Spinoza’s Monism and the Illusion of Selfhood

Examines Spinoza’s concept of monism from several perspectives in order to determine if the assumptions Spinoza’s monism is based upon are acceptable.

The discussion of Spinoza’s monism and its impact upon our understanding of the autonomous self necessitates – prior to addressing the issue itself – a choice as to whether or not to accept the assumptions upon which is based the `truth of Spinoza’s monism`. In this context, this paper will take a dualistic approach to this question. First, Spinoza’s assumptions and his monistic theory will be examined to demonstrate some of their flaws, and therefore their irrelevance to the issue of the autonomous self. The second approach requires the provisional acceptance of Spinoza’s assumptions and his propositions as to the monism of God. It will be argued that, although Spinoza’s argument allows a degree of limited autonomy for the self as a causal agent, this freedom is based upon our finite ignorance of the causal relationship between ourselves as finite beings and God as an infinite entity.