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I cannot understand how the word only was used in the following sentence.Can you explain to me please? Is it conjunction ?

We are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us.(Spinoza, Ethics, 1673).

Can I rewrite in this way? I mean did I get its meaning right?

We are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble but by the help perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us.

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  • I don't think it's a conjunction, I think it's an adverb (modifying enabled). I think Peter explained the rest pretty well.
    – J.R.
    Feb 12 '16 at 18:44
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Your sense of only is not quite correct, in the example

...and noble only by the perpetual instilling...

means there is just a single way or path

an equivalent to the original would be

...and noble by the use of perpetual instilling ... that surrounds us and no other way

but does not mean exclusivity whereas only does

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  • Thanks but the thing that I cannot understand in this sentence is that we do not have a specific verb after the word noble..It seems like we need a verb in order to use " and no other way" if we rewrite the sentence all the way.
    – plato
    Feb 12 '16 at 16:24
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    No, we don't need another verb, because the whole last part of the sentence is like a prepositional phrase. Think of it like this: "I built the house with my own hands and nothing else." "with my own hands and nothing else" is like "by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us and no other way"; it doesn't need another verb because there's no other action happening.
    – stangdon
    Feb 12 '16 at 16:47
  • The essence of the sentence is: We are enabled to apprehend...by instilling and drenching...**and no other way**. "And no other way" can be added to almost anything.
    – Peter
    Feb 12 '16 at 16:47

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