But every determination is a negation, yet in order to conceive the infinite he must assume a mind which is not a part of it—a something which the substance is not and by which it is, therefore, conditioned.

4. It might also be maintained that while Spinoza regards thought and extension as equal expressions of Substance, he gives the pre-eminence to thought. It is by thought or intelligence that both attributes are conceived. Thought is conscious not only of itself, but also of extension. Thought, in other words, has a priority, and enters into every presentation we form of the substance or of the attributes. It is not simply one of the attributes, but is a universal factor in all our knowledge of God or of the world.

(3) Modes. From thought and extension, the two attributes of God, Spinoza descends to finite things, which, according to his definition of Substance, can have no real existence, and are only to be regarded as modifications of it. "By mode I understand a modification of Substance, or that which is in something other than itself by means of which also it is conceived." Modes can neither exist nor be conceived without substance, and are indeed nothing but the affections of the attributes of God. They have no independent being, but are related to the substance as the waves are related to the sea. They are simply the ever-varying shapes or modes in which God expresses Himself. Every thought, wish, feeling, is a mode of God's attribute of thought; while every visible thing is a mode of His attribute of extension. God is the all in all, the omne esse, and beyond Him there is nothing real.

As we had a difficulty in perceiving how the attributes were deduced, so we have a corresponding difficulty in realizing how the modes come into being. They are not to be conceived as being caused by the Substance, but rather as contained in it. "God," says Spinoza, "is not the transient but the immanent cause of the world." He is only the causa omnium rerum in the same sense as He is the causa sui. Spinoza's conception of God is not dynamical, but statical. Under the usual idea of causality we think of the cause contributing something of itself to the effect and of the effect as becoming something different from the cause. But with Spinoza there is no thought of transference of energy. The infinite cannot be conceived as passing over into the finite. It has no separate existence. All we can say is, that the finite is contained in the infinite, just as the properties of a triangle are contained in the very definition of it.

It might be objected to Spinoza's view of the finite world that if the modes are only transient forms, there must be a reason in the nature of the substance for their existence as such. Even though everything in the world be resolved into a negation, the negation itself exists. When you have reduced all finite things to phantoms, the world of phantoms must still be accounted for. And this Spinoza virtually admits, for not only does he speak in some passages of the Ethics in a qualified form of the modes as being "only in part negation," but in ascribing to the intelligence the power of rising above the illusions of the world, he really exempts the intelligence from the passing and transient existence which belongs to mere modes as such. There is, he would seem to imply, an element in all finite things which is eternal and universal; and, indeed, the practical purpose of his philosophy is to show how man from being a part of the phenomenal world may rise out of it and attain to participation in the eternal spirit.

But this suggestion which Spinoza thus casually throws out of finite things possessing an element of universality and infinity, while it gives to them a permanence and independence which the original idea of substance does not allow for, and thus saves Spinoza from the imputation of pantheist, only discloses the antithesis in a more glaring form. We are still left without any principle of mediation between God and the world. Spinoza himself seems to have felt this difficulty of deducing the modes from the substance, the finite from the infinite. Hence in certain passages of the Ethics we meet with a conception not yet referred to, that of Infinite Modes, which may be regarded as an attempt to fill up the gap. On the one hand we have the infinite indeterminate substance—on the other, a world of finite modes or determinations: and in order to bridge the gulf between them we have a third something which, as its name implies, has affinity with both, with the finite world as being itself a "mode": with the infinite as an "infinite" mode. "These infinite modes are either modifications of the absolute nature of some attribute or modifications of an attribute already modified, but so modified as to be eternal and infinite." When asked for examples, Spinoza answers: "Examples which you ask are, of the first class, in thought, the absolutely infinite intellect, in extension, motion and rest; of the second class, the form of the whole universe, which although it varies in infinite ways, remains always the same."

This final attempt at mediation between the infinite and the finite can scarcely be regarded as satisfactory. Spinoza would seem to combine here two ideas which are reciprocally exclusive. In their ultimate analysis the modes must be either infinite or finite. They cannot be both. Furthermore, when we examine what is meant by infinite modes we find that it involves on the one hand the introduction into the idea of the infinite substance an element of activity and self-differentiation which is lacking in the abstract unity as first conceived. And on the other hand it is an endeavour to give to the finite world a meaning which he had already denied to the individuals which compose it. We cannot fail to be struck here with the resemblance of the infinite modes to the Neoplatonic doctrine of the Logos or World-Soul, as an intermediary between the one and the many.

From the consideration of the modes we are naturally led to a consideration of the practical philosophy of Spinoza.

In the second book of the Ethics, which bears the title,— "The Nature and Origin of the Mind,"—he deals with the results which necessarily follow from the nature of God, i.e. those results which lead us to a knowledge of the human mind and its highest blessedness.

Here it is evident Spinoza's aim is a practical one,—the discovery of the way to spiritual felicity. But, as in his view all moral advancement rests on the intelligence, the true way to perfection is to clear our minds of all error and illusion, and see things as God sees them, under the form of eternity. The question, therefore, comes to be, is the mind capable of what he calls "adequate knowledge"? Spinoza's answer to this question is contained in his theory of the development of Knowledge.

There are three orders of knowledge recognised by Spinoza.

(1) There is the knowledge which is derived from the particulars of sense-experience. It is simply the individual point of view, and consists of confused ideas, opinions, and imaginations. This is the condition of the ordinary mind in which the reason is not exercised, and in which conclusions based on mere hearsay, tradition, or inaccurate observation, are accepted.

