A History of Philosophy in Epitome Part 8

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The beginner and founder of modern philosophy is _Descartes_. While he, like the men of the transition epoch just noticed, broke loose entirely from the previous philosophizing, and began his work wholly _de novo_, yet he did not content himself, like Bacon, with merely bringing out a new method, or like Boehme and his contemporaries among the Italians, with affirming philosophical views without a methodical ground. He went further than any of these, and making his standpoint one of universal doubt, he affirms a new, positive, and pregnant philosophical principle, from which he attempted logically to deduce the chief points of his system. The character and novelty of his principle makes him the beginner, and its inner fruitfulness the founder, of modern philosophy.

Rene Descartes (_Renatus Cartesius_) was born in 1596, at La Haye in Torraine. Possessing an independent property, he volunteered as a soldier in his twenty-first year, and served in the wars with the Dutch, the Bavarians, and the Imperialists. After this he travelled a good deal, and then abode a considerable time in Paris. In 1629 he left his native land, and betook himself to Holland, that he might there, undisturbed and unknown, devote himself to philosophy, and elaborate his scientific ideas. He spent twenty years in Holland, enduring much vexatious treatment from fanatical theologians, till in 1649 he accepted an invitation from Queen Christina of Sweden, to visit Stockholm, where he died in the following year.

The chief content of the Cartesian system may be seen condensed in the following epitome.

1. If science would have any thing fixed and abiding, it must begin with the primal ground of things; every presupposition which we may have cherished from infancy must be abandoned; in a word, we must doubt at every point to which the least uncertainty is attached. We must therefore doubt not only the existence of the objects of sense, since the senses so frequently deceive, but also the truths of mathematics and geometry-for, however evident the proposition may appear that two and three make five, or that the square has four sides, yet we cannot know but what G.o.d may have designedly formed us for erroneous judgments. It is therefore advisable to doubt every thing, in fact to deny every thing, to posit every thing as false.

2. But though we posit every thing as false to which the slightest doubt may be attached, yet we cannot deny one thing, viz., the truth that we, who so think, do exist. But rather from the very fact that I posit every thing as false, that I doubt every thing, is it manifest that I, the doubter, exist. Hence the proposition: I think, therefore I am (_cogito ergo sum_), is the first and most certain position which offers itself to every one attempting to philosophize. Upon this the most certain of all propositions, the certainty of all other knowledge depends. The objection of _Ga.s.sendi_ that the truth of existence follows from any other activity of man as well as from thinking, that I might just as well say: I go to walk, therefore I exist,-has no weight; for, of all my actions, I can be absolutely certain only of my thinking.

3. From the proposition I think, therefore, I am, the whole nature of the mind may be determined. When we examine who we are who hold every thing to be false that is distinct from ourselves, we see clearly that neither extension nor figure, nor any thing which can be predicated of body, but only thought, belongs to our nature. I am therefore only a thinking being, _i. e._ mind, soul, intelligence, reason. Thought is my substance. Mind can therefore be apprehended clearly and completely for itself alone, without any of those attributes which belong to body. Its conception contains nothing of that which belongs to the conception of body. It is therefore impossible to apprehend it through any sensuous representation, or to make an image of it: it apprehends itself only through the pure intelligence.

4. From the proposition _cogito ergo sum_, follows still farther the universal rule of all certainty. I am certain that I am a thinking being, what now is involved in the fact that I am certain of any thing?

Whence comes this certainty? From no other source than the knowledge that this first proposition contains a clear conception of that which I affirm. I know of a certainty that I am, and I know any thing else only when I know it as certainly as I know that I am. Hence I may regard it as a universal rule, that every thing is true which I know clearly and determinately.

