Spinoza's Simplified Ethics. Part 1: The understanding of God, Propositions 30-36

Propositions: 30-36, Intellect and the Understanding of God

Proposition 30: Intellect, in function (actu) finite, or in function infinite, must comprehend the attributes of God and the modifications of God, and nothing else.

Proof: A true idea must agree with its object (Axiom 6). Proposition 31: The intellect in function, whether finite or infinite, as will, desire, love, etc., should be referred to passive nature and not to active nature. Proof.—By the intellect we do not (obviously) mean absolute thought, but only a certain mode of thinking, differing from other modes, such as love, desire, etc., and therefore (Def. 5) requiring to be conceived through absolute thought. Note: I do not here, by speaking of intellect in function, admit that there is such a thing as intellect in potentiality: Proposition 32: Will cannot be called a free cause, but only a necessary cause. Proof.—Will is only a particular mode of thinking, like intellect; therefore (by Prop. 28) no volition can exist, nor be conditioned to act, unless it be conditioned by some cause other than itself, which cause is conditioned by a third cause, and so on to infinity. Coroll. 1 & 2: It follows:
  1. That God does not act according to freedom of the will.
  2. That will and intellect stand in the same relation to the nature of God as do motion, and rest, and absolutely all natural phenomena, which must be conditioned by God (Prop. 29) to exist and act in a particular manner.
    • For will, like the rest, needs a cause, by which it is conditioned to exist and act in a particular manner.
    • When will or intellect is granted, an infinite number of results may follow.
    • But God cannot on that account be said to act from freedom of the will, any more than the infinite number of results from motion and rest would justify us in saying that motion and rest act by free will.
    • For that reason, will no more appertains to God than does anything else in nature, but stands in the same relation to him as motion, rest, and the like, which we have shown to follow from the necessity of the divine nature, and to be conditioned by it to exist and act in a particular manner.
Proposition 33: Things could not have been brought into being by God in any manner or in any order different from that which has in fact obtained. Proof: All things necessarily follow from the nature of God (Prop. 16), and by the nature of God are conditioned to exist and act in a particular way (Prop. 29). Note 1: As I have thus shown, more clearly than the sun at noonday, that there is nothing to justify us in calling things contingent, I wish to explain briefly what meaning we shall attach to the word contingent; but I will first explain the words necessary and impossible. Note 2: It clearly follows from what we have said, that things have been brought into being by God in the highest perfection, inasmuch as they have necessarily followed from a most perfect nature. Proposition 34: God's power is identical with his essence. Proof: From the sole necessity of the essence of God it follows that God is the cause of himself (Prop. 11) and of all things (Prop. 16 and Coroll.). Proposition 35: Whatsoever we conceive to be in the power of God, necessarily exists. Proof: Whatsoever is in God's power, must (by the last Prop.) be comprehended in his essence in such a manner, that it necessarily follows therefrom, and therefore necessarily exists. Q.E.D. Proposition 36: There is no cause from whose nature some effect does not follow. Proof: Whatsoever exists expresses God's nature or essence in a given conditioned manner (by Prop. 25, Coroll.).

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