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Critique of Spinoza's Pantheism

Critique of Spinoza's Pantheism

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CRITIQUE OF SPIOZA’S PATHEISMPaul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D. 2011.
Coming from a family of Portugese Jews that had emigrated to Holland at the end of the sixteenth century, the rationalist and pantheist philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born inAmsterdam on November 24th, 1632. Though educated by his parents and community in theOld Testament and the Talmud and the various Jewish traditions, his readings into a number of esoteric Cabalist thinkers, the Renaissance pantheistic monism of the apostate ex-Dominican Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), as well as the inherent immanentism of Cartesianrationalism, made Spinoza reject his Jewish faith altogether for pantheism. In 1656, after openly repudiating his Jewish faith, he was solemnly excommunicated from the synagogue atthe age of twenty-four. In order to support himself he took to grinding lenses for a variety of optical instruments. He led a quiet and reclusive life of study and writing. In 1660 he retiredto Rijnsburg, a small village near Leiden and in 1663 moved to the neighborhood of theHague. In 1673 he was offered a teaching position in philosophy at Heidelberg, which herefused. 1n 1676, already seriously ill with consumption, he was visited by the Germanrationalist philosopher Leibniz (1646-1716), who conversed with Spinoza often and at greatlength, taking a great number of notes from Spinoza’s writings. His consumption having beenaggravated by the inhalation of the glass dust from his optical lenses, Spinoza died of tuberculosis on February 21st, 1677 at the age of 44.Spinoza’s few but influential works include
 A Brief Treatise on God, Man and  Happiness
(written in 1658 but published only two hundred years later), the
 Principles of the Philosophy of Rene Descartes
(published in 1663 under his own name), his
(which appeared anonymously in 1670), and his
 Ethics Demonstrated  According to the Geometical Order 
, together with his
 Political Treatise
and his
Tractatus deemendatione intellectus
(all of which appearing immediately after his death in 1677).
Definition of Pantheism
Pantheism (from the Greek 
, meaning
, and
, meaning
) is the philosophical doctrine which teaches the
identity of God with either a part (partial  pantheism) or the whole (total pantheism) of the world 
. It negates the absolute transcendenceof the infinite God with respect to the finite world. Since God is basically reduced to theworld, which is then divinized, pantheism is, in reality, nothing but a masked atheism (a“crypto,” that is, hidden, atheism).
Pantheism’s most famous exponents include Spinoza andthe nineteenth century absolute idealist Hegel (who are both classified as total pantheists).Pantheism is popular today in the various New Age philosophies.
“Pantheism is nothing else but atheism,” declares the atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his
 Parergaund Paralipomena
is nothing else but
. The 19th century atheist LudwigFeuerbach, in fact, admitted that the pantheist Spinoza was really an atheist, writing: “The Christian philosophers and theologians reproached Spinoza with
 And justifiably so
:… A God who performs nomiracles, who produces no effects differing from the effects of nature, and who thus does not show himself to bea being distinct from nature is in fact
 simply not 
Geschichte der neueren Philosophievon Bacon von Verulam bis Benedikt Spinoza
, vol. 3, Stuttgart, 1906, p. 383).
Spinoza’s Concept of Substance and God as “Causa Sui”
point of departure for his pantheist monism is the clear idea of substance.In fact, his entire philosophical system is based on his novel understanding of substance.
Studies on Spinoza: H. H. JOACHIM,
 A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza
, Clarendon, Oxford, 1901 ; E.GILSON,
Spinoza interprète de Descartes
, La Haye, 1923 ; R. P. MCKEON,
The Philosophy of Spinoza: TheUnity of His Thought 
, Longmans, Green, New York, 1928 ; L. ROTH,
, Benn, London, 1929 ; H.WOLFSON,
The Philosophy of Spinoza
, 2 vols., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1934 ; H. H.JOACHIM,
Tractatus de intellectus emendatione:
 A Commentary
, Oxford University Press, Oxford,1940 ; S. HAMPSHIRE,
, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1954 ; G. H. R. PARKINSON,
Spinoza’s Theoryof Knowledge
, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1954 ; J. DUNNER,
 Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy
, ThePhilosophical Library, New York, 1955 ; H. F. HALLETT,
 Benedictus Spinoza: The Elements of His Philosophy
, Oxford University Press, New York, 1957 ; D. BIDNEY,
The Psychology and Ethics of Spinoza
,Yale University Press, New Haven, 1960 ; P. DI VONA,
Studi sull’ontologia di Spinoza
, 2 vols., La NuovaItalia, Florence, 1960-1969 ; H. H. JOACHIM,
 A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza
, Russell & Russell, New York,1964 ; C. DE DEUGD,
The Significance of Spinoza’s First Kind of Knowledge
, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1966 ; H.G. HUBBELING,
Spinoza’s Methodology
, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1967 ; A. NAESS,