5. This rule, however, is only a principle of certainty, not of knowledge and of truth. We apply it therefore to our thoughts or ideas, in order to discover what is objectively true. But our ideas are partly innate, partly acquired, and partly self-originated. Among those of the first cla.s.s we find the idea of a G.o.d. The question arises, whence have we this idea? Manifestly not from ourselves; this idea could only be implanted within us by a being who has the fulness of all perfection in himself, _i. e._ only by an actually existing G.o.d. If I ask now the question, whence have I the faculty to conceive of a nature more perfect than my own? the answer must ever come, that I have it only from him whose nature is actually more perfect. All the attributes of G.o.d, the more I contemplate them, show that their idea could not have originated with myself alone. For though there might be in me the idea of substance because I am a substance, yet I could not of myself have the idea of an infinite substance, since I am finite; such an idea could only be given me through a substance actually infinite. Moreover, we must not think that the conception of the infinite is to be gained through abstraction and negation, as we might gain darkness through the negation of light; but I perceive, rather, that the infinite contains more reality than the finite, and that, therefore, the conception of the infinite must be correspondingly antecedent in me to that of the finite. Since then I have a clear and determined idea of the infinite substance, and since this has a greater objective reality than every other, so is there no other which I have so little reason to doubt. But now since I am certain that the idea of G.o.d has come to me from G.o.d himself, it only remains for me to examine the way in which I have received it from G.o.d. I have never derived it directly nor indirectly from the sense, for ideas through the sense arise only by affecting the external organs of sense; neither have I devised it, for I can neither add to it nor diminish it in any respect,-it must, therefore, be innate as the idea of myself is innate. Hence the first proof we can a.s.sign for the being of a G.o.d is the fact that we find the idea of a G.o.d within us, and that we must have a cause for its being. Again, the being of a G.o.d may be concluded from my own imperfection, and especially from the knowledge of my imperfection. For since I know that there is a perfection which is wanting in me, it follows that there must exist a being who is more perfect than I, on whom I depend and from whom I receive all I possess.-But the best and most evident proof for the being of a G.o.d is, in fine, that which is gained from the conception of a G.o.d. The mind among all its different ideas singles out the chiefest of all, that of the most perfect being, and perceives that this has not only the possibility of existence, _i. e._ accidental existence like all other ideas, but that it possesses necessary existence in itself. And as the mind knows that in every triangle its three angles are equal to two right angles, because this is involved in the very idea of a triangle, so does the mind necessarily infer that necessary existence belongs to the conception of the most perfect being, and that, therefore, the most perfect being actually exists. No other idea which the mind finds within itself contains necessary existence, but from the idea of the highest being existence cannot be separated without contradiction. It is only our prejudices which keep us from seeing this. Since we are accustomed in every thing to separate its conception from its existence, and since we often make ideas arbitrarily, it readily happens, that when we contemplate the highest being we are in doubt whether its idea may not be one also arbitrarily devised, or at least one in whose conception existence does not lie.-This proof is essentially different from that of Thomas (Anselm of Canterbury). His argument was as follows: "If we understand what is indicated by the word G.o.d, it is all that can be conceived of greatness; but now there is actually and in thought more belonging to him than the word represents, and therefore G.o.d exists not only in word (or representation), but in fact." Here the defect in the syllogism is manifest, for from the premise it could only be concluded that G.o.d must therefore be _represented_ as existing in fact, while his actual existence would not follow. My proof on the other hand is this,-we may predicate of a thing what we clearly see belongs to its true and changeless nature, or to its essence, or to its form. But now after we had examined what G.o.d is, we found existence to belong to his true and changeless nature, and therefore may we properly predicate existence of G.o.d. Necessary existence is contained in the idea of the most perfect being, not by a fiction of our understanding but because existence belongs to his eternal and changeless nature.

6. The result just found-the existence of G.o.d-is of the highest consequence. Before attaining this we were obliged to doubt every thing, and give up even every certainty, for we did not know but that it belonged to the nature of the human mind to err, but that G.o.d had created us for error. But so soon as we look at the necessary attributes of G.o.d in the innate idea of him, so soon as we know that he is true, it would be a contradiction to suppose that he would deceive us, or that he could have made us to err; for though an ability to deceive might prove his skill, a willingness to deceive would only demonstrate his frailty.

Our reason, therefore, can never apprehend an object which would not be true so far as the reason apprehended it, _i. e._ so far as it is clearly known. For G.o.d might justly be styled a deceiver if he had given us a reason so perverted as to hold the false for the true. And thus every absolute doubt with which we began is dispelled. From the being of G.o.d we derive every certainty. For every sure knowledge it is only necessary that we have clearly known a thing, and are also certain of the existence of a G.o.d, who would not deceive.

