Baruch Spinoza believes the essence of God includes God’s existence and discusses the causality of God through his ontological work, Ethics. In Ethics, Spinoza is seeking a method of truth through the perfect being. The essence of what that perfect being expresses, using this method of truth, is God (i.e. the perfect being). In this essay I am going to give a detailed account of Part I, Proposition 33 of Spinoza’s book Ethics.
Part I, Proposition 33 of Ethics states that “things could not have been produced by any other way or in any other order than is the case.” This means that whatever does exist could not exist in any other way or in any other manner then it already exists. It certainly follows then, according to Spinoza that this proposition 33 follows from Proposition 16 and 29. Proposition 16 states that,
Proposition 29 states that,
“Nothing in nature is contingent, but all things are from the necessity of the divine nature determined to exist and to act in a definite way.”
According to Spinoza, this provides proof that all things have necessarily followed from the nature of God (Proposition 16) and have been determined to exist and to act in a definite way from the necessity of that nature (Proposition 29). For example this means that I smoke cigarettes from the necessity of God’s will, and furthermore cigarettes, a cancer-causing agent, exist from God’s will. I will now talk about Spinoza’s further conditions of Proposition 33.
In Note 1, Spinoza is developing that there can not be a contingency or possibility of a thing existing because it either necessarily exists or is impossible for it to exist. Spinoza believes that everything has a cause. If it has no cause it contributes to the theory of doubt making a thing contingent. This lack of knowing, which makes a thing contingent is a contradiction, and since all that we know is or isn’t in existence. This means that there can not be any contingency of or about anything. For example, this means that it is possible for me to smoke without a reason. Spinoza responds to this criticism that our idea of contingency is made up of our lack of knowledge or more blatantly our own ignorance about the existence of that thing (i.e. we do not know the cause).
In Note 2, Spinoza reiterates from his proof that a thing can not be anything different then that which it is. Spinoza is careful to express that a thing is either perfect or imperfect, and they are just the way they are necessarily. It follows from that, if a thing was different from what it is already, God’s will would have made that thing the way it is and no other way necessarily.
Spinoza responds to G.W. Leibniz’s idea of the best of all possible worlds. Spinoza points out that there is an absurdity in Leibniz’s idea. Spinoza could say, How is it possible for God to create the best of all possible worlds when God is the Universe? If God could have created multiple worlds it would mean that there would have been two or more Gods in existence. Obviously it could not be possible for there to be two or more Gods since God is the Universe. Hence there are not two or more Gods in existence and a thing can be no different then what that thing already is in its entirety. Moreover, God’s will and essence cause a thing and that makes the thing true to God. Furthermore, if a thing is a perfect or imperfect (good or bad) thing it is that way already and no thought to what could have been will make any difference. It is what it is.
In conclusion, I have explained Proposition 33 and Note 1 and 2 of Part I of Spinoza’s Ethics. This essay shows that God created everything and that everything is the way it is because of the nature of God to will it. Furthermore, God is everything and all causes follow from God.
Ariew and Watkins. Pg. 137.
Ariew and Watkins. Pg. 141.