Spinoza ala-mode

I am thinking about Spinoza this morning, particularly about the Substance and Modes and Attributes.

Now, as I am understanding Substance this morning (which my understanding of Spinoza changes from day to day, so very dense and rich is his philosophy), that it is the immanent force of All, the laws of Nature, the form of all the circles. It isn’t the circle, or the material manifestations of things, but the thing (a very poor word, but imagine me saying it with clawing hands and a pained, hesitant look upon my face) that both the creative bent (the push to exist at all) and the governing laws in regards to the relations, the laws of Nature.

Now, my pondering today, fueled by a mocha and a blueberry crêpe, is on the nature of the Modes. And the easiest way, I suppose, to think of Modes are as properties, or perhaps more along the lines of the Forms that were so beloved by Plato. Some have argued that this is incredibly problematic in that this doesn’t really explain anything. An often used example in forms and properties is the much used table in philosophical discussions. Is there a Mode for a table? Is there a tableness property? This is used by some to illustrate shortcomings of the philosophy. And yet I am reminded here of arguments used by Functionalists attempting to explain a theory of mind as not dependent on the material makeup, but on the actions, uses, and means and ends of a thing. That is, a collection of stones arranged in such a way may serve as a table in the same way that wood crafted by a furniture-maker.

But all of this aside, what is running through my mind right now is the thought of the supposed infinity of modes. I can begin to see how, just on sheer multiplication alone, we might approach infinity with the possibility of combinations of all types of properties, especially if one entertains a holon-based view on verticalness. This, to me, makes much more of a satisfactory answer as to wholeness at all levels and organziations. But again I digress. I am stuck on the nature of Substance as being the immanent causality of everything, the begetting of Nature, and the idea that there is an order to things. If there is an order there must then be limitations. If there are limitations in the manifestations, and I understand this as the Modes, then there isn’t an infinity of Modes, but rather a very, very, large number of them. Though in practical reasons there is no difference to a human that the universe is very, very, very, very, very large and not infinite (it might as well be our experience of it), the importance of this seemingly small but critical distinction is of paramount importance in the underlying metaphysics.

But let me back up here. It may be that perhaps time is but one mode and that I get sidetracked by thinking that because all things cannot happen at once this implies a limitation to the infinity of modes. Whereas the two modes of mind and extension are at the same time separate and not separate (because they are modes within Substance) and, in quite simple terms, it is like a Venn diagram, where modes overlap, an attribute occurs. I am an attribute of extension, mind, and other modes. Nice to meet you, fellow attribute of God.

Am I any closer to understanding modes? Nope.


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