Now, I would like to comment on two of the responses Melamed offers to Pierre Bayle’s objections to Spinoza’s doctrine of substance.
As regards ascribing contradictory properties to God, I think he is being too confident in relying on the conspicuity of the use of reduplicative particles (such as quatenus) as signifying that the predicate is ascribed not to the subject taken absolutely, but to the subject taken under a certain aspect. The logical status of propositions containing reduplicative particles was extensively studied in the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern period, and it was then plainly accepted that this is not the only possible meaning of this logical particle. For instance, it can also mean, among other things, that the predicate shall be attributed not to the subject as a whole, but to one of its parts. And, since Spinoza explicitly refuses the idea that the modes are parts of God, it is Melamed who has the burden of proof.
As to the defense of the unorthodox view that God is mutable, it seems to contain an ambiguity. According to Melamed’s reading, what should be considered mutable is Natura Naturata. However, and still following Melamed, God should not be identified with Natura Naturata, but to Natura Naturans. Therefore, stricto sensu, God remains conceived as immutable. In order to sustain that God is mutable, it is then necessary to identify God with the unity of both Natures taken together. This is endorsed by his interpretation insofar as he considers the modes as God’s propria, i.e. as necessary, discriminating and non-essential properties of God.
However, in order to be able to go a step further and claim that God is mutable, it is not enough to establish that (i) He is the substratum of the finite modes and that (ii) each of these modes has a definite duration. It is also necessary to (iii) assume that these properties come into being and perish, i.e. to submit their inherence in God to the distributive form of time and, accordingly, (iv) temporalize the existence of God himself, for change only is intelligible if one can conceive that something gains or loses a property. Now, 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). But even in this case, if we are to conceive change in the existence of a substance, we have to conceive its existence in a dynamic or tensed way, in which modes are continually changing in respect to past, present, and future. Now, this last step is not compatible with Spinoza’s claim that the absolute substance conceived as Natura Naturans is eternal and/or with the one about the sempiternity of the absolute substance conceived as Natura Naturata.
The same objection can also be formulated in terms of modality: in order to argue for the mutability of God, it must be possible to say that the finite modes can be negated from God, i.e., that the being of the mode in God is contingent. But as Melamed himself admits, even if modes are not essential properties, they are necessary properties since they follow necessarily from God’s essence. Therefore, whatever the meaning one ascribes to the notion of the definite duration of finite modes, and no matter whether modes are properties of God, these statements do not necessarily imply that the substance in which they inhere is mutable. Furthermore, since it is not a Spinozian position that modes can be denied from God, even in a qualified manner, it is neither his position that God is mutable.
I would like to conclude affirming once again the outstanding quality of the book and thanking for the kind invitation to participate in this philosophically challenging initiative.