maandag 30 oktober 2017

Dossier “interpreteren van 1/17s” - 3. R.J. Delahunty behandelt de redenering van Spinoza in 1/17s


Op zoek naar informatie over het “axioma”nam causatum differt a sua causa praecise in eo, quod a cause habet” [cf. vorige blog] i.v.m. Descartes kwam ik het boek van Delahunte tegen. Hij geeft niet precies de informatie waarnaar ik op zoek ben, maar geeft wel een uitvoerige en kritische behandeling van Spinoza’s redenering in 1/17s .

R.J. Delahunty, Spinoza. Series: The Arguments of the Philosophers. Routledge & Kegan Paul, Boston, 1985, reprints 1999, 2010,
geeft in
§ “2. The Divine Mind” een kritische beschouwing over de redenering van Spinoza in 1/17s [cf.]).

Ik neem deze hier graag over. Hiermee hebben we, naast die van Alexandre Koyré en Charles Jarrett [cf. blog] een derde uitvoerige exegese van 1/17s  

2 The Divine mind

Orthodoxy had separated God from Nature, but it did not interdict all commerce between them. On the contrary, it saw God's mind and power at work everywhere in the Universe. But the principle bond between God and the world, and the bond that made all other ties possible, was the fact that God was the Creator of Nature. Originating in the creation-narrative in Genesis, this view had been systematised and defended by many notable thinkers. But Spinoza, as we have seen, was committed to rejecting it. For him, as later for proponents of Darwinism, the belief in the Genesis account presented a massive obstacle to the advance of science and of reason. He devoted much effort to subverting it, as a reading of the Short Treatise, the Cogitata Metaphysica, and Ethics I will show. In what follows, I shall examine some of his most fundamental criticisms of Creationism. It is not too much to say that, in studying Spinoza's critique of this part of Theology, we can see the naturalistic world outlook struggling to emerge (Strauss, p. 127).

Let us try to state what Creationism held. As Spinoza represents it, it maintains that God brought the universe of minds and bodies into being ex nihilo, and not from any preexisting matter. His creative act involved the exercise of the Divine intellect, which shaped His plan, and the Divine will, which ordained its execution. His will to create the Universe occurred freely and without constraint, and He acted for ends which were His own. The Universe therefore exists contingently, and the assumption that it is not contingent implies the denial of God's perfection and omnipotence. If we follow the standard calculations, we must date the origin of the Universe to approximately 4004 B.C.: at any rate, it had a beginning in time.

In Spinoza's criticism of this theory, nearly all the major themes of his philosophy are announced. In this and the sections which follow, I discuss five aspects of his critique. First, there are his objections to the claim that God has both an intellect and a will; second, there is his effort to reconcile belief in God's omnipotence with denial of the contingency of the Universe; third, there is the question whether the Universe had a beginning in time; fourth, comes the rejection of free will in God; and last, there is the attack on final causes, the denial that God acts for certain ends. Putting these together, we have one of the most determined assaults ever made on religion in the name of philosophy.

We begin with the first issue. In E I, 17S, Spinoza appoints himself the task of proving that 'neither intellect nor will pertain to the nature of God'. The promised demonstration appears later in the scholium, when he writes:

To say a word, too, here about the intellect and will which we commonly attribute to God—if intellect and will pertain to His eternal essence, these attributes cannot be understood in the sense in which men generally use them (aliud sane per utrumque hoc attributum intelligendum est, quam quod vulgo solent homines), for the intellect and will which could constitute His essence would have to differ entirely from our intellect and will (toto caelo di-fferre deberent), and could resemble ours in nothing except in name (nec in ulla re, praeterquam in nomine, convenire possent). There could be no further likeness than that between the celestial constellation of the Dog (Canis, signum caeleste) and the animal which barks (canis, animal latrans). This I will demonstrate as follows. If intellect pertains to the Divine nature, it cannot, like our intellect, follow the things which are its object (as many suppose), nor can it be simultaneous in its nature with them, since God is prior to all things in causality (El, I6C1); but, on the contrary, the truth and formal essence of things is what it is, because as such it exists objectively in God's intellect. Therefore the intellect of God, insofar as it is conceived to constitute His essence, is in truth the cause of things, both of (heir essence and of their existence—a truth which seems to have been understood by those who have maintained that God's intellect, will and power are one and the same thing. Since, therefore, God's intellect is the sole cause of things, both of their essence and of their existence (as we have already shown), it must necessarily differ from them with regard both to its essence and existence; for an effect differs from its cause precisely in that which it has from its cause (nam causatum differt a sua causa praecise in eo, quod a cause habet). For example, one man is the cause of the existence but not of the essence of another, for the essence is an eternal truth; and therefore with regard to existence they must differ. Consequently if the existence of one should perish, that of the other would not therefore perish; but if the essence of one could be destroyed and become false, the essence of the other would be likewise destroyed. Therefore a thing which is the cause both of the essence and of the existence of any effect must differ from that effect both with regard to its essence and with regard to its existence. But the intellect of God is the cause both of the essence and existence of our intellect; therefore the intellect of God, so far as it is conceived to constitute the Divine essence, differs from our intellect both with regard to its essence and its existence, nor can it coincide with our intellect in anything except the name, which is what we essayed to prove. The same demonstration may be applied to the will, as anyone may easily see for himself.

