29 Oct 2008

Spinoza’s Expressions Extended to Three

Corry Shores
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“This third expression is quantitative. And, like quantity itself, it has two forms: intensive in the essences of modes, and extensive when the modes pass into existence.” (Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza 186a)

"Cette troisième expression est quantitative. Aussi aura-t-elle deux formes, comme la quantité elle-même: intensive dans les essences des modes, extensive quand les modes passent à l'existence." (Spinoza et le problème de l’expression 168d)

According to Deleuze, there are three expressions of substance. The first expression is substance’s immanent self-expressing its infinite attributes in itself. Because each attribute expresses a different essence or nature of substance, this level of expression is qualitative or formal.

Attributes are the ways that substance can be conceived. But it is not until the second self-expression, when substance expresses itself in the idea of God, that substance expresses itself to itself. The Divine Notion is the idea of infinite substance, and as an idea it is both an explication and implication:

Ideas are modes, but the idea of God is a mode in a special sense. As the idea of the infinite substance, it is the idea of the infinite eternal entirety. It is an idea whose meaning-extension contains the ideas of everything else, hence it has an infinite extensional meaning. And although ideas are modifications in the realm of Thought – which some modes, such as ourselves, can think at any moment – the idea is of the infinite eternal entirety of substance. Hence it implies not only just all parallel modes of any one given modification of substance, it also implies all modifications whatever whenever, because it is the idea of the eternal underlying substance of all modification. But although it has an infinite meaning-extension, it is still an idea, so the idea itself does not explicate all modes in the attributes other than Thought, although it implies or implicates them by paralleling them.

The idea of God is no different from substance itself, because this idea immanently expresses substance’s own unique infinite essence. Thus objectively it is equal to substance: they are the same object. But as a proto-modification, it is formally different, because it is an immanent product of substance. In other words, there is a qualitative difference between substance and God, but there is no numerical difference; they are one and the same.

In the third expression, substance re-expresses itself when attributes express themselves into modes which are immanent to substance. In this expression, God produces his infinity of immanent parts so he may understand his own infinite nature.

“God’s power expresses or explicates itself modally, but only in and through such quantitative differentiation.” "La Puissance de Dieu s'exprime ou s'explique modalement, mais seulement par et dans cette différenciation quantitative." (183c/166d). What makes-up each mode are the power relations it bears to other modes. Modes are affections, degrees of affectedness, within the one substance, and are hence quantitative. This quantitative expression has two forms, intensive and extensive. The modes’ essences are intensive quantities, because each modification is a product of forces of varying degrees of potency, hence the essence of each mode is a quantitative outcome of this interaction of intensive force-powers. The products of these outcomes are modes passing into existence. In both the attributes of Extension and of Thought we speak of extension. In the realm of extended space, we observe the way intensive power relations result in the extensive forms of bodies; physics demonstrates resulting body-forms after a collision of competing forces. In the realm of ideas we regard an idea as having a body of denotations, some extending more broadly than others, with that extension being determined through a conceptual creative-analysis performed consciously or unconsciously under the pressures of intensive conceptual forces.

“Modes are expressive precisely insofar as they imply the same qualitative forms that constitute the essence of substance.” (Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza 186a)

"Les modes soient précisément expressifs en tant qu'ils impliquent les mêmes formes qualitatives que celles qui constituent l'essence de la substance." (Spinoza et le problème de l’expression 169a)

When intensities pass into extensities, all the infinity of attributes are parallely modified. Each attributal mode expresses the essence of substance, which is infinity, by implying all the parallel modifications in the infinity of other attributes.


Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza et le problème de l'expression. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1968.

Deleuze, Gilles. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Zone Books, 1990.

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