Sei sulla pagina 1di 223

Expressionism in Philosophy:


Gilles Deleuze

Translated by Mertln Joughin


() Ina Un:one, Inc. Contents

611 Br�dw",y. Suite 8]8

New York, NY 10011

All right! re5en-ed.

No pout of this book molY be reproduced. stored in i

retrie...l s)'$tem. or trolnsmined in .In)' form orb), .Iny
me",ns. including electronic. mech",nie.&l, photocopying.
micronlming, recording. or otherwise (except for tholt
copying permitted by Sections 107 0100 loS of the U.S.
Copyright ",nd except by reviewers for the public Translaror's Preface 5
press) without wrillcn pcrmbsion from the Publisher.
Introduction: The Role and Importance oj
Originally published in France as Spino�o rr Il probUmr Expression 13
de I·txprmlon. () 1968 Lcs Editions de Minuit.

Printed in the United Sutes of Ameriu. PART ONE THE TRIADS OF SU8STANCE

Distributed by The MIT Press,

Clmbridge. MaSSKhusens .loo London, Engl.lnd Chapter I Numerical and Real Distinction 21
Libr"'rr of Congress Clt",loging in Publiution DoIt.l
II Attribute as Expression 41
III Attributes and Divine Names 53
Deleu�.e. Gilles.
(Spinol.'" et Ie problcme de l'upression. English]
IV The Absolute 69
Expressionism in philosoph)': Spino7.o1! Gilles V Power 83
Deleul'.e: lransl",.cd by "brtin loughin.
Tr.lnsl"'tion of: Spino/..! el Ie problcme de l'aprcssion.
Bibliogrolphy : p.
Index VI ExpreSSion in Parallelism 99
ISBN D-941199'�Q-] (ilk. poIper) VII The Two Powers and the Idea of God 113
D-94H99'�I'!, (pbk.) VIII Expression and Idea 129
I. Spino/..!, Benedictu! de. 16j2-1677 - Contributions
IX Inadequacy 145
in conCept of expression. 2. EXllression. I. Tille.
X Spino7.a ABairut Descartes 155
199'.o4';Il-dCI9 88-1060] XI Immanence and the Historical Components
'" of £.ypression 169

!)GI . , ..
TIiETIIEOlty OF FINITE MODES Tra n s l a t o r's P r e ra c e

XII Afodal Ess�nu: Th� Passagt! from InfiniCt!

to Finite 191
XIII Afodol Existence 201
XIV What Can a Body Do? 217
XV The Three Orders and the Problem oj EI'il 235
XVI The Ethical ViSion of the World 255
XVII Common Notions 273
XVIII Toword th� Third Kind oj Knowledge 289 "We disco\'cr new ways of foldiQg.l r
but we are always folding,
IXX Beatitude 303 unfolding. refolding": so ends Le P/i. Oeleu7.e's latest book, on
Lcibniz, his first major historical study of a philosopher since the
Conclusion: The Theory oj Expression in Leibniz and present book was published twenty years before. Here the main
Spin07.4: Expressionism in Philosophy 321 text closes: "It is hard. in the end, to say which is more impor­
Appendix 337 tant: the differences between Leibniz and Spinoza in their evalua­
Notes 351 tion of expression; or their common reliance on this concept in
Translator's Notes 403 founding a Postcartesian philosophy." Spinoza and Leibniz: two
Index 429 different expressions of "expressionism in philosophy," an cxpres­
Inde.y oj Tutual ReJerences 437 sionism characterized in this book as a system of imp/icatio and
uplicatio, enfolding and unfolding. implication and explication.
implying and explaining. involving and evolving. enveloping and
developing. Two systems of universal folding obtain: Spinoza's
, unfolded from the bare "Simplicity" of an Infinity into which all

things are ultimately folded up. as into a unh'crsal map that folds
back into a Single point; while Leibniz starts from the infinitc
points in that map. each of which enfolds within its infinitely
"complex" identity all ils relations with all olhcr such points.
the unfolding of all thesc infinite relations bcing the cvolution
of a Leibnizian Universe.
We arc always in\'oh'cd in things and thcir implications and

E X P R E S S ' O N ' S M .N P H ' L O S O P H '" S P ' N O Z ...

developments, always ourselves developing in our bodily "em'e­ to cover both "sides" of the Latin or French word (everywhere
lope," always explaining and implying, In Spinou's Latin the substituting it. thcn. for "understand," "includc," "comprise"),
distinctions between thcse various ways of bcing enfolded in a or simply ask the reader to try to constantly bear in mind that
universal "complication" or complexity of things are borne by the both sorts of containmcnt arc always to be understood as cor­
differen! contexts, mental. physic.ll. and so on, in which implicore, responding to a single "tenn" of the exposition. a tcnn whose
explicore, and their derivatives are used, An English translator must single grammar or expressh'e logic must be understood as organ·
often identify the implicit or explicit context of a particular use izing the relations of the two English "sides" of the tenn through·
of one of these words and choose between, say, "imply," "impli­ out the book.
cate," "cnfold" - or "explain," "explicate," "unfold" - whilc Thcn consider the Latin t:ouplc inrolvere and cl'olvcre: an order
Deleuze can retain in the French impliqucr and txpliquer several of continuous "turning" inward and outward. involution and evo­
of the multiple senses of the Latin, The English language has lution. rather than the elemcntary order of folds. The French
developed dife
f rently from the French language. It has integrated envelopper cOI'ers both abstract and physical senses of "involving"
Latin and Gennanic roots, where French has unfolded directly and "cnvcloping" or (once more) "cnfolding." Uust to compli.
from Latin. And this double systcm of English roots has allowcd cate matters further. the "envelope" which is the human body,
a splitting of scnses in thc language of "folding" itself, so that a latcr identified by Delcuze as the primary "fold" of internal sub·
Gennanic vocabulary of "folds" must often be used in extcrnal, jectivc space in external visible space, is linked in French to that
physical. contexts, and one c.ln only talk of a universal "folding" order of folding by the fact that pli and enveloppe are two names
of thoughts and things mctaphorically. But what then becomes, for the "cm'elope" in which we enfold things we send through
in English translation, of Delcuze's attempt to organize Spinou's the postal system.)
Unh'crse of internal Thought and external Extcnsion in tcnns of Is this all a case of a seductivc metaphor being finally neutral­
an "unfolding" of which the distinction of "inner" and "outcr" izcd in English, once thc implicit divergences of the "mental"
sides of things (idcas and bodies) is precisely the initial fold? and "physic.ll" grammars of folding in Latin and French are at last
made explicit? The metaphorical use of the languagc of"folding"
would then amount (in a familiar analysis) to a partial transposi­
Thc problem does not end with folding itself, but bccomes more tion or translation of the logic of some teml ("fold." say) from
complcx as the discussion extends to a gencral dynamics of Spin· its truc or proper linguistic context (all the sentences in which
oza's systcm. Thus while the Latin comprchcnJere and the French it can propcrly occur, with all their implications and explications)
comprendre cO\·er both thc "mcntal" sense of undcrstanding (con­ into somc only partly or superficially similar "analogous" context.
taining or comprchending in thought) and thc "physical" sensc English might then be said to ha,'c devcloped in accordance with
of comprising. including (containing, "properly speaking"), an the Scholastic project of systematically distinguishing betwecn
English translator must either stretch his languagc beyond brcak­ thc multiple senses of "cquivocdl" words, in order to construct
ing poiln in an altempt to find some term (say, "comprchend") a complete logiC of true (as opposcd to specious) implications

6 7
E � P R E S S I O N I S '" I N P"" L O S O P " ' V , S P I N O Z A
T R AN S L A T O R ' S P R E " A C E

and explications - with the "technical" or formal use of words the "brcakdown" of thc traditional logic of identity that organ­
like "mode" (for cxamplc) properly distinguishcd from thc impre­
ized fundamental "divergenccs" or radical differenccs as the prime
cise infonnal usc of thc Latin modus or French mode, infonnally dimensionality or structure of unfolding cxpericnce.
rendcred in English as "manncr." "way."

Dcleu7.e's thought evolvcd from his first book (on Hume. 1953)
Dclcuzc's rcconstruction ofSpinoza's system as a logic of txpres­ down to thc present work in a serics of historical studics (on
sian is diametrically opposcd to such a conccption of"cquivoca­ Nier/.sche. Kant. Proust. Bcrgson andSacher-Masoch). In each of
tion." Curley docs not list (the "equivocal," "infonnal") exprimere these the development of a "philosophy" is traced from some ver­
as a "systematic" tenn in his glossary. and most commcntators. as sion of an initial situation where some Icnn in our experience
Deleu1.c notcs in his Introduction. havc also passed ovcr this tcnn diverges from its apparent relations with some other terms. break­
in thcir reconstructions of thc "logic" of thc system. Dcleuzc's ing out of that "spacc" of relations and provoking a reflection in
usc of a disregarded tenn as the principal axis of his rcconstruc­ which we consider reorientations or reinscriptions of this and
tion of a philosophical or literary system had alrcady character­ othcr tcrms within a "virtual" matrix of possible unfoldings of
izcd his earlier studies of Niet1.5chc and Proust (and has analogies these tenns and their relations in time. As reflection confronts
With. say. Barthes' contemporary reading of Racinc "in tcnns or' wider and wider systems of relations it proceeds toward the
solar imagery. which so scandalizcd the Old Criticism). Indeed inscription of all experience within the unchanging figure of
the language of "folding." and an insistcncc upon thc "meta­ unfolding Time itself - that is. in Eternity. Such a "philosophy"
phorical" multiplicity of scnse as prior to any projccted unitary comes full·circle when the "subject." as that tenn in our experi­
logical syntax, had alrcady been applied in the 1964 reading of ence which is the locus of orientation of the space of present
Proust. And in the Logic of Sense that followed the prcscnt study appearances within the \'irtual matrix of all unfolding in time.
of Spinoza wc find Delcuze inverting thc traditional f igures of "oricnts" in own practical activity of interpretation. c\'aluation
metaphorical usc as a partial transposition or translation of a gh'en or orientation of the tcnn5 of cxperience within this universal
logic or grammar from its truc context to some partly similar con­ matrix it has itself unfolded.
text. and of mctaphor or analogy "breaking down" at somc point This figure of a practical and empirical "philosophy," unfolded
whcrc the logic of the two contexts divergcs. Words arc thcre through the sequence of carlier studies. here finds a systcmatic
considered as "multiplicitics" of sense. with no stablc "home" and symmetric exposition in terms of "folding" itself. as a sys­
context. no primal)' identity: as transfelTablc among multipic con­ tem of unh'ersal "expression." But Spin01.a sel'S out this system
tcxts to produce various patterns of relations between things as "beginning with Infinity." beginning from the bare or otherwisc
their cssentially incomplctc grammars or logics unfold in inter­ indctenninate form of predication. attribution or detennination
action with those of other words. Already in Difference and Repe­ itself. In Difference and Repetition Deleu7.e sought to present the
tition. published jOintly with the present book. it was precisely universal "folding" of experience beginning rather with the finite

E X P " E $ $ I O N I S M I N P�'LOSOP�V: S P I N O ;t ..

terms of the initial situation of renection - beginning, 50 to This second series of reOections will, it seems, once more con­
speak. with the plurality of finite modes rather than the abstract clude with Spinoza. Dcleuze, discussing with the translator the
unity of substance. But the fonn of his presentation there (as. place of Etpressionism in Philosophy in his development, writes:
together with this study. one of two theses submitted in order "What interested me most in Spin07.a wasn't his Substance.
to become eligible for a professorial chair in the old French uni­ but the composition of finite modes. I consider this one of the
versity system) was organized by what he has since called the most original upects of my book. That is: the hope of making
abstract textual code of the History of Philosophy: it was institu­ substance tum on finite modes. or at least of seeing in subnance
tionally abstracted from that dramatic interplay of discursive text a plane of immanence in which finite modes operate, already
and external context already implicit in the insistence here on appears in this book. What I needed was both (1) the expressive
the radical "expressive" parallelism of internal Thought and exter­ character of particular individuals, and (2) an immanence of
nal Extension. as articulated in the rhetorical orientation of being. Leibniz, in a way. goes still further than Spinozd on the
Spinoza's logic in the "practical" apparatus of the 5cholia (and first point. But on the second. Spinoza stands alone. One finds it
reOected in Spinoza's own dramatic embedding of biblical text only in him. This is why I consider myself a Spinozist. rather than
in historical context in the TheoloiJico-Palitical Treatise). This book a Leibnizian. although l owe a lot to Leibniz. In the book I'm
and the companion thesis may thus be seen to prepare the transi­ writing at the moment. What is Philosophy? I try to return to this
tion from an abstract treatment of historical schemes of experi­ _ problem of absolute immanence, and to say why Spin07.a is for
ence into the "dramati7.ation" of reOection first manifested in the me the 'prince' of philosophers."
general scenography of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, as Deleuze's
logiC is embedded in the rhetorical apparatus of Guattari's cri­
tique of the coupled repression (rather than expression) of inner
and outer worlds. A second series of Deleuzian reno:tions unfolds
from this "scenography" of History toward its universal dramatic
frame. moving from a discursi\'e confrontation with the visual
space of a Bacon painting, and with a visual space-time articu­
lated in the kinetics or kinematics of twentieth-century experi­
ence, through the Foucauldian figure of the radical "folding" of
inner in outer worlds that articulates the dynamiC of Western sub­
jectivity, to a new coordination of the "internal" logical or psy­
chological folding of experience with the correlative external
space of visible relations (Deleuze once more finding in Leibniz.
as he had in Difference and Repetition. a primary model for the
inversion of the relations of infinite Substance and finite modes).

'0 "

T h e Ro l e a n d I m p o r t a n c e

of Ex pression

The idea of expression appears in the first Part of the Ethics as

early as the sixth Definition: "By God �derstaD(la...hri!ag abso­

lutely infinite, that is, a substance consisting of an infinity of attri­
butes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence,"
The idea goes on to develop increasing importance, It is taken
up again in various contexts, Thus Spino� at each attr' ­
bute expresses a certain infi :-lad "terna� an essence
corres n In to that particular kind of attribut'
e. Or: each auri-
bute expresses the essence of substance, its being or reality. Or
again: each attribute expresses the infinity and necessity of sub­
stantial existence, that is, expresses eternity.1 l'le'also shows how
to pass from each of these formulations to the others. Thus each
attribut'e expresses an essence, insofar as it expresses in one form·
the essence of substance: and since the essence of substance nec­
essarily involves existence, it belongs to each attribute to express.
together with God's essence, his eternal existence.2 At the same
time the idea of expression contains within it all the difficulties
relating to the unity of substance and the diversity of its attri­
butes. The expressive nature of attributes thus appears as one of
the basic themes of the first Part of the EthiCS.
Modes are, in their turn. expressive: "Whatever exists ex-



prcsses the nature or essence of God i n a certain and determinate knowledge of natura! phenomena.'" The idea of God i s expressed
way" (that is. in a certain mode).USa we must identify a second in all our ideas as their source and their cause, so that ideas as a
!c\'e! of expression: an expression. as it were, of expression itself. whole exactly reproduce the order of Nature as a whole. And
Substance first ex resses itself in its attributes. eAch Attribute ideas. in tum, express the essence, nature or perfection of their

expressing an essence. But the utes ex ress themselve� objects: a thing's definition or idea is said to express the thing's
their turn: they express themselves iruheiuubordinate modes.. nature as it is in itself. Ideas are all the more perfect. the more
each such mode ex ressin a modification of the .1ttribute. As we reality or perfection they express in their object; ideas which the
will see, the first !e\'el of expression must be understood as the mind forms "absolutely" thus express infinity.7 The mind con­
very constitution. a genealogy almost. of the essence of substance. ceives things sub specie aeterrutatisd through having an idea that
The second must be understood as the very production of par· expresses the body's essence from this point of view.' Spino7,..1's
ticular things. Thus God produces an infinity of things because conception of the adequacy of ideas seems always to involve this
his essence is infinite; but having an infinity of attributes. he ncc· expressive character. From the Shorr Trtadse onward he was seek­
essarily produces these things in an infinity of modes. each of ing a conception of knowledge that would account for it, not as
which must be referred to an attribute to which it belongs." some operation on an object that remained outside it, but as a
Expression is not of itself production, but becomes such on its renection, an expression. of an object in the mind. This require­
second level. as attributes in their tum express themselves. Con­ ment persists in the Ethics, albeit understood in a new way. In nei­
versely, expression as production is grounded in a prior expres­ ther C.1Se can it suffice to say that truth is simply present in ideas.
sion. God expresses himself in himself"before" expressing him­ We must go on to ask what it is that is present in a true idea.
self in his effects: expresses himself by in himself constituting What expresses itself in a true idea? What does it express? If
natura naturans, before expressing himself through producing Spinou advances beyond the Cartesian conception of clarity and
within himself natura naturata. distinctness to form his theory of adequacy, he does so. once
The range of the notion of expression is not merely ontolog­ again. in terms of this problem of expression.
ical; its implications arc also epislemological.c This is hardly sur­ The word "express" has various synonyms. The Dutch text
prising. for ideas arc modes of Thought: "Singular thoughts. or of the Short Treatise does employ
uJtdruHen and uytbeelden (to
this or that thought. are modes which express God's nature in a express), but shows a preference for .'ertoonen (at once to mani·
certain and determinate way.'" So knowledge becomes a sort of fest and to demonstrate): a thinking being expresses itself in an
expression. The knowledge of things bears the same relation to infinity of ideas corresponding to an infinity of objects; but the
the knowledge of God as the things themselves to God: "Since idea of the body directly manift5ts God; and attributes manifest
without God nothing Can exist or be conceived. it is evident that themselves in themselves.'1 In the Correction oj the Understanding
all natural phenomena involve and express the conception of God attributes manifest (osundunt) God's essence.1O But such syno­
as far as their essence and perfection extend, so that we have nyms are less Significant than the correlates that accompany and
greater and more perfect knowledge of God in proportion to our further specify the idea of expression: e.tplicaff! and involvert. Thus

'. ,<
E X P � E S S I O N I S '" IN P H I L O S O P H " S P I N O Z ,", INT�ODUCTION

definition is said not only (0 express the nature of what is defined. Middle Ages and Renaissance. Thus expression has been taken to
but to invo/!'t and up/irate it.1I Attributes not only express the be a basic category of Renaissance thought.IS In Spin07.ol, Nature
essence of subSlance: here they explicate it, there they involve at once comprises and contains everything, while being expli­
it.12 Modes involve the concept of God as well as expressing it, cated and implicated in each thing . Attributes involve and expli­
so the ideas that correspond to them involve, in their turn, God's cate substance, which in turn comprises all attributes. Modes
eternal essence.1J involve and explicate the attribute on which they depend, while
To explicate is to evoh'e, to involve is to implicate. Yet the the attribute in turn contains the essences of all its modes. We
two terms arc not opposites: they simply mark two aspects of must ask how Spin07.a fits into an expressionist tradition, to what
expression. Expression is on the one hand an explication, an extent his position derh'es from it, and how he transforms it.
unfolding of what expresses it'self,r the One manifesting itself in The question takes on added importance from the fact [hat
the Many (subslance manifesting itself in its attributes. and these Leibniz also took expression as one of his basic concepts. In
attributes manifesting themselves in their modes). Its multiple Leibniz as in Spinoza expression has theological, ontological
expression, on the other hand, involves Unity. The One remains and epistemological dimensions. It their theories of
involved in what expresses it, imprinted in what unfolds it, imma­ God. of creatures and of knowledge. Independently of one another
nent in whatever manifests it: expression is in this respect an the two philosophers seem to rely on the idea of expression in
invoh-ement. There is no connict between the two terms, except order to overcome difficulties in Cartesianism. to restore a
in one specific case which we will deal with later, in the con­
text of finite modes and their p.assions.14 Expression in general
thilOSOPhY of Nature. and even to incorporate Cutesian results
n systems thoroughly hostile to Descartes's vision of the world.
involves and implicates what it expresses, while also explicating o the extent thdt one may speak of the Anticartesianism of
and evolving it. Leibniz and Spinoza. such Anticartesianism is grounded in the
Implication and explication, im'olution and evolutionr: terms idea of expression.
inherited from a long philosophical tradition, always subject to If the idea of expression is so important. at once for an under­
the char!,.>e of pantheism. Precisely because the two concepts are standing of Spinoz3's system, for determining its relation to that
not opposed to one another, they imply a principle of synthesis: of Leibniz, and as bearing on the origin and development of the

J complicatio. In Neoplatonism complication often means at once the

inherence of multiplicity in the One, and of the One in the Many.
two systems, then why have the most respected commentators
taken so little, if any. account of this notion in Spinou's philos­
God is Nature taken "complicatively"; and this Nature both expli­ ophy? Some completely ignore it. Others gi\'e it a certain indi­
Cales and jmplicates, involves and e\'olvcs God. God "com pi i­ rect significdnce, seeing in it another name for some deeper
cdtes" everything, but dll things explain dnd involve him. The principle. Thus expression is taken to be synonymous with "ema­
interplay of these notions. each contained in the other. consti· nation": an approdch that may already be found in Leibniz's crit­
tutes expression, and amounts to one of the characteristic figures icism that Spinoza understood expression in cabalistic terms,
of Christian and Jewish Neopldtonism as it evolved through the redUCing it to a sort of emanation. If> Or expression is taken as

,6 '7

another word for txplicotion. Postkantian philosophers would seem transform such Neoplatonism. t o open i t up t o quite new lines
to have been well placed to recogni1.e the presence in Spinozism of development, far removed from those of emanation. e\'en
of that genetic movement of self-development for which they where the two themes were both present. I would further claim!
sought anticipations e\'erywhere. But the term "explication" con­ that emanation hardly helps us understand the idea of expression.
firmed their view that Spin01.a had been no more able to conceive but that the idea of expression explains how Neoplatonism de\'eI­
a true evolution of substance, than to think through the transi­ oped to the poim where its \'ery nature changed. explains. in par­
tion from infinite to finite. Spinoza's substance seemed to them ticular. how emanative causes tended more and more to become
lifeless, his expression intellectual and abstract, his attributes immanent ones, \
"attributed" to substance by an understanding that was itself Some recent commentators ha\'e directly considered the idea
"explicath'e."17 Even Schelling. developing his philosophy of of expression in Spinoza. Kaufmann sees in it a guiding thread
manifestation (Offtnbarung), claimed to be follOWing Boehme. through the "Spinozist labyrinth." but he insist'S upon the mysti­
rather than Spinoza: it was in Boehme, rather than in Spinoza or cal and aesthetic character of the notion in general. independently
e\'en Leibniz. that he found the idea of expression (Ausdruck). of the use made of it by Spin01.a.18 Darbon, from a dife
f rent \'iew­
\ But one cannot reduce expression to the mere explication point. devotes a fine passage to expression, but finally judges it
of understanding without falling into anachronism, For explica­ incomprehensible: "To explain the unity of substance. Spinoza
tion, far from amounting to the operation of an understanding tells us only that each attribute expresses its essence. The expla­

that remains outside its object, amounts primarily to the object's nation. far from being any help. raises a host of difficulties. In the
own evolution, its \'ery life. The traditional couple of uplicotio first place. �hat Is exprwed ought to be different from what ex-
and complicatio historically renects a vitalism ne\'er far from pan· presses itse ffi . . ," And Darbon concludes that "Each attribute
n theism. Rather than expression being comprehensible in terms expresses the eternal and infinite essence of God; again we can­
of explication, explication in Spin01.a as in his forerunners seems not distinguish between what is expressed and what it expresses. One
to me 10 depend on some idea of expression. If attributes must sees how difif cult a task the commentator faces. and how the ques­
in principle be referred to an understanding that perceives or tion of the relations between Spinolist substance and attributes
comprehends them. this is primarily because they express the could .-ia\'e given rise to so many dh'ergenr interpretations."19

essence of substance, and infinite essence cannot be expressed J!he idea of expres- I
One can, though, explain this difficulty:
without being "objectively" manifest in divine understanding. (!"t sion is neither defined nor deduced by Spinozy nor could it be.
It'S expression that underlies the relation of understanding �tween
lt appears as early as thc sixth Definition. but is there no more
hought and object. rather than the te\'erse As for emanatIon, one defined than it serves to define anything. It defines neither sub­
does of course find traces of this, as of participation, in Spin01.a, stance nor attribute. since these arc already defined (Def initions
The theory of expression and explication was after all de\'eloped. J and 4). Nor God. who might equollly well be defined without
in the Renaissance as in the Middle Ages, by authors steeped in reference to expression. Thus in the Short Trtatise and in his cor­
Ncoplalonism, Yet its goal. and its result. was to thoroughly respondence Spin01.a often calls Goel a substance consisting of an

" '9
E � P"E5510NIS� IN P H I L O S O P H Y 5 P I N O Z '" ' N T " O DU C T r O N

infinity of attributes. each of which is infinite.20 So the idea of hardly like some plant that grows by itself: it takes a mathemati­

expression seems 10 emerge only as detennining the relation into cian to extend it. just as it is the mathematician who considers

which attribute. substance and essence enter. once God for his from a new poi!,t of view the side of the triangle 10 which he

part is defined as a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes draws a line parallel, and so on. We cannot imagine that Spino7.a

that are themselves infinite. Expression does not relate to sub­ was unaware of such objections. for they arc just those made by

stance or attributes in general. in the abstract. \Vhen substance T schimhaus.

is absolutely infinite, when it has an infinity of attributes. then, Spin07.a's reply may at first seem disappointing: he says that

and only then. are its' attributes said to express its esscnc� for only when the gcometrical method is applied to real entities. and a
then does substance express itself in its attributes. It would be fortiori. when applied to absolute Being. then we are ablc to

wrong 10 invoke Definitions 3 and 4 in order to deduce directly deduce several properties at once. One might well think that

from them the relation between substance and atttribute in God. Spin07.a is taking for granted just what is in question. But we are

because God himself"transfonns" their relation. rendering it disappointed only to the extent that we confuse two \'ery differ­

absolute. Definitions 3 and 4 are merely nominal. the sixth Defini­ ent problems of method. Spin07.a asks: [s there not some way that
tion alone is a real one. with real consequences for substance. attri­ various propcrties deduced independently might be taken to­

bute and essence. But what is this "transfonnation of relations"? gether. and various points of view extrinsic to a given definition

We will better understand it if we consider why expression is no brought within what is definc d"DNow, in the Correction of the
more deduced that it is defined. Understanding. Spinoza had shown that geometrical figures may

To Tschirnhaus. worried about the famous sixteenth Propo­ be defined genetically. or by a proximate cause.H A circle is not

sition of Part One of the Ethics, Spinoza concedes the important only [he locus of points equally distant from a fixed point called

point that there is a fundamental difference between philosoph­ the center, but also the figure described by the moving endpoint

ical demonstration and mathematical proof.21 From a definition of any line whose other endpoint is fixed. Similarly, a sphere is

a mathematician can normally deduce only a Single property of a figure described by the rotation of any semicircle about its

the object defined: to know $Cl'eral properties he must intrO<luce axis. Of coursc such causes arc in geometry fictitious: fingo ad

new points of view and relate "the thing defined to other objects." libitum. As Hegel would say - and Spinoza would agree - a semi-
Geometrical method is thus doubly limited, by the externality circle doesn't rotate by itself. But if such causes are fictitious or

of its vie\\'I>oints and the distributive character of the properties imaginary, it is because their only reality comes by inference from

it ill\·cstigates. This was just Hegel's point as. thinking ofSpin07.a. their supposed effects. They are seen as heuristic devices. as con­

he insisted that geometrical method was unable to frame Ihe trived. as fictions, because the figures to which they relate arc

organic movement or self-development that is alone appropriate things of reason. It is nonetheless true that properties that are

to the Absolut � Consider for example the proof that the sum deduced independently by the mathematician. take on a colJec­

of the angles of a triangle is equal to twO right angles. where til'e being through these causes, by means of these fictions .2 1

one begins by extending the base of the triangle. The base is \Vhen we come to the Absolute. however. there is no longer any

E " P A E S S I O N I S M IN P H I L O S O P H V: S P ' N O Z A,

fiction: lAIuse is n o longer inferred from effect. In taking Abso­

lute Infinity as a cause, we are not postulating, as for a rotating
semicircle, something that lies outside its concept. It involves
no fiction to consider modes in their infinite variety as proper­
ties jointly deduced from the definition of substance. and attri­
I butes as points of view internal to the substance on which they
1 are so many views. So that if philosophy is amenable to mathe·
matical treatment, this is bclAluse mathematics finds its usual limi­
lations overcome in philosophy. No problem is posed by the
application of geometrical method to the Absolute; rather does
it there find the natural way to overcome the difficulties that
beset it, while applied to things of reason.
Attributes arc like points of view on substance; but in the
absolute limit !hese points of view are no longer external, and
substance contains within itself the infinity of its points of view
upon itself. Its modes are deduced from substance as properties
are deduced from a thing's definition; but in the absolute limit.
these properties take on an infinite collective being. It is no
longer a matrer of finite understanding deducing properties sin­
gly, renecting on its object and explicating it by relating it to
other object's. It is now the object that expresses itself, the thing
itself that explicates itself. All its properties then jointly "fall
within an infinite understandin �tha�here is no question of
deducing Expression: rather is It expression that embeds deduc-
j tion in the Absolute. renders proof the direct manifestation of
absolutely infinite substance. One cannot understand attributes
without proof. which is the manifestation of the invisible. and
the view within which falls what thus manifests itself. Thus
demonstrations. says Spinoza. are the eyes through which the
mind sees.H.g


T h e Tri a d s of Subs t a n c e

N u m e r i c a l a n d Re a l D i s t i n c t i o n

Expression presents us with a triad. In it we must distinguish sub- '(

stance, attributes and essence.�ubstance expresses itself. attri­
butes are expressions. and essence is expressed. The idea of
expression remains unintelligible while we see only two of the
terms whose relations it presents. We confuse substance and attri­
bute. attribute and essence. essence and substance. as long as we
fail to take into account the presence of a third term linking each
ir. Substance and attribute are distinct, but only insofar as each
ttribute expresses a certain essence. Attribute and essence are
distinct, but only insofar as every essence is expressed as an
essence of substance, rather than of attribute. The originality of
the concept of expression shows itself here: �ssence. insofar as
it has existence, has no existence outside the attribute in which
it is expressed; and yet. as essence, it relates only to substancij
An essence is expressed by each attribute. but this as an essence
of substance itself. Inftnite c."sences are distinguished through the
attributes in which they ftnd expression. but are identifted in the
substance to which they relate. We everywhere confront the
necessity of distinguishing three terms: substance which expresses
iuelf, the attribute which expresses, and the essence which is
expressed. It is through attributes that essence is distinguished

THE T�I"'OS 01' S U e S T "' N C E N U "" E � I C "' L "'NO �E"'L DISTINCTION

from substance, but through essence that substance is itself dis­ i s here setting out from a Cartesian framework, but what
tinguished from attributes: a triad each of whose terms serves as must be most carefully considered is just what he takes over from
a middle term Telating the two othe�. in thTce syllogisms. Descartes, what he discards and, above all, what he takes over
Expression is inherent in substance. insofar as substance is from Descartes i.n order to tum it against him.
absolutely infinite: in its attributes, insofar as they constitute an The principle that there are only substances and modes, modes
infinity: in essence. insofar as each essence in an attribute is infi­ being in something else, and substance in itself, may be found
nite. Thus infinity has a nature. Merleau-Ponty has well brought quite explicitly in Descartes.} And if modes always presuppose a
out what seems to us now the most difficult thing to understand substance, and are sufficient to give us knowledge of it, they do
in the philosophies of the seventeenth century: the idea of a posi­ so through a primary attribute which they imply, and which con·
tive infinity as the "secret of grand Rationalism" - "an innocent stitutes the essence of the substance itself. Thus two or more sub­
way of setting out in one's thinking from infinity," which finds stances are distinguished and distinctly known through their
its most perfect embodiment in Spino:r.ism.1 Innocence does not primary attributes." From this Descartes deduces that we can con­
of course exclude the "labor of the concept." needed all ceive a real distinction between two substances, a modal distinc­
the resources of a novel conceptual frame to bring out the power tion between a substance and a mode that presupposes it (without
and the actuality of positive infinity. If the idea of expression pro­ in turn being presupposed by it) and a distinction of reason
vided this, it did so by introducing into infinity various distinc­ between a substance and the attribute without which we could
tions corresponding to the three terms, substance, attribute and have no distinct knowledge of the substance.s Exclusion. unilat­
essence. What is the characrer of distinction within infinity? eral implication and abstraction correspond to these as criteria
IWhat son of distinction can one introduce into what is absolute, applicable to corresponding ideas. or rather as the elementary
� nto the nature of God? Such is the first problem posed. by the data of representation" which allow us to define and recognize
idea of expression, and it dominates Part One of the Ethics. these varieties of distinction. The characterization and applica­
tion of these kinds of distinction play a crucial part in the elabo·
ration of the Cartesian system. Descartes no doubt drew on the
AI the very beginning of the EthiCS Spinoza asks how two things. earlier efforts made by Suare7. to bring order into this compli­
in the most general sense of the word. can be distingUished. and cated area.6 but his own use of the three distinctions seems, in
then how two substances. in the precise sense oflhat word, must its vcry richness, to introduce many further ambigUities.
be distinguished. The first question leads into the second, and An initial ambiguity, admitted by Descartes. concerns the dis­
the answer to the second question seems unequivocal: if twO tinction of reason, modal distinction and the relation between
"things" in general differ either by the attributes of their sub· them. The ambiguity comes out in the use of the words "mode."
stance, or by its modes, then two substances cannot differ in "attribute" and "quality" themselves. Any given attribute is a
mode, but only in attribute. So that there cannot be two or more qualit)" in that it qualifies a substance as this or that. but also a
substances of the same attribute'! There is no question that mode. in that it di\'e�ifles it.7 How do primary attributes appear

T H E T li l A D S OF S U 6 S T A N C E N U "' E A I C A L A N D il E A L D I S T I N C T I O N

in this light? I cannot separate a substance from such an attribute ress of the Meditations we need only proceed a s far as a divine
except by abstTaction; but as long as I do not make it something Creator to see that he would be Singularly lacking in truthfulness
subsisting by itself, I can also distinguish such an attribute from if he were to create things differing from the clear and distinct
the substance, by considering it just as the substance's property ideas he gives us of them. Real distinction does not contain
of changing (of having, that is to say, v;lriouS different shapes within it the ground of things differing. but this ground is fur­
or different thoughts). Thus Descartes says that extension and nished by the external and transcendent divine causality that cre­
thought may be distinctly conceived in two ways: "insofar as one ates substances conformably to our manner of conceiving them
constitutes the nature of body. and the other that of the soul"; as possible. Here again. all sons of difficulties develop in rela­
and also through distinguishing each from their substance, by tak­ tion to the idea of creation. The primary ambiguity attaches to
ing them simply as "modes" or "dependents."B Now, if in the first the definition of substance: "A thing that can exist by itself."lo Is
case attributes distinguish the substances that they qualify, then there not a contradiction in presenting existing-by-itself as itself
it surely appears, in the second case, that modes distinguish sub­ being simply a possibility? Here we may note a second conclu­
stances with the same attribute. Thus different shapes may be sion: God as creator effects our passage from substances conceived
referred to this or that body, really distinct from any other; and as really distinct to really distinct substances. Rtal distinction.
different thoughts to really distinct souls. An attribute constitut� whether between substances with different attributes. or those
the essence of the substance it qualifies. but this doesn't prevent with the same attribute. brings with it a division oj thinas, that is,
it from also constituting the essence of the modes which it links a correspondina numerical distinction.
to substances sharing the same attribute. This dual aspect gener­ The opening of the Ethics is organized around these two Car­
ates major difficulties in the Cartesian system.? �et it suffice here tesian conclusions. W here lies the error, Spinol.a asks, in suppos­
to note the conclusion that there exist substances sharina the same ing several substances sharing the same attribute? He refutes the
ttribute. In other words. mere are numerical distinctions that are error in two ways, using a favorite style of argument: first through
at the same time real or substantial. a rtductio ad absurdum, and then through a more complex proof.
A second difficulty concerns real distinction considered alone. If there were several substances with the same attribute. they
It is, no less than the other fonns. a datum of representation. Two would have to be distinguished by their modes. which is absurd,
things are really distinct if one can conceive one of them clearly since substance is in its very nature anterior to its modes. none
and distinctly while excluding everything belonging to the con­ of which it implies (this is the short way, taken at 1.5). The posi­
cept of the other.So that Descartes explains the criterion of real tive demonstration comes further on, in a scholium to Proposi­
distinction to Arnauld as the completeness of the idf!a alone. He tion 8: two substances with the same attribute would be only
can quite rightly claim never to have confused things conceived numerically distinct - and the character of numerical distinction
as really distinct with really distinct things; and yet the passage is such as to exclude the possibility of making of it a real or sub­
from one to the other does appear to him to be perfectly legiti­ stantial distinction.
mate - the question is, where to make this passage. In the prog- According to theScholium. a distinction would not be numer-

,0 "

ieal i r the things distinguished did not have the same concept or t ave to b e distinguished b y their modes. which is absurd: (2) S o
definition; but in that case the things would not be distinct, were that a substance cannot have a cause external to it, ror t o be pro­
there not an external cause, beside the definition, which deter­ duced or limited by another substance it would have to share the
mined that they exist in such a number. So that two or more same nature or the same attribute: (3) So that there cannot be
numerically distinct things presuppose something -outside their numerical distinction in any substance, or whatever attribute, and
concept. Thus substances could only be numerically distinct "Every substance must be infinite."LI
through the operation or some external causality that could pro­ On the one hand, one deduces rrom the nature or numerical
duce them. But only by holding conjointly a number or conrused distinction that it is inapplicable to substance; on the other, one
ideas can we claim that substances are produced. We say they deduces rrom the nature or substance its infinity, and thus the
have a cause, but that we do not know how this cause operates; impossibility or applying to it numerical distinctions. In either
we imagine that we ha\'e a true idea or these substances, since case , numerical distinction can never distinguish substances, but
they are conceived in themselves, but we are unsure or the truth only modes that involve the same attribute. For number expresses
or this idea, because we do not know, rrom the substances them­ in its own way the character or existing modes: the composite
selves, whether they exist. This amounts to a criticism orthe nature or their parts, their limitation by other things or the same
odd Cartesian rormula "what can exist by itselr." External cau­ nature, their detennination rrom outside themselves. Number
sality does make sense, but only in relation to the existence or thus goes on ad infinitum. But the question is, can it ever reach
finite modes: every existing mode may be rererred to another, infinity itself? Or, as Spino1.a puts it: even in the ease or modes,
precisely because it cannot exist by itselr. To apply such causal­ is i t rrom the multitude or parts that we inrer their infinity?J2
ity to substance is to make it operate outside the terms that legiti­ When we make or numerical distinction a real or substantial dis­
mate and define it - to propose its operation in jl sort or void, tinction. we carry it to infinity. i r only to ensure the convertibil­
and quite indeterminately. In short, external causality and numer­ ity that then becomes necessary between the attribute as such
ical distinction share the same rate or applying to modes, and and the infinity or rinite parts which we distinguish in it. Great
to modes alone. absurdities then rollow: "Ir an infinite quantity is measured by
The argument or Scholium 8 has, then, the rollowing rorm: parts equal to a root, it will consist or an infinitely many such
(1) Numerical distinction requires an external cause to which it parts. as it will also, ir it is measured by parts equal to an inch.
may be rererred; ( 2 ) But a substance cannot be rererred to an And thererore. one infinite number will be twelve times greater
external cause, because or the contradiction implied in such a than another."1 l The absurdity does not, as Descartes thought.
use or causal principles: (3) So two or more substances cannot be lie in hypostatizing extension as an attribute, but rather in con­
distinguished in numtro, and there cannot be two substances with ceiving it as measurable and composed or rinite parts into which
the same attribute. The \tructure or the argument here differs one supposes it convertible. Physics here intervenes to support
rrom that orthe first eight proors. which runs: (I) Two or more j
the principles or logiC: the absence or a vacuum in nature means
Isubstances cannot share the same attribute, ror they would then simply that division into parts is not real distinction. Numerical


p istinction is division. but division takes place only in modes. tion.18 Real distinction. i n the strictest sense, is always a datum
b nly modes are divisible,I4 of representation. Two things are really distinct when they are
so conceived - that is. "one without the aid of the other," in such
..ay that we conceive one while denying everything belonging
a ..
Thue cannot In Jtlfe ral JubJtanceJ with the Jamt aHribute, From to the conupt of the other. In this respect there is no disagree­
which one may infer: from the viewpoint of relation. that one ment whatever with Descartes: Spinoza accepts both his criter­
substance is not produced by another; from the viewpoint of ion and his definition. The only thing Oit issue is whether real
modality, that it belongs to the nature of substance to exist; distinction thus understood is. or is not. attended by a real divi­
and from the viewpoint of quality. that any substance is neces­ sion among things. For Descartes. only the assumption of a divine
sarily infinite.l� But all these results are. so to speak, involved creator sustained such association. According to Spinoza. one can
in the argument relating to numerical distinction. and it is the / only make division correspond to a real distinction by making
latter that brings us back around to our starting point: "There of the latter at least a potential numerical distinction, that is, by
exists only one substance of the same attribute."16 Then. from confuSing it with modal distinction. But real distinction cannot
Proposition 9 on. Spinoza's objective seems to shift. It is no be numerical or modal.
longer a question of demonstrating that there is only one sub­ When Spinoi'.a is asked how he comes to the idea of a Single
stance for each attribute. but that there is only one substance substance for all attributes. he points out that he has put forward
for all attribmes. The passage from one theme to the next seems two arguments: the more reality a being has. the more attributes
difficult to grasp. For. in this new perspective. what implication must be ascribed to it; and the more attributes we ascribe to a
should be aSSigned to the first eight propositions? The problem being. the more we must accord it existence.19 But no such argu­
is clarified if we see that the passage from one theme to the ment would suffice were it not supported by the analysiS of real
other may be effected by what is called 'in logiC the conversion distinction. Only that analysis. in fact. shows it to be possible to
ofa negative universal. Numerical distinction is never real; then Fribe all attributes to one being, and so to pass from the infin­
conversely. real distinction is never numerical. Spinoza's argu­ ity of each attribute to the absoluteness of a being that possesses
ment now becomes: attributes are really distinct: but real dis­ them all. And this passage, being possible, or implying no con­
tinction is never numerical; so there is only one substance for tradiction. is then seen to be necessary, as in the proof of God's
all attributes. existence. Furthermore. it is the same argument over real dis­
Spinoza says that attributes are "conceh'ed to be really dis­ tinction which shows that all the attributes amount to an infin­
tinct."17 One should not see in this formulation a weakened sense ity. For we cannot pass through just three or four attributes
of real distinction. Spinoi'.a is neither suggesting that attributes without bringing back into the absolute the same numerical dis­
are other than we conceive them. nor that they are just concep­ tinction which we have just excluded from infinity.20
tions we have of substance. Nor indeed should we think that he If substance were to be divided according to its attributes, it

is making a purely hy othetical or polemical use of real distinc- would have to be taken as a genus, and the attributes as specific

l4 H
r " E T I H "' O S O� S U Il S T... ... CE N U M E R I C "' L ... ... 0 REAL DISTINCTION

differences. Substance would b e posited as a genus which would a s there are different attributes w e make o f real distinction a
tell us nothing in particular about anything. It would differ from numericill distinction. confUSing real distinction not only with
its attributes. as a genus from its differentia. and the attributes modal distinction. but with distinctions of reason as well.
would be distinct from corresponding substances. as specific In this context it appuJrS difficult to consider the first eight prop­
differences arc distinct from the species themselves. Thus. by ositions as haVing only a hypothetical sense. Some proceed as though
making of the real distinction between attributes a numerical dis­ Spinoza began by arguing on the basis of a hypothesis that he
tinction between substances. one carries over mere distinctions didn't accept, as if setting out from a hypothesis that he intended
oj reason into substantial reality. There can be no necessity of to refute. But this misses the categorical sense of the first eight
existence in a substance of the same "species" as an attribute - propositions. There are not several substances of the same attri­
a specific difference detennines only the possible existence of bute, and numerical distinction is not real: we are not here
objects corresponding to it within the genus. So substance is once confronting iI provisional hypothesiS. valid up to the point where
more reduced to the mere possibility of existence, with attributes we discover ilbsolutely infinite substance. but have before us.
being nothing but an indication. a Sign, of such possible existence. rather. a development that leads us inevitably to posit such a sub­
The first critique to which Spin07..a subjects the notion of sign stance. And the categorical sense of the initial propositions is not
in the Ethics appears precisely in relation to real distinction)1 merely negative. As Spino7..a says. "there exists only one substance
� eal distinction between attributes is no more the "sign" of a of a certain nature." The identification of an attribute as belong-
liiversity of substances than each attribute is the specific charac­ ing to an infinitely perfect substance is, in the Ethics as in the
�er of some substance that corresponds. or might correspond, to Short Treatiu. no provisional hypothesis, but should be interpreted \

it. Substance is not a genus. nor are attributes differentia. nor are
Ualified substances spccies.22 Spin07..a condemns equally a think­
ng that proceeds by genus and differentia. a�d a thinking that
positively from the viewpoint of quality. There is one substance
per attribute from the viewpoint of quality, but one Single sub-
stance for all attributes from the viewpoint of quantity. What is
roceeds by signs. the sense of this purely qualitative multiplicity? The obscure for­
Regis, in a book in which he defends Descartes against Spin07..a, mulation reneclS the difficulties of a finite understanding rising
invokes the existence of two sorts of attributes: "specific" ones to the comprehension of absolutely infinite substance. and is jus-
which distinguish substances of different species. and "numerical" tified by the new status of real distinction. It means: substances
ones which distinguish substances of the same species.H But this rs qualified are qualitatively. but nOt quantitatively. distinct - or
is just what Spino7.a objects to in Cartesianism: according to him, (0 put it better. they are "formally." "quidditatively." and not
attributes are never specific or numerical. It seems we may sum 'ontologically" distinct.

up Spinoza's thesis thus: (I) In positing several substances with
he same attribute we make of numerical distinction a real dis­
inction. but this is to confuse real and modal distinctions. treat­ One of the sources of Spino7.a·s Anticartesianism is to be found
ng modes as substances; and ( 2 ) in positing as many substances in the theory of distinctions. In the MetaphYSical Thauyhts he sets

16 17
T H E T A I A O S OF S U B S T A N C E N U ",", ,,, A I C A L A N D R E A L O I S T l N C T l Q N

out the Cartesian conception: "There are three kinds o f distinc­ tion. Dctached from all numerical distinction. real distinction
tion between things, real, modal, and of reason." And he seems is carried into the absolute, and becomes capable of expressing
to give his approval: "For the rest, we pay no attention to the diffcrence within Bcing. so bringing about the restructuring of
hodgepodge of Peripatetic distinctions."24 But what counts is other distinctions.
not so much the list of accepted distinctions, but their meaning
and precise application. In this respect Spinoza retains nothing
Cartesian. The new status of real distinction is fundamental: as
purely qualitative, quidditative or formal, real distinction ex­
cludes any division. Yet isn't this juSt one of those apparently
discredited Peripatetic distinctions returning under a Cartesian
name? That real distinction is nor and cannot be numerical
appears to me to be one of the principal themes of the Ethics.
This thoroughly upsets the other distinctions. Not only is real
distinction no longer referred to numerically distinguished pos­
Sible substances, but modal distinction, in its tum, is no longer
referred to accidents as continSt!nt detenninations. In Descartes
a certain contingency of modes echoes the simple possibility of
substances. It's all very well for Descartes to insist that accidents
are not real, but substantial reality still has accidents. To be pro­
duced, modes require something other than the substance to
which they relate - eithcr another substance t.hat impresses
them in the first, or God who creates the first along with all that
depends on it. Spinol.a's view is quite different: there is no more
a contingency of modes in rclation to substance than a possibil­
ity of substance in relation to attributes. Everything is neces­
sary. eithcr from its essence or from its cause: Necessity is the
only affection of Being. thc only modality. And the distinction
of reason is, in tum, thereby transformed. We will see that therc
is no Cartesian axiom (Nothing has no properties. and so on)
that does not t.ake on a new meaning, hostile to Cartesianism.
on the basis of the new theory of distinctions. The theory has as
its fundamental principle the qualitative status of real distinc-

,8 "

Attribute as E x press ion

Spinoza doesn't say that attributes exist of themselves, nor that

they are conceived in such a way that existence follows or results
from their essence. Nor again does he say that an attribute is in
itself and conceived through itself, like substance,' The status of
the attributes is sketched in the highly complex formulations of
the Short Treatise. So complex. indeed, that various hypotheses
are open to the reader: to assume various different dates of com­
position; to recogni7.e the undeniably imperfect state of the man­
uscripts; or even to advert to the still hesitant state of Spinoza's
thought. Such arguments are, however, only relevant once we
admit that the formulations of the Short Treatise are together
inconsistent, and inconsist'ent, funhermore. with the later matter
of the Ethics, But this does not seem to be the case. The relevant
passages of the ShoT! Treatise are not so much supplanted by the
Ethics as transformed - and this through a more systematic use
of the idea of expression. So that, conversely, they may serve to
clarify the conceptual component of Spinoza's thought that is
informed by this idea of expression.
These passages say. in tum: ( I ) "Existence belongs to the es­
sence of the attributes,' so that outside them' there is no essence
or being"; (2) "We understand them only in their essence, and not

T H " T R I ... O S OF S U B S T... N C E ...T T R I B U T E "'s E l< P R .. S 5 1 0 N

i n their existence. i.c. [we d o not understand) that their essence selves; rather d o they attribute their essence t o something else,
nccessarily belongs to their existence"; "you do not conceive of which thus remains the same for all attributes. So that Spinoza
themb as existing by themselves"; (3) They exist "formally" and can go so far as to say: "If no existence follows from any sub­
"in ac!"·;"we pro,·c a priori that they exist."2 stance's essence if it is conceived separately. it follows that it is
According to the first formulation. essence as essence has no nor something Singular, but must be something that is an attri­
existence outsidc the attributes that constitutc it. So that essence bute of another, viz. the one. unique, universal being. . . . So no
distinguishcs itself in the attributes in which it has existence. It real substance can be conceived in itself; instead it must belong
always exists in a genus - in as many genera as there are attri­ to something e1se." s All existing essences are thus expressed b), the
butes. Each anributc. then. becomes the existence of an eternal attributes in which they ha'"C existence, but this as the essence
and infinite essence, a "particular essence."} Spin07.a can thu, say of something else - that is, of one and the same thing for all attri­
that it belongs to the essence of attributes to exist, but to exist, butes. We can then ask: What is it that exists through itself, in
precisely. in the attributes. Or even: "The existence of the attri­ such a way that its existence follows from its essence? This is
butes does not differ from their essence." " The idea of expres­ clearly substance, the correlate of essence, rather than the attri­
sion, in the Ethics. adapts this initial step: the essence of substance bute in which essence has existence solely as essence. The exist­
has no existence outside the attributes that express it, so that ence of essence should not be confused with the existence of its
each attribute expresses a certain eternal and infinite essence. correlate. All existing essences relate or are attributable to sub­
What is expressed has no cxistence outside its expressions; each stance. and this inasmuch as substance is the only being whose
expression is, as it were, the existence of what is expressed . (This existence necessarily follows from its essence. Substance is priv­
is the same principle one finds in Leibniz. however different the ileged to exist through itself: it is not the attribute that exists
context: each monad is an expression of the world, but the world through itself, but that to which the essence of each attribute
therein expressed has no existence out'side the monads that relates. in such a way that existence necessarily follows from the
express it.) essence thus constituted. So Spin07.a rna)' perfectly conSistently
How can one say that the attributes express not only a certain say of the attributes: "We conceive them only in their essence.
essence, but the essence of substance? This cssencc is expressed and not in their existence; we do not conceive them in such a
as the essence of substance. and not that of an attribute. Essences way that thcir existence follows from their essence." This second
are thus distinct in the attributes in which they have their exist­ sort of formulation does not contradict the previous one, but
ence, but amount onl), to onc Single essence of substance. The rather gives a measure of the deepening of a question. or a change
rule of com·crtibilit), Slatcs that cvery essence is the essence of in perspective on it.,
something. Esscnces are really distinct from the viewpoint of the \Vhat is expressed has no existence outside its expression.
attributes, but essence is Single from the viewpoint of the object ut is expressed as the essence of what expresses itself. Once
with which it is convcrtible. Attributes are not attributed to again we face the nccessity of distinguishing three terms: sub­
corresponding substances of the same genus or species as them- stance which expresses itself. attributes which are its expressions,

4' 4l


and the essence which is expressed. Yet if attributes d o indeed I understand the same by Jacob, the name which was given him
express the essence of substance. how is it that they do not also because he had seized his brother's heel.''6 The relation ofSpin­
express the existence that necessarily follows from it? These same ozism to the theory of naming must be considered in two aspects.
attributes 10 which an existence in themselves is refused have How does Spin07.3 fit in this tradition? But above all how does
nonetheless, as attributes. an actual and necessary existence_ he renew it? One may already foresee that he renews it doubly:
Furthermore. in demonstrating that something is an attribute. by an altcrnative conception of names or attributes, and by an
we demonstrate. a priori. it's existence. So the diverse formula­ altcrnative determination of what an attribute is.
tions of the Short Treatise should be interpreted as relating in Attributes are for Spinoza dynamiC and active forms. And
lurn to the existence of essence, the existence of substance and the here at once we have what seems essential: attributes are no
xistence of the attribute itself. And it is the idea of expression that. longer att'ributed, but are in some sense "attributive." Each attri­
n the Ethics. combines these three moments and gives them a bute expresses an essence. and attributes it to substance. All the
ystematic form. attributed essences coalesce in the substance of which they iue
the essence. As long as we conceive the attribute as something
attributed, we thereby conceive a substance of the same species
The problem of divine attributes had always been closely related or genus; such a substance then has in itself only a possible exist­
to that of divine names. How could we name God. had we not ence, since it is dependent on the goodwill of a transcendent God
some son of knowledge of him? But how could we know him. to give it an existence confonning to the attribute through which
unless he made himself known in some way. revealing and ex­ we know it. On the other hand, as soon as we posit the attribute
pressing himself? It is a God who speaks. the divine Word. who as "attributive" we conceive it as attributing its essence to some­
seals the alliance of attributes and names. Names are attributes. thing that remains identical for all attributes, that is, to neces­
insofar as attributes are expressions. True, the whole question is sarily existing substance. The attribute refers his essence to an
then that of knowing what they express: the very nature of God immanent God who is the principle and the result of a metaphys­
as it is in itself. or only the actions of God as Creator. or e\'en ical necessity. Attributes are thus truly Words in Spinoza. with
just extrinsic divine qualities, relath'e to creatures?Spinoz.a does e xpressive value: they ilrc dynamiC. no longer attributed to vary­
not fail to bring in this traditional problem. He is too good a ing substances. but attributing something to a unique substance.
grammarian to overlook the connection between names and attri­ But what do they attribute. what do they express? Each attri­
butes. In the Thtologico-Political Treatise he asks under what names, bute attributes an infinite essence, that is, an unlimited quality.
or by which attributes. God reveals himself in Scripture: asks And these qualities are substantial. because they all qualify an
what it is for God to speak, what expressive character should be identic,)l substance possessing all the attributes. So there are two
seen in the voice of God. And when he want's to illustrate what ways of identifying what is an attribute: either one looks, Q priori.
he personally understands by an attribute. he thinks of the exam­ for qualities conceived as unlimited. or. setting out from what
ple of proper names: "By Israel [ understand the third patriarch; is limited, one looks, 0 posttriori, for qualities that may be taken
to infinity. which are as it were "involved" in the limits of the take it denounces. it constantly confuses the essences of creatures
finite - from this or that thought we deduce Thought as an infi­ with the essence of God. I n some cases it does away with the
nite attribute of God, from this or that body we deduce Exten­ essence of particular things, redUcing their qualities to determi­
sion as an infinite attribute.7 nations that can belong intrinsically only to God. in some cases
The latter. a postu;Ori, method, should be studied closely, for it does away with the essence of God, lending to him eminently
it presents the problem of the involvement of infinity in its what creatures possess formally. Spinoza. on the other hand,
entirety. It amounts to giving us a knowledge of the divine attri­ insists on the identity of form between creatures and God. while
butes which hegins from that of "creatures," But its way is not permitting no confusion of essence.
through abstraction or analogy. Attributes are not abstracted from Attributes constitute the essence ofsubstance, but in no sense
particular things. still less transferred to God analogically. Attri­ constitute the essence of modes or ofcreatures. Yet they an Jorms
butes are reached directly as forms of being common to creatures and common to both, since creatures imply them both in their own
o God, common to modes and to substance. One can easily enough essence and in their existence. Whence the importance of the
sec the supposed danger of such a method: anthropomorphism rule of convertibility: the essence is not only that without which
and. more generally. the confusion of finite and infinite. An ana­ a thing can neither be nor be conceived. but is conversely that
logica method sets out explicitly to avoid anthropomorphism: which cannot be nor be conceived outside the thing. It is in
accordi ng to Aquinas. qualities attributed to God imply no com­ accordance with this rule that attributes are indeed the essence
munity of form between divine substance and creatures. but only of substance, but are in no sense that of modes. such as man: they
an analogy. a "congruence" of proportion or proportionality. In can very easily be conceived outside their modes.9 It remains that
some cases God formally possesses a perfection that remains modes involve or imply them, and imply them pncistly in the Jorm
extrinsic for creatures. in some cases he eminently possesses a bdongins to them insoJor as they constitute the essence oj God. Which
perfection that is formally congruent with that perfection in crea­ amounts to saying that attributes in their tum contain or com­
tures. The significance of Spin07.ism may here be judged by the prehend the essences of modes, and this formally, not eminently.
way in which it inverts the problem. Whenever we proceed by Attributes are thus Jorms common to God, whose essence they consti­
analogy we borrow from creatures certain characteristics in order tute, and to modes Of' creatures which imply them essentially. The same
to attribute them to God either equivocally or eminently. Thus forms may be asserted of God and of creatures, even though God
God has Will. Understanding, Goodness, Wisdom and so on. but and creatures differ in both essence and existence. The difference
has them eqUivocally or eminently.s Analogy cannot do without consists preCisely in this, that modes are only comprehended
equivocation or eminence. and hence contains a subtle anthro­ under these forms, while God, on the other hand, is convertible
pomorphism. just as dangerous as the naive variety. It is obvious with them. But such a difference does not impinge on the for­
that a triangle, could it speak, would say that God was eminently mal reason of the attribute taken as such.
triangular. The analogical method denies that there are forms Spinma is very conscious ofhis Originality here. On the grounds
common 10 God and 10 creatures but, far from escaping the mis- that creatures differ from God both in essence and existence. it

T "' E T � I A D S OF S U B S T A N C E
A T T � I B U T E AS II )( P � I!! S S I O N

was claimed that God had nothing in common with creatures for­ see in it a constant stru8gle against the three notions of equivocation,
mally. But in fact quite the reverse is the case: the same attributes eminence and analogy. The attributes are, according to Spin07.a.
are predicated of God who explicates himself in them, and of univocal forms of being which do not change their nature in
modes which imply them - imply them in the same form in changing their "subject" - that is, when predicated of infinite
which they are congruent with God. Furthermore, as long as one being and finite beings, substance and modes, God and creatures.
refuses community of form, one is condemned to confuse the 1 belieye it takes nothing away from Spino7.a's Originality to place
essences of creatures and God through analogy. As soon as one him in a perspective that may already be found in Duns Seotus.
posits community of fonn, one has the means of distinguishing The analysis of how Spino7.a for his part interprets the notion of
them. Spin07.a can thus pride himself not only on haVing reduced univocity, how he understands it in an altogether different way
to the status of creatures things that had preViously been consid­ from Duns Seotus, must be postponed until later. It will suffice
ered as attributes of God, but on having at the same time raised for the moment to bring together the primary detenninations of
to the status of di yi ne attributes things that had before him been the attribute. Attributes are infinite forms of being, unlimited,
considered as c reatures. 10 As a rule Spino7.a sees no contradiction ultimate, irreducible formal reasons; these forms are common to
between the assertion of a community of form and the positing God whose essence they constitute, and to modes which in their
of a distinction of essences. In adjacent passages he says: ( I ) If own essence imply them. Attributes are Words expressing unlim­
things have nothing in common, one cannot be the cause of the ited qualities; these qualities are as it were involved in the limits
other; (2) If a thing is cause of both the essence and existence of ofthe finite. Attributes are expressions ofGod; these expressions
another. then it must differ from it both in the ground of its fGod are univocal, constituting the very nature of God as natura ?

