Let me begin by thanking my three critics for the thought and time they have invested in their comments. I am very much flattered by the composition of this team, and am greatly indebted to them for their insights, critiques, and challenges. All three raise deep and fundamental issues, and in the following I will attempt to address as many of their arguments as the current forum allows. Let me also admit from the beginning that I do not have solutions to some of the important problems they have raised. I warmly welcome these objections and hope we can explore them together, making whatever progress we can. My ambition in the book was to solve some of the long-standing and fundamental problems in Spinoza’s metaphysics, but not, alas, all of them.
In order to help shape our exchange, I will use the notation of posts and paragraphs, so that future responses can address specific claims by referencing the paragraph instead of repeating the claim. Thus, “Y.1.1” will designate the first paragraph of my first post. For the sake of simplicity, I suggest that we address each other by our given names (as we normally do).
I will begin by addressing the comments by Professor Lia Levy (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), the author of the important study, L’Automate spirituel: La subjectivé moderne d’après l’Ethique de Spinoza (Van Grocum, 2000).
Y.1.1: Lia provides a very helpful (and generous) outline of the main arguments of the book. She suggests, however, that I “did not consider the hypothesis that the dissociation between the concepts of individual and substance implies that Spinoza’s substance may simply be of the wrong logical type to perform the roles of substratum and ultimate subject of predication.” Now, I do address in detail the “wrong logical type” argument (pp. 40-60 of my book). My argument, in brief, is this: in order to criticize a claim P as confusing the logical type of things, one must either (1) defend and substantiate a theory of logical types (call it “T”) and show that P and T are inconsistent, or (2) show that the same theory of logical types (T) is accepted by the author of P. However, I argue that we have no indication that Spinoza accepted the relevant theory of logical types (on the contrary, we have plenty of evidence that he and his contemporaries drew a very fuzzy boundary – or none at all – between things and qualities). Thus, I do not think that Spinoza is guilty of simple inconsistency with regard to the logical type of modes. Now, one may of course criticize Spinoza for not adopting a theory of logical types (option 1 above), but then the onus of proof is on the critic, i.e., she should convincingly substantiate such a theory. I, for one, am not aware of such a compelling substantiation of the logical types of things, and thus I have no objection to Spinoza’s view of modes as both things and qualities.
Y.1.2: Lia suggests that an account of Spinoza’s distinction between the second and third kinds of cognition “may entail some objections” to the view of modes as properties. This sounds interesting, but we need to know precisely which objections she has in mind, and, if I may add, we also need to know which version of the distinction she is referring to, since there are significantly different forms of it in several of Spinoza’s works.
Y.1.3: Addressing my claim that in E1p16d Spinoza presents the modes as God’s propria (qualities that follow necessarily from the essence of a thing), Lia presents several objections. First, she suggests that Spinoza never refers to modes as propria. I respectfully disagree. In E1p16d Spinoza refers to the modes as properties [proprietates] that follow necessarily from the essence (or nature) of God. But these are precisely the characteristics of propria (as presented by Spinoza in TIE §95), which also follow necessarily from the essence of a thing. Specifically, I would like to know how Lia understands the argument of E1p16d, if, as she seems to argue, it does not present modes as God’s propria. Second, Lia points out that in other texts (and I might add that these are both early and late) Spinoza refers to qualities such as necessary existence and uniqueness as God’s propria (see, for example, Ep. 83), and she rightly asks what the relation is between modes and these qualities. I have to admit that I still do not have an answer to this important question. However, as far as I can see, there is strong textual evidence that Spinoza considered both modes and this cluster of qualities (necessary existence, uniqueness, etc.) as God’s propria, and thus, I believe we should disregard neither of the two groups.
Third, Lia claims that “the problems which led to the admission of the concept of propria in the tradition simply do not arise in Spinoza’s philosophy and, if applied to his ontology, would cause a great difficulty.” As far as I know the notion of propria had a very long tradition, going back to Porphyry and Aristotle, but I doubt that this concept had only one role throughout this huge period. Even if this were the case, I do not think that the alleged inapplicability of the philosophical context which traditionally brought about the use of the notion of propria should matter much for Spinoza’s use of the term. Spinoza is a master of reconceptualizing notions. Take, for example, the notion of essence: in scholastic and Aristotelian philosophy, essence is commonly associated with formal and final causation, but Spinoza explicitly and boldly rejects this association and uses the term in quite a different sense (as he openly indicates in E2p10s| II/93/25-29). Of course, we must always consider the history of the concepts used by Spinoza, but I see no reason to assume that he uses them in precisely the same way as his predecessors, or that his concepts fill precisely the same role as in his predecessors. As Spinoza openly says, he uses terms “whose usual meaning is not entirely opposed to the meaning with which I wish to use them” (E3Def.Affec.20e).
Y.1.4: At the beginning of her second post, Lia argues that since Spinoza does not take modes as parts of God, my simple solution to Bayle’s argument about the alleged contradiction among God’s properties (“God quatenus he is Turk is not God quatenus he is Bulgarian”) is not going to work. To this I reply: finite modes are not parts of the substance (since the substance is indivisible), but they are parts of the infinite modes. Thus, “God insofar as he is Turk” and “God insofar as he is Bulgarian,” are just two parts of the same infinite mode of God. Obviously, two parts of the same whole may have opposite qualities without constituting a contradiction.
Y.1.5: Lia writes: “if the modes are ways in which the substance’s being is determined or expresses itself, they cannot be conceived as adding any quality or determination to the essence of the substance of which they are modes, but only as qualifying or determining the substance’s existence (which then exists as this or that).” While I agree that “expression” and “determination” are central terms for Spinoza, I must admit that I am not aware of a satisfying explanation for his use of these two terms (at least not one which absolves him of the charge of equivocation). Specifically, I wonder whether either term refers to causal relation. Thus, in order to answer this argument of Lia’s, I would need to better understand how she understands “expression” and “determination,” and specifically whether or not she thinks that they denote a causal relation. Moreover, for Spinoza the existence (and esse) of mode is different from the existence of substance (the substance’s essence involves existence, but the mode’s doesn’t; see E2p10d). Thus, there is a sense in which the modes “add” to the existence of the substance, i.e., the modes’ existence differs from that of the substance (why are there modes at all and not merely attributes is a difficult question, and I have attempted to address it in another place. See https://www.academia.edu/663652/Why_is_Spinoza_NOT_an_Eleatic_Monist_or_Why_Diversity_Exists).
There are many other important and most valuable points in Lia’s comments, but I hope this response will suffice to get the discussion rolling.