(2) The second kind of knowledge is that which Spinoza calls "reason" (ratio). "Reason is that knowledge which arises from our possessing common notions and adequate ideas of the properties of things." It is a kind of knowledge "which is common to all men," and is of "that which is common to all things." In other words, it is knowledge which is derived from reasoning, of the laws and properties of things. But this kind of knowledge is not the highest. It, indeed, raises us above the crude conception of things which pertains in the unreflective stage, but it is only a reasoning from cause to effect. We never attain to a final unity by this method. All we get by it is an indefinite succession of facts.

(3) The highest form of knowledge, therefore, is what he calls Scientia intuitiva—a direct knowledge of the essence of things, and ultimately of the Divine essence. Reason must not be conceived merely as our individual reason working under the conditions of time, it is also to be regarded as eternal, freed from all restrictions—a part of the infinite mind of God. The truths which we have laboriously reasoned out may be apprehended by a flash of intuition. To see things as God sees them,—that is the highest form of knowledge. Thus men may rise above illusive opinion to adequate and real knowledge. From this third kind of knowledge springs the highest possible satisfaction of the mind. Man's blessedness lies in the intellectual love of God. "The highest virtue is to know God, to view all things from their centre in God, and to be moved only by the passion for good."

The ethical philosophy is the natural outcome of his metaphysical views.

To be free from the bondage of the senses and to attain to the realization of ourselves in God is the true end of life. Hence the essence of life is self-preservation. Spinoza teaches a morality which is opposed to asceticism—a morality not of self-denial, but of self-assertion. The conatus sese conservandi—the effort of self-realization—is the principle of virtue.

This self-realization must take place under the control of reason, the aim of which is to identify itself with the love of man and the love of God. Spinoza will not admit any negative element to enter into this effort. Indeed, his former idea of human life as a mere negation seems now to be discarded. Man is not merely a part of his environment, there is that in him by which he can transcend his limits and lift himself out of his bondage. Even in the lower animals, he says, this striving takes place. But while in them it assumes the form of appetite, in man it becomes conscious desire. When this act of self-assertion depends wholly on ourselves it is called an "action," when it depends partly on what is beyond our control it is a "passion." We are in bondage to passion so long as we are bound to the contingent world and are subject to the illusions of sense and the emotions of the body. An emotion is just a confused idea. All the varied emotions may be referred to one of three sources,—desire, pain, or pleasure. To rise superior to those emotions is to be free. In other words, freedom consists in the deliverance from confused and false ideas and in the attainment of true or adequate knowledge. Reason masters passion by showing its true nature. "An emotion which is a passion," he says, "ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it"—that is to say, when we reach the stage of true knowledge,—union with God,—passion has no more power over us.

Spinoza denies the freedom of the will in the common acceptation. Men think that they are free because they are not conscious of the determining causes. He identifies will and intelligence. They are one, in so far as both affirm their objects. Man, like other things, is under an absolute law of necessity. All the actions of his will, as of his intelligence, are but different forms of the self-assertive tendency to which he cannot but yield. To be true to the end of our being is the only freedom possible for us, and that end is the life which intelligence dictates. We are free in so far as we partake of the nature of God. God does not act arbitrarily, but solely from the laws of His own nature. He is not determined by anything external to Him. In like manner man is free when he intelligently strives to fulfil the inner necessity of his being. Here reason is our guide. To know our limits is to transcend them. Our passions belong to us only as finite creatures. But even in them there is an element of infinity. Let us but obtain an adequate idea of a passion and it can be transformed into an instrument for our self-realization. Brought into contact with the idea of God, all our ideas become true and adequate, and, therefore, subservient to our life in Him. The transition of the mind to greater perfection is joy; the transition to a lower stage is pain. Spinoza condemns all ideas of rivalry and ambition as springing out of a false estimate of finite things and a false desire to take advantage of our fellowmen. The highest good is that which can be most fully shared with the greatest number. That is of real usefulness which first contributes to the highest perfection of the individual, and through him to society. But as the true nature of reason is knowledge, nothing is useful but that which serves knowledge. Knowledge is our true being, and the highest knowledge is the knowledge of God. Happiness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself, and that is to be found in "the intellectual love of God."

"The human mind cannot be destroyed with the body, but there remains something of it which is eternal, and it is only while the body endures that the mind is susceptible to those emotions which are referred to passion." Yet from this view of eternity we must eliminate all ideas of personal and conscious immortality. The idea of eternity has nothing to do with time or duration. It is simply participation in a sphere where beginning and end have no meaning. It is life in the eternal present—life in God.

The union of the soul with God has suggested the question whether Spinoza did not pass from the one Substance of the first Part to a plurality of substances at the end. Hegel regards the substance of Spinoza as "an abyss in which all particulars are annihilated." Others see in this final absorption an advance to Hegel's own more concrete unity—the unity in which the differences are preserved.

The goodness of his heart seemed to suggest truths which the stringency of his logic would not admit, and, if we judge the system by its aim, we must conclude that Spinoza only solved the Cartesian dualism by suppressing one of its sides, by merging the finite in the infinite. Later philosophy, as we shall see, asserted the reality of the finite and the value of experience. Spinoza, it has been well said, "declared the value of seeing things under the form of eternity, but it is necessary first to see them under the form of time." The one-sided assertion of individuality and difference in the schools of Locke and Leibnitz was the natural complement of the one-sided assertion of the universality of Spinoza. When the individualistic tendency of the eighteenth century had received at the hands of Kant its refutation, it was not unnatural that thought should again return to that great idea of unity in difference which Spinoza was groping after, but did not achieve.

Modern philosophy. Pantheistic tendency. Malebranche                     

 

 

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