.cJt.,-"'I(� -�
essence, and in that of its existence. I I The matter of reconciling aturans, and involved in the nature of things or natura naturata
these two passages does not seem to me to raise any particular hich, in a certain way, re-expresses them in its tum.
Problem in Spino1.ism. Spin07.a is himself taken aback that his cor­
Irespondents should be taken aback. and reminds them that he
has every ground for saying both that creatures differ from God Spin07..3 is able on this basis to distingUish attributes and propria.
in essence and existence, and that God has something in com­ His starting point is Aristotelian: a proprium is what belongs to a
mon with creatures formally.12 thing. but can never explain what it is. Thus the propria of God
Spino?a's method is neither abstract nor analogical. It is a are just "adjectives" which give us no substantial knowledge; God \ �I ...

formal method based on community, working with common would not be God without them, but is not God through them.1 l
notions. And the whole of Spino7.a's theory of common notions Spin07.a could, in accordance with a long tradition, give to these
finds its principle precisely in this status ofthe attribute. If one propria the name of attribute; but there would then still be.
is to give a name to this method, as to the underlying theory, it according to him. a difference of nature between two SOrtS of
is easy to recognize here the great tradition of uni\·ocity. I believe attribute. But what docs Spino?a mean, when he adds that the
that SpinOla's philosophy remains in part unintelligible if one docs not proprio of God are only "modes which may be attributed to

T H E T !:t I A O S OF S U B S T A N C E A T T R I B U T E A S E X P II E S S I O N

him"?14 Mode should not here be taken in the particular sense ones. Some are predicable of all attributes, others of one or other
often given to it by Spinoza, but in the more general scholastic of them. The second sort ofpropria are still adjectival, but instead
sense of a "modality of essence." Infinite, perfect, immutable. of indicating modalities. these indicate relations - God's relations
eternal are propria that may be predicated of all attributes. Omnis­ to his creatures or to his productions. Finally. a third category
cient, omnipresent are propria predicated of a particular attribute embraces propria that do not even belong to God: God as summum

(Thought, Extension). All attributes express the essence of sub­ bonum, as compassionate, as just and charitable.n Here it is pri­
stance; each attribute expresses an essence of substance. But marily the TheolOfJico-Political Treatise that clarifies the matter. The
propria express nothing: "Through these propria we can know nei· treatise speaks of divine justice and charity as "attributes which
ther what the being to which these belong is, nor what attributes a certain manner of life will enable men to imitate."18 These
it has." ls They do not constitute the nature of substance, but are propria do not belong to God as cause; it is no longer a question of
predicated of what constitutes that nature. So they do not form some relation of God to his creatures, but of extrinsic determi­
the essence of Being, but only a modality of that essence as nations which indicate only the way in which creatures imagine
already formed. Infinite is the proprium of substance, that is, the God. I t is true that these denominations have extremely varia­
modality of each of the attributes tha[ constitute its essence. ble senses and values: they go so far as to give God eminence in
Omniscient is the proprium of thinking substance, that is, the infi­ all kinds of things - a divine mouth and eyes, moral qualities and
nite modality of that attribute, Thought, which expresses an sublime passions, mountains and heavens. But. even if we restrict
essence of substance. Propria are not properly speaking attributes, ourselves to justice and charity, we arrive at nothing of God's
precisely because they are not expreSSive. Rather are they like nature, nor of his operations as Cause. Adam. Abraham and Moses
"impressed notions," like characters imprinted, either in all attri­ were ignorant not only of the true divine attributes, but also of
butes, or in some one or other of them. The opposition of attri­ most of the propria of the first and second sort. 19 God revealed
bute and proprium tums then on two points. Attributes are Words himself to them under extrinsic denominations which served
expressing substantial essences or qualities, while propria are only them as warnings, commandments, rules and models ofHfe. More
adjectives indicating a modality of those essences or qualities. than ever, it must be said that this third kind ofproprium is in no
God's attributes are common forms, common to substance which way expressive. They are not divine expressions. but notions
is their converse, and to modes which imply them without being impressed in the imagination to make us obey and serve a God
convertible with them, while God's propria are truly proper to of whose nature we are ignorant.
God, not being predicable of modes, but only of attributes.
A second category of propria relate to God as cause, insofar
as he acts or produces something: not as infinite, perfect, eter­
nal, immutable, but as cause of all things, predestination, provi­
dence. 16 Now, since God produces things within his attributes,
these propria are subject to the same principle as the previous

,0 ,.

Attributes and Divine Names

According to a long tradition, divine names relate to manifesta­

tions of God. Conversely, divine manifestations are a speech
through which God makes himselfknown by some name or other.
So that it amounts to the same thing to ask whether the names
that designate God are affinnations� or negations, or whether the
qualities that manifest him and the attributes that belong to him
are positive or negative. The concept of expression. at once
speech and manifestation, light and sound, seems to have a logic
of its own which favors both alternatives. Sometimes one may
emphasize positivity, that is, the immanence of what is expressed
in expression, sometimes "negativity," that is, the transcendence
of what expresses itself in relation to all expressions. What con­
ceals also expresses, but what expresses still conceals. Thus it is
all a question of emphasis in the problem of divine names, or the
attributes of God. That theology that is called negative admits
that affirmations are able to designate God as cause, subject to
rules of immanence which lead from what is nearest to what
is farthest from him. But God as substance or essence can be
defined only negatively, according to rules of transcendence
whereby one denies in their turn names that are farthest from
him, then those that are nearest. And then suprasubstantial and
T I-I E T R I ... O S O F S U B S T... N C £

superessential deity stands splendidly as far from all negation as

being, reason, life, intelligence, wisdom, virtue, beatitude. truth.
from all affinnation. Negative theology tHus combines the nega­
eternity; or greatness, love, peace, unity, perfection. I t might be
tive method with the affinnative, and claims to go beyond both.
asked whether these attributes belong to the essence of God,
How would one know what must be denied of God as essence, whether they must be understood as conditional affinnations, or
if one didn't first of all know what one should affinn of him as
as negations marking only the ablation of some privation. But
cause? Negative theology can therefore only be defined by its
according to Spin07..a, such questions do not arise, because the
dynamics: one goes beyond affinnations in negations. and beyond
greater part of these attributes are only proprio. And the rest are
both affinnations and negations in a shadowy eminence.
beings of reason. They express nothing of the nature of God,
A theology of more positive ambitions. such as that of Saint
either negatively or positively. God is no more concealed in them
Thomas, relies on analogy to ground new affinnative rules. Pos­
than t!lCpressed by them. Proprio are neither negative nor affinna­
itive qualities do not merely indicate God as a cause, but belong
tive; one might say, in Kantian style, that they are indefinite.
to him substantially. as long as they are treated analogi�lIy. That When one confuses the divine nature with proprio, one inevitably
God is good doesn't mean that God is not evil. nor that he is the
has an idea of God that is itself indefinite. One then oscillates
cause of goodness; the truth is rather that what we call goodness
between an eminent conception of negation and an analogical
in crea;ures "preexiSts" in God in a higher modality that accords
conception of affirmation. Each, through its dynamic. implies
with divine substance. Here once more, it is a dynamic that something of the other. One gets a false conception of negation
defines the new method. This dynamiC, in its tum, maintains the
by introducing analogy into what is affinned. And an affinnation
force of the negative and the eminent, but comprehends it within
that is no longer univocal. no longer fonnally affirmed of its
analogy: one proceeds from a prior negation to a positive attri­
objects. is no longer an affinnation.
bute, the attribute then applying to God formaliter eminenter.1
It is one of Spino7.a's principal theses that the nature of God
Both Arab and Jewish philosophy came up against the same
has never been defined. because it has always been confused with
problem. How could names apply not only to God as cause, but
his ··proprla." This explains his attitude toward theologians. And
to the essence of God? Must they be taken negatively, denied
philosophers have in their tum followed the path of theology:
according to certain rules? Must they be affinned, according to
Descartes himself thought that the nature of God consisted in
other rules? If. though. we adopt the Spinozist viewpoint, both
infinite perfection. Infinite perfection. though. is only a modal­
approaches appear equally false, because the problem to which ity of that which constitutes the divine nature. Only attributes
they relate is itself an altogether false one.
in the true sense of the word (Thought. Extension) are the con­
Spin07.a·s tripartite division of proprio obviously reproduces a stitutive elements of God. his constituenl expressions. his affir­
traditional classification of divine attributes: ( I ) symboliC denom­
mations, his positive and fonnal reasons, in a word . his nature.
inations. fonns and figures. signs and rites. metonymies from the But one then asks preCisely why these attribUles. with no inher­
sensible to the divine; (2) attributes of action; ( 3 ) attributes of ent tendency to concealment, should have been passed over, why
essence. Take an ordinary list of divine attributes: goodness. God was denatured by a confusion with the proprio which gave

T .... £ T " ' '' D S 00: SUeSTANC£ ATTAleUTE$ AND DIVIN£ NAMES

him an indefinite image. A reason must be found to explain why with reason: sometimes, even. propria o f reason are found, dis­
Spinoza's predecessors, in spite of all their ingenuitJ, confined tinct from those of revelation. But this provides no w<ly out of
themselves to properties and were unable to discover the nature theology; one still relies on properties to express the nature of
of God. God. One fails to appreciate the difference of nature between
Spin07.a's answer is simple: they lacked a historical. critical them and true attributes. And God will always inevitably be emi­
and i nternal method capable of interpreting Scripture 2 They .
nent in relation to his propria. Once one ascribes to them an
didn't ask about the plan of the sacred texts. They took them as expressive value they do not have. one ascribes to divine sub­
the Word of God, God's way of expressing himself. What the stance an inexpressible nature which it docs not have either.
texts said of God all seemed to be something "expressed," and Revelation and exprcssion: never was the effon to distinguish
what they didn't say seemed inexpressible. l lt was never asked two domains pushed funher. Or to distinguish two h eterogene ­

"does rel igious revelation relate to the nature of God?," "is its ous relations: that of sign and signified, that of expression and
end to make this nature known to us?," "is it amenable to the expressed. A sian always attaches to a praprium: it always signifies
positive or �egative treatments whose application is supposc(1 to a commandment; and it grounds our obedience. Expression always
complete thc determination of this nature?" Revelation concerns. relate� to an attribute; it expresses an essence, that is, a nature in
in truth. only certain propria. It in no way sets out to makc known the in fini tive; it makes it known to us. So that the "Word of God"
to us the divine nature and its attributes. What we find in Sc ri p· has two very different senses: an expressive Word, which has no
ture is of course heterogeneous: here we have specific ritual need of words or signs. but only of God's essence and man's
teachings, there universal moral teachings; sometimes we even understanding; and an impressed, imperative Word, operating
find speculath'c teaching - the minimum of speculation required through sign and command ment .b The latter is not expressi\'C, but
for moral teaching. But no attribute of God is ever revealed. Only strikes our imagination and inspires in us the reqUired submis·
varyi ng "signs," extrinsic denominations that guarantee some sion.s Should one say, at least. that commandments " express" the
divine commandment. At best, "propria" such as divine existence, wishes of God? But that would in tum prejudge will as belong­
unity, omniscience and omnipresence. which guarantee a moral ing to the nature of God. take a being of re;;ason, an extrinsic
teaching." For the end of Scripture is to subject us to models of determination. for a divine attribute. Any mixing of the two
life. to make us obey. and ground our obedience. So it would be domains is fatal. \Vhcncvcr one takes a sign for an expression.
absurd to think that knowledge might be substituted for revela· one sees mysteries everywhere including, above all. Scripture

rion: how could the divine nature, were it known, serve as a prOle· itself. Like the Jews who think that e\'erythi ng. unconditionally,
tical rule in daily life? And still more absurd to believe that expresses God.' One then gets a mystical conception of expres­
revelation makes known to us something of the nature or essence sion: it seems no less to conceal than to re\'eal what it expresses.
of God. Yet this absurdity runs through all theology.And fhereby Enigmas, parables. symbols. analogies. metonymies come in this
compromises philosophy as a who/e. Sometimes the propria of reve­ way to disturb the rational and positi\'e order of pure expression.
lation arc subjected to a special treatment that reconciles them Truly, Scripture is indeed the Word of God. but as a command-
T H IE T " ' A O S OF S U O ST " N C IE ..T T " , O U T E S A N D D I V I N E N .. ... E S

ing speech: imperative, it expresses nothing. because i t makes ally express this essence. God expresses himselfin his attributes.
known no divine attribute. and attributes express themselves in dependent modes: this is
Spinou's analysis does not merely mark the irreducibility of how the order of Nature manifests Cod. The only names expres­
these domains. It proposes an explanation of signs which is a sort sive of Cod, the only divine expressions, are then the attributes:
ofgenesis of an illusion. It is not, indeed, false to say that every­ common forms predicable of substance and modes. If we know
thing expresses God. The whole order of Nature is expressive. only two of these. it is just because we are constituted by a mode
But it is a simple misunderstanding of natural law to grasp it as of Extension and a mode of Thought. These attributes do not,
an imperative or commandment. When Spin07.a comes to illus­ at least. require any revelation. but only the light of Nature. We
trate different kinds of knowledge with the famous example of know them as they are in God. in their being that is common
proportional numbers. he shows that, on the lowest level, we do to substance and modes. 5pinoza insists on this point. citing a
not understand the rule of proportionality: so we hold on to a passage from Saint Paul which he makes almost a manifesto of
sign that tells us what operation we should make on these num­ univocity: "The invisible things of God from the creation of
bers. Even tech�ical rules take on a moral aspect when we make the world are clearly seen. being understood by the things that
no sense of them and only cling to a sign. This is still more the are made "IO,c The univocity of attributes merges with their
• . . .

case with laws of Nature. Cod reveals to Adam that ingesting the expressivity: attributes are, indissolubly, expressive and univocal.
apple would have terrible consequences; but Adam, powerless to Attributes no more serve to deny anything than they are them­
grasp the constitutive relations of things, imagines this law of selves denied of essence. Nor are they affirmed of God by analogy.
Nature to be a moral law forbidding him to eat the fruit, and God An affirmation by analogy is worth no more than a negation by
himself to be a ruler who punishes him for having eaten it.7 The eminence (there is still something of eminence in the first case.

sign is the very thing of prophecy; and prophets, after all, have and already some analogy in the second). It is true. says 5pinoza.
strong imagination and weak understanding.' Expressions of Cod that one attribute is denied of another. II But in what sense? "If
never enter the imagination. which grasps everything under the someone says that Extension is not limited by Extension, but by
aspect of sign and commandment. Thought. is that not the same as saying that Extension is infinite
God expresses himself neither in signs, nor in proprio. When not absolutely, but only so far as it is Extension?" 12 50 negation
we read in Exodus that God revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac here implies no opposition or privation. Extension as such suf­
and Jacob. not as Jehovah, but as Shoddoi (sufficing for the needs fers from no limitation or imperfection resulting from its nature.
of all), we should not see in this the mystery of the tetragram­ and so in vain might we imagine a God who possessed Extension

maton. or the supereminence of God considered in his absolute "eminently."u In what sense, conversely. is an attribute affirmed
nature. We should see rather that the revelation does not have of substance? Spinoza often insists on the point that substances
the expression of this nature or essence as its object.' Natural or attributes exist in Nature formally. Now, among the many
knowledge. on the other hand, does imply the essence of Cod; senses of the word "formal" we must bear in mind the one in
implies it because it is a knowledge of the attributes that actu- which it is opposed to "eminent" or "analogical." Substance

T H E T R I A O S 01' S U II S T A N C II A T T R I II U T Ii S A N D D I V I N E N A M E S

should never be thought o fas comprehending its attributes emi­ For Descartes there are limitations "required" by a thing by vir­
nently, nor should attributes, in their turn. be thought of as con­ tue of its nature. ideas that have so little reality that one might
taining the essences of modes. Attributcs are formally affirmed almost say they came from nothing, naturcs that lack something.
of substance; they arc formally predicated of the substance whose And through these evcrything that the logic of real distinction
essence they constitute. and of the modes whose essences they had been thought to throw out, privation, eminence, is reintro­
contain. Spinoza constantly reminds us of the affirmative char­ duced. \Ve will see how �mintmu, analogy, even a urtain eqUiVO­
acter of the attributes that define substance. and of the need for cation, rr!main almost as spontaneous categories of Cortesian thought.
any good definition to be itself affirmative. 14 Attributes are affir­ In order to bring out the deepest consequences of real distinc­
mations: but affirmation, in its essence, is always formal. actual, tion conceived as a logic of affirmation, on the other hand, it
univocal: therein lies its expressivity. was necessary to reach the idea of a Single substance with all its
Spin07.a's philosophy is a philosophy of pure affirmation. Affir­ attributes really distinct. And i t was first of all necessary to
mation is the speculative principle on which hangs the whole of a\'oid all confusion. not only of attributes with modes, but of
the Ethics. Here we may investigate how Spino7.a comes upon. and attributes with propria.
uses, a Cartesian idea. For real distinction tended to give to the
concept of affirmation a genuine logic. Indeed real distinction
as used by Descartes sets us on the way toward a profound dis­ Attributes are affirmations of Cad, logoi or true divine names. Let
covery: the terms distinguished each retain their respective pos­ us return to the passage where Spinoza invokes the example of
itivity. instead of being deflned by opposition. one to another. Israel, so named as patriarch. but called Jacob in relation to his
Non oppoSita seJ Jiverso is the formula of the new logic.1S Real brother." It illustrates in this context the distinction of reason
distinction appeared to open up a new conception of the nega­ as it applies between substance and attribute: Israel is called Jacob
tive. free from opposition and privation. and a new conception (Supplonlor) in relation to his brother, as a "plane" might be
of affirmation too, free from eminence and analogy. We have called "whitc" in relation to a man looking at it. and as a sub­
already seen why this conception does not lead Spin07.a back into stance might be called this or that in relation to an understanding
Cartesianism: Descartes still gives real distinction a numerical that "attributes" to i t this or that essence. The passage certainly
sense, a function of substantial di\'ision in Nature and among favors an intellectualist or even idealist interpretation of attri­
things. He conceives every quality as positive, all reality as per­ butes. But a philosopher is always led to simplify his thought on
fcction: but all is not rcality in a qualified and distinguished sub­ some occasions, or to formulate it only in part. Spinoza doesn't
stance. and not everything in a thing's nature is a perfection. fail to underline the ambigUity ofthc examples he cit'cs. The attri­
Spinoza is thinking of Descartes. among others. when he writes: bute is not in truth just a manner of seeing or concciving; its rela­
"To say that the nature of the thing required this limitation, and tion to the understanding is indeed fundamental. but is to be
therefore it could not be otherwise. is to say nothing; for the otherwise interpreted. It is because attributes are themselves
nature of the thing cannot require anything unless it exists."16 expressions that they are necessarily rcferred to the understand-

60 6,
T H E T R I .o,OS OF S U B S T .o, N C E AT T R I B U T E S A N D D I V I N E N A M I S

ing as to the only capacity ror perceiving what is expressed. I t is the difficulty is only increased, i n that these names are univocal
beq.use attributes explicate substance that they are, thereby, and positive, and so apply formally to what they designate: their
correlative with an understanding in which all explication is respective senses seem to introduce into the unity or what is des­
reproduced or "explicates" itself objectively. The problem thus ignated a necessarily actual multiplicity. In an analogical view this
becomes more definite: attributes are expressions, but how can is not the case: names apply to God by analogy, their senses
different expressions rerer to one and the same thing? How can "preexist" in him in an eminent mode which ensures their incon­
different names have the same referent? "You want me to explain ceivable, inexpressible, unity. What, though, if divine names have
by an example how one and the same thing can be designated the same sense as applied to God and as implied in creatures, the
(insiDniri) by two names." same, that is, in all uses, so that their distinction can no longer
The role of understanding amounts to its part i n a logic of be grounded in created things, but must be grounded in this God
· expression. Such a logic is the outcome or a long-tradition, from they all designate? Duns Scotus, as is well known, raised this prob­
the Stoics down through the Middle Ages. One distinguishes in lem in the Middle Ages, and prOVided a profound solution. It was
an expression (say, a proposition) what it expresses and what it without doubt Seotus who pursued farther than any other the
designates. IS What is expressed is, so to speak, a sense that has enterprise of a positive theology. He denounces at once the neg­
no existence outside the expression; it must thus be referred to ative eminence of the Neoplatonists and the pseudoaffirmation
an understanding that grasps i t objectively, that is, ideally. But it of the Thomists, and sets against them the univocity or Being:
is predicated of the thing, and not of the expression itself; under­ winD is pr�Jicoted in the some sense of everything that is, whether
standing relates !t to the object designated, as the essence of that infinite or finite. albeit not in the same "modality." But the point
object. One can then conceiYe how names may be distinguished is that being does not change in nature, in changing modality -
by their senses, while these different senses relate to the same that is, when its concept is predicated of infinite being and of
deSignated object whose essence they constitute. There is a sort finite beings (so that, already in Scotus, univocity does not lead
of transposition of this theory of sense" in Spino7.a's conception to any confusion of essences).19 And the univocity or being itself
of attributes. Each attribute is a distinct name or expression; what leads to the univocity of divine attributes: the concept of an attri­
it expresses is so to speak its sense; but if it be true that what is bute that may be taken to infinity is itself common to God and
expressed has no existence outside the attribute, it is nonethe­ . creatures. as long as it be considered in its formal reason or its
less related to substance as to the object designat'ed by all the quiddity, for " infinity in no way abolishes the formal reason or
attributes. Thus all expressed senses together form the "expres­ that to which it is added."20 But, formally and positively predi­
sible" or the essence of substance, and the latter may in its tum cated of God, how can infinite attributes or divine names not
be said to express itself in the attributes. introduce into God a plurality corresponding to their formal rea­
It is true that in assimilating substance to an object desig­ sons, their distinct quiddities?
nated by different names, we do not resolve the essential prob­ This is the problem to which Scotus applies one of his most
lem _ that or the di fference between those names. Worse still. original concepts, which complements that of univocity: the idea

T H E T R I ... DS OF S U e S T "' ''! C E ...T T R I B U T E S A N D D I V I "! E N ... .... E S

of formal distinction.ll It relates to the apprehension of distinct The attribution o fsuch a status to formal reason finds a dedi­
quiddities that nevertheless belong to the same subject. This must cated opponem in Suarez. who cannot see how formal reason is
obviously be referred to an act of understanding. But the under­ not to be reduced either to a distinction of reason or a modal
standing isn't merely expressing an identical reality under two distinction.16 It says either too much or not enough: too much
aspects that might exist separately in other subjects. or expressing for a distinction of reason. but not enough for a real distinc­
an identical thing at different degrees of abstraction. or expressing tion. Descartes. when the question arises. is of the same view.27
something analogically in relation to some other realities. It We still find in Descartes the same repugnance toward con­
objectively apprehends actually distinct forms which yet, as such. ceiving a real distinction between things which does not lie in
together make up a Single identical subject.e Between animal and different subjects. that is, which isn't attended by a division of
rational there is nOt merely a distinction of reason.·like that being or a numerical distinction. The same is not true of Spin-
between homo and humanitas;.the thing itself must already be 07.3: in his conception of a nonnumerical real distinction. it is
"structured according to the conceivable diversity of genus and not hard to discern Scotus's formal distinction. Furthermore,
species."22 Formal distinction is definitely a real distinction, with Spin07.a formal distinction no longer presents a minimum
expressing as it does the different layers of reality that form or of real distinction. but becomes real distinction itself. giving this
constitute a being. Thus it is called Jorma/is a parte rei or Daua/is an exclusive character.
ex natura rei. But it is a minimally real distinction because the I . Attributes are, for Spinoza. really distinct. or conceived as
two really distinct qUiddities are coordinate, together making a really distinct. They have irreducible formal reasons; each at­
Single being.B Real and yet not numerical. such is the status of for­ tribute expresses. as its formal reason or qUiddity, an infinite
mal distinction.24 One must also recognize that in the order of essence. Thus lIttributes are distingUished "quidditatively." for­
finitude two quiddities such as animal and rational are connected mally: they are indeed substances in a purely qualitative sense.
only through the third term to which each is identical. But this 2. Each attributes its essence to substance, as [0 somethina else.
is not the case in the infinite. Two attributes taken to infinity Which is a way of saying that [0 the formal distinction between
will still be formally distinct. while being ontologically identi­ attributes there corresponds no division of being. Substance is nOt
cal. As Gilson puts it. "Because it is a modality of being (and not a genus. nor arc attributes specific differences. So there arc no
an attribute). infinity can be common to qUidditatively irreduc­ substances of the some species as the attributes. no substance
ible formal reasons, conferring on them an identity of being. which is the some thina (res) as each attribute (Jorma/itas). 3. This
without canceling their distinction of form."lS Thus two of Gad's "other thing" is thus the same Jor all attributes. It is furthermore
attributes. Justice and Goodness for example, arc divine names the same as all attributes. And the latter determination in no
designating a God who is absolutely one. while they signify dif­ way contradicts the former one. All formally distinct attribures
ferent quiddities. There are here as it were two orders. that of arc rcferred by understanding to an ontologically Single sub­
formal reason and that of being. with the plurality in one per­ stance. But understanding only reproduces objectively the nature
feclly according with the simpliCity of the other. of the forms it apprehends. All formal essences form the essence
of an absolutely single substance. All qualified substances form
of reason like genera and species. and faculties of the soul, or on
only onc substance from the point of view of quantity. So that propria such as the supposed attributes of God. Furthermore,
attributes themselves have at once identity of being and distinc­
univocity in Scotus seems compromised by a concern to avoid
tion of formality. Ontologically one, formally diverse, such is pantheism. For his theological, that is to say "creationist," per­
their status. spective forced him to conceive univocal Being as a neutralized,
Despite his allusion to the "hodgepodge of Peripatetic distinc- •
indifferent concept. Indi fferent as between finite and infinite,
tions," Spinoza restores formal distinction, and even gives it a Singular and universal, perfect and imperfect, created and uncre­
range it didn't have in Scotus. It is formal dstinction that provides ated.19 For SpinOla. on the other hand. the concept of univocal
an absolutely coherent concept of the unity of substance and the plu­ Being is perfectly determinate. as what is predicated in one and
rality of attributes, and gives real distinction a new 100ic. One may the same sense of substance in itself, and of modes that are in
then ask why Spinoza never uses the term, and speaks only of real something else. With SpinOla univocity becomes the object of a
distinction. The answer is that formal distinction is indeed a real pure affirmation. The same thing, forma/iter, constitutes the
distinction, and that it was to Spinoza's advantage to use a term essence of substance and contains the essences of modes. Thus
that Descartes, by the use he had made of it, had in a sense it is the idea of immanent cause that takes over, in Spinoza, from
neutralized theologically.. So that the term "real distinction" univocity, freeing it from the indifference and neutrality to which
all�wcd great audacity without stirring up old controversies it had been confined by the theory of a divine creation. And it is
which Spinola doubtless considered pOintless or even harmful. I in immanence that univocity finds its distinctly Spinolist formu­
don't believe that Spinola's Cartcsianism went any further than lation: God is said to be cause of all things in the very sense (eo
this. His whole theory of distinctions is profoundly Anticartesian. sensu) that he is said to be cause of himself.
To picture Spinoza as Scotist rather than Cartesian is to risk
certain distortions. I intend it to mean only that Scotist theories
were certainly known to Spinoza, and played a part, along with
other themes, in forming his pantheism.13 What then becomes of
primary interest is the way Spinoza uses and transforms the notions
of fonnal distinction and univocity. What in fact did Duns Scotus
call an " attribute"? Justice, goodness, wisdom and so on - in
brief, proprio. He of course recognized that the divine essence
could be conceived without these attributes: but he defined the
essence of God by intrinsic perfections, understanding and will.
Scotus was a "theologian" and, in this capacity. \vas still dealing
with propria and beings of reason. Thus fonnal distinction does
not with him have its full range, and is always at work on beings

66 67
C H A '> T E R F O U R

The Absolute

Spin07.a carefully shows how every (qualified) substance must be

unlimited. The sum of the arguments of the Short TrtaoSl! and the
EthicS may be presented thus: If a substance were limited, this
would have to be either by itself, or by a substance of the same
nature, or by God who had given i t an imperfect nature.! But it
could not be limited by itself, for "it would have had to change
its whole essence.'" Nor by another substance, for there would
then be two substances with the same attribute. Nor by God.
since God is in no way imperfect or limited, and so still less faced
with things that would "require" or imply some limitation or
other before being created. Spinoza indicates the importance of
these themes, but this elliptically: "If we can prove that there
can be no limited substance. e\'ery substance belonging to the
divine being must be unlimited.'" The transition appears to be
as follows: if every substance is unlimited. we must recognize that
each is in its genus or form infinitely perfect; there is thus equality
between all forms or all genera of being; no form is inferior to
any other, none is superior. This is the transition formulated
ex.plicitly by Spinoza in anOlher passage: "There is no inequality
at all in the attributes."l
Thus one cannot imagine that God might contain the reality

T H IEl T II ' .o. O S OF S U e S T .o. N C E

perfect. which they identify with God's nature. The proof a

o r perfection of an effect i n a higher fonn than that involved in
posteriori. in its first formulation. runs: "The idea I have of a being
the effect. because no fonn is higher than any other. One may
more perfect than my own, must necessarily have been set in me
infer from this that all fonns being equal (attributes). God can­
by a being who is indeed more perfect." The second formulation
not possess one without possessing the others; he cannot possess
is: "From the simple fact that I exist, and have in me the idea of
one that doubles. eminently. for another. All forms of being. as
a supremely perfect being (that is. of God), God's existence is
infiniuly perfect. must without limitation belong to God as abJD-
very obviously proven."4 And the ontological or a priori proof is
luuly inJinite Being.

stated thus: "What we clea.rly and distinctly perceive to belong
This principle of equality of forms or attributes is but another
to the nature or essence. or to the unchanging and true form of
aspect of the principle of univociry. and the principle of formal
some thing; that can be truly predicated or affirmed of this thing;
distinction. It is nonetheless a particular application of it: it forces
bUi after having quite carefully inquired what God is. we clearly
us to pass from Infinite to Absolute. from infinitely perfect to
and distinctly conceive that it belongs to his true and unchanging
absolutely infinite. Fonns of being. all being perfect and unlim­
nature that he exist; we can therefore truly affirm that he exists."s
ited. and so infinitely perfect. cannot constitUie unequal sub­
Now the inquiry to which Descartes alludes in the minor prem.
stances calling for the infinitely perfect as for a distinct being
ise consists precisely in the determination of the "supremely per.
playing the role of eminent and efficient cause. No more Can
fect" as the form. essence or nature of God. Existence. being a
they amount to substances equal among themselves; for equal
perfection. belongs to this nature. Thanks to this major premise
substances cannot be such only numerically. they would have
one can conclude that God does indeed exist.
10 have the same form. "they would necessarily have to limit
Thus the ontological proof itself involves an identification of
one another. and consequently. would not be inflnite."J Forms.
infinite perfection with (he nature ofGod. For consider the sec­
equally unlimited. are thus attributes of a single substance that
ond set of objections made against Descartes's Aleditations. He is
possesses them all. and possesses them actually. But it would then
reproached for not having proved. in the minor premise. that the
be a great mistake to think that infinite perfection is enough to
nature of God was pOSSible. or implied no contradiction. It is
define the "nature" of God. Infinite perfection is the modality
argued against him that God exists if he iJ ponible (Leibniz takes
of each attribute. that is to say. the "proprium" of God. But the
up the objection in some celebrated passages6). Descartes replies
nature of God consists in an infinity of attributes. that is to say.
that the supposed difficulty in the minor premise is already re­
in absolute infinity.
solved in the major premise. For the latter docs not mean: What
we clearly and distinctly conceive to belong to the nature of some
thing can truly be said to belong to the nature of this thing. That
One may already foresee the transformation to which Spino].a.
would be a mere tautology. The major premise means: "What
countering Descartes. will subject the proofs ofGo<!'s existence.
we clearly and distinctly conceive to belong to the nature of some
For all the Cartesian proofs proceed from infinite perfection. And
thing. that can be truly predicated or afrirmed oj this thing." Now
not only do they proceed from it. they move within the infinitely



this proposition guarantees the possibility o f anything that we Descartes defines God by giving d list of properties: "B)' the name
conceive dearly and distinctly. If some other criterion of possi­ God, I understand a substance infinite, eternal, unchanging,
bility is required, a SOTt of sufficient reason on the side of the independent, omniscient, omnipotent. . . ."11 In their mist), emi­
object, we confess our ignorance, and the powerlessness of under­ nence these properties may, considered as a whole, appear like
standing to reach such a reason.1 a simple nature.
Descartes seems to sense the meaning of the objection, and In Leibni1., two themes are deepl)' related: infinite perfection
yet not understand, OT want to understand, il. He is criticized does not suffice to constitute the nature of God. and a clear and

for not haVing proven the poSSibility of the natuTe of a being oj distinct idea does not suffice to guarantee its own reality, that is
which "injinite perJection" con be only 0 proprium. Such d proof is to sa)" the possibility of its objecl. The two principles meet in
itself, perhaps, impossible: but in that case the ontological argu­ the requirement of sufficient reason or real definition. Infinite
ment docs not follow.8 In any case, infinite perfection gives us and perfect are only distinctive marks; the clear and distinct
no knowledge of the nature of the being to which it belongs. If knowledge that we ha\'e of them in no wa)' tells us whether these
Descartes thinks to have solved all the difficulties in the major characteristics are compatible; there might perhaps be a contra­
premise. this is in the first place because he confuses the nature diction in ens perjectissimum, JUSt as there is in "the greatest num­
of God with a proprium: he then thinks that a clear and distinct ber" or "the greatest velocit),." The essence of such a being is only
conception of the proprium is enough to guarantee the possibility conjectural, and so any definition of God by perfection alone
of the corresponding nature. Descartes docs admittedly oppose remains nominal. \Vhence Leibniz's severe criticism: Descartes
the aspect under which God is presented in Scripture ("manners does not in general go an)' further than Hobbes, as there is no
of speaking . . . which do indeed contain some truth, but only inso­ reason to trust the criteria of a psychological consciousness (clar­
far as this is considered in relation to men") to the aspect under it)' and distinctness) any better than simple combinations of
which God himself appears in the light of Nature.9 But he is words.12 These same themes appear, in a wholly different con­
thereby only opposing propria of one sort to those of another. In text, to be shared by Spino;·:a. It is hardl), surprising that there
reidtion to a being that has as a rational property that of being should be some basic common points in the Anticartesian reac­
infinitely perfect, the question "Is such a being possible?" per­ tion toward the end of the seventeenth century. According to
sists in its entirety. And if it be asked how Descartes is able. from Spin01..a, infinite perfection is onl), a proprium. The property tells
his viewpoint, to identify proprium and divine nature. I reply that us nothing of the nature of the being to which it belongs, and
once more the reason is to be found in the way he invokes emi­ does not suffice to prO\'e that such a being involves no contrd­
nence and analogy. Descartes reminds us that "ofthe things which diction. Until a clear and distinct idea is grasped as "adequate"
we conceive to be in God and in ourseh'es," none is univocol.lo one may doubt its reality and the poSSibility of its object. Until
Now, it is just insofar as one admits a basic inequality between one gives a real definition, bearing on the essence of a thing rather
forms of being, that the infinitely perfect can come to desig­ than on propria, one remains among the \'agaries of what is merely
nate a higher form which may be taken for the Nature of God. conceived, without relation to the reality of the thing as it is out-

7' 71

side our understanding.U Thus sufficient reason seems to impose impossible to Stt out from the idea o f God. The proof o f God's
its requirements in Spin07.a as well as in Leibniz. Spin07.a sets ade­ existence appears in Proposition 1 1 . But the first ten have shown
quacy as sufficient reason of a clear and distinct idea, and absolute that numtrical distinction not bting rtal, ony rtally distinct substonct
infinity as sufficient reason of infinite perfection. The ontologi­ is unlimited and infinitely perf«t; convtrsely. nal diStinCtion not bting
cal argument, in Spinoza, no longer hears on an indeterminate numuical, all infinittly perftct substances together make up an infi­
being that is supposed infinitely perfect. but rather on absolute nitely puf«t substanct of which thty an tht attributes; infinite per­
infinity. determined as that which consists of a1\infinity of attri­ i thw the proprium of the absolutely infinite, and absolute
fection s
butes. ( Infinite perfection being only the mode of each of these infinity tht naturt or nason of tht infinitely perftel. Herein lies the
attributes, the modality of essence expressed by each.) importance of these opening proofs. which are in no sense hypo­
If this claim is correct, however. one may well be surprised thetical, and herein lies the importance of considering numeri­
by the way that Spinoza proves a priori that the absolutely infi­ cal and real distinctions. Only on this basis can Proposition I I
nite, that is, a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, conclude: Absolutely infinite substance, implying no contradic­
necessarily exists.1• An initial proof runs: If it did not exist, it tion, necessarily exists; if it did not, it would not have infinite
would not be a substance, for every substance necessarily exists. perfection as a property, nor indeed would it be a substance.
A second: If absolutely infinite being did not exist, there would The opening scheme of the Ethics is thus as follows: I . Defini­
ha"e to be a reason for this nonexistence: this reason would have tions 1-5: Merely nominal definitions. needed in the mechanism
to be internal, and so absolute infinity would have to imply a con­ of subsequent proofs; 2. DefiniNon 6: The real definition of God,
tradiction; "but it is absurd to affirm this of Being absolutely infi­ as absolutely infinite Being, that is, as "substance consisting of
nite and supremely perfect." These arguments clearly still advance an infinity of attributes. each of which expresses an eternal and
via infinite perfection. The absolutely infinite (substance con­ infinite essence." The definition takes up the terms " substance"
sisting of an infinity of attributes) necessarily exists. or it would and "attribute" and gives them the status of realities. But the real·
not be a substance; or it would not be infinitely perfect, But the ity o f the definition itself does not mean that it immediately
readcr has a right to insist on a deeper proof, on which these are shows the poSSibility of its object. For a definition to be real. one
founded. It must be shown that a substance that exists necessar­ need only be able to pfO\'e the possibility of the object as defined;
ily has as its nature to consist of an infinity of attributes or. which this at once demonstrates the reality or truth of the definition;
comes to the same thing, that the infinitely perfect has as its rea­ 3. Propositions 1-8: The first st'age in the proof of the reality of
son or principle the absolutely infinite. the definition: numerical distinction not being real. every really
And Spinoza has indeed done precisely what the reader is distinct attribute is infinitely perfect, and every qualified sub·
entitled to require of him. The idea that Spinoza in the EthiCS srance is unique. necessary and infinite. This sequence obviously
"installs" himselfin God and "begins" with God is only an approxi· relies only upon the first fi\'e definitions; 4, Propositions 9 and 10:
mation of the truth and is, strictly speaking. inaccurate. What is The second stage: as real distinction is not numerical, distinct
morc we will see that. according to Spinoza, it is altogether attributes or qualified substances together form one and the same

74 "
T H E T " ' A D S O� s u a S T A N c e TME AaSOLUTE

substance having all these qualifications. that is, all the attributes. dox statement o f this proor an altogether different version which
This second sequence closes in the Scholium to Proposition 10, anticipates Chapter Two ("What God is"); 2. The Ethicr, rather
which establishes that an absolutely infinite substance implies no than setting beside one another two rormulations, one proceed­
contradiction, so that Definition 6 is indeed a real onelS; 5. Prop­ ing from infinite perrection, the other rrom absolute infinity,
osition J J : The absolutely infinite necessarily exists; otherwise presents a proor that still proceeds from infinite perfection, but
it could not be a substance, and could not have as a property that is entirely subordinated to the prior and well-grounded pos­
infinite perfection. iting or absolute infinity. Then the second formulation of the
A confirmationb of this scheme is provided by examining the Short Treatise is no longer needed, and no longer obscure and out
Shorr Treatise. For what is wrongly said of the Ethicr applies well or place: its equivalent is to be found in the Ethicr, but no longer
enough to the Short Treatise, which does indeed begin with God, as a proof orCod's existence, only of his immutability.19
installs itself in his existence. At the time of its composition
Spinoza still believed that it was possible to set out from an idea
of God. Thus the a prior; argument receives an init'ial formula­ Thus rar there is no difference between Leibniz's requirements
tion that conforms entirely to Descartes's statement of it.16 And and Spino7.a's: the same call ror a real definition of God, ror a
so the argument, moving altogether within infinite perfection, nature or reason of the infinitely perfect. The same subordina­
givcs us no way of knowing the nature of the corresponding being. tion of the ontological proof to a real definition of God, and to
As it stands al the head of the Short Treatise, the ontological argu­ the demonstration that this definition is indeed a real one. Which
ment serves no purpose whatever. So Spino7.a adds a thoroughly makes Leibniz's account of things all the more surprising. We can
obscure second proposition: "the existence of God is essence."l7 here draw upon two t'exts. First, a note added to the manuscript
I believe that, taken literally, this formulation can no longer be "Quod ens perfectissimum existit," in which Leibniz speaks of
understood from the viewpoint of infinite perfection, but only his discussions with Spino7.a in 1676: "When at the Hague I
from that of absolute infinit),. Indeed, for the existence of God showed Spin07.a this argument, which he thought solid. As he ini­
to be essence, the same "attributes" that constitute his essence tially disagreed with it, I wTOte it out and read him this sheet."2o
must also constitute his existence. Thus Spinoza adds an explan­ Then his notes on the EthiCS: he complains of Spinoza's Defini­
atory note, anticipating the development of the Short Treatise, by tion 6 that it is not a real definition. It does not show the equiva­
ill\'oking here, already, the a[tributes or an absolutely infinite sub­ lence or the terms "absolutely infinite" and "consisting of an
stance: "To the nature or a being that has infinite attributes, an infinity of attributes"; it doesn't show the compatibility or the
'attribUie' belongs, which is Being."IS The differences between attributes among themselves; it doesn't show the poSSibility or
the Shorl Treatise and the Ethics seem to be these: I. The Short the object defined)l Either Leibniz means that Definition 6 docs
Treatise begins by showing "That God is," berore any real defini· not immediately show the possibility of what is defined - but
tion or Cod. Thus, strictly speaking, it has available only the Leibnir- believes no morc than Spinol.a in the existence of such
Cartesian proor, and is therefore rorced to set alongSide the ortho- an intuition of God. Or he means that Spinor-a has not noticed

7· 77

that the reality of the definition has to be proven - but such a haps, one can say i s that they have a symbolic relation to the
criticism would completely misconstrue the general project of prime simples.21 Leibniz hereby escapes the absolute necessity
the Ethics and the sense of the first ten propositions. In fact. if which he denounces as the danger ofSpinOlo;ism: he stops "meta­
one considers the formulations through which Leibniz himself physical" necessity getting out from God and communicating
proves the possibility of God. one does not at first sight perceive itself to creatures. He introduces a sort of finality. a maximal prin­
any difference between these and Spinoza's. ciple, into the ontological proof itself. After his meetings with
For Leibniz, God is possible because infinite perfection is the Spinoza. Leibniz considers absolute necessity the enemy. Could
proprium of an "absolute Being" that includes in itself all "attrilr not Spinoza conversely think, though, that in order to save crea­
utes," "all simple forms taken absolutely," all "natures which are tures and creation. Leibniz was retaining all the perspectives of
susceptible ofthe highest degree," "all positive qualities express­ eminence. analogy and symbolism in general? Perhaps Leibniz
ing something without limitation."22 How do these forms suffice only appears to advance beyond infinite perfection, only appears
to prove the possibility of God? Each is simple and irreducible, to arrive at a nature or reason.
conceived in itself. index sui. Leibniz says that it is their very dis­ Spinoza thinks that the definition of Cod as he gives it is a
parity that assures their compatibility (the impossibility of their real definition. By a proof of the reality of the definition must
contradiction), and their compatibility that assures the possibil­ be understood a veritable generation of the object defined. This
ity of the Being to which they bt!long. Nothing in this sets Leibniz is the sense of the first propositions of the Ethics: they are not hy�
against Spinoza. Everything is literally common to them. includ­ thetical, but genetic. Because attributes are really distinct, irreduc­
ing the use of the idea of expression, and including the thesis ible one to the others, ultimate in their respective fonns or in
according to which expressive forms are "the fount of things." their kinds, because each is conceived through itself. they can­
In this respect at least. Spin07A had nothing to learn from Leibniz. not contradict one another. They are necessarily compatible. and
We are left to conclude that Leibniz did not report the conver­ the substance they fonn is possible. "It is of the nature of a sub­
sation at the Hague accurately. Or that Spinoza listened, and stance that each ofits attributes be conceived through itself. since
spoke little. privately recognizing the coincidence of Leibniz's all the attributes it has have always been in it together, and one
ideas with his own. Or perhaps a disagreement was revealed. but could not be produced by another. but each expresses the real­
this over their respective ways of understanding infinite positive ity. or being of substance. So it is far from absurd to attribute
forms or qualities. For Leibniz conceives these as primary pos- many attributes to one substance."24 In the attributes we reach
sibles in the divine understanding_ Moreover, these prime possi­ prime and substantial elements. irreducible notions of unique
bles. "absolutely simple notions." lie outside our knowledge: we substance. There appears here the idea of a logical constitution
know that they are necessarily compatible. without knowing of substance, a "composition" in which there is nothing physi­
what they are. They appear anterior to, and above. any logical cal. The irredUcibility of the attributes not only proves, but con­
relation: knowledge reaches only to "relatively simple notions" stitutes the nonimpossibility of Cod as unique substance with all
which serve as terms of our thinking. and of which the best, per- attributes. There cannot be contradiction except between tenns

,. 79

of which one. at least. i s not conceived through itself. And the ply manifestation. but is also the constitution of God himself.
compatibility of attributes is not grounded. for Spino'la. in a Life. that is. expressivity. is carried into the absolute. There is a
region of the divine understanding above logical relations them­ unity of the di\'ene in substance. and an actual diversity of the One
selves. but in a logic proper to real distinction. It is the nature of in the attributes. Real distinction applies to the absolute. because
real distinction between attributes that excludes all division of it combines these two moments and relates each to the other. So
substance; it is this nature of real distinction that preserves in it is not enough to say that Spinoza privileges Ens necessarium over
distinct terms all their respective positivity, forbidding their def­ Ens perfectissimum. What is actually most important is Ens absa­
inition through opposition one to another. and referring them IUfUm. Perfectissimum is only a proprium. a proprium from which one
all to the same indivisible substance. Spino'la seems to have gone sets out as the modality of each attribute. Necessarium is another
further than any other along the path of this new logic: a logic praprium. at which one arri\'es as the modality of a substance hav­
of pure affirmation. of unlimited quality. and thus of the uncon­ ing all attributes. But between these is discovered Nature or the
ditioned" totality that possesses all qualities; a logic. that is. of absolute: the substance to which are referred Thought, Exten­
the absolute. Attributes should be understood as the elements sion and so on, all the univocal forms of being. This is why
of such a composition of the absolute. Spino'la insists in his letters on the necessity of not losing sight
of Definition 6, of constantly returning to it,2s That definition
alone presents us with a nature, the expressive nature of the
Attributes as expressions are not simply "mirron." Expressionist absolute. To return to this definition is not just to keep it in mind.
philosophy brings with it two traditional metaphors: that of a but to return to a definition that has meanwhile been proven to
mirror which renects or renects upon an image. and that of a be real. And that proof is not a sort of operation performed by
seed which "expresses" the trce as a whole. Attributes are one an understanding that remains outside substance; it amounts to
or the other of these, depending on the viewpoint taken. On the the I ife of substance itself. the necessity of its a priori constitution.
one hand. essence is renected and multiplied in attributes. attri­ '"When I define God as the supremely perfect Being. since this
butes are mirron. each of which expresses in its kind the essence definition docs not express the efficient cause (for I conceive
of substance: they relate necessarily to an understanding. as mir­ that an efficient cause can be internal as well as external ) 1 shall
ron to an eye which sees in them an image. But what is expressed not be able to discover all the properties of God from it; but
is at the same time involved in its expression. as a tree in its seed: when I define God as 'a Being. etc.' (see EthiCS. Part One, Def­

the essence of substance is not so much reflected in the attributes inition 6).26 Such is Spinoza's transfonnation of the proof a priori:
as constituted by the attributes that express it; attributes are not he goes beyond infinite perfection to absolute infinity. in which
so much mirrors as dynamic or genetic clements. he discovers sufficient Reason or Nature. This step leads into
God's nature (natura nawrans) is expressive. God expresses a second triad of substance: ( I ) All forms of being are equal and
himself in the foundations of the world. which form his essence, equally perfect. and there is no inequality of perfection bet ween
before expressing himself in the world. And expression is not sim- attributes; ( 2 ) Every form is thus unlimited. and each attribute

80 8,

expresses a n infinite esscnce; ( 3) All forms thus belong t o one C HAPTER FIVE
and the samc substance. and all attributes are equally affirmed,
without limitation. of an absolutely infinite substance. The first Power
triad was that of attribute-essence-substance. The second is:
perfect-infinite-absolute. The first was founded on a polemical
argument: real distinction cannot be numerical; and on a posi­
tive argument: real distinction is a formal distiflction between
attributes affirmed of one and the same substance. The polemi­
cal argument for the second triad is: propria do not constitute a
nature; and the' positi�'e argument: e\'crything in Nature is per­
fect. No "naturc" lacks anything; all forms of bcing are affirmed.::
without limitation. attributed to something ahsolute. since the Therc is a theme that constantly recurs i n all Leibniz's criticism
absolute is in its nature infinite in all its forms. The triad of the of Descartes: he goes "too quickly." Descartes thought that it was
absolute thus complements that of substancc: it carries it forward, enough in the order of bcing to consider the infinitely perfect,
leading us on to discover a third and last determination of Cod. enough in the order of knowing to possess a clear and distinct
idea, and enough, in order to pass from knowing to being, to
examine quantities of reality or perfcction. Descartes is always
led, in his hurry. to confuse relath-e and absolute. I If we look once
more for what is common in the Anticartesian reaction. we see
that Spin07.a, for his part. takes issuc with Descartes's fOcility.
Descartes's willingness to makc philosophical use of "easy'" and
"difficult" had already worried many of his contemporaries.
'When Spino7.a comes up against thc Cartesian use of the word
"easy," hc loscs that professorial sercnity with which hc had
promised to set forth the Principles ditTcring in nothing by "thc
breadth of a fingernail"; herc hc c\'cn seems to show a kind of
indignation.2 He is nOt of course the first to denounce this facil­
ity, any more than Leibni7. was the first to denounce rapidity. But
the criticism takes on with Leibnil. and Spino7.a its most com­
plete, its richcst and its most effective form,
Descartcs givcs two statcments of the a posteriori proof of
Cod's existence: God cxists becausc his idea is in us; and also

" '1
T .. E T Ii I A O S 0" S U B S T A N C E P O W E ll

because we oursekes, with our idea of him, exist. The first proof The same argument clearly lies at the heart o f both proofs.
is based directly on the consideration of quantities of perfection Desc.lrtes either relates quantities of objective reality to quanti­
or reality. A cause must have at least as much reality as its effect; ties of fonnal reality, or he brings quantities of reality inlO the
the cause of an idea should have at least as much reality fonnally relations of whole and part. The entire proof a posteriori. at any
as the idea has objectively. But I have the idea of an infinitely rate, proceeds by examining quantities of reality or perfection
perfect being (that is, an idea that contains "more objective real­ considered Simply as such. Spino1..l , expounding Descartes, does
ity than any other"]). The second proof is more.complex. since not refrain from attacking the second proof; he again finds, or
it proceeds from an absurd hypothesis: Had I the power to cre­ C.lrries over. objections to the notion of "facility." And the man­
ate myself. it would be much easier for me to give myself prop­ ner i n which he does this leads one to think that. if he were
erties of which I have an idea, a�d it would be no more difficult speaking for himself, he would have no greater sympathy for the
for me to preserve myself than to produce or create myself.� The first proof. One does in fact find many versions of an a posteriori
principle in this case is: What can do more can do less. "What proof of Cod's existence in SpinOl..l'S work. I believe these all have
can do more, or the morc difficult thing, can also do a lesser something in common, some involving a criticism of the first
thing."S But if it is more difficult to create or preserve a sub­ Cartesian proof. the others of the second, but all shoring the end
stance than to create or preserve its properties, it is because the of substitutino an argument based on power Jar on oroument based
substance has more reality than the properties themselves. One on quantities of reo/ity. It is as though Spinol..l were .llways, in very
may object that the substance is the same thing as its properties diverse ways. proposing the same criticism: Descartes takes what
considered collectively. But "distributively" the attributes are is relative as absolute. In the a priori proof, Desc.lrtes confuses
• like parts of a whole. and it is in this sense that they are easier absolute with infinitely perfect, but infinitely perfect is only a
to produce. One may in turn object that a (say. finite) substance relative tenn. In the a posteriori proof, Descartes takes quantity
C.lnnot be compared with the (say, infinite) attributes of some of reality or perfection as an absolute. but this is again only rela­
other subu.lnce. But i f I hold the power to produce myself as tive. Absolute infinity as nature and sufficient reason of infinite
.l subsunce. the perfections of which I have an idea would be perfection; power as sufficient reason of the quantity of re.llity:
part of myself. so that it would indeed be easier for me to gh'e these are the correlative transfonnations to which Spinol..l sub­
myself them than to produce or preserve myself as a whole. It mits the Cartesian proofs.
may be objected, finally. that a detenninate cause, destined by
nature to produce a certain effect. cannot "more easily" pro­
duce some other effect. be it even of a lesser quantity. But. from The Short Trratise contains no trace of the second C.lrtesian argu­
the viewpoint of a first cause, the quantities of reality corres­ ment; but it preserves the first, in terms similar to those of
ponding to attributes and modes enter into relations of whole Descartes7: "If there is an idea of Cod, the cause of [this idea]
to part that allow the determination of greater and lesser. easier must exist fonnally and contain in itself whatever the idea has
and more difficult.6 objectively. But there is an idea of Cod . . . ." But the proof of this

8, 8,
T .. E T R ' .o. O S O F S U B S T .o. N C E

first proposition is thoroughly modified. We see syllogisms mul­

ing can be known without a cause of its being in existence or in
tiply, evidence of a state of Spinoza's thought, however indistinct, essence. One may already infer from this argument that the power
in which he is already trying to advance beyond the argument of thinking, in which all ideas participate, is not superior to a
based on quantities of reality and substitute an argument based power of existing and acting in which all things participate. And
on power. His reasoning runs as follows: A finite understanding this is what matters from the viewpoint of an 0 posteriori proof.
has not in itself the "capacity" to know infinity, nor indeed to We have an idea of God; y,"e must then assert an infinite power
know this rather than that; but it "can"b'know something; there of thinking as corresponding to this idea; but the power of think­
must then, formally, be an object that determines it as knowing ing is no greater than the power of existing and acting; we must
this rather than that; and it "can" conceive infinity; so God must then assert an infinite power of existing as corresponding to the
himself exist formally. In other words, Spinoza asks: Why must nature of God. The existence of God is not inferred directly from
the cause of the idea of God contain formally all that this idea [he idea of God; we pass throu9h the detour of powers to find, in
contains objectively? Which amounts to saying that Descartes's the power of thinking. the ground of the objective reality con­
axiom does not satiSfy him. The Cartesian axiom was: there must tained in the idea of God, and in the power of existing the ground
be "at least as much" formal reality in an idea's cause as there is of the formal reality of God himself. The Short Treatise seems to
objective reality in the idea itself. (Which guaranteed that there me to be already elaborating the elements of a proof of this kind.
was not "more" in the case of an infinite quantity of objective An explicit formulation is then given in the Correction of the
reality. ) But we sense that Spinoza is looking for a deeper rea­ UnJerstandin8.9.( But it is in a letter that Spinoza most clearly
son. This section of the Short Treatise is already elaborating vari­ reveals what he was after from the Short Treatise on: the substitu­
ous clements that will play their part in an axiom of powus: tion of an axiom of powers for the Cartesian axiom of quantities
understanding has no more power to know than its objects have of reality, considered unclear. "The power of Thought to think
to exist and act; the power of thinking and knowing cannot be about or to comprehend things. is not greater than the power of
grcater than a necessarily correlative power of existing. Nature [0 exist and to act. This is a clear and true axiom, accord­
Is it really a question of an axiom? Another passage of the Short ing to which the existence of God follows very clearly and validly
Treatist, certainly of later date, states: "There is no thing of which from the idea ofhim."IO
there is not an idea in the thinking thing, and no idea can exist We should however note that Spinoza comes rather late into
unless the thing exists."8 This principle is basic to all of Spin­ the possession of his "axiom." Nor, furthermore, does he give it
ozism. Once proved it leads to the equality of two powers. The in the fullest form which would imply strict equality between the
first part of the formula is, it is true, difficult to prove, if one does two powers. Further still. he presents as an axiom a proposition
not assume the existence of God. But the second is easily pro\·cd. that he knows to be in part demonstrable. But there is a reason
An idea that was not the idea of some cxisting thing would not for all these ambiguities. The equality of powers is all the better
be distinct at all, would not be the idea of this or that. Or, to demonstrable if one begins with an already existing God. So that
givc a better proof: To know is to know by the cause, so that noth- as he advances to a more perfect formulation of this equality,

86 8,

Spinola ceases to use it 'to establish God's existence a posteriori; sion of the a posteriori proof which is related to Descartes's sec­
he reserves it for another use, another domain. The equality of ond argument, if only as an implicit criticism of it, and as its
powers will in fact play a fundamental role in Book Two of the reworking. Spinol.a attacks those who imagine that the more that
EthiCS; but that role is to be the decisive factor in the demon­ belongs to a thing, the more difficult it is to produce.12 But he
stration of parallelism, once God's existence is alr¥ldy proved. goes farther than he had gone in the PrinCiples. The exposition
One should not, therefore, be surprised that the a posteriori there left out what was most important: existence, whether pos­
proof of the Ethics should differ in kind from t'hat of the Short sible or necessary, is itself power; power is Mentieal to essence itself.
Treatise and the Correction of the Understanding. It is still based on It is just because essence is power that possible existence (in a
power. But it no longer proceeds via the idea of Cod, or a corres­ thing's essence) is not the same as a "pOSSibility." The Ethics pre­
ponding power of thinking, to an infinite power of existing. It sents, then. the following argument: ( I ) The capacity to exist (that
proceeds directly within existence, via the power of existing. The is, the possible existence involved in the essence of a finite thing)
Ethics thus follows suggestions already proposed by Spino1.a in the is a power; (2) Now, a finite being already exists necessarily (by
reworked version in the PrinCiples. There Spinol.a set out the first virtue of some external cause which determines its existence);
Cartesian proof without commentary or emendation, but the sec­ ( 3 ) If absolutely infinite Being did not itself exist necessarily,
ond proof was thoroughly reworked. Spino1.a violently took issue it would have less power than finite beings. which is absurd;
with Descartes's use of the word "easy," and proposed a thor­ (4) But the necessary existence of the absolutely infinite cannot
oughly different argument: 1. The more something has of real­ obtain by virtue of an external cause; so that it is through itself
ity or perfection. the more existence does it involve (possible that the absolutely infinite being necessarily exists.1J Thus based
,existence corresponding to finite degrees of perfection, or nec­ on the power of existing. the a posteriori proof leads to a new a
essary existence corresponding to infinite perfection); 2. What­ priari proof: the more reality or perfection that belongs to the
ever has the power (potentia or vis) to preserve itself, requires no nature of some thing, the more power does it havc. that is, the
cause of its existence to "exist pOSSibly," or even "necessarily." morc forces tending to its existence (virium . . . ut existat); "Cod
Whatever has the power to preserve itself thus exists necessar­ therefore has, ofhimsclf, an absolutely infinite power of existing.
ily; 3. I am imperfect, and so have no necessary existence, and For that reason he exists absolutely."'�
have not the power to preserve myself; I am preserved by some­
thing else, something else that must necessarily have the power
to preserve itself, and must therefore exist necessarily. l l Spin07.3's argument from power thus has two aspects. one relating
I n the Short Treatise there i s n o trace of Descartes's second to his criticism of Descartes's first proof, the other to criticism
argument; the first is retained but proved in an altogether dif­ of the second. But we should look in each case, and especially
ferent way. In the EthiCS, on the other hand, there remains no in the second. which represents the definitive state of Spino1.a's
trace of the first (because the argument from powers is now thought, for the implications of the argument. A power of exist­
reserved for a better use). But one does find in the Ethics a ver- ing is attributed to a finite being as identical to its essence. Of

88 8,
T H IE T IiI ' A O S O F S U 8 S T A N C IE P O W E ll

course a finite being exists not by its own essence or power, but lutely infinite power o f thinking, identical with its objective
by virtue of some external cause. It has nevertheless its own essence, and for the attribution to ideas of a power of knowing.
power of existing, even though this power necessarily only be­ identical with the objective essence that respectively defines them.
comes effective under the action of external things. Yet another It is in this sense that finite beings are conditioned. being neces­
reason to ask: On what condition do we attribute to a finite sarily modifications of substance or modes of an attribute. Sub­
being, which does not exist through itself, a power oj existing and stance is as it were the unconditioned totality, because it possesses
acting identical to its esscnce?15 Spino1.a's reply �vould appear to or fulfills a priori the infinity of conditions. Attributes are condi­
be as follows: We affirm this power of a finite being to the extent tions common to substance which possesses them collectively and
that we consider this being as part of a whole, as a mode of an to modes which imply them distributively. As Spino1.a says, it is
attribute. a modification of a substance. This substance itself thus only by human attributes (goodness. justice. charity and so on)
has an infinite power of existing, all the more power the more that God "communicates" to human creatures the perfections they
attributes it has. And the same reasoning applies to the power of possess. IS It is, on the other hand. through his own attributes that
thinking: we attribute to a distinct idea a power of knowing. but God communicates to all creatures the power proper to each.
this to the extent that we consider this idea as part of a whole, The Political Treatise presents an a posteriori proof akin to those
as a mode of the attribute Thought, a modification of a thinking given in the PrinCiples and the Ethics. Finite beings do not exist
substance that itselfhas an infinite power of thinking. 16 and are not preserved by their own power. but are dependent for
It now appears more clearly how the a posteriori proof of the their existence and preservation on a being able to preserve itself
Ethics leads to a proof a priori. One has only to recognize that God, and to exist through itself. Thus the power by which a finite being
having all attributes, fulfills, a priori, all the conditions for a power exists. is preserved, and acts, is the power of God himself.19 One
to be asserted of some thing: he thus has an "absolutely infinite" might imagine that such an argument tends in some respects to
power of existence. exists "absolutely" and through himself. We suppress any power proper to creatures. But this is not at all the
furthermore see how God, having as one attribute Thought, also case. All of Spino1.ism agrees in conferring on finite beings a
has an absolutely infinite power of thinking, 17 Attributes seem power of existence, action and perseverance; and the very con­
in all this to have an essentially dynamic role, Not that they are text of the proof in the Political Treatise that things
themselves powers, But, taken collectively, they are the condi­ have their own power, identical with their essence and constitu­
tions for the attribution 1'0 absolu"te substance of an absolutely tive of their "right:' Spinou does not mean that a being that does
infinite power of existing and acting. identical with its formal not exist of itself has no power; he means that it has no power of
essence. Taken distributively they are the conditions for the attri­ its own except insofar as it is part of a whole. that is, part of the
bution to finite beings of a power identical with their formal power of a being that does exist through itself. (The whole a
essence, insofar as that essence is contained in this or that attri­ posteriori proof rests on this argument from the conditioned to
bute. On the other hand, the attribute of Thought is. taken in the unconditioned.) Spinoza says in the Ethics: man's power is
itself, the condition for assigning to absolute substance an abso- "part of the infinite power of God."lO But the part turns out to

90 9'
T H E T IiI I A O S Of' S U B S T A N C E P O W E ll

be irreducible, an original degree of power distinct from all'Oth­ The identity o f power and essence means: a power i s always an
ers. We are a part of the power of God, but this just insofar as act or. at least, in action. A long theological tradition had asserted
this power is "explicated" by our essence itself.II Participation the identity of power and act. not only in God, but in Nature.24
is always thought of by Spinoza as a participation of powers. But At the same time, a long tradition of materialism in physical the­
the participation of powers never does away with the distinction ory asserted the actual character of all power in created things
of essences. Spinola never confuses the essence of a mode with themselves: for the distinction of power and act, potentiality and
an essence of substance: my power remains rr:y own essence, actuality, \vas substituted the correlation of a power ofacting and
God's power remains his own essence, while my power is at the a power of being acted on or suffering action, both actual)5 The
same time part of the power ofGod ,11 two currents meet in Spinoza, one relating to the essence of sub­
How can this be so? How can a distinction of essences be rec­ stance. the other to the essence of modes. For in Spinozism all
onciled with a participation of powers? I f the power or essence power bears with it a corresponding and inseparable capacity to
of God can be "explicated" by a finite essence, this is because be affected. And this capacity [0 be Oiffected is always. necessar­
attributes are forms common to God whose essence they consti­ ily, exercised. To potentia there corresponds an apdtudo or potesws;
t'ule, and finite things whose essences they contain. God's power but there is no aptitude or capacity that remains ineffective, and
divides and explicates itself in each attribute according to the so no power that is not actual,26
essences comprised in that attribute. Thus the part-whole rela­ A mode's essence is a power; to it corresponds a certain capac­
tion tends to merge with the mode-attribute, modification-substance ity of the mode to be affected. But because the mode is a part of
relation. Finite things are parts of the divine power because they Nature. this capacity is always exercised. either in affections pro­
<Ire modes of God's attributes. But the reduction of "creatures" duced by external things (those affections called passive). or in
to the status of modes. far from taking away their own power, affections explained by its own essence (called active). Thus the
shows rather how a part of their power properly belongs to them. distinction between power and act, on the level of modes, dis­
along with their essence. The identity of power and essence is appears in favor of two equally actual powers, that of acting. and
to be asserted equally (under the same conditions) of modes and that of suffering action. which vary inversely one to the other,
substance. These conditions are the attributes, through which but whose sum is both constant and constanlly effective. Thus
substance possesses an omnipotence identical to its essence. Spin01.a can sometimes present the power of modes as an invari·
And thus modes, implicating these same attributes that consti­ ani identical to their essence, since the capacity to be affected

tute God's essence are said to "explicate" or "express" cli\'ine remains fixed. and sometimes as subject to variation, since the
power.n Reducing things to modes of a single substance is not a power of acting (or force of existing) "increases" and "diminishcs"
way of making them mere appearances, phantoms. as Leibni1. according to the proportion of active affections contributing to
believed or pretended to believe, but is rather the only way, the exercise of this power at an)' moment)7 It remains that a
according to Spino7..1 , to make them "n,!lural" beings. endowed mode. in any Case. has no power that is not actual: it is at each
with force or power. moment all that it can be. its power is its essence.

