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Notes on Spinozas Ethics, and a proposition therein

Submitted as a test, for seed funding of a revolutionary load-bearing solar plane design. 15 September 2014.
Note: this work is original, unpublished, independent work by the author, who asserts and retains all rights. Any
reproduction for any purpose is strictly prohibited.
1. Introduction
In response to a private request, below we present brief notes upon the dependencies to and from an
arbitrary proposition (28 in Book 2) in Spinozas Ethics, with our commentary. Before doing so, we
anticipate an attentive and critical reading of Spinozas Ethics by a modern reader concerned with the
truth of actual nature and reality, for which it remains highly suitable and relevant. We highlight the
importance of the structural form and technique, beyond mere ontology and epistemology to actual
science and mundane observations. We wish to focus the greatest possible attention on the historical
and demonstrative power of the form the book, briefly setting it in a historical and logical context. As
requested we turn incidental attention to a proposition, 28 in Book 2, drawn at random, by means of
presenting its logical interdependence within the work.
2. What possible significance can a proof have? How can anyone prove anything?
Mere technical tracing of references (to axioms and propositions) runs the risk of being completely futile.
After all, in its mechanics it is not so different from tracing the number of shared scenes of one TV
character with other TV characters in the same series, an exercise that would give no one any benefit
whatsoever. Are highly technical reviews of propositions and axioms equally perfunctory, to the point of
giving us no benefit whatsoever? On the contrary there is a great deal to be learned from this method.
Before proceeding to do so, we would like to highlight in the present section the benefits of a work like
Spinozas Ethics.
To whet the readers appetite for technical proofs, we would like in this section to offer three proofs, the
first of great historical significance, the second a bridge to Spinozas work, and the third related directly
to the device whose funding request resulted in the assignment of the present test. The second
example, in particular, is a simpler formal argument, that shows that formal argument can leave us with
lasting religious truths.
Consider, reader, that it is possible to come up with definitive truths about the universe through the
power of a formal argument alone.
a. First example, Galileo.
Our reference for this bold statement is the logical argument presented in prose form by Galileo Galilei.
In Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences [1638], he states:
1