Creation and Cognition inSpinoza’s Theory of Affects
, University of Oslo Press, Oslo, 1967 ; C. GALLICET CALVETTI,
Spinoza. I  presupposti teoretici dell’irenismo etico
, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1968 ; E. M. CURLEY,
Spinoza’sMetaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation
, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969 ; J. A. WOLFSON,
The Philosophy of Spinoza
, 2 vols., Schoken, New York, 1969 ; T. C. MARK,
Spinoza’s Theory of Truth
,Columbia University Press, New York, 1972 ; R. SAW,
The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza
, Russell & Russell, New York, 1972 ; S. P. KASHAP (ed.),
Studies in Spinoza: Critical and Interpretive Essays
, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1973 ; E. E. HARRIS,
Salvation from Despair: A Reappraisal of Spinoza’s Philosophy
, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973 ; M. GRENE (ed.),
Spinoza: A Collection
of Critical Essays
, Doubleday-Anchor Press, Garden City, NY, 1973 ; K. JASPERS,
, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1974 ; G. GIULIETTI,
Spinoza: la sua vita, il suo pensiero
, Treviso,Canova, 1974 ; S. BRETON,
, Cittadella, Assisi, 1975 ; P. DI VONA,
 Baruch Spinoza
, La Nuova Italia,Florence, 1975 ; A. NAESS,
 Freedom, Emotion and Self-Subsistence: The Structure of a Central Part of Spinoza’s Ethics
, University of Oslo Press, Oslo, 1975 ; E. FREEMAN and M. MANDELBAUM (eds.),
Spinoza: Essays in Interpretation
, Open Court, LaSalle, IL, 1975 ; C. MORALES,
 Baruch Spinoza: Tratadoteológico-politico
, Colección Crítica Filosófica, EMESA, Madrid, 1976 ; J. B. WILBUR (ed.),
Spinoza’sMetaphysics: Essays in Critical Appreciation
, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1976 ; G. CAMPANA,
 Liberazione e salvezza dell’uomo in Spinoza
, Città Nuova, Rome, 1978 ; R. W. SHAHAN and J. I. BIRO (eds.),
Spinoza: ew Perspectives,
University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1978 ; C. VINTI,
 La filosofia come “vitaemeditatio”: una lettura di Spinoza
, Città Nuova, Rome, 1979 ; M. GRENE (ed.),
Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays
, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1979 ; P. WIENPAHL,
The Radical Spinoza
, New York University Press, New York, 1979 ; R. KENNINGTON (ed.),
The Philosophy of Baruch
,Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1980 ; A. GUZZO,
 Il pensiero di Spinoza
, La NuovaItalia, Florence, 1980 ; F. MIGNINI,
 Introduzione a Spinoza
, Laterza, Bari, 1983 ; H. A. WOLFSON,
The Philosophy of Spinoza: Unfolding the Latent Process of His Reasoning 
, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,MA, 1983 ; J. BENNETT,
 A Study of Spinoza’s ‘Ethics,’ 
Hackett, Indianapolis, 1984 ; R. J. DELAHUNTY,
, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1985 ; M. GRENE and D. NAILS (eds.),
Spinoza and the Sciences
,Reidel, Dordrecht, 1986 ; F. ALQUIÉ,
 Il razionalismo di Spinoza
, Milan, 1987 ; H. ALLISON,
 Benedict deSpinoza:
 An Introduction
, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1987 ; P. MARTINETTI,
, Bibliopolis, Naples, 1987 ; A. DONAGAN,
, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988 ; E. CURLEY,
 Behind theGeometrical Method:
 A Reading of Spinoza’s Ethics
, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1988 ; R.DIODATO,
Sub specie aeternitas: luoghi dell’ontologia spinoziana
, CUSL, Milan, 1990 ; E. CURLEY and P.-F. MOREAU (eds.),
Spinoza: Issues and Directions
, Brill, Leiden, 1990 ; E. G. BOSCHERINI,
Che cosa havermente detto Spinoza
, Ubaldini, Rome, 1991 ; E. G. BOSCHERINI,
 Baruch Spinoza
, Editori Riuniti, Rome,1991 ; V. CHAPPELL (ed.),
 Baruch de Spinoza
, Garland Publishing, New York, 1992 ; G. LLOYD,
 Part of  ature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics
, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1994 ; P. CRISTOFOLINI,
Spinoza per tutti
, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1993 ; D. GARRETT (ed.),
The Cambridge Companion to
,Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995 ; H. DE DIJN,
Spinoza: The Way to Wisdom
, Purdue UniversityPress, West Lafayette, IN, 1996 ; G. LLOYD,
Spinoza and the ‘Ethics,’ 
Routledge, London, 1996 ; M. DELLAROCCA,
 Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza
, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996 ; R.MASON,
The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study
, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999 ; J.CARRIERO,
On the Relationship Between Mode and Substance in
Spinoza’s Metaphysics
, in
The Rationalists:
 3Though he accepts the Cartesian definition of substance
as “a thing which exists in such away that it does not need any other thing in order to exist,”
Spinoza rejects Descartes’dualism of substance into
res cogitans
(thought) and
res extensa
(extension), which he thinksis inconsistent, since he interprets the Cartesian definition of substance in a wholly monisticand pantheistic sense: substance can only be One (wherein essence is identified withexistence), and this One Substance can apply only to “God” (which he identifies with Nature). Spinoza’s own definition of substance is the following: “By substance I understandthat which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing from which it must be formed.”
