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The Problem Of Necessitarianism (1P28–36)

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Chapter Summary

Spinoza concedes that in everyday life we do occasionally speak of contingent things or states of affairs. But then we are just expressing the fact that we do not know the essence of these things, or that we do not know their causes. We have to perform certain actions, whether we want to or not. Is there, then, contingency in the world, in spite of the all-encompassing necessity? Or is contingency just a kind of perspectival illusion? These questions are addressed in this chapter. As a first step, it takes a closer look at Spinoza's argument for necessitarianism, taking into consideration his reaction to Descartes' position. Second, it examines whether and how necessitarianism does allow for a distinction between different kinds of states of affairs. Finally, it explores possible consequences for a theory of action, and discusses whether Spinoza does indeed consider talk of freedom and responsibility to be obsolete.

Keywords: contingency; Descartes; necessitarianism; Spinoza; states of affairs; theory of action



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