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The Southern Journal of Philosophy (1998) Vol. XxXvI

On the Consistency of Spinoza’s Modal Theory

Olli Koistinen University of mrku, Finland

1. THE PROBLEM

During the past few decades Spinoza’s modal theory has been the subject of considerable controversy. However, at first sight at least, Spinoza seems to have been admirably clear in stating his modal theory. All truths, Spinoza says, are neces- sary. In several passages of the Ethics, Spinoza denies the exist- ence of contingency and accepts necessitarianism. For ex- ample, in IP29 he writes as follows:’

In nature there is nothing contingent, but all things have been de- termined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and pro- duce an effect in a certain way.

And in IP35 he states his view in the following way:

Whatever we conceive to be in God‘s power, necessarily exists.

IP35 says that what is in God’s power exists by necessity. But of course everything that is possible is in God’s power. Hence, everything that is possible exists by necessity. There is similar evidence for necessitarianism in IP17S

(GII/62/15-20):

I think I have shown clearly enough (see P16)that from God’s su- preme power, or infinite nature, infinitely many things in infi- nitely 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.

Olli Koistinen is currently acting professor of philosophy at the University of Turku, Finland. He received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Turku in 1991. His interests are early modern phi- losophy and analytic metaphysics.

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The source of Spinoza’s necessitarianism is IP16 which reads as follows:

From the necessity of the divine nature there must follow infi- nitely many things in infinitely many modes, (i.e., everything which can fall under an infinite inte1lect.Y

Although the evidence for necessitarianism in Spinoza seems to be conclusive, several of the commentators seem to argue that Spinoza’s system entails contingency. In this paper I defend the interpretation that Spinoza ac- cepted the absolute necessity of all truths. I show that a con- sistent formulation of Spinoza’s necessitarianism can be provided even though his necessitarianism threatens to be in- consistent in two different respect^.^

1.I. First Threat:

Apparent Direct Assertion of Contingency

There are passages in the Ethics where Spinoza seems to commit himself to the existence of contingent truths. These passages are in conflict with the above cited passages where the denial of contingency appears to be quite definite. Com- mentators who attribute to Spinoza the view that there is real contingency, or who claim that Spinoza’s modal theory is not consistent, focus mainly on two passages in the Ethics. First, in IIAl Spinoza writes as follows:

The essence of man does not involve necessary existence, i.e., from the order of nature it can happen equally that this or that man does exist, or that he does not exist.

In this passage Spinoza, it seems, wants to say that each hu- man being exists only contingently. Moreover, it is evident that Spinoza would not want to say, on the basis of IIA1, that only human beings are contingent beings. Rather, IIAl seems to be an instance of the universal generalization according to which all singular things, i.e., finite modes whose existence is both spatially and temporally limited, exist contingently. The second important passage where Spinoza seems to allow con- tingency is TIPS which reads as follows:

The ideas of singular things, or of modes, that do not exist must be comprehended in God’s infinite idea in the same way as the formal essences of the singular things, or modes, are contained in God’s attributes.

In this passage Spinoza commits himself to the existence of ideas that are about nonexistent individuals. Moreover, from

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the existence of ideas that are about nonexistent individuals it is quite natural to infer that there are possible but not actual entities. The principle that lies behind this inference is that everything conceivable, i.e., everything of which an idea can be formed, is also possible. Now, if this principle is accepted, then there are individuals, or modes, which do not exist but could have e~isted.~ The apparent inconsistency of Spinoza’s modal theory be- comes perspicuous when IIAl is read in conjunction with the following passage from IP11D2 (GII/53/ 6-10):

But the reason why a circle or a triangle exists, or why it does not exist, does not follow from the nature of these things, but from the order of the whole of corporeal Nature. For from this order it must follow either that the triangle necessarily exists now or that it is impossible for it to exist now.

As Bennett (1985, 121) has pointed out, one would not be en- titled to argue that there is no inconsistency between this pas- sage from IPllD2 and IIAl because IIAl is about human beings and the passage from IPllD2 about triangles. Undoubt- edly, Spinoza treats the passage from IPllD2 as an instance of a universal truth according to which each singular thing (i.e., a finite mode) exists by necessity when it exists. In what fol- lows I call the problem posed by those passages which appear to offer mutually inconsistent views of Spinoza’s modal theory

the problem of apparent direct assertion of contingency.

1.2. Second Threat:

The Problem of Alternative Systems of Finite Modes The second respect in which Spinoza’s modal theory is recalcitrant to a necessitarianist reading is that Spinoza seems to base the necessity of all truths on the fact that they follow from truths describing the immutable nature of GodsS However, the truths describing the immutable nature of God have as their objects things that eternally exist, and it is natural to think, as Spinoza does in IP21 and IP22, that ev- erything that follows from something that is eternal and im- mutable must also be eternal and immutable. Thus, it is impossible for finite modes, i.e., for singular things which have spatiotemporal limits to their existence, to follow from the im- mutable nature of God. They follow, Spinoza claims in IP28, from God’s attributes as they are modified by finite modifica- tions; and in Spinoza’s ontology this means that the existence of finite modes is determined only by other finite modes. But it seems that if no finite mode follows from the absolute nature of God, then Spinoza’s metaphysics leaves room for alternative systems of finite modes because causal determinism in a sys-

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tem of finite modes, say A, does not guarantee that A is the only possible system of finite modes. In what follows I will call this problem the problem of alternative systems of finite modes. The problem is: Does Spinoza, in claiming that finite modes do not follow from the absolute nature of God, grant that there are contingent truths?

