restricted access On the Relationship between Mode and Substance in Spinoza's Metaphysics
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On the Relationship between Mode and Substance in Spinoza's Metaphysics JOHN CARRIERO A CENTRALIF DIFFICULTPOSITIONtaken in Spinoza's Ethics is that things in the universe other than God--including rocks, trees, ideas, and minds--are modes of God; according to Spinoza, produced things are modally dependent on God. How are we to understand this relation of modal dependence? Spinoza inherits the term mode from Descartes, who was using the term as a replacement of sorts for the Aristotelian accident. In the Aristotelian tradition, accidents are supposed to inhere in their subjects. Is modal dependence for Spinoza basically the same thing as the traditional relation of inherence?' Some commentators have argued not. Explicating the traditional idea of inherence in terms of predication (so that the relation of inherence is supposed to amount to the relation between a property or quality and the subject of which the property or quality is predicated),~these commentators suggest that to interpret Spinoza's modal dependence in traditional terms would be to commit him to the view that a produced thing, e.g., Mt. Rushmore, is a quality or property predicable of God. In the view of these commentators, this position is so odd as to suggest that Spinoza's understanding of modal dependence cannot be the traditional idea of inherence but must be fundamentally novel. This line of reasoning is flawed in that it relies on a misleading caricature of the traditional relation of inherence. In particular, it is a mistake to explicate the traditional relation of inherence in terms of predication. In Section l, For ease of exposition, I am using modal dependenceas a label for the dependence of modes on their subjects in Spinoza (whatever that dependence may amount to) and inherence for the traditional idea of an accident's existing in a subject (whatever that may amount to). "Curley writes in Spinoza's Metaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969), hereafter cited as "SM," p. 18: "When qualities are said to inhere in substance, this may be viewed as a way of saying that they are predicated of it." [~45] ~,46 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 33:9 APRIL 1995 I sketch a traditional medieval Aristotelian conception of the dichotomy between substance and accident which distinguishes inherence from predication . I also show how Spinoza's thinking about the substance/mode dichotomy draws, often in surprising and subtle ways, on that tradition. In the remaining two sections I respond to arguments that have been offered against relating Spinoza's conception of modal dependence to a traditional conception of inherence . In Section ~, I take up Edwin Curley's claim that things like tables and chairs are of the "wrong logical type" to count as modes, which leads him to suggest that all that modal dependence comes to in Spinoza is causal dependence . In Section 3, I consider three of Bayle's objections to Spinoza's claim that produced things are modes of God, objections which Curley has suggested are so compelling as to give us further reason for doubting whether Spinoza understood modal dependence as inherence. 1. SPINOZA AND A TRADITIONAL ARISTOTELIAN CONCEPTION OF ACCIDENT Let's begin by recalling a standard Aristotelian treatment of the distinction between substance and accident.3 In the Categories (la 16ft.), Aristotle develops the notion of substance by presenting a pair of orthogonal distinctions. First, he distinguishes between things that can be said of a subject and things that cannot be said of a subject. Horse, for example, can be said of a subject, but Bucephalus cannot. Roughly, this first distinction is between universal and particular.4 Aristotle goes on to draw a second distinction, between things that exist in a subject and things that do not exist in a subject. According to Aristotle, white and being eight feet tall exist in subjects, say Socrates or Bucephalus, but humanity or horsehood does not exist in a subject. If whiteness exists in Socrates, why isn't it equally true that humanity exists in him? Aristotle 's point here is that Socrates is too closely bound up with his humanity for s As we shall see, questions have been raised in the middle part...