,2 9l

T H I'; T A I A C S OF S U 8 S T A N C E "OWER

The essence o fsubstance. a t the other extreme, is also power. o posteriori approach only proVides us with an access to a deeper
This absolutely infinite power of existence carries with it a capac­ a priori approach. The essence of absolutely infinite substance is
ity to be affected in an infinity of ways. But in this case the omnipotence. since substance possesses a priori all the conditions
capacity to be affected can be exercised only by active affections. for the attribution of power to some thing. But if it be true that
How could absolutely infinite substance have a power of suffer­ modes. by virtue of their power, exist only in their relation to
ing action, since this obviously presupposes a limitation of its substance. then substance. by virtue of its power. exists only
power of action? Substance. being omni�tent in and through in its relation to modes: it has an absolutely infinite power of
itself, is necessarily capable of an infinity of affections. and is the existence only by exercising in an infinity of things. in an infin­
active cause of all affections of which it is capable. To say that ity of ways or modes, the capacity to be affected corresponding
the essence orGod is power, is to say that God produces an infin­ to that power.
ity of things by virtue of the same power by which he exists. He Spinou hereby leads us to a final triad of substance. Setting
thus products them by uisting. Cause of all things "in the same out from the arguments from power. the discovery of this triad
sense" as cause of himself. he produces all things in his attributes. occupies the whole concluding section of Part One of the Eth­
since his attributes constitute at once his essence and his exist­ in. It takes the following form: the essence of substance as an
ence. It is not enough. then. tq say that God's power is actual: it absolutely infinite power of existing; substance as ens realisrimum
is necessarily active. it is act. God's essence cannot be his power existing of itself; a capacity to be affected in an infinity oj ways.
without an infinity of things proceeding from it. and this pre­ corresponding to this power. and necessarily exercised in affec­
Cisely in the attributes that constitute it. So that modes are also tions of which substance is itself the active cause. This thim triad
the affections of God. but God never suffers the activity of his takes its place alongSide the previous two. It does not correspond.
modes; his only affections are active.28 like the first. to the necessity of a substance with all attributes;
Every essence is the essence of some thing. One should there­ nor, like the second. to the necessity that such a substance should
fore distinguish between essence as power. that of which it is the exist absolutely. It corresponds rather to the necessity that this
essence. and the corresponding capacity to be affected. That of substance should produce an infinity of things. And it does not
which an essence is the essence is always a quantity of reality or merely serve to allow our passage from substance to modes, but
perfection. But a thing has the greater reality or perfection. the communicates itself to or applies to these. So that modes them­
greater the number of ways in which it can be affected: me quan- selves present us with the following triad: a mode's essence as a
lity of reality is always orounded in a power identicol to an essence. power; an existing mode defined by its quantity of reality or per­
The 0 posteriori proof sets out from the power proper to finite fection; the capacity to be affected in a orear number of ways. Thus
beings: one seeks the condition of a finite being haVing a power. Part One of the Ethics may be seen as the unfolding of three triads.
and rises from this to the unconditioned power of absolutely infi­ which all find in expression their principle: those of substance.
nite substance. For the essence of a finite being is only a power of absolute and of power.
in relation (Q a substance of which this being is a mode. But this


Para l l e l i s m a n d I m manence


Ex pression in Para l l e l i s m

Why does God produce anything at all? The problem of a suffi­

cient reason for the production of things does not disappear in
Spinozism, but rather gains in urgency. For God's nature is, as
natura naturans, in itself expressive. This expression is so natu­
ral, or essential, to God. that it does not merely reOect a ready­
made God, but fonns a kind of unfolding of divinity, a logical and
genetic constitution of divine substance. Each attribute expresses
a fonnal essence: all fonnal essences are expressed as the absolute
essence of a Single identical substance whose existence necessar­
ily follows: this existence is thus itself expressed by the attributes.
These are the very moments of substance; expression is, in God,
his very life. So that one cannot say God produces the world, uni­
verse or natura naturata, in order to express himself. For not only
must the sufficient reason necessitate the result, ruling out any
argument from finality, but God expresses himselfin himself, in
his own nature. in the attributes that constitute him. He has no
"need" to produce, lacking nothing. We must take literally a
metaphor used by Spinoza to show that the world he produces
adds nothing to God's essence: when a workman sculpts heads
and chests, and then joins a chest to a head, this addition adds
nothing to Ihe essence o f the head . l This maintains the same

E X P II E S S I O N 1"1 P A " A L L E L I S '"
P A q A L L E L I S", A N O ' ''' ',H� N E N C E

having seen that God, God's understanding, and the things he

essence. the same expression. I f God expresses himself in himself.
understands. were one and the same thing, he means at once that
the universe can only be a second degree of expression. Substance
God's understanding is the scientia he has of his own nature, and
already expresses itself in the attributcs that constitute natura
that this knowledge comprises an infinity of things that neces­
naturom. but attributes in their tum express themsekes in modes,
sarily result from this nature."
which constitute natura naturata. Still more reason to ask: Why
But why does God understand himself? Sometimes Spinoza
this second level? Why does God produce a mOJlal universe?
presents the proposition as a sort ofaxiom.S The axiom derives
from Aristotelian conceptions: God thinks himself, is himself the
object of his thought, his knowledge has no other object than
To account for production a priori. Spinoza adduces the initial
himself. Such is the principle opposed to the idea of a divine
argument that God acts, or produces, as he understands himself
understanding that thinks "poSSibles." And many commentators
(seipsum intellioit); understanding himself necessarily, he acts nec­
had assembled convincing arguments to show how Aristotle's
essarily.2 His second argument appears sometimcs to depend on
God, thinking himself, thereby also thinks all the other things
the first. sometimes to be distinct and complementary. God pro­
that necessarily result from him: the Aristotelian tradition thus
duces as he exists; necessarily existing. he necessarily produces)
tends toward a theism, sometimes even toward a pantheism,
What is the sense of the first argument? What does "under­
which identifies knower, knowledge and known (the Hebrews
stands himself" mean? God does not conceive in his understand­
invoked by Spino;r.a were Jewish Aristotelians).
ing possibilities. but understands the necessity of his own nature.
Yet Spinoza's theory of the idea of God is too original to be
Infinite understanding is not the locus of the possible, but the
form of the idea that God necessarily has of himself or of his own
based on a mere axiom or an appeal to some tradition. That God
understands himself should follow from the necessity of the
cs�ence. The scientia of God is not a science of the possible, but
divine nature.6 The notion of expression plays here a decisive
the knowledge> God has of himself and of his own nature. Under­
role. In his self-expression, God understands himself insofar as he
standing, then, is to be opposed to conceiving something as pos­
expresses himself. In expressing himself formally in his attributes
sible. Understanding is thus the deduction of properties from
he understands himself objectively in an idea. God's essence,
what one apprehends as necessary. Thus. from the definition of
expressed in the attributes as formal essence, is expressed in ideas
the circle, we deduce various properties that really follow from
as objective essence. Thus Spinoza. from the definition of attri­
this definition. God understands himself; an infinity of proper­
' bute on, invokes an understanding capable ofperceiving. Not that
ties follow, which fall. necessarily, within the divine understand-
the attribute is "attributed" by understanding: the word "per­
ing. God in understanding his own essence produces an infinity
ceiving" sufficiently indicates that understanding grasps nothing
of things. which resull from it as profXrties result from a definition.
that is nOt in Nature. But as expressing the essence of substance.
One sees in this argument how modes are assimilated to logically
attributes are necessarily referred to an understanding that under­
necessary properties that follow from the essence of God as this
stands them objectively, that is. perceives what they express. Thus
is understood. When Spino;r.a congratulates certain Hebrews for

the idea of God is seen to be grounded in the divine nature itself: unh'ocal or common fonns, predicated. in the same form, of crea­

because God has u his nature an infinity of attributes, each of tures and cre,nor. products and producer, formally constituting

which "expresscs" an infinite essence, it follows from this expres­ the essence of one, formally containing the essence of the oth­

sive nature that God understands himself and, understanding ers. The principle of necessary production thus reflects a dou­

himself, produces all the things that "fall" within an infinite ble univocity. A unil'ocity of cause: God is cause of all things in

understanding.7 Expressions are always explic.ations. But the the same sense as he is cause of himself. A univocity of attributes:
explications of the understanding are only perceptions. It is not God produces through and in the same attributes that constitut'e

understanding that explicates substance. but the explications of his essence. So Spin01.3 pursues a constant polemic: he never tires

substance refer necessarily to an understanding that understands of showing the absurdity of a God producing things through moral

them. God necessarily understands himself, just as he explicates attributes such as goodness, justice or charity, or indeed through

or expresses himself. human attributes such as understanding and will.

Let us consider the second argument: God produces as he Suppose, by analOfJ! with man, that understanding and will

exists. Modes are here no longer assimilated to logical proper­ were attributes of God himself.' This would not get us very far.

ties, but rather to physical affections. The independent develop­ for we would be attributing understanding ilnd will to God only

ment of this line of argument is thusgrounded in power: the more equivocally: because of the distinction of divine and human

power a thing has. the more it can be affected in a great number essence, divine and human understanding and will share a "com­

of ways; but we have proved, either a posteriori or a priori, that munity of name" only, like dog-star and barking dog-animal.

God has an absolutely infinite power of existence. God therefore Numerous absurdities follow, according to which God must con­

has the ability to be affected in an infinity of ways. a potestas that tain eminently the perfections through which he produces crea­

corresponds to his power or potentia. This ability is necess.trily tures . 1. From the viewpoint of understanding, God will be said

exercised, but this cannot be by affections which come from to be "omnipotent" precisely because he is "unable" to create

something other than God; thus God necessarily and acti\1!ly pro­ things with perfections as he understands them, that is, in the

duces an infinity of things which affect him in an infinity of ways. same form as they belong to him. So one purports to demon­

That God should necessarily produce things tells us also how strate the omnipotence of God through an impotence.9 2. From

he produces. Understanding himself as a substance composed of the viewpoint of will, it will be said that God might have willed

an infinity of attributes. existing as a substance composed of an otherwise, or that things might have been of another nature had

infinity of attributes, God acts as he understands and as he exists, ' God so willed. God is attributed will, it is made his essence:

this then in these attributes that express at once his essence and but i t is supposed at the same time thilt he might have had a

existence. He produces an infinity of things, "in an infinity of different will, and so a di fferent essence (unless divine will be

modes." That is: The things produced have no existence outside made a pure thing of reason. in which case the contradictions

the attributes that contain them. Attributes are univocal condi­ are only increased); this allows the supposition of two or more

tions of God's existence, and also of his action. Attributes are possible gods. So that here variability and plurality are intro-

'0' 'O J
E X P ", 1£ 5 S I O N I N P " ", " L L E L I S '"

duced into God, to demonstrate his eminence.lO all attributes designate substance as one and the same thing.
I have simplified Spin01.a's criticisms. But I belic\'e that when­ The traditional distinction between the sense expressed and the
ever he attacks the image of a God essentially endowed with object designated (and expressing itself in this senseb) thus finds
understanding and will, he is developing the critical implications in Spinozism direct application. The distinction necessarily gen­
of his theory o f univocity. 1·le wants to show that understanding erates a certain movement of expression. For the sense of an ini­
and will can only be considered attributes of God by analogy. But tial proposition mus� in its turn be made the desinnatum of a
analogy is unable to conceal the equivocation from which it sets second, which will itself have a new sense, and so on. Thus the
out. or the eminence to which it leads. And the eminence of per­ substance they deSignate is expressed in the attributes. attributes
fections in God involves, like equivocal attributes, all sortS of con­ express an essence. Then the attributes are in their turn ex­
tradiction. To God are attributed only those forms that are as pressed: they express themselves in modes which designate them.
perfect in the creatures in which they arc implicated. as in God the modes expressing a modification. Modes are truly "particip­
who understands them. God does not produce things because he ial" propositions which derive from the primary infinitive ones.
wills, but because he is. He does not produce because he con­ Thus expression, through its own movement. generates a sec­
ceives. conceives things as possible, but because he understands ond level of expression. Expression has within it the sufficient
himself, necessarily understands h�s own nature. In short God reason of a re-expression. This second level defines production
acts " by the laws of his nature alone": he could not have produced itself: God is said to produce things, as his attributes find expres­
anything else. or produced things in a different order. except by sion.C So that in the last instance it is always God who. but for

having a different nature.1 I It may be noted that Spi oza hardly the different le\'e\ of expression. is deSignated by all things. Attri­
needs. in general. to denounce the incoherence of the Idea of cre­ butes deSignate God, but so also do modes, within the attribute
ation directly. He has only to ask: How docs God produce things. on which they depend. "Some of the Hebrews seem to have
in what conditions? The very conditions of production render it seen this. as if through a cloud. when they maintained that God.
different from a creation. and "creatures" different from crea­ God's understanding. and the things understood by him are one
tions. As God produces necessarily. and within his own attributes. and the same."12
his productions are necessarily modes of these attributes that There is an order in which God necessarily produces things.
constitute his nature. This order is that of the expression of attributes. Each attribute
is first expressed in its absolute nature: an immediate infinite
mode is thus the first expression of an attribute. Then the mod­
The logic of expression seems to be one of duplication Spi o a
�� ified attributc expresses itself, in a mediate infinitc mode. Finally
is too careful a grammarian to allow us to miss the lingUistic the attribute is expressed "in a certain and detenninate way," or
origins of "expression." AHributes arc. as we have seen. n mes: � rather in an infinity of ways which amount to finite existing
verbs rather than adjecti\'es. Each attribute is a verb. a pnmary modes. If This last level would remain inexplicable did not infi­
infinitive proposition. an expression with a distinct sense; but nite modes. within each attribute. contain in them the laws or

P"''' ''' L I,. E I,. . S ", ... N O . ... ... ... N E N C E E l< P R E S S I O N I N P"''' ''' I,. I,. E I,. I S '''

the principles or the laws according 1'0 \�'hi«h corresponding finite betwecn his own doctrine and apparently similar doctrines (occa.
modes are themselves d�termined and ordered. sional causality, ideal causAlity). Spinou never seems to have
Ir there is an order or production. it is the same ror all attri­ admitted the action of a rea] causality to account for the rcla­
butes. For God produces things concomitantly in all the attributes tion between modes ofdifferent attributes.
that constitute his nature. So that the attributes express them­ Lfhe principles abovc leAd to a result in which may be recog­
selves in onc and the same order, down to the.level of finite nizcd Spino1.a's first formulation of parallelism: there is an identity
modes. which must have the same order in different attributes. oj order or correspondence between modes or different attributes.
This identity of order defines a correspondence of modes: to any One may indeed call "parallel" two things or two series of things
mode of one attribute there necessarily corresponds a mode of which bear to each other a constant relation, such that there is
each of the other attributes. This identity of order excludes any nothing in one to which there corresponds nothing in the other,
relation of real causality. Attributes are mutually irreducible and while all real causality between thcm is excluded. But one should
really distinct; none is cause of another, or of anything whatever be wary of the word "parallelism," which is not Spinoza's. I t
in another. Modes therefore invoh'e the concept or their own seems to b e a creation of Leibniz's, who employs it on his own
attribute alone. and not that ofany other.14 The identity of order account to deSignate such a correspondence between autono­
and the correspondence between modes or different attributes mous or independent series. 17 So we should not imagine that
therefore excludes any relation or real causality between these identity of order is enough to identify Spinoza's system; there is
modes, as between their attributes. And on this point there is no a sense in which it is found in more or less all doctrines that
serious reason to believe any change occu" in Spin07.a·s thought: refuse to interpret correspondences in terms of real causality. If
the famous passages of the Short Treatise in which Spinoza speaks the word "parallelism" does adequately characterize Spinoza's
ofan action of one attribute on another. ofan effect of one attri­ philosophy, it does so by itself implying something beside a mere
bute in another. an interaction between modcs of different identity of order. something beside a correspondence. And it does
attributes, should not it seems be interpreted in terms of real so also because Spin07.a is not satisfied with this correspondence
causality. 15 The context specifies that two attributes (Thought or this identity as dcfinition of thc link that unites modes of
and Extcnsion) act onc on another when they are "taken to­ different attributes �
gether." or that twO modes of different attributcs (soul and body) Thus Spinoza gh'es two further formulations that extend the
act one on another to the cxtent that they form "parts ofa whole." first: identity oj connection or equality oj principle, identity oj being
Nothing in this really goes beyond the assertion of corrcspond- , or ontological unity. The specifically theory is stated thus:
cnce: ir two things are parts of a whole. nothing can change in "One and thc same order, that is, one and thc same connection
onc without there being some corresponding change in the other. of causes, i.e., that the same things follow one another."ls One
and neithcr thing can change without the wholc itself changing. 16 should certainly be in no haste to consider order and connection
One may at most see in these passages the stamp of a phasc in (connexio or concotenatio) as strictly synonymous. What is certain
which Spinoza had not yet sufficiently cxpressed the diffcrencc is that in the passage just cited. the assertion of an identity of

,0<; ,.,


being amounts to something more than a mere identity of con­ word suits his system, as he does suppose the equality of the prin­
nection; so that it appears likely that connection already invoh'es ciples from which independent and corresponding series follow.
something more than order. And indeed. identity of connection Here again one sees well enough the nature of his polemical
means not only the autonomy of corresponding series. but an intent. By his strict parallelism Spin0703 refuses any analogy. any
isonomy. that is. an equality of principle between autonomous eminence, any kind of superiority of one series over another. and
or independent series.d Consider two corresponding series. but "'ny ideal action that presupposes a preeminence: there is no more
with unequal principles. that of one being in some way eminent any superiority of soul over body. than of the attribute of Thought
in relation to that of the other: between a solid and its projec­ over that of Extension. And the third formulation of parallelism.
tion, a line and an asymptote. there is indeed an identity of order th"'t which asserts identity of being. goes e\'Cn further in the same
or correspondence. but not. strictly speaking. an "identity of direction: the modes of different anributes have not only the
connection." The points of a curve are not linked together (con­ same order and the same connection. but the same being; they
cotenontur) in the same way as those of a straight line.c In such are the somt things, distinguished only by the attribute whose con­
cases one can speak of parallelism only in a very vague sense. cept they involve. Modes of different attributes are one and the
"Parallels." in the strict sense. require an equality of principle same modiflcation. differing only in attribute. Through this iden­
between the two corresponding sellies of points. When Spinoza tity of being or ontological unity, Spino...... refuses the interven­
asserts that modes of different attributes have not only the same tion of a transcendent God to make each term in one series agree
order, but also the came connection or concatenation. he means with a term in the other. or even to set the series i.n agreement
that the principles on which they depend are themselves equal. through their unequal principles. Spinoza's doctrine is rightly
Already in the passages of the Short Treatise, if two attributes or named "parallelism." but this because it excludes any analogy.
twO modes of different attributes are "taken together." this is any eminence, any transcendence. Parallelism, strictly speaking,
because they form equal parts or halves of a whole. Parallelism is to be understood neither from the viewpoint of occasional
is given its strict sense by the equality of attributes. which guar­ causes. nor from the viewpoint of ideal causality. but only from
antees that the connection is the same between things whose the viewpoint of an immanent God and immanent causality.
order is the same. The essence of expression is in play in all this. For the rel",­
Leibnil then. coins the word "parallelism." but invokes it for
.• tion of expression goes beyond the relation of causality: it applies
his own purposes in a very general and hardly satisfactory manner: to independent things. and to autonomous series which have. no
Leibniz's system does indeed imply a correspondence between ' less than these. a determinate correspondence, constant and reg­
autonomous series. substances and phenomena. solids and pro­ ular. If Spinoza's philosophy and that of Leibniz have a natural

jections; but the principles of these series are Singularly u equal. line of engagement,f it is to be found in the idea of expression.
(One may add that Leibniz. when he speaks more exactly, Invokes in their respective use of this idea. And we will see that Leibniz's
the image of projection rather than that of parallels.) Spin0703. "expressive" model is always that of asymptote or projection.
on the other hand. does not use the word "parallelism." yet the The expressive model that emerges in Spinoza's theory is quite

'08 '0'

different: a "parallelist" model. i t implies the equality o f two other ontologically. Every
mode is the fonn o fa mo
dification in
things that express the same third thing. and the identity of this an attribute. every modifi
cation the bei ng in itse
lf of mo des
third thing as expressed in the other two. The idea of expression differing in attribute (being
in itself is not here opposed
in Spino?a at once brings together and grounds the three aspects to a being
for us, but to a formal bein
g)_ Their correlation may
be stated
of parallelism . thus: modes differing in attr
ibute express one and the
same mod­
Parallelism characterizes modes, and modes alOhe. But it is ification, but this mo difi
cation has no existence
outside the
grounded in substance and the attributes of substance. God pro­ modes expressing it in diff
erent attributes. Whenc
e a formula­
duces things in all attributes at once: he produces them in the tion presented by Spinoza
himself as obscure: "God
is really the
same order in each. and so there is a correspondence between cause of things as they are
i.n themselves (ut in St sunt),
insofar as
modes of different attributes. But because attributes are really he consists of an infinity
of attributes_h For the pre
sent, , cannot
distinct this correspondence. or identity of order. excludes any explain these matters mo
re clearly."" "'n itself" obV
iously does
causal action of one on another. Because the attributes are all not mean that the things
produced by God are sub
stances. The
equal. there is an identity of connection between modes differing res in $t is substantial modification
; but God does not produc
in attribute. Because attributes constitute one and the same sub­ this modification outside e
the modes that express
it in all attri­
stance, modes that differ in attribute fonn one and the same mod­ � �
butes at o ce. W see the
triad of substance. then.
extending to
ification. One may in a sense see in this the triad of substance a modal tnad (attnbute-m
ode-modification). And
this is precisely
"descending" into the attributes and communicating itself to the how SPI.n07.a . demonstrates parallelism
in the Scholium to 11.7
modes.• Substance expressed itself in attributes. each attribute Just as one and the sam :
e substance is "compreh
was an expression, the essence of substance was expressed. Now � �� �
ifferent a t ibutes. ne
and the same thing (mo
ended" ; under
dification) is
each attribute expresses itself, the dependent modes are expres­ expressed . In all attnbut
es; as this thing has no exis
tence out­
sions, ilnd a modification is expressed. It will be recalled that the side the modes that exp
ress it in each attribute.
modes differing
essence they expressed had no existence outside the attributes. in attribute have the sam
e order, the same connec
tion, and the
but was expressed as the absolute essence of substance, the same same being in themselves.
for all attributes. The same applies here: a modification has no
existence outside the mode that expresses it in each attribute.
but it is expressed as a modification of substance. the same for 1

all modes differing in attribute. One and the same modification

is thus expressed in the infinity of attributes in "an infinity of
modes." which differ only in attribute. Importance must there­
fore be attached to the tenns "mode" and "modification." In prin­
ciple, a mode is an affection of an attribute. a modification an
affection of substance, Onc is to be understood formally, the


T h e Tw o P o w e r s a n d t h e I d e a o f G o d

Parallelism. then, seems easy to demonstrate. One need only

carry the unity of substance into modification. and the expres­
sive character of attributes into modes. the transposition being
grounded in the necessity of production (the second level of
expression). But when we consider Part Two, Proposition 7 as a
whole, we are disconcerted to find before us a far more complex
operation. Thus the text of Enuncia, Proof and Corollary docs
indeed assert an identity oforder. connection and even being. but
not between modes expressing the same modification in each
attribute. The triple identity is asserted only of ideas, which are
modes of Thought. and the thing they represent. which is a mode
of some attribute. Such parallelism is episumologica/: it is estab·
lished between an idea and its "object" (res idema. objectum ideQf!).
The Scholium. on the other hand. fol l ows the lines indicated
above : it deduces an ontoloaical parallelism between all modes
, differing in attribute. But it itself reaches this conclusion only by
way of the proof and corollary: it generalizes the case of an idea
and its object. extending it to all modes differing in attribute.1
Several questions arise. In the first place. assuming the two
parallelisms go together. why does one have to pass at the outset
through an "epistemological" detour? Is it only a detour? What

P"�"l l E l I S M .. NO I M M .. N E N C E T !-I E T W O " O W £ � S .. N O T !-I £ ' D E '" O F G O O

i s its sense and imporlance in the Elhics as a whole? Above all. as the order and connection o f things." The Proof is simple; it
arc the two parallelisms reconcilable? The epistemological view­ merely invokes the axiom that "The knowledge of an effect
point amounts to this: that given a mode in some attribute. there depends on, and involves, the knowledge of its cause." Which
corresponds to it in the attribute of Thought an idea that repre­ takes us back. in its turn. to the Aristotelian principle that to
sents it. and i t alone.1 Far from leading us to the unity of a know is to know by the cause. In Spinoza's perspective one de­
"modification" expressed by all modes in different attributes. duces: ( I ) To e\'ery idea there corresponds some thing (nothing
epistemological parallelism directs us rather to the simple unity can be known independently of a cause of its being. in essence
of an "individual" formed by the mode of a certain attribute and or in existence); (2) The order of ideas is the same as the order
the idea that represents solely this mode.! Far from leading us of things (a thing is known only b), knowledge of its cause).
to the unity of all modes differing in their attribute, it directs us But this specifically Spinoza's perspccti\'e involves more than
to the multiplicity of the ideas corresponding to modes of dif­ just Aristotle's axiom. How otherwise could we understand the
ferent attributes. In this sense. "psychophysical" parallelism is a fact that Aristotle and many others did not reach a theory of par­
particular case of epistemological parallelism: the soul is the idea allelism? Spinoza happily recognizes this: "We have shown that
of the body. that is to say. the idea of a certain mode of Exten­ a true idea is simple. or composed of simple ideas; that it shows
sion, and of this mode only. The epistemological viewpoint, then. how and wh), something is, or has been done; and that its objec­
may be stated thus: one and the same individual is expressed by tive effects proceed in the soul according to the fonnal nature
a given mode and by the corresponding idea. But the ontologi­ of its object. This is the same as what the ancients said, i.e., that
cal viewpoint thus: one and the same modification is expressed true knowledge proceeds from cause to effect - except that so far
by all corresponding modes differing in attribute. Of all Spinou's as I know they never conceh'ed the soul (as we do here) as acting
friends and diSCiples, it is Tschimhaus who best emphasizes the according to certain laws, like a spiritual automaton."s "Spir­
difficulty. recognizing that i t i s at the heart of the s),stem of itual automaton" means first of all that an idea. being a mode of
uprtssion.4 How may the two viewpoints be reconciled? This. thought, has its (efficient and fonnal) cause nowhere but in the
most particularly. since epistemology forces us to confer on the attribute of Thought. Equally, any object whatever has its effi·
attribute of Thought a Singular priVilege: the attribute must con­ cient and fonnal cause onl), in the attribute of which it is a mode.
tain as many irreducible ideas as there are modes of different attri· and whose concept it invoh'es. Here then is what sets Spino1.a.
butes; still more. as many ideas as there are attributes. This apart from the tradition leading down from Antiquit)': all effi­
privilege seems in flagrant contradiction with all the demand" cient or formal (and a fortiori material and final) causality between
of ontological parallelism. ideas and things, things and ideas. is excluded. This double exclu­
sion is not referred 10 an axiom, but is the object of proofs that
occupy the beginning of Part Two of the Ethics.6 Spinoza can thus
We must therefore examine the Proof and Corollary of Proposi­ assert the independence of the two series. the series of things and
tion 7 in detail: "The order and connection of ideas is the same the series of ideas. That to each idea there corresponds some

"4 '"
P .. II " l- l- E L I S '" A N D I ... ... .. N E N C E r "' E T W O P O W E If S " "' 0 T H E 1 0 E A O F G O O

thing is, in this context, an initial element of parallelism. ity of prin(jple: there are i n God two equal powers. I n Proposi­

But only an initial clement. For ideas to have the same con­ tion 7. the Corollary is linked to the Proof preCisely through the

nection as things, there must also be an idea corresponding to recognition of this equality of powers: "From this il follows that

each thing. We come back to two formulae of the Short Treatise: God's power of thinking is equal to his actual power of acting,"

"No idea can exist unless the thing also exists." but in turn Thus the argument from powers no longer serves to prove a
"There is no thing of which there is not an idea in Ihe thinking posteriori the existence of God, but plays a decisive role in deter.
thing."7 But. to prove that each thing is the object of an idea, we mining epistemological parallelism. It allows us to go farther still.

no longer run up against the difficulties that stopped us in the a and to assert an identit), of being between objects and ideas. This
posteriori proof. For now we start from an existent God. We know is the point of the Corollary: what follows fonnally (that is to say.

that this God understands himself: he fonns an idea of himself, in this or that attribute) from God's infinite nature, is the same

he possesses an infinite understanding. But it is enough for this as what follows objectively from the idea of God. One and the

God to undemand himself, to produce things .md, producing, same thing is formal in the amjbute on which it depends within

to understand all that he produces. the power of existing and acting. and objective in the idea of God

\!o the extent that God produces as he understands himself, on which it depends within the power of thinking. A mode of

all that he produces necessarily "falls'� within his infinite under­ an attribute and the idea of that mode are one and the same thing

standing. In understanding himself and his own essence. God expressed in two ways. under two powers. In the Proof and Cor­

also understands all that follows from his essence. So infinite ollary taken together we thus find once again the three moments

understanding understands all the attributes of God, as well as of parallelism: identity of order. identity of connection or equal­

all his affections.s Ideas that God forms arc ideas of his own i t y of principle, and identity of being. but here these apply only

essence. but are also ideas of all that he fomlally produces in his to the relations of an idea and its object.

attributes. There are thus as many ideas as there arc things. each
thing being the object of an idea. One calls a "thing," indeed.
anything that follows fonnally from the di"ine substance; things Spino1.a's God is a God who both is. and produces. all. like the

are explicated through that attribute of which they are a mode. One and All of the Platonists; but he is also a God who thinks

But as God understands all he produces, to each mode that fol­ both himself and everything. like Aristotle's Prime Mover. We

lows from an attribute there corresponds an idea in God's under­ must on the one hand attribute [0 God a power of existing and

standing. Thus ideas themselves now from the idea of God, just I acting identical to his formal essence, or corresponding to his

as modes follow or now from their respective attribute; the idea idea. But we must equally, on the other hand. attribute to him a

of God is thus the cause of all ideas. just as God is himself the power of thinking identical to his objective essence, or corres­

cause of all thin ponding to his nature. Now this principle of the equality of

10 e\'ery idea there corrcsponds some thing. and to eve')' thing powers merits close examination. because there is a danger of

an idea, It is just this theme that allows Spin07.a to assert an equal- confuSing it with another principle of equality. which concerns

,,6 "7

the attributes alone. Yet the distinction oj powers and attributes this nature itself. We know. i t is true, only two attributes. But we
has an essential importance in Spinorism. God, that is the absolutely also know that the power of existing is not the same as the attri­
infinite, possesses two equill powers: the power of existing and bute of Extension: ideas exist no less than bodies. and Thought
acting, and the power of thinking and knowing. If one may use is no less than Extension a form of existence or "genus." Nor, fur­
a Bergsonian formulation. the absolute has two "sides," twO thermore. do Thought and Extension taken together suffice to
halves. If the absolute thus possesses two powers. jt does so in exhaust or fulfill an absolute power of existing. We arrive here
and through itself. involving them in its radical unity. Such is not at the posith'e ground of God's infinity of attributes. In an impor­
the case with attributes. We know of only two. Extension and tant passage of the Short Treatirt. Spinoza asserts that "We find
Thought. but this because our knowledge is limited. because we in ourselves something which openly indicates to us not only
are constituted by a mode of Extension and a mode of Thought. that there are more. but also that there are infinite perfect attri­
The determination of the two powers is on the other hand in no butes"; unknown attributes "tell us that they are. though they
way relative to the limits of our knowledge. any more than it so far do not tell us what they are."u In other words: the very
depends on the nature of our constitution. The power of existing fact of our existence shows us that existence is not exhausted by
we assert of God is an absolutely infinite power: God exists the attributes we know. As infinite perfection does not bear its
"absolutely," and produces an infinity pf things in the "absolute reason within itself. God must have an infinity of infinitely per·
infinity" of his attributes (and so in an infinity of modes).!J Simi­ fect attributes, all equal to one another. and each constituting
larly. the power of thinking is absolutely infinite. Spin07.a. does not an ultimate Ot irreducible form of existence. We know that none
merely say that it is infinitely perfect; God thinks himself abso­ exhausts the absolute power of existing which belongs to God
lutely. and thinks an infinity of things in an infinity of modes.1o as sumcient reason.
Whence the expressions absoluta cogitatio to designate the power The absolutely infinite consists, first of all. of an infinity of
o f thinking, and inuJJectus absolute inJinilus to designate infinite formally or really distinct attributes. All attributes are equal.
understanding; and the thesis according to which an infinity of none being superior or inferior to any other. and each expres­
things in an infinity of modes follows (objectively) from the idea sing an infinitely perfect essence. All these formal essences are
of God.ll The twO powers ilre thus in no way relative: they are expressed by the attributes ilS the absolute essence of substance.
the halves of the absolute. the dimensions of the absolute, the are identified. that is. in ontologically Single substance. The fo,...
powers of the absolute. Schelling is a Spinozist when he devel­ mal essence is the essence of Cod as it exists in each attribute.
ops a theory of the absolute. representing God by the symbol "A}" , The absolute essence is the same essence, in relation to a sub·
which comprises the Real and the Ideal as its powers.n stance from which existence necessarily flows, a substance, then.
It may be asked: What are the conditions for asserting of God that possesses all attributes. Expression here appears as the rela­
an absolutely infinite power of existing and acting, corresponding tion of form and absolute: each form expresses. explicates or
to his nature? The conditions are that he should have an infinity unfolds the absolute. but the absolute contains or "complicates"
of formally distinct attributes which, taken together. constitute an infinity of forms. God's absolute essence is the absolutely

, ,'
T >i E T W O P O W E R S A N D T H E I D E A O F a D o

infinite power of existing and acting: but we only assert this but'e ofl-hought. Spin07.a docs indeed sometimes inquire into the

primary power as identical 10 the essence of God conditionally condition of the power of thinking or, which comes to the same

upon an infinity of formally or really distinct attributes. The thing, into the possibility of the idea of God: ror God to be able

powcr ofexisting and acting is thus absolute formal essence. And to think an infinity of things in an infinity of ways, for it to be

this is how the equality of attributes is to be understood: all possible for him to form an idea of his essence and of all that fol­

attributes are equal relative to this power of existing and acting lows from it, he must, and need only, have the attribute that is

that they condition.� Thought. 18 The attribute of Thought thus suffices to condition

But the absolute has a second power, as it were a second for­ a power of thinking equal to the power ofexisting, which is how­

mula or "period" of expression: God understands and expresses ever conditioned by all attributes ( including Thought). One

himself objectively. God's absolute essence is formal in the attri­ should not rush into attacking Spinoza's inconsistency. For one

butes that constitute his nature, and objective in the idea that only finds inconsistency by confUSing two very different princi­

necessarily represents this nature. The idea of Gad thus represents ples of equality in Spin07.a. On the one hand, all attributes are

all formally or really distinct attributes, to the extent that a dis­ equal: but this should be understood in relation to the power of

tinct soul or idea corresponds to each. 1. The same altributes that existing and acting. On the other hand, this power of existing is

are formally distinguished in God are objectively distinguished only one half of the absolute, the other half being a power of

in the idea ofCod. But this idea is nonetheless absolutely unitary, thinking equal to it: it is in relation to this second power that

like the substance constitutcd by all the attributes.1S Absolute the attribute of Thought enjoys cenain privileges. By itself it con­

objective essence is thus the second power of the absolute itself: ditions a power equal to that conditioned by all the other attri­

one cannot posit a being as cause of all things, without its objec­ butes. There does not seem to be any contradiction in this, but

tive essence also being the cause o f all ideas.16 God's absolute rather an ultimote Joct. A fact that in no way concerns our con­

essence is objectively the power of thinking and knowing, as it stitution or the limitations of our knowledge_ The ract rather of

is formally the power of existing and acting. Another reason to divine constitution or of the unfolding of the absolute. "The fact

ask, in this new instance: What are the conditions for altributing is" that no attribute suffices to fulfill the power of existing: a

10 God this absolutely infinite power of thinking, as identical to thing can exist and aCt, without being extended or thinking.

his objective essence? Nothing, on the other hand, can be known except by thought:

It is no more legitinwte to conJuse the attribute oj Thought with the power of thinking and knowing is indeed fulfilled by the

the power oj thinking, than /0 conJuse the attribute oj Extension with i attribute of Thought. There would be contradiction had Spinoza

the power oj exis/ina. And yet there is a passage of Spinoza's that first of all posited the equality or all attributes. and then. from

seems to say the express opposite, identifying the attribute of the same viewpoint. given to the attribute of Thought powers

Thought with the absoluta casitatio.n But Spinoi'.a goes on to spec­ and functions at "ariance with such equality_ But Spinoza does

ify the sense in which this identification should be understood: not proceed in this way: it is the equality of powers that confers

only that the power of thinking has as its sole condition the atITi- special capacities in a domain which is no longer that of the

". ,"
/ P ,", OI A L L E L I S M A N D I M ... .. N E N C E T H E TWO POWERS "' '''' 0 T H E ' D E '" O F G O O

equality of attributes. The atrribute oj Thought is to the power of identical with his objective essence, or corresponding to his idea.

thinking what al1 attributes (includiny Thousht) are fa the power oj The idea of God is thus an objective prinCiple. an absolute prin­

existing and actina_ ciple of all that follows objectively in God. But in its possibility
the idea of God is grounded only in the natura naturata to which
it belongs. It can be "formed" only in the attribute of Thought,
so. also. from finds i n the attribute of Thought the formal principle on which
Three consequences follow from the relation (and
and the attribute it depends. preCisely because this attribute is the condition of
the difference) between the power of thinking
d. by nature or asserting of God the absolutely infinite power of thinking. The
of Thought. First, the power of thinking is asserte
ive essence of distinction between the two viewpoints. that of necessity and that
participation. of all that is "objective." The object
and all that nows of possibility. seems to me to be of importance in the theory of
God is an absolutely infinite power of thinking;
. But objective being the idea ofGod.21 The nature of God, to which corresponds the
from that essence participates i n this power
power of existing and acting. is grounded in necessity and pos­
would amount to nothing did it not itself have a formal being in the
attribute of Thought. Not only the objective essence of what is pro­ sibility at once: its poSSibility is established by the formally dis­
es of attributes. and tinct attributes. and its necessity by these same attributes taken
duced by God. but also the objective essenc
t to the condition together, onto logically "one." The same does not apply to the
the objective essence of God himself, arc subjec
9 Thus the ideo of idea or God: its objective necessity is established in the nature of
of being "formed" in th'e attribute ofThought,L
The God. but its formal poSSibility in the single attribute ofThought
God is but a mode of Thought, and belongs to natura naturata.
strictly speaking, the to which. consequently, it belongs as a mode. It will be recalled
modes of the attribute of Thought are not.
ideas as such. Modes that divine power is always actual; but the power of thinking
objective essences or objective beings of
formal being. Thus corresponding to the idea of God would not, indeed. be actual,
or products are always ideas taken in their
first mode of Thought did not God produce infinite understanding as the formal being
Spinoza takes great care in giving to the
e understanding is of this ide;t. Infinite understanding is, i n addition. called the
the name of infinite understanding: for infinit
or other. but just the Son of God. the Christ.n Now in the barely Christian image of
not the idea of God from some viewpoint
and one must insist Christ as Wisdom. Word or Voice of God, proposed by Spin07.3.
formal being oflhe idea ofGod.20 It is true.
be nothing without this one may distinguish an aspect in which it agrees objectively with
on this point. that objective being would
of the attribute of the absolute nature of God. an aspect in which it formally nows
forma l being through which i t is a mode
potential, without this, from the divine nature regarded under the sole attribute of
Thought. Or, i f you like, it would be only
Thought.H So thai the queslion whether Spinou's God thinks
potentiality ever being actualized.
We must still distinguish two viewpoints:
in its neussity the himself in himself is a subtle onc, which may only be resolved if

natura naturons. For it belongs neces· we remember thai infinile understanding is only a mode.H For if
idea of God is grounded in
nature, to understand God has wisdom or knowledge, il is a knowledge of himself and
sarily to God. considered in his absolute
ute power of thinking of his own nature: jfhc necessarily understands himself, he does
hims elf. There attaches to him an absol

'" "1

so by virtue o f his own nature: the power o f thinking, and of ideas themselves. Thought will thus contain modes which, while
thinking himself, properly belongs to him, then, absolutely. But belonging to the same attribute, are nevertheless distinguished
this power would remain only potential did not God create in not modally. but fonnally or really. This privilege. once again,
the attribute of Thought the fonnal being of the idea in which would remain unintelligible. were it not for the introduction of
he thinks himself. Thus God's understanding does not belong to the special relation between the attribute of Thought and the
his nature, while the power of thinking does berong to that power of thinking. Obiterive formal distinction is the nteessary cor­
nature. God produces things as he objectively understands him­ relate in the idea of God of real formal distinction as it applies in the
self; but the process of understanding itself necessarily has the nature or God; it designates the act or infinite understanding
fonn of a product.2!> when it grasps diverse attributes. or corresponding modes of
Such is the first privilege of the attribute of Thought: it for­ diverse attributes.
mally contains modes that, taken objectively. represent th� attri­ I n the third place. everything that exists fonnally has an idea
butes themselves. This first privilege is not to be confused with that corresponds to it objectively. But the attribute of Thought
another, which nows from it. A mode that depends on a par­ is itself a fonn of existence. and every idea has a formal being in
ticular attribute is represented b): an idea in the attribute of this attribute. Therefore every idea is, in its turn, the object of
Thought: but a mode that differs from the first in attribute must an idea that represents it; this other idea is the object of a third,
be represented by another idea. For whatever participates, within and so on ad infinitum. In other words: if it be true that e\'ery
this or that attribute. in the power of existing and acting, also idea that participates in the power of thinking belongs fonnally
participates in the power of thinking. but always in the attribute to the attribute of Thought. then com'ersely, every idea that
of Thought. As Schuller says. "the attribute of Thought has a belongs to the attribute of Thought is the object of an idea that
much wider extension than the other attributes."26 Gi\'en a sub­ participates in the power of thinking. Whence this final appar­
stantial modification, it will be expressed only once in each of ent privilege of the attribute of Thought. which is the ground of
the other attributes, but an infinity of times in infinite under­ a capacity of ideas to renect themselves ad infinitum. Spino:r.a
standing. and, therefore. in the attribUl'e ofThoughtP And each sometimes says that the idea of an idea has 1'0 the idea the same
idea that expresses it in Thought will represent a mode of one relation as the idea to its object. This is surprising. insorar as idea
particular attribute, rather than of some other. So that there will and object are the same thing considered under two attributes.
be as great a distinction between ideas as between attributes while the idea of an idea and the idea itself would then be the
themselves or modes of different attributes: they will have "nO" same thing under the Same attribute.29 But object and idea are
connection."28 There will thus be an objective distinction be­ not rererred only to two attributes, but referred also to two pow­
tween ideas, equivalent to the real fomlal distinction between ers. the power or existing and acting, and the power of thinking
attributes, or modes differing in attribute. Furthennore. this dis· and knowing. [t is the same with an idea and the idea of that idea:
tinction between ideas will ilSelfbe objective and forma\. inso­ they are certainly referred 10 the same attribute, but are referred
far as it is brought inl'O relation with the formal being of the also to two powers. since the attribute of Thought is on the one

"4 ,,<
T H E TWO POWERS .. ... 0 THE tOE .. OF G O O
same thing (or modification). But i t might seem that the argu­
hand a form of existence. and on the other. the condition of the
ment should lead, not to the unity of a modification. but rather
power of thinking.
to an infinite and irreducible plurality of "idea-object" pairs.
Given this situation. one understands how the theory of the
The difficulty is only resolved by conSidering the complex sta­
idea of an idea develops in two different directions. For an idea
tus of the idea of God. From the viewpoint ofits objective neces­
and an idea of that idea may be distinguished insofar as we con­
sity. the idea of God is an absolute principle. with no less unity
sider (!J,.e one in its formal being. in relation to the power of
than absolutely infinite substance. From the viewpoint of its for­
existin�and\the other in its objective being. in relation to the
power of thinking the j Correction of the Understanding presents mal possibility, it is only a mode whose principle is to be found
in the attribute of Thought. Hence the idea of God is able to
the idea of an idea as another idea. distinct from the first. 30 But
communicate something of substantial unity to modes. Indeed,
every idea is, on the other hand. referred to the power of think­
ideas that now from the idea ofGod itself - that is to say. modes
ing: even its fonnal being is only the condition of its participa­
of thinking that belong to infinite understanding - will have a
tion in that power. From this viewpoint we see the unity of an
specifically modal unity. The same modification will thus find
idea and the idea of that idea, insofar as they are given in God
expression in an infinity of ways in God's infinite understand­
with the same necessity. by the same power of thinking.}' There is
consequently only a distinction of reason between the two ideas:
ing. Consequently. the objects represented by these ideas will be
objects differing only in attribute: like their ideas. they will
the idea of an idea is the fonn of that idea. referred as such to
express one and the same modification. A mode in some attri­
the power of thinking.
bute fonns, with the idea that represents it, an irreducible "indi­
vidual"; as does an ide.1 in the attribute ofThought together with
the object it represents. But this infinity of individuals corre­
The apparent contradictions of parallelism vanish once two very
spond to one another, in that they express a single modification.
different arguments are distinguished: that from powers and their
Thus the same modification exists not only in an infinity of
equality, and that from attributes and their equality. Epistemo­
modes. but in an infinity of individuals. each of which is consti­
logical parallelism follow5 from the equality of powers. Ontolog­
tuted by a mode and the idea of that mode.
ical parallelism follows from the equality of attributes (in relation
But why did we have to pass through epistemological paral­
to the power of existing). A difficulty does. however. remain. The
lelism? Why not deduce the unity of substantial modification
Scholium to 11.7 passes from epistemological to ontological par­
directly from the unity of substance? Because God produces
allelism. The transition is effected simply by generaIi7.a.tion''''
things in attributes that are fonnally or really distinct; attri­
understand the same concerning the other attributes." But what
butes are indeed expressive. but each finds expression on its own
account is to be given of this transition? From the fact that an
account, as an ultimate and irreducible form. Of course every­
object (in whatever attribute) and its idea (in the attribute of
thing leads one to think that production will benefit from a unity
Thought) are one and the same thing (or individual). Spinoza
deriving from substance itself. For. while each attribute finds
infers that correlative objects in all attributes are one and the

,,6 "7
expression on its own account, God nonetheless produces in all
attributes at once. Everything leads us then to expect that there
will be modes in different attributes expressing the same mod· E x pression and Idea
ification. Yet we have no absolute certainty in this matter. One
might even conceive as many worlds as there are attributes.
Nature would be one in substance, but multiple"in its modifica­
tions, what is produced in one attribute remaining absolutely dif­
ferent from what is produced in another. It is because of their
individual coherence. their specifiCity, that we are forced to seek
a separate ground of the unity of which they are capable. Kant
criticized Spinozism for failing to seek a specific principle of the
unity of the diverse in modes.J2 (He was thinking of the unity of Spinoza's philosophy is a "Logic." The nature and rules of this
modes in the same attribute. but the same problem arises with Logic constitute his Method. The question whether the Method
the unity of a modification relative to modes of different attri­ and Logic or the Correction oj the Understanding are retained in
butes.) But the objection seems unfounded. Spin07.a was perfectly the Ethics in their entirety is an important one. and can only be
aware of a particular problem in the unity of modes, and of the resolved by examining the Correction itself. The treatise consists
need to invoke novel principles to account for the transition trom or two distinct parts. The first concerns the end or Method or
substantial unity to modal unity. or Philosophy, the final end or thought: it deals primarily �ith
The idea of God provides just such a principle. through its the form or a true idea.I The second part is mainly concerned
dual aspect. In it one passes from the unity of substance. consti­ with the means or attaining this end; it deals with the content
tuted by all the attributes that express its essence, to the unity of or a true ideOl.2 The first part necessarily anticipates the second.
a modification comprehended in infinite understanding. but con­ since the end predetermines the means by which one attains it.
stituted by the modes that express it in each attribute. To the ques­ Each or these points must be analyzed.
tion: "Why are there not as many worlds as there are attributes The end or Philosophy, or the first part or Method, does nOt
of God?" Spinoza simply replies by referring the reader to the consist in our gaining knowledge or some thing. but i n gaining
Scholium to 11 .7.B And this text embodies, precisely, an argument knowledge or our power or understanding. Not or gaining knowl­
that turns on infinite understanding (whence the importancO'of edge or Nature. but gaining a conception or. and acquiring, a
the allusion to "some of the Hebrews"): God's understanding has
higher human nature.} Which is to say that Method, in its first
no less unity than divine substance, and so the things he under­ aspect. is essentially renexh'e: it consists solely in the knowledge
stands have no less unity than God himselr. of pure understanding. or its nature, its laws and its rorces.4
"Method is nothing but a renexive knowledge, or an idea or an
idea."s There is in this respect no difference between the EthiCS

, ,'
P ... R ... L L E L l S '" ... N D I ... ... ... N E N C E E � P R E S S I O N ... N D I D E ...

and the Correction oj the Understanding. The object of Method is to be mistaken.7 Form is. then, always the form ofsome
true idea
again the final end of Philosophy. Part Five of the Ethics describes we have. Just to have a true idea is enough for it to be
this end not as the knowledge of some thing, but as the knowl­ and to reflect its power of knowing; it is enough to know,
edge of our power of comprehension, of our understanding; from know that one knows.8 Hence Method presumes that
one has
it are deduced the conditions of beatitude,a which is the fUll actu­ some true idea or other. It presupposes an "innate force"
aliution of this power. Whence the title of Part Five; De Potentia understanding which cannot fail among all its ideas to have
at least
inteIJecws seu de Jibertate humana. one that is true.9 It is in no sense the end of Method to furnish
"Because Method is reflexive knowledge itself, this founda­ with such an idea, but rather to produce the "reflection"
of one
tion, which must direct our thoughts, can be nothing other than we have already, to make us understand our power ofknow
knowledge of what constitutes the Jorm of truth."6 In what does But in what does such reflection consist? Form is not in
this relation of form and reflection consist? Reflexive conscious­ eral opposed to content, but formal being to objective
or rep­
ness is the idea of an idea. We have seen that the idea of an idea resentative being: the idea of an idea is the idea in
its for m
is distinct from that idea itself. insofar as the latter is referred in independently of the object it represents. Thought is indeed
. lik �
its formal being to the power of existing. the former in its objec­ all attributes, autonomous; so modes of Thought. ideas,
tive being to the power of thinking. But; from another viewpoint, automata. That is to say, they depend in their formal
being on
an idea taken in its formal being already refers to the power of the attribute of Thought alone: here they are considered
thinking. The formal being of an idea is, indeed, its existence in relation to the object."IO So the form of an idea is oppose
d to its
the attribute of Thought. And this attribute is not only a kind of objective or representative content. But it is in no way
existence, but also the condition for ascribing to any thing a to some other content that the idea might itself be suppos
ed to
power of thinking, understanding and knowing. God has within possess independently of the object it represents. In
fact we
the attribute of Thought an absolutely infinite power of think­ should guard against a double mistake concerning both
the form
ing. An idea within the attribute of Thought has a determinate �
and the content of an idea. uppose we accept the definit
ion of
power of knowing or understanding. The power of understand­ truth as a correspondence of an idea with its object. This
ing that belongs to an idea is the power of thinking of God him· tainly tells us nothing of a true idea's form: so how
are we to
self insofar as it is "explicated" in this idea. It will thus be seen know whether an idea accords with its object? Nor does
it tell
that the idea of an idea is the idea considered in its form, insofar us anything of a true idea's content; for a true idea, on this
as it possesses a power of understanding or knowing (as part of nition, will have no more reality or internal perfection than
a false
the absolute power of thinking). So form and reflection are one. I I The conception of truth as correspondence gives
us no
implicated one in the other. definition, either formal or material, of truth; it proposes
a purely
Thus form is always the form of some idea we actually have. nominal definition, an extrinsic designatio"l, One may
And one must add that only truth has a form. Had falsity a form it think, then, that "clarity and distinctness" provides a better
would be impossible for us to take the false for the true. and so mination, that is, an internal characterization of truth as
it is pres-

'JO 'J'

ent in an idea. But i t does nothing of the sort. Taken in themselves so t o spcak, a means subordinate to an end. but also the means
clarity and distinctncss do indeed relatc an idea's content, but on which the reali7.ation of that end depends. It inquires: What
they relatc only to its "objective" or "representative" content. is an idea's content? That is, what makes an idea adequate?
They also relate to the form, but only to the form o "psycho­ �
logical consciousness" in the idea. They rhus allow us to recognize
a true idea, the very idea presupposed by the Method, but give us no Q\ true idea is, from thc viewpoint of its form, an idea of the idea; >'
knowledgc of the material content of that idea, nor of its logical from the vicwpoint of its matter i t is an adcquate idea. Just as
form. Moreover, clarity and distinctncss cannot take us beyond the idea of an idea is seen to be a rejlexive idea, an adequate idea
the duality ofform and content. Cartesian clarity is dual, rather is seen to be an expressive ideo. In Spinoza thc term "adequate"
than somc single thing. Descartes himself asks us to distinguish never Signifies the correspondence of an idea and the objcct
a material evidence, as it were, the clarity and distinctness of an represents or indicates, but the internal conformity of the
idea's objective content, and a formal evidence. a clarity attaching with something it expresses What does it express? Let us
to the "ground" of our belief in the idea. 12 This dualism extends consider an idea as the knowledge of somc thing. It is only
into the Cartesian division of understanding and will. In short, knowledge to the extent that it bears on thc thing's essence
: it
Cartcsianism fails not only to conceive the true content of ideas must "explicate" that essence. But it explicates or explain
s the
as material. and their true form as logical. but fails also to rise essence to the extent that it comprehendsc the thing through
to the standpoint of the "spiritual automaton" which implies the proximate cause: it must "express" this causc itself, must,
identity ofthesc. is, "involve" a knowledge of the causc . 1 ! This conception
Ideas have a logical form that should not be confused with knowledge is thoroughly Aristotclian. Spinoul does not
a form of psychological consciousness. They have a material mean that thc effects known depend on causes. He means
i n Aris­
content that should not be confused with their representativc totelian manner that knowledgc of a thing itself depend
s on a
content. Onc has only to discover this true form and true con­ knowledge of its causc. But this renewal of an Aristotelian
tent. to conceive their unity: the soul or undcrstanding as a ciple i s inspired by parallelism: that knowledge should thus
"spiritual automaton." tIS form, as a jorm oj truth, is one wirh the gress from cause to effect must be understood as the law
of an
content of any ffue idea: it is by thinking thc content of somc autonomous Thought, the exprcssion of an absolutc power
true idea which we have that we reflectb the idea in its form. which all ideas depend. It thus amounts to the same as
and understand our power of thinking. We then see why Method that knowlcdge of an effect, considered objectively, "im'olve
s" a
involves a second part, and why the first part necessarily antici­ knowledge of its cause, or that an idea, considcred formally
pates the second. The first part of Method, its final goal. is "cxpresses" its own cause,L4 An adequotl! idea is just an idea rhat
concerned with the form of a true idea, the idea of an idea, a expreSSl!S its cause.
Thus Spinoza reminds us that his Method is
reflexive idea. The second is concerned with the content of a true bascd on the possibility oflinking ideas onc to another
in a chain,
idea, that is, with the adequacy of an idea. This second part is, one being thc "complete cause" of another. LS As long as wc

'3' 'll

remain with clear and distinct ideas, we have knowledge of effects its cause; synthetic because it generates all the properties o f the
only; or to put it differently, we know only properties of things. 16 effect from the cause known as sufficient reason. We have an ade­
Only adequate ideas. as expressive. give us knowledge through quate idea to the extent that. from a thing, some of whose prop­
causes, or through a thing's essence. erties we conceive clearly, we give a genetic definition, from
One now sees what the second part of Method amounts to. which follow all of its known properties (and still others that we
We are still presumed to have a true idea. and to recognize it by do not know). It has often been noted that the only role of math­
its clarity. But. even though the "innate force" of understanding ematics in Spinoza is to proVide such a genetic process.20 The
provide us at once with this recognition and this possession. this cause as sufficient reason is what. being given, means that all the
still leaves us simply in the sphere of chance Uorruno). We still thing's properties are also given, and, being withdrawn, means
have no adequate idea. The whole problem of Method becomes that all the properties are withdrawn with it.2] We define the
the following: How to extract our true thoughts from the rule plane by the movement of a line, the circle by the movement of
of chance? That is: How make a true thought into an adequate a line with one endpoint fixed. the sphere by the movement of a
idea. linked to other adequate ideas? We set out from a true idea. semicircle. To the extent that a thing's definition expresses its
And it is best, given our aims. for us to choose a true idea. clear and efficient cause or the genesis of what it defines. the thing's idea
distinct. which quite obviously depends on our power of thinking. as it itself expresses its own cause, and we have rendered the idea ade­
has no object in Nature, for example the idea of a sphere (or circle).17 quate. Thus Spino1.a says that the second part of Method is pri­
We must render this idea adequate, that is. must connect it with marily a thoory of definition: "The chief point of this second part
its own cause. It is not a matter. as in the Cartesian Method. of of the Method is concerned solely with this: knowing the con­
knowing a cause from its effect. Rather is it a matter of uncler­ ditions of a good definition . . . ."22
standing the knowledge we have of the effect through a knowl· Spinoza's Method is thus far already distinct from any analytiC
edge, itself more perfect. ofits cause. procedure, but docs at the same time have a certain regressive
It may be objected that we set out in any case from a known appearance. Reflection appears similar to analysis in that we first
effect. that is to say. from an idea that is supposed gh·en.18 But of aU "suppose" an idea, in that we start from a supposed knowl­
we do not proceed from properties of the effect to certain prop­ edge of an effect. We suppose certain properties of the circle to
erties of the cause. which would be only, as it were, necessary be clearly known; we rise to the sufficient reason from which all
conditions in relation to this effect. Starting from the effect we the properties now. But in determining the reason of the circle
determine the cause, even if through a "fiction." as the sufficient,; as the movement of a line about one of its endpoints, we have
reason of all the properties we conceive the effect to possess. 19 It not yet reached a thought formed through itself or "absolutely."
is in this sense that we know through the cause, or that the cause For such a movement is not contained in the concept of the
is better known than its effect. Cartesian Method is regressive and line. and is itselffictitious. calling for a cause that determines it.
analytiC. Spin07.a·s Method is renexive and synthetic: renexive Whence, if the second part of Method amounts primarily to a
because it involves knowledge of an effect through knowledge of theory of definition. it is not to be reduced to such a theory. A

' 14 'J<
P A " A L L E L I S M A N D I M M ... N £ N C E

final problem presents itself: How exorcize the supposition with

the ide", of God, that one c",nnot from the outset instAll oneself
which one began? How thereby extricate oneself from a fictitious in God, is a constant of Spinozism. There are real differences
sequence? How construct the real itself. rather than remaining
between the Ethics ",nd the Correction oj the Understanding, but they
on the level of mathematical entities or things of teason? We
do not concern this point (but only the means used to reach the
reach the positing of a principle on the basis of a hypothesis; bur idea of God as qUickly as possible).
the principle mwt be oj such a nature as to Jree itself entirely Jrom the What is the theory in the Correction oj the UnJerstanJin8? If
hypothesiS, to ground itself. and ground the movement by which we consider ",n infinite regress, th"'t is an infinite sequence of
we reach it; it must as soon as possible render obsolete the pre­
things that do not exist by their own nature. or whose ide",s are
supposition from which we started i n order to discover it. Spin­
not formed through themselves. we recognize that the concept
oza's Method, in its opposition to Descartes, poses a problem
of such a regression is in no way ",bsurd. Yet at the same time -
closely analogous to Fichte's, reacting against Kant.2 1
",nd this is the re",1 sense of the classic proof a posterior/ - it would
Spin07.a recognizes that he cannot immediately set out "the
be absurd not to recognize the following: that things thAt do not
truths of Nature" in their due order.24 That is to say, he cannot
exist by their own nature are determined in their existence (and
immediately set out the succession of ideas as they would have
in the production of their effects) by something that itself does
to succeed one another. for the Real to be reproduced by the
exist necessarily and does produce its effects through itself. It is
power of Thought alone. One should not see in this any inade­
",Iways God who determines ",ny cause to produce its effect; so
quacy of Method. but rather a requirement ofSpin07.a's Method,
God is never, properly speaking, '" " dist",nt" or "remote" c",use)'
its way of taking its time. For Spin07.a does also recognize that
Thus we do not srart from the ide", of God, but we reach it very
he can very qUickly reach the absolute principle from which all
qUickly. at the beginning of the regression; for without i t we
ideas flow in due order: the Method will only be perfect when
would not even understand the possibility of a series, its effi­
we possess the idea of the perfect Being; "So in the beginning
ciency ",nd ",ctuality. Whenet it lmit matters that we procted through
we must take the greatest care that we arrive at knowledge of
a Jiction. The introduction of a fiction may indeed help us to
such a Being as qUickly as possible." We must "begin as soon as reach the idea of God "'s qUickly as possible without falling into
possible from the first elements, i.e .• from the source and origin
the traps of infinite regression. In conceiving the sphere. for
of Nature"; "As for order. to unite and order all our perceptions,
example. we form ",n ide", to which no object in Nature cor­
it is required that we ask as won as possible, and as reQSiJn demands.
responds. We explain it by the movement of a semicircle: the
whether there is a certain Being, and at the same time, what sor}.
c",use is certAinly fictitious, since nothing in Nature is produced
of being it is. which is the cause of all things. so that its objec­
in such ", way; it is nonetheless a "true perception." but this to
tive essence may also be the cause of all our ideas."2s Some com­
the extent that it is conjOined with the idea of God as the prin·
mentators change the form of these passages; and they are also
ciple which ideally determines the semicircle to motion. that is,
sometimes explained as belonging to an imperfect phase of Spin­
which determines th"'t c",use to produce the ide", of the sphere.
oza's thought. This is not the case: that one cannot begin from
Everything ch",nges. however. once we ",rrive, by this means.