Now,the One Substance (which is the ultimate and supreme foundation, without need for havingrecourse to some ulterior foundation) is, for Spinoza, self-foundational, that is, “Cause of Itself” (
causa sui
). This reality, he says, cannot be conceived but as existing necessarily(God’s essence and existence necessarily are identical), and as Substance is “that which is initself and is conceived through itself,” that is, that which in order to exist and in order to be
Critical Essays on Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz 
, edited by D. Pereboom, Rowman & Littlefield, New York,1999, pp. 131-164 ; M. GULLAN-WHUR,
Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza
, St. Martin’s Press, New York,2000 ; D. STEINBERG,
On Spinoza (Wadsworth Philosophers Series)
, Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, CA,2000 ; G. LLOYD (ed.),
Spinoza: Critical Assessments
, 4 vols., Routledge, London, 2001 ; S. NADLER,
Spinoza: A Life
, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001 ; R. SCRUTON,
Spinoza: A Very Short  Introduction
, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002 ; R. H. POPKIN,
Spinoza (Oneworld Philosophers)
,Oneworld Publications, London, 2004 ; S. M. NADLER,
Spinoza’s Heresy:
 Immortality and the Jewish Mind 
,Oxford University Press, New York, 2004 ; S. HAMPSHIRE,
Spinoza and 
, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005 ; J. CARRIERO,
Spinoza on Final Causality
, in
Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy
,vol. 2, edited by D. Garber and S. Nadler, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2005, pp. 105-148 ; R. MASON,
Spinoza: Logic, Knowledge and Religion
, Ashgate, Farnham, 2007 ; S. DEVEAUX,
The Role of God in
, Continuum, London, 2007 ; M. DELLA ROCA,
Spinoza (The Routledge Philosophers)
,Routledge, London, 2008 ; O. KOISTINEN (ed.),
The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza’s Ethics
, CambridgeUniversity Press, Cambridge, 2009 ; M. LEBUFFE,
 From Bondage to Freedom: Spinoza on Human Excellence
,Oxford University Press, New York, 2010 ; F. L. DIXON,
Spinoza’s God 
, Alondra Press, Houston, 2010 ; C.HUENEMANN (ed.),
 Interpreting Spinoza: Critical Essays
, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010.
Descartes’ definition of substance “introduces an absolute independence into the notion of substance as suchwhich is applicable only to the substance of God”(C. HART,
Thomistic Metaphysics: An Inquiry Into the Act of  Existing 
, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1959, p. 190). The founder of modern philosophy’s definition of substance is erroneous, since substance can be applied either to God (Infinite Substance, in whom essence andact of being are identified. Cf.
 De Potentia Dei
, q. 1, a. 1) or to contingent beings (finite substances, whereinessence and act of being are really distinct) which have been created and are preserved in existence by theInfinite Being God. Naturally, God does not come under the genus substance. We are not referring to predicamental or categorical substance (God is not substance understood predicamentally or categorically),which involves univocal predication and is applicable only among finite beings. Rather, we are referring to non- predicamental substance (which involves analogical predication) when we refer to the Infinite Substance God, inwhom
are identical. Holloway explains: “In Thomistic metaphysics, which is concerned primarily with the act of to be, substance, as that whose essence requires existence in itself, is identified withessence: therefore it may be a limiting principle for the act of to be which is received into it, or it may beunlimiting if the very essence or substance is simply to be. Such an essence or substance is then identical withthe act of existing. In the first case, the substance is in the category or predicament of substance, a supremegenus, one of the ten modes of existence in a finite being. In this way, substance itself as a genus is, of course, predicated in the same manner (or univocally) of the various species of substance. In the second case, substanceis not predicamental, but transcends all categories or predicaments of being and is as wide as being itself in thefull and proper sense of that term. In this way, it is strictly a kind of transcendental of being, because it is predicable analogically of Infinite as well as finite being. That is why St. Thomas says: God alone is Pure Act.Therefore only the substance of God is its ‘to be’ and ‘to act’’(
Summa Theologiae
, I, q. 54, a. 1). Here we haveone of the most important contributions of Thomistic metaphysics to the precise nature of substance by putting itinto relation with the true and proper notion of being as not simply an essence but as an essence whose act is to be”(C. HART,
op. cit 
., pp. 185-186).
 Principia philosophica
, I, no. 51.
 Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometrical Order 
, I, d. 3.

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