1
Source: http://galileoandeinstein.physics.virginia.edu/tns.htm under First Day: pages 61-69: rebuttal of Aristotle's
theory of falling bodies.
SALV. But, even without further experiment, it is possible to prove clearly, by means of a short and
conclusive argument, that a heavier body does not move more rapidly than a lighter one provided both
bodies are of the same material and in short such as those mentioned by Aristotle. But tell me, Simplicio,
whether you admit that each falling body acquires a definite speed fixed by nature, a velocity which cannot
be increased or diminished except by the use of force [violenza] or resistance.
SIMP. There can be no doubt but that one and the same body moving in a single medium has a fixed
velocity which is determined by nature and which cannot be increased except by the addition of momentum
[impeto] or diminished except by some resistance which retards it.
SALV. If then we take two bodies whose natural speeds are different, it is clear that on uniting the two, the
more rapid one will be partly retarded by the slower, and the slower will be somewhat hastened by the
swifter. Do you not agree with me in this opinion?
SIMP. You are unquestionably right.
SALV. But if this is true, and if a large stone moves with a speed of, say, eight while a smaller moves with
a speed of four, then when they are united, the system will move with a speed less than eight; but the two
stones when tied together make a stone larger than that which before moved with a speed of eight. Hence
the heavier body moves with less speed than the lighter; an effect which is contrary to your supposition.
Thus you see how, from your assumption that the heavier body moves more rapidly than ' the lighter one, I
infer that the heavier body moves more slowly.
In this way, Galileo was able to come to an essential truth. It is not possible that heavier objects fall
faster than lighter ones. Far from actually dropping stones off of the Tower of Pisa, a popular
misconception, Galileo was able to come up with this truth through the power of reasoning alone.
Lets dispense with the historical form and consider this adaptation of Galileos argument:
Major premise: A heavier object falls faster than a lighter one.
Minor premise: A penny with a feather glued to it is heavier than a penny by itself.
Conclusion: A penny with a feather glued to it falls faster than a penny by itself.
As the conclusion is patently false, and we can see with any digital scale that the minor premise is true, it
is logically necessary that the major premise is false. The major premise just so happens to be
Aristotelian gravity! At any time in the past 2300 years, then, anyone could have learned that Aristotles
theory of gravity was incorrect, if they had happened to think of the correct logical argument. In fact,
Galileo happened to do so.
A reflection over this profound result shows us the power of formal argument. Logical arguments have
incredible weight. What, then of Spinozas arguments? Spinozas Ethics concerns both God and Man.
It is not trivial to apply formal technical arguments to questions of faith and belief. Yet, it is still possible.
For example, much like Spinoza, I myself had prepared a technical conclusion in a matter of faith (in my
case during my teenaged years), and to show the reader the power of formal argument, I would share it
here. This argument is illustrative in part necessary due to the difficulty in entering Spinozas philosophy
directly a demonstration that a convincing argument can be possible formally should greatly pique the
readers curiosity and anticipate some of the possibilities of Spinozas contribution.
b. Second example, an argument about souls.
At the time I discovered the argument below, it was considered by the Catholic Church that a soul
entered the human body at the moment of conception. I happened to think of a proof that this could
not be the case, even though I did not so much as believe in the concept of a Christian soul as specifically
taught by the Catholic church.
The argument is simple:
1. (axiom) Each person has an individual and unique soul, and only one soul
2. (axiom) A soul becomes inherent to that person from the moment of conception (fertilization of
an embryo) premise supplied by the Catholic church
3. That soul is linked inextricably with the person who will be born after gestation of this embryo,
and this soul is the one and only one connected with that body, nor will leave that body until the
death of the embryo or of the person born from it.
So far so good. But, once we have formalized the system we can add a mundane fact:
4. A single fertilized embryo may split into two , and develop into so-called monozygotic or
identical twins.
This is a simple biological fact. But, having established the dogmatic structure that a single soul is bound
to a fertilized egg (1
st
and 2
nd
premise), it follows that a pair of twins can only end up with one soul (by 1,
2, and 3)! But this contradicts our axiom 1. Therefore, either not every person has 1 soul, or ensoulment
cannot happen at the moment of fertilization. Which just so happens to be the premise supplied by the
Catholic Church!
That is how powerful formal reasoning can be. Although it may surprise some people that such
reasoning can be applied directly to religious matters, indeed it can. Spinoza thus is fully in the realm of
reasonable formal power when considering matters of faith. Unfortunately, we have too little space
review the detailed world-view in The Ethics, and for the moment must pause at leaving open the
tantalizing possibilities of some of what can be proved. In a historical context, Spinozas reasoning
affected no smaller personages than Leibniz, the co-inventor of calculus, as well as playing a
fundamental role in establishing the rigor characteristic of the Enlightenment. These historical facts are
interesting and worth separate investigation and exegesis, and again are outside of our immediate
scope.
c. Third example, some formal arguments for a device.
Returning to more mundane applications, arguments and techniques like this can even be used to
establish surprising possibilities. For example, we can simply imagine a series of propositions that
together show the viability of the device (patent) by the author, which the reviewer will seed pending
review of this submission. Firstly, consider some simple propositions about whether two people can
carry each other indefinitely:
1. Two people can easily alternate carrying each other unaided, if and only if one of them can easily
carry the second person, and the second person can easily carry the first person.
2. An average person cannot easily carry more than 1/3 of their weight.
By simple logic, no two average people could easily alternate carrying each other. (It would be difficult
work or they are not average.) Why? Because we assumed that a person cannot easily carry more than
1/3 of their weight, and given any two people, either a) they weigh the same in which case they each
weigh more than 1/3 of the other and by (2) the other cannot carry this person, or b) the one of them
which weighs more, and therefore weighs more than 1/3 the first (otherwise would be the one to weigh
less), and the smaller person cannot carry that person.
Therefore, it follows from these two simple premises that it is NOT possible for two average people to
easily alternate carrying each other, assuming we accept the premises. Now that we have shown that
the technique is powerful enough to weed out non-viable solutions, lets ask a simple question:
Is it possible for a solar-powered glider and airplane combination to alternate flying?
Again, we need some premises:
1. Some airfoils/airplanes (wing designs) can fold up, collapse, roll up, retract, vary sweep, etc to
change the shape.
2. Airplanes and unpowered gliders have carrying payloads
3. If a given glider (sailplane, or its wings), A, can fold up and fit into the cargo volume and
carrying capacity (payload weight) of a given airplane, B, and the airplane can fit within the
carrying capacity (payload weight and volume) of the glider, then A and B can alternate carrying
each other, i.e. in their respective profiles.
4. Solar panels add negligible weight to a glider design and can be added to any glider design,
producing approximately 100 watts per square meter of surface area in sunlight.
5. If the amount of altitude such A loses in carrying the payload of the airplane over a period of
time, T, is LESS than the amount of altitude that B can gain using the amount of power that the
glider has stored over time T, then the combination can alternate flying indefinitely, at an
average speed determined by the speed of A and amount of time spent by A flying, and the
speed of B and the amount of time spent by B flying.
6. There are glider designs and airplane designs respectively that meet these requirements.
(Specifications not included here.)
Of course, this existence-type proof is not at as interesting as actually looking at detailed operating
characteristics of specific types, but it can be an interesting mental exercise.
Likewise, Galileos proof that Aristotelian gravity cannot be correct did not in itself produce the correct
equations, nor does my proof that a soul cannot be joined upon the moment of conception say anything
about the existence of souls at all, or how they come to be joined to a body. However, we have gotten
certain deep results, and the technique is powerful.
Returning to the question of Spinoza
3. Example of a Proposition by Spinoza
We find The Ethics rather difficult reading. Agreeing with an observation by Schopenhauer, we find it
difficult to follow Spinozas terminology when he defines the term God, for example, in a way that would
fit normal definitions of the word world.
2
Such a distinct usage of terminology means that to
understand Spinozas specific usage of terminology fully would take a deep reading of most or all of
Spinozas works, as well as reading of extrinsic sources and criticism. For this reason we will omit
detailed criticism of the axioms, views, and philosophy expressed in The Ethics. Nevertheless, we would
like to highlight its historical and logical significance.
Instead we turn to a single formal exercise, looking at the dependencies of an (apparently) arbitrary
proposition that has been assigned, Proposition 29 in Book 2.
It is exceedingly common to make use of shared corpuses and build on the research of others, and for
this exercise we noted that ____ has prepared a directed graph of dependencies. The direction of edges
in the graph represent dependencies i.e. axioms have no edges leading into them, whereas
propositions are led into (connected via a directed edge) from at least 1 axiom or proposition. They may
lead out to further propositions that depend on them, or not. Thus given the corpus, it is a simple
matter to trace all formal dependencies from and to Proposition 29,
Dependencies in Proposition 28 in Book 2 of Spinozas Ethics. We turn to an examination, without
comment, of Proposition 28 in Book 2, which reads The ideas of the modifications of the human body,
in the human mind, are not clear and distinct.
We have found a table of dependencies online, prepared by
http://capone.mtsu.edu/rbombard/RB/Spinoza/tredwell.html
Consulting that table we can see that our postulate depends on the the following postulates and
propositions (first column)
Postulate:
2O03 2P28
2P16 2P28
2P24 2P28
2P25 2P28