O J]
PAAALlELISM .11 1'1 0 IMMANENCE E � " A E 5510N ANO 10EA

at the idea o f God. For we form this idea through itself and merely a theory of genetic definition, hut closes in a theory of
absolutely. "If there is a God, or something omniscient, he can productive deduction.
feign nothing at all."27 Starting from the idea of God we deduce
all other ideas. one from another, in "due order." Not only is this
order now one of progressive synthesis, hut. taken in this order. Spinou's Method comprises, then. three general heads. each
ideas can no longer amount to things of reason, and all fiction is strictly implicated in the others. The first part is concerned with
excluded. They are necessarily ideas of "real or true things," ideas the end of thinking, which consists not so much in knOWing some
to which there corresponds some thing in Nature.28 The produc­ thing, as knOWing our power of knOWing. Thought is from this
tion of ideas, starting from the idea of God, is of itself a repro­ viewpoint considered in terms of its form: the form of a true idea
duction of all the things in Nature; the sequence of ideas has no is an idea of the idea or a reflexive idea. The fonnal definition of
need to copy the sequence of things. insofar as ideas are them­ truth is that a true idea is the idea insofar as it is �xplain�d by our
selves produced on their own account. from the idea ofGod.29 power of knOWing. Method, in this first aspect, is itself reflexive.
Ideas do indeed "represent" some thing, but they represent a The second part of Method is concerned with the means of
thing precisely because they "express" their own cause, and realizing this end: some true idea or other is supposed given. but
express the idea of God as determinin that cause. All ideas. says we must make of it an adequate idea. Adequation constitutes the
Spinoza. express or involve God's essence. and are thereby ideas matter of truth. The definition of an adequate idea (the mate­
of real or true things.lO We are no longer caught in a regressive rial definition of truth) is: an idea insofar as It expresses its own
process that connects a true idea to its cause, if only fictitiously, cause, l1nd insofar as it expresses God's essence as determining that
in order to rise as qUickly as possible to the idea of God: that caus�. An adequate idea is thus an expressive idea. In this second
process could only legitimately determine the content of true aspect, Method is genetic: the cause of an idea is determined as
ideas. We are now following a progressive procedure, from which the sufficient reason of all the properties of a thing. This part of
all fiction is excluded, and going from one real being to another. Method leads us to the highest thought, that is, leads us as qUickly
deducing ideas one from another, starting from the idea of God: as possible to the idea of God.
ideas are then linked according to their own content; but their The second part concludes with a third and last head, con­
content is also determined by this sequence; w� gra� tht id�n­ cerning the unity of fonn and content, end and means. One finds
tity of form and content. we are sure that the sequence of ideas in Spinoza as in Aristotle that formal and material definitions,
reproduces reality as such. We will later see just how the dedueo. considered in general, fragment the real unity of a complete defi­
lion works in detail. I t is enough for the moment to consider nition. Between an idea and an idea of the idea there is only a
how the idea of God. as an absolut'e prinCiple, frees itself from distinction of reason: in reality reflexive and expressive ideas are
the hypothesis from which we began in order to rise to it. and one and the same thing.
grounds a sequence of adequate ideas that is identical to the con­ How should we understand this last unity? An idea never has
struction of reality. The second part of the Method provides not as its cause an object it represents; rather does it represent an

'38 ."
P 4 " 4 L L E l I S ", 4 N O ' ''' ''' 4 N E N C E E X " " E S S I O N ... N O 1 0 £ '"

object because it expresses its own cause. An idea has, ,hen, a con­ does not restrict the application of such a principle to the idea

tent, expressive and not representative, that is to be referred of God, but extends it to all thoughts. To the extent that he adds:

solely to the power of thinking. But the power of thinking is what "We must not say that this difference [of true and false] arises

constitutes the form of an idea as such. The concrete unity of the from the fact that the true thought is knOWing things through

two appears when all ideas are deduced one from another, mate­ their first causes. In this, indeed, it differs greatly from the false."

rially from the idea of God. formally according to the power of I believe this difficult passage should be thus understood: Spinol..a

thinking alone. From this viewpoint the Method is deductive: recognizes that true knowledge is obtained through the cause,

fonn. as logical form, and content, as expressive content, are but considers that here again we have only a material definition

conjoined in the sequence of ideas. One should note the extent of truth. An adequate idea is an idea that expresses its cause; but

to which Spinoza insists on this unity of that sequence. At the we still do not know what constitutes the form of truth, what

very point where he says that Method does not set out to give provides a fonnal definition of truth itself. Here as elsewhere,

us knowledge of some thing, but to give us knowledge of our we should not altogether identify what exprwes itself and what is
power of knowing, he adds that we do not know the latter except expressed: what is expressed is the cause, but what expresses itself
through knowing as many things. linked onc to another, as pos­ is once again our power of knowing or understanding, the power

sible}1 Conversely, when he shows t'hat our ideas arc causes of our understanding. Hence SpinOla says "What constitutes the

one of another. he deduces from this that all have as cause our fonn of the true thought must be sought in the same thought

power of knowing or thinking.32 It is above all the term "spiritual itself, and must be deduced from the nature of the understand­

automaton" that testifies to this unity. The soul is a kind ofspir­ ing." }S Hence also he goes on to say that the third kind ofknowl­

itual automaton, which is to say: In thinking we obey only the edge has as its formal caU5C nothing but the soul or understanding

laws of thought, laws that determine both the form and the con­ itself.36 It is the same with the idea of God: what is expressed is

tent of true ideas, and that make us produce ideas in sequence infinity, but what expresses itself is the absolute power of think­

according to their own causes and through our own power. so ing. So it was necessary to integrate the viewpoint of form with

in knowing our power of understanding we know through their that of matter, i.n order to finally conceh'e the concrete unity of

causes all the things that fall within this power.H the two as it appears in the succession of ideas. In this way only
can we arrive at a complete definition of truth, and understand
the phenomenon of expression in ideas as a whole. Not only the

In what sense is the idea of God "true"? One cannot say that M idea of God, but all ideas, are formally explained through the

expresses its own cause: formed absolutely, that is, without power of thinking. An idea's content is renected in its form. just

the help of other ideas. it expresses infinity. So it is in relation to as what is exprcssed relates or is attributed to what expresses

the idea of God that Spinm�a announces: "The form of the true itself. All ideas follow at once materially from the idea of God,

thought must be placed in the same thought itself without rela· and formally from the power of thinking: their succcssion trans­

tion to other things." H It may, however, seem odd that Spin01.a lates the unity of their two derivations.

,,0 '4'
..... R ... L L E L I S M ... N O I M M ... N E N C E ": X " R l S S I O N "' N O 1 0 ": .0.

We have a power ofknowing, understanding o r thinking only considered under the attribute o f Extension . . . . Therefore the
to the extent that we participate in the absolute power of think­ idea of this idea involves the knowledge of God. insofar as he is
ing. Which implies both that our soul is a mode of the attribute considered under the attribute of Thought. and not insofar as he
of Thought, and is a part of infinite understanding. The two is considered under any other."J8 In Spinoza, furthermore, the
points involve, and give a new form to, a classic problem: What very idea of parts of God is better grounded than in Descartes,
is the nature of our idea of God? According to Descartes, for divine unity being perfectly consistent with a real distinction
example, we do not "comprehend" God, but we nonetheless have between attributes.
a c1eou and distinct idea of him; for we "understand" what is Yet even on this second point the difference bet...
..een Descartes
meant by infinity, if only negatively, and "conceive" an infinite and Spin07..a remains fundamental. For, even before knowing a part
thing in a positive manner, albeit only partially. So our knowledge of God, our soul is itself"a part of God's infinite understanding":
of God is limited in only two ways: through our not knowing for we have a power ofunderstanding or knOWing only to the extent
God in his entirety, and through the fact that we do not know that we participate in the absolute power of knowing correspond­
how what we do know of him finds its place in his eminent ing to the idea of God. Consequently it Is enouah for there to be
unity.l7 There is definitely no question of saying that Spinoza some!hina common to the whole and the partJor this some!hina to aive
does away with all limitation. But, even though he sometimes us an ideo of God that is not only clear and distinct, but adequate.'9
expresses himself in a manner close to that of Descartes, he inter­ This idea we are given is not an idea of God in his entirety. It is
prets the limits of our knowledge in an entirely novel context. nevertheless adequate, because it is in the part as it is in the whole.
The Cartesian conception presents, on the one hand, that So it is no surprise that SpinOla sometimes says that God's exist­
mixture of negation and affirmation which one always finds in ence is not known to us through itself: he means that such knowl­
methods of analogy (one recalls Descartes's explicit declarations edge is necessarily afforded to us through "common notions,"
against univocity). In SpinOla, on the other hand, the radical cri­ without which it would not even be clear and distinct, but thanks
tique of eminence, the positing of the univocity of attributes, to which it is adequate.40 When Spinoza recalls, on the other
have as their immediate consequence that our idea of God is not hand. that God makes himself known immediately, that he is
only clear and distinct, but also adequate. For the things we know known through himselfand not through something else, he means
of God belong to God in the same form as that in which we that the knowledge of God has need neither of signs nor of pro­
know them, that is, in a form common to God who possesses cesses of analogy: this knowledge is adequate because God pos­
them. and to creatures who imply and know them. It nevertheles! sesses all the things that we know to belong to him, and possesses
remains the case, in SpinOla as in Descartes. that we know only them in the same form in which we know them.4] What is the rel­
a part of God: we know only two of these forms, only two attri­ ation between these common notions that give us knowledge of
butes. since our body implies no attribute other than Extension God and these fonns. themselves common or univocal, under which
and our ideas none other than Thought. "Therefore this idea we know God? Such an analysis must be postponed until a later
of the body involves the knowledge of God insofar only as he is point, since it goes beyond the problem of adequation.

' .' '43


I nadequacy

What follows from Spinoza's theory of truth? We must first of

all look for its converse" in his conception of inadequate idea.
An inadequate idea is an inexprtssive idea. But how is it possible
for us to have indcquate ideas? Their possibility only appears once
we determine the conditions of our having ideas in general.
Our soul is itself an idea. It is in this respect an affectionb or
modification of God within the attribute of Thought, just as our
body is an affection or modification of God within the attribute
of Extension. The idea constituting our soul or mind is present
in God. He possesses it, but possesses it only through being
affected by another idea. which is its cause. He has it only by
"conjointly" having another idea, an idea, that is, of something
else. "The cause of one singular idea is another idea, or God, inso­
far as he is considered to be affected by another idea; and of this
also he is the cause. insofar as he is affected by another. and so
on. ad infinitum.'" Not only does God possess all ideas. as many
of them as there are things; but all these ideas, as they are in God,
express their own cause. and express God's essence as determin­
ing that cause. "All ideas arc in God; and, insofar as they arc
related to God, are true, and adequate."l We can, furthermore.
already begin to sense that. as for this idea which constitutes our

P ... R "' L L E L I S " ... N O I M .. ... N E N C E I N "' D E Q U "' C v

soul. we do not possess it. Or we d o not at least possess i t immedi­ standing ourselves as the formal cause of our ideas and they appear
ately; for it is in God only insofar as he also possesses an idea of to be altogether the result of chance.6 On the other hand, they
something else. have as material causes ideas of external things. But we do not
All modes participate in the power of God: just as our body have these ideas of external things either; they are in God, but
participates in the power of existing, our soul participates in the not i nsofar as he constitutes our soul or mind. We do not there­
power of thinking. All modes are also parts, a part of the power fore possess our ideas in conditions such that they can express
of God, a part of Nature. So they necessarily come under the their own (material) cause. Our ideas of affections do of course

innuence of other parts. Other ideas necessarily act on our soul. "involve" their own cause, that is, the objective essence of the
just as other bodies act on our body. We have here "affections" external bodYi but they do not "express" or "explain" it. They

of a second sort. relating no longer to the body itself. but to what Similarly involve our power of thinking, but are not explained
happens in the body; no longer to the soul (the idea of the body). by it. and are referred to chance. So the word "involve" is here no
but to what happens in the soul (an idea of what happens in the longer a correlate of "explain" or "express," but is opposed to these.
body)) This is the sense in which we have ideas; for although the designating the mixture of external body and our own body in

ideas of this sort of affection are in God. they are there only inso­ affections of which we have ideas. Spinoi'.a's usual formulation of

far as he explicates himself through our soul alone, independently this is: our ideas of affections indicate a state of our body. but do

of the other ideas he has; they are thus in us.4 If we have a knowl­ not explain the nature or essence of the external body.7 This is
edge of external bodies, of our own body. of our soul itself. it is p;-
to say. the ideas we have are signs, indicative images im essed

solely through these ideas of affections. They alone are given us: � rather than expressive ideas formed by us: perception or
we perceive external bodies only insofar as they affect us. we per­ �agination, rather than comprehension.

ceive our own body only insofar as i t is affected. we perceive our An image is, in the strictest sense. an imprint. a trace or phys­
soul through the idea of an idea of an affection. s What we call � impression. an affection of the body itself, the effect of some
an "object" is only the effect an object has on our body; what body on the soft and nuid parts of our own body; in the figurative

we call "me" is only the idea we have of our own body and our sense, an image is the idea of an affection which makes an object

soul insofar as they suffer an effect. The given here appears as the known to us only by its effect. But such knowledge is not knowl­

most intimate and vital as well as the most confused relation edge at all, it is at best recognition. And from this there follow

between our knowledge of bodies, our knowledge of our own the characteri stics of indication in general: the primary "thing

body and our knowledge of ourself. indicated" is never our essence. but always a momentary state of

Let us consider the ideas we have corresponding to the effect our changing constitution; the secondary (or indirect) thing indi­

of an object on our body. On the one hand. they depend on our cated is ne\'er the nature or essence of some external thing, but

power of knowing, that is. on our soul or mind. as their formal is rather an appearance that only allows us to recognize a thing

cause. But we have no idea of our body, or of our soul. indepen­ by its effect, to rightly or wrongly assert its mere presence.s The

dently of the effects they suffer. We are thus incapable of under- fruits of chance ami of encounters, serving for recognition. purely

'4· '47

Qy, inad· truth as with freedom: they are not given to us in principle, but
indicative, the ideas we have are inexpressi\'e, that is to
n or an appear as the result of a long activity through which we produce
e(juate. An inadequate idea is neither an absolute privatio
adequate ideas. liberated from the sequence of external neces.
absolute ignorance: it im'oh'es a lack ofkno wledg e.9
of sity)) Spinou's inspiration is in this respect profoundly empiri.
Our knowledge is doubly lacking: we lack knowledge both
n of cist. One is always struck by the diverse inspirations of empiricists
ourselves, and of the object that produc es in us an affectio
idea that and rationalists. One group is surprised by what fails to surprise
which we have an idea. An inadequate idea is thus an
of knowl· the others. I f we listen to the rationalists, truth and freedom
involves, both fonnally and materi ally, the privati on
ted," are, abm'e all, rights; they wonder how we can lose these rights.
edge of its own cause. So it remains inexpressive: "trunca
ental fall into error or lose our liberty. Thus rationalism finds in the
like a conclusion without premis es. 10 What is here fundam
ed from Adamic tradition, which sets up as its principle the image of a
is that Spino7.a shows how a conclusion may thus be detach
on in free and rational Adam, a theme that suits its preoccupations
its two premises. We find ourselves naturally in a situati
e they �articularly well. From an empiricist viewpoint everything is
which the ideas we have are necessarily inadequate, becaus
power of lllverted: what is surprising is that men sometimes manage to
cannot express their cause nor be explained by our
, the understand truth, sometimes manage to understand one another,
knowing. On all points, the knowledge of external bodies
duration, sometimes manage to free themselves from what fetters them.
knowledge of our soul or mind. the knowledge of our
we One may recognize Spin07.a·s empiricist inspiration Simply by the
II "When
and that of things. we have only inadequate ideas.
d feet away vigor with which he opposes the Adamic tradition, his concep'
look at the sun, we imagine it as about two hundre
tion of freedom and truth as final products revealed only at the
this imagining.
from us, an error that does not consist simply in
are igno· end. One of the paradoxes in Spino7.a - and this is not the sole
but in the r.1Ct that while we imagine it in this way. we
An instance in which we will see it at work - is to have rediscovered
rant of its true distance and of the cause oj this imagin
1 image is thus an idea in us that cannot express its own cause, that
le to us:
the concrete force of empiricism in applying it in support of a new
rationalism. one of thc most rigorous versions ever conceived.
is. the idea from which it derives, which is not availab
its material cause. But nor does an image express its fonnal
cause. �pino"l.a asks: How do we come to fonn and produce adequate
a Ideas. when we necessarily have so many inadequate ones which
ng. Thus Spino7.
nor can it be explained by our power of knowi
sion divert our power and cut us off from what we might achic\'e?
says that an image. or idea of an affection. is like a conclu
al and We must distinguish two aspects of inadequate ideas: they
Without premises: there are indeed two premis es, materi

"involve privation" of the knowledge of their cause, but are at
of these. ,.
fonnal, and the image involvcs our lack of knowledge
the same time effects that in some way "involve" that cause.
Under thc first aspect an inadequate idea is false; but under the
second it contains something positil'e, and so something true.14 We
Our problem is now transformed. The question is no longer
imagine, for example. that the sun is two hundred feet away. This
"Why do we have inadequate ideas?" but rather "1'low do we
idea of an affection is incapable of expressing its own cause: it
come to form adequate ideas?" [ n Spino7.a it is the same with

" ,
I N A D I;; Q V A C V

does not explain the nature or essence of the sun. It does never­
o f the affection that is itself adequate: the common notion is
theless involve this essence "insofar as the body is affected by it."
necessarily the cause of an adequate idea of the affection that
It is all very well to know the true distance of the sun. but it will
is distinct only in "its reason" from that idea of the affection
still continue to affect us in such a way that we see it two hun­
from which we began. This complex mechanism does not, then.
dred feet away: as Spinoza says. the mistake may be eliminated.
amount to the elimination of our inadequate ideas, but to using
but not our imagination. There is thus something positive in an
what is positive in them to form the largest possible number of
inadequate idea, a sort of indication that we can grasp clearly.
adel:juate ideas. and ensuring that what inadel:juate ideas remain
This is. in fact. how we are able to have some idea of its cause:
are restricted to the smallest part of our selves. I n shoTt. we
having clearly grasped the conditions in which we see the sun.
must ourselves accede to conditions in which we can produce
we can clearly infer that it is an object far enough away to appear
adeq1late ideas.
small. rather than a small object seen at close range.lS If one does
not bear this positive character in mind. several of Spinoza's the­
ses become incomprehensible: in the first place. the thesis that
I do not yet wish to analyze this mechanism by which we may
one can naturally have a true idea. as reqUired by the Method
reach adequate ideas. Our question was simply: What is an ade­
before it sets to work. But more importantly. since falSity has no
I:juate idea? And its converse: What is an inadequate idea? An
form. one could not otherwise understand how an inadequate
adequate idea is an idea that expresses its own cause and is ex·
idea could itself give rise to the idea of an idea. could have. that
plained by our own power. An inadequate idea is inexpressive and
is to say. a form that must be referred to our power of thinking. 16
unexplained: an impression that has not yet become an expres­
The faculty of imagination is defined by the conditions in which
sion. an indication that has not yet become an explanation. This
we naturally have ideas. inadequate ideas; it is nonetheless in one
brings out the intention that underlies the whole ofSpin07.a's doc­
of its aspects a virtue; it invohes our ower of thinkin ven
trine of truth: to substitute a conception of adequacy for the Carte­
thou h it is not explained by i!; an imagJ:. 'nvolves its own cause.
sian conception of clarity and distinctness. SpinOlA's tenninology in
even though it does not exp:ress it.l1
this relation does. it is true. vary: sometimes he uses the word
It is not of course enough simply to grasp what is positive in
"adequate" to mark the insufficiency of clarity and distinctness,
an idea of an affection in order to have an adequate idea. But this
thus emphaSizing the need to advance beyond the Cartesian cri­
is the first step. For from this positivity we can form the idea
teria; sometimes he himself uses the words "clear and distinct."
of what is common to the affecting and affected bodies. to the ,
but applying them only to ideas that follow from an idea that is
external body and our own. And we will see that this "common
itselfadequate; he sometimes uses them. finally, to deSignate such
notion" is itself necessarily adequate: it belongs to the idea of our
an adequate idea. but in that case has even more reason to give
body as to that of the external body; it is then in us as it is in
them an implicit meaning altogether different from Descartes's.18
God; it expresses God and is explained by our power of think­
Spinou's doctrine of truth is never. in any case. detached
ing. But from this common notion there follows in turn an idea
from a polemic. whether direct or indirect, directed against the

., .
IN ... O I; Q V ," C V

Cartesian theory. Considered in themselves clarity and distinct­ unexplained. Good enough for recognition, but unable to pro­
ness allow us at the most to recognize some true idea that we vide a real principle of knowledge.
have. recognize. that is, what is positive i n an idea that is still We have seen what are the three principal points established
inadequate. But forming an adequate idea takes us beyond clar­ by Spino....a·s theory ofideas: the representative content is but an
ity and distinctness. A clear and distinct idea does not in itself appearance, determined by a deeper expressive content; the form
constitute real knowledge. any more than it contains its own of psychological consciousness is superficial in relation to t.rue
ground within itself: the sufficient reason of clarity and dis­ logical form; the spiritual automaton, manifested in the concat­
tinctness is to be found only in adequacy, and a clear and distinct enation of ideas, is the unity of logical form and expressive con­
idea constitutes real knowledge only to the extent that it follows tent. Now. these three points are also Leibni7.'s principal theses.
from an idea that is itself adequate. Whence his liking for Spino7.a's term "spiritual automaton.'· He
We have here. once again, a point of agreement between himself understands it in the sense of the autonomy of individ­
Spino7.a and Leibni7.. which helps to define the Anticartesian reac­ ual thinking substances. But even for Spino....a the automatism of
tion. Leibniz's remark that knowledge is 0 species oj expression could a mode of Thought does not exclude a sort of autonomy in its
have come from Spino....a.19 Ofcourse they do not conceive of the power of understanding (indeed the power of understanding is a
nature of adequacy in the same way, because they neither under­ part of the absolute power of thinking, insofar as the latter is
stand nor use the concept of expression in the same way. But explicated through the former). All the differences between
under three essential heads they show a real if unintentional Leibniz and Spinoza take away nothing from their agreement on
agreement. First of all Descartes, in his conception of the clear these fundamental principles which. above all else. constitute the
and distinct. restricted himself to the representative content of Anticartesian revolution.
ideas; he did not rise to the conception of an infinitely deeper Leibniz's criticism of Descartes is well known: clarity and
expressive content. He didn't conceive adequacy as the neces­ distinctness on their own allow us to ncogni7.e an object, but give
sary and sufficient reason of c1arit), and distinctness: didn't con­ us no true knowledge of the object; they fall short of its essence,
ceive expression, that is to say, as the basis of representation. bearing only on external appearances or extrinsic characteristics
Second, Descartes got no farther than the form of psychological through which we can only "conjecture" that essence; they fall
consciousness in ideas; he didn't get as far as the logical form short of a cause that shows us why the thing is necessarily what
through which an idea is explained. b), which ideas are linked it is.2(I Spinoza's criticism. while less familiar. nonetheless pro­
one to another. And finally he had no conception of the unity of� ceeds along the same lines. denouncing abo\'e all the insuffiCiency
form and content, that is. of the "spiritual automaton" which of the Cartesian idea: clarit.y and distinctness by themselves give
reproduces realit)' in producing ideas in their due order. Des­ us only an indeterminate knowledge; they fall short of a thing's
cartes taught us that truth was present in ideas. But what use to essence, bearing only on propria; the), fall short of a cause from
us is such knowledge, if we don't know what is present in true which all the thing's properties would together follow, leading
ideas? A clear and distinct idea is still inexpressive. and remains us only to recogni7.e an object. the presence of an object, from

'5' 'n

the effect it has on us: a clear and distinct idea does not express C H A P T E R TEN

its own cause. gives us no knowledge of that cause "except what

we consider in the effect."21 In all this. Spin07.a and Leibni1. arc S p i noza Agai nst Descartes
fighting a common cause. a continuation of what had set them
against the Cartesian ontological proof. the search for a sufficient
reason singularly lacking throughout Cartesianism. Each of them.
proceeding differently. discovers the expressive conten! of Ideas. and
their explicotNe form.

Cartesianism relies on a certain sufficiency of clear and distinct

ideas. Such sufficiency is the ground of Descartes's Method. but
is on the other hand itself demonstrated by applying that Method
itself. Descartes asserts his preference for analysis. In an impor­
tant passage he says that analytic method has the merit of show­
ing us "how effects depend on causes."l The claim might appear
paradoxical. lending to analysis what belongs to synthesis. did one
not examine its precise Significance. We have. according to
Descartes. a clear and distinct knowledge of an effect before hav­
ing a clear and distinct knowledge of its cause. I know for exam­
ple that I exist as a thinking being before knowing the cause of
my existence. Of course, a clear and distinct knowledge of an
effect presupposes a certain knowledge of its cause, but only a
confused one. "If I say 4 + 3 = 7. this is a necessary conception.
because we cannot distinctly conceive the number 7 without
including in it 3 and 4 confuso quodam ratione."2 A clear and dis·
tinct knowledge of an effect presupposes, then. a confused knowl­
edge of its cause, and ne\'er depends on a more perfect knowledge
of the cause. Rather does a clear and distinct knowledge of a
cause depend on the clear and distinct knowledge of its effect.
This is the basis of the Meditations. - of their order. in particular.

'<4 'H
P... R ... L L E L ' S '" A N D I ... ... ... N E N C E S P ' N D Z '" "' G A ' N S T D E S C A R T E S

and o f their analytic Method in general: a method of inference that the soul i s united to the body, which union i s the cause of
or implication. such a sensation; but we cannot understand absolutely from this
So if this Method shows us how effects depend on causes. it what that sensation and union are"; "Although such a conclu­
docs so as follows: from a clear knowledge of an effect. we ren­ sion is certain, it is still not sufficiently safe."4 There is not one
der clear the knowledge of the cause it confusedly implied. and line among these that is not directed against Descartes and his
thence show that the effect would not be what we know it to Method. Spinol';) does not believe in the sufficiency of clarity and
be, did it not have such a cause on which it necessarily depends.3 distinctness. because he doesn't believe there is any satisfactory
In Descartes. then, two themes are fundamentally linked: the the­ way of proceeding from the knowledge of an effect to a knowl­
oretical sufficiency of clear and distinct ideas, and the practical edge of its cause.
possibility of passing from a clear and distinct knowledge of an Clear and distinct ideas are not enough. one must advance to
effect to a clear and distinct knowledge ofits cause_ adequate ideas. That is: it is not enough to show how effects
That an effect depends on its cause is not in question. The depend on causes, one must show how true knowledge of an
question relates to the best way of showing this. Spinoza says: It effect itself depends on knOWing its cause. This is the definition
is possible to start from a clear knowledge of an effect; but from of the synthetic Method. On all these points Spinoza stands as an
it we will arrive only at a clear knowledge of its cause. we will Aristotelian against Descartes: "This is the same as what the
know nothing of the cause beyond what we consider in its effect, ancients said. i.e., that true knowledge proceeds from cause to
and will never obtain an adequate knowledge. The Correction of effect."s Aristotle showed how scientific knowledge was to be had
the Understanding contains a fundamental criticism of the Car­ through causes. He didn't just say that knowledge must discover
tesian Method, of the process of inference or implication it uses, causes, reach the cause on which a known effect depends; he said
and of the alleged sufficiency of the clarity and distinctness to that an effect is not known. except to the extent that its cause is
which it appeals. Clear ideas give us nothing apart from some already, and better, known. A cause is not only prior to its effect
knowledge of a thing's properties. and lead us to nothing apart because it is its cause, but prior also from the viewpoint of knowI­
from a negative knowledge of its cause. "There is the perception edge. needing to be better known than the effect.6 Spinoza takes
that we have when the essence of a thing is inferred from another up this thesis: "For really, knowledge of the effect is nothing but
thing, but not adequately"; "We understand nothing about the acquiring a more perfect knowledge ofits cause."7 Not "more per­
cause except what we consider in the effect. This is sufficiently fect" than that which we had at first. but more perfect than that
evident from the fact that then the cause is explained only in' which we have of the effect itself. and prior to that which we
very general terms: Therefore there is something. Therefore there is have o f the effect. Knowledge of an effect may be said to be clear
some power. etc. Or also from the fact that the terms express the and distinct. but knowledge of its cause is more perfect. that is.
cause negatively: Therefore it is not this. or that. etc."; "We infer adequate: and clarity and distinctness are only well grounded
one thing from another in this way: after we clearly perceive that insofar as they follow from adequacy as such.
we feci such a body. and no other. then. I say. we infer clearly To know by causes is the only way to know essence. The cause

is, so to speak, the middle term on which the connection of sub­ to us as against "best known absolutely." When Aristotle sets out
ject and attribute is grounded, the principle or reason from which the way to advance to a middle term or causal definition, he be·
follow all properties belonging to a thing. Thus the search for a gins from a confused whole and abstracts from it a "proportionate"
cause coincides, as in Aristotle. with the search for a definition. universal . So that the formal cause is always a specific abstract
Whence the importance of the scientific syllogism whose premo characteristic, which has its origin in confused sensory material.
ises give us the formal cause or definition of a phenomenon, ilnd In this light. the unity of formal and material causes remains for
whose conclusion gives us its material cause or definition. A Aristotle a pure ideal, as does unity of an intuitive concept.
total definition is one that combines form and matter in a uni· Descartes's position may then be put thus: the synthetic
tary statement. in such a way that the object's unity is no longer method has an exaggerated ambition, and gives us no means of
fragmented, but rather affirmed in an intuitive concept. On all knowing real causes. It actually begins from a confused knowl·
these points Spinoz.a seems to remain an Aristotelian: he empha· edge of <lJl effect. and advances to ilbstractions which are wrongly
sizes the importance of the theory of definition. he presents the presented to us as causes, and so, despite its pretensions. merely
search for definitions and the search for causes as identical, and examines ciluses through their effects. II The analytic method, on
he asserts the concrete unity of a total definition comprehending the other hand, has a more modest intent. But, as it begins by
both the formal and material causes of a true idea. eliCiting a clear and distinct perception of the effect, it proVides
Descartes was not unaware of the claims of the Aristotelian us with a means of inferring from that perception a true knowl·
kind of synthetic method: the proof it embodies, he says, is edge of the cause; it is thus able to show how the effects them·
ofte., "of effects from their causes."8 Descartes means that while selves depend on their causes. The synthetiC method is therefore
the synthetiC method always claims to gain knowledge through only legitimate on the condition of not being left to function
CilUses, it doesn't always succeed. His basic objection is the follow· alone. but coming after the analytic method. and based on a
ing: How can the Ciluse itselfbe understood? We can understand prior knowledge of real causes. The synthetic method on its own
throuah causes in Geometry, but only because its matter is c1eilr gives us no knowledge. it is not a method of discovery; its util·
and conforms to our senses. Descartes admits this (whence his use ity lies in the exposition of knowledge. the exposition of what
of the word "often").9 So does Aristotle: point, line, even unit. has already been "disco\·ered."·
are principles or "subject-genera," indivisibles accessible through It may be noted that Descartes ne\'cr considcrs setting the two
intuition; their existence is known and their meaning under· methods apart by relating syntheSiS to the order of being. and
stood.IO But what happens in other cases. for example in Met.... analysis to the order of knowing. Nor does SpinOl..l. It would then
physics. when we have to deill with real beings? How is a Ciluse. be unsatisfactory. and mislcilding, to oppose Descartes to SpinOl..l
principle or middle term to be found? Aristotle himself seems by saying that the former follows the ordcr ofknowledge and the
to refer us to an inductive process, hardly distinguishable from latter the order of being, It does of course follow from the defi·
abstraction. and beginning with a confused perception of the nition of the synthetic method that its order coincides with that
effect. In this sense it is the effect that is best known, best known of being. But this consideration is of little importance. The prob·

" ,

lem is simply to know whether the synthetic method is capable. abstract universal. Universals, whether genera o r species, do
from the outset and by itself. of giving us knowledge of the prin­ indeed involve a power of imagination. but this power is reduced
ciples it presupposes. Can it maRl! known to us what is? The prob­ as we come to understand more and more things. The formal
lem then is simply: What is the true method from the viewpoint cause o f a true idea is our power of understanding; and the more
of knowledge?12 Here Spinoza's Anticartesianism is fully mani­ things we understand, the less we form these fictions of genera
fest: according to him. the synthetic method is the only real and species.16 If Aristotle identifies formal cause with specific
method of discovery. the only effective method in the order of universal, it is because he remains at the 10lllcst level of the power
knowing.ll But such a position is only tenable if Spin07..a thinks of thinking, without discovering the laws that permit thought to
he has the means, not only to refute Descartes's objections, but go from one real being to another "without passing through
also to overcome the difficulties of Aristotelianism. And indeed. abstract things." On the other hand. the material cause of an idea
when he presents what he calls the third "mode of perception" in is not a confused sensory perception: the idea of a particular thing
the Correction of the Underrtandino, he brings together in this imper­ always has its cause in another idea of a particular thing, which
fect mode or genus two very disparate procedures. each equally is determined to produce it.
condemned as insufficient. 14 The first consists in inferring a cause With the Aristotelian model before him. Descartes could not
from a clearly perceived effect: one recognizes Descartes's ana­ grasp the possibilities of the synthetic method. In one of its
lytiC method and its process of implication. But the second con­ aspects, it is true, that method gives us no knowledge of things;
sists in " inferring something from some universal, which some but it would be wrong to conclude that its only role was exposi­
property always accompanies": one recognizes Aristotle's syn­ tory. In its primary aspect, the synthetic method is renexive, that
thetic method and its deductive process starting from a middle is. gives us knowledge of our power of knowing. It is true, also.
term conceived as a specific characteristic. If Spin07.a can, not that the synthetic method im'ents orJ�;gns a cause on the basis of
without a certain irony, thus bring together Descartes and Aris­ an effect; but far from seeing a contradiction here, we should rec­
totle. it is because it comes to the same thing, more or less. to abstract ognize a minimal regression which allows us. as qUickly as possi_

a universal from a confused knowll!doe of an effect, and to infer a ble. to reach the idea of God as the source of all other ideas. In
couse from a clear knowledge of its effect. Neither of these proce­ this second aspect the method is constructive or genetic. That
dures leads to adequacy. Descartes's analytic method is insuffi­ is. the ideas that follow from [he idea of God are ideas of real
cient, but Aristotle had no more satisfactory a conception of beings: their production is at the same time the deduction of
the synthetic method. ' reality; the form and matter of truth become identified in the
What was lacking in the Ancients, says Spin07.a. was the con­ concatenation of ideas. The method is, in this third aspect. de.
ception of the soul as a sort of spiritual automaton. that is, of ductive. Renection. genesis and deduction. these three moments
thought as determined by its own laws. 1. It is parallelism, then. together constitute the synthetic method. It is on these that
that prOVides for Spinoza the means of overcoming the difficul­ Spinoza COUIll'S . both to advance beyond Cartesianism and to
ties of Aristotel ianism. The formal cause of an idea is never an make good the inadequacies of Aristotelianism.

Let us now turn to thc theory of Bcing: we see Spinoza's opposi­ created substance, substances and modes. and so on); tminenc�
tion to Descartes shifting, but remaining no less radic.ll. It would (God thus contains.lll reality, but eminently. in a fonn other than
indeed be surprising if analytic and synthetic methods implied that of the things he creates); and analogy (God as cause of him­
the same conception of being. Spinoi'..l's ontology is dominated self is not. then, grasped as he is in himself, but by analogy: it is
by the notions of a cous� of itself. in itself and through itself. These by analogy with an efficient cause that God may be said to be
tenns are to be found in Descartes himself; but the difficulties cause of himself. or to be "through himself" as through a cause ).
he encountered in their use should teach us something about the These theses are not so much explicitly formulated by Descartes
incompatibilities of Cartesianism and Spinozism. as received and accepted as a Scholastic and Thomist legacy. But.
Caterus and Arnauld had already objected against Descartes although the), are never discussed. they nonetheless have an essen­
that he used "through iueJr' negatively. to denote only the tial importance, are everywhere present in Descartes. and indis­
absence of a cause. 17 Even were we to admit with Arnauld that. pensable to his theories of Being. of God and of creatures. The
if God is aSSigned no C.luse. this is because of the full positivity ful l sense of his Metaphysics is not to be found in them. but with·
of his essence and is not related t'O the imperfection of our under­ out them a lot of its sense would be lost. Whence the readiness
standing. we still cannot conclude that he has being through him­ of Cartesians to present a theory of analogy: rather than thereby
self "positively as through a cause," that he is (that is to say) cause attempting to reconcile their master's work with Thomism. they
of himself. Descartes does, it is true. consider this polemic to are developing an essential component of Cartesianism which had
be largely a momer of words. He asks only that one accord him remained implicit in Descartes himself.
the full positivity of God's essence: this conceded, one recognizes One can always imagine fanciful links between DeSCilrtes .lnd
that this essence plays a role analogous to that of a cause. There Spinoza. One may claim, for example, to find monistic and even
is a positive reason for God not to have a cause, a fonnal cause. pantheistic tendencies in the urtesian definition of substance
then, for his not haVing an efficient cause. Descartes explains his ("what requires only itself to exist"). This is to neglect the im­
thesis in the following tenns: God is his own cause, but this in plicit role of analogy in Descartes's philosophy, which is enough
another senst than that in which an efficient cause is the cause of to warn against any such temptation: as in Saint Thomas. the act
its efTect; he is cause of himself in the sense that his essence is a of existing is in the case of created substances something analo­
formal cause; and his essence is said to be a formal cause, not gous to what it is in the divine substance." And it does indeed
directly but by analogy, insofar as it plays in relation to his exist­ seem that the analytic method ends naturally in an analogical con­
ence a role analogous to that of an efficient cause in relatioa ception of being: its procedure itself leads spontaneously to thc
to its effect. I' positing of being as analogical. It is hardly surprising then that
This thcory rests on three closely linked notions: equilncation Cartesianism, in its own way. comes upon a difficulty already pres­
(God is cause ofhimsclf. but in another sense than that in which ent in the most orthodox Thomism: despite its ambitions. anal­
he is the efficient C.luse of the things he creates; so that being is ogy never manages to frce itself from the equivocation from
not affirmed in the same sense of everything that is, divine and which it starts, or from the eminence to which it


According to Spinoza, God is cause of himself i n no other asserted in another sense than efficient causality; rather i s effi­

sense than that in which he is cause of all things. Rather is he cause cient causality asserted in the same sense as seU:causality. Thus

oj all lhinns in the same sense as cause oj himselj.10 Descartes says God produces as he exists: on the one hand. he produces neces­

either too much, or too little: too much for Arnauld, but too lit· sarily; on the other, he necessarily produces within the same

tie for Spino7.a. For one cannot employ "through itself" positively, attributes that constitute his essence. Here we come again upon

while using "cause of itself" by simple analogy. Descartes recog' the IwO aspects of Spinozist univocity, univocity of cause and

nizes that if God's essence is cause of his existence, it is so in the univocity of attributes. There has been a suggestion from the

sense of a formal rather than an efficient cause. The formal cause outset of this analysis that Spinozism cannot be considered apart

is indeed immanent essence, coexisting with its effect, and insep­ from the contest it carries on against negative theology, and

arable from it. But we still then need some positive reason why against any method proceeding through equivocation, eminence

God's existence has no efficient cause and is identical with his and analogy. Spinoza condemns not only the introduction of

essence. Descartes finds this reason in a mere property: God's negativity into being. but all false conceptions of affirmation in

immensity, superabundance or infinity. But such a property can· which negativity still remains as well. It is these survivals that

not play the part of a rule of proportionality in an analogical judg· Spinoza finds and contests in Descartes and the Cartesians. Herein

ment. Because the property deSignates nothing in God's nature, lies the sense of Spinoza's concept of immanence; it expresses

Descartes is stuck at an indirect detennination of self-causality: the double univocity of cause and attribute, that is. the unity of

this is asserted in a sense other than efficient causality, but is also efficient and fonnal cause, and the identity of an attribute as

asserted by analogy with it. What then is missing in Descartes, constituting the essence of substance, and as implied by the

is a reason through which self-causality can be arrived at in itself, essences of creatures.

and directly grounded in the concept or nature of God. This rca· I t should not be thought that in thus reducing creatures to

son is what Spin07.a discovers in distinguishing the divine nature modifications or modes Spin07.a takes away from them all their

from proprio, absolute from infinite. The attributes are the imma· own essence or power. The.univocity of cause does not mean that
nent formal elements that constitute God's absolute nature. And sell<ausa!ity and tJJicienr causality hal'e ant and tht same sense, but
these attributes, in constituting God's essence also constitute his that both are asserted in the some sense oj a cause. The univocity of
existence; in expressing his essence they also express the exist· attributes does not mean that substance and modes ha\'e the same

ence that necessarily nows from it; his existence is therefore the being or the same perfection: substance is in itself, and modifi­

same as his essence.21 The attributes thus constitute the formel cations are in substance as in something else. What is in another

reaSon that makes substance in itself a cause of itself. directly, thing and what is in itself are not asserted in the same sense, but

and not by analogy. being is fonnally asserted in the same sense of what is in itself

The cause of itself is approached first of all in itself: this is and what is in something else: the same attributes, taken in the

the condition for "in itself" and "through itself" to take on a per· same sense, constitute the essence of one and are implied by

fectly positive sense. Sclf-causality is, as a consequence. no longer the essence of the other. Further still, this common being is not

,64 , 6,
" " 'HI L L E L ' S '" " N O ''''''' '' N E N C E S P ' N O ;t A " O " ' N S T O E S C "' ''' T E S

i n Spinoza, as i n Duns Scotus, a neutralized being, indifferent that a substance might undergo some limitation of its nature as

between finite and infinite. between in-se and in-olio. Rather is a result of in own poSSibility.
it the qualified Being of substance, in which substance remains There is no more any contingency of modes in relation to sub­
in itself, but modes also remain as in something else. Immanence stance than a possibility of substance dependent on its attribute.
is thus the new figure that the theory of univocity takes on in It is not enough to show, with Descartes, that accidents are not
Spin07.a. The synthetic method naturally leads to the positing of real. In Descartes the modes of a substance remain accidental,
this common being or immanent cause. because they require an external causality to somehow "put"
In Descartes's philosophy certain axioms constantly reappear. them in that substance itself. In fact, the opposition of mode and
Principal among these is that nothing has no properties. It fol­ accident already shows that necessity is the sole affection of
lows from this, from the viewpoint of quantity. that every prop­ being, its sole modality: God is cause of all things i.n the same
erty is the property of some being: everything is thus a being or sense as cause of himself; thus everything is necessary, from its
a property. a substance or a mode. Also. from the viewpoint of essence or from its cause. It is of course true that a cause is more
quality, every reality is a perfection. From the viewpoint of cau­ perfect than its effect, substance more perfect than modes; but.
sality there must be as much reality i n a cause as in its effecti although it has more reality. a cause never contains the reality of
otherwise something would be produced from nothing. And its effect in any other form or any other way than that on which
finally. from the viewpoint of modality, there can strictly speak­ the effect itself depends. In Descartes one passes from the supe­
ing be no accidents, accidents being properties that do not nec­ riority of the cause to the superiority of certain forms of being
essarily imply the being to which they attach. It belongs to over others. and so to the equivocation or analogy of reality (since
Spinol.a to have given a new interpretation to all these axioms God contains reality in a form superior to that involved i n crea­
in accord with his theory of immanence and the requirements of tures). 1t is this transition that grounds the concept of eminence;
the synthetic method. And it seems to Spinoza that Descartes had but it is radically illegitimate. Against Descartes, Spinoza posits
not grasped the ful l sense and consequences of the proposition the equality of all forms of being, and the univocity of reality

that nothing has no properties. On the one hand. any plurality which follows from this equality. The philosophy ofimmanence
of substances becomes impossible: there are neither unequal appears from all viewpoints as the theory of unitary Being. equal

limited substances nor equal unlimited substances, for "they Being. common and univocal Being. It seeks the conditions of a

would ha\'e to have something they had from nothing."22 It is not genuine affirmation. condemning all approaches that take away
enough. on the other hand, just to say that every reality is a pe,," from Being its full positivity, that is, its formal community.b

feetion. One must also recognize that everything in the nature

of a thing is reality. that is, perfection; "To say that the nature of
the thing required this [limitation], and therefore it could not
be otherwise. is to say nothing. For the nature of the thing can­
not require anything unless it exists."B One should not imagine

,66 ,6,

I m mane nce and the H i storical

C o m p o n e n t s o f E x p r e ss i o n

Two questions now arise. What are the logical links between
immanence and expression? And how was the idea of expressive
immanence historically formed within specific philosophical tra­
ditions? (Such traditions may well be complex. themselves com­
bining very diverse influences. )
Everything may. it seems. be traced back to the Platonic
problem of participation. Plato proposed various hypothetical
schemes of participation: to participate was to be a part; or to
imitate; or even to receive something from a demon. . . . Partici­
pation was understood, according to these schemes. either mate­
rially. or imitatively, or demonically. But the difficulries in each
case seem to have the same roOt: the principle of participation
was always sought by Plato on the side of what participates. It
usually appears as an accident supervening on what is participated
from outside, as a violence suffered by what is participated. If
participation consists in being a part. it is difficult to see how
what is participated suffers no division or separation. If to par­
ticipate is to imitate, there must be some external artist who
takes the Idea as his model. And it is difficult to see. indeed, what
role an intermediary, whether artist or demon, might in general
have. other than that of forcing the sensible to reproduce the

P A R A L L E L ' S '" A N D ' ''' ''' A N E N C E

intelligible. while also forcing the Idea to allow itself to be par­ that makes participation possible itsclf being participated or
ticipated by something foreign to its nature. Even when Plato panicipablc. Everything emanatcs from this principle. it gh'es
considers the participation of Ideas in one another. the corres­ forth everything. But it is not itself participated. for participa­
ponding powcr is taken as a power of participating. rather than tion occurs only through what it gives. and in what it gives. This
ofbcing participated. was the basis of Proclus's elaboration of his profound theory of
The primary Postplatonic task was to invert the problem. A the Imparticipablc; participation only occurs through a princi­
principle that would make participation possible was sought. but ple that is itself imparticipable. but that gives participation in
one that would makc it possible from the side of the participated things. And Plotinus had already shown that the One is ncces­
ilSeif. Ncoplatonists no longer start from the characteristics of sarily above its gifts. that it gives what does not belong to it. or
what participates (as multiplc. sensible and so on). asking by is not what it gives.2 Emanation has in general a triadic fonn:
what violence participation bccomes possible. Thcy try rather givcr. given and recipient. To participate is always to participate
to discover the internal principle and movemcnt that grounds through what is given. So we must recognize not only the gene­
participation in the participated as such. from the side of the par­ sis of what participates. but also that of what is partiCipated itself.
ticipated as such. Plotinus reproaches Plato for having seen par­ which accounts for the fact of its being participated. A double
ticipation from its lesser side. 1,> The participated does not in fact genesis. of the given and what receives it: the effect that receives
enter into what participates in it. What is participated remains detennines its own existence when it fully possesses what is givcn
in itself; it is participated insofar as it produces. and produces to it; but it does not fully possess it except by turning toward
insofar as it gives. but has no need to leave itself to give or pro­ the giver. The giver is above its gifts as it is above its products.
duce. Plotinus fonnulates the program of starting at thc highest participable through what it gives. but imparticipable in itself or
point. subordinating imitation to a genesis or production. and as itself. thereby grounding participation.
substituting the idea of a oift for that of a violence. What is par­
ticipated is not dividcd. is not i mitatcd from outside. or con­
strained by int'ennediaries which would do violence to its nature. We ue now already able to determine the characteristics by
Participation is neither material. nor imitative. nor demonic: it which emanative and immanent cause have something in com­
is emanative. Emanation is at once cause and gift: causality by mon logically. as well as fundamental differences. Their common
donation. but by productivc donation. Truc acth'ity comes from characteristic is that neither leaves itself: they produce while
what is participated; what participates is only an effcct. receiv- ; remaining in themstives. 1 When defining immancnt causality.
ing what it is gh'en by its cause. An emanative cause is a dona­ Spinoza insists on this definition. which to some extent assimi­
tive Cause. a donative Good. a donative Virtue. lates immanence to emanation.4 But their difference relates to
When wc seek the internal principle of participation on the the way the two causes produce things. While an emanative cause
Side of what is participated. we necessarily find it "abovc" or remains in itself. the effect it produces is nat in it. and does not remain
"beyond'" participation. There is AO question of the principle in it. Plotinus says of the One as first principle or cause of causes:

I .... .... A N E N C E A N O T H E C O .... P O N E N T S OF E X P R E S S ' O N

" I t is because there is nothiny in it that all things come from it."s gives and what proceeds from i t . Furthcnnore. at each stage of
In reminding us th..l1 an effect is inseparable from its cause, he emanation. one must recognize the presence of an imparticipable
is thinking of ol continuity of flow or radiation. and not of the from which things proceed and to which they re\'crt. Emanation
olctuoll inherence of any content. The emanative cause produces thus serves as the principle of a universe rendered hierarchical:
through what it gh'es. but is beyond what it gives: so that an cffect the d ifference of beings is in general conceived as a hierarchical
comes out ofits cause, exists only in so coming out. and is only difference; each tenn is as it were the image of the superior tenn
dctcmlined in its existence through turning back toward the cause that precedes it. and is defined by the degree of distance that sep­
from which it has come. Whence the detennination of the effect's arates it from the first cause or first principle.
cxistence is inseparable from a conversionb in which the cause Between emanath'e and immanent cause there thus appears a
olppcars as the Good within a perspective of transcendent final­ second distinction. Immanence for it'S part implies a pure ontol­
ity. A causc is immanent. on the other hand. when its cffect is ogy. a theory of Being in which Unity is only a property of sub­
"immanate" in thc cause. rather than emanating from it. What stance and of what is. What is more. pure immanence requires
defines oln immanent Coluse is that its effect is in it - in it. of as a principle the equality ofbcing, or the positing of equal Being:
course. as in something else. but still being and remaining in it. not only is being equal in itsclf. but it is seen to be equally pres­
The cffect remains in its cause no less than the cause remains ent in all beings. And the Cause appears as everywhere equally
in itself. From this viewpoint the distinction of essence hctwcen close: there is no remote causation. Beings are not defined by
cause and cffect can in no woly be understood as a dcgradation. their rank in a hierarchy, are not more or less remote from the
From the \'iewpoint of immanence the distinction of essence uocs One, but each depends directly on God. participating in the equal­
not exclude, but rather implies, an equality of bcing: it is the ity of being. receiving immediately all that it is by its essence
same being that remains in itself in the cause, and in which the fitted to receive, irrespective of any proximity or remoteness.
effect remains as in another thing. Furthermore. pure immanence requires a Being that is univocal
Plotinus also says that the One has "nothing in common" with and constitutes a Nature, and that consists of positive fonns. com­
the things tholt come from it.6 For an emanative cause is supe­ mon to producer and product, to cause and effect. \Ve know that
rior not only to its effect. but superior also to what it gives the immanence docs not do away with the distinction of essences;
effect. But why exactly is the first cause the One? Giving being but there must be common forms that constitute the essence of
to all that is, it is necessarily beyond being or substancc. So ema­ substance as cause, while they contain the essences of modes as
nation, in its pure form, always involves a system of the One- ; effects. Thus the superiority of causes subsists within the view­
alxwe-being: the first hypotheSiS of the Pormenidesc dominates all point of immanence, but now invoh'es no eminence. involves.
Neoplatonism.1 Nor is emanation any more sepa.rolble from a neg­ that is. no positing of any principlc beyond the forms that are
ative theology, or a method of olnalogy that respects the eminence themselves present in the elTcct. Immanence is opposed to any
of principle or cause. Proclus shows that. in the case of the One eminence of the cause, any negative theology, any method of
itself. ncgation gencrates amnnations applicable to what the One analogy, any hierarchical conception or the world, With imma-

'7' '7 1
P .. R .. L L E L IS '" " N O I M M " N E N C E I ... ... .. N E N C E " N O T Oi E C O ", P O N E N T S 0 " E X P R E S S I O N

nence all is affirmation. The Cause is superior to its effect, but correlative with the supereminence o f the One.1I Damascius de­
not superior to what it gives to the effect. Or rather, it "gives" velops the description ofthis aspect of Being - in which the Mul­
nothing to the effect. Participation must be thought of in a tiple is collected. concentrated. compr;s�d in the One. but in
completely positive way, not on the basis of an eminent gift, but which the One also �xpJ;cotes itself in the Many - to great lengths.
on the basis of a formal community that allows the distinction Such is the origin of a pair of notions that take on greater and
of essences to subsist. greater importance in the philosophies of the Middle Ages and
Renaissance: campJicar� and �xplicar�.12 All things are present to
God, who complicates them. God is present to all things. which
If there is such a great difference between emanation and imma­ explicate and implicate him. A co-presence of two correlative
nence, how ca.n they be historically assimilated, if only in a par­ movements comes to be substituted for a series of successive sub­
tial manner? This happens beca.use in Neoplatonism itself, under ordinate emanations. For things remain in God while explicat­
Stoic innuences, a truly immanent cause does in fact come to be ing and implicating him. no less than God remains in himself, in
combined with emanative causality.' At the level ofthe One, the complicating them. The presence of things to God constitutes
metaphon of sphere and radiation already offe r an important cor­ an inherence. just as the presence of God to things constitutes
rective to the theory of a strict hierarchy. But it is above all the an implication. An equality of being is substituted for a hierar­
fint emanation that presents us with an idea of immanent causal­ chy of hypostases; for things are present to the same Being, which
ity. From the One emanate Intelligence and Being; and not only is itself present in things. Immanence corresponds to the unity
is there a mutual immanence of Being and Intelligence. but Intel­ of complication and explication. of inherence and implication.
ligence contains all intelligences and all intelligibles, just as Being Things remain inherent in God who complicates them. and God
contains all beings and all genera of being. "Full of the beings remains implicated in things which explicate him. It is a com­
which it has generated, Intelligenced as it were swallows them up plicative God who is explicated through all things: "God is the
again, by keeping them in itself.'" Of coune from Intelligence. univenal complication. in the sense that everything is in him; and
in its tum. there emanates a new hypostasis. But Intelligence does the univenal explication, in the sense that he is in everything."ll
not constitute such an emanative cause except to the extent that Participation no longer has its principle in an emanation whose
it has reached its own limit of perfection; and this it reaches only source lies in a more or less distant One. but rather in the imme­
as an immanent cause. Being and Intelligence are still the One, diate and adequate expression ofan absolute Being that comprises
but a One that is and that knows. the One of the second hypodt­ in it all beings, and is explicated in the essence of each. Expres­

esis in the Parmenides. a One in which the Multiple is present. and sion comprehends all these aspects: complication, explication.
which is itself present in the Multiple. Plotinus shows that Being inherence. implication. And these aspects of expression are also
is identical to number in the state of unity, that beings are iden­ the categories of immanence. Immanence is revealed as expres­

tical to number in the state of development (that is to number as sive. and expression as immanent. i.n a system of logical relations
"explicated"IO). There is already in Plotinus an equality of Being within which the two notions are correlative.

