You are on page 1of 28

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. LXVII, No.

2, September 2003

Spinozas Proof of Necessitarianism


OLLI KOISTINEN

University of Turku

This paper consists of four sections. The first section considers what the proof of necessitarianism in Spinozas system requires. Also in the first section, Jonathan Bennetts (1984) reading of lp16 as involving a commitment to necessitarianism is presented and accepted. The second section evaluates Bennetts suggestion how Spinoza might have been led to conclude necessitarianism from his basic assumptions. The third section of the paper is devoted to Don Garretts (1991) interpretation of Spinozas proof. I argue that Bennetts and Garretts interpretations of Spinozas necessitarianism have shortcomings which justify an attempt to offer an alternative proof. In the proof given in the fourth section, it is argued that Spinoza derived necessitarianism from the conjunction of the following principles: (i) necessary existence of the substances; (ii) substance-property ontology; (iii) superessentialism; and (iv) the no shared attribute thesis.

Introduction
In the Ethics lp29, Spinoza states his necessitarianism uncompromisingly:
In nature there is nothing contingent, but all things have been determined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.

In recent Spinoza scholarship, much less attention has been paid to Spinozas proof of necessitarianism than to the consistency of his modal theory. I believe Spinoza is a necessitarian and that sufficient work has been done to show that necessitarianism is consistent with his basic metaphysics. In this paper, my aim is to give a reconstruction of Spinozas proof of necessitarianism which, I hope, explains some problems in the texts better than some well-argued interpretations offered in the literature. In the first section, I consider what the proof of necessitarianism in Spinozas system requires. Further, in the first section, Jonathan Bennetts
I

Translations are from Curleys The Collected Works ofSpinoza, vol. 1. I have used the following method in refemng to the Ethics: the first arabic number identifies the part of the Ethics, the letter after that specifies whether a proposition, p, definition, d, or axiom, a, is intended. The number after these letters tells which proposition, definition or axiom is referred to. If these numbers are followed by letters, then s means scholium and c corollary. For example, lp16cI refers to the first corollary of the sixteenth proposition of the first part of the Ethics. Don Garrett (1991) has convincingly argued that Spinoza is consistently a necessitarian. See also Koistinen (1998).
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

283

(1984) reading of lp16 as involving a commitment to necessitarianism is presented and accepted. In the second section, Bennetts suggestion how Spinoza might have been led to conclude necessitarianism from his basic assumptions is evaluated. The third section is devoted to Don Garretts (1991) suggestion about the role of perfection in Spinozas necessitarianism. It is argued that the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes cannot be solved by appealing to a principle of perfection in the way Garrett suggests. It has been argued that the principle of perfection is applicable only if it can be shown that among the apparently possible alternative series of modes there must be one that is the most perfect. However, it seems that no such argument can be given if internally consistent alternative series of modes are assumed. In the fourth section, Spinozas necessitarianism is looked from a new perspective. Here it is argued that the basic assumptions Spinoza needed to reach necessitarianism were the following: (i) necessary existence of substances; (ii) substance-property ontology; (iii)superessentialism; (iv) the no shared attribute t h e ~ i s . ~

It is also claimed that when Spinozas proof of necessitarianism is seen in this way, the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes can be solved. As Diane Steinberg (1981) suggests, Spinozas view of God as the perfect being, or an absolutely infinite being, is conceptually tied to the existence of all possible modes. Thus, the question about necessitarianism can be seen to bounce back to Spinozas proof of the existence of God. It is claimed that Spinoza proves the perfection of any substance in all of its attributes in lp8, and that in this proof Spinozas appeal to superessentialism eliminates the threat posed by the apparently possible alternative series of finite modes. In the fourth section, it is also argued that Spinozas view about the causal isolatedness of substances justifies the addition of superessentialism as an implicit premise in his argument for necessitarianism. Thus, I hope that this paper can be seen as developing necessitarian readings of Spinoza.
1. Spinozas commitment to necessitarianism 1.1. What Spinoza has to prove
I interpret Spinoza as a substance-property ontologist which means that he holds that besides substances and properties there is n ~ t h i n g Necessitarian.~
The expression

no shared attribute thesis i s used by Bennett (1984, 66)

284 OLLI KOISTINEN

ism holds in a substance-property ontology if and only if (i) each substance is a necessary existent (or exists by necessity when it exists) and (ii) for all substances x, if at time t the substance x has the property of being F, then x necessarily has F at t. Because Spinoza is a substance monist what he has to prove is that his only substance God exists necessarily and that God has all its properties necessarily. Spinoza attributes necessary existence to God in l p l 1. God exists necessarily because God is a substance and because each substance by lp7 necessarily exists. According to Spinoza, substances have to exist by necessity because they are independent. Their existence cannot be caused by anything external to them, nor can anything prevent them from existing. From this Spinoza, apparently relying on the principle of sufficient reason, concludes that each substance must be a necessary existent. Spinoza divides the properties of the substance into attributes and modes. Attributes are conceived through themselves. They are, as Bennett (1984, 61) puts it, basic ways of being. Because of their basicness, attributes are essential to their substances. For Spinoza, modes are always modes of some attribute through which they are conceived. Modes are divided into infinite and finite modes. Finite modes are particular things having spatio-temporal limits to their existence. Infinite modes are pervasive and eternal features of the substance; things that have no spatio-temporal limits to their existence. Because each mode is necessarily a mode of some attribute, Spinozas necessitarianism requires that each attribute is perfect, or full, i.e. that if m is a possible mode of an attribute A, then m is in A. The focus of this paper lies in giving a plausible explanation of why Spinoza thought that each attribute must be perfect.

1.2. lp16 as the basis of Spinoza s necessitarianism


As Bennett (1984) and Garrett (1991) have argued, Spinoza seems to commit himself to necessitarianism in lp16:
From the necessity of the divine nature there must follow infinitely many things in infinitely many modes, (i.e., everything which can fall under an infinite intellect.)

In lp17s, Spinoza claims that he has shown in lp16 that

According to Spinoza, everything that there is, is in itself or in something else (lal). It is plausible to hold that those things that are in something else are properties, whereas those things that are in themselves are substances (ld3, ldS). Edwin Curley (1969) has argued that Spinoza should not be viewed as a substance-property ontologist. However, Charles Jarrett (1977, 92-93) and John Carrier0 (1995) have argued persuasively against Curleys interpretation. See also Koistinen (1991, 61-69). Spinoza states his version of the principle of sufficient reason in l p l ld2 as follows: For each thing there must be assigned a cause, or reason, as much for its existence as for its nonexistence. I have considered Spinozas ontological argument for the necessary existence of substances in Koistinen (1991).

SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

285

from Gods supreme power, or infinite nature, infinitely many things in infinitely many modes, i.e., all things, have necessarily flowed, or always follow, by the same necessity and in the same way as from the nature of a triangle it follows, from eternity and to eternity, that its three angles are equal to two right angles.

Because it is plausible to assume that the relation between the nature of the triangle and the truth that its three angles are equal to two right angles is that of logical entailment, it is also natural to hold that according to Spinoza the relation between the nature of God and anything that exists is that of logical entailment. But because Spinoza thought that Gods nature is necessarily instantiated, it follows that everything necessarily follows from something that necessarily exists. However, the following inference schema, where 0 stands for it is necessary that ... and P j Q for If P, then Q, is valid:

Thus, lp16, as it is rephrased in lp17s, seems to support the necessity of all truths.6 Bennett (1984, 122) has considered lp16 in detail. What lp16 says depends, of course, on how its antecedent A: The necessity of divine nature and its consequent B: Everything which can fall under an infinite intellect are interpreted. Bennett gives two readings of both A and B: A l : Necessary truths about the universe. A2: All truths about the universe.
B 1: Totality of truths.

B2: Totality of all possible truths.