2. TWO PROPOSED SOLUTIONS 2.1. DifferentSenses of Necessity

In the recent literature on Spinoza, various attempts have been made to save his modal theory from inconsistency. In one rather plausible solution, it has been argued that Spinoza used the word “necessary” in different senses.6 There is some evidence for the view that Spinoza believed that there are dif- ferent kinds of necessity in the following passage from IP33S1 (GII/74/6-8) :

A thing is called necessary either by reason of its essence or by reason of its cause. For a thing’s existence follows necessarily ei- ther from its essence and definition or from a given efficient cause.

In this passage, then, Spinoza makes a distinction between something being necessary by reason of its cause and some- thing being necessary by reason of its essence. However, it is not perfectly clear what Spinoza means by the distinction since two different readings of it are readily available. In the first reading the distinction should be interpreted as a distinc- tion between different kinds of necessity. A thing which is nec- essary by reason of its essence is absolutely necessary, whereas a thing which is necessary by reason of its cause is only rela- tively necessary. In the second reading the distinction is meant to emphasize that a thing which is necessary may have de- rived its necessity either from its essence or from some exter- nal cause. However, regardless of whether a thing has derived its necessity from its essence or from some external cause, its existence is necessary in the same sense of ne~essity.~ If the former reading of Spinoza’s distinction between ne- cessity by reason of its cause and necessity by reason of its es- sence is accepted, then Spinoza’s modal theory can be saved from inconsistency as follows: in emphasizing the necessity of all things, Spinoza is saying that each thing is such that it is either relatively necessary or absolutely necessary. However, when what he says expresses the thought that singular things are contingent existents, he is claiming that singular things are not absolutely necessary but are only relatively necessary. So when in IPllD2 Spinoza says that the existence of a given triangle is necessary and when in IIAl he denies that human beings are necessary existents, the apparent inconsistency

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generated by these two passages would be eliminated by say- ing that in the former Spinoza is speaking about relative ne- cessity whereas in the latter he is speaking about absolute necessity. This solution gains some plausibility from Spinoza’s idea that even if singular things are such that their essences do not involve existence, they exist in infinite causal series of singular things and could thus be necessary by reason of their causes. In this solution IIP8 would pose no difficulty; the con- tingency which that proposition entails is absolute, or logical, contingency which is consistent with relative necessity. Thus, the problem of apparent direct assertion of contingency here receives a solution with prima facie plausibility. Equipped with a distinction between two kinds of necessity, the problem of alternative possible systems of finite modes is easy to explain away. Spinoza does not deny the logical possi- bility of alternative systems of finite modes. In this reading it is logically possible that instead of the actual system of finite modes some other system of finite modes would have existed; the necessary existence Spinoza seems to attribute to finite modes is just relative necessity and, as we have seen, this relative necessity is consistent with “absolute contingency.”

2.1 .I. Problems in the Solution

Even if the solution proposed above appears to be quite el- egant, there is textual evidence which strongly suggests that it is not the one Spinoza would have endorsed. That Spinoza wanted to see the connection between God’s essence and modes as absolutely necessary receives confirmation from the already quoted passage in IP17S (see p. 61 above), where he says that everything follows from the power of God by the same necessity as it follows from the nature of a triangle that its three angles are equal to two right angles. Additional evi- dence for attributing to Spinoza the view that all the things there are exist by the same necessity is to be found from one of Spinoza’s letters to Oldenburg (Letter 75; The Letters, 337):

In no way do I subject God to fate, but I conceive that all things follow with inevitable necessity from God’s nature in the same way that everyone conceives that it follows from Gods nature that God understands himself.*

In the Ethics Spinoza also makes some important remarks that identify the necessity with which God understands him- self with the necessity by which he acts. In IIP3S he writes as follows:

we have shown in IP16 that God acts with the same necessity by which he understands himself, i.e.,just as it follows from the ne- cessity of the divine nature (as everyone maintains unanimously)

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that God understands himself, with the same necessity it also fol- lows that God does infinitely many things in infinitely many modes.

And in IIP7S Spinoza goes still further by identifying God’s ideas with the objects of those ideas. He writes there as fol- lows:

a mode of extension and the idea of that mode are one and the same thing, but expressed in two ways. Some of the Hebrews seem to have seen this, as if through a cloud, when they maintained that God, God’s intellect, and the things understood by him are one and the same. For example, a circle existing in nature and the idea of the existing circle, which is also in God, are one and the same thing, which is explained through different attributes.

That this passage supports the reading that there is only kind of necessity can be seen as follows. It is absolutely necessary that God has an idea of everything that is possible. But be- cause each of these ideas is identical with its object, God’s thinking of something is, so to speak, God’s creating it. Thus, it is absolutely necessary that God creates everything that is possible. Additional evidence for the view that Spinoza sees the relation between God and his modes as absolutely neces- sary is offered by IP25S where he writes as follows:

God must be caled the cause of all things in the same sense in which he is called the cause of himself.

That this scholium supports a necessitarian reading of Spinoza becomes obvious once it has been explicated what he means by saying that God is the cause of himself. Spinoza ex- plicates the meaning of causa sui in ID1. This definition runs as follows:

By cause of itself I understand that whose essence involves ex- istence, or that whose nature cannot be conceived except as ex- isting.

Thus, Spinoza accepts the following principles:

(1) x causes x if and only if x’s essence involves the ex- istence of x;

and

(2) The essence of x involves the existence of x if and only if the essence of x cannot be conceived without the existence of x.

