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Metaphysical Reflections about Spinoza and his Concepts Pertaining to Metaphysics and God and the Wave Structure of Matter
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By: Samer Amin Email Article
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Metaphysical Reflections about Spinoza and his Concepts Pertaining to Metaphysics and God and the Wave Structure of Matter

''A free man, who lives among ignorant people, tries as much as he can to refuse their benefits. .. He who lives under the guidance of reason endeavors as much as possible to repay his fellow’s hatred, rage, contempt, etc. with love and nobleness''. (Spinoza, Ethics)

''Except God no substance can be granted or conceived. .. Everything, I say, is in God, and all things which are made, are made by the laws of the infinite nature of God, and necessarily follows from the necessity of his essence''. (Spinoza, Ethics)

Baruch (or, in Latin, Benedict) de Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most central rationalist philosophers in the early modern period, along with Descartes, Leibniz, and Malebranche. Spinoza can also be considered as the most prominent "atheist" in Europe during this period. "Atheist" at that time means someone who discards the traditional Biblical views pertaining to God and his relation to nature.

Spinoza declared his new radical conceptions about God and his relation to nature in his most important book, titled Ethics, which revealed an ingenious geometrical manner and striking dexterity in his coherent logical analysis.

His geometrical method is closely related to Euclid's Elements and Newton's Principia.

He proposes many radical new conceptions which can be seen in direct contradiction to Judeo-Christian ones at that time.

Spinoza postulates that God and Nature are one, which means he excludes the well-established notion about transcendent and personal God.

One of these new radical ideas is his claim that the whole natural world, including human beings, follows the same course of natural laws which means humans do not have free will as they may think, instead, everything that happens could not have happened differently, he means the universe is only behaving totality (which can be conceived of as either "God" or "Nature"), and the mind and the body are fundamentally the same thing conceived in two different ways, which means they share the same inherent essence.

In this article I will try to analysis some fundamental issues of Spinoza’s new "metaphysics", and shed some light on the most important and difficult aspects of Spinoza’s metaphysics; especially, his theory about Substance, Monism and his theory of Attributes.

Spinoza argues that everything that exists is either a substance or a mode.

He starts by defining ''Substance '' as something that needs nothing else in order to exist or be conceived. Substance is independent entity both conceptually and ontologically. Whereas a Mode is something that needs a substance in order to exist, and cannot exist without a substance.

For example, being furry, orange, hungry, angry, etc. are modes that need a substance which is furry, orange, hungry, angry, etc. Hunger and patches of orange color cannot exist floating around on their own, but rather, hunger and patches of orange color need something (namely, a substance) to be hungry and have the orange color. That means hunger and colors are dependent entities or modes; they cannot exist alone without ''The Substance''.

But according to almost all of Spinoza’s predecessors, including Aristotle and Descartes, there are lots of substances in the universe, each with its own modes or properties. For example, according to Descartes a cat is a substance which has the modes or properties of being furry, orange, soft,…. etc.

Spinoza, however, rejects this traditional view and argues that there is only one Substance, he called it "God" or "Nature." Whereas, cats, dogs, people, rocks,etc. are not substances in their essence according to his view, but rather they are just modes or properties of one infinite absolute indivisible substance. This one substance can be conceived simply as people-like in places, rock-like in other places, chair-like in still other places, etc.

We may think of that Substance as an'' Infinite Space'' according to a new modern physics theory; '' Wave Structure of Matter'' and the ''Dynamic Unity of Reality''.

I mean, some regions in this '' Infinite Space'' are hard and brown (rocks), other regions of that Space are green, juicy, and soft (plants), while still other regions are furry, orange, and soft (cats), etc, (See Bennett 1984: 88-92 for more on space and the extended substance in Spinoza).

Spinoza starts his argument by postulating that this one Substance has an infinite number of attributes.

He defines an attribute by simply an essence; a "what it is to be" that kind of thing. Whereas, according to Descartes, every substance has only one attribute. Bodies have only the attribute of extension, and minds have only the attribute of thought.

