Thoughts from If God Was Like Man


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“If you can read this sentence, I can prove God exists”

You are a soul.

Proverbs - You Are What You Think

You have a body. Commonly attributed to Mere Christianity , where it is not found. Earliest reference seems to be an unsourced attribution to George MacDonald in an issue of the Quaker periodical The British Friend. Has been cited as being in Mere Christianity , but it is not to be found there. The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.

Paraphrased from a letter C. Lewis wrote to Mrs. Johnson on March 16, "A housewife's work [is] surely, in reality, the most important work in the world God is everything and everywhere, on this version, by virtue of being within everything. This is immanentist pantheism; it involves that claim that nature contains within itself, in addition to its natural elements, an immanent supernatural and divine element. Is Spinoza, then, a pantheist?

For Spinoza, there is nothing but Nature and its attributes and modes. And within Nature there can certainly be nothing that is supernatural. If Spinoza is seeking to eliminate anything, it is that which is above or beyond nature, which escapes the laws and processes of nature. But is he a pantheist in the first, reductive sense?

The issue of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature i. After all, if pantheism is the view that God is everything, then Spinoza is a pantheist only if he identifies God with all of Nature. Indeed, this is exactly how the issue is often framed. Both those who believe that Spinoza is a pantheist and those who believe that he is not a pantheist focus on the question of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature, including the infinite and finite modes of Natura naturata , or only with substance and attributes Natura naturans but not the modes.

Thus, it has been argued that Spinoza is not a pantheist, because God is to be identified only with substance and its attributes, the most universal, active causal principles of Nature, and not with any modes of substance. Other scholars have argued that Spinoza is a pantheist, just because he does identify God with the whole of nature. Finite things, on this reading, while caused by the eternal, necessary and active aspects of Nature, are not identical with God or substance, but rather are its effects. But this is not the interesting sense in which Spinoza is not a pantheist.

For even if Spinoza does indeed identify God with the whole of Nature, it does not follow that Spinoza is a pantheist. God is identical either with all of Nature or with only a part of Nature; for this reason, Spinoza shares something with the reductive pantheist. But—and this is the important point—even the atheist can, without too much difficulty, admit that God is nothing but Nature.

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Reductive pantheism and atheism maintain extensionally equivalent ontologies. And however one reads the relationship between God and Nature in Spinoza, it is a mistake to call him a pantheist in so far as pantheism is still a kind of religious theism. What really distinguishes the pantheist from the atheist is that the pantheist does not reject as inappropriate the religious psychological attitudes demanded by theism.

Rather, the pantheist simply asserts that God—conceived as a being before which one is to adopt an attitude of worshipful awe—is or is in Nature. Spinoza does not believe that worshipful awe or religious reverence is an appropriate attitude to take before God or Nature. There is nothing holy or sacred about Nature, and it is certainly not the object of a religious experience.

The key to discovering and experiencing God, for Spinoza, is philosophy and science, not religious awe and worshipful submission. The latter give rise only to superstitious behavior and subservience to ecclesiastic authorities; the former leads to enlightenment, freedom and true blessedness i. In Part Two, Spinoza turns to the origin and nature of the human being. The two attributes of God of which we have knowledge are extension and thought.

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This, in itself, involves what would have been an astounding thesis in the eyes of his contemporaries, one that was usually misunderstood and always vilified. According to one interpretation, God is indeed material, even matter itself, but this does not imply that God is or has a body. Another interpretation, however, one which will be adopted here, is that what is in God is not matter per se, but extension as an essence.

Introduction

And extension and thought are two distinct essences that have absolutely nothing in common. The modes or expressions of extension are physical bodies; the modes of thought are ideas. Because extension and thought have nothing in common, the two realms of matter and mind are causally closed systems. Everything that is extended follows from the attribute of extension alone.

Every bodily event is part of an infinite causal series of bodily events and is determined only by the nature of extension and its laws, in conjunction with its relations to other extended bodies. Similarly, every idea follows only from the attribute of thought. Any idea is an integral part of an infinite series of ideas and is determined by the nature of thought and its laws, along with its relations to other ideas. There is, in other words, no causal interaction between bodies and ideas, between the physical and the mental.

There is, however, a thoroughgoing correlation and parallelism between the two series. For every mode in extension that is a relatively stable collection of matter, there is a corresponding mode in thought. Every material thing thus has its own particular idea—an eternal adequate idea—that expresses or represents it. As he explains,. One kind of extended body, however, is significantly more complex than any others in its composition and in its dispositions to act and be acted upon. That complexity is reflected in its corresponding idea.

