Journal of Philosophical Investigations

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Candidate of Philosophy, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran

2 Associate Professor of Philosophy Department, Allameh Tabatabai University, Iran


This article explores the concept of substance, attributes, and modes in Spinoza's "Ethics" by examining them through the perspectives of ancient Greek and medieval philosophers, as well as Descartes' views on substance and extension, along with their notions of God and His attributes. Wolfson's interpretation of Spinoza based on these perspectives serves as the basis for this investigation. The primary objective of this article is to critically evaluate Wolfson's interpretation of the concepts of substance, attribute, and mode as proposed by Spinoza, with a focus on their philosophical implications and coherence within Spinoza's overall framework. Spinoza's predecessors, Aristotle and Descartes, believed in the multiplicity of substances. In contrast, for Spinoza, there is only one substance—a self-sufficient being that exists independently and does not rely on others for its existence. One considers a similarity between modes in Spinoza's philosophy and accidents in Aristotle's system: It is impossible to imagine modes and accidents without substance. Despite this similarity, in the Aristotelian system, accidents characterise the substance, but in Spinoza's philosophy, the substance precedes modes; in fact, modes result necessarily from the substance. Spinoza then claims that the substance has infinite attributes, but the human mind only knows two attributes—Thought and Extension. According to him, the substance is identical to its attributes. So, the substance as thinking thinks about itself, i.e., the body. For Spinoza, individual things and Ideas are finite modes of the attributes of body and mind that follow necessarily from the substance.


Main Subjects

Aristotle. (2013). On The Soul, Translated by A. Davoudi, Hekmat Publication. (in Persian)
Aristotle. (2013). Organon, Translated by S. Adib-Soltan, Negah Publication. (in Persian)
Cottingham, J (2013). Descartes, Translated by M. Shahr-aeini, Ney Publication. (in Persian)
Descartes, R. (1984). The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Cambridge University Press.
Kant, I. (2015). Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by B. Nazari, Qoqnoos Publication. (in Persian)
Martineau, J. (1882). A study of Spinoza, Macmillan.
Schelling, F. (2018). On the History of Modern Philosophy, Translated by M. Hosseini, Shabkhiz Publication. (in Persian)
Schmidt, A. (2009). Substance Monism and Identity Theory in Spinoza in the Cambridge Companion to Spinoza’s Ethics, Cambridge University Press.
Spinoza, B. (2018). Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Translated by I. Saadat, IUP Publication. (in Persian)
Spinoza, B. (2019). Ethica, Translated by M. Jahangiri, 2ed edition, IUP Publication. (in Persian)
Spinoza. (1985). The Collected Works of Spinoza, Edited and Translated by E. Curley, Princeton University Press.
Wolfsan, H. (2023). The Philosophy of Spinoza, Translated by A. Shahbazi, Adyan Publication. (in Persian)
Wolfson, H. (1934). The Philosophy of Spinoza, Harvard University Press.