~~ ~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~ ~

However, it is not quite evident that the passage from lp17s says that everything that there is follows by necessity from Gods nature. If all things follow from the nature of God.. i s interpreted as saying that all things that follow from the nature of God, follow . by necessity from the nature of God..., then lp17s is consistent with there being entities that do not follow from the nature of God.

286 OLLI KOISTINEN

Bennett says that it is natural to take A as meaning A1 and of B2 he says that Spinoza sometimes uses the notion of an infinite or unlimited intellect to express the notion of what is possible. Thus, it is plausible to interpret lp16 as meaning that the totality of all possible truths follows from necessary truths; i.e. it is plausible to interpret lp16 as saying that (1) A1 +B2. However, Bennett shows that also the alternatives
(2) A2+B2

and
(3) A l j B l
say that the actual world is the only possible world. That (2) says that the actual world is the only possible world can be seen as follows: Suppose q is a possible truth. Now, if a possible truth q is entailed by a truth, then q is true. Thus, it follows from (2) that all possible truths are true. Suppose now that a proposition is false in the actual world. Because it is false in the actual world, it is not a possible truth, i.e. its truth must be an impossibility. But an impossibility cannot be true in any world and, therefore, the set of truths in the actual world is identical to the set of truths in any other world. But what this means is just that the actual world is the only possible world. It is easy to see that also (3) involves a commitment to necessitarianism. What (3) says is that all truths are entailed by necessary truths. Suppose now that a proposition p is false in the actual world. From this it follows that its negation -p is true in the actual world. Thus, -p must be entailed by necessary truths and must, therefore, be necessary. However, the necessity of -p means the impossibility of p. Thus, if a proposition is false in the actual world, there is no world where it is true, and this says that the actual world is the only possible world. Of the alternative interpretations of A and B considered here, lp16 only as A2+B1 allows contingency. However, A 2 3 B 1 is a trifling tautology and it makes no sense to interpret Spinoza as intending that by lp16. So, it seems that there is excellent evidence for the view that Spinoza endorses necessitarianism in 1 ~ 1 6 . ~

Naturally, there are other interpretations of lp16 which allow contingency. Margaret Wilson (1983), for example, limits the scope of everything in everything that falls under the infinite intellect to infinite modes and to formal essences. Of Wilsons interpretation, see Koistinen (1998, note 24).

SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

287

2. Bennett and the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes


2.1. Bennetts view
Bennett concentrates on the modal status about truths of finite modes. There is no problem in Spinozas system about treating truths about infinite modes as necessary, because as infinite they derive their status as necessary truths either from being entailed by the absolute nature of God or by something that is entailed by the absolute nature of God. However, truths about finite modes create a problem. Finite modes cannot follow from the absolute nature of Gcd or from something that follows from the absolute nature of God, because from those nothing but infinite modes follow.s Now, Spinoza believes that instead of following from Gods absolute nature, finite modes follow from Gods nature insofar as that nature is modified by finite modifications. And what this means is simply that each finite thing is caused by some other finite thing:
lp28 Every singular thing, or any thing which is finite and has a determinate existence, can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exist and produce an effect by another cause, which is also finite and has a determinate existence; and again, this cause also can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exist and produce an effect by another, which is also finite and has a determinate existence, and so on, to infinity.

But it seems that if lp28 is the whole story about the generation of finite things, Spinozas system allows the existence of contingent truths. Bennett (1984, 74-75) points out that what lp28 entails about the modal status of every finite thing is that it is inevitable in the sense that: Given the previous history of the world, it could not possibly have not happened exactly as it did happen. But on the other hand, as Bennett shows, there is a logical gap between inevitability and necessity: suppose that e is a singular thing which exists in an infinite causal series W. e exists necessarily only if the infinite causal series W itself exists necessarily. But causal determinism between singular things does not necessitate the existence of the causal series of which singular things are parts; causal determinism between finite things does not show that the world must have the complete history it has. It seems that Spinoza should somehow show that there are no alternatives to the infinite causal series of the actual world. Thus, there is a problem that could be

See lp28d and lp21. Here it might be objected that the necessary existence of W is not required by es necessary existence. It must also be shown that it is essential for e to exist in W. However, this follows directly from the conjunction of (i) Spinozas causal axiom la4 according to which the knowledge of an effect depends on and involves the knowledge of its cause; and (ii) from la3 where Spinoza states that causes have necessarily the effects they have.

288 OLLI KOISTINEN

called the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes which Spinoza seems to overlook. Bennett (1984, 124) suggests that Spinozas apparent failure to face the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes may be based on the mistaken assumption that what is inevitable is also necessary. As Bennett points out, Spinoza makes a distinction between necessary by reason of its cause and necessary by reason of its essence:
A thing is called necessary either by reason of its essence or by reason of its cause. For a things existence follows necessarily either from its essence and definition or from a given efficient cause. (lp33~l/GII/74/6-8).~

Thus, if a thing has a sufficient cause from which it necessarily follows, the thing is necessary by reason of its cause. But because, according to Spinoza, each finite thing exists in an infinite causal series, each finite thing is necessary by reason of its cause. Had Spinoza inferred from this that all finite things exist by necessity when they exist, he might have thought to have reached a solution how to reconcile explanatory rationalism with lp28. Thus, what Bennett suggests is that the concept of necessity by reason of its cause might have made Spinoza blind to the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes. However, according to Bennett necessity by reason of its cause, as entailed solely by lp28, means nothing but inevitability and as we have already seen, the identification of inevitability with necessity is fallacious. Before evaluating Bennetts view, it must be emphasized that he offers the erroneous identification of inevitability with necessity only as one possible explanation why Spinoza, in spite of lp28, was, at least, inclined to endorse necessitarianism. 2.2. Problems in Bennetts view

In the light of what has been said above, it is natural to see Bennett (1984, 118-119) write of Spinozas attitude to the question about the modal status of the infinite causal series of finite items as follows:

lo

Here GI1/74/6-8 refers to the page numbering of the Gebhardt edition of the Ethics. Curleys edition involves that numbering. By explanatory rationalism, Bennett (1984, 29-32) means Spinozas tendency to believe that there must be an answer to every why-question. This tendency pulls Spinoza into necessitarianism. Bennetts explanation of the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes is tempting and as evidence for his view, he(1984, 123) cites the following passage from the Mefaphysical Thoughts ((31126612.5): If men clearly understood the whole order of Nature, they would find everything to be just as necessary as the things treated in mathematics. Spinoza also explicitly holds that the passage just quoted is consistent with its being so that created things have no necessity of themselves.

SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

289

he apparently tends to overlook the hard question about the entire series, writing as though our ability to answer the why question about any particular proposition is enough to meet the demands of explanatory rationalism.

Edwin Curley (1988, 151 note 61) shares much of Bennetts view in holding that Spinoza never squarely faced the question about the modal status of the entire infinite causal series. It seems to me, however, that there is decisive textual evidence against Bennetts and Curleys views on Spinozas attitude to the infinite causal series of finite things. In the Short Treatise, Spinoza squarely faced the question about the modal status of the infinite causal series and in facing the question he realized that mere existence in an infinite causal series does not render the truth about the things existence necessary. The crucial passage from the Short Treatise (1985, GU41-42) goes as follows:
Perhaps someone will say that, indeed, something contingent has no determinate and certain cause, but a contingent cause. If that were so, it would be either in a divided sense [in sensu diviso] or in a composite one [in sensu composito], viz. either the existence of that cause is contingent (but not its being a cause), or it is contingent that that thing (which itself would necessarily exist in Nature) should be a cause of the production of the contingent thing. But in either sense, this is false. For as the first is concerned, if the contingent thing is contingent because its cause is contingent [with respect to its existence], then that cause must also be contingent because the cause that produced it is also contingent [with respect to its existence], and so on, to infinity. And because we have already proven that everything depends on one single cause, then that cause would also have to be contingent. And this is plainly false. As for the second, if that cause were not more determined to produce the one rather than the other, i.e., either to produce this something, or to omit producing it, then it would at the same time be impossible both that it should produce it and that it should omit producing it. This is an outright contradiction.