It is important to see that Spinoza is not conceding that intellect and will belong to the nature or essence of God in even a remote sense; it is stated roundly that 'neither intellect nor will pertain to the nature of God'; and the demonstration is designed to prove the conditional proposition that if they belonged to God's nature, then even so His intellect and will would have nothing in common with ours save the name (Gueroult I, pp. 562-3). If it is necessary that intellect and will belong to a thing's nature in order that the thing should be a person, then Spinoza's God is not a person:

Was soll mir euer Hohn
Uber das All and Eine?
Der Professor ist eine Person,
Gott ist keine.                                      *)

How is this result proved? Assuming, of course, that intellect and will do pertain to God's nature, Spinoza says, it is the case that (i) the Divine intellect, insofar as it is conceived to constitute the essence of God, is the cause both of the essence and of the existence of all things. Consequently, (ii) it is the cause of the essence and existence of our intellect. But (iii) an effect differs from its cause precisely in that which it has from its cause. So (iv) the Divine intellect, conceived of as constituting the Divine essence, differs from our intellect in both essence and existence. And this, in turn, supports the conclusion that (v) the Divine intellect has nothing in common with our intellect except the name.

As so often in Spinoza, the implicit target of the argument is not easy to identify; I conjecture that it was Descartes. In the Replies to the Second Set of Objections, Descartes wrote that 'the idea which we have of the Divine intellect does not seem to me to differ from that which we have of our own intellect, save only as the idea of an infinite number differs from the idea of a binary or ternary number' (H.R. H, p. 36). (For Spinoza's related struggle with Maimonidcs, see Strauss, pp. 151-4.)

How effective is the reasoning? Premiss (i) can be taken to mean that an intellect which belonged to God's nature or essence would not be 'receptive', as human intellects are, but `creative' (Barker, p. 115). And that in turn can be read to mean that if such an intellect belonged to God, then it would he the case that for any ‘p' such that it is a fact that p, then ‘p' because God's intellect understands that p. (This contrasts with the human intellect, of which it cannot he said that its understanding a fact causes that fact to hold.) Spinoza could have derived this premiss from Descartes himself who, in a letter of 2 May 1644, praises St Augustine's prayer, 'Truths are so because you see them to be so' (Kenny Letters, p. 151).

Suppose next that it belongs to our intellect to have essence F Then we can deduce, by means of (i), that our intellect has essence F because God's intellect understands it to have F—or more loosely, that our intellect has F because of God's intellect. (In a similar way, we can deduce that our intellect exists because of God's intellect.) That gives us step (ii). But now, by (iii), it seems to follow that our intellect differs from God's in essence (and in existence)—which is what (iv) asserts. To reach (v), however, we need an extra, unstated premiss. It will not do to say that (vi) if X and Y differ in essence (and existence), then X and Y cannot both be ‘ф' in the same sense. For a man and a horse, Spinoza says, differ in (specific) essence (E III, 57S)—as, presumably, they do in existence; and yet both can unequivocally be called 'animal'. Instead of (vi), we need something like (vii): if it is the specific essence of X to be ф, then if Y differs in specific essence from X, Y cannot be called 'ф’ in the same sense as X. And this will give us (v), or something very close to it.

Thus far, then, the reasoning appears to be successful. But let us turn our attention to the causal axiom announced in (iii). At a first approximation, this seems to mean that if X causes Y to be ф, then X and Y differ in respect of фness. But how do they differ? Not, surely, in that one is ф and the other not-ф: in the example Spinoza gives, both the man who imparts existence, and the man who receives it from him, are in existence. They 'differ' in that it is possible for one to cease to exist without the other's ceasing to do so (cp. VI, 3 (A)). Perhaps then (iii) might be formulated as: if X causes Y to be ф, then if X is ф, it is possible for X (F) to cease to be ф, without Y's (X’s) also ceasing to be ф.

On this construal, the claim that God's intellect differs from our in essence amounts to saying: if God's intellect has essence F then it could cease to have F without our intellect's ceasing to have F and conversely. But why should that show that the predicate `... has essence F' cannot be ascribed in the same sense to God's intellect and to ours? In the illustration, the one man 'differs' from the other in existence in just the way that God's intellect 'differs' from ours in essence, but it scarcely follows that the one man 'exists' in a radically different sense from the other.

Premiss (vii), however, remains plausible. But that is only because it uses the phrase `differing in essence' in a quite separate meaning. A river bank and the branch of Barclays in the Market Place differ in specific essence, and if both are called 'banks', that does not signify that they have a common nature—the term is just being used equivocally. If God's intellect differed in specific essence from ours, as the Tyne bank differs from the branch of Barclays, then indeed it would be only equivocally that the two things could be called `intellects', or be said to have such-and-such an essence in common. But Spinoza has done nothing to prove the [that] the Divine intellect and the human differ in specific essence. He has shown only that if God's intellect has the essence which it causes ours to have, then the one could cease to have that essence without necessitating that the other also ceased to have it. When Descartes compared the human and the Divine intellects to a binary or ternary and to 'an infinite number', he was assuming that the former, like the latter, were the same in specific essence. That may be untrue of infinite intellects, as well as of 'infinite numbers', but Spinoza has not proved it to be so. The fallacy which Spinoza committed may have been encouraged by his nominalism (cf. III, 2; III, 7). For although he himself uses the term 'essence (essentia)’ to cover the same ground as 'specific essence' (as at E III, 57S), he wants to maintain that there are no common essences or natures, only individual ones. (Thus in Ep. 2 he denies that 'humanity' or 'human nature' is anything real.) When he says that a begetter and his begotten differ in essence, what he asserts is true, if all essences are individual. But this difference in essence cannot entail that no specific terms can be applied to both without equivocation. If it did, then specific terms would effectively be banished from the language. For by that account, it would be invalid to reason: 'Abraham was a man; Isaac was a man; so there is something which both Abraham and Isaac were'. On the extreme nominalistic view, that would be like reasoning: 'That star is a Dog ("Canis”); Rover is a dog ("canis”); so there is something which both Rover and that star are'.

*) Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Zahme Xenien, 7 [»Deine Werke zu höchster Belehrung] cf.

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