'74 '"
I ... ... ... N .. N C .. ... N D T H E C O ", P O N " N T S OF " )( P R E S S ' O N
P "' � "' \. \ ' E \ ' I S '" ... N O I ... .. ... N .. N C E

nus and his successors this immanent causality remains subordinate

From this viewpoint the idea o f expression accounts for the
to emanative cause. Being or Intelligence do indeed "expliCAte
real activity of the participated, and for the possibility of partic­
themselves," but self-explication is only found in what is already
ipation. It is in the idea of expression that the new principle of
multiple, and not in the first principle. "Intelligence explicAtedh
immanence asserts itself. Expression appears as the unity of the
itself because it wanted to possess everything - how much better
multiple. as the complication of the multiple, and as the expli­
it would have been for it not to want this. for it thereby became
cation of the One. God expresses himself in the world; the world
the second principle."15 Immanent Being. immanent Thought.
is the expression, the explication, of a God-Being or a One who
cannot constitute An absolute. but presuppose as first prinCiple an
is. The world is carried into God in such A way that it loses its
emanative cause and transcendent end from which all flows, and
limits or finitude. and participates directly in divine infinity. The
to which all reverts. This first principle. the One above Being,
metaphor of a circle whose center is everywhere and circumfer­
does of course contain all things Virtually: it is explicated but does
ence nowhere Applies to the world itself. The relation of expres­
not explicate itself. in contrast to Intelligence and to Being. 16 It is
sion does not ground between God And world an identity o f
not affected by what expresses it. So that for the limiting devel­
essence, but an equality of being. For i t is the same Being thAt is
opment ofNeoplatonism we have to wait until the Middle Ages,
present in the God who complicates all things according to his
Renaissance and Reformation, when we see immanent causality
own essence. and in the things that explicate him according to
taking on ever greater importance. Being in compctition with the
their own essence or mode. So that God must be defined as iden­
One. expression in competition with, and sometimes tending to
tical to Nat'Ufe complicative, and Nature as identical to God expli­
supplant, emAnation. It has often been asked what makes the
cative. But this equality or identity in distinction constitutes two
philosophy of the RenaisSilnce "modem"; I fully agree with Alex­
moments within expression as a whole: God expresses himself
andre Koyre's thesis, thu the specific category of expression
in his Word, his Word expresses the divine essence; but the Word
characterizes the mode of thinking ofsuch philosophy.
in its tum expresses itself in the Universe, the Universe express­
One must however recognize that this expressionist tendency
ing all things in the \vay belonging to each essentially. The Word
was never fully worked through. It was encouraged by Christian­
is the expression of God. the language of his expression; the Uni­
ity, by its theory of the Word, and above all by the ontological
versc is the expression of this expression. the face of expression,
requirement that the first principle be a Being. But Christianity
its phYSiognomy. (This classic theme of a double expression is to
also repressed it. through the still more powerful requirement
be found in Eckhardt: God expresses himself in the Word, which
that the transcendence of the divine being be mAintained. Thus
is a silent inward speech; and the Word expresses itself in dfe
one sees philosophers constantly threatened by the accusation of
world, which is extemali7.ed speech and face.H)
immanentism and pantheism. and constantly taking care to avoid,
above All else. such an accuSiltion. AlreAdy in Erigena one has to
admire the philosophically subtle contrivances by which the
I have tried to show how an expressive immanence of Being was
claims of an expressive immanence, an emanative transcendence
grafted onto the emanativc transcendence of the One. Yet in Ploti-

P .. .. .. L L E L I S M .. N O I M M .. N E N C E I M M " N E N C E .. N O T H E C O M P O N E N T S O F E X P R E S S I O N

and an exemplary creation ex nihilo. arc all reconciled. The tran­ are nOt distingUished i n relation to God. but in relation to the
scendence of a creator God is in fact saved through an analogical things whose possible participation in God himself they ground.
conception of Being. or at least through an eminent conception (Malebranche defines Ideas in God as principles of expression,
of God which sets limits to the implications of an equality of representing God as participable or imitable.)
being. The principle of equality of being is itself interpreted This was the line taken by Saint Augustine. And here again.
analogically; transcendence is preserved by drawing on all the the concept of expression comes forward to determine the sta­
resources of symbolism. The inexpressible is. then. maimained at tus of both exemplary and imitath'e likeness. It is Bonaventure
the heart of expression it'sclf. Not that one goes back to Plotinus. who. following Augustine, attaches the greatest importance to
to the positing of an ineffable One above Being. For it is the same this double determination: the two likenesses together constitute
God. the same infinite being. who asserts and expresses himself the concrete whole of "cxpressive" likeness. God expresses him­
in the world as immanent cause, and who remains inexpressible self in his Word or in an exemplary Idea; but the exemplary Idea
and transcendent as the object of a negath'e theology that denies expresses the multiplicity of creatable and creatcd things. This
of him all that is affirmed of his immanence. Thus. even in these is the paradox of expression ilS such: intrinsic and eternal, it is
conditions. immanence appears as a theoretical limit. corrected one in relation to what expresses itself, and multiple in relation
through the perspectives of emanation and creation. The reason to what is expressed.17 Expression is like a radiation that leads
for this is Simple: expressive i mmanence cannot be sustained us from God, who expresses himself, to the things expressed. As
unless it is accompanied by a thoroughgoing conception of uni­ itself expressive (rather than expressed ). it extends equally to
vocity, a thoroughgoing affirmation of univocal Being. all things without limitation. like the divine essence itself. We
Expressive immanence is grafted onto the theme of emana­ here again find an idea of equality, which enables Bonaventure
tion. which in part encourages it. and in part represses it. And it to deny any hierarchy among Ideas as they are in God. Indeed
interacts no less. under similar conditions, with the theme of cre­ the theory of expressive likeness implies a certain immanence.
ation. Creation. in one of iI'S aspects. seems to relate to the same Ideas arc in God. therefore things arc in God through their exem­
concern as Emanation: it is here a question. once again. of find­ plary likenesses. But must not the things themselves be in God.
ing a principle of participation on the side of the participated as imitations? Is there nOt a Certain inherence of a copy in its
itself. Ideas arc placed in God: rather than being referred to some model?18 One Can escape such a conclusion only by maintaining
lower power that might take them as models. or force them to a strictly analogical conception of being (Bonaventure himself
descend into the sensible order, they themselves have an exen1"­ constantly opposes expressive likeness and univocal likeness or
plary character. While representing God's infinite being. they also likeness of univocity).
represent all that God wishes. and is able. to do. Ideas in God
orc cxemplary likenuse.s; things created ex nihilo arc imitatil'c like­
�. Participation is an imitation. but the principle of imitation Most or the authors cited thus far belong to two traditions at
is to be found on the side of the model or what is imitated: Ideas once: those of emanation and imitation, emanative cause and

'7' '79
P .. R " L L E LI S '" .. N O ' ... ... .. N E N C E ' ... ... .. N € N C E " N O T H E C O " ' P O N E N T S O F IE � P If E S S I O N

exemplary cause. Pscudo-Dionysius and Augustine. But these two cis. There i s nothing exemplary e\'en in the idea o f God, since
lines meet in the concept of expression, This may already be seen this is itself, in its formal being. also produced. Nor com'erscly
in Erigena, who forges a philosophy of expression that is some­ do ideas imitate things. In their formal being they follow from
times "similitudinous" (turning on likeness) and sometimes the attribute of thought; and if they are representative, they are

"emanative." Emanation leads us ro e,ypression as upllcarion. Crea­ so only to the extent that they participate in an absolute power

tion leads us to expression as likeness. And expression does in fact of thinking which is i n itself equal to the absolute power of pro­

have this dual aspect; on the one hand i t is a mirror. a model. a ducing or acting. Thus all imitative or exemplary l i keness is

resemblance; on the other a seed. a tree, a branch. But these met­ excluded from the relation of expression. God expresses him­

aphors come in the end to nothing. The idea of expression is self i n the forms that constitute his essence, as in the idea that

repressed as soon as it surfaces. For the themes of creation or ema­ reflects it. Expression characterizes both being and knOWing. But

nation cannot do without a minimal transcendence. which bars only univocal being, only univocal consciousness, are expressive.

"expressionism" from proceeding all the way to the immanence Substance and modes, cause and effects, only have being and are

it implies. Immanence is the very vertigo of philosophy. and is only known through common forms that actually constitute the

inseparable from the concept of expression (from the double essence of the one, and actually contain the essence of the others.

immanence of expression in what expresses itself, and of what Spinola therefore sets apart two domains which were always
is expressed in its expression). confused in earlier traditions; that of expression and of the ex­

The significance of Spino7.ism seems to me this; it asserts pressive knowledge which i s alone adequate; and that of signs,

immanence as a principle and frees expression from any subor­ and of knowledge by signs, through apophasis or analogy. Spino7.a

dination to emanath'e or exemplary causality. Expression itself no distinguishes different sorts of signs; indicative signs, which lead

lonoer emanates, no /onoer resembles anythino. And such a result can us to infer something from the state of our body; imperative signs,

be obtained only within a perspective of univacity. God is cause which lead us to grasp laws as moral laws: and revelatory signs,
of all things in the same sense that he is cause of himself; he pro­ which themselves lead us to obey them and which at the "ery

duces as he formally exists, or as he objectively understands him­ most disclose to us certain " propria" of God. But whatever its sort,

self. He thus produces things in the "ery forms that constitute knowledge through signs is never expressive. and remains of the

his own essence. But the same attributes that formally constitute first kind. Indication is not an expression, but a confused state

God's essence contain all the formal essences of modes, and the �f involvement in which an idea remains powerless to explain

idea of God's essence comprehends all objective essences. or aU Itself or to express its own cause. An imperative sign is not an

ideas. Things in general are modes of divine being, that is. they expression, but a confused impression which leads us to believe

implicate the same attributes that constitute the nature of this that the true expressions of God, the laws of nature, are so many

being. Thus all likeness is univocal. defined by the presence in commandments. Revelation is not an expression, but a cultiva­

both cause and effect of a common property. The things that are tion of the inexpressible. a confused and relative knowledge
through which we lend God determinations analogous to our own
produced are not imitations any more than their ideas are mod·

,80 ,8,
I M M A N E N C E A N D T H E C O ,," P O N E N T S O F E M P � E S S I O N

(Undcrstanding, Will), only to rescue God's superiority through differentiation. But differentiation is in this case purely quanti­
his cminence in all genera (the supereminent One. etc.). Through tative. If real distinction is never numerical, numerical distinc­
univocity. Spin07.a gives the idea of expression a positive content. tion is. conversely, essentially modal. Number is of course more

opposing it to the three sorts of sign. The opposition o ex res­� suitably applied to things of reason than to modes themselves.
sions and signs is one of the fundamental principles ofSpm07.lsm. Yet it remains that modal distinction is quantitath·e. cven if num­
Expression had also to be freed from all trace of emanation. ber does not well explain the nature of such quantity. This is
Neoplatonism drew part of its force from the thesis that produc­ well seen in Spinor.a·s conception of participation. 19 Theories of
tion is not carried out by composition (addition of species to emanation and creation agreed in refusing any material sense to
genus, reception of a form in matter). but b)' �
istinction and participation. In Spinor.a, on the other hand. the principle of par­
di fferentiation. But Neoplatonism was constramed by various ticipation itself requires us to interpret it as a material and quan­
requirements: distinction had to be produced from the Indistinct titative participation. To participate is to ha"e a part in. to be a
or the absolutely One. and yet to be actual; it had to be actual, part of, something. Attributes are so to speak dynamic qualities to
and yet not numerical. Such requirements explain Neoplat nist � which corresponds the absolute power of God. A mode is. in its
efforts to definc the status of indistinct distinctions, undivided essence. always a certain degree. a certain quantity. of a quality.
divisions. unplurifiable pluralities. Spinor.a, on the other hand. Precisely thereby is it, within the attribute containing it. a part
finds another solution in his theory of distinctions. In conjunc­ so to speak of God's power. Being common forms, attributes are
tion with univoc;ty, the idea of a formal distinction. that is to the conditions of substance having an omnipotence identical with
say, a real distinction that is not and cannot be numerical, allows its essence, and also of modes possessing a part of this power iden­
him immediately to reconcile the ontological unity of substance tical with their essence. God's power expresses or explicates itself
with the qualitative plurality of its attributes. Far rom emana ­ � modally, but only in and through such quantitative differentia­

ing from an eminent Unity, the really distinct attnbutes c nstl­ tion. Man thus loses in Spinozism all the privileges owed to a
tute the essence ofabsolutely single substance. Substance IS not quality supposed proper to him, which belonged to him only
like a One from which there proceeds a paradoxical distinction; from the viewpoint of imitative participation. Modes are distin­
attributes are not emanations. The unity of substance and the dis­ gUished quantitatively: each mode expresses or explicates God's
tinction of attributes arc correlates that together constitute essence, insofar as that essence explicates itself through the
expression. Thc distinction of attributes is nothing but the quali­ mode's essence, that is. dh'ides itself according to the quantity
tati\'C composition of an ontologically single substance; substance corresponding to that mode. 20

is distinguished into an infinity of attributes, which arc as it w re Modes of the same attribute are not distinguished by their
its actual forms or component qualities. Before all production rank. by their nearness to. or distance from God. They are quan­
there is thus a distinction. but this distinction is also the com­ titatively distinguished by the quantity or capacity of their re­
position of substance itself. spective essences which always participate directly in divine
The production of modes does, it ;5 true, take place through )ubnance. A certain hierarchy does of course appear to persist

,82 ,8 J
P'''I A L L E L I S M A N D I M M A N E N C E I "' M A N E N C E A N D T H E C O M P O N E N T S OF E � " A E S S ' O N

in Spinoza between infinite immediate mode. infinite mediate remains i n God; and God. furthermore. is himself present in each
mode. and finite modes. But Spinoza constantly reminds us that of his effect's.
God is nevet. strictly speakinB. a remote cause)l God. considered Substance fim oj aU elCpr� itself in itself. This first expression
under some attribute. is the proximate cause of the correspond­ is fonnal or qualitath'e. Substance expresses itself in formally dis.
ing infinite immediate mode. As for the infinite mode Spinoza tinct. qualitatively distinct. real ly distinct anributes; each attri­
calls mediate. it derives from the already modified attribute; but bute expresses the essence of substance. Here again we find the
me Jint modification is not interposed as an intermediate ca� within double movement of complication and explication: substance
a system of emanations, it appears as the modality in which God "complicates" its attributes. each attribute explicates the essence
himself produces in himself the second modification. If we con­ of substance. and substance explicates itself through all its attri­
sider the essences of finite modes, we see that they do not form butes. This first expression. prior to any production. is as it were
a hierarchical system in which the less powerful depend on the the constitution of substance itself. A principle of equality here
more powerful. but an actually infinite collection. a system of finds its first application: not only is substance equal to all its
mutual implications, in which each essence conforms with all of attributes, but each attribute is equal to the others. none is supe­
the others. and in which all essences are involved in the produc­ rior or inferior. Substance expresses itself to itself. It expresses itself
tion of each. Thus God directly produces each essence together i n the idea of God, which comprises all attributes. In expressing
with all the others. That is. existing modes themselves have God or explicating himself. God understands himself. This second
as their dircct cause. An existing finite mode must of course be expression is objective. It involves a new application of the prin­
rcferred to something else besides an attributc; its cause lies in ciple of equality: the power of thinking. corresponding to the idea
anOlhcr existing mode. whose own cause lies in another. and so of God. i s equal to the power of existing. which corresponds to
on ad infinitum. But God is the power that. in each case. deter­ the attributes. Thc idea of God (the Son or Word) has a complex
mines a cause to have such an effect. We never enter into infi­ status: objectively equal to substance. it is in its formal being
nite regress: we have only to consider a mode together with its only a product. I t thus leads us to a third expression: Substance
cause in order to arrive directly at God as the principle that deter­ re.o£xpresses itself. attributes in their turn express themselves in modes.
mines that cause to have such an effect. Thus God is never a This expression is the production of the modes themselves: God
remote cause. even ofexisting modes. \Vhence Spinoza's famous produces as he understands; he cannot understand himself with­
phrase "insofar as. . . ." Things are always produced directly by out prodUcing an infinity of things, and without also understand.
God. but in various modalities: insofar as he is infinite. insofar.. ing all that he produces. God produces things within the same
as he is modified by a modification that is itself infinite. inso­ attributes that constitute his essence. and thinks all he produces
far as he is affectcd by a panicular modification. A hierarchy of within the same idca that comprises� his essence. All modes are
modalities of Goel himself is substituted for a hicrarchy of ema­ thus expressive. as are the ideas corresponding to those modes.
nations; but in each modality God expresses himself immediately. Attributes "complicatc" the essences of modes. and explicate
produces his effects directly. Every effect is thus in God. and themselves through them. just as the Idea of God comprises all

'" '"
p.. " .. L L !E L I S " .. NO I M .... N !E N C E

ideas and explicates itself through them. This third expression

is quantitative. And. like quantity itself, it has twO fonns: inten­
sive in the essences of modes, and extensive when the modes pass
into existence. The principle of equalilY here finds its final appli­
cation: not in an equality of modes to substance itself, but in a
superiority of substance which involves no eminence. Modes are
expressive precisely insofar as they imply the same qualitative
forms that constitute the essence of substance.


T h e T h e o r y of F i n i t e M o d e s
C H .... P T E R TW E L V E

Modal Essence:

The Passage f r o m I n fi n i t e

to F i n ite

One finds in Spinoza the classic identification of attribute and

quality. Attributes are eternal and infinite qualities: as such they
are indivisible. Extension is indivisible qua substantial quality or
attribute. Each attribute is indivisible qua quality. But each
attribute-quality has an infinite quantity that is for its part divisi­
ble in certain conditions. This infinite quantity of an attribute
constitutes a matter. but a purely modal matter. An attribute is
thus divided modally. and not really. It has modally distinct parts:
modal. rather than real or substantial parts. This applies to Exten­
sion as to the other attributes: "Is there no part in Extension prior
to all its modes? None. I reply.".
But it appears from the Ethics that the word "part" must be
understood in two ways. Sometimes it is a question of parts of
a power. that is, of intrinsic or intensive parts. true degrees.
degrees of power or intensity. Modal essences are thus defined
as degrees of power (Spinoza here joins a long Scholastic tradi­
tion, according to which modus inuinsecus= gradus = inunsi02).
But it is also. at times, a question of extrinsic or extensive parts,
external to one another, and acting on one another from outside.
Thus the simplest bodies are the ultimate extensive modal divi­
sions of Extension. (It should not be thought that Extensivity

T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N �T E "' O O E S "' O O A L E S S E N C E T "' E P A S S A G E F � O '" I N F I N I T E TO F I N I T E

belongs only to Extension: the modes of Extension are defined ble. but an object whose idea is necessarily comprised in the idea
essentially by degrees of power, and an attribute such as Thought of God. just as its essence is necessarily contained in an attribute.'
itself has extensi"e modal parts. ideas that correspond to the The idea of nonexistent modes is thus the necessal)' objective cor­
simplest bodies)"') relate of modal essence. Every essence is the essence of some­
It is as though to each attribute there belonged twO quanti­ thing; the essence of a mode is the essence of something which
ties. each in itself infinite. but each in its own way divisible in must be conceived in infinite understanding. One cannot say of
ccrtain conditions: an intensive quantity. which divides into the essence itself that it is only possible. nor can one say that a
intensi\'e parts. or degrees. and an extensive quantity. which nonexistem mode tends. by virtue of its essence, toward exist­
divides into extensive parts. It is hardly surprising. then. that ence. On these two points Spinoza and Leibniz are radically
beside the qualitative infinity of attribmes. which relates to sub­ opposed: in Leibniz an essence or individual notion is a logical
stance, Spinoza alludes to two strictly modal quantitative infini­ possibility, inseparable from a certain metaphYSical reality. that
ties. In a letter to Meyer he writes "Certain things [arc infinitc] is. from a "claim to existence." a tendency to exist.6 In Spinoza
in virtue of the cause on which they depend, yet when they arc this is not the case: an essence is not a possibility. but possesses
considered abstractly they can be divided into parts and viewed a real existence that belongs to it itself; a nonexistent mode
as finite; certain others. lastly, are said to be infinite or. if you pre­ lacks nothing and claims nothing, but is conceived in God's
fer. indefinite, because they cannot be equated with allY num­ understanding as the correlate of in real essence. Neither a meta­
ber. yet they can be conceived as greater or les5. ..·b But we then physical reality nor a logical possibility, the essence of a mode is a
face many problems: In what do these two infinities consist? pure physical reality.
How, and in what conditions. do they allow of division into Modal essences therefore, no less than existing modes. have
parts? How arc they related. and what arc the rclations of their efficient causes. "God is the efficient cause, not only of the exist­
rcspective parts? ence of things. but also of their essence."7 When Spinoza shows
that a mode's essence does not involve existence. he of course
primarily means that its essence is not the cause of a mode's exist­
What is it that Spinoza calls a modal essence. a particular or sin­ ence. But he also meAns that the mode's essence is not the cause
gular essence? His position may be stated thus: A mode's essence of its own existence.I.e
is not a logical possibility. nor a mathematical structure. nor a Not that there is any real distinction between an essencc and
metaphysical entity. but a physical reality. a res physico. Spinota its own existencc; the distinction of essence and existence is
means that the essence. quo essence. has an existence. A modal suffiCiently grounded once it is agreed that an essence has a cause
essence has an existence distinctfrom that of the corresponding mode. that is itself distinct. I:rom this it docs indeed follow that the
A mode's essence exists. is real and actual. even if the mode essence exists necessarily. but this by virtue of its cause (and not
whose essence it is does not actually exist. \Vhence Spinoza's through itself). One may recogni1.e here the prinCiple of a famous
conception of a nonexistent mode: this is not something possi- thesis of Duns Scotus's (and of Avicenna before him): existence

T Oi l T Oi E O A Y OF F I N I T E "' O D E S ", O O " L E S S E N C E , T Oi E P"SS"GE F A D M I N F ' N I T E T O F I N I T E

necessarily accompanies essence, but this by virtue o f the latter's ceming at once individuality and reality poses, as is .....ell known.
cause; it is not thereby included or involved in essence, but added many difficulties for Spinozism.
to it. It is not added to it as a really distinct actuality, but only Spin07.a does not appear to have had any clear solution at the
as a sort of ultimate determination resulting from the essence's outset, nor even a clear statement of the problem. Two famous
cause.9 In short, essence always has the existence due to it by vir­ passages of the Short Treatise argue that. as long as the corres­
tue of its cause. Thus in Spinoza, the following two propositions ponding modes do not themselves exist, their essences are not
go together: Essences have on existence or physical Itolity; God is the distinct from the attribute containing them, and are furthermore
efficient couse oj mences. An essence's existence is the same as its not distinct one from another - that they do not, then, have in
being-caused. So that one should not confuse Spinoza's theory themselves any principle of individuality. II Individuation takes
with an apparently analogous Cartesian theory: when Descartes place only through a mode's existence. not through its essence.
says that God produces even essences, he means that God is not (And yet the Short Treatise already requires the hypothesis o f
subject to any law, that he creates everything, even poSSibility. modal essences that are in themselves Singular, and makes full use
Spinoza, on the other hand, means that essences are not possi­ of this hypotheSiS.)
bles, but that they have a fully actual existence that belongs to But these two passages of the Short Treatise should perhaps be
them by virtue of their cause. Essences of modes can only be taken as ambiguous, radler than as thoroughly excluding any sin­
assimilated to possibles to the extent that we consider them gularity and distinction of essences as such. For the first passage
abstractly, that is, divorce them from the cause that makes them seems to say that ;u long as a mode doesn't exist, its essence exists
real or existing things. solely as contained in its attribute; but the idea of the essence
If all essences agree, this is just because they are not causes cannot itself contain a distinction that is not in Nature; thus i t
one o f another, but all have God as their cause. When we con­ cannot represent a nonexistent mode a s if i t were distinct Jrom
sider them concretely, referring them all to the cause on which its attribute and from other modes. And the second passage, that
they depend. we posit them all together, coexisting and agree­ as long as a mode doesn't exist, the idea of its essence cannot
ing.lo All essences agree in the existence or reality resulting from involve any distinct existence; as long as the whole wall is white,
their cause. One essence can only be separated from the others one cannot apprehend anything distinct from it or distinct in it.
abstractly, by considering it independently of the principle of pro­ (This thesis is not even abandoned in the Ethics: as long as a mode
duction which comprehends all. Thus essences form a total sys­ doesn't exist, its essence is contained in its attribute, its idea com­
tem. an actually infinite whole. One may say of this whole, as in prised in the idea of Gad: this idea cannot then involve a distinct
the letter to Meyer, that it is infinite through irs cause. We must existence. nor can it be distinguished from other ideas. 12)
then ask: How are the essences of modes distinct, if they are "Being distinct from" is bluntly opposed in all this to "being
inseparable one from another? How are they singular. when they contained in." As contained only in their attribute, modal es­
form an infinite whole? Which amounts to asking: In what does sences are not distinct from il. Distinction, then, is token in the sense
the physical reality of essences as such consist? This problem con- of extrinsic distinction. The argument is as follows. Modal essences

" 4 '9<

are contained in their attribute; as long a s a mode docs not exist. a quality univocally what i t is. containing all the degrees that

no extrinsic diSlinction between its essence and Ihe attribute. or affect it without modifying its fonnal reason. Modal essences arc

between iu essence and Dlher essences. is possible. Thus no idea thus distinguished from their atrribute as intensities of its qual­

can represent or appreheml modal essences as extrinsic parts of ity. and from one another as different degrees of intensity. One

the attribute. or as parts external one to another. This position may be permitted to think that. while he docs not explicitly

may seem odd, because it supposes that. conversely. extrinsic dis­ develop such a theory. SpinOla is looking toward the idea of a dis­

tinction is not incompatible with existing modes. and is cvcn. tinction or Singularity belonging to modal essences as such. The

indeed. required by them. We will postpone the analysis of this difference of being (of modal essences) is at once intrinsic and

point and simply note here that an existing mode has duration. purely quantitative; for the quantity here in question is an inten­

and that while it endures it is no longer simply contained in its sive one. Only a quantitative distinction of beings is consistent

auribute. just as its idea is no longer Simply comprist..-d in the idea with the qualitati\'e identity of the absolute. And this quantita·

of God. U It is through duration (and also. in the case of modes tive distinction is no mere appearance. but an internal difference.

of Extension. through figure and place) that existing modes have a difference of intensity. So that each finite being must be said to

their strictly extrinsic indivi(luation. express the absolute, according to the intensive quantity that con­
As long as the wall is white. 110 shape is distinguished from or stitutes its essence. according. that is, to the degree of its power. tS

in it. That is: ill such a stale the quality is 110t affected by anything Indi\'iduation is. in Spin01.a. neither qualitath'e nor extrinsic. but

extrinsically distinct from it. But there remains the question of quantitative and intrinsic. intensive. There is indeed. in this

knowing whether there is another type of modal distinction. sense, a distinction of modal essences. bolh from the attribute

presenting an intrinsic principle of individuation. Furthermore. that contains them. and one from another. Modal essences are

one might well consider that individuation through the existence not distinct in any extrinsic wa.y. being contained in their attri­

of a mode is insufficient. We cannot distinguish existing Ihings bute. but they have nonetheless a type of distinction or Singular­

except insofar as we suppose their essences distinct: similarly. any ity proper to them. within the attribute that cont'ains them .

extrinsic distinction seems to presuppose a prior intrinsic one. So Intensive quantity is infinite. and the system of essences an

a modal essenCe should be Singular in itself. even if the corres­ actually infinite series. We a.rc here dealing with infinity "through

ponding mode docs not exist. But how? Let us return to Scotus: a cause," This is the sense in which an .:attribute contains. that is.

whiteness. he says. has \'arious intensities: these arc not added complicates. the essences of all its modes: it contains them as

to whiteness as one thing to another thing. like a shape added to ... the infinite series of degrees corresponding 1'0 its intensive quan­

the wall on which it is drawn: its degrees of intensity are intrin· tity. Now it is edSY to sec that this infinity is in .:a sense indi\'isi­

sic detemlinations. intrinsic modes. of a whiteness that remains ble: one cannot di\'ide it into extensive or extrinsic parts. except

univocally the same under whiche"er mOt:latity it is considered.l� through abstraction. (But by .:abstraction we separ.:ate essences

This seems also t'O be the case for SpinOla: modal essences arc from their cause .:a11(1 from the .:attribute that contains them. con­

intrinsic modes or intensive quantities. An attribute remains as sidering them as simple logical possibilities. and taking from

'9' '97
T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N I T E M O O l; 5 M O O ... 1. E S S E N C E; r >< E ""SS"'GE F R O M ' N F I N I T E T O " ' N I T E

them all physicOlI reOllity. ) Modal essences are thus in fact insepa­ them. I t is i n this sense. as we have already seen, that modes of a
rable. and are characterized by their totOlI agreement. But they divine attribute necessarily participate in God's power: their
are nevertheless singular and particular, and distinguished from essence is itself part of God's power. is an intensive part, or a
one another intrinsically. In their concrete system, all essences degree of that power. Here again the reduction of creatures to
are involved in the production of each: this applies not merely the status of modes appears as the condition of their essence being
to the lowest degree of essence, but to the highest also. since the a power, that is, of being an irreducible part of Gad's power. Thus
series is actually infinite. Yet in this concrete system each essence modes are in their essence expressive: they express God's essence,
is produced as an irreducible degree, necessarily apprehended as each according to the degree of power that constitutes its essence.
a singular unity. Such is the system of "complication" of essences. The 1ndividuiltion of the finite does not proceed in Spino7.a from
genus to species or individual, from general to particular; i t pro­
ceeds from iln infinite quality to il corresponding qUilntity, which
Modal essences are, then. parts of an infinite series. But this in divides into irreducible intrinsic or intensive parts.
the very special sense of intensive or intrinsic parts. One should
not give Spinoza's particular essences a leibni�dan interpretation.
Particular essences are not microcosms. They are not all con­
tained in each, but all are comprised in the production of each.
A modal essence is a pars intensiva, and not a pars totaJir.16 As such.
it has an expressive power. but such expressive power must be
understood in a wOly very different from the way it is understood
by Leibniz. For the status of modal essences relates to a strictly
Spinol.!st problem, concerning absolutely infinite substance. This
is the problem of passing from infinite to finite. Substance is, so
to speak. the absolute ontological identity of all qualities, abso­
lutely infinite power, the power of existing in all fonns, and of
thinking all fonn!. Attributes are infinite fonns or qualities. and
as such indivisible_ So the finite is neither subnantial nor quali­
tative. But nor is it mere appearance: it is modal. that is, quanti...
tative. Each substantial quality has intensive modal quantity. itself
infinite. which actually divides into an infinity of intrinsic modes.
These intrinsic modes, contained together as a whole in an attri­
bute, are the intensive parts of the attribute itself. And they are
thereby parts of God's power, within the attribute that contains

'98 '99
C H A I' T E H T ' " H T E E N

Modal Existence

We know that the existence of a modal essence is not the same

as the existence of the corresponding mode. A modal essence can
exist without the mode itself existing: its essence is not the cause
of a mode's existence. A mode's existence thus has as it cause
another mode. itself existing.1 But this infinite regression in no
way tells us in what that existence consists. If, however, it be true
that an existing mode "needs" a great number of other existing
modes, this already suggests that it is itself composed of a great
number of parts, parts that come to it from elsewhere, that begin
to belong to it as soon as it comes to exist by virtue of an exter­
nal cause, that are renewed in the play of causes while the mode
exists. and that cease to belong to it when it passes away.2 So we
can now say in what a mode's existence consists: ro e.tist is to actu­
ally possess a very grear number [plurimae] of parts. These compo­
nent parts are external to the mode's essence, and external one
to another: they arc extensive parts.
I do not think that there are, for Spinoza, any existing modes
that are not actually composed of a very great number of exten­
sivc parts. There arc no existing bodies, within Extension,� that
arc not composed of a very great number of simple bodies. And
the soul. insofar as it is the idea of an existing body, is itself

T H E T H E O A V O F F . N I T E MOOE5 M O O A L E )t ' S T [ N C [

composed of a great number of ideas which correspond to the third place. finally. this quantity is nOt infinite through the mul·...
body's component parts. and which are extrinsically distinct from titude of iI'S parts. for "if the infinity were inferred from the
one another} The faculties. furthermore. which the soul possesses multitude of parts. we should not be able to conceive a greater
insofar as it is the idea of an existing body. are genuine extensive multitude of parts. but their multitude ought to be greater than
parts. which cease to belong to the soul once the body itself any given onc." I t is not from the number of its parts that the
ceases to exist.4 Here then. it seems. are the primary element's quantity is infinite. but rather because it is infinite that it divides
ofSpino:t.a·s scheme: a mode's essence is a determinate degree of into a multitude of parts exceeding any number.
intensity. an irreducible degree of power; a mode exists. if it One may note that number never adequately expresses the
actually possesses a very great number of extensive parts corres· nature of modes. It may be useful to idcntify modal quantity and
ponding to its essence or degree of power. number; indeed one must do so, if it is to be opposed to sub·
What does Spinor.a mean by "a very great number"? The let· stance and substantial qualities. I did so when presenting modal
ter to Meyer provides a valuable clue: there are magnitudes that distinction as a numerical distinction. But number is, in fact, only
are called infinite or. better, indefinite, because "the parts can· a way of imagining quantity. or an abstract way of thinking of
not be determined or expressed by any number"; "they cannot modes. Modes, insofar as they now from substance and its attri·
be equated with any number. but exceed every number that can butes. are something more than phantoms of imagination. some·
be given."s Here we reeogni7.e the second infinity. modal and thing more than things of reason. Their being is quantitative.
quantitath.e. of the letter to Meyer: a strictly extensive infinity. rather than numerical. strictly speaking. If one considers the pri·
Spin07.a gives a geometrical example: the sum ofthe unequal dis· mary modal infinity. intensive infinity. it is not divisible into
tances between two nonconeentric circlesb exceeds any number extrinsic parts. The imensi\'e parts it intrinSically includes. modal
that may be given. This infinite quantity has three distinctive essences. are not separable one from another. Number separates
charaCteristics, although these are it is nue negative, rather than them from one another. and from the principle of their produc·
positive. It is not. in the first place. constant or equal to itself: tion. and thereby grasps them abstractly. I f one considers the
it can be coneei\'ed as both greater and less (Spinoza explains in second infinity. extensive infinity. it is of course divisible into
another passage: "In the whole space between two circles hay· the extrinsic parts that compose existing things. But these extrin·
ing different centers we conceive twice as many parts as in half sic parts always come in infinite collections; their sum always
that space, and yet the number of the parts. of the halfas well as exceeds any given number. When we explain them by number.
of the whole. exceeds any assignable number"6). Extensive infWl· we lose our hold on the real being of existing modes. and grasp
ity is thus an infinity necessarily conceived as greater or less. But only fictions.'
in the second place. it is not strictly speaking "unlimited": for Thus the letter to Meyer presents. among other things. the
it relates to something limited. There is a maximum and a mini· special case of an extensi\'e modal infinity. variable and divisi·
mum distance between twO nonconcentric circles. and these dis· ble. This exposition is important in itself; Leibni:t. congratulated
tanees attach to a perfectly limited and determinate space. In the Spino...a on having gone further on this point than many mathe·


maticians.8 But from the viewpoint of Spino1.ism itself, the ques­ atoms is to run "from Charybdis to Scylla."IO The ultimate exten­
rion is: What is the bearing of this theory of the second modal sive parts arc in fact the actual infinitely small parts of an infin­
infinity on the system as a whole? The answer seems to be that ity that is itself actual. Positing an actual infinity in Nature is no
extensive infinity relates to modal existence. Indeed, when less important for Spin07.a than for Leibniz: there is no contra­
Spinoza asserts in the Ethics that composite modes have a rely diction between the idea of absolutely simple ultimate parts and
great numlxr of parts, he understands by "very great number" an the principle of infinite division. as long as this division is actu­
unassignable number, that is. a plurality exceeding any number. ally infinite.11 We must then consider that an attribute has not only
The essence of such a mode is itself a degree of power; but what­ an infinite intensive quantity. but an infinite extensive quantity
e\'er degree of power constitutes its essence, the mode cannot also. It is the extensive quantity that is actually divided into an
exist unless it actually has an infinity of parts. If one considers a infinity of extensive parts. These are extrinsic parts. acting one
mode whose degree of power is double that of the previous one, on another from outside. and externally distinguished. As a whole,
its existence is composed of an infinity of parts, which is itself and in all their ,elations. they form an infinitely chongeable universe,
the double of the previous infinity. There is in the limit an infln­ corresponding to God's omnipotence. But in this 01 that determinate
ity of infinite wholes. a whole of all the wholes. the whole. so relation theyform greater or lesser infinite wholes, corresponding to this
to speak, of existing things both contemporaneous and succes­ or that degree of power. in other words, to this or thot modal essence.
sive. In short, the characteristics assigned by Spinoza to the sec­ They always come in infinities: an inflnity of parts. however small.
ond modal infinity. in his letter to Meyer. find an application only always corresponds to a degree of power; and the whole universe
in the theory of existing modes developed in the Ethics - and corresponds to the Power that comprises all these degrees.
there find general application. Existing modes have an infinity This is how we should understand Spinoza's analysis of the
(a very great number) of parts; their essences or degrees of power modes of Extension. The attribute of Extension has an exten­
always correspond to a limit (a maximum or minimum); all sive modal quantity that actually divides into an infinity of sim­
existing modes taken together. not only contemporaneous but ple bodies. These simple bodies are extrinsic parts which are only
also successive ones. constitute the greatest infinity. itself divis­ distinguished from one another. and which are only related to
ible into infinities greater or less than one another.') one another. through movement and rest. Movement and rest are
precisely the fonn of extrinsic distinction and external relation
between simple bodies. Simple bodies are detennined from out­
We have yet to discover whence come these extensive parts. and' side to movement or rest ad infinitum. and are distinguished by
in what they consist. They arc not atoms: for not only do atoms the movement and rest to which they are determined. They arc
imply a void. but an infinity of atoms could not correspond to always grouped in infinite wholes. each whole being defined by a
something limited. Nor are they the virtual components of divis­ certain relotion" of mOI'ement and rest. It is through this relation
ibility to infinity: these could not form greater or lesser infini­ that an infinite whole corresponds to a certain modal essence
ties. To go from the hypothesis of infinite divisibility to that of (that is. to J certain degree of power). and thus constitutes the

204 '0'
T H E T H E O II Y OF F I N I T E M O D E S M O D A l E :C I S T E N C E

very existence of that mode of Extension.d If one considers all degrees of intensity (or intensive parts) in no way correspond
these infinite wholes in all their relations as a whole, one has "the term for term. To every degree of intensity. however small, there
sum of all the "ariations of matter in movement," or "the face of correspond an infinity of extensive parts that have, and must have.
the whole universe" under the attribute of Extension. This face between them purely extrinsic relations. Extensive parts come
or sum corresponds to God's omnipotence insofar as the latter in greater or lesser infinities, but always come in an infinity; there
comprises all the degrees of power or all the modal essences in is no question of each having an essence, because even to a min­
this same attribute of Extension. L2 imal essence there correspond an infinity of parts. The soap bub­
This scheme enables us to clear up certain contradictions ble does indeed have an essence. but each part of the infinite
which some have thought to find in Spinoza's physics. or to find collection that in some rclation composes it. does not. In other
rather in his Ethics, inconsistencies between its physics of bodies words, in Spinoza. there is no existina mode that is not actually infi­
and its theory of essences. Thus Rivaud noted that a simple body nitely composite. whatever be its essence or degree of power.
is always, and only, determined to movement and to rest from Spinoza says that composite modes have a "very great number"
outside; whence its state must be referred to an infinite collec­ of parts; but what he says of composite modes must be under­
tion of simple bodies. But how, then, reconcile this status of sim­ stood of all existing modes, for there are no incomposite exist­
ple bodies with that of essences? "A particular body, or a simple ing modes. all existence is by definition composite. Should one
body at least. has then no eternal essence. Its reality seems to be then say that simple extensive parts exist? Should one say that in
subsumed into that of an infinite system of causes"; "We sought Extension there exist simple bodies? Ifby this one means exist­
a particular essence, and we find only an infinite chain of causes ence singly. or as a number together. the absurdity is obvious.
none of whose terms appears to have any essential reality of its Strictly speaking, simple parts have neither an esscnce nor an
own"; "This consequence. which appears to be forced on us by existence of their own. They have no internal essence or nature;
the passages just cited, seems to contradict the most clearly they are extrinSically distinguished one from another, extrinsically
ascertained principles ofSpinol.a's system. What is to become of related to one another. They have no existence of their own, but
the eternity of essences, unreservedly asserted on so many occa­ existence is composed of them: to exist is to actually have an
sions? How can a body, however small. however transitory its infinity of extensive parts. In greater or lesser infinities they
bCing. exist without a nature of its own, a nature without which compose, in different relations, the existence of modes whose
it can neither arrest nor transmit any mO"cment it receives? essences are of greater or lesser degree. Not only Spinol.a's phys­
What has no essence at all cannot exist, and every essence is, by'" ics, but Spinozism as a whole. becomes unintelligible if one
definition, immutable. A soap bubble that cxists at some given doesn't distinguish what belongs to essences, what belongs to
moment, must necessarily have an eternal essence. without which existences, and the correspondence between them, which is in
it could not be." 1l no way term for term.
Yet there is no need to seek an essence for each extensivc We now have the elements of an answer to the question of
part. An essence is a degree of intensity. But extensive parts and how an infinity of extensi\'e parts can compose the existence of

206 20,

a mode. Thus a mode exists. for example, i n Extension when into another relation; they are then integrated into another infi­
an infinity of simple bodies, corresponding to its essence. actu· nite whole. greater or lesser, corresponding to another modal
ally belong to it. But how can they correspond to its essence, or essence. and composing the existence of another mode. Spinoza's
belong to it? Spinoza's answer remains identical from the Short theory of existence involves, then. three components: a Singular
Treatise on: they do so in a certain relation oj movement and rest. A essence, which is a degree of power or intensity; a particular exist­
given mode "comes to exist," comes into existence, when an ence, al ways composed of an infinity of extensive parts; and an
infinity of extensive parts enter into a given relation: it cantin· indiYidual Jorm that is the characteristic or expressive relation
ues to exist as long as this relation holds. Extensive parts are thus which corresponds eternally to the mode's essence. but through
grouped together in various collections on various levels of rela' which also an infinity of parts are temporarily related to that
tion. corresponding to different degrees of power. Extensive parts essence. In an existing mode, the essence is a degree of power;
form a greater or lesser infinite whole, insofar as they enter into this degree expresses itself in a relation; and the relation sub­
this or that relation; in any given relation they correspond to sumes an infinity of parts. Whence Spinoza's fonnulation accord·
some modal essence and compose the existence of the corres· ing to which the parts, being under the domination of one and
ponding mode itself; in some other relation they fonn part of the same nature, are "forced, as this nature demands. to adapt
another whole, correspond to another modal essence. and com· themselves to one another."16
pose the existence of another mode. Such is the doctrine of the A modal essence expresses itself eternally in a relation, but
Short Treatise concerning the coming into existence ofmodes.14 we should not confuse the essence and the relation in which it
The Ethics puts it still more clearly: little does it matter if the expresses itself. A modal essence is not the cause of the exist­
component parts of an existing mode are each moment renewed; ence of the mode itself: the proposition takes up, in Spinoza's
the whole remains the same insofar as i t is defined by a relation tenns, the old principle that a finite being's existence does not
through which any of it's parts belong to that particular modal follow from its essence. But what is the new sense of this princi·
essence. An existing mode is thus subject to considerable and pie as seen from Spinoza's \'iewpoint? It means that for all that a
continual alteration: but it little matters, either, that the divi· modal essence expresses itself in a characteristic rclation, i t is
sian between its parts of movement and rest, or of speed and not the essence that determines an infinity of extensive parts
slowness of movement, should alter. A given mode will continue to enter into that relation. (A mere nature does not establish its
to exist as long as the same relation subsists in the infinite whole dominance by itself, or itself force the part's to adapt themselves
of its partsYi to one another so as to confonn with the relation in which it
It must then be recognized that a modal essence (a degree of expresses itself. ) For extensive parts detennine one another from
power) expresses itself eternally in a certain relation, with its vari· outside and ad infinitum; they have none but an extrinsic deter­
ous different lcvels. But the mode docs not come into existence mination. A mode comes into existence, not by virtue of its
until an infinity of extensive parts arc actually determined to essence, but by virtue of purely mechanical laws which detennine
enter into this relation. These parts may be detennined to enter an infinity of some extensive parts or other to enter into a pre-

,.8 '°9
T � E T � E O If V OF F I N I T E "' O D E S "' O O A L E X I S T E N C E

cise given relation. in which its essence expresses itself. A mode happen that the two relations cannot be directly combined. The

ceases to exist as soon as its parts are determined to enter into bodies that meet are either mutually indifferent. or one, through

another relation, corresponding to another essence. Modes come its relation. decomposes the relation in the other. and so destroys

into existence, and cease to exist, by virtue of laws external to the other body. This is the case with a toxin or poison. which

their essences. destroys a man by decomposing his blood. And this is the case

What are these mechanical laws? In the case of Extension they with nutrition, but in a converse sense: a man rorces the parts or

amount ultimately to the laws of communication of movement. the body by which he nourishes himselr to enter into a new rela­

If we consider the infinity of simple bodies, we see that they are tion that conforms with his own, but which involves the destruc­

always grouped in constantly changing infinite wholes. But the tion orthe relation in which that body existed preViously.

whole of all these wholes remains fixed, this fixity being defined Thus there are laws of composition and decomposition or

by the total quantity of movement. that is. by the total propor­ relations which determine both the coming into existence of

tion of movement and rest. which contains an infinity of partiC­ modes. and the end or their existence. These eternal laws in no

ular relations. Simple bodies are never separable from some one way affect the eternal truth of each relation: each relation has

or other of these relations. through which they belong to some an eternal truth, insorar as an essence expresses itselr in it. But

whole. But the total proportion always remains fixed. while these the laws or composition and decomposition determine the con­

relations are made and unmade according to the laws of compo­ ditions in which a relation is actualized - that is, actually sub­

sition and decomposition. sumes extensive parts - or, on the other hand, ceues to be

Take two composite bodies, each possessing. in a certain rela­ actualized. Whence we must, above all, avoid conrusing essences

tion, an infinity of simple bodies or parts. When they meet it and relations, or a law or production of essences and a law or com­

may happen that the two relations can be directly combined. position or relations. It is not the essence that determines the

Then the parts of one adapt to the parts of the other in a third actuali7..ation or the relation in which it expresses itself. Relations

relation composed or the two previous ones. Here we have the are composed and decomposed according to their own laws. The

formation of a body more composite still than the two rrom order of essences is characterized by a total conformity. Such is
not the case with the order of relations. All relations are or course
which we began. In a ramous passage, Spinoza shows how chyle
and lymph combine their respective relations to rorm. as a third combined ad infinitum. but not in just any way. Some given rela­
tion does not combine with just any other given relation. The
relation, the blood.n And. in more or less complex conditions.
this process is that or all generation or formation, that is. or alt" laws or composition that apply to characteristic relations, and

coming into exiSl'ence. Parts come together in different relations; that regulate the coming into existence or modes, pose many

each relation already corresponds to a modal essence; two rela­ problems. Such laws are not contained in the modal essences

tions combine in such a way that the parts that meet enter into themselves. Was Spinoza thinking of these laws when he wrote.

a third relation. corresponding to a rurther modal essence. The as early as the Correction oj the Understanding. or laws inscribed

corresponding mode thereby comes into existence. But it may in attributes and infinite modes "as in their true codes"?18 (The


complcxity o f this passage prcvcnts m c from adducing i t hcre.) ties. They werc distinguished from their attributc and from one
And thcn. do wc know thesc laws. and if so. how? Spinoza does another only through a ,·cry special type of distinction, an intrin­
scem to admit that wc have to pass through an cmpirical study sic one. They existcd only as containcd in their attribute, and
of bodics in order to know their relations. and how they are thcir ideas existed only as comprised in the idea of God. All such
combincd.L9 Whatever be the answcrs to these qucstions. it is essences were "complicated" in their attribute; this was thc form
enough provisionally to note the irreducibility of the order of in which they existed and expressed the essence of God, each
relations to the order of essences thcmselves. according to its degrec of power. But when modcs come into
existence. thcy acquire extcnsive parts. They acquire a size and
duration: each mode endures as long as its parts rcmain in the
A modc's cxistencc docs not. then, follow from its cssence. \Vhen relation that characterizes it. We must therefore recogni7.c that
a mode comes into existencc. it is determined to do so by a cxisting modes are extrinsically distinct from their attribute, and
mechanical law that composes the relation in which it expresses extrinsically distinct from onc another. The Metaphysical Thoughts
itself, which constrains. that is to say, an inflnity of extensi\·e parts dcfined "the being of existencc" as "the essence itself of things
to enter into that relation. Coming into existence should never outside God." as opposed to "the being of esscncc" that deSig­
be understood in Spin07.a as a transition from possiblc to real: nated things as they arc "comprehended in the attributes of
an existing mode is no more the realization of a possible. than a God."2o This definition corresponds perhaps more closely than
modal essence is such a "possible." Essences necessarily exist, by one might imagine to the thought of Spinoza himself. In this
virtue of their cause; the modes whose essences they are neces­ respect it presents sevcral important characteristics.
sarily come into existence by virtue ofcauses that detcrmine parts It reminds us flrst of all that the distinction between essence
to enter into the relations corresponding to those essences. and existence is never a real distinction. The being of essence (the
Necessity everywhere appears as the only modality of bcing. but existence of essence) is its position in an attribute of God. The
this necessity has two components. We have seen that the dis­ being of existence (the existence of a thing itself) is also a posit­
tinction betwcen an essence and its own existence should not be ing of esscncc. but an extrinsic position, outside the attribute. And
interpretcd as a real distinction, nor should that of an essencc I do not believe that this thesis is abandoned in the Ethics. The
and the cxistence of the modc itself. An existing modc is just its existencc of a particular thing is the thing itself. no longer as sim­
own cssence itself insofar as thc esscncc actually possesses an ply contained in its attribute, no longer as simply comprehended
inflnity of extensi\·c parts. Just as the essencc cxists by virtue of.. in God, but as haVing duration, as having a relation with a cer­
its cause. so the modc itself exists by virtue of the causc that tain cx:trinsically distinct time and placc,21 It might be objected
determincs ilS part's to belong to it. But the two forms of causal­ that such a conccption is radically opposcd to immanence. For,
ity we are thus led to consider force us to dcflnc two types of from thc viewpoint of immanence. modes do not ceasc to belong
modal position.� and two types of modal distinction. to substance, to be contained in it. when they come into cxist­
Modal cssences werc charactcrized above as intensive rcali- ence. But the point is so obyious that it should not detain us long.

T H E T H E O � Y O F " ' ''l I T E ,," O D E S

Spinoza doesn't say that existing modes are no longer contained

it in a certain and determinate manner. that is, according to the
in substance, but rather that they are "are no longer only" con­
relations corresponding to their essences. Modal expression as a
tained in substance or attribute.22 The difficulty is easily resolved
whole i s constituted by this double movement of complication
if WI!' consider rhar txtrinsic distinction remains always and only a and explication.!4
modal distinction. Modes do not cease to be modes once they are
posited outside their attribute.' for this extrinsic position is
purely modal rather than substantial. If a passing comparison with
Kant be permissible, it will be recalled that Kant explains that,
although space is the form of exteriority. this form is no less
internal to me than the form of interiority: it presents objects as
external to us and to one another, and this without any illusion.
but itself is completely internal to us.B Similarly Spinoza, in an
altogether different context. talking of an altogether different
matter, says that extensive quantity belongs to an attribute no
less than intensive quantity. but that i t is a strictly modal form
of exteriority. I t presents existing modes as external to the attri­
bute, and as external one to another. It is nonetheless contained,
along with all existing modes. in the attribute it modifies. The
idea of an extrinsic modal distinction is in no way inconsistent
with the principle ofimmanence.
What then does such an extrinsic modal distinction amount
to? When modes are posited extrinsically they cease to exist
in the comp/icattd form that they have while their essences are
contained solely in their attribute. Their new existence is an
explicatiOn: they explicate the attribute. each "in a certain and
determinate ....oay." That is: each existing mode explicates the attri­
bute in the relation that characterizes it, in a way extrinsically �

distinct from other ways in other relations. An existing mode is

thus no less expressive than its essence, but is so in another man­
ner. An attribute no longer expresses itself only in the modal
essences that it complicates or contains according to their degrees
of power; it also expresses itself in existing modes that explicate

C H A I' T E R F O U R T E E N

W h a t Can a Body Do?

The exprcssh·c triad corresponding to finite modes comprises an

essence as a degree of power; a characteristic relation in which
it expresses itself; and the extensive parts subsumed in this rela­
tion, which compose the mode's existence. But we find in the
Ethics a strict system of equivalences that leads us to a second
modal triad: the essence as a degree of power: a certain capacity
[0 be affected in which it expresses itself: and the affections that,
each moment, exercise that capacity.
What are these equivalences? An existing mode actually pos­
sesses a very great number of parts. But the nature of extensive
parts is such that they "affect one another" ad infinitum. From this
one may infer that an existing mode is affected in a very great
number of ways. Spinoza proceeds from the parts to their affec­
tions, and from these affections to the affections of the existing
mode as a whole. I Extensi"e parts do nOt belong to a given mode
- except in a certain relation. And a mode is said to have affections
by virtue of a certain capacity of being affected. A horse, a fish,
a man, or even two men compared one with the other, do not
ha\'e the same capacity to be affected: they are not aflccted by
the same things. or not affected by the same things in the same
way.2 A mode ceases to exist when it can no longer maintain

T .... E T .... E O R V O F FI ... I T E M O D E S w .... ... T c ... ... ... eODv 001

between its parts the relation that characterizes it; and i t ceases passion. except when it cannOt be explainedby the nature of the
to exist when "it is rendered completely incapable of being !ffected bod)': it then of course invoh'es the body. but is explained
affected in many ways."l In short, relations are inseparable from by the innuence of other bodies. Affections that can be com­
the capacit), to be affected. So that Spin07.a can consider two fun­ pletely explained by the nature ofthf!.-affe ted are act''e....
damental questions as equivalent: What is the structure (fabrit.1) affections. and themselves actions.s Let us apply the prinCiple of
of a body? And: What can a body do? A body's structure is the com- this distinction to God: there are no causes external to God; God
position of its relation. What a bod)' can do corresponds to the is necessarily the cause of all his affections. and so all these affec­
nature and limits of its capacity to be affected.<4- tions can be explained by his nature. and are actions.' Such is
This second triad characterizing finite modes well shows how not the case with existing modes. These do not exist by virtue
modes express substance, participate in it, and even, in their own of their own nature; their existence is composed of extensive
way, reproduce it. God was defined by the identity of his essence parts that are determined and affected from outside, ad infinitum,
and an absolutely infinite power (potentia); as such he had a Every existing mode is thus inevitably affected by modes exter­
potf!SlOS, that is, a capacity to be affected in an infinit), of ways; nal to it. and undergoes changes that are nOt explained by its own
and this capacity was eternally and necessarily exercised. God nature alone. Its affections are at the outset, and tend to remain,
being cause of all things in the same sense as cause of himself. passions.7 Spinoza remarks that childhood is an abject state, hut
An existing mode has. for its part. an essence that is identical to one common to all of us, in which we depend "very heavily on
a degree of power; as such it has an ability to be affected. a Capac­ external causes."8 The great question that presents itself in rela­

ity to be affected in a very great number of ways. While the mode ( tion to existing finite modes is thus: Can they attain to active
exists this capacity is exercised in varying \vays. hut is always nec­ affections. and if so, how? This is the "ethical" question, prop­
essarily exercised under the action of external modes. erly so called. But, even supposing that a mode manages to pro­
What. from these various viewpoints, is the difference between duce active affections. while it exists it cannot eliminate all its
an existing mode and divine substance? One must not. in the first passions. but can at best bring it about that its passions occupy
place. confuse an "infinity of \\'ays" with a "very great number only a small part ofitself.'
of ways." A very great number is indeed an infinity. but one of a A final difference concerns the very content of the word
speCial kind: a greater or lesser infinity that relates to something "affection," according to whether it be applied to God or to
limited. God is. on the other hand. affected in an infinity of ways. modes. For God's affections are those modes themselves, modal
and this is infinity through a cause, since God is the cause of all... essences or existing modes. Their ideas express the essence of
his affections. This is a strictly unlimited infinity. which com­ God as their cause. But the affections of modes are as it were a
prises all modal essences and all existing modes. second degree of affection. affections of affections: for example.
A second difference is that God is the cause of all his affec­ a passive affection that we experience is just the effect of some

tions. and so cannot suffer them. It would be wrong indeed to body on our own. The idea ofsuch an affection does not express
snot a
confuse affection and suffering or passion.b An affection i its cause. that is to say, the nature or essence of the external body:

, ,' "9
T " I!! T " E O II V O F F ' N ' T E M O D E S W .....
T C ... N ... BODV DO?

rather does i t indicate the present constitution of our own body. ideas; and onc C.tnnot. consequently. see how it could experience
and so the way in which our capacity to be affected is being at any but passive feelings. The link is well marked by Spin07.a: an
that moment exercised. An affection of our body is only a cor­ inadequate idea is an idea of which we are not the cause (it is not
poreal image. and thc idea of the affection as it is in our mind an fonnally explained by our power of understanding); this inade­
inadcquatc idea. an imagining. And we have yet another ronof quate idea is itself the (malerial and efficicnt) cause of a feeling;
affection. From a gi\'en idea of an affection there neccssarily lIow we cannOt then be the adequate cause of this fecling; but a feeling
"affects" or feelings (aJJcctus).IO,I: Such feelings are themse ves of which we are not the adequate cause is necessarily a passion. 12
affections. or rather a new kind of idea of an affection. One should Our capacity to be affected is thus exerciscd. from the beginning
resist attributing to Spinoza intellectualist positions he never of our cxistence. by inadequate ideas and passivc feelings.
held. An idca we ha\'C indicates the prescnt stat'e of our body's An equally profound link may be found betwcen ideas that
constitution; while our body exists. it endures. and is defined by are adequate. and acth'c feelings. An idea we ha\'C that is adequate
duration; its present state is thus inseparable from a previous state may be fonnally defined as an idea of which we are the cause;
with which it is linked in a continuous duration. Thus to every were it then the material and efficient cause of a feeling we would
ideo that indicates on actual state oj our bod)\ there is necessarily linked be the adequate cause of that feeling itself; but a feeling of which
another sort of idea thaI involves the re/ation oj this stale 10 the ear­ we are the adequate cause is an action. Thus Spinoza can say that
lier state. Spinoza explains that this should not be thought of as "Insofar as our mind has adequate ideas. it nccessarily does cer­

an abstract intellectual operation by which the mind compares
states'! I Our feelings are in themseh'es ideas which involve
he concrete relation of present and past in a continuous dura­
tain things. and insofar as it has inadequate ideas. it necessarily
undergoes other things"; "The actions of the mind arise from
adequate ideas alone; the passions depend on inadequate ideas
). ) ion: they involve the changes of an existing mode that endures.
A mode thus has affections of two sorts: states of a body or
ideas that indicate these states. and changcs in the body or ideas
alone,"1J Hence thc properly ethical question is linked to the
methodological question of how we can become active. How can
we come to produce adcquate ideas?
indicating these changes. The second kind are linked to the first.
and change with them: one senses how. beginning with an ini­
tial affcction. our feelings become linked with our ideas in such One already scnscs the fundamental importance of thal area of
a way that our whole capacity 1'0 be affected is exercised olt each the Ethics that concerns existential changes of finite modes. or
momcnt. But all this turns. ultimately. on a certain characteristic.. expressive changes. These changes are of sC\'cral kinds. and must
of modes. and of man in polrticular: the first ideas he has are pas­ be understood on various levels. Consider a mode with a given
si\'e affections. inoldequate ideas or imaginings; the affects or cssence and a given capacity to be affected. Its passive affections
feelings that flow from them are thus passions. feelings tholt are (inadequate ideas and passive feelings) are constantly changing.
themselves passive. One cannot see how a finite mode. especially However. insofar as its capacit), to be affected is exercised by pas­
at the beginning of its existence. could have <l.ny but inadequate sive affections. this capacity itself appears as a force or power oj

220 '"
T H I; T H I; O I'l Y OF" F"' ''' ' T E M O D E S W H A T C A '" A 80DY DO?

suffcring. The capacity o f being affected i s called a power of suf­ and the relation enjoy a margin, a limit. within which they take

fering insofar as it is actually exercised by passive affections. The form and are deformed. IS Here we see the ful l significance of the

body's power of suffering has as its equivalent in the mind the passages of the letter to Meyer that allude to the existence of a

power of imagining and of experiencing passive feelings. maximum and a minimum.

