Humanity has witnessed numerous philosophical theories that have attempted to offer a clear understanding of the universe. It is an extremely fascinating, yet controversial subject because it attracts different opinions from various spheres. In the field of philosophy, Baruch Spinoza`s views have had one of the most significant implications on how humans perceive issues related to the universe, and for that matter, God and morality (DeJoy 25). Spinoza`s discourse in philosophy has
covered various areas, but metaphysics, in particular, is an area that he demonstrated succinctness in philosophical arguments and interpretations, for example, the fact that nothing can be a contingency in the universe. Theoretically, Spinoza`s Substance theory and advocacy for pantheism played a central role in the development of determinism as a key concept of his philosophy.
The characteristics that define the scope of Substance theory roots form the fact that Spinoza inherently believed that substance is homogeneous, infinite, and self-caused, implying that the aspect of contingency in the evolution of substance is not applicable. In addition to substance theory, another key concept that contributed to the development of determinism ideas as argued by Spinoza is pantheism, which is a doctrinal belief that fosters the concept that the universe is a manifestation of God.
Technically, this gives an implication that according to Spinoza`s view, God is everything and everything is God. However, Spinoza`s approach to concepts that define God or Ungodly is unorthodox; it doesn’t incorporate religious perceptions and classification of God (Spinoza 13). These models are extremely vital in facilitating a deep understanding of determinism, the primary objective of this paper.
The ultimate development of determinism as a concept of philosophy suggested by Spinoza is a complex integration of divergent ideas, especially in relation to infinite and finite modes of systems on the universe. In essence, Spinoza`s conceived notion of determinism is underlined by the fact that he explicitly indicates that the systems of nature are exclusively deterministic such that the law of nature allows everything to act and happen naturally, with or without the influence of mankind. In nature,
nothing is contingency, but all things have been determined from the necessity of divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way (Spinoza 3). The paradigms of this interpretation relative to Spinoza`s deterministic arguments focus on the incidental admission that nature is controlled and determined by a superior being and that human beings are simply props. Unlike other theories, determinism is categorical on the necessity of God without exploring the issues of religion. In fact, determinism is equivocal on highlighting the role played by God, basically connecting the divine of nature to the existence of substance. Causal determinism, in particular, emphasizes the inherent value of finite medications and the attributes of God that are extremely necessary for maintaining the divinity of substance and modes. In fact, the theory imperatively suggests that the occurrence of contingency is a consequence of a defect of knowledge in the part of God or order of causes.
The discussion on the proposition of Spinoza on the concept of determinism cannot be complete without incorporating aspects of freedom, free will, voluntarism, and pantheism; each providing extremely relevant points of view. For instance, freedom has been a key issue in the modalities of this theory, partly due to the fact that Spinoza’s views tend to give a different impression of freedom and free will. Determinism is based on the congruence of making choices based on nature`s predetermined order.
In fact, Spinoza`s theory basically invalidates the idea of free choice which begs a very fundamental question regarding the incompatibility of freedom with human character. The relative perspectives that support determinism are based on the essence of denying that man has the discretion of making free choices (Lane 105). Spinoza argues that there is no possibility that man could have the choice of will and desire to impact on anything that could have happened or happened, incredibly accounting
that the notion of freedom of choice among men stems from a lack of knowledge and delusions that ascribes them to subsequent imaginations. The general assertion is that human actions depend on the will, something that Spinoza strongly refutes likening it to a particular mode of thinking and idea that does not possess substantiated evidence of proof. In fact, determinism according to Spinoza highlights that will require a cause for conditioned existence and action, something that only the divine nature can provide regardless of whether it is finite or infinite.
Conceptually, it is implicit that the view of freedom and choice from Spinoza`s determinism is something that is due to generate a lot of discussions on morality. Humans are rational beings and to repudiate the aspects of free will and choice from their character as suggested by determinism has far-reaching outcomes such as actualizing complacency and in extreme circumstances justifying the occurrence of preventable disasters or immoral behavior. This is because the general opinion would identify with the divinity of nature and causal order as unchallenged. The paradigms of freedom, desire, and will according to this theory are built from an understanding of divine nature. Spinoza`s suggestion implies that will is related to God, which means it exists because of God, and it is only Him who can condition it; a contradiction to that only fosters the manifestation of ignorance and inherent lack of knowledge on what causes behavior in humanity. In that case, it is clear that determinism as an idea of philosophy relative to human freedom is objective in undermining the essence of making imperative decisions by suggesting that everything is predetermined by causal order (DeJoy 24).