7. From the true idea of G.o.d follow the principles of a philosophy of nature or the doctrine of the two substances. Substance is that which so exists that it needs nothing else for its existence. In this (highest) sense G.o.d is the only substance. G.o.d, as the infinite substance, has his ground in himself, is the cause of himself. The two created substances, on the other hand, the thinking and the corporeal substance, mind and matter, are substances only in a broader sense of the word; they may be apprehended under the common conception that they are things which need only the co-operation of G.o.d for their existence. Each of these two substances has an attribute which const.i.tutes its nature and its essence, and to which all its other determinations may be referred. The attribute and essence of matter is extension, that of mind, thought. For every thing else which can be predicated of body presupposes extension, and is only a mode of extension, as every thing we can find in mind is only a modification of thought. A substance to which thought immediately belongs is called mind, and a substance, whose immediate substratum is extension, is called body. Since thought and extension are distinct from each other, and since mind cannot only be known without the attributes of the body, but is in itself the negation of those attributes, we may say that the essence of these substances is in their reciprocal negation. Mind and body are wholly distinct, and have nothing in common.

8. We pa.s.s by the physics of Descartes, which has only a subordinate philosophical interest, and notice next his views of anthropology. From this dualistic relation between mind and matter, there follows a dualistic relation between soul and body. If matter is essentially extension, and mind essentially thought, and if the two have nothing in common, then the union of soul and body can be conceived only as a mechanical one. The body is to be regarded as an artistic automaton, which G.o.d has made, as a statue or machine formed by G.o.d from the earth.

Within this body the soul dwells, closely but not internally connected with it. The union of the two is only a powerful bringing of the two together, since each is not only an independent factor, but is essentially distinct from and even opposed to the other. The body by itself is a machine fully prepared, in which nothing is changed by the entrance of the thinking soul, except that through it certain motions are secured: the wheel-work of the machine remains as it was. It is only thought which distinguishes this machine from every other; hence, therefore, brutes which are not self-conscious nor thinking, must be ranked with all other machines. From this standpoint arose especially the question concerning the seat of the soul. If body and soul are independent substances, each essentially opposed to the other, they cannot interpenetrate each other, but can touch only at one point when they are powerfully brought together. This point where the soul has its seat, is, according to Descartes, not the whole brain but the pineal gland, a little kernel in the middle of the brain. The proof for this claim, that the pineal gland is the only place where the soul immediately exhibits its energy, is found in the circ.u.mstance that all other parts of the brain are twofold, which should not be in an organ where the soul has its seat, else objects would appear double. There is, therefore, no other place in the body where impressions can be so well united as in this gland. The pineal gland is, therefore, the chief seat of the soul, and the place where all our thoughts are formed.

We have thus developed the fundamental thoughts of the Cartesian system, and will now recapitulate in a few words the features characteristic of its standpoint and historic position. Descartes was the founder of a new epoch in philosophy, _first_, from his postulate of universal freedom from all preconceptions. His protesting against every thing which is not posited by the thought, against taking any thing for granted in respect of the truth, has remained from that time onward the fundamental principle of the new age. _Secondly._ Descartes has brought out the principle of self-consciousness (the mind or the thinking substance is regarded by him as an individual self, a particular Ego)-a new principle, unknown in this view to the ancients. _Thirdly._ Descartes has shown the opposition between being and thought, existence and consciousness, and the mediation of this opposition, which has been the problem of the whole modern philosophy, he first affirmed as the true philosophical problem. But with these ideas, which make an epoch in the history of philosophy, there are at the same time connected the defects of the Cartesian philosophizing. _First._ Descartes gained the content of his system, namely his three substances, empirically. True, the system which begins with a protestation against all existence would seem to take nothing for granted, but to derive every thing from the thinking. But in fact this protesting is not thoroughly carried out.