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From IP25S it follows that in ‘God is the cause of x’ where x is any thing distinct from God, ‘cause’ means the same as in principle (1)above. Thus, the following holds in Spinoza’s sys- tem:

God is the cause of x if and only if the essence of God involves the existence of x.

But from the conjunction of (2) and (3) it seems to follow that

God is the cause of x if and only if the essence of God cannot be conceived without the existence of x.

However, the conjunction of (4) and Spinoza’s thesis that God is the cause of everything there is, entails that each thing there is, is contained in the essence of God in such a way that God’s essence cannot be conceived without it. But this means that if some thing that does not exist had existed, God’s es- sence would have been different. However, God’s essence could not have been differenLg Thus, all things are necessary in the same sense because all things, including God himself, derive their existence from their being included in God’s essence. It seems to me that the conceptual containment of all things in God’s essence is just Spinoza’s way of stating that the connec- tion between God’s essence and other things is logical (i.e.,

conceptual).1°

On the basis of what has been said above, I believe that textual evidence forces one to favor the view that in making the distinction between something being necessary by reason of its essence and something being necessary by reason of its cause, Spinoza is arguing that a thing which is necessary may have derived its absolute necessity either from its essence or from some external cause.

(3)

(4)

2.2. Garrett‘s Solution

In his excellent article about Spinoza’s modal theory, Don Garrett (1991)argues that Spinoza is best interpreted as a ne- cessitarian. I share Garrett’s opinion in several matters, but I have some doubts concerning the way he treats IIP8 and IIA1. Also, I am a bit skeptical about his view on what neces- sitates the existence of finite modes. Garrett’s view is that in IIPS Spinoza’s purpose is to show how there can be ideas of nonexistent individuals even though IIP7, “the order and connection of ideas is the same as the or- der and connection of things,” seems to require that there is a perfect parallelism (or even identity) between ideas and their objects. As an example of nonexistent ideas, Garrett considers ideas about unicorns. He claims that these ideas really have existing things as their objects. Garrett does not, however, at-

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tribute to Spinoza any Meinongian object theory. He seems to claim that ideas of nonexistent individuals are in a sense con- ditional. Garrett (1991, 217, note 21) writes as follows:

But as EIIP8 explains, such an idea [of a unicorn] is not an idea having no object, which would violate EIIP7; rather it is an idea having a truly existent thing as its object. This truly existent thing is not an existent unicorn, however, but rather the formal essence of a unicorn. This essence is “comprehended”in the at- tribute of Extension. As I understand it, this means that the es- sence is itself a real, existent, feature of Extension: specifically the pervasive and permanent feature that Extension’s general laws are such as to permit the unicorn-mechanism to exist whenever and wherever the series of finite modes and causes should dictate.

It seems that in this interpretation someone is having an idea of a unicorn if she understands the circumstances in which a unicorn would be brought about. She is having an idea of a unicorn if she understands what is required for a unicorn to exist. I believe that Garrett’s interpretation is in accordance with what Spinoza says about nonexistent individuals in his earlier writings, but as an explanation of ideas about nonexistent in- dividuals it has an air of circularity around it. If someone’s idea of a nonexistent F is something like, “if circumstances A, B, and C are realized then F exists,” there is still both in the antecedent and in the consequent of the conditional reference to nonexistents because the conditions required for the exist- ence of F are not realized. Thus, if Garrett’s point is that Spinoza tried to show by IIP8 how ideas about nonexistents can be transformed into ideas about existents, then he does not succeed in proving it. Moreover, Garrett’s interpretation of IIP8 does not explain the ideas about those nonexistent indi- viduals whose existence is against the laws of extension. In considering IIAl Garrett (1991, 199) points out that in saying that the essence of man does not involve necessary ex- istence, Spinoza is not denying that the existence of finite modes is necessary. What Spinoza there denies is that the ex- istence of finite modes is determined by their essence. How- ever, in IIAl Spinoza expresses the same thought in two ways. He believes that

(A*) the essence of man does not involve necessary exist- ence

means the same as

(B*) from the order of nature it can happen equally that this or that man does exist, or that he does not exist

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[ex naturae ordine, tam fieri potest, ut hic, & ille homo existat, quam ut non existat].

It seems to me that (B*) suggests more strongly than (A*) that both the existence and nonexistence of this or that man are genuine possibilities. Garrett (1991,217,note 23)gives two in- terpretations of (B*) which are based on different translations of the original Latin:

(a)

that the existence of a particular man in itself nei- ther contradicts nor is required by the general and pervasive laws (“order”)of nature,

or

(b)

that the man’s essence does not determine whether he exists or not, but that his existence is instead de- termined as part of the actual series (“order”) of natural causes and effects.

As Garrett admits, the first alternative requires that finite things are not part of the order of nature. However, it is plau-

sible to hold, as Garrett himself does, that finite things are in- cluded in the order of nature. Moreover, in this interpretation

(B*) does not

of nature cannot constitute the essence of any perishable indi- vidual. The second alternative seems to emphasize that finite things are brought about by other finite things. However, it re- mains to be shown how existence in a causal series makes its

elements necessary. All in all, I find difficulties in following Garrett here, because it seems to me that the equivalence of

(A*) and (B”) requires that what Spinoza means by IIAl

that the existence as well as the nonexistence of this or that

man are genuine possibilities. I will later show how this is possible in necessitarianism. Garrett argues that finite modes may be necessary even though they do not follow from the absolute nature of the at- tributes. He (1991,198)offers two alternatives to how finite modes might be necessitated in Spinoza’s system. According to the first alternative:

is

say the same as (A*) because

the pervasive laws

if Spinoza accepts the requirement that the series of finite modes must express the highest degree of reality and perfec- tion, then he could well maintain that the series of finite modes does not follow from the absolute nature of the attribute, but only from that nature together with this additional necessary constraint.

