By Jonathan Bennett
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Extra resources for A Study of Spinoza's Ethics
In this section I shall explain the arguments leading to the 'no shared attribute' thesis. Notice that if any attribute is the substance which has it, it follows trivially that two substances cannot have an attribute in common. The fact that Spinoza argues elaborately for the latter conclusion is thus evidence that he does not hold that form of the thesis that attributes are substances. But it is not evidence against Curley's view that Spinoza takes each substance to be identical with the totality of its attributes; for it is not trivially obvious, and would therefore have to be argued, that a single attribute could not belong to two such totalities.
That, I submit, is what is going on in Letter 9. ' 5. But can that explain d4? I suppose the term 'intellect' in d4 echoes the line of thought of Letter 9; but that does not explain the phrase 'perceived as an essence' in d4. Taking it that 'essence' is here being used as a loose pointer to the Cartesian notion of an irreducibly basic property, d4 seems to define an attribute as an item that is perceived as basic. My explanation of the Letter 9 passage goes no way towards explaining that. 3 I shall offer an explanation; it involves many things that must be explained first.
Evidence for that will emerge in due course. The notion of a substance as logically or conceptually independent is much more explicitly prominent. Indeed, Spinoza's definition of substance says, primarily, that a substance is something 'conceived through itself', which he explains as meaning that 'the concept of it does not have to be formed from the concept of something else' ( ld3). Although 'conceived' sounds psychological, 'concept' can be logical, and there can be no doubt that substance is here being defined in terms of some kind of logical independence or self-sufficiency.
A Study of Spinoza's Ethics by Jonathan Bennett
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