What Advantages Does Spinoza’s Substance Monism Have over Descartes’ Dualism?

3460 Words Oct 25th, 2011 14 Pages
Spinoza’s philosophy as espoused in the Ethics was a response to Descartes’ dualism. Through works such as the Ethics, Spinoza seeks to address the main flaws in Descartes’ philosophy.
These flaws included but were by no means limited to, proof for the existence of God and the interaction between mind and body.
This essay will highlight the advantages of Spinoza’s monism over Descartes’ dualism by looking at Spinoza’s response to these issues.
First, in order to consider the advantages of Spinoza’s substance monism over Descartes’ dualism it is necessary to show how each philosopher demonstrates their substance dualism or substance monism.
Tim Crane defines monism and dualism as follows: “Monism denies that minds and their
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The rest of his philosophy goes on to show exactly how these are true by being self-referential.
Spinoza’s argument for the existence of God/Nature therefore is the key to his monism as everything that exists does so through a God whose existence is never doubted (since to do so would be ‘absurd’).
Spinoza’s God/Nature is one which is impersonal, opposed to Descartes’ interpretation. On proving the existence of God, in the Third Meditation, Descartes states that:
By the word ‘God’ I understand a substance that is infinite, <eternal, immutable,> independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else (if anything else there be).
As Edwin Curley says: “Spinoza's denial of personality to God, his insistence that God has no intellect, no will, no purposes and no emotions, has made his God seem rather remote, a God only a philosopher could love. This is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
That God is abstract fits in with Spinoza’s pantheistic explanation of God as Nature.
As shown above, Spinoza’s argument for substance monism is made clear by when he states that apart from God, ‘no substance can be or, consequently, be conceived’ (1P14). This statement places Spinoza’s philosophy at odds with Descartes’ substance dualism, which holds that there are two distinct substances, mind and body, the

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