Most organized, monotheistic religions posit the existence of some type of personal interaction between God and humans. Whether it is as inspiration, etc. during life or judgement and either punishment or reward in an afterlife. If we ignore, for this question, the Eastern mystical and transcendental religions, would anything be left of God if the features mentioned above were removed? From a philosophical perspective what category or feature of Deity would remain and to what effect?
my answer @curiousdanni
A Reason to Believe Spinoza’s Explication of the many Facets of the Divinity In Ethics Part One- Concerning God
Plus, a Challenge for the Reader- Pascal’s Wager with a 21st Century Twist
Spinoza’s convention of the Triumvirate of Substance/god/Nature As synonymous interchangeable parts will be adhered to throughout
On our contemporary scene, where arguments for or against the existence of God are quietly receding into the background, the question of why to re-introduce the nearly ancient Pascal’s Wager concerning the existence of God, even with a so-called twenty-first century twist, might appear as nothing more than a quaint anachronism.
Nevertheless, since it meanwhile appears nowhere near evident, that the significance and import of Spinoza’s designation of Substantia sive Deus sive Natura (Substance or God or Nature) as the cornerstone of his masterwork and precisely why, the Ethics, and the subject matter of Part One- Concerning God, has received its due as the most accurate depiction of the undeniable existence and nature of the Divinity; the time is now to re-visit Pascal’s appellation and Spinoza’s assertion, again.
Pascal’s Wager is an argument in philosophy presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62). It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. Pascal’s Wager Summary. Believing in God has an infinite expected utility. Not believing in God has a finite gain or negative expected utility. Believing in God has a much higher expected utility than not believing in God. You should do that which has the higher expected utility. In the vernacular- If one acts as if God exists and God does exist, then that person wins the wager. If one acts as if God does not exist and God does exist then that person loses for eternity. Therefore, we should make our wager that God does exist.
Brief Capsule- Contemporary Science in Support of Substance/God/Nature?
Everything which we have so far learned from the application of the scientific method about the extended universe tends toward standing in support of Spinoza’s concept of the one substance which constitutes the being of and beyond that which serves as the cause of everything. This assertion of Spinoza is often referred to as Substance Monism. His specific version of this theory is that Substance or God or Nature is the immanent cause of all creation. Nothing exists outside of God; very challenging to grasp. Spinoza employed this triumvirate terminology to amplify and make explicit that the three terms enfold and envelope one into the other to form one being;
Totius Facies Universi, The Face of the Universe
Meanwhile in the scientific recounting, life as we know it began with the weirdly named big bang; all objects in the known universe emanated from one source. This source originated in an unimaginably huge detonation which exploded from its compressed state, and transformed itself into all of the matter and the dark matter which taken together account for all that is visible, invisible and measurable: galaxies, constellations, solar systems, planets and people. Each of these objects, considered individually, is comprised in some measure of concatenations of elements in the atomic table. That is, the chemical composition and physical exchanges of energy are all replicated from the outer reaches of the cosmos, down to the deepest depths of the oceans. The chemical composition of gaseous matter present during the birth of stars and the molecular chemical structure of the cause of life forms on earth stand in direct relation. They can be said to be constituted as one contiguous whole. That is exactly how Spinoza described the Facies totius universi or Face of the Entire Universe. Along with similar atomic and molecular elements, all life-forms further share the source of their inception; unimaginably potent pressure and energy, fueled by either fission or fusion. The ‘big bang’, which for our purposes can be considered at the very least as the proximate cause of the universe, begat the matter which forms virtually each and every elemental structure to include all of the heavenly bodies and all planetary life forms. Long before it would have been conceived as possible, Baruch intuited one self-caused substance which could not be conceived of as other than existing, and which further must be understood to comprise a state of infinite being. This essentially pairs Spinoza’s contention with what science describes as the make up of the elements in the universe.
If the enormity of the size of the known universe can be somehow captured and reflected upon by the individual human mind, one thought and understanding emerges and remains inescapable. This thought is not ephemeral or phantasmagorical; it lies in the formation and presence in the human mind of the concept which takes the form of an adequate idea. That idea is of one eternal substance; essentially this is god. The type of thinking required to entertain these thoughts we can term expansive. What that indicates is that to effectively imagine, before the mind’s-eye, a facsimile of the expanded universe, we need to suspend disbelief and allow our perspective to enlarge or fan out. This might sound farfetched, but in a relaxed setting an individual can expand the range of their thinking.
