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Daniel Moerner

Thanks for your post on the interesting debate between Dan and Michael. I’m not sure I’m convinced by your worries about 1p33. You suggest, drawing on Clarke, that there is a tension between 1p33 and the account of individuals in the Physical Interlude. The worry is that the account of individuals only requires that the universe have a fixed ratio of motion to rest. This then leaves undetermined what actual configuration of motion and rest, consistent with that ratio, obtains in the universe.

But there is no tension here between 1p33 and the Physical Interlude unless we stipulate that the Physical Interlude’s account of individuals, or even Spinoza’s extension of it to the case of the whole universe, in fact gives the complete set of ;necessary and sufficient conditions for the universe to depend on God’s nature. But there’s no reason to think that the Physical Interlude is supposed to establish that strong, rather than just establish the more limited set of constraints on something’s being an individual - leaving it open what must be the other determinations of that individual which is the universe.

In fact, I don’t see how your objection differs from Dan’s. As I understand him, Dan is worried about the prospects for giving a clear account of how the specific configuration of the universe follows necessarily from God. Michael’s response is unsatisfying in part because he argues that 1p33 shows only that there must be some answer to why the universe has its specific configuration, but it doesn’t give much insight into why or how the universe has this configuration rather than that one. Your objection, showing that the Physical Interlude also doesn’t establish how or why the universe has this or that configuration, just brings Dan’s objection into relief, highlighting a failure of one such attempt to give Spinoza the resources to show how or why the universe necessarily has its unique configuration. But if we let Michael answer Dan by saying there must be some such answer, we should also let him answer your objection in the same way.

Now I do have some more speculative thoughts about Spinoza’s resources to explain why the universe must have certain quantities of motion and rest. Spinoza’s prospects for a reply depend upon how the objection is supposed to work. I can imagine two ways the objection might work, I’d love to hear if you think there are others:

1. The objetion is about motion conceived as a vector. The thought would be this: In two or three dimensions, you can have a fixed quantity of motion (and hence a fixed ratio) while the vector sum of that motion varies in direction. (I doubt this is the objection you are thinking of.) I think Spinoza would answer this objection by saying that differences in direction across different universes are not real differences. I don’t think he would conceive of space as involving absolute direction.

2. The objection is about different absolute quantities. So, crudely, stipulate that there is a 5:2 ratio of motion to rest. Then why does the universe have 5 units of motion and 2 of rest absolutely, rather than 10 of motion and 4 of rest, or vice versa? I think Spinoza would answer this objection by saying that under each attribute the universe is infinite in its own kind. Insofar as a greater absolute quantity of motion and rest in the same ratio is conceivable, that would be actual. Now you might worry that you can’t have a pair of actual infinities of the same order standing in such a determinate ratio, but that’s an objection to Spinoza’s philosophy of mathematics, not to the rigor of his rationalism.

I’m interested to hear any of your further thoughts on the matter.

Schliesser, Eric

Thank you for your fascinating comments, Daniel. To begin with the end, I had the first part of your (2) in mind as the way the Clarke-inspired objection works. Alas, I am genuinely unsure I understand your construal of Spinoza's objection to 2. To me this sentence "Insofar as a greater absolute quantity of motion and rest in the same ratio is conceivable, that would be actual," reads as orthogonal to the issue. (Oddly enough I really like your construal of Spinoza's response to the first (1) objection!)

On your first point: I guess I would have to more about how you think about the "limited set of constraints." The idea behind the Clarke inspired objection turns on what the effects are of working with ratios. Of course, if the ratio is a mere heuristic or proxy then I could see why further specification would remove the objection, but I would like to see some evidence from Spinoza that's how we're supposed to think about it. (I am not ruling out that Clarke is wrong; just curious what the textual evidence could be.)

On not being different from Garber's objection. Well, in the post I acknowledged (twice) the affinity between his objection and the Clarke inspired one. But I still think there is a non-trivial difference between Garber's concern and Clarke's. Garber's objection is about the nature or essence of a Spinozistic substance/God. What characteristics does it have such that certain effects follow from it. Now, I am not denying there is some mystery or underspecification here, but I take Della Rocca to remind us that Spinoza recognizes and stipulates that problem away. (Also, Clarke has a very similar to Spinoza account of God's essence.) As far as I can see (but perhaps you convince me otherwise), Spinoza does not recognize the Clarke inspired objection which focuses on how working with ratios may under-determine underlying states. [Connected to that is the concern that it's not entirely clear how the reality of motion and rest should be understood in Spinoza's system.]

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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