God

In Karolina Hübner & Justin Steinberg (eds.), Cambridge Spinoza Lexicon. Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel offers the following verdict on Spinoza’s ontology: “According to Spinoza what is, is God, and God alone. Therefore, the allegations of those who accuse Spinoza of atheism are the direct opposite of the truth; with him there is too much God” (Hegel 1995, vol. 3, 281-2). It is not easy to dismiss Hegel’s grand pronouncement, since Spinoza indeed clearly affirms: “whatever is, is in God” (E1p15). Crocodiles, porcupines (and your thoughts about crocodiles and porcupines) are all in God. There is nothing that is not in Spinoza’s God. Spinoza defines God at the very opening page of the Ethics, and the definition (and its explication) unfold in three successively elucidatory steps: First, Spinoza characterizes God as “a being absolutely infinite [ens absolute infinitum]. Then, he spells out this characterization: “i.e., a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence” (E1def6). Finally, Spinoza adds an explicatio to the entire definition: “I say absolutely infinite, not infinite in its own kind; for if something is only infinite in its own kind, we can deny infinite attributes of it; but if something is absolutely infinite, whatever expresses essence and involves no negation pertains to its essence.” Throughout his philosophical career Spinoza plays with the precise formulation of this definition; its core remains pretty stable, though the small variations might indicate attempts to explore alternative nuances (see, for example, KV II.1; I/19; Ep. 2; IV/7; Ep. 83; IV/335).

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Yitzhak Melamed
Johns Hopkins University

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