25 Dec 2008

Spinoza's Ethics Part 1, Proposition 18: God's Immanent Causality

[The following is quotation from the English translation. My summary and commentary to this is bracketed in red. The Latin text comes last.]

Baruch Spinoza
Part I "Concerning God"
Proposition XVII

Prop. XVIII. God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. (From the Parkinson translation: God is the immanent and not the transitive cause of all things.)

[God causes all things, but not by standing outside his effects; rather, his effects reside within him.]

Proof.-All things which are, are in God, and must be conceived through God (by Prop. xv.), therefore (by Prop. xvi., Coroll. i.) God is the cause of those things which are in him. This is our first point. Further, besides God there can be no substance (by Prop. xiv.), that is nothing in itself external to God. This is our second point. God, therefore, is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. Q.E.D.

[God is substance, and there is only one substance, so God is in Himself and must be conceived through Himself. The only other things are modes, which by definition must be conceived through the substance they modify. So all existing things exist in God and are conceived through him.

It follows necessarily from God's essence that he produce an infinity of things in an infinity of ways. Because all things whatsoever are found in him, he has caused all those things in him.

Also, we know that God is the only substance. We have defined him as having an infinity of attributes, so if there were another substance, it would have to share one of God's attributes. But we know that substances cannot share attributes. For, if they did, then conceiving one would be to conceive a defining characteristic of another attribute as well, but substances must be conceivable only in themselves. Hence there can be no other substance than God.

So, because God causes all things that are in him, and because nothing exists outside him, he is the immanent cause of everything, all of which exist in him. In other words, because God does not stand outside the things he creates, he does not cause them as though they were apart from him; rather, what he causes exists immanently within himself.]

From the Latin text:


Deus est omnium rerum causa immanens, non vero transiens.


Omnia, quæ sunt, in Deo sunt, & per Deum concipi debent (per Prop. 15), adeoque (per Coroll. 1 Prop. 16 hujus) Deus rerum, quæ in ipso sunt, est causa, quod est primum. Deinde extra Deum nulla potest dari substantia (per Prop. 14), hoc est (per Defin. 3), res, quæ extra Deum in se sit, quod erat secundum. Deus ergo est omnium rerum causa immanens, non vero transiens. Q.E.D.


Spinoza. Ethics. Transl. Elwes. available online at:
A fantastic hyperlinked version, thanks Terry Neff:

Spinoza. Ethica. available online at:

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