That which seems to be cast aside is afterwards, when the principle of certainty is gained, taken up again unchanged. And so it happens that Descartes finds at hand not only the idea of G.o.d, but his two substances as something _immediately given_. True, in order to reach them, he abstracts every thing which lies immediately before him, but in the end the two substances are seen as that which remains when all else is abstracted. They are received _empirically_. The _second_ defect is, that Descartes separates so wholly from each other the two sides of the opposition between thought and being. He posits both as "substances,"

_i. e._ as powers, which reciprocally exclude and negate each other. The essence of matter according to him consists _only_ in extension, _i. e._ in the pure being _extra se_ (_Aussersichsein_), and that of mind _only_ in thought, _i. e._ in the pure being _in se_ (_Insichsein_.) The two stand over against each other as centrifugal and centripetal. But with this apprehension of mind and matter, an inner mediation of the two is an impossibility; there must be a powerful act of creation, there must be the divine a.s.sistance in order that the two sides may ever come together, and be united as they are in man. Nevertheless Descartes demands and attempts such a mediation of the two sides. But the impossibility of truly overcoming the dualism of his standpoint is the _third_, and the chief defect of his system. In the proposition "I think, therefore I am," or "I am thinking," the two sides, being and thought, are indeed connected together, but only that they may become fixed independently in respect of each other. If the question is asked, how does the Ego stand related to the extended? the answer can only be: by thinking, _i. e._ negatively, by excluding it. The idea of G.o.d, therefore, is all that remains for the mediation of these two sides. The two substances are created by G.o.d, and through the divine will may be bound together; through the idea of G.o.d, the Ego attains the certainty that the extended exists. G.o.d is therefore in a certain degree a _Deus ex machina_, necessary in order to mediate the conflict of the Ego with the extended. It is obvious how external such a mediation is.

This defect of the Cartesian system operated as an impelling motive to those which succeeded.



1. Mind and matter, consciousness and existence, Descartes had fixed in the farthest separation from each other. Both, with him, are substances, independent powers, reciprocally excluding oppositions. Mind (_i. e._ in his view the simple self, the Ego) he regarded as essentially the abstraction from the sensuous, the distinguishing itself from matter and the separating of matter from itself; matter was essentially the complete opposition to thought. If the relation of these two powers be as has been given, then the question arises, how can there ever be a filiation (_Rapport_) between them? How, on the one hand, can the affections of the body work upon the soul, and on the other hand, how can the volition of the soul direct the body, if the two are absolutely distinct and opposed to each other? At this point, _Arnold Geulincx_ (a disciple of Descartes, born at Antwerp 1625, and died as professor of philosophy at Leyden 1669) took up the Cartesian system, and endeavored to give it a greater logical perfection. According to Geulincx neither the soul works immediately upon the body, nor the body immediately upon the soul. Certainly not the former: for though _I_ can determine and move my body in many respects arbitrarily, yet _I_ am not the cause of this movement; for I know not how it happens, I know not in what manner motion is communicated from my brain to the different parts of my body, and it is impossible that I should do that in respect of which I cannot see how it is done. But if I cannot produce motion in my body, much less can I do this outside of my body. I am therefore simply a contemplator of the world; the only act which is peculiarly mine is contemplation.

But even this contemplation arises in a singular manner. For if we ask how we obtain our observations of the external world, we find it impossible that the external world should directly give them to us. For however much we may say that, _e. g._ in the act of seeing, the external objects produce an image in my eye or an impression in my brain as in wax, yet this impression or picture is after all only something corporeal or material, and cannot therefore come into my mind, which is absolutely distinct from every thing material. There remains, therefore, only that we seek the mediation of the two sides in G.o.d. It is G.o.d alone who can unite the outer with the inner, and the inner with the outer; who can make the outer phenomena to become inner representations or notions of the mind; who can thus bring the world within the mind's observation, and the inner determinations of the will outward into deed.

Hence every working, every act which unites the outer and inner, which brings the mind and the world into connection, is neither a working of the mind nor of the world, but only an immediate working of G.o.d. The movement of my limbs does not follow from my will, but only because it is the will of G.o.d that these movements should follow when I will. My will is an _occasion_ by which G.o.d moves my body-an affection of my body is an _occasion_ by which G.o.d brings within me a representation of the external world: the one is only the occasional cause of the other (hence the name occasionalism). My will, however, does not move G.o.d to move my limbs, but he who has imparted motion to matter and given it its laws, created also my will, and has so connected together the most diverse things, the movement of matter and the arbitrium of my will, that when my will puts forth a volition, such a motion follows as it wills, and the motion follows the volition without any interaction or physical influence exerted by the one upon the other. But just as it is with two clocks which go exactly alike, the one striking precisely as the other, their harmony is not the result of any reciprocal interacting, but follows because both have been fashioned and directed alike,-so is it with the movements of the body and the will, they harmonize only through that exalted artist who has in this ineffable way connected them together. We see from this that Geulincx has carried to its limit the dualistic basis of Descartes. While Descartes called the union of mind and matter a conjunction through power, Geulincx named it a miracle.

