By Jonathan Bennett
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2. His official case for it rests on p7,11 which I shall expound jointly. Together they make up a version of the so-called 'ontological argument' for God's existence. Briefly, the argument takes it to be a necessary truth-a matter of the definition or concept of God-that God has every property in some domain of properties of which existence is one of the members: the domain may be perfections, or kinds of reality, or whatever. , that necessarily God exists. It is widely agreed now that the existence of a concrete object-something other than an inhabitant of the third realm-never follows from a definition or from a description of a concept.
But I think it would have been better if Spinoza had left the word 'essence' right out of his definition of attribute, defining the term directly through the notion of a basic, logically irreducible and unanalysable way of being. That is the notion Descartes captures when he says that 'there is always one principal property of substance which constitutes its nature and es- ( 3) THE ONE SUBSTANCE DOCTRINE sence, and on which all the others depend'. 9 Here, as in Spinoza's d4, the term 'essence' is used without carrying much seriously considered meaning.
Everything which is not basic in the sense explained in § 16. , unlosable by it, except its most basic propemes. , nonaccidental, need~ defending. If we try the assumption out on such items as a fundamental ~hysical particle, it clearly fails: it may be essential to such a particle that 1t ha_s mass _M, yet this is not a basic property of it, since 'having mass M' entatls but 1s not entailed by 'being physical'. Spinoza would reject the example, no doubt, though it is hard to decide whether he is entitled to at this stage in the Ethics.
A Study of Spinoza's Ethics by Jonathan Bennett