The body in question is the human body; and its corresponding idea is the human mind or soul. Whatever happens in the body is reflected or expressed in the mind. In this way, the mind perceives, more or less obscurely, what is taking place in its body. But the human mind no more interacts with its body than any mode of Thought interacts with a mode of Extension.

Spinoza, in effect, denies that the human being is a union of two substances. The human mind and the human body are two different expressions—under Thought and under Extension—of one and the same thing: the person. And because there is no causal interaction between the mind and the body, the so-called mind-body problem does not, technically speaking, arise.

The human mind, like God, contains ideas. Such ideas do not convey adequate and true knowledge of the world, but only a relative, partial and subjective picture of how things presently seem to be to the perceiver. There is no systematic order to these perceptions, nor any critical oversight by reason.

Under such circumstances, we are simply determined in our ideas by our fortuitous and haphazard encounter with things in the external world. This superficial acquaintance will never provide us with knowledge of the essences of those things. In fact, it is an invariable source of falsehood and error. Adequate ideas, on the other hand, are formed in a rational and orderly manner, and are necessarily true and revelatory of the essences of things.

The adequate idea of a thing clearly and distinctly situates its object in all of its causal nexuses and shows not just that it is, but how and why it is. The person who truly knows a thing sees the reasons why the thing was determined to be and could not have been otherwise. To perceive by way of adequate ideas is to perceive the necessity inherent in Nature. Sense experience alone could never provide the information conveyed by an adequate idea. The senses present things only as they appear from a given perspective at a given moment in time. And Reason perceives this necessity of things truly, i.

The third kind of knowledge, intuition, takes what is known by Reason and grasps it in a single act of the mind. Not even Descartes believed that we could know all of Nature and its innermost secrets with the degree of depth and certainty that Spinoza thought possible. Most remarkably, because Spinoza thought that the adequate knowledge of any object, and of Nature as a whole, involves a thorough knowledge of God and of how things related to God and his attributes, he also had no scruples about claiming that we can, at least in principle, know God perfectly and adequately.

No other philosopher in history has been willing to make this claim. But, then again, no other philosopher so forthrightly identified God with Nature. Spinoza engages in such a detailed analysis of the composition of the human being because it is essential to his goal of showing how the human being is a part of Nature, existing within the same causal nexuses as other extended and mental beings. This has serious ethical implications. First, it implies that a human being is not endowed with freedom, at least in the ordinary sense of that term.

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What is true of the will and, of course, of our bodies is true of all the phenomena of our psychological lives. Spinoza believes that this is something that has not been sufficiently understood by previous thinkers, who seem to have wanted to place the human being on a pedestal outside of or above nature. Descartes, for example, believed that if the freedom of the human being is to be preserved, the soul must be exempt from the kind of deterministic laws that rule over the material universe.

For nothing stands outside of nature, not even the human mind. Our affects—our love, anger, hate, envy, pride, jealousy, etc. Spinoza, therefore, explains these emotions—as determined in their occurrence as are a body in motion and the properties of a mathematical figure—just as he would explain any other things in nature. Our affects are divided into actions and passions. When the cause of an event lies in our own nature—more particularly, our knowledge or adequate ideas—then it is a case of the mind acting. On the other hand, when something happens in us the cause of which lies outside of our nature, then we are passive and being acted upon.

All beings are naturally endowed with such a power or striving. What we should strive for is to be free from the passions—or, since this is not absolutely possible, at least to learn how to moderate and restrain them—and become active, autonomous beings. We will, consequently, be truly liberated from the troublesome emotional ups and downs of this life. The way to bring this about is to increase our knowledge, our store of adequate ideas, and eliminate as far as possible our inadequate ideas, which follow not from the nature of the mind alone but from its being an expression of how our body is affected by other bodies.

In other words, we need to free ourselves from a reliance on the senses and the imagination, since a life of the senses and images is a life being affected and led by the objects around us, and rely as much as we can only on our rational faculties. This provides Spinoza with a foundation for cataloging the human passions. For the passions are all functions of the ways in which external things affect our powers or capacities. When joy is a passion, it is always brought about by some external object. Love is simply Joy accompanied by an awareness of the external cause that brings about the passage to a greater perfection.

