Please could someone explain what I am missing here?

In Spinoza's The Ethics, Proposition V is said:

PROPOSITIO V: In rerum natura non possunt dari duæ aut plures substantiæ ejusdem naturæ sive attributi.

This is translated as "There cannot exist in the universe two or more substances having the same nature or attribute." (Trans. R.H.M. Elwes)

So my question is: how does "dari" here mean "exist", or is "exist" just added up to make that sentence more suitable for English construction so "dari" should be "to be handed over, given"? ("Do" is given as to hand over, deliver, give up, render, furnish, pay, surrender.)


2 Answers 2


English actually has this same construction! Think of it as analogous to the phrase "Granted that" or "It is given that." It's used in philosophy as part of a hypothetical dialogue.

In Latin, the "giving" part led to a metaphorical usage of "permission." If I grant you the right to do something, I give you permission. Or allowance, etc. You can find this under II.B in Lewis & Short.

So, for a less idiomatic but still accurate translation, we could do something like:

In the nature of things (=universe, natural world), two or more substances of the same nature and attribute cannot be permitted.

From there you can see an easy development straight to "posse dari" meaning "can exist."


Indeed, possunt dari litteraly means "they may exist" ("they may be [a] given").

A similar construction still exists in Italian:

Può darsi che... : it is possible that...


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