Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
In his Ethics (1677), Spinoza sets out a number of propositions which lead to his conclusion that God is the only substance.
The argument relies heavily upon Spinoza’s characterization of “substance” and “God.”
A substance is defined as having its own characteristics, which define just what it is.
A substance can also have what Spinoza calls “affections,” which are non- essential characteristics.
God is defined as that substance which has infinite characteristics, one of which is existence.
The propositions relevant to Spinoza’s monism can be summarized into the following philosophical argument.
And for modern readers, the notion of “awareness” or “universe” may be substituted for Spinoza’s “God.”
Similar arguments have been made in Eastern teachings.
- Two substances cannot share any characteristics.
- God is a substance with infinite characteristics which all express eternal and infinite essence. With such characteristics, God exists, and cannot not exist.
- Therefore, God is the only substance.
Getting from (1) and (2) to (3) depends on Spinoza’s notion of characteristics.
According to (1), no two substances can have even one characteristic in common.
According to (2), God has all the characteristics there are, and God exists.
There are no characteristics left over for any other substance to have.
Therefore, (3), no other substance exists.