2
Read in Wikipedia under the entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_(book)#Misuse_of_words
Which are, in full:
II Postulate 3 "The parts of the body are affected by external bodies"
II Proposition 16 The idea of every way in which human body is affected involves the nature of
the body and external body
II Proposition 24 The human mind does not involve an adequate knowledge of the parts of the
body
II Proposition 25 The idea of each modification of the body does not involve an adequate
knowledge of an external body

We could continue the exercise by looking at the adjacency entries for the mentioned propositions.

The following depend upon the chosen proposition:
2P28 2P29C01
2P28 2P36


II Proposition 29 Corollary 1 The mind, when it perceives things in the order of Nature, has no
adequate knowledge
II Propositon 36 Inadequate and confused ideas follow by the same necessity as adequate
ideas



Figure 1 the four dependencies of II Proposition 28
As an example, we further traced 2P16, but did not do so for 2P24 and 2P25.
We could further trace these dependencies but have not been asked to do so. As this is purely
mechanical work, we do not find particular merit in continuing the exercise to past what was required. It
would not be an aid to understanding. On the other hand, as mentioned, we have not taken the time to
deeply understand Spinozas view and philosophy.
However, as we have shown in the preceding sections, deep conclusions can be attained through formal
reasoning alone.
II Proposition 28 The ideas
of the modifications of the
human body, in the human
mind, are not clear and
distinct.
II Postulate 3 "The parts
of the body are affected by
external bodies"
II Proposition 16 The idea
of every way in which human
body is affected involves the
nature of the body and
external body
I Axiom 4 Axiom:
Knowledge of effect from
knowledge of cause
II Axiom 6 When body
a affects body b, all modes
follow from nature of a and
b (Axiom 1 After 2 Lemma 3)
II Proposition 24 The
human mind does not
involve an adequate
knowledge of the parts of
the body
...
II Proposition 25 The idea
of each modification of the
body does not involve an
adequate knowledge of an
external body
...