In this passage, Spinoza considers the question whether a thing that has a cause to its existence could still be contingent and he sees two ways how that might happen:(i) either the existence of the cause is contingent (contingency in sensu diviso) or (ii) the cause which need not exist contingently causes contingently (contingency in sensu composito). Let us consider these alternatives in some detail. Contingency in sensu composito

An effect which exists in an infinite causal series is contingent in sensu composito, if it is caused indeterministically; i.e. if its cause could have failed to cause it. However, for Spinoza such indeterministic causation makes no sense. Spinoza seems to think without any explicit argument that causation must be deterministic; i.e. if x was the cause of y, then in the circumstances where x occurred x could not have failed to cause y.13 In the Ethics,
l3

Spinoza would not have understood Leibnizs reasons which incline without necessitating.

290

OLLI KOISTINEN

the necessity of causal relation is included as an axiom. In la3, Spinoza writes:


From a given determinate cause the effect follows necessarily; and conversely, if there is no determinate cause, it is impossible for an effect to follow.

This axiom states two causal principles: (i) determinate causes have their effects necessarily; and (ii) determinate causes are all the causes there are. Thus, contingency in sensu composito is impossible because for Spinoza it is an axiomatic truth that causal relations are necessary or determinate. Contingency in sensu diviso Spinozas apprehension of this sort of contingency is what commentators have been looking for. A thing is contingent in sensu diviso if it exists in an infinite deterministically ordered causal series of finite things whose members are contingent existents. Here causal relations are necessary even though their relata are assumed to be contingent. However, this is just the sort of contingency that Bennett and Curley see as being involved in Spinozas system even though they claim that Spinoza never realized that and did not even face the question whether universal determinism is consistent with contingency. In the Short Treatise, Spinoza, then, faced the question about the modal status of the infinite causal series. Spinoza says that contingency in sensu diviso is impossible because each thing there is depends on one single cause which has to exist by necessity.
3. Perfection based solution to the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes

Garrett (1991) suggests two ways how Spinoza could have guarded himself against the charge that there are possible total systems of modes alternative to the actual 0ne.14The second and fuller solution depends on a principle of perfection which appears to say that of all the alternative internally consistent series of finite modes the most perfect exists. The principle of perfection seems to be at work in Spinozas argument for the possibility of an allattribute substance. Garrett (1991, 197) writes as follows:
[Spinoza] evidently holds that substance with less than the greatest possible number of attributes is a contradiction, on the grounds that greater number of attributes is correlated with greater reality (by lp9), so that the existence of God is necessary, while the existence of substances of fewer attributes is impossible.

~~

l4

Garrett emphasizes the importance of the problem of apparent alternative possible series of modes. He (1991, 192) writes: ...thequestion of Spinozas necessitarianism is largely centered on the necessity or contingency of the total series of finite modes.
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

291

Garrett (ibid.) applies the principle of perfection at the level of modes as follows:
It is therefore plausible that he would also regard substance whose attributes express less than the greatest possible reality and perfection through their series of finite modes as a contradiction, thus making the series of finite modes that expresses the highest degree of reality and perfection necessary, and all lesser series impossible.

Here Garrett suggests that the actual system of modes is the only possible system because the actual system of modes is the most perfect of all the alternative systems.Is Garretts perfection based solution to the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes is tempting because it is plausible to hold that Spinozas view, that an all-attribute substance is possible, is premised on the principle of perfection. However, it is somewhat problematic to apply the principle of perfection to the systems of modes. The most pressing problem seems to be this: the solution assumes that there must one system of modes that expresses the greatest possible reality and perfection. This assumption can be questioned at least in two different ways: (i) why cant there be an infinity of systems of finite modes such that for each system x there is an alternative system y better than x? If there is an infinity of such systems, then no actualization of a system of finite modes would meet the demands of the principle of perfection. (ii) why cant there be several alternatives of which it is true that all other alternatives are inferior to them? If ties between the best or most perfect alternatives are possible, then no actualization of a system of finite modes would meet the demands of the principle of perfection.I6 Moreover, it is difficult to know how the perfection of different mode systems should be evaluated. It seems that there are two plausible criteria of perfection once it is kept in mind that by perfection and reality Spinoza means
j5

l6

Garrett (1991, 197) is in sympathy with Alan Donagans (1973, 248) view according to which [Spinozas] idea evidently was that an infinite substance would bring about the existence, as a finite mode, of every intrinsically possible finite essence, unless other finite modes made it impossible to do so. Here Spinoza anticipated Leibniz: his infinite substance necessarily brings into existence the most perfect intrinsically possible system of modes. Carriero (1991, 81) considers these problems. According to him, Spinoza accepted both the well-orderedness assumption and the assumption of the existence of a maximal order. However, Carriero (ibid.) points out that these assumptions ...are not at all trivial and, further, that they are not clearly stated in the text, let alone articulated and defended there.
OLLl KOISTINEN

292

the same.17 The first criterion, that I call the inclusion criterion, is expressible as follows: (IC) The system A of Ns is more perfect than the system B of Ns if the members of B form a genuine subset of the members of A.

For example, if substance s has attributes E and T and substance s only E, then s is more perfect in its attributes than s; or to take another example, the set of all natural numbers is more perfect than the set of even integers because the latter is a genuine subset of the former. The second criterion of perfection that is applicable only to finite systems says simply that a system of Ns, A, is more perfect than another system of Ns, B, if the number of Ns in A exceeds the number of Ns in B. Let us call this the quantitative criterion of perfection:
(QC) The system A of Ns is more perfect than the system B of Ns if the number of Ns in A is greater than the number of Ns in B.

Now, putative alternative systems of modes are either compossible or incompossible. The mode system A is compossible with the mode system B iff all the elements of the set formed from the union of the members of A and B can be realized in one possible world. Not all mode systems, it seems, can be compossible. Suppose, for example, that the mode system A involves as its modes Vesuvius which is quiescent in 45 B.C. and that B involves Vesuvius which erupts in 45 B.C. The compossibility of A and B would require the truth of
(S) Vesuvius erupts in 45 B.C. and Vesuvius does not erupt in 45 B.C.

But because S is contradictory, mode systems A and B are not compossible.I8 It is evident that the (IC) criterion of perfection is applicable only to compossible alternative systems of modes. If all alternative mode systems are compossible, then the most perfect mode system is, of course, the union of all the alternative mode systems. It seems that the actualization of this mode system should follow directly from Spinozas principle of sufficient reason. If, instead of the maximal system, some other system were actual, there would be no reason why those modes which are compossible with the modes of the actual system were not actual; i.e. in the existing things there could be no reason for their non-existence. But because in things that exist there is no reason for the non-existence of things compossible with them, they have to exist. Thus, here the principle, that of the alternative possible systems of
l7
l8

Spinoza identifies perfection with reality in 2d6. Of incornpossible mode systems, see Donagan (1973)and Carrier0 (1991).
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

293

modes the most perfect has to exist, follows directly from the principle of sufficient reason. But why should all the alternative mode systems be compossible? It seems that the example, considered above, of two alternative Vesuviuses shows that the possibility of incompossible mode systems should be ruled out before Spinozas necessitarianism can be seen to follow from the principle of sufficient reason. Suppose, then, that A and B are incompossible systems of modes. This incompossibility precludes the use of IC-criterion. However, it seems that also QC-criterion is inapplicable. In Spinozas metaphysics, these alternative mode systems have to be infinite, i.e. there must be an infinity of modes in each of them. Thus, it makes no sense to say that the number of the modes in one mode system exceeds the number of modes in another mode system.lg Moreover, if the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes is answered with the help of the principle of perfection, the following problem arises. If there are internally consistent but incompossible infinite systems of finite modes, it follows that there are, in Gods intellect, ideas of things that he is unable to create.2oBut when Spinoza, in lp17s1, contrasts his theory of divine omnipotence to those in which God is assumed to create through a free act of will, his main worry is that in these theories God cannot create all that he understands. However, in Spinozas metaphysics where God creates everything that is in his intellect, God, of course, can create everything that is in his intellect. Garrett (1991, 197) also refers to a passage from the beginning of lp33s2 which is suggested by Donagan (1971, 249) to give some reason for holding that the principle of perfection is at work in Spinozas proof of necessitarianism. The passage reads as follows:
From the preceding it clearly follows that things have been produced by God with the highest perfection, since they have followed necessarily from a given most perfect nature.

