ATTRIBUTE (attribuo, to ascribe), anything that can be predicated of another.
"Attributes are usually distributed under the three heads of quality, quantity,
and relation " (Mill, Logic, 2nd ed., I. 83).
In the Schools, the definition, the genus, the proprium, and the accident, were
called dialectic attributes; because, according to Aristotle (Topic, lib.
cap. VI.), these were the four points of view in which any subject of
philosophical discussion should be viewed.
"By this word attribute" said Descartes (in his letter to
Regius), "is meant
something which is immovable and inseparable from the essence of its subject, as
that which constitutes it, and which is thus opposed to mode." Thus unity,
identity, and activity are attributes of the soul; for I cannot deny them,
without at the same time denying the existence of the soul itself. Sensibility,
liberty, and intelligence are but faculties. In God there is nothing but
attributes, because in God everything is absolute, involved in the substance and
unity of the necessary being. In Deo non proprie modos aut qualitates sed
attributa tantum dicimus esse (Descartes, Prin. Phil, I. n. 57).
Spinoza defines attribute as "that which the intellect perceives of substance as
constituting its essence;" mode as "the modifications of substance, or that which
exists in, and is perceived through, something other than itself " (Ethics, pt.
I. defins. 4 and 5).