Perhaps, for many philosophers, the notion of God is hypothetical and relatively imaginative and that applies to a substantial majority of the human population. However, part of determinism is built on a concrete valuation that demonstrates Spinoza`s beliefs in the deity and the fact that everything is God and God is everything. Doctrinal pantheism is evident in the components of determinism; Spinoza categorically indicates that God is the only free cause, having the capacity to determine the first and the final occurrence of events in the universe. Ideally, it is a tall order that determinism undertakes in trying to validate that humanity has been denied free will by the divine of nature and substance due to the infinite nature of God`s intellectual ability. In this case, Spinoza`s determinism is rather focused on addressing the ambition and survival of humanity (Lane 105). In perspective, the philosophy points out that will, desire and choices are the dominions of man but what makes it even more interesting is the fact that Spinoza attributes all these characteristics to God. For him, man is an individual being and that means a man is nothing but a modification of God`s attributes or modes in which the attributes of God are fixed and expressed in a determinate manner (Spinoza 27). Accordingly, the pantheism point of view of determinism further alienates the concept of free choice from man; basically, classifying humans as restrictive materials and attributes that make up the divine of nature.
The clear assertion validates God as the final causality whose actions are eternal and infinite (DeJoy 25).
Determinism as a philosophical model is quite compelling based on its outlook of issues that outline humanity, nature, and God. These aspects are extremely critical, but is Spinoza`s determinism as a model of philosophy relevant in modern discussions? Perhaps, one of the key areas in that modern philosophy focuses its energy is on human intuitions and behavior. Ideally, Spinoza’s suggestion of human behavior and decision-making is negatively skewed; implying that human beings have no control or active engagement on their behavior and actions. Instead, that is determined by the causal of order and God. In modern society, philosophy is objective in studying and explaining the variability of behavior, decision making, and success of certain categories of individuals. Perhaps, this theory can provide critical answers on whether these attributes are predetermined by nature or whether human beings have the capacity to make decisions that would affect the outcomes of personal lives. Spinoza`s theory emphasizes on the lack of knowledge or rational determination as aspects that promote the notion of free will and desire, which can be extremely vital in the modern-day discussion on the issue of servitude (Pereboom 10).
Additionally, there is a corresponding surge of discussions attempting to establish distinctions between morality and deity. Arguments are precise on the issue of morality and how acts of misconduct or immoral behavior occur. According to Spinoza`s determinism on the issue of pantheism, he disregards human discretion in making decisions; suggesting that everything that occurs is determined by God whether negative or positive. This contradicts on the issue of morality because there are pretty bad
things happening out there. Relevantly, such perceptions may tend to trigger discussions on the perfect and flawless nature of the deity. Does it mean that God`s will allows immoral behavior in society since determinism suggests will is God and man is an individual being that constitutes the attributes of God (DeJoy 23)? All these questions that determinism prompts are extremely relevant in modern philosophy.
In conclusion, Spinoza`s opinion as indicated in the theory is profoundly inconsiderate of the moral foundations of society. Much as it offers the ultimate philosophical understanding of the divine universe, there are issues that are glaringly inconsistent with the general practicability of the nature of human beings and God. It is general knowledge that human beings have the capacity to generate free will and choice, otherwise, we will not be talking of morality since God`s nature as extensively covered in the theory is perfectly flawless.
- Spinoza, Baruch. The Philosophy of Spinoza. New York: Modern library, 1927.
- DeJoy, Joshua. ‘Deus, save Natura: Substance and Determinism in Spinoza’s Ethics.’ Aisthesis: Honors Student Journal 8.2 (2017): 22-25.
- Pereboom, Derk. ‘The phenomenology of agency and deterministic agent causation.’ Horizons of authenticity in phenomenology, existentialism, and moral psychology. Springer, Dordrecht, 2015. 277-294.
- Lane, Jan-Erik. ‘Spinoza’s Political Theory: Naturalism, Determinism, and Institutionalism.’ Open Journal of Philosophy 7.02 (2017): 105.