According to the second alternative:

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Spinoza nowhere denies that the whole series of finite modes follows from the absolute nature of the attributes. His claim is only that no individual finite mode follows from it.

Suppose that A is an infinite causal series of finite modes. Ac- cording to Garrett’s first alternative A follows from God‘s abso- lute nature together with the requirement of perfection. According to the second alternative the infinite causal series follows from God’s absolute nature, and the requirement of perfection is not needed. Thus, according to Garrett’s alterna- tives all infinite causal series of finite modes are entailed by necessary truths because truths about God’s absolute nature and the requirement of perfection are necessary in Spinoza’s system.” What I find problematic in Garrett’s treatment is the fol- lowing. If an entire causal series is entailed by necessary truths, then that series has to exist eternally (if my existence were entailed by the fact 2 + 2 = 4, then I would be an eternal existent). But what does it mean that an infinite causal series exists eternally? It seems to me that there are two alterna- tives: either it eternally exists with all its parts or it eternally exists in the sense that at each moment of time some part of it exists. The first alternative would make the parts of the infi- nite series eternal and that would clash with their supposed finitude. Thus, the first alternative must be wrong. In the lat- ter alternative it is hard to understand the sense in which the causal series is entailed by necessary truths. What else can this mean but that each member in the series is entailed by necessary truths? But, if that is the case, each finite mode has to exist eternally. It seems, then, that Garrett does not offer a plausible solution to the problem of alternative systems of fi- nite modes.12

3. CONSISTENT NECESSITARIANISM

3.1. Preliminaries I have defended above the view that Spinoza adopted a clear necessitarianist position. Everything that there is and everything that occurs, is and occurs by the same necessity as it is true that 2 + 2 = 4, Spinoza did not in the famous passage from IP33S1 draw a distinction between different kinds of ne- cessity. Rather, he was arguing that absolute necessity may be based either on the essence of a thing or on its cause. Thus, it has to be shown how the problem of apparent direct assertion of contingency and the problem of alternative possible system of finite modes can be given a solution that is consistent with necessitarianism. The considerations that led to the problem of alternative possible systems of finite modes showed quite clearly that

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there is a sense in which particular things cannot be involved in the absolute nature of God: if they were they would be eternal. Thus finite modes must have their causal origin in other finite modes, i.e., in things which are spatially and temporally lim- ited. However, the consistency of Spinoza’s necessitarianism re- quires that in some sense finite modes must be included in God’s essence and follow from that essence by absolute neces- sity. In what follows I will argue that once a distinction is made between finite modes and objects of truths about finite modes, Spinoza can be seen as arguing that the objects of truths about finite modes follow from God’s essence by absolute necessity even though the finite modes themselves do not follow from God’s essence by absolute necessity. I also claim that in order to be consistently a necessitarian Spinoza does not have to show that finite modes as such follow from the absolute nature of God-it suffices that the objects of truths about finite modes follow from that absolute nature. Thus, the sense in which fi- nite modes follow from the essence of God is that the objects of truths about finite modes follow from that essence. It will be shown why this sense of following from God’s essence is not against Spinoza’s “nothing finite from infinite”- thesis.

3.2.Solution

Necessitarianism is the thesis that

(N) All truths are necessary.

This expresses the idea that there is only one possible world. Let us now consider what kind of ontological requirements (N) involves in Spinoza’s system. In Spinoza’s system a truth is either about God’s infinite features or about his finite features. There is no problem in as- suming that truths about God’s infinite features are necessary truths because the objects of these truths are also necessary ex- istents. Thus, the assumption that these truths follow from truths describing God’s absolute nature is not inconsistent with Spinoza’s view that from God’s absolute nature follow only infi- nite necessarily existing things. Let us, then, consider neces- sary truths about finite modes. In Spinoza’s system truths about finite modes must be ex- pressed by sentences that involve a reference to time and place. The reason for this time and place specification is that finite modes have a spatiotemporal location. If sentences about finite modes lacked reference to times and places, then those sen- tences could not express ideas that could be meaningfully called true or false. The temporal aspect of this point was recognized by Gottlob Frege (1988 [1918-19191, 53) in the following pas- sage:

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The words ‘This tree is covered with green leaves’ are not suffi- cient by themselves to constitute the expression of thought, for the time of utterance is involved as well. Without the time- specification thus given we have not a complete thought, that is we have no thought at all. Only a sentence with the time-speci- fication filled out, a sentence complete in every respect, ex- presses a thought. But this thought, if it is true, is true not only today or tomorrow but timele~sly.’~

It is also evident that what Frege says here about time-specifi- cation holds also, mutatis mutandis, for specification of ~1ace.l~ The proof of necessitarianism requires, then, that Spinoza has to show that all time-place specified sentences about finite modes express necessarily true ideas. Thus, Spinoza’s modal theory does not require that the existence of a particular storm is necessitated by the infinite features of God; but it re- quires that if a particular storm occurs in P at t, then the truth ‘this storm occurs in P at t’ is a necessary truth and fol- lows from truths describing God’s infinite essence. To put the point more generally, the necessity of all truths about finite modes requires that the following principle holds:

(NF) For each finite mode x and for each place P and for each time t, if x exists in P at t, then it is nec- essary that x exists in P at t.

