Both Lady Anne Conway and Baruch Spinoza argue that the individual things in the world, everything from the mosquito to the chair to the supermodel, contain the substance of God. And by sharing in the substance of God, the chair, the supermodel, and the mosquito are all alike. At the same time, however, the mosquito is neither the chair nor the supermodel but a thing distinct from both of them. But is the mosquito inferior to the supermodel because she is (supposedly) a human with the capacity to reason or is the mosquito just different? Conway and Spinoza both have a different response to this question. I plan to discuss the similarity and the disparity between the philosophies of Conway and Spinoza concerning individual things in the world and the relation of these individual things to one another and to God. I then will discuss why Spinoza's view of individual things is more convincing in today's society.
[...] Unlike Conway and her hierarchy of substances with God at the top, however, Spinoza argues for one substance and one only, that is, God. For in his argument, a substance is that which is self-caused, which conceived through itself” independently, and for him it would be impossible for two substances to exist (p.249). According to Spinoza, it would be impossible to conceive of multiple substances individually without relating them somehow to each other; and it would then be similarly impossible to explain the cause behind the existence of multiple substances (p.249). [...]
[...] In a broader sense, since for Spinoza “substances and modes form the sum total of existence,” all individual things must necessarily exist in or through God. Therefore, all individual things in their role as modes must express and, therefore, contain, God in some way because there is no other (p.256). In contemplating even a thing as so seemingly insignificant and miniscule as a particular mosquito, then, one grasps an attribute of Spinoza's God, thereby leading one to a better understanding of God, of nature, of the world. [...]
[...] Although Conway and Spinoza agree that God is “present in all things and fills all things,” they disagree on several other points concerning the nature of God, of the world, and of individual things, and I believe that Spinoza has the stronger argument overall when placed in a modern context (Conway 25). The sense of equality among all individual things that can be found in Spinoza is something many people continually discuss today, whether it be in the form of arguing for equality among different racial and ethnic groups or for the humane treatment of animals both domestic and wild. [...]
[...] Conway argues that, of all the individual things striving for infinite perfection, the human being is the most excellent in its degree of perfection, and is, therefore, superior to all other creatures (p.34). The higher perfection of human beings compared to all other individual things exists for Conway because breathed [the divine soul or spirit] into [only] them” and only “made them in his image” (p.34). The mosquito and the chair do not possess the divine soul or image of God that the supermodel and other human beings possess, so the mosquito and chair are considered by Conway as being inferior. [...]
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