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A common interpretation of the relation of Substance to it's modes in Spinozas states that modes are properties of the Substance [1]. Let's assume this for now: Modes are properties of Substance. I think I see a problem here. Consider the identity conditions for predicates, i.e. in which circumstances two predicates are considered identical. Swoyer and Orilia list four different identity conditions for predicates [2]. In this framework, two properties are identical iff...

a) ... they have the same extension (S&O call this an "infra-coarse" identity condition).

b) ... they necessarily have the same extension (S&O call this a "medium-coarse" identity condition).

c) ...they confer the same causal powers on their instances (a "medium-fine" identity condition).

d) ...they are (nearly) the same linguistic expressions ("ultra-fine").

It seems that every case leads to a contradiction. If a) is the case, then every property (mode) would be the same, because there is only one object, namely Substance, that has properties. Thus every mode would be identical to the set, which has Substance as its only member. The same holds for b), because of E1P29: "Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature." So there are no properties which are non-necessary. If c) holds, then two modes are identical iff they confer the same causal powers on their instances. But there is only one instance, namely Substance. But as the modes would confer causal power on its instance, Substance, the modes would determine Substance. But then Substance would not be in itself anymore, because it would be determined by something else. So c) doesn't make sense as well. If d) holds, then two modes are identical just in case they are (nearly) the same linguistic expression. But Spinoza says that individuals, i.e. modes, have parts, for example here: "parts composing an individual" (E2L5). But Spinoza does not seem to have the parts of an linguistic expression in mind, but the parts of an individual. In general, both are different. The parts of the linguistic expression "human body" are for example "human" and "body". But the parts of a human body are it's head, arms, organs, etc. So d) cannot hold as well.

So apparently all the cases lead to contradictions. But why is this so? Is this considered to be a problem for the property-interpretation of Spinoza? Or could it even indicate a lacuna in the overview of S&O? Could it even be that Spinozas modes don't have any identity conditions? But then how can they be different?

[1] https://www.iep.utm.edu/spinoz-m/#SH3b : "Spinoza claims that one important consequence of this proof is that modes are properties of substance. The view that modes are properties of substance has been denied by at least one prominent interpreter of Spinoza (Curley 1988: 31-39). Curley’s view has, however, proven unpopular (See Carriero 1999; Malamed 2009.) The dominant interpretation today is that modes are properties of the one substance."

[2] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties/#IdeCon

  • See the post What does mode mean in Spinoza's Ethics?. IMO, properties is not the best way to read Spinoza's mode: "Def I. By body I mean a mode which expresses in a certain determinate manner the essence of God, in so far as he is considered as an extended thing. Ax.II. Man thinks. Ax.III. Modes of thinking, such as love, desire, or any other of the passions [...]" – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 22 at 12:57
  • So do you think that modes are basically things which have corresponding properties? – Moritz Wolff Jan 22 at 15:39
  • In his book, 'Spinoza: Logic, Knowledge and Religion', Richard Mason argues clearly and effectively against the supposition that Spinoza's philosophy has anything whatsoever to do with formal logic. That is there are no logical assertions, no predicates and no properties. Spinoza is describing causal not logical relations. A mode is what I have termed, a 'distillate of substance'. Curley's interpretation of Spinoza's system are very misleading. See what Mason has to say in the first section of this book on p. 59. For why Curley is off see 'Footnote Fixation', charlessaunders5.academia.edu. CMS – Charles M Saunders Jan 22 at 16:46
  • This is a good point. But modes = properties is not something a Spinozian would endorse, it is a translation to more familiar terms by an outsider looking in. And while outsiders need to explain their terms they need not do so by accepting Spinoza's metaphysics. So the usual modal or causal identity conditions are available to them, and the term is then applied analogically to Spinoza's idiosyncratic ontology with hard determinism and a single substance, e.g. by taking it to be just one on a long list of possible worlds available to the outsider. – Conifold Jan 22 at 21:02
  • @Conifold Thanks. Spinoza's philosophy far outstrips most other systems for complexity. To understand it does not match well with responding to one single aspect, like the relationship between Substance and modes. Substance is indivisible, it has no properties. The extended world is god's body. The mind thinks god's thoughts. But this god is not one that can be characterized easily. If at some point you wish to challenge yourself, I recommend, HF Hallett's 'Spinoza- 'The Elements of His System'. I would be honored to discuss that with you.. With 33 views there is clearly no interest here. CMS – Charles M Saunders Jan 25 at 14:29

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