SPINOZA: ATHEIST OR
BELIEVER IN GOD?
Spinoza had a great influence on
Einstein. Einstein stated, in fact, that he believed in "Spinoza's God."
Desperate to transform Einstein into an atheist, atheists must first
transform Spinoza's views into atheism. Spinoza's great work,
"Ethics," elucidates his views on the Divinity, and leaves no doubt that he
held a firm belief in God's existence. The following proposition alone
should show this quite conclusively.
PROP. XI. God, or substance,
consisting of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and
infinite essentiality, necessarily exists.
this be denied, conceive, if possible, that God does not exist: then his
essence does not involve existence. But this (by
Prop. vii.) is absurd. Therefore God necessarily exists.
everything whatsoever a cause or reason must be assigned, either for its
existence, or for its non-existence--e.g., if a triangle exist, a reason or
cause must be granted for its existence; if, on the contrary, it does not
exist, a cause must also be granted, which prevents it from existing, or
annuls its existence. This reason or cause must either be contained in the
nature of the thing in question, or be external to it. For instance, the
reason for the non-existence of a square circle is indicated in its nature,
namely, because it would involve a contradiction. On the other hand, the
existence of substance follows also solely from its nature, inasmuch as its
nature involves existence. (See
But the reason for the existence of a triangle or a circle does not
follow from the nature of those figures, but from the order of universal
nature in extension. From the latter it must follow, either that a triangle
necessarily exists, or that it is impossible that it should exist. So much
is self-evident. It follows therefrom that a thing necessarily exists, if no
cause or reason be granted which prevents its existence.
If, then, no cause or reason can be given, which prevents the existence
of God, or which destroys his existence, we must certainly conclude that he
necessarily does exist. If such a reason or cause should be given, it must
either be drawn from the very nature of God, or be external to him--that is,
drawn from another substance of another nature. For if it were of the same
nature, God, by that very fact, would be admitted to exist. But substance of
another nature could have nothing in common with God (by
Prop. ii.), and therefore would be unable either to cause or to destroy
As, then, a reason or cause which would annul the divine existence
cannot be drawn from anything external to the divine nature, such cause
must, perforce, if God does not exist, be drawn from God's own nature, which
would involve a contradiction. To make such an affirmation about a being
absolutely infinite and supremely perfect, is absurd; therefore, neither in
the nature of God; nor externally to his nature, can a cause or reason be
assigned which would annul his existence. Therefore, God necessarily
potentiality of non-existence is a negation of power, and contrariwise the
potentiality of existence is a power, as is obvious. If, then, that which
necessarily exists is nothing but finite beings, such finite beings are more
powerful than a being absolutely infinite, which is obviously absurd;
therefore, either nothing exists, or else a being absolutely infinite
necessarily exists also. Now we exist either in ourselves, or in something
else which necessarily exists (see
Ax. i. and
Prop. vii.) Therefore a being absolutely infinite--in other words, God (Def.
vi.)--necessarily exists. Q.E.D.
Note.--In this last proof, I
have purposely shown God's existence a posteriori, so that the proof
might be more easily followed, not because, from the same premises, God's
existence does not follow a priori. For, as the potentiality of
existence is a power, it follows that, in proportion as reality increases in
the nature of a thing, so also will it increase its strength for existence.
Therefore a being absolutely infinite, such as God, has from himself an
absolutely infinite power of existence, and hence he does absolutely exist.
Perhaps there will be many who will be unable to see the force of this
proof, inasmuch as they are accustomed only to consider those things which
flow from external causes. Of such things, they see that those which quickly
come to pass--that is, quickly come into existence--quickly also
disappear; whereas they regard as more difficult of accomplishment--that
is, not so easily brought into existence--those things which they
conceive as more complicated.
However, to do away with this misconception, I need not here show the
measure of truth in the proverb, "What comes quickly, goes quickly," nor
discuss whether, from the point of view of universal nature, all things are
equally easy, or otherwise: I need only remark, that I am not here speaking
of things, which come to pass through causes external to themselves, but
only of substances which (by
Prop. vi.) cannot be produced by any external cause. Things which are
produced by external causes, whether they consist of many parts or few, owe
whatsoever perfection or reality they possess solely to the efficacy of
their external cause, and therefore their existence arises solely from the
perfection of their external cause, not from their own. Contrariwise,
whatsoever perfection is possessed by substance is due to no external cause;
wherefore the existence of substance must arise solely from its own nature,
which is nothing else but its essence. Thus, the perfection of a thing does
not annul its existence, but, on the contrary, asserts it. Imperfection, on
the other hand, does annul it; therefore we cannot be more certain of the
existence of anything, than of the existence of a being absolutely infinite
or perfect--that is, of God. For inasmuch as his essence excludes all
imperfection, and involves absolute perfection, all cause for doubt
concerning his existence is done away, and the utmost certainty on the
question is given. This, I think, will be evident to every moderately
(2 Sept. 2007).