De Moor IV:14: Spinoza's Problematic Definition of God, Part 2

DITTON,[1] in his Dissertatione de Materia non cogitante, chapter XIII, pages 592, 593, etc., observes against Spinoza, that these truths are indubitable, 1. That from all eternity some consummately necessary Being has existed, subsisting of itself, independent, and infinitely perfect. 2. That the same Being is infinite, intelligent, prudent, and wise.

From these principles he derives the following Conclusions. If that necessary Being be infinite, and essentially intelligent; if absolute Simplicity be a necessary attribute of the highest Perfection; if that absolute Simplicity be ἀσύστατος/incompossible with composite Being, which is evident from the two Substances essentially and specifically diverse: it follows, that Matter is not able to be an attribute of the diven Essence, nor anything pertaining to that Essence in any way.

He no less legitimately adds that hence it follows, and is not able to be admitted: 1. that God is the Whole/Universe. 2. That Substance besides God alone is not able to be conceded. 3. That what we call Creatures are only parts and modifications of the divine Substance. 4. That one Substance is not able to create or produce another. 5. That all Substance must be infinite and necessarily subsisting.

Ditton observes that from the premises these things legitimately and necessarily follow, unless one or the other of these absurdities be admitted: namely, That Matter thinks, the absurdity of which thesis he had demonstrated at length in that Dissertation. Or (if they proceed further) that God is not an intelligent Being: or that absolute Simplicity is not a necessary Perfection of the divine Essence: or that with absolute Simplicity it is able to be reconciled, that there is a composite of two Substances essentially and specifically diverse: that an infinite accumulation of Substances infinite in number, which are numerically distinct, and are divided into two diverse classes, does not hinder Simplicity.

Then Ditton shows in addition, 1. that a number of Gentile Philosophers had already of old gone before Spinoza, pages 594, 595, in which especially the words of Seneca are discussed: 2. that Spinosism completely overthrows all Religion, pages 596-599.

In chapter XIV, pages 599-601, he refutes the Objection of the Spinosists, that Substances diverse from God, or which are not God Himself, are not able to be reconciled with the Idea of Absolute Infinity, are not able to be conceded.

He answers in the Negative, because the Idea of Infinity does not imply the concept of Being containing all things in itself as parts or modifications of itself; but only of Being, the Essence and Perfections of which admit absolutely no limits. But now, 1. the Existence of other Substances besides God in no way limits God, when by His Omnipotence they were produced, and in every way depend upon Him: neither do they exclude from any possible place His Essence or presence. 2. On the other hand, the contrary opinion takes away the idea of divine Infinity and implies Atheism. Since with the idea of Absolute Infinity it is not able to consist, to have parts, to be divisible, to be liable to motion, mutation, destruction, and infinitely diverse vicissitudes.

Read among others PIERRE BAYLE,[2] Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, tome 3, on the word Spinoza, especially note N, pages 2637-2640, and notes CC, DD, pages 2645-2648, arguing admirably against the opinion of Spinoza concerning God: at the same time, attend to the cautions that BUDDEUS supplies, de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapter I, § 27, pages 110, 111. See also BENEDICT PICTET, Christelyke Godtgeleerheid, part 1, book 2, chapter 5, pages 166-168; MELCHIOR LEYDEKKER, Veritate Euangelica triumphante, book II, chapter IV, § 3-56, pages 195-205; BUDDEUS, de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapter I, § 26, pages 95-103; BUDDEUS and LULOFS upon him, chapter VI, § 6, pages 351-363.

[1] Humphry Ditton (1675-1715) was an English Minister, Theologian, and Mathematician.

[2] Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) was a French philosopher. He was the son of a Reformed minister; for a short time he defected to Roman Catholicism, only to return again to his Reformed roots. He was influenced by Rationalism; and consequently he advocated for a separation between the domains of faith and reason, and for toleration of differing beliefs.

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