Let us now assume that the mode. as it endures, comes to Thus far we have proceeded as though the power of suffering
and the power of acting formed two distinct principles, their
exercise (at least partially) its capacity ofbeing affected by active
affections. In this aspect the capacity appears as a forct or powtr exercise being inversely proportional within a given capacity to

The power of understanding or knowing is the power be affected. This is indeed the case. but only in relation to the
of acting.
of acting proper to the sou\. But tht capacity to bt aJjecttd rtmains fundamental limits of that capacity. It is the case so long as we

constant, whauvtr the rtlativt proportion of active and passivt affec­ consider affections abstractly, without concretely conSidering the

ions. And so we arrive at the following conjecture: that the pro- essence of the affected mode. Why? We find ourselves here at
the threshold of a problem explored by Leibniz as well as Spinoz.a.
rtion of active and passive feelings is open to variation. within
a fixed capacity of being affected. If we manage to produce active It was not by chance that Leibniz. on first reading the Ethics.
spoke with admiration of Spinoza's theory of the affections. his
affections, our passive affections will be correspondingly reduced.
conception of action and passion. And one should see here a coin­
And as far as we still have passive affections, our power of action
ill be correspondingly "inhibited." In short. for a given essence, cidence between the developments of their respective philoso­

or a given capacity to be affected, the power of suffering and that phies. rather than an influence of Spinoza on Leibniz.16 Such
coincidence is in fact more remarkable than any influence. On
of acting should be open to variation in inverse proportion one
to the other. Both together. in their varying proportions. consti­ one level, Leibniz sets out the following thesis: a body's force.
which is called "derivative." is double: a force of acting and a
tute the capacity to be affected. 14
We must next introduce another level of possible variation. force of suffering. active force and passive force; the active force

For the capacity to be affected does not remain fixed at all times remains "dead," or becomes "alive," according to what obstacles

and from all viewpoints. Spinoza suggests. in fact. that the rela­ or inducements, registered by the passive force. i t encounters.

tion that characterizes an existing mode as a whole is endowed But on a deeper level Leibniz asks: should passive force be con­

with a kind of elasticity. What is more. its composition. as also ceived as distinct from active force? Is its principle autonomous.

its decomposition. passes through so many stages that one may does it have any positivity. is it in any way assertive? The reply is

almost say that a mode changes its body or relation in leaving that only active force is strictly real, posith'e and affinnative. Pas­

behind childhood, or on entering old age. Growth. aging. illness: sive force asserts nothing. expresses nothing but the imperfec­

we can hardly recognize the same individual. And is it really tion of the finite. It is as though active force had taken up all that

indeed the same individual? Such changes. whether impercepti­ is real, positive or perfect in fi nitude itself. Passive force has

ble or abrupt, in the relation that characterizes a body. may also no autonomy. but is the mere limitation of active force. There

be seen in it'S capacity of being affected. as though the capacity would be no such force without the active force that it limits. It

T H E T H E O � Y O F F I ", ' T E M O D E S WHAT C ... ", ... 8 0 D V 0 0 1

amounts t o thc inhcrcnt limitation o f active force: and ultimately \t\·� �

may alrea ly say that the power of action is the only real. pos­
to the limitation of an eyen deeper force. that is. of an essence J .
ItIVC and affirmat Ive form of our capacity to be affected. As
that assens and expresses il'Seif solely in active force as such.n long as our capacity to be affected is exercised by passi\'e affec­

Spinola also sets out an initial thesis: rhe power of suffering tions. it is reduced to a minimum. and exhibits only our finitude
and the power of acting arc twO powers which '-ary correlativ or limitation. It is as though a disjunction had appeared in the

while the c.lpacity of being affected remains fixed; the power of finite mode's existence: the negative falling on the side of pas­

acting is dead or alh'e (Spinola says: inhibited or helped) accord­ sive affections. and the acth'e affections expressing .111 that is pos­

ing to the obstacles or opportunities that it finds on the side of itive in finite modes. Active affections arc imleed the only oncs

passive affections. But this thesis. if physically true. is not meta­ that really and poSitively exercise our capacity to be affected. The

physically true. Already in Spinoza. at a deeper level. the power power of action is, on its own, the same .15 the capacity to be
of suffering expresses nothing positive. In evcry passive affection affected as a whole; the power of action by itself expresses es­

there is something imaginary which inhibits it from being real. sence. and acti\'e affections. by themselves. assert essence. In

We are passh-e and impassioned only by virtue of our imperfe existing modes. essence is the same as power of action. and the

tion. in our imperfection itself. "For it is cenain that the agent power ofaction the same as the capacity to be affected.

acts through what he has. and that the patient'! suffers through One finds in Spin07.a a reconciliation of two fundamental prin­

what he does not have"; "Suffering.d when the agent and the Ciples. In the physical view a capacity to be affected remains fixed

patient are differen t. is a palpable imperfection."18 We suffer for a given essence. whethcr it be exercised by active affections
external things. distinct from ourselves; we thus ourseh'cs ha"e or passive ones; a mode is thus always as perfect as it can be. Bur
distinct force of passion and action. But our force of suffering in the ethical view the power of being affected is fixed only
simply the imperfection. the finitude. the limitation of our within general limits. While exercised by passive affections. it
of acting itself. Our force of suffering asserts nothing. because is reduced to a minimum; we then remain imperfect and impo­
that is
e.lpresses nothing at all: it "invoh-es" only our impOl"encc. tent. cut off. in a way. from our essence or our degree of power.
to say. the limitation of our power of action. Our power of cut olT from what we can (10. It is indeed true that an existing

fering is in fact our impotence. our servitud e. that is to say. the mode is always as perfect as it can be: but this only rc1ath'e to

lowest degrre oj our pOll'er oj acting: whcnce the title of Pari Four the affections actually belonging to its esscnce. It is indeed true
of the Ethics, "On Human Sc!"V"itudc." The power of imagina that the passive affections we experience exercise our capacity
all t�e
is indeed a power or virtue. says Spino....... but would be to be affected; but this. having reduced it to a minimum. ha\'ing
more so. did it depend on our nature. that is. were it cut us off from what we can do (our power of action). The cxprcs­
of our
rather than amounting only to the finitude or impcrfection sh'e changes of finite modes consist. thcn. not only in mechani­
power of action. or. in short. our impotence. ') cal changes in the ancctions it experiences. but also in dynamic

\Ve still do not know how we may come to produce

acti\'e changes in the capacity to be affected. and in "metaphysical"
And yet
affections; and so we do not know our power of action. changes of their essence itself: whilc a mode exists, its \'cry


withdraw from things any action and any principle of action.

essence is open t o variation, according t o the affe ctions that
His criticism of a generalized Spinozism is skillful: but one can­
belong to it at a given moment. 10
not he sure that Leibni7. himself subscribed to it (for how then
Whence the importance of the ethical question. We do not el'en
knoll' of what a Ixxly i5 capable. says Spinoza.l1 That is: We do not could he have so admired Spinoza's theory of action and pas­

even knoll' oj what affections lI'e are capable, nor the extent oj our sion in modes?).

power. How coulcl we know this in advance? From the beginning What is clear, at any rate, is that everything in Spinoza's work
contradicts such an interpretation. Spino7.a constantly reminds us
of our existence we are necessarily exercised by passh'e affections.
that one cannot, without misrepresenting them. confuse modes
Finite modes are born in conditions such that they are cut off in
with things of reason or "aids to imagination." When speaking
ad"ance from their esscnce or their degree of power. cut off from
of modifications, he seeks speCifically modal principles. whether
that of which they are capable. from their power of action. We
arguing from the unity of substance to the ontological unity of
can know by reasoning th3t the power of action is the sole expres­
modes differing in attribute. or arguing from the unity of sub­
sion of our essence, the sole afTinnation of our power of being
stance to the systematic unity of the modes contained in one and
affected. But this knowledge remains abstract. We do not know
the same attribute. And above all, the very idea of the mode is
what this power is, nor how we may acquire or discover it. And
in no sense a way of taking from creatures any power of their own:
we will certainly never know this. if we do not concretely try to
rather is it. according to Spino7.a, the only way of showing how
become active. The Ethics closes with the following reminder:
things "participate" in God's power, that is. how they are parts
most men only feel they exist when they arc suffering something.
of divine power, but singular parts. intensive quantities or irre­
They can bear existence only as suffering things: "as soon as {the
ducible degrees. As SpinOla says. man's power is a "part" of the
ignorant man] ceases to be acted on. he ceases to bc."ll
power or essence of God, but this only insofar as God's essence
explicatu itself through the essence of man.H
Leibnil and Spinoza do in fact have a common project. Their
Leibniz made a habit of characterizing Spinoza's system by the
philosophies constitute two aspects of a new "naturalism." This
impotence in which its creatures found themselves: the theory
naturalism pro\'icles the true thrust of the Anticartesian reaction.
of modes was only a means of taking from creatures all their activ­
In a fine passage, Ferdinand Alquie has shown how Descanes
ity. dynamism. individuality. all their authentic reality. Modes
dominated the first half of the scventeenth century by succeeding
were only phantasms. phantoms. fantastic projections of a sin­
in the ,'enture of a mathematical mechanical science. whose first
gle Substance. And Leibniz uses this characterization. presented­
effect was to devaluate Nature by taking away from it any vir­
as a criterion, to interpret other philosophics, denouncing in
tuality or potentiality, any immanent power, any inherent being.
them either the first signs of an incipient Spinozism, or the
Cartesian metaphysics completes the venture. because it seeks
consequences of a hidden one: thus Descartes is the father of
Being outside Nature. in a subject which thinks it and a God who
Spinozism. through his belief in inert passive Extension: the
creates ir.H With the Anticartesian reaction, on the olller hand,
Occ'}sionalists arc involuntary Spinozists to the extent that they

T Hii': T H I; O R ". OF F I N I T E M O O E S W H "' T C A N ... B O O '" 0 0 1

i t is a matter of re-establishing the claims of a Nature endowed selves presuppose a n inner nature in the bodies they govern. For
with forces or power. But a matter. also, of retaining the chief these laws could not be "executed," did they confer on bodies a
discovery of Cartesian mechanism: every power is actual. in act; mere extrinsic determination. and were they imposed on them
the powers of Nature arc no longer \'irtualities referred to occult independently of what they are: thus the working of a law Cdn­
entities, to souls or minds through which they arc realized. not be understood Simply in terms of God's will, as the Occa­
Leibniz formulates the program perfectly: to counter Descartes sionalists believed, but must also be understood in terms of the
by restoring to Nature the force of action and passion. but this body itself. Hence derivative forces must be attributed to the
without falling back inlO a pagan vision of the world, an idola­ aggregates as such: "the internal nature of things is no different
try of Nature_H Spinoza's program is very similar (with this dif­ from the force of acting and suffering."27 SUI nor docs the derh'­
ference. that he docs not rely on Christianity to save us from arive force. in its tum, contain its own reason: it is only momen­
idolatry). Spinoza and Leibniz take issue with Boyle as the rep­ tary. although it links that moment to earlier and later ones.
resentative of self-satisfied mechanism. Did Boyle wish only [Q It must be referred to a law governing the series of moments,
teach us that everything happens in bodies through shape and which is a sort of primitive force or individual essence. These
mO\'ement, that would be a meager lesson. being well known essences. simple and active, are the source of the derivative forces
since Descartes.26 Which. for a given body. are these shapes. attributed to bodies. Indeed they amount to a genuine metaphys­
which these movements? Why such a shape, such a movement? ics of Nature, which does not merely enter into physics, but cor­
One thus sees that mechanism does not exclude the idea of a responds to such physics itself.
nature or essence of each body. but rather requires it. as the suf­ Spino7.a 5 realiution of the naturalist program is closely anal­
ficient reason for a given shape or a given movement, or a given ogous. Mechanism governs infinitely composite existing bodies.
proportion of movement and rest. The Anticartesian reaction is. But this mechanism must in the first place be referred to a dyna­

throughout. a search for sufficient reasons: a sufficient reason for mic theory of the capacity to be affected (the power of acting
infinite perfection, a sufficient rcason for claril'y and distinctness. and suffering); and in the last instance to the theory of the par­

and a sufficient reason, indeed. for mechanism itself. ticular essences that express themselves in the variations of this
The new program is realized by Leibniz on three different Icv­ power of action amI passion. In Spinoza as in Leibniz three levels

cis. On the first everything happens in bodies mechanically. may be distinguished: mechanism. force and essence. So the real

through shape and movement. But these bodies are "aggregates," opposition between the two philosophies should not be sought
actually and infinitely composite. governed by laws. And mm'Coo in Leibniz's very general criticism that Spinozism tales from

ment has no distinctivc mark in a body at d gi\'en moment: nor creatures all power and all activity. Leibniz. while linking them
are its patterns disccrnable at particular moment's. The move­ to this pretext, himself reveals the true reasons for his opposition.

ments themseh·cs prcsuppose forces of passion and action, with­ And these arc in fact practical reasons, relating to the problem

out which bodies would be no marc distinguished than would of evil, to prO\'idence and to religion, relating to the practical
patterns ofmovcrnent. Or. if you will, the mechanical laws them- conception of the role of philosophy as d whole.

T " ' E T " ' E O R Y 0" " ' N I T E M O D E S w ... ...T C "' N ... eDDY 001

These divergcnccs ccrtainly do. howe\'cr. havc a spcculative cnce, not only insofar as wc may be supposcd to have adequate
fonn. I bc\ie\'l� what is essential. in this rcspt."Ct. concerns the role ideas and active feelings. but also insofar as we have inadequate
of conatw in Spin07.a and in Lcibniz. According to Leibniz. conotus idcas and experience passions. 10 An existing ll1ooe's conatw is thus
has two senses: physically it deSignates a body's tcndency toward inseparable from the affections experienced by the mode each
movemcnt; metaphysically. the tendency of an esscnce toward moment. From this two consequences follow.
existence. Spinoza could not share such a " iew. Modal esscnces Any affection whatever is said to determine our conatus or
arc not "possibles"; they lack nothing. arc all that they are, cvcn essence. Conatw. as detcnnined by an affection or fceling we actu­
if the corrcsponding modes do not exist. They thus ill\'oh'c no ally experience. is called "desirc"; as such it is necessarily accom­
tendency to come into existence. A conafUS is indced a mode's panied by consciousness)1 To the linkage of feelings with ideas.
esscnce (or dcgree of powcr) once the mode has beaun to txiSf. A we must add the further linkage of desires with feelings. As long
mode comcs to exist when its cxtensive parts are extrinsically as our capacity to be affected remains exercised by passive affec­
dctermincd to enter into the relation that characterizes the tions, our conotus is dClcnnincd by passions. or. as Spinoza puts
modc: thcn. and only then. is its essence itself determined as a it. our desires thcmselves "are born" from passions, But, even in
conaws. Thus (onatus is not in Spinoza the effort to persevere in this case. our powcr of action comes into play. For we must dis­
existence, once existence is grantcd. It designatcs cxistential tinguish what detcrmines us. and that to which wc are deter­
function of essence. that is, the affinnation of cssence in a mode's mined. A givcn passive affection detennincs us to do this or that.
existcnce. Nor thcn. when we consider an existing body. can to think of this or that, and thercby to make an effon to preserve
its canaWS be a tendency toward mo,'ement. Simple bodies arc our relation or maintain our power. Somctimes we make an cffort
detcrmined to movement from outside; they could not be so to ward off an affection we do not like. sometimes to hold on to
dctermined were they not also capable of being detennined to an affection we like. and this always with a desire that is all the
rcst. Onc constantly finds in Spinoza the ancient thcsis accord· greater. the greater the ilffection itself,32 But "that to which" we
ing to which mm'cment would be nothing, were rest not some­ arc thus detennined is explained by our nature or essence. and
thing as well.28 A simple body's conafUS can only be the effort to must be refcrred to our power of action.}) Passive affections do. it
presen'e the state to which it has been determined; and a com­ is true, testify 10 our impotence. and cut us off from that of which
positC body's conatus only the effort to preservc thc relation of we are capable; but it is also true that the), invo/,'e some degree.
mO\'cment and rest thaI dcfines it. that is. to maintain constantly however low. of our power of action. If we are to some extent
rcnewe(1 parts in thc relation that defines its cxistence. � cut off from that of which wc are capable. this is because our
The dynamic characteristics of conaWs are linked with iu powcr of action is immobilized. fixated. determined to engage
mechanical ones. A composite body's conotus is also the cffort to �
it elf in a passivc aflcction, Our conatus is thus always identical \
maintain the body's ability to bc affcctcd in a great numbcr of wuh our power of acting itself. The variations of conows as it is
ways.l9 But. sincc passivc affections exercise in their own way our determined by this or that affection arc the dynamic ,'ariations
capacity of being affcctcd. we make an effort to pcrscvcrc in exist- of our power of aClion.H

'JO lJ'

Wh"t is the real di/Terence between Leibniz and Spinoza. from I n Spinoza mechanism i s referred t o something deeper. but
which "li the practical oppositions follow? In Spino:f"} no less than this through the requirements of an absolutely immanent pure
in Leibniz the idea of an expressive Nature forms the basis of a causality. Causality alone leads us to consider existence . ...nd
new naturalism. In Spino:f"} no less than in Leibni:f expression in
.• causality is itself enough to resoke the (1 uestion. From the \·iew­
Nature means that mechanism is superseded in two ways. Mech· point of immanent m()(les are but appearances de\'oid
anism calls. on the one hand. for ... dynamism of the capacity to of force and essence. Spino;.'..} relics on such cauSollit)". properly
be affected. defined by the \'... riations of a power of ...ction and understood. to endow things with a force or power of their

Ildssion; and. on the Dlher. for the positing of singular essences own. belonging to them precisely as m(Kles. As opposed to that
defined as degrees of power. But the two philosophies do not of Leibniz. Spinoza's dynamism ...nd "essemialism" deliberately
at all proceed in the way. If Leibni:f. in things excludes all finality. Spinoza's theory of .onaws has no other
an inherent force of their O\\'n. he does so by making individ· function than 10 present dynamism for what it is b)" stripping
ual essences into so m ...ny substances. In Spinola. on the other it of any finalist Significance. If N.lIure is expressi\'e, it is not so
hane!. this is done by defining particular cssences as modal. and in the sense that its di fferent le\'els symbolize one another; sign.
more generally. by making things themselves mo(les of a single symbol and harmony are excluded from the true powers of
substance. Hut the distinction is f...r from clear. For in Leibniz Nature. The complete mod,,{ tri"d may be presented fhus: a modal
mechanism is in fact referred [Q something deeper through the essence expresses itself in a characteristic relation; this relation
requirements of a finality that remains partly transcendent. Ir expresses a capacity to be affected: this capacity is exercised by
essences determined as substances. if they are inseparable changing affections. jusl as the relation is effected by parts
from the tendency to come into existence. that is bee...use they which are renewed. Between these different levels of expression.
are caught in an order of finality as the context in which they one finds no ultimate correspondence. no moral harmony. One
are chosen by God. or e\'en just subject to such choicc. And the finds only the necessary concatenation or the \'arious effects of
finality that thus presides O\'er the constitution of the world is In immanent cause. So there is in Spinoza no metaphysics of
found in its details: deri\'ative forces reneet an analogous essences. no dynamic of forces. no mechanics of phenomena.
harmony. in \'irtue of which this world is thc be�t. even down herything in Nature is "physical": a physics of intensive quan­
to its parts themselves. And not only arc there principles of tity corresponding to mod...l essences; a physics of extensi\'C
finality that govern substances and derivative forces. but there is quantity. that is. a mechanism through which modes themselves
also an ultimate ...greement between mechanism itself and final .. come into existence; a physics of force. that is. a dynamism
ity. 1·lence expressive Nature is in Leibni:f. a Nature whose dif­ through which essence asserts itself in existence. espousing the
ferent 1c\'els are hier...rchically relatcd. harmoni:f.ed ...nd. above variations of the power of action. Att ributes explicate them­
all. "symbolize one another." Expression is never divorced in selves in existing modes: modal es�ences, themselves contained
Leibniz from a symbolization whose principle is always finality in the attributes. are explicated in relations or powers: these
or ultim,lte agreement. relations effccted by their parts. and these powcrs by the

, l' '1l

affcctions that explicate them in their tum. Expression in Nature

C I I A I' T E lt F I F T E E N
is nevcr .1 nnal symbolil,ation,c but always. and everywhcre, a
cauS.:ll e.tplicalion.
The T h re e O r d e r s a n d

t h e P ro b l e m o f E v i l

An attribute exprcsses itself in three ways: in its absolute narure

(its immediate infinite mode), as modified (its infinite mediate
mode) and in a certain and determinate way (a finite existing
mode).! Spinol,a himself presents us with two infinite modes of
Extension: movement and rest. and the face of the whole uni­
\-crse.2: What does he mean by this?
We know that relations of mo\-ement and rest must themseh-es
be considered in two ways: both as eternally expressing the
essences of modes, and as tcmporarily subsuming extensive parts.
From the first viewpoint movement and rest, in comprising all
relations, also contain all essenccs as they are in their attribute.
Thus Spinol,a asserts in the Short Treatise that movement and rest
comprise the essences even of things that do not exist.J More
plainly still, hc argues that movement affects Extension before
the lattcr has any extrinsic modal parts. In order to allow that
thcre should indced be movcmcnt in the "altogcther infinite,"
it is cnough to recall that there is never any mo\·cmcnt on its own.
but only evcr mO\-cment and rest logether_4 This recollection is
Platon ic: the Neoplatonists oftcn insisted on a simultaneous pres­
encc of movement all(l rest, without which movement would
itsclfbe unthinkable in the whole.

T H E T H li lE e O " O IE " S .. N O T H e P R O B L E M 0 " IE Y I L
T H I! T H E O R V OF F I N I T e M O D E S

From the second viewpoint. the various relations o f mo\'e­ way. just composition. Everything in Nature i s just composition.

ment and rest group together changing infinite collections of When poison decomposes the blood. it does so simply accord­

extensive parts. They thus detennine the conditions for modes to ing to a law that detennines the parts of the blood to enter into

come into existence. Each relation that is actuali1.ed constitutes a new relation that can be combined with that of the poison.

the form of an existing individual. But there is no relation that Decomposition is only the other side of composition. But the

docs not itself combine with some other to form. in a third rela­ question of why thcre should be this other side remains. Why

tion, a further individual at a higher level. And this ad infinitum. do the laws of composition also amount to laws of destruction?

so that the uni\'erse as a whole is a Single existing individual. The answer must be that existing bodies do not encounter one

defined by the total proportion of mo\'ement and rest. compris­ another in the order in which their relations combine. There is a

ing all relations combined ad infinitum. the collection of all combination of relations in any encounter.C but the relations that

collections under all relations. This individual is, by its fonn. the combine are not necessarily those of the bodies that meet. Rela­

"Jacies tatius unh-ersi, which. although it varies in infinite ways,· tions combine according to laws; but existing bodies, being them­

yet remains always the same."5 selves composed of extensh'e parts. meet bit by bit. So parts of
one of the bodies may be detennined to take on a new relation
imposed by some law while lOSing that relation through which

All relations combine ad inJinitum to fonn this facies. But they they belonged to the body.

combine according to their own laws. laws comprised in the infi­ If we consider the order of relations in itself. we see it purely

nite mediate mode. Which is to say that the relations do not just as an order of composition. If it detennines destruction as well.

combine in any way at all; any gh'en relation cannot be combined it does so because bodies meet in an order that is not that of their

with just any other. Thus we saw how lawS of composition were relations. Whence the complexity of Spinoza's notion of the

also laws of decomposition; and when Spino.."} says that the Jacies ··Order of Nature." We must in any existing mode distinguish

remains the same while changing in infinite ways, he is alluding three things: its essence as a degree of powcr; the relation in

not only to the composition of relations, but also to their destruc­ which it exprcsses itself; and the extensive parts subsumed in

tion and decomposition. These decompositions do not however this relation. To each of these orders there corresponds an order

(any more than compositions) affect the eternal truth of the rela­ of nature.

tions invoked. A relation is composed when it begins to subsume There is in the first place an order of essences. detennined

its parts; it decomposes when it ceases to be reali ...ed in them." by degrees of power. This order is one of total confonnity: each

Decomposition. destruction amount then only 1'0 this: when two essence agrees with all others, all being comprised in the pro­

relations do not directly combine. the parts subsumed in one duction of each. They are eternal, and none could perish with­

detennine the parts of the other to enter (according to some law) OUI all the others perishing also. The order of relations. as an

into some new relation that can be combined with the first.b order of composition according to laws. is \'cry diOerent. [t deter­

Thus we sec that everything in the order of relations is. in a mines the eternal conditions for modes to come into existence.

T OO E T OO E O R Y O F F I N I T E M O D E S T oo E T "' R E E O R O E IlS 4 N O T oo E P R O B L E M O F E V I L

and to continue to exist while the composition o f their relation tion o f relations, and all relations are combined. together with
is maintained. All relations arc combincd od infinitum, but a givcn all encounters. But the two orders in no way coincide in their
relation cannot be combined with just any other. We must. in detail: if we consider a body with a definite given relation. it must
the third place, consider the order of encounters. This is an necessarily encounter bodies whose relation cannot combine
order of local and temporary partial agreement and disagree­ with its own. and will always eventually meet one whose rela­
ment. Existing bodies meet in their extcnsh'e parts, bit by bit. tion destroys it's own. Thus there is no death that is not brutal,
Two bodies that meet may have relations that combine directly violent andfortuitous; but this precisely because each is altogether
according to a law (may, that is, agree); but it may be the case. if necasary within the order of encounters.
two relations cannot combine, that one of the bodies is so deter­
mined as to destroy the other's relation (the bodies then disa­
gree). This order of encounters thus effectively determines the Two sorts of "encounters" must be distinguished. The first sort
moment when a mode comes into existence (when the condi­ occurs when I meet a body whose relation combines with my
tions set by the relevant law are fulfilled). the duration of its own. (This itself may happen in various ways: sometimes the body
existence. and the moment of its death or destruction. Spino7.a encountered has a relation that naturally combines with one of
defines it as at once "the Common Order of Nature." as the order my component relations, and may thus contribute to the main­
of "extrinsic determinations" and "chance encounters," and as tenance of my overall relation; sometimes the relations of two
the order of passions.7 bodies may agree so well that they form a third relation within
It is indeed a common order. since all modes are subject to which the two bodies are preserved and prosper.) Whate\'er the
it. It is the order of passions and extrinsic determinations, since case, a body whose relation is preserved along with my own is
it determines the affections we expericnce each moment, which said to "agree with my nature." to be "good." that is. "useful."
are produced by the external bodies we encounter. And SpinOla to me_� It produces in me an affection that is itself good. which
can call it "lQrtuitous" (fortuitus olCursus) without thereby intro­ itself agrees with my nature. The affection is passive because it
ducing the least contingency. For the order ofencounters is itself is explained by [he external body. and the idea of the affection
perfectly determinate: its necessity is that of extensive parts and is a passion, a passive feeling. But it is a feeling of joy, since it is
their external determination ad infinitum. But it is fortuitous in produced by the idea of an object that is good for me. or agrees
relation to the order of relations; the laws of composition no with my nature.9 But when Spinoza sets out to define this joyful
more themselves determine which bodies meet, and how, tMn passion "formally," he does so by saying that it increases or aids
essences determine the laws by which their relations are com­ our power of action. is our powcr of acting itself as increased or
bined. The existence of this third order poses all sorts of prob­ aided by an external cause. 10 (And we know what is good only
lems in Spin07..l1. For, taken as a whole. it coincides with the order insofar as we perceh'e something to affect us with joy. II )
of relations. If one considers the infinitc sum of encounters o\'cr What does Spinoza mean by this? He has certainly not for­
thc infinitc duration of the universe, each involves a composi- gotten that our passions. of whatever kind. arc always the mark

'l' '"
T I-I ll T I -I Il O II Y OF FI .. I T E "' O O E S T H E T I-I II E E 0 1l 0 E II 5 ... .. 0 T H E P II O B L E '" O F E Y I L

of our impotence: they are explained not by our own essence seT\'e this joy itself and the object that procures i t for us. 1 5 Love
or power. but by the power of some external thing: they thus is in this manner linked with joy. and other passions with lo\'e.
im'oh'e some impotence on our part.12 All passion cuts us off from so that our capacity to be affected is completely exercised. Thus.
our power of action; as long as our capacity to be affected is if we consider such a succession of joyful affections, following
exercised by passions. we are cut ofT from that of which we are one from another, beginning with an initial feeling of joy. we see
capolble. Thus Spin01.a says that joyful passions arc passions only that our capacity to be olffected is exercised in such a way tholt
insofar as "a man's power of acting is not increased to the point our power of action continually increases. It> But it never increases
where he conceives himself and his actions adequately." l l That enough for us to come into its real possession. for us to become
is to say. our power of action is not yet increased to the point active, to become the adequate cause of the affections that exer­
that we arc active. We are still impotent. still cut ofT from our cise our capacity to be affected.
power of action. Let us now pass on to the second kind of encounter. I meet a
But our impotence is only the limitation of our essence and body whose relation cannot be combined with my own. The
power of action itself. In involving our impotence. our passive body does not agree with my nature, is contrary to it, bad or
feelings invoh'e some degree. however low. of our power ofaction. harm ful. It produces in me a passive affection which is itselfbad
Indeed any feeling at all dctennincs our essence or conatus. It thus or contrary to my nature. 17 The idea ofsuch an affection is a feel­
detennines us to desire, that is, to imaainc, and ta do. something ing of sadness, a sad passion corresponding to a reduction of my
that flows from our nature. When the feeling affecting us itself power of action. And we know what is bad only insofar as we per­
agrees with our nature, our power of action is then necessarily ceive something to affect us with sadness. It might, however, be
increased or aided. For the joy is added to the desire that fol­ objected that nrious cases should be distinguished. Everything
lows from it, so that the external thing's power encourages and in such an encounter seems to depend on the respective essences
increases our own.14 Conatus, being our effort to persevere in or powers of the bodies that meet one another. If my body has
exinence, is always a quest for what is useful or good for us; it essentially a greater degree of power, it will destroy the other.
always im'olves some degree of our power of action, with which decompose its relation. And the reverse will be the case if it has
indeed it may be identified: this power is thus increased when 01 lesser degree of power. The two cases do not seem to corre­
our conOfUS is detennined by an affection that is good or useful spond to 01 single pattern.
to us. \Ve do not cease to be passive. to be cut off from our power But this objection is in fact abstract. for we cannot when
of action, but we tend to become less cut off. we come nearer considering existence take any account of degrees of power con­
to this power. Our passive joy is and must remain a passion: it is sidered absolutely. If we consider essences or degrees of power
not "explained" by our power of action, but it "involves" a higher in themseh'es, we know that none can destroy any other, that
degree of this power. all olgree. When. on the other hand, we consider conflicts and
Insofar as the feeling of joy increases our power of action, it incompatibilities between existing modes, we have to bring in
determines us to desire. imagine, do, all we can in order to pre- all sorts of concrctc factors, which prevent us from saying that

T .. E T " E O � '" 0" "'N'TE "ODES T H E THREE OROERS .0. "1 0 THE PAOBl�" 0" E V I L

the mode with stronger essence or degree of power will definitely more, i n all our component relations, this marking the destruc­
triumph. Indeed. existing bodies that meet one another are not tion of our overall relation.
only defined by their overall relations: meeting in their various But how. beginning with the first feeling of sadness, is our
parts. bit by bit. it is necessarily some of their partial or compo­ capacity to be affected exercised? Sadness. no less than joy. deter­
nent relations that meet first. A body less strong than my own mines our conatus or essence. That is, out of sadness is born a
may be stronger than one of my components. and may thereby desire. which is hate. This desire is linked with other desires.
be enough to destroy me. should the component in question be other passions: antipathy. derision, contempt, envy, anger and so
a vital one. on. But here again. as detennining our essence or conatus, sad­
Thus Spinola reminds us that the contest between modes, ness involves something of our power of action. As detennined
according to their degree of power. is not to be understood as by sadness. conatus is still the quest for what is useful or good
relating to these degrees of power themselves: there is no con­ for us: we endeavor to triumph, that is. to act so as to make the
test between essences as suCh.18 But conversely, when Spinoza parts of the body that affects us with sadness take on a new rela­
shows that there are always bodies more powerful than my own tion that may be reconciled with our own. We are thus deter­
in existence which can destroy me, one need not necessarily mined to do everything to ward off sadness and destroy the object
think that such bodies have an essence whose degree of power is that is its Cause. 20 And yet our power of action is said in this case
greater than my own, or a greater perfection. A body can be to be "diminished." For the feeling of sadness is not added to the
destroyed by another of less perfect essence if the conditions of desire that follows from it: rather is the desire inhibited by this
their encounter (that is, the partial relation within which it takes feeling, so that the external thing's power s
i subtracted from our
place) fnor such destruction. In order to know in advance the own.21 Thus affections rooted in sadness are linked one to another
resul t of a contest, one would have to know under which rela­ in exercising our capacity to be affected. and this in such a way
tion the two bodies were to meet, under which relation the two that our power of action is further and further diminished, tend­
incompatible relations were to confront one another. One would ing toward its lowest degree.
need an infinite knowledge of Nature, which we do not have. At We have proceeded thus far as though two chains<! of affec­
any rate, a feeling of sadness. if only a partial one. always comes tions, joyful and sad, corresponded to the two sorts of encoun­
into any encounter I have with a body that does not agree with ter, good and bad. But this is still an abstract view. If one takes
my nature, this from the fact that the body always injures me in account of the concrete factors of existence, one sees a constant
one ofmy partial relations. This feeling of sadness is. furthermore. ,6' interplay between the two chains: extrinsic relations£ are so
our only way of knowing that the other body does not agree with arranged that an object can always be a cause of sadness or joy
our nature.19 Whether or not we will triumph changes nothing, accidemally.21 We may both love and hate the same object, not
for we do not know this in advance. We triumph if we manage only by virtue of these relations, but also by virtue of the com­
to ward off this feeling of sadness. to destroy, then. the body that plexity of the relations of which we are ourselves intrinSically
so affects us. We are defeated if sadness takes us over more and composed.1] A joyful chain may always. furthennore, be inter-

2,2 243
T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N I T E M O D E S T .. I; T .. R E E O � D I; R S A N D T .. I; P R O B L E M O F I; v l L

rupted by destruction, or even simply by the Sddncss of the loved some sense contrary t o himself: h i s partial relations may be sub­
object itself. A sad chain, cO Il\·erscly. may be interrupted by the ject to such accommodations. be so far transformed under the
sadness or d estruction of the thing hatcd: "He who imagines that action of imperceptible external causes. that he "takes on another
what he hates is destroyed will rejoice," "He who imagines what nature, contrary to the fonner," another nature that detennines
he hates to be affccted wilh sadness will rejoice."H \Ve are always him to suppress the firsl.27
dctennincd to seek the destruction of an object that makes us There is, then. very little chance of our naturally having good
sad; but to destroy it is to give the parIS of the object a new rela­ encounters. We seem to be determined to much contcst. much
tion th,lt agrees with our own: we then experience a joy which hatred, and to the experience of only part i al or indirect joys
increases our power of action. And with the two sequences thus which do not sufficiently disrupt the chain of our sorrows and
in constant interaction. our power of action ne\'er ceases to vary. hatreds. Partial joys are "titillations"r which only increase our
We must also take account of other concrete factors. For the power of action at one point by redUcing it everywhere else.18
first sort of encounler. good encounters with bodics whose rela­ Indirect joys are those we experience in seeing a hated object
tion combines dircctly with our own, remains altogether hypo­ �
sad or destroyed; but such oys remain imprisoned in sadness.
thetical. Thc question is, once we exist is thefe any chanCt! of us Hate is in fact a sadness. itse �olving the sadness from which
naturally haVing good encounters, and e.�pcrjencing the joyful affections it derives; the joys of hatred mask this sadness and inhibit it. but
thOl follow from them? The chances are in fact slight enough. In can never eliminate it.29 \Ve now seem farther than cver from
spcaking of existcnce, wc must not consider essences or degrccs coming into possession of our power of action: our capacity to
of power absolutely; nor must we consider abstractly the rela­ be affected is exercised not only by passive affections. but. above
tions in which these express thcmselves. For an existing mode all. by sad passions. involving an ever lower degree of the power
always exists as already affected by objects in parlial and partic­ of action. This is hardly surprising. as Nature is not constructed
ular relations: it exists as determined to this or that. There has for our convenience, but in a "common order" to which man,
always been some accommodation of partial relations between as a part of Nature, is subject.
it and cxtemal things. such that the mode's characteristic rela­ We have howcvcr made some progress. albeit abstract. We
tion can barely be grasped, or is Singularly defonned. Thus man started from a primary Spinozist principle, the opposi tion of
should in principle agree perfectly with man. But in real ity men passions and actions. of passive affcctions and activc affections.
agree very little in their natures, one with another; this because This principle itself presented two aspects. In thc first it was a
they are detennined to such a degree by their passions. by objecl'S matter, almost. of real opposition: active and passive affections.
which affect them in various ways, that they do not naturally and so the power of action and the power of suffering. varied
meet in relations that can in principle be combined.H "Because inversely within a fixed capacity of being affected. But on a
they are subject to feelings which far surpass human power or \'ir· deeper le\'el the real opposition was simply a negation: passive
lOe, they are often drawn in different directions and are contrary affections renected only the limitations of our essence. involved
to onc another."16 Indeed a man may be drawn so rar as to be in our i mpotence. did not relate to thc mind except insofar as it

V >< £ V >< EO A V O� � I N I V E M O D E S V >< £ V >< A E £ O R D E R S ... N O V >< E P A O B L E M O � E V I L

itself involved a negation. In this aspect only active affections o faction and the decomposition of a relation. And the reduction
could effectively or positively exercise our capacity to be af­ of our power of action is only an evil because it threatens and
fected; the power of action was thus identical to this capacity diminishes the relation that is our composition. So we are left
itself: as for passive affections. they cut us ofT from that of which with the follOWing definition of evil: it is the destruction. the
we were capable. decomposition. of the relation that characterizes a mode. Hence
Passive affections were opposed to active ones because they evil can only be spoken of from the particular viewpoint of an
were not explained by our power of action. Yet. involving the lim­ existing mode: there is no Good or Evil in Nature in general. but
itations of our essence. they in some sense involved the lowest there is goodness and badness, useful and hannful, for each existing
degree of thai power. The)' are in their own way our power of mode. Evil is what is bad from the viewpoint of this or that mode.
action. but this in a state of involvement. unexpressed. unex­ Being ourselves men, we judge evil from our viewpoint; and
plained. In their own way they exercise our capacity to be af­ Spin07.a often reminds us that he is speaking of good and bad only
fected. but do so by redUCing it to a minimum: the more passive in relation to human ends. We hardly think, for example. of
we are. the less we are capable of being affected in a great num­ speaking of an evil when we destroy the relation in which some
ber of ways. If passive affections cut us off from that of which animal exists in order 10 nourish ourselves. But we do speak of
we are capable, thiS Is because our power oj action is reduced to "evil" in two cases: when our body is destroyed, our relation
attaching itself to their traces, either in the attempt to preserve decomposed. under the action of some other thing; or when we
them if they are joyful, or to ward them off if they are sad. As ourselves destroy a being like ourselves. that is, a being whose
involving a reduced power of action. they sometimes increase it, resemblance to us is enough to make us think it agreed with us
sometimes reduce it. The increase may proceed indefinitely, but in prinCiple, and that its relation was in principle compatible
we will never come into ful l possessionl of our power of action with our own.lO
until we have active affections. But the opposition of actions Evil being thus defined from our viewpoint. we see that the
and passions sh�:)Uld not conceal the other opposition that con­ same applies from all other points of view: evil is always a bad
stitutes the second principle ofSpinozism: that of joyful passive encounter, evil is always the decomposition of a relation. The typ­
affections and sad passive affections. One increases our power, the ical case of such decompOSition is the action of a poison on our
other diminishes it. We come closer to our power of action inso­ body. The evil suffered by a man is always. according to Spinoza.
far as we are affected by joy. The ethical question falls then, in oj the same kind as indiaestiOn. intoxication or poisoning. And evil
Spin07.a. into two pans: How can we come to produce active offer:; done to a man by some thing, or by another man. always oper·
lions? But first of all: How can we come to u�rience a maximum ates like a poison, like a toxic or indigestible matter. Spinoza
ofjoyful passiOns? insists on this, in interpreting the celebrated case of Adam's eat­
ing of the forbidden fruit. We should not think. says Spinoza, that
God forbade Adam anything. He Simply revealed to him that such
What is evil? There are no evils save the reduction of our power a fruit was capable of destroying his body and decomposing his


T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N I T E M O O E S T H E T H R E E O R O E R S " N O T H E " R O B L E '" O F E \l I L

rclation: "just as h c rcveals also to us through our natural under­ our eonatus is itself detennined by the affections we experience.
standingh that poison is deadly to us.")! Spinoza's theory of evil But we arc ncver determined to do evil; we are determined to
would have remained obscure had not one of his correspondents, scek what is good for us in out encounters, in the circumstances
Blycnbergh, led him to clarify his position. Not that Blycnbcrgh in which those encounters take place. To the extent thal we are
himself avoids misunderstandings - misunderstandings that so try determined to produce an effcct. the effect is necessarily com­
Spino7.a's patiencc that he eventually gives up the attempt to dis­ bined with its cause, and contains nothing that could be called
pel them. But on one essential point Blyenbergh well understands "evil."B In short, evil is nothing because it expresses no compo­
Spino7.a's thought: "You avoid the things I call vice . . . as we avoid sition of relations. no law of composition. I n any encounter,
eating food that our nature finds disgusting."12 Evil as a bad whether I destroy or be destroyed. there takes place a combin­
rncounter, rl'il as poisoning. constitutes the basis ofSpinO'/.3·s theory. ing of relations that is, as such, good. Thus if onc considers the
So if it be asked what evil amounts to in the order of rclations. order of encounters as a whole, one may say it coincides with
one has to reply that evil is nothing. For there is nothing, i n the the order of relations as a whole. And one may say that evil is
order of relations. but composition. It cannot be said that the nothing in the order of relations themselves.
combining of some relations or others is an evil: any combina­ If we then ask what evil amounts to in the order of essences,
tion of relations is good from the vicwpoint of the relations com­ here again it is nothing. Consider our death or destruction: our
bined. that is, simply from the positivc viewpoint. When a poison relation is decomposed. ceases. that is. to subsumc its extcnsive
dccomposes my body, i t is because a natural law determines the parts. But these extensive parts are in no way constituents of our
parts of my body in contact with the poison to takc on a new essence; our essencc itself, haVing its full reality in itself. has ncver
relation which combines with that of the toxic body. Nothing presented the least tendency to come into existence. Once we
in this is evil from Nature's viewpoint. To the extcnt that the poi­ exist. of course, our essence is a conaws, an attempt to persevere
son is dctcrmincd by a law to have an effect. that cffcct is not an in existence. But this conaws is only the state such an essence is
evil. since it consists of a rclation which itself combincs with that decerminrd to take on in existence, insofar as the esscnce deter­
of the poison. Similarly. whcn I destroy a body. cvcn one similar mines neither cxistence itself. nor the duration of existence. And
to my own, this is because in the relation and in thr circumstances so. being thc attempt to pcrsevcre in cxistence indefinitely. thc
in which I encounter it. it doesn't agree with my nature: so 1 am cona/US involves no definite period: the essence is not more or
dctcnnined to do c\"erything in my powcr to impose on the parts less pcrfcct accordingly as the mode succeeds in perscvering for
of that body a new relation in which thcy will agrcc with mc... a longer or shorter period in existence.H Lacking nothing while
Thus thc wickcd man. like the virtuous one, seeks what is use­ the mode does not yet exist, the csscncc is depri\'ed of nothing
ful or good to him (if thcrc is some difference bctwccn them it when it ceascs to exist.
does not lie here). Whence Blycnbergh's first misunderstanding Consider. on the other hand. the e\'il we do when we destroy
consists in belicving that. according to Spinoza. the wicked man another body similar to our own. Take the action ofbcating (that
is determined to do cvil. We arc. it is true. always determined: is. lifting the arm. clenching the fist and moving the arm up


and down): one can see that i t expresses something o fa n essence he i s impatient with Blyenbergh's blundering. even insolent.
insofar as the human body can do it while maintaining its char­ demands. but above all because an "amoralist" thesis such as
acteristic relation. In this sense the action "is a virtue, which is Spino7..<1's can make itself understood only by means of a certain
conceived from the structure of the human body."lS Then. if the amount of provocation)8 In fact a crime expresses nothing of
action is aggressi\'e, threatening or destroying the relation that essence, expresses no essence, not even Nero's.
defines another body. that is indeed the mark of an encounrer Evil thus appears only in the third order of Nature. that of
between two bodies whose relations are incompatible in this encount'er.;. It corresponds only to the fact that the relations com­
respect. but expresses no essence. One says that my intention bined when two bodies meet are not always those of the bodies
itself was wicked. But th� wickedness oj th� intention lies solely in th� themseh·es. We have seen. moreover, that evil amounts to noth­
Joct thaI I join th� imase of such an action to th� imase oj a body ing in the order of encounters taken as a whole. Again, it is
whos� relation is destroyed by such an action.l6 There is "evil" only to nothing in the limiting case in which a relation is decomposed,
the extent that the action has as its object something or someone since such destruction affects neither the reality of the essence
whose relation does not combine with that on which the action in itself. nor the eternal truth of the relation. There remains,
depends. This case is once again analogous to that of a poison. then. but one case in which evil seems to amount to something.
The difference between two famous matricides. Nero killing While it exists. and according to the encounters it experiences,
Agrippina. and Orestes killing Clytemnestra. may serve to en­ a given existing mode goes through changes corresponding to var­
lighten us. Orestes is not considered gUilty because Clytemnestra, iations i n its power of action; but, when its power of action
having begun by killing Agamemnon, put herselfin a relation that diminishes. the existing mode passes Jrom srealer to lesser perJl!c­
could no longer be combined with that of Orestes. Nero is con­ tion.19 Does not evil reside in this "passage to a lesser perfection"?
sidered guilty because he had to be wicked to view Agrippina in As Blyenbergh says. there must be some evil when one is deprived
a relation absolutely incompatible with his own. and to link the of a better condition.+O Spinoza's famous reply is that there is no
image of Agrippina to the image of an action that would destroy privation in the passage to a lesser perfection: privation is only a
her. But nothing in all this expresses an essence.n All that we negation. Evil is nothing even in this last order. A man becomes
see is the encounrer of two bodies in incompatible relations. the blind; a man previously inspired by a desire for good is overcome
connection of the image of an act with the image of a body whose by a sensual appetite. We ha\'e no reason to say that he is deprived
relation is incompatible with that of the act. The same act could of a bener Slate. since that Slue no more belongs to his nature
be a virtue, had it for its object something whose relation coru.­ at the moment in question than to those of a stone or the devil.41
bined with its own (thus there are greetings that look like beat­ This reply clearly presents certain problems. Blyenbergh
ings). Whence Blyenbergh's second misunderstanding: he thinks fiercely criticizes Spinoza for having confused two very differ­
that according to Spinoza an evil becomes a good . a crime a \·ir­ ent sorts of co,!,parison: comparisons between things that do not
tue. to the extent that it expresses an essence. be it even Nero·s. share the same nature. and comparisons between different states
Anel Spin07.a only partly disabuses him. This not just because of one and the same thing. It does not, true enough, belong to a

' <0 '<'

T .. " T " " O Il ,( 01= I= ' " , ' T " "' 0 0 " 5 T H E T H R E E O R O I! R S ... ... 0 r " E P R O O L E '" O F E V ' l

stone's nature to see, but sight does belong to man's narure. Thu5 short, there is in SpinOla no contradiction between the "neces­
his main objection is that Spin07..a attributes to a thing's essence sitarian" view dccording to which the capacit), to be affected is
an instantaneous character foreign to it; "on your view nothing at each moment necessarily exercised, and the "ethical" view
else pertains 10 an essence than what it has at that moment when according to which it is exercised at each moment in such a way
it is perceived."H If this be the case then any transition forward that the power of action increases or diminishes. our capacity
or backward in time bccomes unintelligible. itself varying with it. As Spin07..a says. there is nowhere an)' pri­
Blycnbergh argues as though SpinOla had said that a bcing is vation . but there are nonetheless passages between greater and
always as perfect as it can be, gi,"en the essence it has at any given lesser perfections.41
moment. Here. then. is his third misunderstanding. For Spinoza Evil is not dnything in any sense. To be is to express oneself. to
says something completely different: A being is always as perfect express lomething else or to be uprmed. Evil is nothing. being in
as it can be, given the affections that, at any particular moment, no way expressi\·e. Above all. it expresses nothing. It expresses
belong to its essence. Blycnbcrgh is clearly confusing "belonging no law of composition. no composition of relations; it expresses
to its essencc" and "constituting its essence." At each moment no essence; it expresses no privation of some beller state of exist­
the affections I am expericncing belong 10 my essence. in that ence. To evaluate the originality of this position. one must oppose
they exercise my capacity of bcing affected. While a modc exists it to other ways of denying evil. One may call "rationalist moral­
its esscnce is as perfect as it can be, given the affections that, at ism" (optimism) a tradition that has its sources in Plato. and its
any particular momcnt, arc exercising its capacity to be affected. fullest development in the philosophy of Leibniz; Evil is noth·
If some given affections are exercising my capacity al some par­ ing because only Being is. or rather because Being. superior to
ticular moment. then it cannot at the same time be exercised by existence, determines all that is. The Good, or the Beller. make
any other affections: there is an incompatibility, exclusion. nega­ rhingl be. Spino7.a's position has nothing to do with this tradition:
tion. but no privation. Let us return to the example of the blind it amounts to rationalist "amoralism." For according to Spinoza.
man. Either one imagines a blind man who still has luminous sen­ Good has no more sense than Evil: in Nature there is neither
sations. but is blind in the sense that he can no longer act accord­ Good nor Evil. Spinoza constantly reminds us of this: "If men
ing to these sensations, and what luminous sensations remain to were born free. they would form no concept of good and evil so
him are altogether passive. In such a case only the relative pro­ long as they remained free."H The question ofSpinoza's atheism
portion of active and passive affections will have changed . his is singularly lacking in interest insofar as it depends on drbitrary
capacity to be affected remaining const'ant. Or one imagines� definitions of theism and atheism. The question can ani), be
blind man who has lost all luminous affections. In that case his posed in relation to what most people call "God" from a reli­
capacity to be aflected has indeed been reduced. But the same gious viewpoint: a God. that is to say, inseparable from a ratio
conclusion follows: any existing mode is as perfect as it can be, bon;. proceeding by the moral lilw. acting as a judge. 45 SpinOla is
gi\'en the affections that exercise its capacity to be aflected and clearly an atheist in this sense: the moral pseudo-law is Simply the
c.lllse it to vary within the limits compatible with existence. In measure of our misunderstanding of natural laws; the idea of

'P 'Sl

rewards and punishments reflects only our ignorance o f the true C I I A I' T E I{ S I X T E E N

relation between an act and its consequences; Good and Evil are
inadequate ideas. and we fonn conceptions of them only to the T h e Ethical Vision of the Wo r l d

extent that our ideas are inadequate.46

But because there is no Good or Evil. this does not mean that
all distinctions vanish. There is no Good or Evil in Nature, but
there are good and bad things for each existing mode. The moral
opposition of Good and Evil disappears. but this disappearance
does not make all things. or all beings. equal. As Niet7.sche puts
it. " 'Beyond Good and EVil' . . at least this does not mean 'Beyond

Good and Bad .. ·4J There are increases in our power of action.
reductions in our power of action. The distinction between good When Spinoza says that we do not even know what a body can

things and bad provides the basis for a real ethical difference, do, this is practically a war cry. He adds that we speak of con­

which we must substitute for a false moral opposition. sciousness. mind. soul. of the power of the soul over the body;
we chatter away about these things. but do not even know what
bodies can do. I Moral chattering replaces true philosophy.
This declaration is important in several respects. As long as
we speak of a power of the soul over the body we are not really
thinking of a capacity or power. What we really mean is that the
soul, from its own eminent nature and special finality. has higher
"duties": it must command the body's obedience. according to
the laws to which it is itself subject. As for the body's power. this
is either a power of execution, or the power to lead the soul
astray. and entice it from its duties. In all this we are thinking
morally. The moral view of the world appears in a principle that
dominates most theories of the union of soul and body: when one
of these acts. the other suffers. This is. in particular. the princi­
ple of real action in Descartes: the body suffers when the soul
acts. and the soul in its turn suffers when the body acts.l And.
while denying real action . Descartes's successors do not relin­
quish the idea behind this principle: preestablished harn10ny. for
examlJle. presen'cs an "ideal action" bctween soul and body.

,« 'H
T H E T H E O � V OF F I N I T E M O D E S T H E !E T H I C A L Y I S I O N O F T H E W O R L D

according to which one always suffers when the other aclS) From less in acting. so its mind is more capable o f understanding dis­
such viewpoints we have no means of comparing the powers of rinctly."6 In order to really think in terms of power. one must con­
soul and body; and having no way of comparing them we arc quite sider the matter in relation to the body. one must in the first
unable to assess either of them:' place free the body from that relation of inverse proportionality
If parallelism is a novel doctrine. this is not because it denies which makes all comparison of powers impossible, and thereby
a real action of soul on body. It is because it O\'ertums the moral also makes impossible any assessment of the power of the soul
principle by which the actions of one arc the passions of the considered in itself. The question. "What can a body do?" must
other. "The order of actions and passions of our body is. by be talen as a model. The mrxM implies no del'Olualion oj Thought
nature. at one with the order of actions and passions of the relative to Extension, but merely a del'aluation oj consciousness re/a­
mind.") What is a passion in the mind is also a passion in the body. lil'e to thought. One recalls Plato Stlying that materialists. if at all
what is an action in the mind is also an action in the body. Paral­ intelligent. should speak of power rather than of bodies. But it
lelism thus excludes any eminence of the soul. any spiritual and is true, conversely, that intelligent dynamiSts must first speak of
moral finality. any transcendence of a God who might base one bodies, in order to "think" power. The theory of power accord­
series on the other. And parallelism i s in this respect practically ing to which actions and passions of the body accompany actions
opposed not only to the doctrine of real action. but to the theo­ and passions of the soul amounts to an ethical vision of the world.
ries of preestablished harmony and occasionalism also. We ask The substitution of ethics for moral ity is a consequence of par­
"Of what is a body capable? Of what affections. passive as well allelism, and shows its true significance.
as active? How far does its power extend?" Thereby. and thereby
only. can we know of what a soul is in itself capable. what is its
power. Thereby we find a means of "comparing" the power of The question of what a body can do makes sense taken alone.
the soul with that of the body. and so find a means of assessing since it implies a new conception of the embodied individual.
the power of the soul considered in itself. of species. and of genera. As we will sec. ilS biological signifi­
To reach an assessment of the power of the soul in itsclf. one cance should not be neglected. But taken as a model. its primary
must pass through a comparison of powers: "To detenninc what Significance is juridical and ethical. All a body can do (its power)
is the difference between the human mind and the others. and is also its "natural right." If we manage to pose the problem of
how it surpasses them. it is necessary for us. as we have said. to rights at the le\'c\ of bodies. we thereby transform the whole phi­
know the nature of its object. i.e .• of the human body. . . . l.-say losophy of right,s in relation 10 souls themselves. E\'el)'onc seels.
in general. that in proportion as a body is more capable than oth­ soul and body. what is useful or good for them. If someone hap­
ers of doing many things at once. or being acted on in many ways pens to encounter a body that can combine with his own in J

at once. so its mind is more capable than others of perceiving favorablc relation. he tries to unite with it, When someone
many things at once. And in proportion as the actions of a body CIlCOUnlcrs a body whose relation is incompatible with his own.
depend more on itself alone, and as other bodies concur with it a body th,lt affects him with sadness. he docs all in his power to

T H E T H E O � V OF F I N I T E M O D E S T H E E T H I C ... L V I S I O N O F T H E II\I O � L O

ward off the sadness or destroy the body. that is. to impose on ral powers are only pot'ential, and always requirc an aCI o f rea·
the parts of that body some new relation that accords with his son to delemline and realize them in relation to ends they are
own nature. Thus affections at each moment determine conatus, to serve. 4. This itselfgrounds the authOrity of the wise man: for
but canCltw is at cach moment a seeking of what is useful in terms the wisc man is the best judge of the order of ends. of duties that
of the affections that determine it. Whence a body always noes as follow from it. and of the offices and actions that it falls to each
Jar as it can, in paSSion as in action; and what it can do is its right. to exercise and carry out. One can foresee the usc Christianity
The theory of nalUral rights implies a double identification of would make of this conception of natural law: law would become
power wilh it's excrcisc. and of such an exercise of power with a inscparable from natural theology and C\'en Rc\·clation.1o
right. "The rights of an individual extend to the utmost limits It belongs t'o Hobbes to ha\'e brought forward four basic the­
of his power as it has been conditioned.'" This is the very mean­ ses to set against those just cited. These no\'eI theses transform
ing of the word law: the law of nature is never a rule of duty. but the philosophical problem of right prccisely by taking the body as
the norm ofa power. the unity of right, power and its exercise.8 their mechanical and dynamical model. Spino..... adopts these thc­
There is in this respect no difference between wise man and fool. ses, integrating them within his own system where they are seen
reasonable and demented men. strong man and weak. They do in a new light. I. The law of nature is no longer referred to a final
of course differ in the kind of affections that determine their perfection but to an initial desire, to the strongest "appetite":
effort to I>crsc\'crc in existencc. But cach tries cqually to presen'e detached from the order of ends, it is deduced from appetite as
himself. and has as much right as he has power, given the affec­ its efficient cause. 2. Reason, from this viewpoint. enjoys no priv­
tions that actually exercise his capacity to be affected. The fool ilege: the fool tries no less than a reasonable being to persevere
is himself a part of Nature. and in no way disturbs its order.? in his being; and desires or actions born of reason exemplify this
This conception of natural right is inherited directly from effort no more than do the desires or passions of the fool. \Vhat
Hobbes. (The question of the fundamental differences between is more, nobody i$ born reasonable. Rcason may perhaps apply and
Spinoza and Hobbes arises on another level.) What Spino...a owes preserve the law of nature. but is in no scnse its principle or
to Hobbes is a conception of natural right thoroughly opposed motive force . Similarly. nobody is born a citiZl!n.11 The civil state
to the classic theory of natural law.> If we take as our guide Cic· may preserve the law of nature, but thc state of nature is in itself
ero, who combines within him Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic prcsocial, precivil. Further still. nobody is born relinious: "Thc
traditions, we sec that the natural law of Antiquity presents var­ state of nature is, both in nature and in time. prior to religion.
ious characteristics: I . It defines a being's natur'ikby it� perf"c;, No one knows by nature that he owes any obedience to God . . . ."12
.), ... _
tion. within an or<lcr of ends (thus man is "naturally" ,,,,,,,",Ible 3 . What then is primary and unconditional is power or right.
and sociable). 2. It follows that the Slate of nature is not. for man, "Duties." of whatever sort, arc always secondary relath'e to the
a state prece(ling society. even in principle. but rather a life in affirmation of our powcr. to the exercise of our power. the pres·
conformity with naturc in a "good" ch'il society. 3. What is then ervation of our right. And power is no longer referred to an act
primary ,md unconditional in such a stale are "duties"; for natu- that detcrmines and realizes it in relation to an order of ends.

