Spinoza – Substance’ Pantheism’

Spinoza advocates an extremely unorthodox conception of God. He derives it from his concept of Substance, employing the geometrical method that relies on selfevident axioms and those propositions logically deduced from them. Naturally, his views have attracted criticism and the wrath of the established orthodoxy.

Spinoza thus proceeds from the definition of Substance given by Descartes and also by the Scholastic thinkers and following its implications reaches a notion that concludes that there cannot be anything else other than God and nature cannot be different from God. But before we trace this pantheistic conclusion let us see the way he evolves this notion form the ancient concept of Substance: God as the only Substance.

Pantheism of Spinoza One of the most striking aspects of Spinoza’s philosophy is his conception of God, which begins with his elaboration of the Scholastic and Cartesian conceptions of Substance to its logical extremes where nothing else but Substance or God alone exists. This position raises certain important questions concerning the world, the mind and body relationship (as the world is divided into the mental and spiritual substances), the relationship between man and God, human destiny and liberation. Spinoza’s pantheism is an answer to all these questions.

Spinoza categorically asserts that God is the source of everything that is and He is the immanent principle of the universe. This leads to the identification of God with the world: God is the world and the world in Him or God and the world are one. Understood in this sense, God is not a mere creator of the world, who has created it and remains separated from it. He is the permanent substratum or essence in all things and the active principle or source of all reality.

To account for the relationship between God and nature Spinoza introduces two terms: Natura Naturans and Natura Naturata. The Latin term Natura Naturans means nature naturing, or nature doing what nature does. The term naturans is the present participle of natura and Natura Naturans refers to the self-causing activity of nature or nature in the active sense. It is nature in itself and is conceived through itself.

On the other hand, the term Natura Naturata refers to the plurality of objects. It stands for the effects or products of the principle and in this sense nature is considered as a passive product of an infinite causal chain. It is whatever follows from the necessity of God’s nature, or from God’s attributes. All the modes of God’s attributes insofar as they are considered as things which are in God, and can neither be nor be conceived without God constitute Natura Naturata.

With his pantheism Spinoza presents a logical theory of God derived from the notion of substance and relates it with the way things actually exist in the world and as we humans experience them. This theory would be complete only with an explanation of the notions of bondage and liberation, which Spinoza describes with the idea of an intellectual love of God.


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