But the necessity of all truths does not require the truth of the following principle with which it is easy to conflate:

(NEF) Each finite mode is a necessary existent.

Necessary existents for Spinoza are things that are not perish- able. Thus (NEF) includes the view that all finite modes are eternal, as well as the denial of all change, since change pre- supposes that finite modes come into being and cease to exist. Thus, (NEF) is inconsistent with the existence of finite modes because finite modes have necessarily temporal limits to their existence. What has to be shown, then, is that the distinction between (NF) and (NEF) does not collapse in Spinoza’s system. What (NF) says is that all truths about finite modes are necessary, and what (NEF) says is that no finite mode could have failed to exist at any moment of time at any place. Now because in Spinoza’s system God’s essence is the ultimate source of all necessity, it follows that all truths about finite modes must follow from truths describing God’s essence. The crucial question we have to face is: does Spinoza’s view that all truths about finite modes follow from truths describing God’s eternal essence violate his view that nothing finite fol- lows from the infinite essence of God?

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In order to give the correct, i.e., negative, answer to the question just posed what must be shown is that the objects of truths about finite modes are infinite modes. Even if it may sound somewhat paradoxical to say that the objects of truths about finite modes are infinite modes, I believe that this claim is defensible in Spinoza’s metaphysics. For Spinoza modes are either finite or infinite. A finite mode has spatiotemporal limits and a mode that fails to have such limits is an infinite mode.15Let us suppose that Jones raised his hand in his bedroom 12.2. 1995.Now, this particu- lar raising of his hand by Jones is a finite mode. It came into being when Jones’ hand went up and it ceased to exist when Jones laid his hand down. Moreover, this particular hand raising does not exist in Jones’ kitchen but in his bedroom. Thus, because this hand raising has spatiotemporal limits it is a finite mode. But consider now the truth expressed by the sentence “Jones raised his hand in his bedroom 12.2.1995.” This sentence is about the finite mode, “Jones’ raising his hand” and it says that the finite mode occurred in Jones’ bed- room at 12.2. 1995.But, and this is important, what makes it true is not just the existence of “Jones’ raising his hand” but “Jones’raising his hand in his bedroom at 12.2.1995.”Now, “Jones’ raising his hand in his bedroom 12.2.1995”seems to

differ crucially

his

his hand in his bedroom 12.2.1995” seems to have no spa- tiotemporal location. This entity is beyond the temporal and spatial order and is for that reason an infinite mode. But be- cause all truths about finite modes must involve place and time specifications it follows that all truths about finite modes have as their objects infinite modes and are made true by infinite modes.16

The distinction between the objects of truths about finite modes and those finite modes themselves becomes very close to the distinction P. F. Strawson makes between events in na- ture and facts. Strawson (1985,116)writes as follows:

from “Jones’ raising his hand.” “Jones’ raising

hand” has a spatiotemporal location, but “Jones’ raising

There are, sometimes, relatively subtle indications of the differ- ence. Thus we might compare “His death, coming when it did, was responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations”with “His death’s coming when it did was responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations.” His death, as referred to in the first of these sentences, is certainly an event in nature. It came when it did. But his death’s coming when it did did not come at any time. It is not an event in nature. It is the fact that a certain event occurred in nature at a certain time.I7

Thus, we have seen that Spinoza’s view that no finite mode follows from the absolute nature of God is not, in his system,

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inconsistent with the thesis that all truths are necessitated by their following from the absolute nature of God.18 Once the distinction between finite modes and those modes with their times and places has been spelled out, the solution to the problem of apparent direct assertion of contingency is easy to see. In IIAl Spinoza is not speaking about the exist- ence of men at some definite (or indefinite) time; in IP11D2, however, he speaks about the existence of a triangle In IIAl Spinoza is not saying that from the order of nature it may happen that this or that man does not exist when he ex- ists.20Rather, he is simply drawing the reader’s attention to the fact that men, being finite modes of God, are not eternal existents: their existence has temporal limits and for that rea- son they are contingent existents. They are contingent in the sense of IVDB, according to which those things whose essence does not involve existence or nonexistence are contingent. But this, of course, is consistent with the view that all truths about these contingent things, truths which are expressed by temporally specified sentences, are absolutely necessary. Thus, IIAl and the passage from IPllD2 are in perfect harmony in the interpretation proposed. IIAl and the passage from IPllD2 are instances of quite different universal generaliza- tions: IIAl is an instance of the generalization that no finite thing is a necessary existent, while the passage from IPllD2 is an instance of the generalization that each finite thing ex- ists necessarily when it exists. In order to see how IfP8 is consistent with necessitarian- ism, it is appropriate to place it in a wider argumentative con- text. Prior to IIPS, Spinoza has demonstrated in IIP3 the omniscience of his God. There is in God an eternal idea of ev- erything that there has been, is, and will be.21But the conjunc- tion of God’s having ideas of everything possible and IIP7, according to which there is a perfect parallelism between ideas and their objects, seems to generate a problem: if there is now an idea in God of some singular thing, say Alexander the Great, then the parallelism appears to require that Alexander the Great should exist now. But Alexander the Great does not exist now. In IIP8 Spinoza, then, seems to argue that the onto- logical correlates of ideas about past and present future indi- viduals are not the individuals themselves but their formal essences, which are included in the attributes. In the light of the context in which IIPS occurs, it is thus not correct to claim that it is about ideas of possible alternative individuals. Rather, it is natural to view IIPS as providing an answer to the question of how it is possible to refer to things that do not exist now.22My interpretation gets some confirmation from the first sentence of the corollary to IIP8. This sentence reads as follows:

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Consistency of Spinoza’s Modal Theory

From this it follows that so long as [quamdiu] singular things do not exist

Here “quamdiu” is a temporal adverb which is best translated, as Curley does, with the phrase so long as.” The use of “quamdiu”here suggests that in IIP8 Spinoza, by nonexistent individuals, means individuals which are nonexistent at some moment of time.23What is also noteworthy in IIP8 is that in that proposition Spinoza introduces the technical term of for- mal essence (essentia formales). Now, this formal essence cor- responds, I believe, to the object of a truth about a finite mode. It is these formal essences or objects of truths about finite modes that follow from the eternal and infinite essence of God; and that they follow from the eternal and infinite essence of the necessarily existing God is, in Spinoza’s system, sufficient for there being only one possible system of finite modes.24

CONCLUSION

Spinoza’s necessitarianism seems inconsistent because he wants to derive his view on the necessity of all truths from IP16 according to which everything there is follows from the nature of God by absolute necessity. Thus, all truths are nec- essary because each truth has as its object something that fol- lows from God’s absolute nature. However, in IP21-22 Spinoza wants to claim that the things that follow from that absolute nature must be infinite and eternal. But this means that truths about finite modes cannot be necessary because they have as their objects things that have spatiotemporal limita- tions to their existence. The solution to this apparent inconsistency is based on the following principles:

(i) If a mode has no spatiotemporal limits to its exist- ence, then it is an infinite mode of God.

(ii) The thing of which a truth is about is not the same as the object of the truth.

(iii) Truths about finite modes have infinite modes as their objects.

In this paper it has been argued that (iii) holds because sen- tences that express truths about finite modes must involve place and time specifications and that truths expressed by such sentences must be made true by things that are outside the spatiotemporal order. It seems that Spinoza made a distinction that corresponds to the distinction between finite modes themselves and the ob- jects of truths about finite modes in the following passage

from VP29S:

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We conceive things as actual in two ways: either insofar as we conceive them to exist in relation to a certain time and place, or insofar as we conceive them to be contained in God and to follow from the necessity of the divine nature. But things we conceive in this second way as true, or real, we conceive under a species of eternity, and to that extent they involve the eternal and infinite essence of God.

Here Spinoza’s point is that finite modes as relata of spa- tiotemporal relations do not follow from the infinite essence of God. However, under a form of eternity they follow from the necessity of the divine nature. But this fits perfectly with the interpretation proposed above: finite modes having spatiotem- poral limits to their existence do not follow from the absolute nature of God, but these modes with their times and places follow from that nature. And it is in a sense perfectly reason- able to think that a finite mode with its time and place of ex- istence is that mode under a form of eternity. It seems that there is a certain resemblance between Spinoza and Wittgenstein on the topic of sub specie aeternitatis. Wittgenstein (Notebooks 1914-1916 , 83) writes as follows:

The usual way of looking at things sees objects as it were from the midst of them, the view sub specie aeternitatis from outside. In such a way that they have the whole world as background. Is this it perhaps-in this view the object is seen together with space and time instead of in space and time?25s26

NOTES

Translations are from E.M. Curley’s The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1. (B. Spinoza, The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. I. E. M. Curley, ed. and trans. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 19851). Latin quotations are from Carl Gebhardt’s edition of Spinoza’s works (“Short Treatise” in The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. I. Spinoza Op- era. Carl Gebhardt, ed. [Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 19251). The system of

numbering passages from the Ethics stems from Curley. Thus, ID6 re- fers to the sixth definition of the first part of the Ethics, IP16 refers to the sixteenth proposition of the first part and IIP7S refers to the scholium to proposition 7 of the second part. How, exactly, IP16 entails necessitarianism, see Don Garrett, “Spinoza’s Necessitarianism,” in God and Nature: Spinoza’s Metaphys-

ics, Y. Yovel, ed.

Among the commentators who believe that Spinoza left room for logically contingent truths are Edwin Curley (Spinoza’s Metaphysics:

An Essay in Znterpretation [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 19693, 101-106); and Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza’s Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 19881, 48-

Donagan, “Spinoza’s Proof of Immortality,” in Spinoza: A Col-

lection of Critical Essays, Marjorie Grene, ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973), 241-258; Joel Friedman, “How the Finite

(Leiden: Brill, 1991), 205-207.

50);Alan

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Follows from the Infinite in Spinoza’s Metaphysical System,” Synthese

“Spinoza on Modality,” Philo-

69 (1986): 371-401; and Richard Mason,

sophical Quarterly 36 (1986): 313342. In his philosophically subtle and historically illuminating paper, also John Carriero (“Spinoza’sViews on Necessity in Historical Perspective,” Philosophical lbpics 19 [19911: 47- 96) seems to find room for logical contingency in Spinoza’s system. For example, Donagan (“Spinoza’s Proof of Immortality,” 250)) seems to believe that in IIP8 ideas about nonexistent individuals in- clude ideas about things that never exist. Carriero (“Spinoza’sViews on Necessity in Historical Perspective,” 77), seems to think that IIP8 is ex- clusively about internally possible things which never exist. See, for example, the passage cited from IP17S. The most elaborate version of this solution stems from Curley,

Spinoza’s Metaphysics, 86-93.