However, I am not quite certain whether this passage should be taken to support Garretts interpretation. It is plausible to take the phrase, From the preceding, to refer to lp33 which says that things could not have been produced in any other order or connection. Thus, it seems that for Spinoza, the perfecl9

An anonymous referee suggested that Spinozas God must produce everything that i s possible, because nothing can prevent him from producing everything that is possible. Now, it seems that the principle of sufficient reason is behind that suggestion: there is no reason why God should not produce everything that is possible; therefore God produces everything that is possible. However, this suggestion assumes that everything that is possible must be compossible, and an independent argument should be given to show that. It is assumed here that an idea can be formed of everything whose definition does not involve a contradiction. I believe this is a plausible assumption because it seems that conceivability is what Spinoza needs to distinguish purely verbal beings from those whose definition is not contradictory. See Metaphysical Thoughts (307, GV241).
OLLI KOISTINEN

294

tion of things, rather than being a premise in an argument for necessitarianism, is a consequence of necessitarianism. It seems that Spinozas God acts in conformity with the principle of perfection without being coerced by that principle. Because the actual world is the only possible world, there is no doubt that the actual world is the most perfect world. In Spinozas system, Gods being perfect and necessitarianism are almost like two ways of saying the same thing. God is perfect because from necessitarianism it follows that there is no lack in the universe and, for that reason, no lack in God.

4. Substance individuation and necessitarianism


4.1. lp16d

As we have seen above, and as both Bennett and Garrett emphasize, Spinoza reaches necessitarianism in lp16. I too base my interpretation on lp16, but what I want to do is to interpret the proof of that central proposition in such a way that it can be seen how necessitarianism follows from the preceding material of the Ethics. In so doing, I accept Garretts interpretation of Spinoza as a necessitarian, but I also want to emphasize more strongly than what has been done before the conceptual connections of lp16 to what has gone prior in the first part of the Ethics. I also hope that in the interpretation offered a satisfying solution to the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes is given. Given the central role of lp16 in Spinozas system, its demonstration is a surprise because in it Spinoza refers to no prior proposition of the Ethics. The demonstration reads as follows:
This proposition must be plain to anyone, provided he attends to the fact that the intellect infers from the given definition of any thing a number of properties that really do follow necessarily from it (ix., from the very essence of the thing): and that it infers more properties the more the definition expresses reality, i.e., the more reality the essence of the defined thing involves. But since the divine nature has absolutely infinite attributes (by D ) each of which also expresses 6, an essence infinite in its own kind, from its necessity there must follow infinitely many things in infinite modes ( i t . , everything which can fall under an infinite intellect), q.e.d.

lp16 seems to say that from the absolute infinity of God, i.e. from the fact that God has infinite attributes each of which express an essence infinite in its own kind, it follows that everything possibly true of God must be true of him. To put it bluntly, the demonstration says that everything that is possibly true of God must be true of him, because otherwise God would not be infinite. Crucial in the proof, then, is the following passage:
But since the divine nature has absolutely infinite attributes (by D ) each of which also 6, expresses an essence infinite in its own kind, from its necessity there must follow infinitely many things in infinite modes.

SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

295

I believe that Steinberg is right in arguing that in lp16 the actualization of everything that is conceivable, or possible, follows from Gods being perfect.2 Steinberg (1981, 51) writes:
[I]n [ lp161 Spinoza is telling us something important about his notion of God as the most perfect being. God, by definition, is Being absolutely infinite, that is to say, substance consisting of infinite attributes, each one which expresses the eternal and infinite essence (E1,dfn. 6). As he stated in a letter to Hudde: ...since the nature of God...does not consist of a certain kind of being but of absolutely unlimited being, His nature also requires all that perfectly expresses being; otherwise His nature would be limited and deficient (Letter 36). In other words, all possible attributes must in fact belong to God or He would not be perfect, hence would not be God. What is true at the level of the attributes is also true of the modes of each attribute: God consists of infinite attributes each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence. That each attribute must produce every possible mode (i,e., every mode which is conceivable in ternis of that arrribure) is what Spinoza is saying in E1,16. If it were otherwise God would not be perfect. (Emphasis added).

Steinbergs point is that it is a conceptual truth that each of Gods attributes is perfect. If it were otherwise, God would not be God. Thus, i f all possible modes were not realized, God would not exist. Steinbergs argument is that in the same way as it must be required of God that he has all possible attributes, it must be required of God that every possible mode will be in him. The infinity of Gods attributes requires that every possible mode of any attribute must gain actuality. Even though, instead of using the concept of perfection, Spinoza in lp16 operates with the concept of infinity, I believe Steinberg is right in seeing the demonstration as being built on Gods perfection.22In lp8s 1, Spinoza says that

I believe that Garrett could share the thought that the actualization of everything that is possible follows from Gods being perfect. However, I am not certain whether Garrett, in the perfection based solution, would go so far as to identify what is conceivable with what is possible as Steinberg seems to do. It seems that once alternative series of modes are assumed, there must be ideas of them. Thus,given that only one of the series is possible, it follows that there should be in God ideas of impossible things. In personal communication, Steinberg has said that in her interpretation lp16 alone does not entail necessitarianism. According to Steinberg, even though lp16 says that God has to produce each conceivable mode of each attribute, lp16 leaves open the order of the series of finite modes. However, it seems to me that if the order of finite modes were different, then there would be different complex modes, i.e. modes that have other modes as their parts. Thus, a different order of modes can be seen to require a different set of modes. However, as an anonymous referee pointed to me, Spinoza is not committed to the view that any random collection of things constitutes a thing in its own right. A collection of modes has to meet certain constraints in order to be a mode itself. Thus, a further argument is needed to show that if the order of modes were different, then this alternative order would require the existence of complex modes unique to it. I am not certain whether Spinoza could give such an argument. But I believe that there is an alternative way to argue that in Spinozas system the modes cannot be arranged differently: If the order of finite modes were different, then there would be finite modes which would occupy different spatio-temporal locations from the ones they occupy in the actual order. However, I have argued in Koistinen (1998) that for Spinoza a finite mode with its time

296 OLLl KOISTINEN

being finite is really, in part, a negation, and being infinite is an absolute affirmation of the existence of some nature.

What this says is that infinity is not consistent with negation and it is plausible that an attribute which is not perfect is affected by negation-such an attribute is not fully expressed by its modes. The idea that an infinite attribute involves no negation is also present in the explication of the definition of God. The definition with its explication goes as follows:
ld6 By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, i.e., a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence. Exp.: I say absolutely infinite, not infinite in its own kind; for if something is only infinite in its own kind, we can deny infinite attributes of it; but if something is absolutely infinite, whatever expresses essence and involves no negation pertains to its essence.

In the explication, Spinoza claims that any attribute that expresses an essence of an absolutely infinite being (i.e. God) must be such that it involves no negation. Now, an actual attribute with an unrealized possible mode would involve negation, and would, therefore, be finite. Steinbergs idea forces to take a new look at Spinozas proof of the existence of God. If the actualization of every possible mode is a necessary conceptual condition of the existence of God, then, if in trying to prove the existence of God, Spinoza fails to prove that all possible modes gain actuality, he also fails to show that God exists. However, Steinberg does not attempt to show why Spinozas all-attribute substance must be perfect, or infinite, in the sense that guarantees the actualization of all possible modes. So let us look at Spinozas ontological argument from that viewpoint. Spinozas proof for the existence of God can be seen to go as follows:
(1) Every possible substance exists by necessity. lp7.
(2) Any substance is necessarily infinite in all its attributes.1~8.
(3) A substance consisting of all attributes is possible.lpl0.
(4) God, i.e. a substance consisting of all attributes of which each is

infinite, is possible.(from 2,3).