We love that object that benefits us and causes us joy. We hope for a thing whose presence, as yet uncertain, will bring about joy. We fear, however, a thing whose presence, equally uncertain, will bring about sadness. When that whose outcome was doubtful becomes certain, hope is changed into confidence, while fear is changed into despair. All of the human emotions, in so far as they are passions, are constantly directed outward, towards things and their capacities to affect us one way or another.

Aroused by our passions and desires, we seek or flee those things that we believe cause joy or sadness. But the objects of our passions, being external to us, are completely beyond our control. Thus, the more we allow ourselves to be controlled by them , the more we are subject to passions and the less active and free we are. The solution to this predicament is an ancient one. Since we cannot control the objects that we tend to value and that we allow to influence our well-being, we ought instead to try to control our evaluations themselves and thereby minimize the sway that external objects and the passions have over us.

We can never eliminate the passive affects entirely. We are essentially a part of nature, and can never fully remove ourselves from the causal series that link us to external things. But we can, ultimately, counteract the passions, control them, and achieve a certain degree of relief from their turmoil. The path to restraining and moderating the affects is through virtue. Spinoza is a psychological and ethical egoist. All beings naturally seek their own advantage—to preserve their own being—and it is right for them do so.

This is what virtue consists in. Since we are thinking beings, endowed with intelligence and reason, what is to our greatest advantage is knowledge.

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Our virtue, therefore, consists in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, of adequate ideas. The best kind of knowledge is a purely intellectual intuition of the essences of things. They are apprehended, that is, in their conceptual and causal relationship to the universal essences thought and extension and the eternal laws of nature. But this is just to say that, ultimately, we strive for a knowledge of God.

The concept of any body involves the concept of extension; and the concept of any idea or mind involves the concept of thought. So the proper and adequate conception of any body or mind necessarily involves the concept or knowledge of God. What we see when we understand things through the third kind of knowledge, under the aspect of eternity and in relation to God, is the deterministic necessity of all things. We see that all bodies and their states follow necessarily from the essence of matter and the universal laws of physics; and we see that all ideas, including all the properties of minds, follow necessarily from the essence of thought and its universal laws.

This insight can only weaken the power that the passions have over us. We are no longer hopeful or fearful of what shall come to pass, and no longer anxious or despondent over our possessions. We regard all things with equanimity, and we are not inordinately and irrationally affected in different ways by past, present or future events. The result is self-control and a calmness of mind. Our affects or emotions themselves can be understood in this way, which further diminishes their power over us.

The third kind of knowledge generates a love for its object, and in this love consists not joy, a passion, but blessedness itself. He takes care for the well-being and virtuous flourishing of other human beings. He does what he can through rational benevolence as opposed to pity or some other passion to insure that they, too, achieve relief from the disturbances of the passions through understanding, and thus that they become more like him and therefore most useful to him. Moreover, the free person is not anxious about death. The free person neither hopes for any eternal, otherworldly rewards nor fears any eternal punishments.


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He knows that the soul is not immortal in any personal sense, but is endowed only with a certain kind of eternity. This understanding of his place in the natural scheme of things brings to the free individual true peace of mind.

Free human beings will be mutually beneficial and useful, and will be tolerant of the opinions and even the errors of others. However, human beings do not generally live under the guidance of reason. The state or sovereign, therefore, is required in order to insure—not by reason, but by the threat of force—that individuals are protected from the unrestrained pursuit of self-interest on the part of other individuals. The ostensive aim of the Theological-Political Treatise TTP , widely vilified in its time, is to show that the freedom to philosophize can not only be granted without injury to piety and the peace of the Commonwealth, but that the peace of the Commonwealth and Piety are endangered by the suppression of this freedom.

He also defends, at least as a political ideal, the tolerant, secular, and democratic polity. A person guided by fear and hope, the main emotions in a life devoted to the pursuit of temporal advantages, turns, in the face of the vagaries of fortune, to behaviors calculated to secure the goods he desires. Thus, we pray, worship, make votive offerings, sacrifice and engage in all the various rituals of popular religion. But the emotions are as fleeting as the objects that occasion them, and thus the superstitions grounded in those emotions subject to fluctuations.

Ambitious and self-serving clergy do their best to stabilize this situation and give some permanence to those beliefs and behaviors. Jesus , the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried , and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, " Jesus is Lord ," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven. What is your response?

Read More. What are some basic principles on having the mind of Christ? Learn More! Or Philosophically? Is the Bible True? Who is God? Is Jesus God? What Do You Believe?

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Thoughts from If God Was Like Man Thoughts from If God Was Like Man
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