Jonathan Bennett, A Study of Spinoza’s

Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19841, 121, has some

sympathy for it but seems to reject it; according to Bennett, Spinoza was committed both to necessitarianism and to its denial. Also Fried- man, “How the Finite Follows from the Infinite,” 375-378, believes that Spinoza had different concepts of necessity. This reading is endorsed by Garrett (“Spinoza’sNecessitarian-

ism,” 199), who writes as follows: “It must be

Spinoza does not present the distinction as one between two degrees of necessity, but rather as one between two sources of necessity: a thing‘s own essence, and a cause other than the thing itself.” A similar view seems to be attributed to Spinoza also by Bennett, A Study of Spinozas Ethics, 124. This passage favors the reading offered here because it cer- tainly is absolutely necessary that God understands himself. This pas- sage is cited by Garrett, “Spinoza’s Necessitarianism,”lSl. In IP33D Spinoza shows the impossibility of God’s having a dif- ferent essence from the actual one. Of this point see also IP33D. My interpretation of IP25S seems to face the following objection. That God cannot be conceived without any of his modes, is inconsistent with Spinoza’s view that God is a sub- stance (ID6) and hence conceived through himself (ID3). However, it seems to me that this objection can be met once it is recognized that “x cannot be conceived without y” is ambiguous. It may mean either that (i) “x cannot be distinctly identified without y” or that (ii) the proposi- tion “x is not y” is inconceivable. My interpretation does not threaten God’s conceivability through himself because in saying that God cannot be conceived without any of its modes, 1 use “cannot be conceived” in the latter sense of the phrase; and it seems to me that in saying that sub- stances are conceived through themselves, Spinoza means that sub- stances can be distinctly identified without their modes. Friedman, “HOWthe Finite Follows from the Infinite,” 376-377,

also believes that the infinite causal series of finite modes follow logi- cally from the absolute nature of God. I have criticized Friedman’s inter-

pretation in Koistinen, On the Metaphysics of Spinoza’s ETHICS

(Turku, 1991), 127-135. Richard Mason has presented an interesting interpretation of Spinoza’s modal theory. According to Mason, Spinoza had only one con- cept of necessity. Mason, “Spinoza on Modality,” 328, writes: “[Spinoza’s] approach is ontological: it is the explanation of existence, not the expla- nation of truth, which concerns him. For him, the must of necessity is

emphasized, however, that

*

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not must be true, but must be caused or explained. To be necessary is to be necessitated, and to be necessitated is to have a cause or explanation which necessitates.” Mason’s view is, however, problematic because in the Short Treatise (GV41-42) Spinoza considers the possibility that in spite of universal causal determinism there is contingency. Spinoza ar- gues that this is not a real possibility because everything depends on one single cause. If for Spinoza”‘to be necessary” had meant “to have a cause,” then he would have needed no additional premise to show that universal determinism eliminates contingency. I have considered the crucial passage from the Short Deatise in Koistinen, On the Metaphys- ics of Spinoza’s ETHICS, 136-137, and in an unpublished manuscript “Spinoza’s Proof of Necessitarianism.” Gottlob Frege, “Thoughts,” in Propositions and Attitudes, Nathan Salmon and Scott Soames, eds. P. Geach and R. H. Stoothoff, trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 33-55. Originally pub- lished as “Der Gedanke. Eine logische Untersuchung,” in Beitruge zur

Philosophie des deutschen Idealismus, I (1918/19), 58-77.

In the preface to his Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, Frege thinks that in addition to the specification of time also a specification of place is needed. He writes as follows: “All determinations of the place, the time and the like, belong to the thought whose truth is in point; its truth itself is independent of place and time.” This citation is from Gottlob Frege, The Basic Laws of Arithmetic, 14,Montgomery Furth, ed. and trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967); original Ger- man edition published in two volumes 1893 and 1903. I am indebted to Ari Maunu for bringing this passage to my attention. Also Bennett, A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics, 112-113, seems to interpret finite modes as spatiotemporally limited particulars. It might be thought that whether a mode is finite and perish- able or infinite and eternal depends on how that mode is thought of; considered in itself a mode is contingent and finite, whereas considered as a part of the infinite causal series the mode is eternal and necessary. I believe that this interpretation is somewhat fascinating because Spinoza seems to believe that modes considered sub specie aeternitatis are necessary. However, what I find problematic in this interpretation is that it makes finitude and the coming into being of a mode and its ceas- ing to exist description dependent. But it seems to me that for Spinoza finitude and infinity are objective features of the world. In his doctrine of the eternity of mind (VP23) Spinoza says that something of the mind remains which is eternal. However, if Spinoza had believed that fini- tudelinfinitude is description dependent, then he could as well have said that the mind is eternal. Moreover, it is not easy for me to understand the underlying intuition behind the distinction between “a mode in it- self‘ and “a mode as a part of the infinite causal nexus.” How can a mode be infinite and eternal as a part of the infinite causal nexus with- out it being the case that the mode in itself is eternal, too? I am grateful to an anonymous referee of this journal for bringing this alternative to my attention. P. F. Strawson, “Causation and Explanation,” in Essays on Dauidson: Actions and Events, B. Vermazen and M. B. Hintikka, eds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 19851, 115-136. It may be suggested that the distinction between the contin- gency of finite modes in themselves and the necessity of objects of truths about finite modes is a distinction between what is necessary in the or-

