13 Dec 2008

Deleuze's "Gueroult's General Method for Spinoza," summary

by Corry Shores
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Gilles Deleuze

"Gueroult's General Method for Spinoza."

Gueroult's original genetic-structural method "renewed the history of philosophy." He defined structure as the order of reasons, which are "the differential and generative elements of the corresponding system; they are genuine philosophemes that exist only in relation to one another" (146b).

Reasons are of two types: 1) simple reasons of an analytic order of knowledge, or 2) genuine reasons of a synthetic order of knowledge, through which the system's genesis is as well a genesis "of things through and in the system" (146c). These two systems are distinguished structurally, which is a more profound distinction than mere opposition: in analysis, synthesis' role is to determine the order of reason, and analysis leads immediately to giving reasons of being through a progressive synthesis (146-147).

Gueroult illustrated these orders' complication by comparing Fichte's method with Kant's analytical one. Fichte does not neglect the analytic method, but rather says that it works to suppress itself. Spinoza does not begin with a presynthesized notion of God, rather he begins with simpler ideas and moves synthetically toward God. We see he does this in the first eight or so propositions of the ethics, which are the focus of Gueroult's work (147b).

The order of reasons resides on the same plane of the system and is always overtly articulated. Structure is not hidden beneath what is said, because it is explicit and manifest. And yet, it often goes unnoticed, because structure is the fact of saying, and it becomes convoluted as we continue to say it (147c).

Seeing structure or the order of reasons is thus following the path along which the material is dissociated according to the demands of the order, and the ideas decomposed according to their generative differential elements, along which also the elements or reasons are organized into "series;" one must follow the chains to where independent series form a "nexus," the intersection of problems or solutions. (147c.d)

Gueroult proceeds thoroughly through each smallest partition of the Ethics so to 1) bring-out the structure of Spinoza's system, namely, its generative elements, their interrelations, and their proper series, 2) show why Spinoza's geometrical system was appropriate for his structure, and 3) account for each demonstration's various characteristics, such as position, reference, and accompaniments (149-148).

The historical development of the system's structure may be deduced from its states, so for example we may compare the structural state of the Ethics with that of the Short Treatise to see if they bear different structural features.

In general, a system evolves inasmuch as certain pieces change their position, in such a way that they cover a larger space than before, even while they more tightly control this space. (148c)

But yet a system may contain so many indeterminate points that several orders coexist within it (as Gueroult showed in Malebranche). Gueroult says that Spinoza's structure, like Fichte's, has "internal surges" that "determine new dissociations, displacements, and relations," which can be found where Spinoza discusses God's essence, proofs of His existence, and substance's and attribute's definitions (148d).

Because the Short Treatise is concerned with identifying God and Nature -- and hence also substance and attributes -- Spinoza valorizes Nature, because "God is defined as Being which presents only every attribute or substance, and a devalorization of substances or attributes, which are not yet self-caused but only self-conceived" (148-149). But on the other hand, because the Ethics aims to identify God with substance, Spinoza valorizes substance itself, taken to be made up of attributes or qualified substances, each of which is fully self-caused. Furthermore, Nature is displaced and thus not initially identified with God, which "aptly expresses the mutual immanence of created nature and creative nature" (149ab). We then can see that each text not so much presents a different structure as much as another state of the same structure.

In the first eight propositions, Spinoza demonstrates that for every attribute there is a unique, self-caused, and infinite qualified substance. Critics claimed that Spinoza first hypothesized that substance was unified before later treating it as ahypothetical. There are several reasons this problem is essential:
1) In Treatise on the Reform of the Intellect, Spinoza supports this position by claiming that we may begin with any true idea that may be "impregnated" with fiction so to arrive at the idea of God "where all fiction ceases."
2) A theoretical understanding of the first eight propositions requires we evaluate them practically. When we only regard them hypothetically, we obtain two misreadings of what Spinoza means by attribute:
a) in terms of the "Kantian illusion that makes attributes forms or concepts of the understanding," and
b) as the "neo-Platonic vertigo that makes attributes already degraded emanations or manifestation."
Although, we still wonder what aspects of these first eight propositions are provisional and conditioned. (149b.d)

Gueroult thinks that these first eight propositions must be categorical because they allow us to grasp how they confer to positive and apodictic properties to each qualified substance, especially their being self-caused. It is not hypothetical to claim that only attributes are distinct, for there is but one substance per attribute. We only mistakenly consider it so if we ignore the "real distinction" Spinoza makes. In fact, just as the number one is inadequate to substance, so too are 2, 3, 4 inadequate to attributes, argues Gueroult, on a account of Spinoza's devaluation of number in general, which does not adequately express the nature of a mode. (149-150b)

Saying that attributes are in reality distinct is tantamount to saying that each is conceived of itself, without negation or in opposition to another, and that they are all therefore affirmed of the same substance. ... The logic of real distinction is a logic of purely affirmative difference and without negation. (150b)

"Attributes constitute an irreducible multiplicity," in terms of multiple attributes and one substance.