,,8 '"

T H IS l H IS O R V OF F I N I T E ",, 0 0 £ 5 T H E E T H IC " L "" S I O N O F T H E W O � L D

My power is iuclf actual, because the affections that I experience viable: by stri\'ing t'O organize its encounters. Wh.lIcycr bod y I meet.
each moment. whatc\'cr these may be. have full right to deter­ I seck what is useful. But there is <I great dincrencc between seck·
mine and exercise it. 4. It follows that nobody has the authority ing what is useful through chance (that is, striving to destroy bod­
to decidc my rights. hCI)'one in the state of nature. whether wise ies incompatible with our own) and seeking to organize what is
man or fool. judges what is good or bad. and what is necessary useful (striving to encounter bodics agreeing in nature with us.
to his preservation. Whence natural right is not opposed "to in relations in which they agree). Only the second type of effort
strifes. hatred. anger. treachery. or. in general. anything that appe­ defines proper or Irue utility. 15 This endeavor docs of course have
tite suggestS:'ll And if it comes about that we arc leel to renounce ils limits: we will still be detennincel to destroy certain bodies.
our natur.,1 right. this will not happen through the recognition if only in oreler 10 subsist; we cannot a\'oid all bad encounters,
of the wise man's authorit}'. but through our own consent to this we cannot avoid dealh. But we strivc to unite with what
rcnunci.uion. from fcar of a grealer e\'il or hope of a greater good. agrees with our nature. to combine our relation wilh those that
The principle of consent (pact or contract) becomcs the princi­ are compatible with it. to associate our acts and thoughts with
ple of political philosophy. and replaces the rule of authority, the images of things thai agree with us. From such an effort we
Thus defined. the state of nature itself shows us what makes have a right. by definition. to expect a maximum of joyful affec­
it intolerable. The state of naturc is not viable. as long as the nat­ lions. Our capacity to be affected will be exercised in such con­
ural right corresponding to it remains theoretical and abstract.H ditions that our power of action will increase. And if it be asked
In the state of nature I live at the merc}' of encounters, It is true what is most useful to us. this will be seen to be man, For man
enough that my power is detcrmined by the affections that each in principle agrees in nature with man; man is absolutely or truly
moment exercise my capacity to be affected. true enough that I useful to man. Evel)'one. then. in seeking what is truly useful to
always have all the perfection of which I am capable. given those him. also seeks what is useful to man. The effort to organi:r.e
<affcctions. But in the Slate of nature my capacity to be affected encounters is thus first of all the effort to form an association of
is exercised in such conditions that not only do I experience pas­ men in relations that can bc combined. 16
sive affections which cut me ofT from my power of action: these There is in Nature neither Good nor Evil. there is no moral

passivc affeclions arc. moreover. predominantly sad. and contin­ opposition. but there is an ethical difference. This ethical differ­

ually reducc this power itself. There is no chance of my encoun.­ ence appears in various equivalent forms: that between the rea­

tering bodies that combine directly with my own, It would be sonable man and the foolish. the wise and the ignorant. free man

.111 very well to pre\'ail in various encounters with bodies oppesed and slave. strong and weak,17 And wisdom or reason hal'e in fact ./

to me; but such triumphs. such joys of hate. would not elimi­ no orher content but strength. freedom. This ethical difference

nate the sadness involved in hatred; and. above all. I could nevcr docs nOt relate to cona/us, sincc fools and the wcak. no less than

be sure winning the nexi encounter. and would thus be affected rcasonable men and the strong. strive to persevere in their being.

by a perpctual fear. It ,elates to the kind oj affections that determine our conatus. The
There could be only one way of making the statc of nature free. strong and reasonable man is in principle fully deflned by

,60 ,6,
T H E T H E O Il V OF F I N I T E M O D E S T H E Ii; T H I C A L V I S I O N OF T H E W O Il L O

his possession o f a power o f action and the presence i n him of of impotence and slavery, a state of foolishness in which we
adequate ideas ,md active affections: the sla\'e and the weak man. depend in the highest degree on external causes. and in which
on the other hand. have only those passions that derive from their we necessarily have more of sadness than of joy; we are never
inadequate ideas, and cut them off from their power of action. more cm off from our power of action. The first man. Adam. cor.
But ethical difference is first expressed on a simpler. prepar· responds to the childhood of humanity. This is why Spino7..a so
atory or preliminary level. Before coming into full possession of forcefully opposes the Christian, and then rationalist. traditions
his power. the strong Jree man may be recognil.ed by his joyful pas­ which present Adam to us as reasonable. free and perfect before
sions, by affections that increase his power of action; the slave or his fall. Rather should we imagine Adam as a child: sad. weak,
weak man may be recognil.ed by his sad passions. by affections enslaved, ignorant, left to chance encounters. "It must be admit­
based on sadness which diminish his power of action. We must. ted that it \vas not in the first man's power to make a right use of
it seems. distinguish two stages of reason or freedom: increasing reason, but that. like us. he was subject to passions."zoThat is to
our power of action by striving to experience a maximum of joy­ say: It is not sin that e.fplaim weakness, but our initial weakness that
ful passive affections; and thence passing on to a final stage in e.fplains the myth oj sin. Spin07.a presents three theses concerning
which our power of action has so increased that it becomes capa­ Adam. which together fonn a systematic whole: I . God forbade
ble of producing affections that are themselves active. The link Adam nothing, but simply revealed to him that the fruit was a
between the two stages remains, to be sure. mysterious. But the poison that would destroy his body ifit came into contact with
existence of the first stage is not. at least. in doubt. A man who it. 2. As his understanding was weak like a child's. Adam per.
is to become reasonable. strong and free, begins by doing all in ceived this revelation as a prohibition; he disobeyed like a child,
his power to experience joyful passions. He then strives to extri­ not understanding the natural necessity of the relation between
cate himself from chance encounters and the concatenation of action and consequence. believing the laws of Nature to be moral
sad passions. to organize good encounters. combine his relation laws which it is possible to violate. 3. How can we imagine
with relations that combine directly with it. unite with what Adam free and reasonable. when the first man must necessarily
agrees in nature with him. and form a reasonable association be affected by passive feelings. not having had time to undergo
between men; all this in such a way as to be affect'ed with joy. the long formative process presupposed by reason no less than
The description of the reasonable and free man in Part Four of by freedom?ll

the Ethics identifies the striving of reason with this an of organ­ The state of reason. in its initial aspect. already has a com­ encounters. or forming a totality of compatible relationsj/l plex relation to the state of nature. On the one hand the state of

Reason. strength and freedom are in Spin07.a inseparable from nature is not subject to the laws of rcason: reason relates to the
a de\·elopment. a formative process, a culture.c Nobody is born proper and true utility of man, and tends solely to his preserva­
free, nobody is born reasonable.19 And nobody can undergo for tion; Nature on the other hand has no regard for the preservation
us the slow learning of what agrees with our nature. the slow of man and comprises an infinity of other laws concerning the
dTort of discovering our joys. Childhood. says Spinol.a, is a state universe as a whole. of which man is but a small part. But the
T H E E T H , C A L V I S I O N 0 0< T M E W O R � O

state of reason i s not. o n the other hand. of another order than ble with theirs. This endeavor. which cannol' wholly succeed. con­
the state of nature itself. Reason. e\'en in its "commandments," stitutes the striving of reason. A reasonable being may in this
demands nothing contrary to Nature: it demands only thai every­ sense be said. in its way. to reproduce and express the effort of
one should love themseh'es. seck what is useful to themselves.
Nature as a whole.
ami SHive to preserve their being by increasing their power of
aClion,l2 There is thus no artificiality or conventionality in rca­
son's endeavor. Reason proceeds not by artifice. but by a natural How can men come to meet one another in relations that arc
combination of relations; it does not so much bring in calcula­
compatible. and so fonn a reasonable association? Ifman agrees
tion. as a kind of direct recognition of man by man.2J The ques­ with man. this is so only insofar as he is supposed a/ready rea­
tion of knowing whether creatures supposed reasonable. or in the sonable.2s As long as they li\'e by chance encounters. as long as
process of becoming so. need to mutually commit themselves they arc affected by chance l>aSsions. men are led in various direc­
through a sort of contract. is a highly complex one; but even if tions and so hal'e no chance of meeting i n relations that agree:
there is a contnct on this le\'el, it implies no com'entional renun­ they arc opposed one to another.26 We can. it is true. avoid this
ciation of natural rights. no artificial limitation. The state of connict to the extent that we bring into play a very slow learn­
reason is one with the formation of a higher kind of body and ing process. a very slow empirical education. But we then fall
a higher kind of soul, enjoying natural rights corresponding to immediately into another difficulty. I n the first place. the bur­
their power: indeed. should two inclividuals completely combine den of present encounters is always there to threaten the annihi­
their relations. they would naturally form an individual twice as lation of reason's effort. Moreol'er. this effort will at best succeed
great . having twice as great a natural right.H The state of rea­ at the close of life: "nevertheless they Me in the meanwhile bound
son in no way either docs away with or limits natural rights. but to H\'e."17 Thus reason would amount to nothing and would ne\'er
raises them to a power without which such rights would remain come into its own power. did it not find help i n a power of
unreal and abstract. another kind. which joins with il. and which prepares and accom­
What then docs the difference between the state of reason and panies it's de"elopment. This other kind of power is that of the
the state of nature come down to? I n the order of nature each State or City.d
body meelS others. but its relation cannot necessarily combine The City is. in fact. in no way a reasonable association. It
with those of the bodies il encounters. The correspondence of differs from such an association in three ways. I. The motive
encounters and relations occurs only at the lel'el of Nature�s a force of its formation is not an affection of reason. that is 10 say
whole; it occurs between whole and whole in the infinite medi­ an affection produced in us by another man in a relation that is
ate mode. When however we rise higher in the order of essences. perfectly compatible with our own. The moti\'e is anxiety or fear
we witness an effort which prefigures that of Natllre as a whole. of the state of nature. hope of a greater good.28 2 . The whole
The highest essences already strive in their existence to make that is reason's ideal is constituted by rel.ltions that directly and
their own encounters correspond to relations that arc cornpati-
nJlurally combine. by powers or riglHs that are naturally add i-

,. ,
T H E T H E O R V OF F ' N ' T E M O O E S T H e E T H ' C A L V I S ' O N OF T H e W O R L D

tivc. This is not thc case in the City: men being unreasonable. obey. But precisely because it is a whole, it can presen'e itself as
each must "renounce" his natural rights. Such renunciation such only insofar as "it tends toward the end that sound reason
alone makes possible the formation of a whole that itself takcs tcaches all men to pursuc": the wholc c.lnnot presen'e itself
on the sum of these rights. This is the civil "pact" or "con­ unless it tends toward something that has at Icast the appearance
tract."l\! The sO\'creign City then has power enough to institute of re.lson.J2 The contr.lct by which individuals alienate their
indirect conventional relations through which citizens are Jarced rights has no moth'ation but intercst (the fear of a greater evil,
to agree and be compatible. 3. Reason is the principle of an the hope of a grc.lter good ): if the citizens begin to fear the City
ethical distinction between "those who live under its gUidance" ab(we all else. they find themseh·cs once more in a statc of nature,
and those who remain gUided by feeling. those who frec thcm­ while the City loses its power. a prcy to the factions it has stirred
Sc!\'es and thosc who remain slaves. But the civil state distin­ up. The City's own nature thus detcmlines it to aim as far as pos­
guishes only the just and thc unjust. accordingly as they obey sible for reason's ideal. to strivc to make the sum ofits laws con­
or do not obey its laws. Having renounccd their right to judge form to rcason. And the City will agree all the more with reason.
what is good and bad. citizens rely on a Stue that rewards and the less sad passions (sadness or cven hope) it produces in its cit­
punishes. Sin and obedience, justice and injustice are strictly izens. relying rather on joyful affections.H
social categories; moral opposition finds in society both its prin­ We must in all this understand a "good" Cit)'. For it is with
ciple and its domain.lO cities as with individuals: many causes. sometimes impercepti­
And yet there is a great similarity betwccn the City and Rea­ ble. intervene to pervert nature and precipitate ruin. But. from
son's ideal. In Spinoza as in Hobbes the sovereign is defined by the viewpoint of the good City. two further considerations may
his natural right, equal to his power. equal, that is, to all the rights be addcd to those above. In the first place, what docs it mean
rclinquishcd by the contracting parties. But such a sovereign is for a citizen to "renounce his natural rights"? Not. obViously. to
not, as in Hobbes, a third party who gains by the contract made renounce pcrscvering in being. But r.lther to renounce being
by individuals. The sovereign is the whole: the contract is made detennined by an)' personal affections whatever. Abandoning his
betwcen individuals who transfer their rights to the whole they right to personally judge what is good and what bad. the citizen
form by contracting. Thus Spinot'.a describes the City as a col­ thcreby commits himself to common collectil'e affectiOns. But gh'en
lective person, with common body .lnd soul, "a multitude which these affections he continues personally to perse\'cre in his being.
is guided. as it were, by one mind."ll That the process of its for­ and to do all in his power to preserve his exiSl'ence and look after
mation is very different from that of reason. that it is preratioaal. his intcrests.l� Spinoza is thus able to say thai each. as a member
does not prcvent the City from imitating and prcparing the way of the City, renounces his natural rights, and yet entirely prcscn'cs
for reason. Indeed thcre is not, nor can there be, an)' irrational these natural rights in the ci\'il st.lte.H In the second place. aJJec­
totality contrary to reason. The sovereign has of course the right lions oj reason are not subject to thc City's rule: the power of
to demand all it wishcs, everything within its power; it is the sole knOWing. thinking ,md expressing one's thought rcmains an inal­
judge of the laws it institutes and can neither (10 wrong nor dis- ienable natural right. which the City cannot compromise with-

T H E T I-I E O Ol V 01'" 1'" ' N I T E ,," 0 0 £ 5

out reintroducing between itself and its subject's relations of always for reasons very different from those of morality. l9 The
simplc violence.J6 Ethics judges feelings. conduct and intentions by relating them.
The "good" City both takes the place of reason for those who not to transcendent values. but to modes of existence they pre­
have none, and prepares. prefigures and in its way imitates the suppose or imply: there are things one cannot do or even say.
work of reason. It is the City that makes possible the develop­ believe, feel, think, unless one is weak, enslaved, impotent; and
ment of rC,lson itself. One should not take as signs of excessive other things one cannot do, feel and so on. unless one is free or
optimism Spin07.a's two propositions that. e"erything considered strong. A method of explanation by immanent modes of existence thus
.md despite everything. the City is the best environment in which replaces the recourse to transcendent values. The question is in
man can become reasonable. and that it is also the bcst environ­ each case: Docs. say. this feeling, increase our power of action
ment in which a reasonable man can Jive.l7 or not? Docs it help us come into full possession of that power?
To do all we can is our ethical task properly 50 called. I t is
here that the Ethics takes the body as model; for every body
In an ethical vision of the world i iS always a matter of capacity extends its power as far as i t can. In a sense every being. each
ami power. and never of anything clsc. Law is identic .. 1 to right. moment. docs all it call. "What it can do" is its capacity to be
True natural laws arc norms of power rather than rules of duty. affected, which is necessarily and constantly exercised by the
Thus the moral law that purports to prohibit and command. thing's relations with other beings. But in another sense, our
invol"b d kind of mystification: the less we understand the laws capacity to be affected may be exercised in such a way that we
of nature, is. ilie norms of life. the more we interpret them are cut off from our power of action. and such that this incessantly
as orders and prohibitions - to the point that the philosopher diminishes. In this second sense it can happen that we li\'e cut
must hesitate before using the word "law." so much does it retain off from "what we can do." This indeed is the fate of most men,
a moral aftertaste: it would be better to speak of "eternal truths." most of the time. The weak man, the slal'e, is not someone of lesser
Moral laws or (Iuties dre i,! truth purely civil. socid!. Society alone strength in absolute terms. The weak man is he who. whatever his
orders and prohibits. threatens and gives us to hope, rewards and strength. remains cut ofT from his powcr of action. kept in slav­
punishes. Reason docs of course on its own account invoke a ery or impotence. To do all we can amounts to two things: How
pieta! and a religio; and there arc of course precepts, rulcs or exercise our capacity to be affected in such a way that our power
"commands" of reason. Ihlt the list of such commands is enough of action increases? And how increase this power to the point

to show that thcy arc nOt duties but norms of life. relating to til« where. finally. we produce actil·c affections? There are weak men
soul's "strength" and in power of action.IS It can of course also dnd strong. sla\'es and free men. There is no Good and Evil in
happen that such norms coincide with the laws of ordinary moral- Nature. there is no moral opposition. but there is an ethical dif­
ity; but such coincidences dre on thc one hand not particulJrly ference. The difference lies in the immanent cxisting modes
numerous; and on the othcr. when reason cnjoins or denounces im'olvcd in what we feel. do and think.
something analogous to whdt morality orders or prohibits. it is This ethical conception has a fundamentdl critical aspect.

,68 '69
T ", E T >< " O " " 0" "'N'TE MODES

Spinoza belongs to a great tradition: the practical task o f philos­ laws and rules of Nature, will surely find nothing worthy of hate.
ophy consists in denouncing all myths. all mystifications, all mockery or disdain. nor anyone whom he will pity. Instead he
"superstitions," whatever their origin. I believe that this tradition will strive, as far as human virtue allows. to act well, as they say.
always invoh·es a naturalist philosophy. Superstition is everything and rejoice." "The superstitious know how to reproach people for
that keeps us cut off from our power of action and continually their vices better than they know how to teach them virtues. and
diminishes it. The source of superstition is thus the concatena­ they strive, not to guide men by reason, but to restrain them by
tion of sad passions, fear, the hope linked to fear, the anxiety that fear, so that they nee the evil rather than love virtues. Such peo­
delivers us over to phantoms.4o Spinoza knows, like Lucretius, ple aim only to make others as wretched as they themselves are.
that there are no joyful myths or superstitions. Like Lucretius so it is no wonder that they are generally burdensome and hate­
he sets the image of a positive Nature against the uncertainty of ful to men." "One who has been badly received by a lover thinks
gods: what is opposed to Nature is not Culture. nor the state oj rea­ of nothing but the inconstancy and deceptiveness of women, and
son, nor even the civil state. but only the superstition that threatens all their other, often sung vices. All of these he immediately forgets
human endeavor. And like Lucretius again. Spinoza assigns to phi­ as soon as his lover receives him again. One therefore. who is anx­
losophy the task of denouncing all that is sad, all that lives on ious to moderate his feelings and appetites from the love offree­
sadness. all those who depend on sadness as the basis of their dam alone will strive, as far as he can. to come to know the
power. "In despotiC statecraft. the supreme and essential mystery virtues and their causes, and to fill his mind with the gladness
is to hoodwink the subjects. and to mask the fear, which keeps which arises from the true knowledge of them, but not at all to
them down, with the specious garb of religion. so that they may consider men's vices. or to disparage men. or to enjoy a false
fight as bravely for slavery as for safety. . ." �l The devaluation of
appearance of freedom." "A free man thinks of nothing less than
sad passions. and the denunciation of those who cultivate and of death. and his wisdom is a meditation on life. not on death."H
depend on them. form the practical object of philosophy. Few One may see Spinoza. through the schoHa of Part Four of the
themes of the Ethics reappear more constantly than this one: that EthiCS, fonning a truly ethical conception of man. founded on
all that is sad is bad and enslaves us; all that involves sadness joy and joyful passions. This he opposes to a superstitious or
expresses tyranny. satirical conception, founded on sad passions alone: "instead
"No deity. nor anyone else. unless he be envious. takes pleas­ of an EthiCS, they have generally written a satire."4 3 A t a deeper
ure in my lack of power and my misfortune; nor docs he ascribe le\'el Spinoza denounces oppressive powers. which can rule only
to virtue our tears. sighs. fear. and other things of that kind. through inspiring in man the sad passions from which they profit
which are signs of a weak mind. On the contrary. the greater the ("those who know only how to break men's minds . . ."44). Some
joy with which we arc affected. the greater the perfection to sad passions are of course socially useful: among them fear. hope.
which we pass. i.e .• the more we must participate in the divine humility. even remorse. But this only insofar as we do not live
nature." "I-Ie who rightly knows that all things follow from the nec· by the gUidance of reason.45 It remains the case that cvery pas­
essity of thc divine nature. and happen according to the eternal sion is in itself bad insofar as i t involves sadness: even hope. even

'7° '7'
T H E T H E O " V OF F I N I T E M O O E S

conJidence.46 A City is so much the better the more it relies on CHAPTEH SEVENTEEN
joyful affections; the love of freedom should outweigh hope. fear
and conl1dence.47 Reason's only commandment. the sole require­ Com mon Notions
ment of pietas and ,eliew, is to link a maximum of passive joys
with a maximum of active ones. For joy is the only passive affec­
tion that increases our power of action. and of all affections joy
alone can be active. The slave may be recognized by his sad pas­
sions. and the free man by his joys. passive and active. The sense
of joy is revealed as the truly ethical sense; it is to the practical
sphere what affirmation itself is to the speculative. Spinoza's
naturalism is defined by speculative affirmation in his theory of
substance, and by practical joy in his conception of modes. A phi­ Spinoza's philosophy docs not fix itself in God. or I1nd its natu­
losophy of pure affinnation, the Ethics is also a philosophy of the ral starting point in God. The conditions in which we have ideas
joy corresponding to such affirmation. seem to condemn us to having only inadequate ones. and the con­
ditions in which we are affected seem to condemn us to experi­
ence only passive affections. The affections that naturally exercise
our capacity to be affected are passions that reduce it to a mini·
mum. and cut us off from our essence or our power of action.
Yet there appears in this pessimistic assessment of existence
a I1rst glimmer of hope: the radical distinction of action and pas­
sion should not lead us to overlook a prior distinction between
IWO kinds of passions. Any passion does of course keep us cut off

from our power of action, but this to a greater or lesser extent.

As long as we are affected by passions we have not come into full
possession of our power of action. But joyful passions lead us
closer to this power. that is, increase or help it; sad passions dis­
lance us from it, that is, diminish or hinder it. The primary ques­
tion of the Ethics is thus: What must we do in order [Q be affected
by a maximum ofjoyful passions? Nature docs not favor us in this
respect. But we should rely on the elTorts of reason, the very slow
empirical elTort which flnds in the City the conditions that make
it possible: reason in the first principle of its development. or in

27 2
T H E l H E O � '" OF F . N I T E "" O O E S
C O ... ... ON N O T I O N S

its initial aspect, is the effort to organize encounters i n such a

of i t , he means that from every passive joy there may arise an
way that we are alTected by a maximum of joyful passions. For
active joy distinguished from it only by its cause.6
joyful passions increase our power of action; reason is the power
of understanding. the power of action belonging to the soul; so
joyful passions agree with reason, and lead us to understand, or Consider two bodies that agree entirely, two bodies, that is to
determine us to become reasonable.1 say. all of whose relations can be combined: they are like parts
But il is not enough for our power of action to increase. It of a whole, the whole exercising a eeneral function in relation to
might increase indefinitely, joyful passions might follow indefi­
these parts, and the parts having a common proputy as belonging
nitely from joyful passions, without us coming inlO full posses­ to the whole. Thus two bodies that agree entirely have an iden.
sion of our power of action. A sum of passions does not make tical Structure. Because all their relations may be combined. they
an action. It is not enough, then. just to accumulate joyful pas­ have an analogy. similarity or community of composition. Now
sions; we must find the means, through such accumulation, to
consider bodies agreeing less and less, or bodies opposed to one
win the power of action and so at last experience active alTec­ another: their constitutive relations can no longer be directly
tions of which we are the cause. The second principal question
combined, but present such d ilTerences that any resemblance
of the Ethics is thus: What must we do to produce in ourselves between the bodies appears to be excluded. There is still however
acth'e alTections? a similarity or community of composi tion. but this from 0 more
1. Active alTections. when they occur, are necessarily joyful: and more 8enerol viewpoint which. in the limit. brings Nature as a
there is no active sadness. since all sadness is the diminution of whole into play. One must in fact take account of the "whole"
our power of action; only joy can be active) So if our power of formed by the two bodies. not with one another directly. but
action increases to the point that we come into its full posses­ together with all the intermediary terms that allow us to pass
sion. our subse(IUent affections will necessarily be active joys.l from one to the other. As all relations are combined in Nature
2. Active joy is "another" feeling than passive joy.� And yet as a whole. Nature presents a similarity of composition that may
Spino7.J suggests that the distinction between the two is one of be seen i n all bodies from the most general viewpoint. One may
reason only.S The twO feelings dilTer only in their causes; passive pass from one body to another, however dilTerent, Simply by
joy is produced by an object that agrees with us, and whose power changing the relation between its ultimate parts. For it is only
increases our power of action. bUI of which we do not yet ha\'e relations that change in the universe as a whole, whose parts
an adequJte idea. Active joy we produce by ourselves, it OO""'s remain the same.
from our power of action itself. follows from an adequate idea We thus arrive at what Spinol.a calls a "common notion." A
in us. 3. To the extent that passive joys increase our power of common notion is alw.lys an idea of a similarity of composition
action. they 0eret with reason. But since reason is the soul's power i n existing modes. But there different kinds of such notions.
of action, those joys that are active are born of reason. When Spinoza says thai common notions may be more or less useful,
SpinolJ suggest's that what agrees with reason may also be born more or less easily formed and also more or less universaJ - that

'74 '"
T H I T H I O R Y O F F I N I T E ", O O I S C O M "' O N N O T I O N S

is. they arc organi1.ed in terms o f the greater o r lesser generality Spino1.a carefully distinguishes common notions. on the one
of their \'iewpoillls.7 One may in fact distinguish two main \'ari­ hand. and transcendental terms (being. thing. something) or
eties of common notion. The less universal (but also the most unin!rsal notions (genera and species. man. horse, dog) on the
useful) are those representing a similarity of composition between orher.11 And yet common notions arc themselves unh·ersal. "more
bodies that directly agree. and this from their own viewpoint. or less" universdl according to their dcgree of gcnerality; one
One common notion. for example. represents "what is com­ must then suppose that Spino1.a is not attacking what is univer­
mon 10 a human body and to certain external bodies."8 Through sal, but only a certain conception of abstrdct universality. Simi­
such notions we understand agreement's between modes: they go larly, Spino1.a is not criticizing the notions of genus and species
beyond an external perception of agreementS observed by chance. i n general; he himself speaks of horse and dog as natural types.
to find in a similarity of composition the necessary internal rea­ of man himself as a normath'e type or model.1l Here again. we
son for an agreement of bodies. must suppose that he is attacking only a certain abstract deter­
'\t the other C)(trcme the most unh'ersal common notions also mination of genera and species. An abstract idea has, indeed. two
represent a similarity or community of composition. but now aspects that reflect its inadequacy. I n the first place it retains only
between bodies that agree from a very general viewpoint. and gross sensible differences between things: we choose a sensible
not from their own viewpoint. They thus represent "what is com­ characteristic that is easily imagined; we distinguish objects
mon to all things." ror example extension. or mo\'ement and possessing i t from those that do not; we identify all those pos­
rest - that is. the universal similarity of relations as combined sessing it; as for minor differences. we pass o\'er these. precisely
aJ infinitum from the viewpoint of Nature as a whole.9 These because objects become confused once their number exceeds the
notions also have their usc. for they allow us to understand disa­ capacity of our imagination. Second. a sensible differential char­
greements themselves. giving us a necessary internal reason for acteristic is extremely variable: i t is accidental. depending on the
them. In fact. they allow us to (Ietermine the viewpoint beyond way objects affect each of us in chance encounters. ''Those who
which a \'cry general agreement betwcen two bodies ends; they have often regarded men's stature with wonder will understand
show us how and why opposition appears whcn we adopt a "less by the word man an animal of erect stature, But those who ha\'e
universal" viewpoint on these same two bodies. Wc arc able. been accustomed to consider some other characteristic will form
by making an experiment in thought. to vary a rclation up to .lnother general image of men - for example. that man is an ani­
the point whcre the corresponding body takes on a nature in mal capable of Idughtcr. or a featherless biped. or a rational
some sense "contrary" to its own; we can thereby understand"'the animaL"!) And the kind of characteristic selecte(1 changes not
nature of disagreements between bodies with these or those rela­ only from individual to individual. but also among the different
tions. Thus. when assigning a role to all common notions taken objects affecting the same indi\'idual: certain objects arc defined
as a whole. Spino1.a says they internally detemlinc the mind to by their sensible form. others by their usc or function. their man­
understand the agreements of things. as well as their differences ner of being and so on. On all counts. abstract ideas are thor­
and opposi tions,lO oughly inadequate: they arc images that are not explained by

our power o r thinking. but that involve. rather. our impotence;

such they are necessarily "adequate." Take the case or the less uni­
images that do not express the nature or things. but indicate.
\'ersal notions: what is common to my body and to certain exter­
rather. the variability or our human constitution.
nal bodies is "equally" in each or these bodies; the idea is thus
In all this Spin01.ol is clearly attacking. not just the procedures
present in God, not only insorar as he has an idea or those exter­
or common sense. but the Aristotelian tradition also. The attempt
nal bodies. but also insorar as h� Simply has the idea or my body;
to define genera and species through differences first appears in
thus I myselrhave the idea or something common to various bod­
Aristotelian biology: and those sensible differences vary consid­
ies. and have it as it is in God. 16 As ror the more universal notions:
erably in nature when different animals are in question. Against
what is common to all things is "equally" in the part and in the
this tradition Spino:r.a proposes a grand principle: to consider
whole. the idea is thus present in God, and so on.l7 These proors
structures. rather than sensible forms or runctions. 14 But what is
underlie the IWO aspects in which common notions in general are
the meaning or "structure"? It is a system or relations between
necessarily adequate; in other words. common notions are ideas thor
the parts or a body (these parts not being organs. but the ana­
are formally explained by our power of thinkino and thor. materially.
tomical components or those organs). By inquiring how these
e.rpress the ideo of God as their efficient cotm!. They arc explained by
relations vary rrom one body to another, we have a way or directly
our power or thinking because. being in us as they arc in God, they
detemlining the resemblances between twO bodies. however dis­
rail within our own power as they rail within the absolute power
parate they may be. The rorm and runction or an organ in a given
or God. They express the idea orGod as their cause because. since
animal depend solely on the relations between it's organic parts.
God possesses them as we possess them, they neccssarily "in­
that is. between fixed anatomical components. In the limit Nature
\'olve" God's essence. Indeed when Spin07.ol says that all ideas or
as a whole is a single Animal in which only the relations between
particular things necessarily invoh'e thc eternal infinite essence
thc partS \·ary. For the examination or sensible differences is sub­
orGod, he means particular things as they are in God, and so ideas
stituted an examination or intelligible similarities, which allow
or things as possessed by God.1S Among the ideas we have, the
us to understand resemblances and differences between bodies
only ones capable or expressing God's essence. or or involving
"rrom the inside." Spino:r.a's common notions arc biological.
knowledge or this essence, are thus ideas that arc in us as they
rather than physical or mathematical, ideas. They really do play
arc in God: in short, common notions. 19
the part or Ideas in a philosophy or Nature rrom which all final­
Several important consequences rollow rrom this: 1 . y.,,'e were
ity has been excluded. (Spinoza's comments on this aspect or
asking how we might attain adequate ideas. Everything about
common notions are, indeed, rare. But then his comments o� all
existence condemned us t'o having only inadequate ideas: we had
aspects or common notions are rare. and we will see why. His
ideas neither or ourselves. nor or external bodies, but only ideas
suggestions nevertheless suffice to make him a rorerunner of
or affections, indicating the effect or some external body on us.
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in the development or the great princi­
But precisely rrom such an effect. we can rorm the idea or what
ple or compositional unity. IS ) is common to some external body and our own. Given the con­
Common notions arc oeneral rather than abstract ideas. And as
ditions or our existence this is ror us the only possible way or


re.1ching a n adequate idea. The first adequate idta Wt have i s a com­ away with the elTort o f fonning them. a causa jitndi we need i n
mon notion. the ide.l of "something common." 2. This idc.l is order t o rediscovcr what i s already given only in principle. That
explaincd by our powcr of undcrstanding or thinking. But thc common notions are in US .lS they are in God means only that. if
power of undcrstanding is thc soul's powcr of action. We are we fonn them, we have them as God has them. But how. indeed.
thercforc ,}ctivc insofar as we fonn common notions. The fonning do we form them. in what favorable circumstances? How do we
of a common notion marks the point at which we cnter into full arrive at our power of action?
possession of our powcr of action. It thereby constitutes thc sec­ As long as we retain a speculative viewpoint. the problem
ond Sl'age of rcason. Reason in its initial developmcnt is the effort remains insoluble. There seems to be a danger of two mistaken
to organil.e cncountcrs on thc basis of pcrcei\'cd agreements and interprctations of the theory of common notions: overlooking
disagreements. The very activity of reason is the clTort to con­ their biological sense in favor of their mathematic.ll one, and.
ccive common notions. and so to intellectually understand agree­ abO\'c all. overlooking their practical sense in favor of their spec­
mcnts and disagreements themseh"cs. When we fonn a common ulative contcnt. The latter mistake may be explained by the way
notion our soul is Solid "to usc reason": we come into the posses­ Spinoza himself introduces his system of common notions. For
sion of our power of action or of understanding. wc becomc rea­ Part Two of the Echics docs indeed consider such notions from a
sonable beings. 3. A common notion is our first adequate idea. purely spcculative viewpoint, and thereforc presents them in
But whatevcr it be. it leads us directly to another adequate idea. logical order. procecding from the most universal to the least
An adequate idea is cxpressive, and what it expresses is thc universal. 21 But there Spinoza is only showing that if we fonn
essence of God. Any common notion gives us direct knowledge common notions, they arc necessarily .ldequate ideas. The cause
of God's eternal infinite essence. Any adcquate. that is to say. and order of their fonnation is still unknown to us. as is their
exprcssi\'e idea. gh'cs us knowledge of what it expresses. that is. practical nature and function. which is merely suggestcd in Part
adequatc knowledgc ofGod's esscnce itself. Two.22 I t is true that all bodies have something in common, be
it only extension, and mo\'ement and rest. Bodies that do not
agrce and arc opposcd to one another have nevertheless some­
Thcrc is. though. a danger of common notions appearing to intcr­ thing i n common. namely a very general similarity of composi­
\'cne miraculously. unless we cxplain how wc comc to fonn them. tion which brings into play Nature as a whole under the attributc
How do they come to break the concatenation of inadequate ideas to of Extension. 2J This indced is why the presentation of common
which 11'1.' had setmed condemned? "Common" docs not of cot1tSe notions in logical order begins with the most universal: begins,
mean merely something common to twO or more bodies. but then. with bodies very disparate one from another. and vcry
somcthing common also to minds c.lpable of forming an idea of opposed one to another. But if it be true that two opposed bod­
it. Spinoza first of all reminds us that common notions can be ies have something in common. one can never. on the other hand.
more common or lcss common in different mincls 'z° And even if be opposed to the other or bad for the other through what it has
they be identified with innate ideas. innateness in no way docs in common with it: "No thing can be evil through what i t has in

" 0

common with our nature; but insofar as i t is evil for us, i t is con­ the power o f forming clear and distinct ideas."lS I t i s enough, i n
trary to US."H When we experience a bad affection, a sad passive fact, for the hindrance t o be lifted for the power o f action to
affection produced in us by a body that disagrees with us, noth­ become actual. and for us to come into possession of what is
ina inducts us to Jorm the ideo of what is common to that body innate in us. One can see why it was not enough just to accumu­
and our own. The opposite is the case when we experience a joy­ late joyful passions, in order to become active. The passion of
ful affection: a thing being good to the extent that it agrees with love is linked to the passion of joy, and other feelings and desires
our nature, the joyful affection itself induces us to form the are linked to love. All increase our power of action. but never
corresponding common notion. The first common notions we to the point that we become active. These feelings must first
form are thus the least uni\'ersal. those, that is, that apply to our become "secure"; we must first of all avoid sad passions which
body and to another that agrees directly with our own and affccts diminish our power of action; this is reason's initial endeavor. But
it with joy. If we consider the order in which common notions we must then break out of the mere concatenation of passions,
are formed, we must begin from the least universal; for the most even joyful ones. For these still do not give us possession of our
universal, applying to bodies opposed to our own, have no induc­ power of action; we have no adequate idea of objects that agree
rive principle in the affections we experience. in nature with us; joyful passions are themselves born of inade­
In what sense are we here taking "induce"? What is in ques­ quate ideas, which only indicate a body's effect on us. We must
tion is a kind of occasional cause.� Adequate ideas are formally then, by the aid oj joyJul passions, form the idea of what is com­
explained by our power of understanding or action. But every­ mon to some external body and our own. For this idea alone, this
thing that is explained by our power of action depends only on common notion, is adequate. This is the second stage of reason;
our essence, and is thus "innate." But innateness had already, in then, and then only, do we understand and act, and we are rea­
Descartes, involved a kind of occasionalism. What is innate is sonable: this not through the accumulation of joyful passions as
active; but it can only become actual if it finds a favorable occa­ passions, but by a genuine "leap," which puts us in possession of
sion among affections that come from outside us, among passive an adequate idea, by the aid of such accumulation.
affections. Spinoza's scheme seems then to be as follows: Why do we become active when we form a common notion
\Vhen we encounter a body that agrees with our own, when or have an adequate idea? An adequ.lte idea is explained by our
we experience a joyful passive affection, we are induced to form power of understanding, and so by our power of action. It puts
the idea of what is common to that body and our own. Thus us in possession of this power, but how does it do this? We should
Spino7.a is lcd, in Part Five of the EthiCS. to recogni7.e the s!M!­ remember that inadequate ideas also involve a concatenation of
cial part played by joyful passions in the formation of common ideas that follow from them. A mind that forms an adequate idea
notions: "So long as we afe not torn by Jee/ings contrary to our nature is the adequate couse of the ideas that follow from it: this is the
(feelings of sadness, provoked by contrary objects that do not sense in which it is activc.16 What, then. arc the ideas that fol­
agree with us], the power of the mind by which it strives to low from the common notion which we form by the aid of joy­
understand things is not hindered. So long. then. the mind has ful passions? joyful passions are ideas of the affections produced

2'2 2"

by a body that agrees with our own; our mind by itself forms of ordering and connecting the affections of the body according
the idea of what is common to that body and our own; from this to the order ofthe understanding." JI
flows an idea of the affection, a feeling, which is no longer passive, This whole process i1S describcd by Spinoza falls into four
but actil'e. Such iI feeling is no longer a passion, because it fol­ phases: ( 1 ) passive joy. which increascs our power of action. and
lows from an adequate idea in us; it is itself an adequate idea. from which now desircs and passions based on a still inadequatc
It is distinct from the passive feeling from which we began, but idca; (2) the fonnation, by thc i1id of these joyful passions, of a
distinct only in its cause: its cause is no longer an inadequate common notion (an i1dequatc idea); ( 3 ) active joy. which fol­
idea of an object that agrees with us, but the necessarily ade­ lows from this common notion i1nd is explained by our power of
quate idea of what is common to that object and ourselves, Thus action; (4) this active joy is added to the passive joy, but reploces
Spin01,a can say: "A leeling which is a passion ceases to be a the passions of dcsire born of the Iiltter by desires belonging to
passion as soon as we form a clear i1nd distinct [adequate] idea rCilson. which arc genuine actions. Spinoza's project is thus real.
of it."27 For we form a clear and distinct idea of it insofar as we ilcd not by suppressing all passion. but by the aid of joyful pas­
attach it to the common notion as to its cause; it is then actl\'e. sions restricting passions to the smallest pilTt of ourselves. so
and dependent on our power of action. Spino].a does not mean that our capacity to be affected is exercised by a maximum of
that all passion disappears: what disappears is not the passive acti....e afTections.12
joy itself. but all the passions. all the desires linked to it and Spinola shows at the opening of Part Five of the Ethics that a
connected with the idea of the external thing (the passion 01. feeling ccases to be a passion once we form a clear and distinct
love. and so on),28 (adequate) idea of it; and that we fonn a clear and distinct idea
Any feeling determines our conacus to do something on the of it as soon as we attach it to a common notion as to it's cause.
basis of an idea of an object; canaCUs, thus determined. is called Spinoza doesn't howevcr apply this principle only to the feeling
a desire. But as long as we arc detennined by a feeling of passive ,
of JOy. but asserts its applicability to any feeling: "There is no
joy. our ideas arc still irrational. since they arc born of inadequate ,llTection of the body of which we cannot /onn iI clear and dis­
ideas. But as well as passive joy we now have an active joy (Iis­ linct concept."jj The proof of this proposition is very concise:
tinct only in its cause; from this active joy arc born desires that "Those things thilt are common to all can only be conceived ade­
belong to reason. since they proceed from an adequate idea.29 quately. and so . . . ." Let us considcr. thell. the case of sadness.
"All the appetites. or desires, arc passions only insofar as they arise Spinola obviously docs not mean thaI sadness. being an inevita­
from inadequate ideas. and arc counted as virtues when they...are ble passion. is itself common to i111 men or to all beings. He does
aroused or generated by adequate ideas. For all the desires by nOi forget that a common notion is always the idea of something
which we arc detennined to do something can arise as much from !)Qsilh' e: nothing is common through mere impotence or through
ade(\uate ideas as from inadequate ones,"lO Desires of reason thus IInpertection.14 Spinoza means that. even in the case of iI body
replace irrational desires. or rather. a rationill concateniltion of Ihilt docs not agrce with our own. and i1nccts us with sadness.
desires is substituted for an irrational one: "We have the power we can form i1n idea of what is common 10 that body and our

,8, ,8,

own; the common notion will simply b e very universal, imply­ initial notions are necessarily the least universal ones. They are
ing a much more general viewpoint than that of the two bodies those that apply to my body and another body that agrees (or
confronting each other. I t has nonetheless a practical function: some other bodies that agree) with it; thae alone hove a chance
it makes us understand why these two bodies in particular do not I
of beinaformedfrom the passive joys experience. The most univer­
agree from their own viewpoint. """'e see thai sadness over some sal. on the other hand. apply to all bodies. and so 10 very differ­
good which has perished is lessened as soon as the man who has ent bodies that are opposed to one another. But the sadness or
lost it realizes that this good could not. in any way. have been opposition produced in us by a body that does not agree with
kept." n (The man in fact understands that his own body and the our own never provides the occasion to form a common notion.
external one could not have combined their relations in a dura­ So the process of forming common notions runs thus: We at first
ble way except in different circumstances: had there been inter­ seek to experience a maximum of joyful passions (reason's ini·
mediary terms. bringing into play the whole of Naturc. from tial endeavor). 50 we seek to avoid sad passions. to escape their
whose \'iewpoint such a combination would have been possible.) concatenation and to avert bad encounters. We then. subse­
But when a very uni\'ersal common notion makes us understand quently. use joyful passions to form corresponding common
a disagreement. a feeling of active joy again flows from this: an notions. whence flow active joys (the second effort of reason ).
actil'f! joy always follows from what we undenwnd. "Insofar as we These common notions arc among the least universal. since they
understand the causes of sadness. it ceases to be a passion."U. It apply only to my body and to bodies that agree with it. But they
thus appears that. even if we begin from a sad passion. the basic strengthen our ability to a\'oid bad encounters; and aoo..'e all they
pattern of the earlier scheme is retained: sadness; forming a com­ put us in possession of our power of action and understanding.
mon notion; active joy flowing from it. Th us. third. we become capable of forming more universal com­
In Part Two of the Ethics 5pinoza considers the speculative mon notions that apply in all cases. even to bodies opposed to
content of common nOlions: he supposes them given or poten­ us; we become capable of understanding even our sadness. and
tially given; it is thus natural for him t'O proceed in a logical order of drawing from such understanding an active joy. We com cope
from the most uni\·ersal to the least universal. At the opening of with bad encounters which we cannot avoid. and reduce the sad­
Part Five he analyzes the practical function of common notions. ness that necessarily remains with us. But it must not be forgot­
supposed gi\'en: Ihal function consists in such nOlions being the len that. despile their general identity of practical function (that
causes of adequate ideas of affections. that is. of active joys. The of producing active joys). common notions are all the more use­
principle applies to Ihe mOSt universal common nOlions as loO the ful. all the more effective. for being less universal. proceeding
least universal. and one can Ihus consider all common notions from joyful passions.H
taken together. in the unity of their practical funct ion. All common notions have the same speculati\'e content: they
All is changed. though. when Spinoza asks later in Part Five invoh·c a certain generality without abstraction. They all ha\'c the
how we come to form common nOlions, we who seem con­ same practical function: as necessarily adequate ideas they are
demned to inadequale ideas and passions. We then see that our such thai active joy necessarily flows from them. But they in no

,86 ,8,
T H E l H E O Ii V 0 " " , N ' l E M o o e s

ical roles, when one con­ I

. .... . ·T E R E , C II T E f. N
way share the same speculative and pract
are fonned. The first com­
siders the conditions in which they
ersal, since the principle To w a r d t h e T h i r d K i n d o f K n o w l e d g e
mon notions we fonn are the least univ
ions. We come into our
ofthe ir induction lies in our joyful pass . "

t un"'crsal : we accumu-
power 0f ac'·'on on ,he level oflhe "leas
opporlUll1t� to fonn com­
late passive joys. finding in them an
e joys. The Increase of our
mon nOlions, from· which now activ
the op�ortunit� of com�
power of action thus presents us with
truly aCtive. Having co�e
ing into that power, or of becoming
become capable of fOflmng
inlo our true activity in some cases, we
cases. There is a whole
common notions even in less favorable
learning process involved in common

notion5, n ou� becomino
The different kinds of knowledge arc also different ways ofliving,
ce In Splnozlsm of different modes of existing. The first kind (imagination) is con.
actil'e: we should nOI overlook the imporlan
from the least universal stituted by all inadequate ideas and passive affections in their
this formative process; we have to start
a chance to fonn. concatenation.' This initial knowledge corresponds first of all to
common notions, from the first we have
the state of nature: I pcrcei"e objects th rough chance encounters,
and by the effect they have on me. Such an effect is but a "sign,"
a varying "indication." Such knowledge is had through vague
e.fperience,· and "vague" relates, etymologically, to the random
character of encounters.Z Here we know only Nature's "common
order," know only lhe enects of encounters between parts accord­
ing to purely extrinsic determinations.
But the cil'il SfalC also belongs to the first kind of knowl.
edge. Already in the state of nature. imagination forms universal
abstract ideas, which retain Ihis or that sensible characteristic of
an object. The characteristic is deSignated by a name, which
serves as a sign either for objects resembling the first, or for
objects habitually linked with il.1 BUI dlong with language and
the ci\·i\ Sidle a second sort of sign dc\'eloj>s. which is impera­
tive rather than indicali\'e. Signs dppear to tell us whal we must
do to obtain a given result. achieve a given end: this is knowl.
edge by hearsay. Thus. in Spinozd's famous example. a sign rep-

2' 9
T O W . II D r .... 11 r .... l ll o ' U N O O F I( N O W L E O G E
T .... E T .... E O R V OF F I "l l T E M O D E S

notions, into the domain of e.�prt!SSion: these notions are o u r first

resents the operation we "must" pcrfonn o n three numbers i n
adequate ideas, they draw us out of the world of inadequate signs.
order to find a fourth. \Vhether a law o f nature o r a technical
And because any common notion leads us to the idea of the God
rule, any law inevitably appears to us in a moral fonn just inso­
whose essence it expresses, the second kind of knowledge also
far as we have only an inadequate knowledge of it: a law seems
involves a second kind of religion: no longer a religion of imagi­
to us a moral one, or of a moral type, whene\ICr we make its effect
nation, but one of understanding. The e xpression of Nature
depend on an imperati\'e sign (rather than on the constitutive
replaces signs, love replaces obedience: this is no longer the reli­
relat ions of things).
gion of the prophets but, on its various le\'e!s, the religion of
It is signs that gh·e the first kind of knowledge its unity. They
Solomon, the religion of the Apostles, and the true religion of
characterize a state of thought that is still inadequate, involved,
Christ founded on common notions.6
unexplained. One must include e,'en the reliniow state within this
But what exactly do we know of these notions? Common
first kind of knowledge and existence, the state, that is, of man
notions do not of course constitute the essence of any particular
in relation to a God who gives him a revelation. This state dif­
thing. And yet one cannot define simply them by their generality.
fers from the state of nature no less than does the civil state itself:
The notions apply to particular existing modes, and hOI'e no sense inde­
"No one knows by nature that he owes any obedience to God,
pendently of such application. Representing (from more or less gen­
nor can he attain thereto by any exercise of his reason, but solely
eral viewpoints) the Similarity of composition of existing modes,
by revelation confirmed by signs."4 This religious state belongs
they arc for us the only means of reaching an adequate knowl­
nonetheless to the first kind of knowledge, precisely because it
edge of the characteristic relations of bodies, of the combination
is part of our inadequate knowledge, because it is based on signs
of these relations and of the laws of composition. Once again,
and manifests itself in the fon n of laws which demand and order
this is well seen in the case of numbers: in the second kind of
things. Re\'elation is itself explained by the inadequate charac­
knowledge we do not apply rules known by hearsay, as one would
ter ofour knowledge, and bears only on certain of God's propria.
obey a moral law; by understanding the rule of proportionality
The signs of Re\·elation constitute a third sort of sign and char­
through a common notion, we grasp the way that the constitutive
acterize the religion of the prophets. religion of the first kind
relations of three gi\'cn numbers are combined. Thus common
or of imagination.
notions give us knowledge of the positive order of Nature as an
order of constitutive or characteristic relations by which bodies
agree with, and are opposed to, one another. Laws of Nature no
The second kind of knowledge corresponds in the EthiCS to tite
longer appear as commands and prohibitions, but for what they
state of reason: a knowledge of common notions and through
are: eternal truths, norms of composition, rules for the reali;...a­
common notions. This is where the real break between differ­
tion of powers. This order of Nature expresses God as irs source:
ent kinds of knowledge appears in the EthiCS: "Knowledge of the
and the more we know things according to this order, the more
second and third kinds, and not of the first kind, teaches us to
our ideas themseh'es express God's essence. All our knowledge
distinguish the true from the false."s We enter, with common

T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N I T E M O O E 5 T O W A R D T H E T � I R O " " "1 0 O F I( "I O W I. [ O G E

expresses God. when i t is governed by common notions. Spinoza, as in their true codes; but these laws seem to be the
Common notions are one of the fundamental discoveries of laws of production of essences as well as the laws of composi­
the Ethics. \Ve must here attach great importance to the chro­ tion of relations. II
nology. Alcluic has recently insisted that the introduc­ How can we explain Spinoza's connation here of such differ­
tion in the EthiCS of common nOlions marks a decisive point in cnt sorts of law? I would suggest that he only had an intimation
the de"elopment ofSpinozism. 7 Indeed, nothing is made of them of common notions as he progressed in the composition of the
either in the Short Treatise or in the Corrt'C�tion of the Understand­ Correction of the Undcrstanding. But he had by then dlready and
ing. Things are alread), known in the Shorr Treatise to ha"e char· otherwise defined the third mo<le of perception (corresponding
acteristic relations. but the discovery of these is entrusted to to what would become the second kind of knowledge). So con­
"reasoning." and there is no mention of common notions.s ln stant and eternal things. playing the part of universals. found a
addition. what there corresponds to the second kind of knowl­ place only on the level of the highest kind or mode of percep­
edge (the second "mode of consciousness") docs not constitute tion: and they were thus also taken as the principles of our knowl­
an adequate knowledge. but only a right belief. And the third edge of essences. Another role would have been possible. but
"mode of perception." which in the Correction of the Understonding Spinoza would then ha\'e had to go back and recast his descrip­
corresponds to the second kind ofknowledgc. still amounts onl), tion of modes of perception in tenns of his new idea. This would
to a dear knowledge. rather than an adequale one: and it is not partly explain why Spinoza gave up the idea of completing the
in the least define(1 by common notions but by a Cartesian type Correction of the Understanding preCisely at the point where he
of inference and an Aristotelian type of deduction.9 came to the exposition of what he himself calls common prop­
However. one docs find in the Corrtction of the Umlerstanding. erties. The hypothesis would also allow us to date Spin07.a·s full
in an altogether different context. a foreshadowing of. and approx­ development of the theory of common notions between the
imation 10. what will later become common notions. Thus a abandoning of thc Correction of the Understonding and the compo­
famous passage speaks of "fixed and eternal things" which. from sition of the EthiCS. This full possession would then have induced a
being omnipresent. arc for us "like universals. or genera of the desire to modif), the 7;c(ltise. refonnulating the theory of the sec­
definitions of Singular. changeable things": one recognizes in ond kind or third mode of perception. by giving an autonomous
these the most universal notions, extension, movement. rest. and distinct devc\opment of common notions; thus Spinoza. in
which arc common to aJl lhings. And when the remainder of the the EthicS. speaks of J. treatise in which he proposes to develop
passage argues for still other " aids" necessary for the understaMd­ Ihese points.12
ing of Singular changing things. one thinks of the role of less uni­ When Spinoza discovers that common notions are our first
versal common notions,lo If the passage r3ises many difficuhies. adequate ideas. a gap opens between the first and second kinds
this is because it is written from the \'iewpoint of the highest of knowledge. The existence of such a gap should not however
mo<le of perception or kind of knowledge, rel.Hing to essences lead us to overlook a whole syStem of correspondences between
themselves: laws arc inscribed in fixed and elernal things. says the t\\'o kinds, without which the forming of an adequate idea

29 2
T H E 1 H E O R ... OF F ! N ! T E M O D E S T O W ,", R D l H E T H ' R D I U N O 0 " K N O W L E D G E

or a common notion would remain incomprehensible. \Ve have Ethicl under which particular laws o f imagination a passion be­
seen in the first place that the civil state was a substitute for rea­ comes more or less intense. more or less strong. Thus our feel­
son. prepared the way for reason, and imitated it. This would be ing toward something we Simply imagine is stronger than the feel­
impossible did not moral laws and imperative signs. despite the ing we experience when we believe the thing to be necessary or
contradictions they im·olve. coincide in a way with the true posi­ necessitated. IS But the fundamental law of reason amounts pre­
tive order of Nature. So it was indeed the laws of Nature that Cisely to considering things as necessary: common notions allow
the prophets grasped and transmitted. even though they inade­ us to understand the necessity of the agreements and disagree­
quately understood them. Similarly. a SOCiety's primary endeavor ments between bodies. Reason thus profits from one of the fea­
is to choose signs and institute laws that correspond as a whole. tures of imagination: the more we understand things as necessary.
as far as possible, to the order of Nature. and, above all, to man's the less we feel the strength or intensity of passions rooted in
survival in that order. The variability of signs becomes in this imagination.16 Imagination is subject to a law according to which
respect an advantage, and opens up to us possibilities that do not it always initially asserts the presence ofiu object. is then affect�d
belong to understanding on its own account. but rather to imagi­ by causes that exclude such a presence. and enters into a kind
nation. 11 What is more. reason would never come to form com­ of "vacillation." thinking of its object only as possible. or even
mon notions, that is, come into its power of action. did it not contingent. The process of imagining an object thus contains
try to find itself in that first effort that consists in selecting joy­ within it the principle ofilS own diSSipation over time. But rea­
ful passions. Before becoming active we must select and link son's law is to form common notions, that is, ideas of properties
together passions that increase our power of action. But such pas­ "which we always regard as present." n Reason here satisfies the
sions arc related to images of objects that agree in nature with demands of imagination better than can imagination itself. Imag­
us; these images themselves are. once more, inadequate ideas. ination, coJrried along by its fate, which is to be affected by vary­
mere indications which give us knowledge of objects through the ing causes. doesn't manage to maintain the presence of its object.
effect they have on us. Reason would not then "find" itself. were Reason doesn't only diminish the relath·e strength of passions:
its first effort not traced out in the frame of the first kind of "taking time into account" the active feelings born of reason
knowledge. using all the resources of imagination. or of common notions are in themselves stronger than any of
If we consider their origin. common notions find in imagina­ the passive feelings born of imagination.1S By imagination'S law,
tion the very conditions of their formation. Considered, more­ a feeling is so much the stronger. the more causes act together
over. in their practical function. they apply only to things,l.hat to prm'oke it. 19 But a common notion. by its law. applies or
can be imagined. Thus they may themselves, in some respects. relates to several things. or images of things easily associated
be likened to images. 14 The application of common notionl implieJ. with them: it is therefore frequent and Ih·ely.lO It thus dimin­
in general, a ltrange harmony befwun (e01on and imaaination. be­ ishes the intensity offeclings of imagin3tion. since il determines
tll'een the 1011'1 of reason and those of imoainafion. Spinoza ana­ the mind to consider se\'eral objects. And these objects aS50-
lyzes various cases. He had shown in ParIS Three and Four of the ciilted with tllC notion arc like so many causcs favorable to the

" 4
T H E T H E O R V OF F , N ' f E .... O O E S T O W "' R O f l-l E T I-I ' Ol O "" N O 0': "' N O W L E O G E

feeling o f reason which nows from the notion. 1 1 existing bodies. We may then ask whether the ideol o fGod should
Necessity, presence and frequency are the three characteris· itself be considered as a common notion. as thc most universal of
des of common notions. And these characteristics ensure that the all? Many passages appear to suggest this.H But it is not however
notions in ol certolin way impose themselves on the imagination, the case: our idea of God is closely related to common notions.
either reducing the intensity of passh'c feelings, or guaranteeing but is not itselfone of them. The idea ofGod is in a sense opposed
the liveliness o f active oncs. Common notions use thc lolws of to common notions in that they always apply to things that can
imolgination to frec us from imagination itself. Their neces­ be imagined, while God cannot be imagined.!> Spinoza says only
sity, presence and fre(luency allow them 10 imen'cne in the move­ that common notions lead us to the idea of God. that they nee·
ment o f imagination. and divert its course to their own ends. It essarily "gil'e" us knowledge of God, and that without them we
is not toO much to speak here of a 8eneraJ harmony of imagina­ would not have such knowledgc.26 For. a common notion is an
tion and reason. adequatc idea; an adequatc idea is an idea that is cxpressive; and
what it expresses is God's vcry esscnce. Thc relation of the idea
of God to common notions is thus one of expression. Common
The are(l/er part of the Ethics - more precise/x, dOll'n to V.21 - is II'rit­ notions express God as the sourcc of all thc constitutil'e relations
len from thl.' "iell'point of the second kind of knowlecl8e. For it is only of things. As il rclates to thcsc notions that exprcss it. thc idea
through common notions that we come to havc adc(l uatc ideas of Gad is the basis of religion of the second kind. For active feel·
and an adequate knowledge of Got! himself. This docs not amount ings. active joys. now from common notions: and they do so
to a condition of any knowledge. but to a condidon of our knowl­ "accompanied by thc idea of God." Thc Im'e of God is just such
cdge. insofar as we are finite existing modes composed of a soul joy so accompanicd.27 Reason's highest elKlcavor. insofar as it con­
and a body. We who have at first only inade(l uate ideas and pas· ceh'es common notions. is thus to know God and to love him.28
sh'e affcctions, can come into our power of understanding and (But this God connectcd with common notions docs not have to
action only by form ing common notions. All our knowledge respond to our love; he is an impassh'e God. who gives us noth­
comes to us through such notions. Whence Spino"!.a can say th,lt ing i n return. For. however active. joys nowing from common
not e,'en God's existence is known through itsclf, but "must nee' notions arc inseparable from those passive joys resulting from
essarily be inferred from notions so finnly and incontro,'ertibly imagination which initially increased our power of action. and
truc, that no powcr can be postulated or conccived sufficient to served us as the occasional causes of our action. And God is him­
impugn them."21 The same admission is to bc found in the.fith­ self free of passions: he feels no passivc joy. nor an)' acth'c joy of
iCS: Polrt One gives us knowledgc of God. and of all things as they thc type that presupposes a l)olssivc joy.2,))
dcpcnd on God: but this knowledge is itself of the second kind.1) One recalls the methodological principle of the Correction of
All bodies agree in certain things. such as extcnsion, movc· the Undl.'rstanclin8' that we cannot start from the idea of God.
ment and rcst. Thc ideas o f extcnsion. mm'ement and rest MC but must reach it as quickly as possiblc. And the "quickest pos·
for us vcry univcrsal common notions, since thcy apply to all sible" way was there presented thus: we had to begin from what

