GOD ACTS FROM THE LAWS OF HIS NATURE ALONE: FROM THE NIHIL EX NIHILO AXIOM TO CAUSATION AS EXPRESSION IN SPINOZAS METAPHYSICS
One of the most important concepts in Spinozas metaphysics is that of causation. Much of the expansive scholarship on Spinoza, however, either takes causation for granted, or ascribes to Spinoza a model of causation that, for one reason or another, fails to account for specific instances of causationsuch as the concept of cause of itself (causa sui).
This work will offer a new interpretation of Spinozas concept of causation. Starting from the nothing comes from nothing axiom and its consequences, the containment principle and the similarity principle (basically, the idea that what is in the effect must have been contained in the cause, and that the cause and the effect must have something in common) I will argue that Spinoza adopts what I call the expression-containment model of causation, a model that describes all causal interactions at the vertical and horizontal level (including causa sui, or self-cause). The model adopts the core notion of Neoplatonic emanationism, i.e. the idea that the effect is a necessary outpouring of the cause; however, Spinoza famously rejects transcendence and the possibility of created substances. God, the First Cause, causes immanently: everything that is caused is caused in God, as a mode of God.
Starting from a discussions of the problems that Spinoza found in Cartesian philosophy, and of the Scholastic and Jewish positions on horizontal and vertical causation, my dissertation will follow the development of Spinozas model of causation from his earliest work to his more mature Ethics. My work will also examine the relationship between Spinozas elaboration of monism, the development of his model of causation, and his novel concept of essence (which for Spinoza coincides with a things causal power).
Advisor:Stephen Engstrom; Ted McGuire; Dennis Looney; Peter Machamer
School:University of Pittsburgh
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:history and philosophy of science
Date of Publication:09/20/2006