:.(5)

God exists by necessity.

~ Thus, it is the second premise that interests ~ 8 . 224


~ ~~ ~~ ~~~~~ ~~~ ~

23

and place of existence is, in fact, an infinite mode. Thus, the assumption that the order of finite modes could be different is not consistent with Spinozas view that truths about infinite modes are absolutely necessary. Maybe it is not quite clear why necessary infinity in all attributes is needed in the proof. Why wouldnt the possibility of an all-attribute substance infinite in each of its attributes
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

297

4.2. The proof that any substance is infinite in its attributes

Spinoza proves the infinity of attributes, or the infinity of one attribute substances, in 1 ~ 8 d .The proof goes as follows: *~
A substance of one attribute does not exist unless it is unique (P5),and it pertains to its nature to exist (W). Of its nature, therefore, it will exist either as finite or as infinite. But not as finite. For then (by D2) it would have to be limited by something else of the same nature, which would also have to exist necessarily (by W), and so there would be two substances of the same attribute, which is absurd (by P5). Therefore, it exists as infinite, q.e.d.

In lp8d, the infinity of substances is reached from their necessary uniqueness in all their attributes. The definition of finitude in ld2,
[tlhat thing is said to be finite in its own kind that can be limited by another of the same nature[,]

requires that for a substance possibility of finite existence leads to the existence of some other substance with an identical attribute.26 But because one of Spinozas fundamental views is the no shared attribute thesis, stated in lp5, according to which two substances cannot share an attribute, the
be enough? I believe this can be answered as follows. If the infinity of an attribute of a
substance were accidental to that attribute, an all attribute substance having at least one finite attribute would be possible. But if that substance were possible, it would by lp7 have to exist, and thus there would be two substances having attributes in common. However, that is an impossibility. Both of these substances (i.e. the substance finite in at least one of its attributes and the absolutely infinite substance) cannot be possible. By lp8 Spinoza excludes the possibility of an all-attribute substance being finite in any of its attributes, and so makes his God a possible substance. Thus, Spinoza has to prove the perfection of attributes before proving the existence of God. The plausibility of Spinozas necessitarianism is, in a sense, dependent on the plausibility of his argument for the existence of God.When the realization of everything that is possible is a conceptual condition for the existence of God, such a position is plausible only if the argument for the existence of God is plausible. Thus, to assess the plausibility of Spinozas necessitarianism it must be evaluated why Spinoza thought that with his ontological argument he also proved necessitarianism. That Spinoza speaks of one attribute substances does not mean that substances having more than one attribute are not infinite or that their infinity does not follow from the considerations of lp8d. The point in using that locution is that in lp8d Spinoza is (i) proving that a substance is infinite in all its attributes and that (ii) calling a substance infinite means nothing but that it is infinite in all its attributes, i.e. that all its attributes are infinite. One attribute substances have in the proof the same function as the assumption of an arbitrary attribute of a substance would have had. In the proof, Spinoza does not speak of infinity in its kind, even though he should have because by being infinite, Spinoza in lp8d means what is not finite in its own kind. What lp8 proves is, then, that any substance is infinite in all its kinds. But because the kinds of a substance are determined by its attributes, lp8d purports to show that a substance must be infinite in all its attributes. And that can be expressed by saying that all the attributes of a substance must be infinite. Spinoza himself does not so much speak of an attribute being infinite but instead speaks of an attribute expressing an eternal and infinite essence. Thus, when I say that an attribute X is infinite this can be seen as abbreviating Spinozas more cumbersome Attribute X expresses an eternal and infinite essence.

298

OLLI KOISTINEN

assumption that there is a substance finite in any of its attributes generates a contradiction in his system.27 Spinozas argument for the infinity of attributes, proves their perfection or fullness, ifit can be shown that a substance of attribute A is finite in A (in the sense offinitude given by definition ld2), i f it lacks a possible mode of A.28 At first sight, it seems rather easy to give such a proof Suppose substance x is not perfect in A. This means that there is a possible mode m of A that is not in x. m, because it is a mode of A, must be conceived through a substance of attribute A.29 Thus, the actual substance of attribute A can be conceived to be limited by another substance of that same attrib~te.~ This means that the actual substance is finite in its attribute A in the sense of finitude given by ld2. Thus, the supposition, that an attribute is not perfect, entails that such an attribute is finite in the sense of ld2. But because in lp8 such finitude is shown to be impossible it follows that any attribute must be perfect. Basically, Spinozas demonstration of the perfection of any attribute is astonishingly simple. If an attribute were not perfect, i.e. if not all modes conceivable through that attribute were not in it, another substance of that same attribute would be conceivable. But because each substance exists by necessity, this other substance should exist, too. Thus, there should be two substances of the same attribute which, by lp5, is impossible. In Spinozas system, then, the infinity of attributes guarantees their perfection which explains why Spinoza sees lp16d as entailing necessitarianism. There cannot,

27

28

29 30

More exactly, Spinozas proof of substance infinity can be presented as follows: a substance s is finite in attribute A.(Reduction premse; A is arbitrarily selected). Substance s (distinct from s) of attribute A is conceivable. (1, ld2). Each conceivable substance exists by necessity. (lp7). s with A exists by necessity. (2), (3). s and s share an attribute. (I), (4). s and s do not share an attribute. (From Ips). s and s share an attribute and s and s do not share an attribute. (5), (6). It is not the case that substance s is finite in its attribute A. (I), (7). What is not finite is infinite. (Premise). Therefore, (10) s is infinite in A. Here perfection of the attribute of substance s means that if m is a conceivable mode of attribute A, then m is in the A of s. See ld3. ih This move presupposes that the possibility of the co-existence of two substances w t the same attribute requires that these substances must limit each other. It seems to me that this is a natural requirement. Suppose x and y share attribute A and are conceived to co-exist. Thus, it must be conceivable that there is something beyond the A of x and beyond the A of y. And this possibility of beyondness requires that x qua A and y qua A are limited.
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

299

then, be any conceivable alternative systems of finite modes: if there were, each such system would require its own necessarily existing s~bstance.~ However, Spinozas argument for the perfection of attributes seems open to the following natural objection: The argument presupposes that the idea of a merely possible mode of an attribute invokes the possibility of another substance of that same attribute. However, it is hard to understand why that should hold. It is true that modes are conceived through substances, but why cant it be that a merely possible mode is conceived through the actual substance? Why cant it be the case that the idea of a merely possible mode represents the actual substance as if that mode were in it. It is not difficult to think of individuals as having properties they do not have. The objection just presented is based on the idea that it makes sense to speak of contingent properties of a substance. I call this view contingentism. Now, even though contingentism may have some p r i m facie plausibility, it has difficulties. The opposing view, that has been called superessentialism, is what Spinozas proof of the infinity of substances in their attributes requires. Superessentialism is the thesis that all properties of a thing are necessary to it, in the sense that if x has F at time t, then it is not possible that x exists without having F at t.32.33 Thus, if there are possible but non-actual modes, then, in superessentialism, there must be possible but non-actual

