Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 1

God's Eternity

by Spinoza
6 minutes  • 1264 words

[The division of Substance. ]

Nature only has substances and their modes.

So one should not here expect us to say anything about substantial forms and real accidents, for these and thing. of this type are plainly absurd. We then divided substances into two general kinds, extension and thought, and we divided thought into created thought (i.e., the human mind) and uncreated thought (i.e., God). The existence of God we have demonstrated 1 [In thiS section God’s eXIStence IS explained In a way quite different from that in which men commonly understand It, for they confuse God’s eXistence with thetr own, with the result that they umgine God to be somethmg like a man, and they fall to note the true idea of God that they possess, or are qUite unconsciOUS of possessmg It. And so It comes about that they can neither prove nor conceive God’s existence either a pnori (I.e., from hIS true defmdion or essence) or a postenorl, from the Idea of him Insofar as d IS lD us. Therefore m thIS sechon we shall try to show as clearly as we can that God’s eXistence IS completely different from the existence of created things - P B 1 190 Principles of Cartesian Philosophy more than adequately both a posteriori, from the idea we have of him, and a priori, from his essence as being the cause of his existence. But because we have treated certain of his attributes more briefly than the importance of the subject requires, we have decided to return to them here, to explain them more fully and also to provide answers to some problems. [Duration does not pertain to God.] The principal attribute that must be considered before all others is God’s eternity, whereby we explicate his duration; or rather, to avoid attributing any duration to God, we say that he is eternal. For, as we noted in the first Part, duration is an affection ofthe existence of things, not of their essence; but we cannot attribute any duration to God, whose existence is of his essence. For whoever attributes duration to God is distinguishing his existence from his essence. There are some, however, who ask whether at this moment God has not been in existence longer than when he created Adam; and it seems to them quite clear that this is so, and thus they hold that durntion must in no way be denied to God. But they are guilty of petitio principii, in assuming that God’s essence is distinct from his existence. They ask whether God, who existed up to the time of Adam, has not existed over more time between the creation of Adam and our time. Thus they are attributing a longer durntion to God as each day passes, and they assume that he is, as it were, continuously created by himself. If they did not distinguish God’s existence from his essence, they could not possibly attribute duration to God, because duration can in no way pertain to the essences of things. For no one will ever say that the essence of a circle or a triangle, insofar as it is an eternal truth, has lasted longer at this moment than at the time of Adam. Furthermore, because durntion is conceived as longer or shorter, or as consisting of paris, it clearly follows that no durntion can be attributed to God. For because his being is eternal, that is, there cannot be in it any before or after, we can never attribute duration to God without at the same time destroying the true conception we have of him. That is to say, by attributing durntion to him we would be dividing into parts that which of its own nature is infinite and can never be conceived except as infinite.2 [The reasons why writers hcrve attributed duration to God. ] Now the reasons why writers have thus erred are: (I) They have attempted to explain eternity without giving their attention to God, as if eternity could be understood without consideration of the divine essence, or were something other than the divine essence. And this again has arisen because, through poverty oflanguage, we are in the habit of attributing eternity even to things whose essence is distinct from their existence, as when we say that no contradiction is implied in the world having been in existence from eternity; and again when we attribute eternity to the essences of things while we conceive the things as not existing; for we then call the essences eternal. (2) They have been attributing duration to things only insofar as they held them to be subject to continuous variation, and not, as is our prnctice, in accordance as their essence is distinguished from their existence. (3) Finally, they have distinguished God’s essence from his existence, as is the case with created things. 2 [We are dividmg hiS existence into parts, or conceiving It as diViSible, when we attempt to explicate it through duration See Part 1, 4 -PRJ Appendix Containing Metaphysical Thoughts, Part 2, Chapter 2 191 These errors, I say, have led them astray. By reason of the first error they have failed to understand what eternity is, taking it rather to be some kind of duration. The second error made it difficult for them to see the difference between the duration of created things and God’s eternity. Finally, because duration is only an affection of existence and they have made a distinction between God’s existence and his essence, the third error has led to their attributing duration to God, as we have already said. [What is Eternity.] Butfor the better understanding of what eternity is, and how it cannot be conceived without the divine essence, attention must be given to what we have said already, namely, that created thing.- that is, all things besides God -always exist solely by the force or essence of God, and not by their own force. Hence it follows that the present existence of thing. is not the cause of their future existence. Only God’s immutability is the cause, which compels us to say that when God has created a thing in the first place, he will thereafter continuously preserve it, that is, he will continue the same action of creating it. From this we conclude: I. That a created thing can be said to enjoy existence, on the grounds that existence is not of its essence. But God cannot be said to enjoy existence, for God’s existence is God himself, just as is his essence. Hence it follows that created things enjoy existence, but this is not so with God. 2. That all created thing., wh ile enjoying present duration and existence, are entirely lacking in future duration and existence, because this has to be continuously attributed to them, whereas nothing of the sort can be said of their essence. But because God’s existence is of his essence, we cannot attribute future existence to him. For the same existence that he would then have must even now be attributed to h im in actual ity; or, to speak more properly, infinite actual existence pertains to God in the same way as infinite actual intellect pertains to him. Now this infinite existence I call eternity, which is to be attributed to God alone and not to any created thing, even though, I say, its duration is without beginning or end. So much for eternity. Of God’s necessity I say nothing, there being no need now that we have demonstrated his existence from his essence. Let us proceed, therefore, to his un ity.

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