There is consequently in this view no immanent, but only a transcendent mediation possible.

2. Closely connected with this view of Geulincx, and at the same time a real consequence and a wider development of the Cartesian philosophizing, is the philosophic standpoint of _Nicolas Malebranche_.

He was born at Paris in 1638, chosen a member of the "_Congregation de l'oratoire_" in his twenty-second year, won over to philosophy through the writings of Descartes, and died, after numerous feuds with theological opposers, in 1715.

Malebranche started with the Cartesian view of the relation between mind and matter. Both are strictly distinct from each other, and in their essence opposed. How now does the mind, (_i. e._ the Ego) gain a knowledge of the external world and have ideas of corporeal things? For it comes to know things only by means of ideas,-not through itself, not immediately. Now the mind can neither gain these ideas from itself, nor from the things themselves. Not from itself, for it is absolutely opposed to the bodily world, and hence has no capacity to idealize, to spiritualize material things, though they must become spiritualized before they can be introduced to the mind; in a word, the mind, which in relation to the material world is only an opposition, has no power to destroy this opposition. Just as little has the mind derived these ideas from things: for matter is not visible through itself, but rather as ant.i.thetic to mind is it that which is absolutely unintelligible, and which cannot be idealized, that which is absolutely without light and clearness.-It only remains, therefore, that the mind beholds things in a third that stands above the opposition of the two, viz., G.o.d. G.o.d, as the absolute substance, is the absolute ideality, the infinite power to spiritualize all things. Material things have no real opposition for G.o.d, to him they are no impenetrable darkness, but an ideal existence; all things are in him spiritually and ideally; the whole world, as intellectual or ideal, is G.o.d. G.o.d is, therefore, the higher mean between the Ego and the external world. In him we behold ideas, we being so strictly united with him, that he may properly be called the place of minds.

The philosophy of Malebranche, whose simple thought is this, that we know and see all things in G.o.d,-shows itself, like the occasionalism of Geulincx, to be a peculiar attempt to stand upon the basis of the Cartesian philosophy, and with its fundamental thought to overcome its dualism.

3. Two defects or inner contradictions have manifested themselves in the philosophy of Descartes. He had considered mind and matter as substances, each one of which excluded the other from itself, and had sought a mediation of the two. But with such conditions no mediation other than an external one is possible. If thought and existence are each one substance, then can they only negate and exclude each other.

Unnatural theories, like those which have been mentioned, are the inevitable result of this. The simplest way out of the difficulty is to give up the principle first a.s.sumed, to strip off their independence from the two opposites, and instead of regarding them as substances, view them as accidents of one substance. This way of escape is moreover indicated by a particular circ.u.mstance. According to Descartes, G.o.d is the infinite substance, the peculiar substance in the proper sense of the word. Mind and matter are indeed substances, but only in relation to each other; in relation to G.o.d they are dependent, and not substances.

This is, strictly taken, a contradiction. The true consequence were rather to say that neither the Ego (_i. e._ the individual thinking) nor the material things are independent, but that this can be predicated only of the one substance, G.o.d; this substance alone has a real being, and all the being which belongs to individual essences these latter possess not as a substantial being, but only as accidents of the one only true and real substance. Malebranche approached this consequence.

With him the bodily world is ideally at least resolved and made to sink in G.o.d, in whom are the eternal archetypes of all things. But _Spinoza_ has most decidedly and logically adopted this consequence, and affirmed the accidence of all individual being and the exclusive substantiality of G.o.d alone. His system is the perfection and the truth of the Cartesian.