31

32

33

It seems to me that in Garretts perfection based solution the infinity of attributes is derived from Spinozas version of the principle of sufficient reason. An attribute must be infinite or perfect because if a possible mode of an attribute were not in it, there should be a reason for its non-existence,Thus, any mode system of an attribute must be maximal in the sense that no mode can be consistently added to it, and what this means is that any mode system of an attribute must be infinite or perfect. However, the problem with this attempt is that it seems to leave room for apparently possible internally consistent but incompossible mode systems. Thus, were the infinity of attributes derived in this way, the proof would not show that Spinozas all-attribute substance is perfect in the sense of realizing everything that is possible. The fundamental difference between the interpretation supported in this paper and between that of Garrett concerns the way the infinity of attributes is proved. In the interpretation supported here, as we will soon see, the infinity of attributes is derived from superessentialism and not from the principle of sufficient reason or from any independent principle of perfection. Fabrizio Mondadori (1985, 164) characterizes superessentialism in two ways which he says are equivalent: Modally: superessentialism is the thesis that, none of the properties an individual i possesses is a property i could have lacked while still existingking i. Counterfactually:superessentialism is the thesis that, were i to lack any of the properties it possesses, i would not be the individual it idthe same individual. This could also be expressed by saying that Spinoza denied trans-world identity from substances. However, that way of expressing Spinozas view may sound paradoxical, or at least empty, because Spinozas view was that the actual world is the only possible world. However, Spinozas proof of necessitarianism has the form of a reductio ad absurdurn -argument. The argument could be seen to start from the assumption that if there are several possible worlds then two substances cannot exist in the same world. Anyone who tries to show that a contradiction results from the assumption that there are several possible worlds, has to face questions about transworld-identity.
OLLl KOISTDJEN

300

substances, too. If a possible mode m is not in the actual substance, then another substance having m must be possible.34 Even though superessentialism may seem at first sight a bit odd, there are respectable philosophical reasons for holding it. Superessentialism has been traditionally attributed to Leibniz and in contemporary philosophy a position that closely resembles but is not identical with superessentialism has been advocated by David Lewis ( 1986).35

34

As an anonymous referee to this journal pointed, superessentialism seems to make a

35

substance depend on its modes for its existence but this appears to be in tension with (i) substance-mode ontology in general and with (ii) Spinozas view that modes are caused by the only substance God in particular. Is it possible that something causes that on which its existence depends? This question is important because in Spinozas definition of substance, ld3, substances are seen both ontologically and causally independent. However, Carrier0 (1991 and 1996) has argued that it is plausible to see Spinozas substance-mode ontology as a version of the traditional substance-accident ontology and in that ontology the priority substances have over their accidents does not mean that a substance has to be such that it can exist without its accidents. In traditional substance-accident ontology there is room for necessary accidents. It makes sense to speak of necessary accidents because they can be said to be outside the essence of a substance and thus not among its constituents. I suggest that a distinction could be made between constitutional dependence and existential dependence. If it is not possible that x exists without y. then x is existentially dependent on y. In traditional substance-accident ontology as well as in Spinozas substance-mode ontology the ontological priority substances have to their modes means that no substance is constitutionally dependent on any of its accidents. Once space is left between the essence of a substance and its necessary accidents, it makes sense to say that the necessary accidents causally follow from the essence of the substance. indeed, and as we will later in this section see, it seems that Spinozas strongest reason for superessentialism can be traced back to his view that there cannot be intersubstantial causation. Finally, superessentialism, as stated above, does not require that they are necessary had that all properties of a substance belong to its essence-nly by the substance when they are had by it. For an illuminating treatment of necessary accidents and their relation to substance and its essence see also Garrett (1991, 201-202). Moreover, Spinoza does not use the concept of mode in the sense which would make all modes such that a substance could exist without them, because in any case infinite modes are necessary features of substances. Thus, the problem of the incapability of a substance existing without its modes arises even when Spinoza is not interpreted as a superessentialist. Moreover, the version of superessentialism I am defending does not strictly speaking require that substance necessarily has all the modes-indeed if it did require that, all change would be impossible, a conclusion Spinoza clearly rejects. What superessentialism requires is that if a mode is in substance at a given time, then it is necessary that the mode is in the substance at that time; and as I have elsewhere (Koistinen 1998) argued, a finite mode with its time and place can be seen to be an infinite mode. It should be emphasized that conceptually superessentialism and necessitarianism are quite distinct. Leibniz was a superessentialist but not a necessitarian. Basically, what superessentialism says is nothing but that each unrealized possibility requires the possibility of a non-existing substance.

SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

301

Leibniz seems to reach superessentialism from the principle of sufficient reason. In a well-known passage, Leibniz (1967 [ 16861, 59-60) writes to Arnauld as follows:
if, in the life of some person and even in this entire universe something were to proceed in a different way from what it does, nothing would prevent us from saying that it would be another person or another possible universe that God would have had chosen. It would thus truly be another individual.

If it is supposed that a thing could be have been differently modified, then we must give some reason for our decision to treat the individual in that counterfactual situation identical with the actual individual. But Leibniz holds that there is no such reason. What, then, could be a reason for holding an individual in a counterfactual situation identical with the actual individual? Leibniz endorses the view that if two substances share all their properties, they are identical, and according to Benson Mates (1986, 140-41), Leibniz seems to think here that the only reason for calling substances identical is that they share all their properties. Thus, what Leibniz has to think is that the individual in the counterfactual situation does not share all its properties with the actual individual. And, of course, that seems to be a natural claim, because the individual in the counterfactual situation is supposed to differ from the actual individual. Because Spinoza accepted both the principle of sufficient reason and the identitatis indiscernibilium -principle, the argument given by Leibniz was available for him, However, it seems that this argument may fail from being valid. The problem is that it seems that the counterfactual claims can be seen to be about the actual individuals. For example, the proposition Socrates could have been non-snubnosed does not say anything about any individual distinct from the actual Socrates. The question, whether the non-snubnosed Socrates is identical with the actual Socrates, makes sense only if the existence of the non-snubnosed Socrates is taken for granted. For that reason, Leibnizs view may seem a bit question begging. However, even though the argument for superessentialism that is based on the combination of the principle of sufficient reason and the identity of indiscernibles may be flawed, the opening propositions of the Ethics offer a better basis for superessentialism. According to Spinoza, as has already been stated in section 1.l., substances, unlike modes, are causally independent. Spinoza proves their causal independence in lp6 and in its corollary. In lp6, Spinoza argues that a substance cannot be produced by another substance, and, in the
36

Spinoza can be seen to accept the identitatis indiscernibilium -principle in lp4.


OLLI KOISTINEN

302

corollary to this proposition, he concludes that substances cannot be produced by anything else. The argument for the position that substances cannot be produced by anything else is simple. If a substance were caused by something else, then, by la4, the idea of the substance would involve the idea of its cause. However, this would violate the conceptual independence of substances (see ld3). It is also easy to show that Spinoza's basic views precludes there being any interaction between distinct substances: suppose a mode m of substance s were caused by a mode rn' of another substance. Because by lp5, two substances cannot share an attribute, it follows that m and m' must be modes of different attributes. Now, the assumption that m' causes m requires, by la3, that m is conceived through m'. However, Spinoza believes that modes of different attributes cannot be conceived through each other. Thus, the assumption that a mode of a substance were caused by a mode of some other substance leads to a contradiction. The belief in contingent properties is, I believe, founded on the assumption that the properties of substances can be divided to those that somehow follow from the nature of the substance and to those that somehow depend on their interaction with other things. The properties a thing has as a result of its interaction with other things depend on how the thing happens to be related to other things: they are properties without which the thing, considered in itself, can exist. But when a thing is seen as causally closed, the naturalness of the distinction between contingent and necessary properties vanishes. None of the properties such a thing has depends on how it is related to other things, and this comes close to saying that all the properties a thing has are necessary to it. Moreover, because Spinoza adhered to the principle of sufficient reason, 'x could be different', requires a specification of the circumstances in which x would have been different. Thus,
x could be different

should be treated as a causal conditional:


x would have been different, if __.