Spinoza's main focal point in his argument is that the Substance is absolutely infinite which entails it must exist in every way that something can exist.

Thus, he infers that one Substance must have an infinite number of attributes.

An attribute, according to Spinoza, is just the essence of substance under some way of conceiving or describing that substance.

That is why Spinoza defines an attribute by the way our mind can conceive or realize the manifestations of the essence of that substance in specific circumstances.

He means that Substance has only one absolute and infinite essence; nevertheless, our mind cannot conceive this absolute essence except through dividing it into numerous attributes, because this is the way our limited mind can function or deal with infinite and abstract issue.

In other words, he means that when we consider substance one way, then we conceive of its essence as extension, but if we consider the same substance another way, we may conceive its essence as thought for instance. (See Della Rocca 1996a: 164-167.)

While Substance has an infinite number of attributes, Spinoza argues that human beings are only able to recognize two of them: ''Extension'' which reveals itself through the creating process of the entire Universe and bringing the material world into existence, and the ''Thought'' which reveals itself through the Logos and the pervasive inherent intellectual faculty in all living creatures.

We are only able to conceive these two attributes because of the limitations of our human mind of course.

In fact, what seems to be the most distinguish feature of Spinoza's argument about Substance is his ''substance Monism''. He claims that one infinite Substance can only exist, and he called this substance'' God or Nature'', and he decisively excludes the possibility of the existence of any other substances.

His strategy to prove this ''monism'' was demonstrated in the first part of the famous book '' Ethics''.

We can highlight the main points of his argument as follows:

1- Every substance has at least one attribute.

2- Two substances cannot share the same nature or attribute, because they will be identical and they will end up being the same Substance, and that can be absurdity according to Spinoza.

3- God has all possible attributes as a logical consequence of being an infinite substance, which excludes the possibility of existence of any other attribute outside that absolute being.

4- An Infinite number of attributes should include the attribute of existence as well. That is why God should exist by the necessity of his infinite number of his attributes.

5-Therefore, no other substance other than God can exist.

That is because there is only one substance (called "God" or "Nature") which has all possible attributes.

In other words, this Substance possesses all the possible attributes and has allowed no room for any other substance or attribute to exist outside his infinite essence.

In addition, no other substance can exist in this case because if it exists it would have to share an attribute with the first substance, but it is impossible, according to Spinoza, for two different substances to have the same attribute, because they would end up the same substance.

Spinoza defends each of his four assumptions as follows:

Premise number one:

If a substance existed which did not have any attributes, then (by Spinoza’s definition of attribute, this substance would not have an essence. However, according to Spinoza, it makes no sense to claim that something exists which does not have an essence. Thus, every substance has at least one attribute. This premise is not particularly controversial.

The Argument for Premise Two:

Spinoza’s argument for the second premise ("Two substances cannot share the same nature or attribute") can be fishy and somewhat controversial. In this premise, Spinoza argues that if two substances share one and the same attribute, then there is no way to tell the two substances apart.

For instance, if substance A and substance B both possess the same attribute or the same inherent nature, then who can distinguish between these two substance? I mean, who can judge if these two substances are identical or not?

Why aren’t A and B just one substance?

Modern physics testifies for Spinoza's accuracy pertaining to his ''Monism ''and his ''infinite unbounded'' Substance

According to the modern theory of ''Wave Structure of Matter'' all the matter in this universe is a reconstruction of an infinite Substance which they call it ''Space''.

This theory means by Space an infinite Substance which we all of us observe and experience around us, and all the matter in our universe came into existence by the mere movement of this Space.

''The notion that all these fragments is separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it. Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it. (David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980)'' .

I cannot describe myself except as a truth-seeker and a keen investigator who reserves no effort in his earnest endeavor for the ultimate truth; because I absolutely believe in Jesus' saying '' You will know the truth and the truth will set you free''.

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