Spinoza maintained that every adequate idea in the human mind exists only because of its correlate, an existing object in extension. Every idea in our minds effectively exists by mirroring objective reality. In Spinoza’s description of reality, this reflexive interaction between our thoughts and our experience in the world, comprises the source of the self-evident truth. Once we can become comfortable with this method of seeing our minds at work, the possibilities to explore and understand more about the nature of our lives becomes doable. Spinoza’s bequest to us lends us the ability to realize that human perception is not inherently flawed. It simply needs to be recognized, embraced, honed and developed to its fullest extent.
Further, the ability of an individual person to encapsulate god’s essence within its individuality in the form of an idea in the mind, is the only proof requisite for the existence of god. If we can understand it adequately, then it [God] exists. This may sound like foolish nonsense, but it is not. Spinoza said this; “…the finite demonstrates clearly the existence of the infinite”. This fundamental understanding is ours for the taking. The time and strenuous mental energy which must be exerted to accomplish this understanding on our parts is a given and a necessity. At the point in time when god’s essence and existence become clear in our minds, it will hit like the proverbial ton of bricks. But it will feel most welcome indeed. This is not a religious experience. It consists in the recognition of the marvelous interconnection in a world where we reside inside a huge dome of breathable oxygen and walk each day on an orb rotating at thousands of miles per hour while this same orb is hurtling through space at enormous speed. And what do we feel? Nothing whatsoever, in fact we believe that when we stop moving that we are standing still.
Micro-evolution, in terms of the human mind and its capacity to self-reflect and to contemplate the origins of life itself, began to develop long ago. At some point in human evolution we discovered within us what evolved into an innate skill to intuitively see through our extended world and to grasp intuitively the essence of substance itself. This concept substance, is not a picture which we can form in our minds but rather an intuitional grasp. This innate capability resides in a state of potential in every person born on this planet, regardless of geography, ethnic grouping or cultural affinity. Spinoza called this capability “scientia intuitiva” or, intuitive understanding. We may simply refer to it as understanding god, as we stand in awe at the immensity of life.
More layers of complexity within Substance
It must be readily admitted that substance/God/nature remains indeed a strange conceptual item. To posit something that is the cause of everything else possible in the universe, while at the same time insisting that it is the cause of itself and further has no observable presence in any object and can only be grasped indirectly through the mind’s intuition can certainly be viewed as problematic for anyone to comprehend. The term substance has always been with us throughout the history of ideas and has been employed to attempt to capture in a single word something which is difficult to speak about or to clearly comprehend. Spinoza chose it quite consciously to serve as the bedrock of his entire ontological and metaphysical structure. As such, it is up to each of us to struggle to capture his usage and intended meaning.
How can a person-less, non-judgmental god make any difference in our lives?
If, as Spinoza maintains, there is no persona or purpose in god, some might say that there now remains no need to speak of any type of god or substance whatsoever. And so, the question must arise; why did Spinoza, a person who wrote only with single minded purposiveness, begin his Ethics with a book chapter entitled Concerning God? If there is no one to pray to or to judge us or to ask for intercession, why bother pushing the point? The answer must be that Spinoza realized that no other concept can replace this true encapsulation- in-identity of Nature and of God and of Substance displayed in the magnitude and incomparable beauty of the totality of creation. This moniker God, which when placed before each human mind, is a concept so lofty in its content, that Spinoza consciously employed it to capture our undivided attention and our total respect. After all of the elapsed time since religiosity first became called into question, and once all religious ceremony and even organized religion itself falls away, God/Substance/Nature remains alive and functioning as a necessary cause in each of us. We can know this and feel it, real time. And yes, we can feel reverentially about this human life which we all share and about this cosmos in which we live.
To be capable of grasping this significance and of internalizing its relevance in our lives may be the task of a life time, but this twist, as it were on the biblical notion of God must still deserve our obeisance and love and obedience, even though this God has no persona, no anger, no judgement and requires nothing whatsoever from us! The arising of life on earth and our evolution from salamander, 50,000,000 years ago, into today’s mindful person is testimony in itself to the mystery and wonder in our universe.