However, it seems that when x is a causally isolated individual, there is no way how to fill the blank in the antecedent. If it is supposed that a substance which now is in state M, could be in a different state M because if it had been previously been in state N it would be now in M', then the causal history of the substance should have been totally different. But the principle of sufficient reason requires that there must be a reason for this total difference. However, because the substance is assumed to be causally isolated, the reason

SPINOZA'S PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

303

for this total difference cannot lie in its relation to other things but should lie in its inner nature, which, of course, is impossible.37* 38 4.3. Alternative possible series of modes In my interpretation, Spinozas argument for necessitarianism and hence for the impossibility of apparently possible alternative mode systems boils down to this. If besides the actual system of modes another alternative system were
37
38

I am indebted to John Carrier0 for pointing me the relevance of the principle of sufficient reason here. Superessentialismis sometimes seen to follow from the conceptual containment theory of truth. According to that theory, a predicate P is true of a thing x if and only if P is contained in the concept of x. This theory of truth was accepted by Leibniz. Leibniz and his correspondent Antoine Amauld thought it to entail the denial of transworld-identity. In fact, it seems that Leibniz and Amauld were right in taking the conceptual containment theory of truth as denying the accidental properties. It is natural to think of a concept of a thing to consist of those features that are needed to define the thing. Now, in this interpretation of the term concept, the conceptual containment theory of truth just says that all the properties of a thing are included in its definition. But this seems to be just another way of saying that all the properties of a thing must be essential to it. Mates (1972, 108) and Adams (1995, 72-74) have, however, argued that the conceptual containment theory of truth is consistent with an individual existing in several possible worlds. Their point is that if world-indexed properties are allowed, the individual concept of x could involve the properties of being-F-in-world-w and being-not-F-in-world-w' . Even though Spinoza did not have any clearly articulated theory of truth, it seems that in the Treatise on rhe Emendation ofthe Intellect he accepts the conceptual containment theory of truth. Spinoza writes as follows: So falsity consists only in this: that something is affirmed of a thing that is not contained in the concept we have formed of the thing, as motion or rest of the semicircle.(GIV27/25-28). In that passage Spinoza seems to be saying that a predicate is true of a thing if and only if the predicate is contained in the concept of the thing. It is also instructive to see how closely Spinozas view f of truth in the Treatise on the Emendation o the Intellect resembles Leibnizs (1967 [1686], 47) view according to which the superessentialism is involved in the common characterization of truth When I say that the individual concept of Adam contains everything that will ever happen to him, I mean nothing other than what all philosophers mean when they say that the predicate is present in the subject of a true proposition. This characterization of a true proposition as a proposition which is such that the predicate is involved in the subject of the proposition is present also in the following passage from Descartess second set of replies to the objections of the Meditations (AT VlI, 162; CSM, vol. 11, 114): When we say that something is contained in the nature or concept of a thing, this is the same as saying that it is true of that thing, or that it can be asserted of that thing. It is interesting to see that Leibniz attributed the conceptual containment theory of truth both to Descartes and Spinoza: Spinoza reasons thus, following Descartes: It is the same to say that something is contained in the nature or concept of some thing, as to say that that very [predication]is true about that thing (as it is contained in the concept of a Triangle, or follows from its essence, that its three angles are equal to two Adams (1994, 161). Adams gives the following referright angles). (Quoted by R.M. ence: G.W. Leibniz, Sumtliche Schrifen und Briefe. Darmstadt and Berlin: Berlin Academy , 1923-31.11, i, 393.) Fabrizio Mondadori (1985, 164) seems to believe that in proving lp33 Spinoza derives his view that all properties are necessary to God from the conceptual containment theory of truth. 1 used to think so, too, but am not anymore certain of that.

304

OLLI KOlSTlNEN

possible or conceivable, there should be, in addition to the actual substance, another substance. But Spinozas monism excludes such a possibility. From the viewpoint of the present interpretation, the question, why of the several internally consistent series of finite modes the actual series obtains? contains a false presupposition. In the interpretation offered, it is argued that there are no such alternative series. If there were, substances realizing those series should exist; or as Spinoza himself puts the point in lp33d:
if things could have been of another nature, or could have been determined to produce an effect in another way, so that the order of Nature was different, then Gods nature could also have been other than it is now, and therefore (by P11) that [other nature] would also have had to exist, and consequently, there could have been two or more Gods, which is absurd (by P14c1).

What is being claimed here is that the assumption of there being alternative internally consistent series of modes leads in Spinozas system to the absurdity that there are several substances or Gods, and I believe that my interpretation fits with this demonstration. It seems to me that those interpreters who feel that the problem of apparently possible alternative series of modes poses a serious threat to viewing Spinoza as a necessitarian see the situation in the following way: It is plausible to assume that there are several incompossible total ways things could have been. These total ways, or possible worlds, are somehow parallel in the logical space and one of them happens to enjoy the privilege of being actual. In this picture, the question that immediately suggests itself is why this rather than some other possible world is actual. It seems that the actual world conceived merely as one of the numerous possible worlds must have an intrinsic feature on the basis of which it trumps the competing worlds. For example, it might be suggested that the world that wins the title of actuality is the most perfect of all the alternatives. However, there are problems in the picture just sketched. That there are several incompossible possible worlds and that one of them gains actuality because of its intrinsic features may make sense, say in Leibnizs metaphysics, where a transcendent God stands behind these possibilities and selects one of them because its goodness surpasses the goodness of its alternative^.^' However, if there is no agent-like character selecting from these possible worlds, it seems inconceivable why one rather than some other should exist. In the traditional account, the intrinsic goodness of a possibility may have effects on what there exists by being loved and by moving the will of the one who loves it. However, because in Spinozas world there is no room for such a creator, it seems that if he is committed to alternative worlds, he cannot
39

See David Blumenfeld (1973).


SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

305

give any answer to the question why this rather than some other world, or, indeed, why any world of finite things at all. But as I understand Spinoza's modal thinking, the picture of parallel incompossible total ways things could be is not where to start from. We do not have at our disposal several alternative worlds but one actual world, and that there should be alternatives to it is not something that is natural or selfevident. The question, why this rather than some other world, is discharged if it can be shown that there are no alternatives to it, and my interpretation of Spinoza's argument for necessitarianism gives a way to understand why apparent alternative possible worlds are merely apparent." One important question about necessitarianism is the overall plausibility of such a position. Bennett (1984,14) claims that necessitarianism is implausible because it is hard to do good philosophy in the framework of necessitarianism and that many of Spinoza's philosophical moves presuppose contingency. I believe that Garrett (1991) has shown that at least the arguments in which Spinoza appears to draw on contingency can be interpreted as not relying on it. The remaining question about the plausibility of necessitarianism is divisible into two subquestions: (i) Spinoza reaches necessitarianism on a priori grounds without appealing to experience. Thus, necessitarianism is a doctrine of the intellect which raises the question about the consistency of necessitarianism with experience. (ii) A sufficient criterion for the possibility of a mode is that its definition does not involve a contradiction. However, it seems evident that not all definitions of possible but non-actual modes are

Garrett's (1991, 197) alternative solution to the problem of apparently possible alternative causal series is that Spinoza might have thought that the laws of the attributes are so complicated that they are compatible with only one system of modes. However, as he indicates there seems to be a problem about the possible alternative systems of laws nature. Laws of nature are for Spinoza infinite modes and therefore necessary. Now, if the problem of the alternative seties of finite modes is answered in this way, its success is dependent on the success of the answer to the problem about possible alternative systems of laws of nature. Garrett (1991) does not consider why Spinoza assumes that the actual set of laws of nature is the only completely consistent set and characterizes that assumption as "wildly optimistic". It seems to me important that when Spinoza reaches his necessitarianism in lp16 no distinction between finite and infinite modes has been drawn. I take this to indicate that Spinoza proves the necessity of laws of nature, which are infinite modes, in the same way as he proves the necessity of systems of finite modes. In my interpretation, no prior assumptions about the necessity of the laws of nature are needed. In fact, it seems to me that my interpretation can be seen to show why Spinoza thought that there is only one consistent set of laws of nature: if another set of laws of nature were possible, then a substance obeying those laws should be possible. But this substance should also exist (by lp7). Thus, there would be several substances which is against monism. It seems to me that also this solution assumes that there are several internally possible series of finite modes, which seems to imply that there are in God ideas of impossible things. However, this would mean that God cannot create everything that is in his intellect which is against Spinoza's conception of God's omnipotence.

