By Jonathan Bennett
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Additional resources for A Study of Spinoza's Ethics
This is to shift from 'substance' as a count term to 'substance' as a mass term, the difference being like that between 'pebble(s)' and 'porridge'. 8 This is a possible metaphysic: extended things are real, and are in principle divisible into ever smaller extended things, but there is no worry about 'where it will all end'. It won't end, any more than the series of fractions 1;2, ~. Ys, ... will end, but all along we shall be dealing with ever smaller quantities of stuff. 6. Spinoza's use of 'substance' is marked by all the features I have been discussing.
That intention is expressed, though not with ideal clarity, in his definition of attribute (ld4). Skipping over a complexity, to be picked up shortly, let us take Id4 as saying that an attribute is the (or an) essence of a substance. That forces us to look at the term 'essence'. Spinoza uses it freely from dl onwards, and only in 2d2 does he condescend to define it! The definition is poorly stated, but it is clear what Spinoza means it to say: the essence of x is that property which must be possessed by x and cannot be possessed by anything else-it is a qualitative necessary and sufficient condition for something's being x.
Here is Gueroult's suggestion about that: If one tries to distinguish them solely through the differences in their respective states, one will not be able to do it because, since substances are prior to their states ( 1p 1 ) , we must abstract from the latter in order to conceive the former, in themselves, according to their true nature [selon leur verite]. 1 5 That sounds good, and stays close to the text, but what does it mean? I find this, like most of Gueroult's philosophical offerings, to be too vague and soft to help me in my thinking about Spinoza.