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Additional resources for Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, Vol. I: The Beginnings of Philosophy

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Another way of making this point is to say, with Aristotle, that substances are the subjects of predication. This is not merely the claim that the names of substances usually occupy the “subject” part of a complete grammatical sentence. It is rather to say that when we talk about the world, we talk first and foremost about what happens to substances. Talk of properties and relations is somehow derivative of our talk of substances. They are the “players” in the universe. As I said, most philosophers do not insist that substances are wholly self-sufficient.

12) Spinoza’s puzzlement is over why anyone would take a created thing, mouthing such words, to be an instrument being employed by an infinite, eternal, changeless being. We might wonder: if a man, donkey, or pillar of fire were to declare to us “I am the number seventeen”, how could we possibly relate that voice to that number? The number is not a man or a donkey, or indeed any sort of thing that can manipulate a body into speaking its mind; but neither, according to Spinoza, is God. So why would a human ever take a humanlike voice as issuing either directly or indirectly from an eternal, infinite being?

It is nothing we have made up or invented. It is the fabric, the contours, of mathematical space, or logical space. Metaphysicians of the deepest sort, such as Plato and Spinoza and Leibniz, also sought to map the truths of logical space. But instead of concerning themselves merely with numbers, sets and shapes, they concerned themselves with our deepest and most powerful concepts, such as substance, cause, property and relation. They believed there are necessary truths about these concepts as well, such as that every substance has a cause, and that substances are more basic (“more real”) than the relations they bear to one another.

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Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, Vol. I: The Beginnings of Philosophy by David J. Furley

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