306

OLLI KOISTINEN

contradictory. Is Spinozas necessitarianism, then, inconsistent with our modal intuitions? At first sight, it seems that the first question is rather easy to answer from Spinozas perspective. If reason and experience are in conflict, it is reason that should win. However, this answer seems a bit biased and it is not at all clear that Spinozas attitude to the evidence of the senses is so dismissive. A better answer goes as follows: experience does not reveal the modality of a state of affairs, it just tells whether something exists or not-a point that was later emphasized by Leibniz (1996,79-80) and Kant (1996, B4). Thus, it is the intellect, not the senses, that attaches a modality to a state of affairs. But what this seems to tell is that in modal matters there cannot be any conflict between intellect and experience. Now, maybe someone might grant that in modal matters there can be no conflict between outer experience and the intellect but claim that such a conflict may exist between the modal sensitive inner experience and the intellect. One of the strongest arguments for an indeterministic and eo ips0 for a non-necessitarian position is that in acting we, at least sometimes, are directly aware that we could have done otherwise. Spinoza deals with this problem in 3p2s. He argues that direct awareness of freedom cannot justify belief in freedom to do otherwise, because sometimes experience tells that this awareness of freedom is illusory. We grant that there are cases when we thought we were acting freely, even though we are now convinced that something made us to do what we now repent. Thus, Spinoza argues, it is not contrary to experience to hold that there are always such causes, and that the illusory experience of fieedom to do otherwise has its root in the ignorance of those causes. The second question may appear a bit more difficult. It seems that in a contradictory definition of a mode, the mode is defined with the help of contradictory properties, as in the definition of a square circle. But it seems evident that not all definitions of modes that never gain actuality, for example Immanuel Kants dining in Paris, involve such a contradiction. However, in ld4 Spinoza commits himself to the view that modes are conceptually dependent on substances which suggests that the definition of a mode implies a contradiction if the assumption of the existence of a substance through which it should be conceived implies a contradiction. But if my interpretation of Spinozas argument for necessitarianism is correct, all definitions of modes that never gain actuality imply a contradiction. A possible but unactual mode requires the existence of a substance distinct from God, which is inconsistent with Spinozas m o n i ~ m . ~ the question about the plausibility of necesHere
41

In Descarres Principles o Philosophy 271, GI/l93/28-32, Spinoza claims that the conf cept of the greatest speed of motion is inconceivable and that the intellect finds a contradiction in such a concept. I am using implies a Contradiction in the same sense as Spinoza there uses the expression the intellect finds a contradiction which is Curleys translation from repugnat nostro intellectui. The concept of the greatest speed of motion
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

307

sitarianism cannot be detached from the plausibility of the argument given for its support. It may, finally, be pointed out that in 2al as well as in 2p8 Spinoza commits himself to the existence of ideas of non-existent individuals. NOW, this may be seen as being evidence for there being ideas of non-existent alternative series of modes. Thus, the present interpretation which assumes that there are no internally consistent alternatives to the actual series must be wrong. I have considered 2al and 2p8 in detail el~ewhere.~ view is that My by 2p8 Spinoza does not want to say that there are, in God, ideas of things that never exist. Rather, what he is trying to show in 2p8 is how there can be ideas of things, that do not exist now but will exist in the future or have existed in the past. That Spinoza felt it necessary to give an explanation of ideas about future and past individuals was natural because in 2p7 Spinoza expressed his belief in the parallelism between ideas and their objects and because such parallelism seems to make reference to future as well as past individuals impossible. 2al does not require that there are ideas of possibilities that never gain actuality. What 2al says is, I believe, in accordance with its being the case that a thing exists by necessity when it exists.

CONCLUSION In the interpretation proposed, Spinozas necessitarianism is premised on the following principles:
(A) superessentialism;
(B) the necessary existence of substance;

(C) substance-property ontology;


@)

the no shared attribute thesis.

That their conjunction entails necessitarianism was proven as follows: In a substance-property ontology (C), the assumption that the actual world is not the only possible world is true if and only if (i) some substance could have failed to exist or (ii) there is a possible but unactualized property. Now, the first disjunct, (i), is impossible because of the necessary existence of substances (B). The second disjunct, (ii), cannot hold, because it follows from superessentialism (A) that the possible but unactualized property requires its own substance which by (B) should exist. But because (B) also guarantees that all possible attributes are exemplified, this new substance should share
is not contradictory in itself, but it implies a contradiction when the assumption of such a speed is added to certain self-evident principles. See Koistinen (1998, 74-75).
OLLI KOISTINEN

42

308

an attribute with some of the existing substances which is denied by (D). There is no doubt that Spinoza accepted (B), (C) and (D). That Spinoza accepted (A) is, of course, a bit more problematic, but it seems to be wellgrounded in the view that substances must be causally isolated.43

BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, R.M. 1994. Leibniz: Determinist,. Theist Idealist. New York: Oxford University Press. Bennett, J. 1984. A Study o Spinozas Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge Unif versity Press. Blumenfeld, D. 1973. Leibnizs Theory of the Striving Possibles, Studia Leibnitiana, 5, 163-177. Carriero, J. 1991. Spinozas Views on Necessity in Historical Perspective, Philosophical Topics, 19,47-96. 1995. On the Relationship Between Mode and Substance in Spinozas Metaphysics, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 33, 245273. Curley, E. M. 1969. Spinozas Metaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1988. Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading o Spinozas f Ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Descartes, R. 1984. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Translated by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1984. Objections and Replies. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. 11. Donagan, A. 1973.Spinozas Proof of Immortality. In Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Marjorie Grene, 241-258. Notre Dame, Indiana:University of Notre Dame Press. Garrett, D. 1991. Spinozas Necessitarianism. In Y. Yovel (ed.):God and Nature: Spinozas Metaphysics. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 191-218. Jarrett, C. 1977. The Concepts of Substance and Mode in Spinoza, Philosophia 7, 83-105. Kant, I. 1996 Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett. Koistinen, 0. 1991. On the Metaphysics of Spinozas Ethics. Doctoral dissertation. Turku.

43

I want to thank Diane Steinberg and two anonymous referees for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for their very helpful comments. I also wish to thank Risto Hilpinen, Charles Jmett, Tim0 Kajamies, Juhani Pietarinen, Arto Repo, and Seppo Sajama. The study has been supported by the Academy of Finland (research grant 42733.)
SPINOZAS PROOF OF NECESSITARIANISM

309

1998. On the Consistency of Spinozas Modal Theory, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 36,61-80. Leibniz, G. 1967. The Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence. (Translation, H.T. Mason Manchester: Manchester University Press.) 1996. New Essays on Human Understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lewis, D.1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Mates, B. 1986. The Philosophy of Leibniz. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mondadori, F. 1985. Understanding Superessentialism, Studia Leibnitiana, Heft 2, 162-190. Spinoza, B. 1985. The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. I. Edited and Translated by E. M. Curley. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Ethics. In The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1. Short Treatise. In The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. I. Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. In The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1. Descartes Principles of Philosophy. In The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1. Metaphysical Thoughts (Appendix to Descartes Principles of Philosophy). 1995. The Letters. Translated by Samuel Shirley. Introduction and notes by Steven Barbone, Lee Rice, and Jacob Adler. Indianapolis: Hackett. Steinberg, D. 1981. Spinozas Theory of the Eternity of the Mind, Canadian Journal of Philosophy l l , 35-68. Wilson, M. 1983. Infinite Understanding, Scientia Intuitiva, and Ethics 1.16, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 8, 184-186.

3 10

OLLI KOISTINEN