Spinoza's Simplified Ethics. Part 1: The attributes of God, Propositions 24-29
Propositions: 24-29, The creations of God
Proposition 24: The essence of things produced by God does not involve existence. Proof: This proposition is evident from Def. 1.
For that of which the nature (considered in itself) involves existence is self—caused, and exists by the sole necessity of its own nature.
Corollary: Hence it follows that God is not only the cause of things coming into existence, but also of their continuing in existence, that is, in scholastic phraseology, God is cause of the being of things (essendi rerum).
For whether things exist, or do not exist, whenever we contemplate their essence, we see that it involves neither existence nor duration; consequently, it cannot be the cause of either the one or the other.
God must be the sole cause, inasmuch as to him alone does existence appertain. (Prop. 14, Coroll. 1) Q.E.D.
Proposition 25: God is the efficient cause not only of the existence of things, but also of their essence.
Proof.—If this is denied, then God is not the cause of the essence of things.
Therefore, the essence of things can (by Axiom 4) be conceived without God.
This (by Prop. 15) is absurd.
Therefore, God is the cause of the essence of things. Q.E.D.
Note.—This proposition follows more clearly from Prop. 16.
For it is evident thereby that, given the divine nature, the essence of things must be inferred from it, no less than their existence—in a word, God must be called the cause of all things, in the same sense as he is called the cause of himself.
This will be made still clearer by the following corollary.
Corollary: Individual things are nothing but modifications of the attributes of God, or modes by which the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and definite manner.
The proof appears from Prop. 15 and Def. 5.
Proposition 26: A thing which is conditioned to act in a particular manner, has necessarily been thus conditioned by God.
A thing which has not been conditioned by God cannot condition itself to act.
Proof: That by which things are said to be conditioned to act in a particular manner is necessarily something positive (this is obvious).
Therefore both of its essence and of its existence God by the necessity of his nature is the efficient cause (Props. 25 and 16).
This is our first point.
Our second point is plainly to be inferred therefrom.
For if a thing, which has not been conditioned by God, could condition itself, the first part of our proof would be false, and this, as we have shown is absurd.
Proposition 27: A thing, which has been conditioned by God to act in a particular way, cannot render itself unconditioned.
Proof.—This proposition is evident from the third axiom.
Proposition 28: Every individual thing, or everything which is finite and has a conditioned existence, cannot exist or be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for existence and action by a cause other than itself, which also is finite, and has a conditioned existence.
Likewise, this cause cannot in its turn exist, or be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned for existence and action by another cause, which also is finite, and has a conditioned existence, and so on to infinity.
Proof: Whatsoever is conditioned to exist and act, has been thus conditioned by God (by Prop. 26 and Prop. 24, Coroll.).
But that which is finite, and has a conditioned existence, cannot be produced by the absolute nature of any attribute of God.
For whatsoever follows from the absolute nature of any attribute of God is infinite and eternal (by Prop. 21).
It must, therefore, follow from some attribute of God, in so far as the said attribute is considered as in some way modified.
For substance and modes make up the sum total of existence (by Axiom 1 and Def. 3, 5), while modes are merely modifications of the attributes of God.
But from God, or from any of his attributes, in so far as the latter is modified by a modification infinite and eternal, a conditioned thing cannot follow.
For that reason it must follow from, or be conditioned for, existence and action by God or one of his attributes, in so far as the latter are modified by some modification which is finite, and has a conditioned existence.
This is our first point.
Again, this cause or this modification (for the reason by which we established the first part of this proof) must in its turn be conditioned by another cause, which also is finite, and has a conditioned existence, and, again, this last by another (for the same reason); and so on (for the same reason) to infinity. Q.E.D.
Note: Certain things must be produced immediately by God, namely those things which necessarily follow from his absolute nature, through the means of these primary attributes, which, nevertheless, can neither exist nor be conceived without God, it follows:
That God is absolutely the proximate cause of those things immediately produced by him.
I say absolutely, not after his kind, as is usually stated.
For the effects of God cannot either exist or be conceived without a cause (Prop. 15 and Prop. 24, Coroll.).
That God cannot properly be styled the remote cause of individual things, except for the sake of distinguishing these from what he immediately produces, or rather from what follows from his absolute nature.
For, by a remote cause, we understand a cause which is in no way conjoined to the effect.
But all things which are, are in God, and so depend on God, that without him they can neither be nor be conceived.
Proposition 29: Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature. Proof.—Whatsoever is, is in God (Prop. 25).
But God cannot be called a thing contingent.
For (by Prop. 11) he exists necessarily, and not contingently.
Further, the modes of the divine nature follow therefrom necessarily, and not contingently (Prop. 16).
They thus follow, whether we consider the divine nature absolutely, or whether we consider it as in any way conditioned to act (Prop. 27).
Further, God is not only the cause of these modes, in so far as they simply exist (by Prop. 24, Coroll.), but also in so far as they are considered as conditioned for operating in a particular manner (Prop. 26).
If they be not conditioned by God (Prop. 26), it is impossible, and not contingent, that they should condition themselves; contrariwise, if they be conditioned by God, it is impossible, and not contingent, that they should render themselves unconditioned.
For that reason, all things are conditioned by the necessity of the divine nature, not only to exist, but also to exist and operate in a particular manner, and there is nothing that is contingent. Q.E.D.
Note.—Before going any further, I wish here to explain, what we should understand by nature viewed as active (natura naturans), and nature viewed as passive (natura naturata).
I say to explain, or rather call attention to it, for I think that, from what has been said, it is sufficiently clear, that by nature viewed as active we should understand that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself, or those attributes of substance, which express eternal and infinite essence, in other words (Prop. 14, Coroll. 1, and Prop. 17, Coroll. 2) God, in so far as he is considered as a free cause.
By nature viewed as passive I understand all that which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any of the attributes of God, that is, all the modes of the attributes of God, in so far as they are considered as things which are in God, and which without God cannot exist or be conceived.