Spinoza’s Arguments for the Existence of God*


  • *

    I would like to thank Michael Della Rocca, Donald Ainslie, Marleen Rozemond, and Charlie Huenemann for their detailed comments on drafts of this paper. I am also indebted to Ed Curley, Phil Kremer, Imogen Dickie, and Eric Watkins for helpful discussion of the ideas contained in this paper.


It is often thought that, although Spinoza develops a bold and distinctive conception of God (the unique substance, or Natura Naturans, in which all else inheres and which possesses infinitely many attributes, including extension), the arguments that he offers which purport to prove God’s existence contribute nothing new to natural theology. Rather, he is seen as just another participant in the seventeenth century revival of the ontological argument initiated by Descartes and taken up by Malebranche and Leibniz among others. That this is the case is both puzzling and unfortunate. It is puzzling because although Spinoza does offer an ontological proof for the existence of God, he also offers three other non-ontological proofs. It is unfortunate because these other non-ontological proofs are both more convincing and more interesting than his ontological proof. In this paper, I offer reconstructions and assessments of all of Spinoza’s arguments and argue that Spinoza’s metaphysical rationalism and his commitment to something like a Principle of Sufficient Reason are the driving force behind Spinoza’s non-ontological arguments.