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Consistency of Spinoza’s Modal Theory

der of being and what is necessary in language. However, it is not, at least primarily, that what I want to say. Spinoza thought that the fun- damental truth-bearers are ideas (IA6 and IIP47S). A sentence is true if it expresses a true idea. Spinoza also thought that a true idea must cor- respond to (or must in fact be identical with) its object (IA6 and IIP7S). Now, a temporally definite sentence which is always true must express an idea that is omnitemporally true. However, because of the parallel- ism, the object of the idea must be an omnitemporal existent, too. More- over, because finite modes have spatiotemporal limits to their existence, the objects of these ideas cannot be finite modes but must be necessarily existing infinite modes. In my interpretation the distinction between finite modes in them- selves and finite modes under a form of eternity resembles also the dis- tinction that R. M. Chisholm, Person and Object: A Metaphysical Study (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Company, 1976), chapter entitled “States of Affairs,” makes between events and facts. Suppose that Bill Clinton walks at t. In Chisholm’s ontology “Bill Clinton’s walking“ refers to an event that occurs at t because at t Bill Clinton exemplifies the property of walking. Now, this event occurs exactly at the times when Clinton has the property of walking. Thus, it does not always occur. However, in Chisholm’s ontology the fact “Bill Clinton’s walking at t” al- ways occurs. There is always in the world something that concretizes that fact. There are differences between my interpretative idea and Chisholm’s theory, but I believe that they are based on a similar intu- ition.

In Latin the passage from IPllD2 (G II/53/6-10) goes as fol- lows: “At ratio, cur circulus, vel triangulus existit, vel cur non existit, ex eorum natura non sequitur, sed ex ordine universae naturae corporae; ex eo enim sequi debet, vel jam triangulum necessario existere, vel impossibile esse, ut jam existat.” (Emphases mine.) IIAl goes in Latin as follows: “Hominis essentia non involvit necessariam existentiam, hoc est, ex nature ordine, tam fieri potest, ut hic, & ille homo existat, quam ut non existat.”

21 That the ideas about which IIP3, “In God there is necessarily an idea both of his essence and of everything that necessarily follows from his essence,” are eternal is confirmed by VP23D. This demonstra- tion requires that if x is necessarily in God, then x exists eternally.

22 Carriero, “Spinoza’s Views on Necessity in Historical Perspec- tive,’’ 77, considers this alternative but does not accept it.

23 In addition to IIPS, Spinoza speaks of ideas of nonexistent indi- viduals also in IP8S (GII/50/8-11), where he argues that we can have true ideas of modifications which do not exist. According to Spinoza an idea is true if it agrees with its object. What sort of agreement Spinoza means is further explicated in IP30D, where he says that “A true idea must agree with its object (by A6), i.e., (as is known through itselo, what is contained objectively in the intellect must necessarily be in na- ture. Now, it is of course problematic how to reconcile IA6 with there be- ing true ideas of nonexistent individuals. However, this problem disappears once it is understood that by nonexistent individuals, Spinoza means things that do not exist now. IIP8 is illuminating to see as providing an answer to the problem posed by the conjunction of IA6 and the passage from IP8S2. For example, E. M. Curley, “Spinoza On Truth,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 72 (1994): 15) has found the conjunction puzzling. Moreover, it should be noted that in addition to

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God’s omniscience, simple semantical considerations about the eternity

of truth of ideas expressed by temporally definite sentences lead to the postulation of fact-like entities in Spinoza’s metaphysics. For Spinoza ideas are primary truth-bearers, and a true temporally definite sentence must therefore express an idea that is always true. But Spinoza’s paral- lelism requires that there must always be in the world something that corresponds to, or is identical with that idea.

It is instructive to compare the interpretation proposed here

with Margaret Wilson’s interpretation of IP16. In her, “Infinite Under- standing, Scientia Intuitiva, and Ethics 1.16,”Midwest Studies in Phi- losophy 8 (1983): 184-186, interpretation Spinoza denies that the durational existence of finite modes follows from the immutable nature of God. According to Wilson Spinoza claims that the essences of things follow from the necessity of the divine nature. Now, this is also what I argue because I identify the facts about finite modes with their (formal) essences. However, it also seems that the interpretation proposed here differs from Wilson’s interpretation because she (186) writes as follows: ac- cording to my reading of 1.16, nothing about existence at a certain time or place is supposed to be established by 1.16.” The context makes it clear that by referring to IP16 Wilson wants to say that nothing that follows from the necessity of the divine nature exists at a certain time and place. The conflict between my view and Wilson’s is only apparent. Neither in my interpretation follows any finite mode which has spatial and temporal limits for its existence from the absolute nature of God, or from the necessity of the divine nature. Facts about finite modes, which in my interpretation follow from the necessity of the divine nature, do not have existence that is limited to a certain time or place even if the things those facts are about have such a limited existence. In one point of interpretation my view, however, differs from Wilson’s: she thinks that Spinoza’s view that finite modes do not follow from the necessity of

the divine nature is a sign that his metaphysics leaves room for several possible worlds. In my interpretation the existence of several possible worlds is excluded by the facts, i.e., formal essences, following from the necessity of the divine nature.

25 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916. G. H. von Wright and G. E. M. Anscombe, eds. G. E. M. Anscombe, trans. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1961), 83. Emphases in the original.

I am indebted to Don Garrett, Charles Jarrett, Juhani

Pietarinen and an anonymous referee for the Southern Journal of Phi- losophy for their comments. I also want to thank John Carriero, Risto Hilpinen, and Seppo Sajama for their help.

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