Substance, Attribute, and Mode in Spinoza

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Abstract

Some of Spinoza's most well-known doctrines concern what kinds of beings there are and how they are related to each other. For example, he claims that: (1) there is only one substance; (2) this substance has infinitely many attributes; (3) this substance is God or nature; (4) each of these attributes express the divine essence; and (5) all else is a mode of the one substance. These claims have so astonished many of his readers that some of them have surely concluded that they must not know what Spinoza means by “substance,”“attribute,” and “mode.” In this article I shall try to explain how Spinoza understands the basic ontological categories denoted by these expressions.

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