Baruch or Benedict Spinoza was born at Amsterdam, Nov. 24, 1632. His parents were Jews of Portuguese descent, and being merchants of opulence, they gave him a finished education. He studied with great diligence the Bible and the Talmud, but soon exchanged the pursuit of theology for the study of physics and the works of Descartes. He early became dissatisfied with Judaism, and presently came to an open rupture with it, though without going over formally to Christianity. In order to escape the persecutions of the Jews, who had excommunicated him, and who even went so far as to make an attempt upon his life, he left Amsterdam and betook himself to Rhynsberg, near Leyden. He finally settled down at the Hague, where he spent his life in the greatest seclusion, devoted wholly to scientific pursuits. He supported himself by grinding optic gla.s.ses, which his friends sold for him. The Elector Palatine, Charles Louis, offered him a Professorship of Philosophy at Heidelberg, with the full permission to teach as he chose, but Spinoza declined the post.

Naturally of a weak const.i.tution, which consumption had for many years been undermining, Spinoza died at the age of 44, on the 21st of February, 1677. In his life there was mirrored the unclouded clearness and exalted serenity of the perfected sage. Abstemious in his habits, satisfied with little, the master of his pa.s.sions, never intemperately sad nor joyous, gentle and benevolent, with a character of singular excellence and purity, he faithfully ill.u.s.trated in his life, the doctrines of his philosophy. His chief work, the _Ethica_, appeared the year of his death. His design was probably to have published it during his life, but the odious report that he was an atheist restrained him.

The friend he most trusted, Louis Mayer, a physician, attended to its publication after the author's death and according to his will.

The system of Spinoza rests upon three fundamental conceptions, from which all the rest may be derived with mathematical necessity. These conceptions are that of substance, of attribute, and of mode.

1. Spinoza starts from the Cartesian conception of substance: substance is that which needs nothing other for its existence. But with such a conception there can exist only one single substance. A number of substances like that of Descartes is necessarily a contradiction. There can be nothing which has a substantial being besides the one substance of all things. This one substance Spinoza calls G.o.d. Of course, with such a view, the Christian idea of G.o.d, the notion of a spiritual and personal being, must be laid aside. Spinoza expressly declares, that his notion of G.o.d is entirely different from that of the Christian; he denied that understanding and will could be predicated of G.o.d; he ridiculed those who supposed that G.o.d worked for an end, and even scorned the view which regarded the world as a product of the Divine willing or thinking. G.o.d is, with him, only substance, and nothing more.

The propositions that there is only one G.o.d, and that the substance of all things is only one, are with him identical.

What now peculiarly is this substance? What is positive being? This question it is very difficult to answer directly from the standpoint of Spinoza, partly because a definition, according to him, must contain (_i. e._ must be genetically) the immediate cause of that which is to be explained, but substance is uncreated and can have no cause besides itself; but prominently because Spinoza held that every determination is a negation, since it must indicate a want of existence, a relative not-being. (_Omnis determinatio est negatio_ is an expression which, though he uses it only occasionally, expresses the fundamental idea of his whole system.) Hence, by setting up any positive determinations of being, we only take away from substance its infinity and make it finite.

When we therefore affirm any thing concerning it, we can only speak negatively, _e. g._ that it has no foreign cause, that it has no plurality, that it cannot be divided, etc. It is even reluctantly that Spinoza declares concerning it that it is one, for this predicate might readily be taken numerically, as implying that others, the many, stood over against it. Thus there can remain only such positive affirmations respecting it as express its absolute reference to itself. In this sense Spinoza says that substance is the cause of itself, _i. e._ its being concludes existence in itself. When Spinoza calls it eternal, it is only another expression for the same thought; for by eternity he understands existence itself, so far as it is conceived to follow from the definition of the thing, in a sense similar to that in which geometricians speak of the eternal properties of figures. Still farther he calls substance infinite, because the conception of infinity expressed to him the conception of true being, the absolute affirmation of existence. So also the expression, G.o.d is free, affirms nothing more than those already mentioned, viz., negatively, that every foreign restraint is excluded from him, and positively, that G.o.d is in harmony with himself, that his being corresponds to the laws of his essence.

The comprehensive statement for the above is, that there is only one infinite substance that excludes from itself all determination and negation, and is named G.o.d, or nature.

