Volume 49, Issue 1, Spring 2019
The Reality of Modes in Spinoza’s Philosophy
In the history of philosophy, two standard critiques of the reality of modes in Spinoza’s philosophy come from Pierre Bayle and Georg Wilhelm Hegel. Both philosophers in some way assume that attributes and relations among modes constitute a shared reality in which modes participate. As a result, they assert that Spinoza’s monism leads either to an over-identification of God with contingent modes or to a limited God. In this paper, I will show how attributes and relations among modes in Spinoza’s work simply explain an active modal reality; modes do not depend upon or participate in ideal relations and attributes for their existence. The result is that in Spinoza’s philosophy attributes must be seen as unreal and modal reality must be understood as primary.