,,6 '97
l H E T H E O R Y O F F , N I T E ,," O O E $

was positive i n some idea we had; we stro\'e t o make that idea

the idea o f God i s itself a common notion. the most universal of
adequate; it was adequale when referred 10 ils cause. when it
all: but each notion leads us to it, each expresses it, the least uni­
expressed ils cause; bul in expressing its cause it also expressed
versal along with the most unh·ersal. In the system of expression
the idea of God as determining that cause 10 produce such an
God is never a remote cause.
effect. We were thus in danger of entering an infinite regression
The idea of God thus plays in the Ethics a pivotal role. Every­
from cause 10 cause: God was expressed at each level as whal
thing turns about it. everything changes along wilh it. Spinoza
determined that level of causality.
a.nnounces that "besides" the second kind of knowledge. there
I believe it is wrong to contrast the ElhiCJ and the Correction is a third.lO He furthennore presents the second kind as the driv­
oj the Understonding on this point. The Ethics begins IVi!h God as ing force of the third: the second kind determines us to enter into
absolutely inJinite substance no more !han does !he Correction. The the third. to "form" the third)1 But how does the second kind
E!hics does not begin from God as something unconditioned; we so detennine us? Only tht idea of God can explain tht transition,
ha\'e seen the role ofits opening propositions in this respect. The
which appears in the Ethics at V.20-21. 1. E"ery common notion
projeci of the Ethics is the same as that of the Correction oj the leads us to the idea of God. As rela.ted to the common notions
Understanding: to rise as quickly as possible to the idea of God.
which express it, the idea of God itself belongs to the second kind
without falling inlO an infinite regression, without making God
of knowledge. It represents, in this respect. an impassive God:
himself into a remote cause. So if the Ethics is to be contrasted but the idea accompanies all the joys that flow from our power
with the Correction oj the Understanding, this should not be in of understanding (insofar as this power proceeds through com­
terms of any change of method, or still less any change of princi­
mon notions). The idea of God is thus the limiting point of the
ples, but only insofar as the Ethics has found less artificial and second kind of knowledge. 2. But although it necessarily relates
more concrete means. These means (up to V.21) are common
to common notions. the idea of God i s nOI ilself a common
notions. We no longer start from what is positive in some idea
notion. So it propels us into a new element. We can come to the
or other. in order to try and form an adequate idea: such a pro­
ideol of God only through the second kind of knowledge: but i n
cedure is very unsure and remains indeterminate. We start from
oIrriving a t the idea we are detennined t o Iea\'e behind the sec­
what is positive in a joyful passion; this determines us to fonn a
ond kind of knowledge. and enter into a new state. In the second
common notion. as our first adequate idea. We then form more
kind of knowledge. the idea of God serves as a basis of the third:
and more general common notions. which together constitute
and by "basis" must be understood the true driving force, the
the system of reason: but each common notion. on its own levilli .
causa !iendi.12 This idea ofGod will itselfthen change in content.
expresses God and leads us to knowledge of God. E"ery common
taking on anolher content in the third kind of knowledge to
notion expresses God as Ihe source of the relations combined
which it (letermines us.
together in the bodies to which the notion applies. It should not
Two of the characteristics of a common notion arc to apply
be said that the most universal notions bener express God than
to se\'cral exisling modes. and to give us knowledge of the rela­
less unh'ersal ones. And, above all. one should not suggest that
lions through which existing modes agree or arc opposed. I n the
T H E T H E O II V 0" " ' N I T E M O O E !> T O W A II D T H E T H I II O K I N O 0 1' K N O W L E D G E

limiting case, it is understandable how the idea o f a n attribute reach ideas of the third kind. Far from being able t o deduce the
initially appears to be a common notion: the idea of extension relation that characterizes a mode from its essence, we must first
is a \'ery uni\'ersal notion in that it applies to all existing bodies; know the relation. if we arc to come to know the essence. We
and the idea of the infinite modes of Extension makes known to must Similarly conceive Extension as a common notion before
us the agreement of all bodies from the viewpoint of Nature as a understanding it as constituting God's essence. The second kind
whole. But the idea of God. which is joined to. or "accompanies" of knowledge is for us the efficient cause of tile third kind; and
all common notions. leads us to a reappraisal of attributes and in the second kind it is the idea of God that allows us to pass
modes. Here again. the Ethics follows the Correction oj the Under* from second to third kind. We begin by fanning common notions
standing: the idea of God affects our entry into the domain of that express God's essence; only then can we understand God as
"real beings" and their connection. An attribute is no longer expressing himself in essences. This condition of our knowledge
understood merely as a common properly of all the
ui5tino modes is not a condition of all knowledge: the true Christ does not pro­
corresponding to it. but as what constitutes the 5;noulor essence ceed through common notions. He adapts or confomls what he
of divine substance, and as what contains all the particular wenCe5 teaches us to common not'ions. but his own knowledge is directly
of its modes. The third kind of knowledge is defined as pro­ of the third kind: God's existence is thus known to him through
ceeding "from an adequate idea of the formal essence of certain itself, as arc all essences. and the order of essences.H Thus Spin­
altributes of God to the adequate knowledge of the essence of oza says that, unlike Christ. we do not know God's existence
things."lJ Attributes arc still common fonns; what has changed through itself.l6 1 n the natural situation of our existence we arc
is the sense of the word "common." Common no longer means filled with inadequate ideas and passive affections; we will ne\'er
morc general, that is. applicable to several existing modes. or reach any adequate idea or active joy. if we do not first form com­
to all existing modes of a certain kind. Common means uni­ mon notions. Yet it should not be concluded that God is known
vocal: attributes arc uni\'ocal, or common to God whose singu­ to us only indirectly. Common nOlions ha\'e nothing to do with
lar essence they constitute. and to the modes whose particular signs; they simply constitute the conditions in which we ourselves
essences they contain. In short, a fundamental difference appears attain to the third kind of knowledge. Thus the proofs of God's
between the second and third kinds of knowledge: ideas of the existence arc not indirect proofs: in thelll the idea of God is still
second kind arc defined by their general function; they apply to grasped in its relation to common notions. but it determines us.
existing modes and give us knowledge of the composition of the precisely. to "form" the third kind of knowledge. to enter into
relations that characterize those modes. Ideas of the third kiltH a direct vision.
arc defined by their Singular nature; they represent God's essence
and ghe us knowledge of particular essences as these are con­
tained in God himself.H
\Vc are ourselves existing mocles. Our knowledge is subject

to the condition Ihat we must pass through common notions to

300 300


The first kind of knowledge has as its object only encounters

between puts of bodies, seen in tenns of their extrinsic deter­
minations. The second kind rises to the composition of charac­
teristic relations. But the third kind alone relates to eternal
essences: the knowledge of God's essence, of particular essences
as they arc in God, and as conceived by God. ( We thus rediscover
in the three kinds of knowledge the three aspects of the order of
nature: the order of passions, that of the composition of relations
and that of essences themselves). Now essences have various char­
acteristics. They are in the first place particular essences, and so
irreducible one to another: each is a real being, a res physica. a
degree of power or intensity. Thus Spinoza can oppose the third
kind of knowledge to the second. by saying that the second shows
us in general tenns that everything that exists depends on God,
but the third alone allows us 10 understand the dependence of
some gi\'en essence in particular. 1 On the other hand, however,
each essence agrees with all others. For all essences arc im'olved
in the production of each. This is not a case of more or less gen­
eral relati\'e agreement between existing modes. but of an agree­
ment that is at once Singular and absolute, of each essence with
all others.2 So the mind cannot know an essence, that is, know a

THE t H !; O R V OF F I N l Y !; M O D !; S
9 tt AT I T U O E

thing sub speCi� oettrniwtis, without being determined t o know

nature of acti\'e affections. active joys.8 I must conceive God's
still more things. and to desire more and more such knowledge)
essence as affecting mine. and essences as affecting one another;
Essences are, lastly, expressive: not only docs each essence express
but an essence has no affections that are not formally explained
all the others in the principle of its production, but it expresses
by the essence itself. that are not, then. accompanied by the
God as this principle itself, containing all essences, and the prin·
idea of oneself as formal cause or by the consideration of onc's
ciple on which each particular essence depends. Each essence is a
power of action.
part ofGod's power, and is thus conceh'ed through God's essence
From the joy that nows from an adequate idea of ourselves is
itself, insofar as God's essence is explicated through mot essence."
born a desire. a desire to know e\'cr morc things in their esscnce
The highest knowledge thus has three elements. An adequate
or sub specie oeternilalis. And there is born. abO\'e all. a Jove. For
idea. first. of oursekes and of our own essence (an idea expressing
in the third kind of knowledge the idea of God is, in its turn.
the essence of our body sub specie aeternitatis): everyone fornlS an
thc material cause of all ideas. All essences express God as that
idea of their own essence, and i t is of such an idea that Spino...a
through which they are conceived: the idea of my own essence
is thinking when he says that the third kind oCknowledge shows
represents my power of action, but my powcr of action is just the
us how some essence in particular depends on God} An adequate
power of God himself insofar as it is explicated through m y
idea. second, of the greatest number of possible things. this again
essence, There is thus n o joy o f the third kind which i s nOt
in their essence or sub specie ae/emitatis. And an adequate idea,
accompanied by the idea of God as its material cause: "From the
third, of God, as containing all essences, and comprising all in
third kind of knowledge there necessarily arises an intellectual
the production of each (and so in the production of our own
Love of God. for from this kind of knowledge there arises joy.
essence in particular).
accompanied by the idea of God as cause,"!J
Myself, things and God arc the three ideas of the third kind.
From them now joys, a desire and a love. Joys of the third kind
arc acti\'e joys: for they are explained by our own essence and
But how are active joys of the third kind to be distingUished from
are always "accompanied" by an adequate idea of this essence.
those of the second kind? Joys of the second kind arc already
Everything we understand within the third kind of knowledge,
active. since they arc explained by some adequate idea that we
including the essences of other things and that of God, we under­
have. They arc. then. explained by our power of understanding
stand on the basis of conceiving our own essence (that of our
or action. They imply our full possession of this power. But
body ) sub specie oelernirotis.6 The third kind of knowledge thus-has
although this power seems incapable of any increase, it still lacks
no other formal (Quse than our power of action and of undcr.;tand·
a certain quality. a particular qualitative difference characterized
ing. the power of thinking. that is. of God himself, insofar as he is
by the degree of power or intensity of our own essence itself.
explicated through our own essence.' In the third kind ofknowl­
Indeed. so long as we remain with the second kind of knowledge.
edge "II ideas have as their fonnal cause our power of underst nd­ � our adequate ideas still do not include one of ourseh'es, our
ing, All the affections that follow from these ideas are thus ol ille
essence. the essence of Ollr body, This limitation is seen to be

T H E T H Ii O " Y OF F I N I T E: M O D E: S 6 E: A T l T U D Ii

imporlant once one recalls the starting point o f the problem of tions. whether of sadness o r jo),. are oJI'entitious. being produced
knowle(lge: we do not immediately have an adequate idea of our­ from outside; acth'e affections. acth'e jo),s. are innate because they
selves or our body. because this idea is only in God insofar as he are explained by our essence or our power of understanding , I2
is affected by ideas of other bodies; we do not therefore know And yet it is as though what is innate had two different dimen­
our own body except through necessarily inadequate ideas of sions, which account for the difficulties we experience in com­
affections. and we do not know ourselves except through ideas ing upon it or finding it. I n the first place. common notions are
of these ideas; as for ideas of external bodies, as for the idea of themsch·es innate. as are the active joys that flow from them. But
our own body or our own mind. we do not hovt these. in the this docs not stop them having to be fanned, and fanned either
immediate conditions of our existence. Now, the second kind of more or less easily. and so being more or less common to differ­
knowledge docs indeed give us adequate ideas; but these are only ent minds. The apparent contradiction disappears, if we consider
ideas of properties common to our body and external bodies. that we are born cut ofT from our power of action or understand­
They are adequate because they are in a part as they arc in the ing: we must, in our cxistence. come into what belongs to our
whole, and because they are in us. in our mind, as they arc in essence. We cannot, i n particular, form common notions, e\'en
the ideas of other things. But the), in no way amount to an ade­ the most general of these. unless we find a narting point in joy­
quate idea of ourselves, nor to an adequate idea of some other ful passions which initially increase our power of action. Thus
thing. 10 The), are explained by our essence but do not themselvcs the acth'e jo),s that now from common notions find as it were
constitute an idea of this essence. With the third kind ofknow]­ �heir occasional causes i n passive affections of joy: in prinCiple
edge. on the other hand, wc come to fonn adequate ideas of our­ Innate. they nonetheless depend on adventitious affections as
seh'es and of other things as they are in God, and as concei\·ed their occasional causes, But God himself immediately possesses
by God. The acti\'e joys that now from ideas of the third kind an infinite power of action incapable of any increase. God there­
arc thus of a diffcrent nature from those that now from ideas of fore no more experiences an)' passion. not evcn a joyful one. than
the second kind. And. more generally. Spin07.a is now able to dis­ he has inadequate ideas. But the question also arises of knowing
tinguish two fonns of the mind's activity, two modes in which whethcr common notions, and the active joys that now from
we are active and feel ourselves to be acti\·e. two expressions of them, are in God. Being adequate ideas, common notions are
our power of understanding: "It is of the nature of reason to con­ indeed in God, but this only insofar as he has other ideas that
ceive things sub spede oeternitatis [second kind of knowledge ], and necessarily contain them (thesc other ideas are for us those of
il also pertains to the nature ofthe mind to conceive the bodfs the third kind). 1 J So neither God, nor Christ who is the expres­
essence sub speCie aettrnitatis [third kind]. and beyond these two, sion of his thought, think through common notions. Common
nothing else pertJins to the mind's essence." 1 1 notions cannot. then. serve in Cod as the principles of joys corres.
All JfTections. whether passive o r active. are affections of ponding to those we experience in the second kind ofknowledgc:
an essence to the extent that they exercise the capacity to be God is free of passh'e joys, and he docsn't even experience those
.1fTecteci in which the essence expresses itself. But passive affec- activc joys of the sccond kind [hat presuppose an incrcJse in the

l06 l07
l ... E T ... E O II " O F F I N I 1 " M O D E S 6E ...T I 1 V O E

power of action as their occasional cause. Thus ouordina to the God through common notions. But the idea o f God i s not iuelf
ideas of the second kind we have of them, God experiences no one of these notions. It is this idea, then. that leads us out of the
feelings of jO)".14 second kind of knowledge and reveals to us a new content of
Ideas of the third kind arc not only explained by our essence. knowledge: no longer common properties, but God's essence, my
they consist of the idea of this essence itself. and of its relations essence and all the other essences that depend on God. Now, inso­
(its relation to the idea of God, its relations with the ideas of far as the idea of God relates to common notions, it represents a
other things. sub specie oeternirotis). From the idea of our essence sovereign being who experiences no 10\'e and no joy. But in deter­
as formal cause, and the idea of God as material cause, we can mining us to the third kind of knowledge, it iuelf receives new
concei\'e all ideas as the), arc in God. In the third kind ofknowl­ qualifications corresponding to this kind of knowledge. The
edge we form ideas and active feelings that arc in us as they are active jo),s we experience in the third kind of knowledge are the
immediately and eternally in God. We think as God thinks, we joys experienced by God himself, because the ideas from which
experience thc vcry feelings of God. We form the idea of our­ they now are in us as they are eternally and immediatel), in God.
selves as it is in God, and form at least in part the idca of God as No contradiction should be seen. then. between the two kinds
it is in God himself: i(leas of the third kind thus constitute a of love whose descriptions succeed one another in Part Five of
deeper dimension of what is innate, and jo),s of the third kind the EthiCS: the love of a God who cannot love us, as he experi­
arc the onl), true affections of an essence in itself. We do of course ences no jo)" and the love of a God who is himself joyful, who
appear to reach the third kind of knowledge. IS But what here loves himself and loves us with the same lm'e by which we love
serve us as occasional causes are common notions thcmseh'es, and him. It is enough. as the context suggests. to relate the initial
so something adequate and active. The "transition" is only an passages to the second kind ofknowledge, and the others to the
appearance: in reality we are simpl)' finding ourselves as we arc third kind. 18
immediately and eternally in God. "The mind has had eternally Proceeding as the), do from the idea of ourselves as it is in
the same perfections which, in our fiction, now come to it."16 God. our active jo),s arc part of God's joys. Our joy is the joy of
Those jo)"s that follow from ideas of the third kind arc thercfore God himself insofar as he is explicated through our essence. And
the onl)' ones that deserve the name of beOliwde: they arc no the love of the third kind which we feel for God is "a part of the
longcr jo),s that increase our power of action, nor even joys that infinite love b), which God loves himself." The lo\'e we feel for
still presuppose such an increase. but joys that derive absolutely God is the love God feels for himself insofar as he is explicated
from our essence. as it is in God. ami as conceivcd by God ,l1 through our own essence, and so the love he feels for our essence
We must further ask: \Vhat is the difference between the idea itself. l? &otitudc designates the possession not onl), of an active
of God of the second kind. and that of the third kind? The idea joy as i t is in God, but of an active lo\'eas it is in God also.10The
of God belongs to the second kind of knowledge only through word ",lart" must in all this always be understood in an explica­
iI'S relation to the common notions that express it. And the con­ ti\'C or expressive manner: a part is not a component, but an
ditions of our knowledge arc such Ihat we "reach" the idea of expression ,lIld explication. Our essence is J ]Xlrt of God. and the

,08 ,09
T H E T H E O R Y OF F I N I T E "' O O E S IiI E A T I T U O E

idea o four essence a part o f the idea of God. only t o the extent ness together with our passive joys. OUf knowledge will always

that God's essence explicates itself through ours. And it is in the pass through common notions. All that we can strive toward is

third kind of knowledge that the system of expression takes on to have proportionately more joyful passions than sad ones. more

its final foml. This final fonn ofexpression is the identity of spec­ active joys of the second kind than passions. and the greatest pos­

ulative and practical affirmation, the identity of Being and Joy. sible number of joys of the third kind. I t is all a question of the

of Substance and Joy, of God and Joy. Joy manifests the unfolding relative proportions of the different kinds of feeling that exer­

of substance itself, its explication in modes and the conscious­ cise our capacity to be affected: a matter of making inadequate

ness of this explication. The idea of God is no longer simply ideas and passions take up only tht smallest part of ounell'es.11
expressed by common notions in general, but is what expresses Duration relates to the existence of modes. It will be recalled

and explicates itself in all essences according to their own prin­ that a mode's existence is constituted by extensive parts which

ciple of production. It expresses itself in each essence in partiC­ are determined. in a certain relation, to belong to the mode's

ular, but each essence comprises all other essences in the law of essence. Thus duration is measure(1 by time: a body exists as long

its production. The joy we feel is the joy God himself feels inso­ as it possesses extensive parts in the relation that characterizes

far as he has an idea ofour essence; the joy God feels is that which it. As soon as encounters arrange these parts differently, the body

we ourselves feel insofar as we have ideas as they are in God. itself ceases to exist, its parts fonning other bodies with differ­
ent relations_ It is therefore obvious that we cannot eliminate all
passion during our existence: for our extensive parts are deter­

Once we come to exist in duration, and so "during" OUf exist­ mined and affected from outside ad infinitum. To the parts of the
ence itself, we can come into the third kind of knowledge. But body there correspond faculties of the soul. faculties of experi­

we can only succeed in doing so according to a strict order, encing passive affections. Thus imagination corresponds to the

which corresponds to the optimal exercise of our capacity to be actual imprint of some body in our own. and memory to the suc­

affected: I. We begin with inadequate ideas which come to us, cession of imprints in time. Memory and imagination are true

and passive affections which now from them. some increasing our parts of the sou\. The soul has extensive parts which belong to

power of action. others diminishing it; 2. We then form common it only to the extent that it is the idea of a body that is itself com­

notions as a result of an effort of selection among these passive posed of extensive parts.n The soul "endures" to the extent that

affections themselves; active joys of the second kind follow from it expresses the actual existence of a body that endures. And the

common notions, and an active love follows from the idea of Gad soul's faculties themselves involve a power. a power of suffering.

as it relates to common notions; 3. We then fonn adequate ideas a power of imagining things according to the affections they pro­

of the third kind. and the active joys and acti\'e love that follow duce in our body. and so a power of conceiving things in dura­

from these ideas (beatitude). But it is a vain hope. while we exist tion. and in relation to time. 2 1

in duration. to have only active joys of the third kind. or just Extensive parts belong to an essence within a certain relation

active affections in general. We will always have passions, and sad- and during a certain time; but they do not constitute that essence.

3'" !"

The essence itself has an altogether different nature. I n it'sel f the extensive parts. But it has an essence that is. so to speak. an
essence is a degree of power or intensity, an intensi\'e parI. Noth­ eternal intensive part (a degree of power). The soul itself has
ing seems to me more mistaken than a mathematical interpreta­ extensi\'e parts. insofar as it expresses the existence of a body in
tion of particular essences in Spino:r.a. An essence docs. it is true, duration. But i t also has an eternal intensive part. which is. so
express itself in a relation. but it is not the same as that relation. to speak. the idea of the body's essence. The idea that expresses
A particular essence is a physical reality; thus affections are affec­ the body's essence constitutes the soul's intensive part or essence.
tions of .m essence and the essence itself the essence of a body. and is necessarily eternal. The soul has in this respect a faculty.
The physical reality is an intensive reality, an intensh'e existence. that is it power, explained by its own essence: an active power of
One sees from this that essence does not endure. Duration is understanding. of understanding things through the third kind
predicated in relation to extensive pans. and is measured by the of knowledge sub specie aererniratis. Insofar as it expresses the
time during which these parts belong to the essence. But the body's actual existence in duration. the soul has the power to
essence has in ilSelf an eternal reality or existence; it has no dura­ conceive other bodies in duration: insofar as it expresses the
tion, nor any lime to mark the end of such duration (no essence body's essence, it has the power to conceive other bodies sub
can (Iestroy any other). Spino7.a actually says that essence is con­ specie aetf!rnitatis,26
ceil'ed "by a certain eternal necessity."H But this fonnulation docs Spino7.ism LilUS a.�sens a di fference of nature between dura­
not. in its turn, permit of any intellectualist or idealist interpre­ tion and eternity. If Spino:r.a avoids using the concept of immor·
tation. Spino7.a simply means that a p.1rticular essence is not of IO/ity in the EthiCS. this is because it seems to him to involve the
itselfeternal. Di\'ine substance alone is eternal by virtue of itself; most tiresome confusions. Three arguments may be found, vari­
an essence is only eternal by virtue of a cause (G()(I), from which ously employed, in a tradition of immortality which runs from
its existence or reality as an essence derives. It is thus necessar­ Plato to Desc.lTtes. Theories of immortality rest, in the first
ily conceived through that cause; and is thus necessarily con­ place. on a certain postulated simplicity of the soul: the body
ceived with the eternal necessity deriving from that cause. It alone is conceh'ed as divisible: the soul is immortal because it is
should come as no surprise that Spino:r.a consequently speaks of indi\'isible. its faculties not being its parts. The immortality of
"the idea which expresses the essence of this or that human body this absolutely simple soul is. in the second place, concei\'ed in
sub specie oeurnirotis." He doesn't mean that the body's essence duration: the soul already existed before the body began to exist,
exists only as an idea. The mistake in the idealist interpretation .md endures when the bo(ly ceases to exist. Thus theories of
is to turn against parallelism an argument that is an integral part immortality often in\"Ol\"e the assumption of a purely intellectual
o f ii, or to understand as a proof of ideality a purely causal argu­ memory. by which the soul sepJrated from the body can be con­
ment. I f an idea in God expresses the essence of this or that body. scious of its own duration. Finally. immortality thus defined can­
it is because God is the cause of essences; it follows that an not be the object ofa direct experience while Ihe body endures.
essence is necessarily conceived through this callse.15 In what form docs the soul survl\'e the body, what arc the modali­
A body exists and endures as long as it actually possesses ties of surviv"l. wh,lI .lre the f.lculties of the soul once it is disem-

3" 3' 3
l ... E T "' E O R V O F F I N I T E M O D E S B EATITUDE

bodied? Only a rCI,t/orion can tell u s i n our prescnt state. and expericnce that we are eternal, i t i s enough to cntcr into thc
These three principles find i n Spinol-a an avowed opponent. third kind of knowledge, that is, to form the idea of ourselves as
Thcories of immortality always invoh'c a confusion of duration it is in God. This idea is just the idea that expresses the body's
with ctcrnity. Thc postulate of the soul's simplicity. in thc first essence; to the extent that we form it, to the extent that we ha\'e
place. itself always iO\'oh'cs a confuscd idca of thc union of soul it, we uperienct that we are eternal.27
and body. Comparing soul and body, one opposes thc simplicity What happens when we die? Death is a subtraction. a cutting­
of the soul lakcn as a whole to the divisibility of thc body. also back. \Ve lose all the extensive parts that belonged to us in a cer­
takcn as a whole. I t is secn Ihat the body has cxtcnsivc parts while tain relation; our soul loses all the faculties it possessed insofar
it cxists. but it is not scen that the soul also has such partS inso­ as it expressed the existence of a body itself endowed with exten­
far as it is the idca of an cxisting body. Onc secs (more or less sive parts.18 But for all that these parts and faculties belonged to
clcarly) that the soul has an absolutely simple and eternal inten­ our essence they constituted nothing of it: our essence considered
sive I>art which constitutcs its esscnce, but one doesn't sec that Simply as such loses none of iI'S perfection when we lose the
this also expresses the body's esscnce, which is no Icss simplc and elements of extension of which our existence was composed.
ctcrnal. "Immortality" invitcs us. in the second place, to think The part of us that remains, however great (that is, whatever its
in terms of succession, and renders us incapablc of conceiving degree of power or intensive quantity), is in any case more per­
the soul as a composite of coexisting things. We do not sce that fect than all the extensive parts which perish, and conserves all
while the body exists, duration and eternity themselves "coexist" its perfection when those extensive parts disappear.29 When,
in the soul as two elements different in nature. The soul endures furthcnnore. our body has ceased to exist, when our soul has
insofar as there belong to i t extensive parts that do not consti­ lost all those parts that related to the body's existence, we are
tute it'S essence. The soul is eternal insofar as there belongs to it no longer in a state in which we can experience passive affec­
an intensive part that defines it'S essence. We should not imag­ tions.30 Our essence is no longer kept in a state of involvement,
ine that the soul endures beyond the body: it endures while the we can no longer be cut off from our power: all that remains. in­
body itself endures. and i t is cternal insofar as it exprcsses the deed, is our power of understanding or action}l The ideas we have
body's essence. While the soul is the idea of an existing body, are necessarily ddequate ideas of the third kind. as they are in God.
there coexist in it extensive parts that belong to it in duration, Our essence adequdtcly expresses God's essence, and the affec­
and an intensive part that constitutes it in eternity. Finally, we tions of our essence adequately express our essence. We become
havc no need of any revelation in ordcr to know in what modas completely expressil'c. nothing remains that is "involved" or merely
the soul survi\·cs. and how. The soul ctcrnally remains what it "indicated." While we existed we could have only a certain num­
already is in its essence during the body's existence: an intensi\'e bcr of acth'e affections of the third kind. themselves related [Q
part, a (Iegree of power or power of understanding, an idea that active afTections of the second kind. which were in turn related
expresses the body's essence sub specie Thus the soul's to passive dffections. We could hope for only partial beatitude.
eternity can indeed be the object ofa direct experience. To feel But death seems to put us in a situation where we can only bc

" 4 .'<

affected by affections of the third kind, which arc themselves active affections o f the third kind, as though necessarily redis­
explained by our essence. covering what was eternally innate in us? Leibni7. presents sev·
This point docs. i t is true, still raise many problems. I . I n eral criticisms ofSpinoza's conception of eternity: he complains
what scnse arc we, after death. still affected? Our soul has lost of its geometric character, with the ideas of essences as analogues
c\'crything that belonged to it as the idea of an existing body. But of mathematical forms or shapes; he complains that it concei\'es
there does rcmain the idea of our existing body's essence. There of eternity as without memory or imagination. the eternity. at
does remain the idca of our body's essence as it is in God. We best. of a circle or a trianglc. But a third criticism seems more
ourseh'e$ havc the idea of this idea as i t is i n God. Our soul is important, posing as it docs what is in the end the real problem
thus affected by the idea of itsclf. by the idea of God, and by thc with Spino7.ism: if Spino7.a were right, there would be no point
idea of other things sub specie aefernilalis. As all essences agree in perfecting oneself in order to leave behind one a still more
with each essence. as they all have as their cause the God who perfect eternal essence (as though that essence or Platonic idea
comprises all in the production of each, affections that now from "were not already in Nature, whether I try to resemble it or not,
ideas of the third kind are necessarily active and intensive affec­ and as though it would be any use to me after death, if I were no
tions. which arc explained by the essence of whoever expericnces longer anything, to have resembled such an idea"jj). The ques­
them. while thcy at the same time express God's essence. 2. But tion is. effectively: What is the usc of existing if we in any case
if we arc still affected after death. does this not mean that our rejoin our essence after death. in such conditions that we expe·
capacity to be affected. and our characteristic relation them­ rience intenSively all the active affcctions corresponding to it?
selves subsist along with our essence? Our relation can indeed In lOSing existence we lose nothing: we lose only our extensive
be destroyed or decomposed, but this only in the sense that it parts. But what is the usc of our efforts while in existence if our
no longer subsumes extensive parts. The extensive parts that essence is in any case just what it is, a degree of power unaffected
belonged to us arc determined to enter into other relations by the extensive parts that were only temporarily and externally
incompatible with our own. But the relation that related 10 it?
us docs nonetheless ha\'e an eternal truth insofar as our essence In fact our capacity to be affeCle(1 will not. according to
expresses itsclf i n it. I t is the eternal truth of the relation which Spino7.a. be exercised (after death) by active affections of the
remains ..long with our essence. (And so common notions are still third kind. if we did not succeed during existence itself in expe­
includcd in the ideas of essences.) Our capacity to be affected riencing a maximum proportion of active affections of the sec­
may similarly bc said to be destroyed. but this in the sense th.... ond kind and (already) of the third. Spino7.a can thus consider
it can no longer be exercised by passive affections.H It has none­ that he entirely preserves the posith'c content of the notion of
theless an eternal powcr. which is the same as our power of action salvation. Existence itself is still concei\'ed as a kind of test. Not,
or understanding. And it is the capacity to be affected in its eter­ it is true. a moral one, but a physical or chemical test. like that
nal power which remains along with our essence. whereby workmen check the quality of some material , of a metal
But how can we conceive that we in any case cnjoy alter death or ofa vase.

3,6 3'7

\Vhile in existence we are composed o r an eternal intensive as something abstract; our essence remains unaffected.
part. constituting our essence. and extensive parts which belong The reverse is the case ir we have made our intensive part the
to us in time within a certain relation. What matters is the rela­ most important element or ourselves_ In dying we lose little: we
tive importance or these two kinds or components. Suppose lose our remaining passions. since these were explained by our
that we succeed. while still in existence. in experiencing active extensive parts; to some extent we also lose common notions
affections: our extensive pans are themselves affected by affec­ and active affections orthe second kind. ror these have no inde­
tions that are explained by our essence alone; the passions that pendent role except as they relate to existence; and lastly. active
remain arc proportionately less than these active affections. That affections or the third kind can no longer impose themselves on
is: our capacity to be affected is exercised by a proportionately our extensive parts. since these no longer belong to us. But our
greater number or active affections than passive ones. Now active capacity to be affected remains with us eternally. accompanying
affections are explained by our essence; passive affections are our essence and the idea or our essence; so this capacity is nec­
explained by the infinite play or extrinsic detenninations or our essarily and absolutely exercised by affections orthe third kind.
extensive parts. One may conclude that. or the two elements that During our existence we ha\'e made our intensive part relatively
make us up. the intensive part or ourselves has taken on a much the most important portion or ourselves; arter our death the
greater relative importance than the extensive parts. When in the active affections explained by this part exercise our capacity to
end we die. what perishes is "or no moment in relation to what be affected absolutely; what remains or ourselves is absolutely
remains."H The more we know things by the second and third realized. Our essence as it is in God. and the idea or our essence
kinds or knowledge. the greater. relatively. is the eternal part or as conce,jved by God. are completely affected.
ourselves_lS It goes without saying that this eternal part. taken There are no such things as the moral sanctions or a divine
in itselr independently or the extensive parts that are added to it Judge. no punishments or rewards. but only the natural conse­
to make up our existence. is an absolute. But suppose that dur­ quences or our existence. During our existence our capacity to
ing our existence we remain exercised and detennined by passive be affected is. it is true. always and necessarily exercised: but this
affections. or the two clements that make us up. the extensive either by passive affections or active ones. But ir our capacity is
parts will have relatively more importance than the eternal inten­ completely exercised while we exist by passive affections. then
sive part. And we wili losc all the more in dying; whence he only it will remain empty. and our essence will remain abstract. once
who has something to rear rrom it rears death. he who loses rel­ we have ceased to exist. I t will be absolutely realized by affec­
atively more by dying.36 Our essence remains no less the absolu� tions or the third kind ir we have exercised it with a maximum
it is in itselr; the idea or our essence remains no less what it is proportion or active affections. Whence the importance or this
absolutely in God. But the capacity to be affected which eter­ "test" that is existence: while existing we must select joyrul pas­
nally corresponds to it remains empt),: having lost our extensive sions. ror they alone introduce us to common notions and to the
parts we have lost all the affections explained by them. But we active joys that now rrom them; and we must make use or com­
have no other affections. When we die our essence remains. but mon notions as the principle that introduces us while still exist-

1" 1'9
T H E T M E O R " D O' F , N I T E " O D E S

ing t o ideas and joys of the third kind. Then, after death, our CONCLUSION
essence will have all the affections of which it is capable; and
these will all be of the third kind. Such is the difficult path of T h e Theory of E x pression i n
salvation. Most men remain, most of the time, fixated by sad
passions which cut them off from their essence and reduce it to Leibniz a n d Spinoza:
the state of an abstraction. The path of salvation is the path of
expression itself: to become expressive - that is, to become Ex pression ism in Phi losophy
active; 1'0 express God's essence, to be oneself an idea ll.jough
which the essence of God explicates itself, 10 have affections that
arc explained by our own essence and express God's essence.

A phi losophy's power is measured by the concepts it creates, or

whose meaning it alters, concepts that impose a new set of divi­
sions on things and actions. It sometimes happens that those con­
cepts arc called forth at a cert'ain time. charged with a collective
meaning corresponding to the requirements of a given period.
and discovered, created or recreated by several authors at once.
Such is the case with Spino7.J., Leibniz and the concept of expres­
sion. This concept takes on the force of an Anticilrtesian reaction
led by these two authors. from their two very di fferent view­
points. It implies a rediscovery of Nature and her power and a
recreating of logic and ontology: a new "materialism" and a new
"formalism." The concept of expression applies to Being deter­
mined as God, insofar as God expresses himself in the world. It
applies to ideas determined as true. insofar as true ideas express
God and the world. It applies. finally. to individuals determined
as Singular essences. insofar as Singular essences express them­
selves in ideas. So that the three fundamental (Ieterminations,
heina. knolVina and octina or producina. arc measured and system­
atized by this concept. Being. knowing and dcting arc the three
forms of expression. This is the age of "suOkient reason": and
the three branches of sull"icient reason, the mlio e.ucndi. rolio

". I"
T H E T H E O Ol '" 0" "'N'TE MODES E >C P R E S S I O N ' 5 M ' N P H ' L O S O P H "

cognoscendi and ratio fiendi o r Ggendi, find in expression their the tree that comes from it. And what i s this strange existence
common root. that is "held" in the mirror. and that is implied. involved.d in the
The concept of expression rediscovered by Spin07.a and Leib­ seed - what is it that is e.ypre.ssed, that entity which one can barely
niz is not, however, a new one: it already had behind it a long say exist,s? We saw that the concept of expression had. so to
philosophical history. But a rather hidden, and a rather forbidden� speak. two sources: one of them ontological. relating to the upres­
histo')'. I have tried, indeed. to show how the theme of expres­ sion of God, and born within the traditions of emanation and cre­
sion crept into the two great theological traditions of emanation ation. but bringing these profoundly into question; the other
and creation. It did not impinge on these traditions as a third con­ logical. relating to what is expressed by propOSitions. born within
cept competing with the two others from outside. but rather Aristotelian logiC. but questioning and shaking it. Both meet in
appeared at a particular moment in their development, bearing the problem of divine Names, of the Logos or Word:
in it the constant threat of diverting or taking over the tradi­ lfin the seventeenth century Leibniz and Spin07..1, one starting
tions for its own ends. It is in short a specifically philosophical from a Christian tradition and the other from a Jewish one, both
concept of immanence. which insinuates itself among the tran­ came upon the concept of expression and set it in a new light,
scendent concepts of emanative or creationist theology. It brings they obviously did so within the context of their own rime, and in
with it a specifically philosophical "danger" : pantheism or imma­ terms of the problems posed by their respective systems. Let me
nence - the immanence of its expression in what expresses itself. first try to bring out what is common to the two systems. and
and of what is expressed in its expression. I t claims to penetrate the reasons for their reintroduction of the concept of cxpression.
into the deepest things. the "arcana." to use a word of which What. in concrete terms, they criticize in Descartes is his hav­
Leibniz was fond. It at once gives back to Nature its own spe­ ing constructed too "fast," too "easy" a philosophy. Descartes pro­
cific depthb and renders man capable of penetrating into this cec(ls so qUickly in all areas that he misses sufficient reasons.
depth. I t makes man commensurate with God,e and puts him i n essences or true natures: he everywhere stops at what is relative.
possession of a new logic: makes him a spiritual automaton equal This, first of all. with God: Dcscartes's ontological proof is based
to a combinatorial world. Born of the traditions of emanation and on infinite perfection and rushes to its conclusion; but infinite
creation it makes of these two enemies. questioning the transcen­ perfection is a proprium, altogether insumcient to show what
dence of a One above Being along with the transcendence of a God's nature is. and how that nature is possible. His a posteriori
Being above his Creation. Every concept has in it a virtual appa­ proofs are, Similarly, based on considering the actual quantities
ratus of metaphor. The metaphorical apparatus of expression of reality in things, and do not rise as far as any dynamiC princi­
comprises mirror and seed. 1 Expression as ratio e.ssendi is renected ple on which these might depend. Then with ideas: Descartes dis­
in the mirror as ratio cognoscendi and reproduced in the seed as covers criteria of clarity and distinctness: but "clear-and-distinct"
ratio fiendi. But the mirror then seems to absorb both the being is once more a proprium. an extrinsic determination of ideas
renected in it. and the being that sees this image. The seed, or which tells us nothing of the nature and pOSSibility of the thing
branch. seems to absorb both the tree from which it comes. and or which we have an idea. or of thought as such. Descartes stops

l" l'l
I � P" E S S ' O N I S M IN P H ' L O S O P ,", V

at the represcnldti\'c content of ideas. and at the form of the psy­ e\s just noted. beyond what they consider the inadequacy o r facil­

chological consciousness that thinks them: he thus misses the true ity of Cartcsianism. and to restore the demand for a sufficient

immanent content of ideas. along with their true logical form. reason operating absolutely. Not that they retreat from Descartes.

and the unity of thc two in the spiritual automaton. He tells us There arc for them Cdrt'esian discoveries that are beyond qucs­

that truth is present in clear and distinct ideas; but what is pres­ tion: starting. precisely. with the properties of infinite perfection.

ent in a true idea? The extent to which this second critical cur­ of a thing's quantity of reality, ofclarity and distinctness. of mech­

rent merges with the first is easily seen: for if one stops at clarity anism and so on. 5pino1.a and Leibni�. are Postcartesians in the

and distinctness one can only measure ideas against one another. same scnse that J:ichtc. Schelling and Hegel arc Postkantians. It

and compare them with things. by considering their quantities is a question for them of reaching the foundation from which

of reality. Having only an extrinsic characteri7.ation of ideas. one now all the properties just enumerated. of re(liscovering an

gets no further than extrinsic characteristics within Being. More­ absol ute that measures up ('0 Cartesian "relativism." How do they

over distinctness. t.1ken as a norm of ideas, prejudges the stallls go about this. and why is the concept of expression the best

of distinctions between the things represented by ideas: i t is suited to their task?

on the basis of his criterion of clarity and distinctness that Des­ Infinite perfection as a proprium must be left behind for abso­

cartes. from the whole store of5cholastic distinctions. keeps only lute infinity as a nature. And the first ten proposi tions of the

real distinction. which is according to him necessarily numeri­ Ethics show that God necessarily exists. but docs so because

cal. distinctions of reason. according to him necessarily abstract. absolute infinity is possible or noncontradictory: thus 5pino1.a

and modal distinction. according to him necessarily accidental. proceeds by showing that. among all the nominal definitions at

Finally. lVith indiyiduals and their actions: Descartes underst.:mds the beginning of the Ethics. the sixth definition is real. But this

human individuals as real compositcs of soul and body. that is of reality is constituted by the coexistence of all the infinite forms

two heterogeneous terms, supposed really to act on one another. that introducc distinction into the absolute without introducing

Is it not then inevit.1ble that so many things should according number. These constitutivc forms of God's nature, a nature of

to Descartcs be "incomprehensible"? Not just this composite which infinite perfeCl"ion is only a property. arc the expression

itself. but the workings of causality within it. as well as infinity. of the absolute. God is represented as infinitely perfect. but he

and frec(lom? One and the same move reduces Iking to the plat­ is constituted by these deeper forms; he �.tprI!SSI!S hims�/f in these
itude of infinitc perfcction. things to the platitude of quantities forms. these attributes. The way Lcibniz procecds is formally sim­

of reality. ideas to the platitudc of real causality - and redi8- ilar: the same leaving behind of infinity for the absolute. Not. of

covers all thc depth of the world. but this. then. in an incom­ course. that Lcibni1.·S absolute Bcing is the same as 5pino�.a·s. But

prehensible form. once again it is a mailer of demonstrating the reality of a defini­

Now whatever thc diffcrences betwcen Leibni1. and 5pino1.a. tion. and reaching a divinc nature that goes beyond any property.

and their different interprctations of cxpression in particular, the I /erc agai n this n,UUTC is constituted by simple distinct forms in

f.lCt is that they both usc this concept to advance. on all the le\'- which Go(1 expresses himself, and which express themselvcs in

T H E T H E O � V OF F I N I T E ... O D E S E I( P � E S S I O N I S "" I N P ... , .... O S O P H V

infinite positive qualities.2 Similarly, i n Spin01.a as i n Leibniz, it two varying series. one of which i s corl>oreal. the other spirit­
is .as we have seen the discovery of intensive quantities or quan­ ual. Now real causalit'Y enters into each of these series on their
tities of power. as deeper than quantities of reality, that transfonns own account; but the relation between the two series. and their
o posteriOri procedures. by introducing into them expressivity. relation to what is invariant between them. depends on nonCdusal
Let us pass to the second point. concerning knowledge and correspondence. [f we then ask what concept can account for
ideas. What is common to Leibniz and Spin01.a is the criticism of such a correspondence, that of expression appears to do so. For
Cartesian clarity-and-distincrness. as applying to recognition and while the concept of expression adequately applies to real cau·
to nominal distinctions. rather than to true knowledge through sality, in thc sense that an effect expresses it cause. and knowl­
real definitions. Real knowledge is discovered to be a kind of edge of the effect expresses a knowledge of its cause, the concept
expression: which is to say both that the representative content nonetheless goes futher than causality. since it brings a corre­
of ideas is left behind for an immanent one, which is truly expres­ spondence and a resonance into series that are altogether foreign
sive, and that the form of psychological consciousness is left to one another. So that real causality is a species of expression.
bchind for an "explicative" logical fonnalism. And the spiritual but merely a species subsumed under a more fundamentdl genus.
.JUtomaton presents the unitye of this new fonn and new content. This genus directly explains the possibility of distinct and het­
We arc ourselvcs ideas. by virtue of our expressive capacity: "We erogeneous series (expressions) expressing the same invariant
can therefore definc our essence or idea as that which includes (what is expressed). by establishing in each of the varying series
everything which we express. And since it expresses our union the same concatenation of causes and effects. Expression takes
with God himself. it has no limits and nothing is beyond it."3 its place at the heart of the individual. in his soul and in his body,
As for the third point. we must rethink the individual defined his passions and his actions. his causes and his effects. And Leibniz
as a composite of soul and body. For though the supposition of a by monad, no less than Spinoza by mode. understands nothing
real causality may be the simplest way of understanding the phe­ other than an individual as an expressive center.
nomena associated with such a composite. its actions and pas­ If the concept of expression does indeed have this triple
sions. it is not for all that the most convincing or intelligible way. importance. from the viewpoints of universal Being. of specific
[t overlooks the rich and deep world of nOIlClJusal correspondences. knowledge and ofindividual action. the importance of what Leib­
It is possible. moreover. that real causality is established and niz and Spinoza have in common cannot be exaggerated. This
reigns only in certain regions of this world of noncausal corre­ e\'cn though they part company O\'er the use and interpretation of
spondences. and actually presupposes it. Rcal causality might be the concept on each point. And differences of content are already
merely a particular case of some more general principle. One feels prcfigurt.'<I by differences of form and emphasis. I have noted that
that soul and body ha\'C at once a sort of identity that removes the no explicit definition or demonstration of expression is to be
need for any real causality between them. and a heterogeneity. a found in Spinoza (even though such a definition and such a dem.
hcteronomy, that renders it impOSSible. The identity or quasi­ onstration arc implicit lhroughout his work). In Lcibniz. on the
identity is an "invariilllce." and the heteronomy is that between other hand. one finds passages that deal explicitly with what is


comprised in the category of expression. and how far i t extends.1t i s plunged: thus each monad traces its distinct partial expression
Hut it is Lcibni .... strangely enough. who gives the category such agdinst the background of a confused total expression; it con­
an extension that it comes to cover everything. including the fusedly expresses the whole world. but dearly expresses only a
world of signs. of similarities. of symbols and harmonie5� - while pdrt of it. set apart or determined by the relation. itself expres­
Spinoza greatly refines its sense. and strictly opposes expressions sive, which it bears to its body. The world expressed by cach
to signs or analogies. monad is a continuum in which there are Singularities. and it is
One of Lcibniz's clearest texts in this regard is "Quid sit around these singularities thal monads take form as expressive
ideol.'" " Ia\'ing defined expression as a correspondence of habitus centers. The same applies to i(le.u: "Our soul renect5 only upon
between two things. Leibni1. distingUishes two main t)'pe5 of nat­ more extraordinary phenomena which are distinguished from the
ural expression: those that imply a certain similarity (for exam­ others. it does not have a distinct thought about any when it is
ple. a drawing). and those that involve a certdin law or cdusality thinking equally about 0111."8 Thus our thought does nOt rCdch
(for example. a projection). But it seems that in each case one what is absolutely adequate. the absolutely simple forms that .Ire

of the terms in the relation of expression is always superior to in God. but stops at relatively simple forms and terms (simple.
the other: either because it enjoys the identity reproduced by the that is. relative to the multiplicity they involve). And the same
second. or because it involves the law that the other develops. is even true of God. "of God's di fferent viewpoints" in the areas
And it in each case "concentrates" in its unity what the other of his understanding that relate to possible creations: the differ·
"disperses in multiplicity." Expression. according to Leibni1 .• ent creatable worlds lorm the dim background against which God
grounds just such a reldtion of One and Many in every domain: creates the best. by creating monads or expressions which best"
what expresses itself is "endowed with true unity" in relation to express him. Even in God. or in certain areas of his understand·
its expressions; or. which comes to the same thing. expression is ing at least. Unity comes with a "zero" that makes creation pos·
a unity in relation to the multiplicity and divisibility of what is sible. We must then take account of two basic factors in Leibniz's
exprcssed.6 But a certdin area of confusion or obscurity is thus conception of expression: Analogy. which primarily expresses dif·
introduced into expression: the superior term. through its unity. ferent types of unity relative to the multipliCities they involve.
expresses marl' distined), what the other in its multiplicity ex' and Harmony. which primarily expresses the way a multiplicity
presses 1m distinctly. This indeed is how a division is made into corresponds in every case to an underlying unit),.9
causes and effects. actions and passions: when nOoltin� body is
.I This all forms a "symbolic" philosophy of expression. in which
said to be the cause of "an infinite number of mo\'ements by the expression is inseparable from signs of it's transformations. and
part's of the water." rather than the re\'erse, this is because the from the obscure areas in which it is plunged. What is distinct
body has a unity that allows a more distinct explanoltion of what and whdt confused vary in each expression (mutual expression
is happening. ? Moreover, since the second term is expressed in means. in particular. that what one monad expresses confusedly.
the first. the latter as it were can'es its own distinc� expression ,mother expresses distinctly). Such a symbolic philosophy is fleees·
out of a dim .Irea which surrounds it on all sides and in which it S(/fi�1' a philosophy oj equi,'ocal expressiolls. And rather than opposing

, ,8 1'9
E )( P II £ S S I O N I S M I N P H I L O S O P H Y

Leibniz to Spinoza b)' citing the Leibnizian themes of possibility expression. one can never say that one expresses distinctly what
and finalit),. it seems to me essential to bring out this concrete another expresses confusedly. This is not. above all. the way to
point concerning the way Leibni1. understands and operates with make the division into active and passive. action and passion.
the phenomenon of expression. for all the other themes and con­ cause and effect: for. contrary to the traditional principle. actions
cepts now from it. Leibniz. in order at once to save the richness go with actions. passions with passions. If leibniz's preestablished
of the concept of expression and avert the pantheist "danger" hannon), and Spinoza's parallelism both break with the assump­
auaching to it. seems to have found a new fonnulation accord­ tion of a real causalit), between soul and body. the fundamental
ing to which creation and emanation are two real species of difference between them still lies here: the division into actions
expression. or correspond to two dimensions of expression: and passions remains in Leibniz what it was according to the tra­
crrotion to the originary constitution of analogous expressive uni­ ditional assumption (the body suffering when the soul acts. and
ties ("combinations of unit), with zero"). and emanation to the vice versa) - while Spino1.a in practice overturns all this division.
derivative series that evolve the multiplicities expressed in each I asserting a parit), between the soul's passions and the body's. and
type of unit), (involutions and evolutions. then. "transproduc­
tions" and "metaschematisms"). lo
\ between the body's actions and the soul's. For the relation of
expression holds in Spinoza only between equal tenns. Herein
Spinoza. though. gives expression an altogether different dy­ lies the true sense of his parallelism: no series is ever eminent.
namic interpretation. For what is essential for Spinoza is to sep­ The cause does of course, within its series, remain more perfect
arate the domain of signs. which are always equivocal. from that than its effect. and the knowledge of the cause. within its series.
of expressions. where univocity must be an absolute rule. Thus more perfect than that of the effect; but far from perfection
we have seen how the three types of signs (the indicative signs implying an "analogy" or "symbolization" in which the morc per­
of natural perception. the imperath·e signs of the moral law and fect tenn would exist on another qualitative level than the less
of religious revelation) were decisively rejected as inadequate; perfect, i t implies only an immanent quantitative process in
and with them went all the language of analogy - that which ga\'e which the less perfect exists in the more perfect. that is, in and
God an understanding and will. along with that which ga\'e things undl.'r the same unl\'ocal form that constitutes the essence of the
an em!. At the same time we become capable of forming and more perfect term. (This is also. as we have seen. the sense in
grasping an absolutely adequate idea. since its conditions arc set which leibniz's theor), of qualitati,'c individuation should be
by the strict reign of univocity: an adequate idea is an expressive opposed to Spinoza's theory of quantitative individuation. with­
idea. that is to say. a distinct idea that has freed itself from the­ out our concluding. of course. that a mode has an)' less auton­
obscure and confused background from which in Leibnil. it was omy than a monad. )
inseparable. ( I tried to show in concrete temu how the selection In Spinoza as in Leibniz the relation of expression applies.
was effected by Spinol,,}. through the process of fonning common essentially. to Unity and Multiplicity. But one would look in "ain
notions. in which ideas cease to be signs. becoming univocal through the Ethics for some sign of the Multiple. as imperfect.
expressions.) Whate"er the terms involved in the relation of implying any confusion relative to the distinctness of the One that

llO 11'
T H E T H E O R V O F F I N I T E "' O D E S E l< P R E S S I O N I S M I N P H I L O S O P H V

expresses itself in it. A greater o r lesser perfection never implics, Far from expression being. i n Spinoza. consistent with creation
for Spinm.a, a ch'lIlge of fonn. Thus the multiplicity of attribut'es dnd emanation. it rathcr excludes these, relegates thcm to the
is sHicll), equi\.alcnti to the unity of substance: by such strict order of inadcquate signs or equh'ocal language. Spin07.a accepts
cquivalcnce wc must understand that the attributes arc formally the truly philosophical "(Iangcr" of immanence and pantheism
what substance i s ontologica/�l. This equivalcnce does not entail implicit in the notion of exprcssion. Indeed he throws in his lot
the forms of attributes introducing any numcrical distinction of with that danger. In Spinoza th� whole theory of e.fpression supports
substances: ralher is their own fonnal distinction equivalcnt to unil'ocity: and its whole import is to free univocal Bcing from a
.111 of the ontological difference between thcm and thc single sub­ state of indiffcrence or neutrality. to make it thc object of a pure
stance, And ifwc consider the multitude of modes in cdch dltri­ affirmation, which is actually realized in an cxpressive panthe­
butc, those modes invoh'e thc attribute. but this without the ism or immanence. I-Iere, I feel. lies the real opposition between
attribute t.lking on any other fonn than that in which it consti­ Spinoza and Leibniz: the theory of unil'ocol �,'prcssions in the one'
tutcs the essence of substance: the modes in\'oh'e and express should be opposed to the theory of �quil'ocol e.rpressions in the other.
the attribute in the I'er), form in which it involves and expresses All the other oppositions (necessity and finality, necessary and
the divine essence. Thus Spinozism brings with it a remarkable possible) now from it, and arc abstract in relation to it. For phil­
theory of distinctions which, even when it borrows Cartesian ter­ osophical differences do indeed ha\'e their concrete origins. in
minology, speaks a quite different language: so real distinction is spcciflc ways of el'aluolino some phenomenon: in this case. that
in cffccl nonnulllerical formal distinction (as in the attributes): of cxprcssion.
modal distinction is in effect an intensivc or extensive numeri­ But whate\'er the importance of this opposition, we must
cal distinction (as in the modes): the distinction of reason is an return to what is common to Leibniz and Spinoza, to that use of
objectivc formal one (as i n idcas). Lcibniz i n his own thcory the notion of expression which presents the whole force of their
multiplics the types of distinClion. but this in ordcr to sccure all Anticartcsian reaction. This notion of expression is essentially
the resources of symbolization, hamlOny and dnalogy. Spinoza's triadic: we must distinguish what expresses itself, the expres­
language. on the other hand, i s always that ofunivocity: first of sion itsclf and what is expressed. The paradox is that "what i s
all, the unil'lxit)' of ottributes (in that attributes are, in thc samc expressed" has no exiStence outside its expression. yet bears no
lorm, both what constitute the essence of substance, ami what resemblance to it. but relatcs CSSI'ntially to what expresses itself as
contain modcs and their csscnces); second. unil'Oeil}, of cousation distinct from the expression itself. Expression thus bears within
( i n that God is causc of all things in the Sdmc sense that he is'" it a double movement: one either takes what is expressed as
calise of himself); thcn unil'Ocit}, of il/eos ( in that common notions involved, impliCit. wound up. in its expression. and so retains
Me the S,1Il1e in a part as in the wholc). Univocity of being, only the couple "expresser-expression"; or one unfolds. expli­
unh'ocity of production. univocity of knowing; common form, cates. unwinds! expression so as to restore what is expressed (Icav­
common cause, common notion - thesc are the three figures of ing the couplc "cxpresser-expressed"). Thus there is in Leibniz.
the Univocal that combine absolutely in ,1n idea of the third kind. first of all. a divine expression: God expresses himself in absolute

T .... E T I-O E O q y 0" " ' N ' T IO M O D E S E �""ESS'ONISM 'N " .... , L O S O P H y

forms or absolutely simple notions. as in some divine Alphabet; e xpresses. Real causality is thus located i n expressive series
such forms express unlimited qualities related to God as consti­ between which there are noncausal correspondences. Similarly.
tuting his essence. God then re-expresses himself on the level of an idea represents an object, and in a way expresses it; but at a
possible creation: here he expresses himself in individual or rel­ deeper level idea and object express something that is at once
atively simple notions, monads. corresponding to each of his common to them. and yet belongs to each: a power. or the abso­
"viewpoints." These expressions in their tum express the whole lute i n two of its powers.l those of thinking or knowing, and
world. that is. the totality oflhe chosen world. which is related being or acting. Representation is thus located in a certain extrin­
10 God as the manifestation of his "glory" or his will. One sees. sic relation of idea and object. where each enjoys an expressivity '<
in Leibni1.. that the world has no existence outside the monads over and above representation. In short, what is expressed every­
that express it. while yet God brings the world. rather than the where intervenes as a third tenn that transfonns dualities. Beyond
monads. into existence. I I These two principles are in no way con­ real causality, beyond ideal representation, what is expressed is
tradictory. but renect the double movement by which the world discovered as a third tenn that makes distinctions infinitely more
as expressed is implicit in the monads that express it, and by real and identity infinitely better thought. What is expressed is
which. conversely. monads in their evolution reconstitute their sensei: deeper than the relation of causality. deeper than the rela­
continuous background together with the singularities about tion of representation. The body has a mechanism in reality. there
which they are themselves constituted. Subject to all lhe reserva­ is an automatism of thought in the order of ideality; but we learn
tions already noted, the same account may be applied to $pino1.a. that the corporeal mechanism and the spiritual automaton are
Within the triad of substance God expresses himself in his attri­ most expresSive when they find their "sense" and their "corres­
butes. the attributes expressing the unlimited qualities that con­ pondence" in the necessary reason that was everywhere lacking
stitute his essence. In the modal triad God re-expresses himself. in Cartesianism.
or the attributes in their tum express themselves: they express It is hard, in the end, to say which is more importdnt: the dif­
themselves in modes. modes expressing modifications as mod­ ferences between Leibni1. and Spino1.a in Iheir evaluation of
iflcations of substance. constituting the same world through every expression; or their common reliance on this concept in founding
attribute. This constant triadic character means that the concept a Postcartesian philosophy.
of expression cannot be referred either to causality within Being.
or to representation in ideas. but goes beyond both, which arc
seen to be particular cases of expression. For with the dyad of
cause and effect, or that of idea and object. there is always asso­
ciated a third tenn that transposes one dyad into the other. An
effect does of course express its cause; but at a deeper level causes
and effeclS form a series that must itself express something, and
something identical (or similar) to what another parallel series
A I' I' E N Il I X

A Formal Study of the Plan of the

Ethics, a n d of t h e Role o f S c h o l i a I n

i t s R e a l i z a t i o n : T h e Two E t h i c s

Theme Consequence Correspondina


PART ONE Speculative


,-8 There are not sev- These eight propo- The Cirst triad of
eral substances with sitions are not substance: attribute.
the same attribute. hypothetical but essence, substance.
and numerical dis- categorical; it is
tinction is not reat. thus false that the
EthicS 'begins' with
the idea of God.

9-1 4 Real distinction is Only here do we The second triad of

not numerical, reach the idea of substance: perfect,
there is only one God as absolutely infinite. absolute.
substance. with all inCinite substance:
olItribules. and Definition 6 is
shown 10 be real.


1 �-]6 Power or produc- Immanence means The third triad of ...-)6 The conditions in Inadequate ideas are The inexpressive
tion: the processes both univocity of substance: essence which wc ha\'c ideas "indicath'c" and 'in- character of inade-
of production .md attributes and un i- as power. that of mean that they arc \'olved," as opposed quatc ideas.
the nature of their \'ocity of cause which i t is the necessarily inadc- to adequatc ideas.
products (modes). (God is-cause of all essence. and the quate: idea of one- which are expres-
things in the same capacity to be self. idea of one's sh'e and explicath'e:
sense that he is affected (by modes). body, ideas of other chance. encounters
cause of himself). bodies. and the first kind
of knowledge.
P,\lu Two Ideas as
17-49 How are adequate Common notions. The cxpressh'e
ideas possible? as opposed to ab- character of ade-
\Vhat is common t'O stract ideas. How quate ideas. from
, ..., The epist'emological From substance to The modal triad:
all. or to several. common notions the point of view
paral lelism of idea modes. the transfer attribute. mode.
bodies. lead to the idea of their form. and
and object. and the of expressivity: the modification.
of God: the second from that of their
ontological parallel- role of the idea of
kind of knowledge • matter.
ism ofsoul and body. God in this transfer.
and reason.
8-1] The conditions of Aspects of God in Adequacy and
ideas: ideas God has relation to ideas: inadequacy. PART TIIREE Practical joy.
on the basis of his God insofar as he is
nature. and those infinite. insofar as