2. Besides the infinite substance or G.o.d, Descartes had a.s.sumed two other substances created by G.o.d, viz., mind (thought), and matter (extension). These two Spinoza considers in the light of attributes, though, like Descartes, he receives them empirically. What, now, is the relation of these attributes to the infinite substance? This is the severe question, the tendon-Achilles of Spinoza's system. They cannot be essential forms in which the substance may manifest itself or appear, for this would make them determine the essence of the substance, which would contradict its conception as already given. Substance, as such, is neither understanding nor extension. If, then, the two attributes do not flow out of the essence of the substance, and do not const.i.tute the substance, there remains only one other supposition, viz., that they are externally attached to the substance; and this is, in fact, Spinoza's view. Attribute, according to him, is that which the understanding perceives in the substance as const.i.tuting its essence. But understanding, as Spinoza expressly says, does not belong to substance as such. Attributes, therefore, are those determinations which express the essence of the substance only for the perceiving understanding; since they express the essence of the substance in a determinate way, while substance itself has no determinate way of being, they can only fall outside the substance, viz., in the reflective understanding. To the substance itself it is indifferent whether the understanding contemplate it under these two attributes or not; the substance in itself has an infinity of attributes, _i. e._ every possible attribute which is not a limitation, may be predicated of it; it is only the human understanding which attaches these two attributes to the substance, and it affixes no more than these, because, among all the conceptions it can form, these alone are actually positive, or express a reality. G.o.d, or the substance, is therefore thinking, in so far as the understanding contemplates him under the attribute of thought, and is extended in so far as the understanding contemplates him under the attribute of extension. It is, says Spinoza-using a figure to express this relation of substance to attribute-it is, like a surface reflecting the light, which (objectively taken) may be hot, though, in reference to the man looking upon it, it is white. More accurately substance is a surface, standing opposite to a beholder who can see only through yellow and blue gla.s.ses; to whom, therefore, the surface must appear either yellow or blue, though it is neither the one nor the other.

In relation to substance, therefore, the attributes must be apprehended as entirely independent: they must be conceived through themselves: their conception is not dependent upon that of substance. This is necessarily true; for since the substance can have no determinateness, then the attribute which is its determinate being, cannot be explained from the substance, but only through itself. Only by apprehending the attribute independently can the unity of the substance be maintained.

In relation to each other, the attributes are to be taken as opposites strictly and determinately diverse. Between the bodily and the ideal world there is no reciprocal influence nor interaction: a body can only spring from a body, and an idea can only have an idea for its source.

Hence, therefore, neither the mind can work upon the body nor the body upon the mind. Nevertheless there exists between the two worlds a perfect harmony and an entire parallelism. It is one and the same substance which is conceived under each of the two attributes, and under which one of the two we may contemplate it is indifferent to the substance itself, for each mode of contemplation is equally correct.

From this follows at once the proposition of Spinoza, that the connection of ideas and of things is the same. Hence the solution to the problem of the relation of body and soul, so difficult to find from the Cartesian standpoint, is readily seen from that of Spinoza. Body and soul are one and the same thing, only viewed under different attributes.

Mind is nothing but the idea of body, _i. e._ it is the same thing as body, only that it is viewed under the attribute of thought. In the same way is explained the apparent but not real influence of the body upon the mind, and the mind upon the body. That which, in one point of view is bodily motion, in another is an act of thought. In short, the most perfect parallelism reigns between the world of bodily things and that of ideas.

3. Individual beings, which considered under the attribute of thought are ideas, and under the attribute of extension are bodies, Spinoza comprehends under the conception of accidence, or, as he calls it, mode.

By modes we are therefore to understand the changing forms of substance.

The modes stand related to the substance as the rippling waves of the sea to the water of the sea, as forms constantly disappearing and never having a real being. In fact this example goes too far, for the waves of the sea are at least a part of the water of the sea, while the modes, instead of being parts of the substance, are essentially nothing and without being. The finite has no existence as finite; only the infinite substance has actual existence. Substance, therefore, could not be regarded more falsely than if it should be viewed as made up of modes.

That would be, Spinoza remarks, as if one should say that the line is made up out of points. It is just as false to affirm that Spinoza identifies G.o.d and the world. He identifies them so little that he would rather say that the world, as world, _i. e._ as an aggregate of individuals, does not at all exist; we might rather say with Hegel that he denies the world (his system is an acosmism), than with Bayle, that he makes every thing G.o.d, or that he ascribes divinity to every thing.

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A History of Philosophy in Epitome Part 8 summary

You're reading A History of Philosophy in Epitome. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Albert Schwegler. Already has 152 views.

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