Our next question must then become; what proof is there of this god’s existence and how must we approach our understanding of “the cause of itself” to make it relevant in our lives? The answer to this is strange and more than a bit bewildering at first because, in fact, we humans and our conatus or self-assertive impulse, serves as that demonstration, that is, our striving to sustain ourselves both as individuals and as a community; this coupled with our innate cognitive function termed natural light of reason or guided intelligence are the beginnings of the awareness of and proof of the existence of an intelligence and a self-instigated operability of universal procreation, maintenance and regeneration. What Spinoza recognized in his own intelligence and ability to contemplate the nature of god’s essence, was that that capability, in and of itself, indicated that our adequate ideas must be sourced in the divine intelligence which brought virtually everything to life. At some point he realized that what he was thinking about the extent of the universe and the cause of the shaping of the world around him were not the products of his imagination. He saw that his thoughts were a mirror of what actually exists out there in space/eternity. What his mind was experiencing was a mirroring effect; a facsimile of everything in god’s creation. Spinoza insisted that denying the existence and reality of God is tantamount to denying our own existence. Yes, this is difficult to understand and no it is not a threat or a put-down. It is an invitation to set our lives on a trajectory which leads to peace of mind and acquiescence to the necessity of what drives our micro-evolution forward. In other words, because our ideas, when clearly and distinctly understood, must always have as their source an entity from which an image in our minds is formulated, then those ideas can only come from something everlasting and eternal and real. That source or object is and only can be, god.
And now we have reached the place where a summary of what has been suggested must be joined with a recognition of our own mortality to formulate a Pascalian Wager with a 21st Century Twist.
One more piece of information on recent discoveries in cosmology and astrophysics.
Scientists, in their never-ending quest to discover the origin of the universe have detected in the subatomic radio-sonic waves which first emanated from the cosmic dust from the big bang, a disturbing pattern. There remains an, as yet indeterminate in nature, yet measurable ‘noise’, an echo amidst the residue of the birth of our system which permeates virtually everywhere but is not sourced from our cosmos and has led them to begin to postulate a very real potential for alternative universes, juxtaposed in some form of arrangement with our own.
If this is the case then this discovery supports Spinoza’s assertion that Substance/God/Nature is self-caused, eternal and truly infinite. Let us then summarize what this means to each one of us and why we should accept the affirmative side of this 21st Century wager.
Assume that there is no life after death, no reincarnation, no heavenly reward. This may indeed indicate that for us, our reward does not come after death. Perhaps our piece of eternity consists solely and completely in the time we have to be alive. So, the wager involves living our lives as if, this day and every other one that we may have, is our reward. The ‘Gift of Life’ is what Spinoza’s God has bequeathed to us. This means that our responsibility lies, not in demeaning our existence or complaining about the poverty and disease and inequality we see, but rather to look for and to discover those most positive elements in life. All of the literally billions of happy people who take comfort in their families and the joys felt by being a part of each another’s community, village, city and Nation. If life is our Gift then let your wager fall on the side that demands that you make the most of your time here while cheerfully accepting your responsibility to make a positive contribution during your stay on this marvelous planet. After all the choice is up to each one of us; shall we take this wager with a twist and believe in and act in obedience to our better nature; that little voice which we all hear and which tells us to do the right thing? There is no time to waste. Now is the time to remember and honor the virtually millions of people who have come before us throughout the millennia. Those who courageously paved our way forward. Now it is our turn to do our part to consciously work to further this human evolution! Always Dare to Know- Semper Sapere Aude Charles M. Saunders
(The bulk of this essay is abridged from ‘To Discern Divinity’- A Discussion and Interpolation of Spinoza’s “Ethics” Part One- Concerning God, by C. M. Saunders, 2016) Free Download- charlessaunders5.academia.edu
The Logic behind Spinoza’s Substance in its Simplicity and Irreducibility
This excerpt is from, Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy By Joseph Dunner, (1955, The Philosophical Library) 15 East 40th Street, New York, 16, N.Y. pp. 40-41
“…if we assume, the plurality of self-created, self-sufficient substances, God becomes but one of “first causes”, one of many gods, and all His attributes of omnipotence and infinity fall by the wayside. Indeed, the very notion of a plurality of substances destroys the whole concept of substance. For if we assume the existence of two substances, as Descartes in his distinction between the mental and physical world did, either both substances are caused by a force outside of them, which is contrary to the definition of substance as caused by itself , or one is caused by the other, which again contradicts the definition and makes of substance a finite thing restricted in space and time. Consequently, there can be only one substance which can be defined as causa sui, [cause of itself] and nothing can exist independent of this one and only substance. This unique substance Spinoza calls Deus sive Natura, God or Nature, implying that only God possesses infinite attributes and that nothing else can exist distinguishable from God and capable of delimiting and modifying Him. If only the theologians could have freed themselves from all anthropomorphic and anthropocentric fixations, making God a sort of super-man throned in the sky, they might have realized that Spinoza had given world humanity the most rational and most unfailing God concept ever conceived in history.”
These words from Joseph Dunner were positioned last in this essay, both to emphasize the brevity and clarity of his depiction of the Nature of Spinoza’s Substance and to serve as a takeaway for the reader.