Attributes are a formal or qualitative multiplicity, "a concrete plurality which, because it implies the intrinsic difference and reciprocal heterogeneity of the beings that comprise it, has nothing in common with the plurality of number literally understood.'" (150c, Deleuze quoting Gueroult, Spinoza 158)

For Gueroult, God is a motley: he is simple insofar as he is not composed of parts, but complex insofar as he is made up of prima elementa that are absolutely simple (150c).

"God is motley, but unfragmentable, constituted of heterogeneous but inseparable attributes. (150cd, Deleuze quoting Gueroult, Spinoza 447)

"Attributes are quiddities or substantial forms of absolutely one substance;" they are
1) irreducible constitutive elements of an ontologically singular substance,
2) multiple structural elements of substance's systematic unity, and
3) "differential elements of a substance that neither juxtaposes nor grounds them, but integrates them" (150d).
Thus Spinoza establishes the genealogy of substance in these first eight propositions. Although, the genealogy of substance is not the same as the genesis of modes, because the genealogy deals with a logical constitution of one same being's diverse realities, and the genesis deals with the physical composition one same reality's determinations or parts (150-151). And yet, we may speak of genesis and genealogy in the same sense, because a mode is generated immanently in the attributes on account of their being substance's genealogical elements. Out of this principle emerges "the methodological unity of Spinozism as a genetic philosophy" (151a).

Spinoza's genetic or constructive philosophy goes hand in hand with a synthetic method that determines attributes as genuine reasons of being. Because these reasons are constitutive elements, there is no ascension from attributes to substance;

the absolutely infinite substance contains no other reality than these attributive substances, although the absolutely infinite substance is their integration and not their sum (a sum would yet presuppose number and numerical distinction). (151b)

We come to the constitutive attribute-substances through a regressive analysis so that rather than their being genetically constructed, they are demonstrated from absurdity. But then afterwards, the attributes undergo a genetic construction that integrates the "analytic process and its self-suppression" (151c). So even though we begin from the ideas of the attributes, through the self-suppression of their analysis, we obtain reasons of being and not just those of knowledge. And thus the geometrical method overcomes fictional ideas and is adequate to construct the real. So what is hypothetical or provisional is not the eight propositions but rather substance's "analytic possibilities" to form separate substances (151d).

Through the construction of the unique substance, two series intersect and form a nexus: series one is the first eight propositions "through which we ascend to differential constitutive elements," series two are the 9th, 10th, and 11th propositions "through which the idea of God integrates these elements and makes clear it can be constituted only by all these elements together" (151-152a). It is for this reason that Spinoza claims we must "simultaneously" keep in mind the definition of God while reading the first eight propositions in order for them to have their impact. Spinoza does not want to deduce from the unity of constitutive substances the unicity of the constitutive substance. Rather,

he invokes the infinite power of an Ens realissimum, and its necessary unicity as substance, to draw a conclusion about the unity of the substances that constitute it without losing any of their previous properties. (152b)

The condition that allows substances to function together as a whole [God's infinite power] is really distinct from these actual structural elements themselves. They bear this real distinction, which is also what unifies them, hence it guarantees their "formal correspondence and ontological identity" (153bc).

We see the "nexus" between the two series in the role that the notion of self-cause plays in genesis. "Causa sui is first and foremost a property of each qualified substance" (152bc). But this leads to a vicious circle: causa sui grounds the infinite, while at the same time it derives itself from the infinite, because it is a property of each qualified substance. The circle is untangled when we take into consideration that causa sui "derives itself from infinitude as the full perfection of essence, but grounds infinitude as the absolute affirmation of existence;" [it follows from substance's essence that substance be self-caused, and self-causation grounds the infinite substance, because through the self-causation that creates substance and thereby posits it, substance not only has essence, but existence as well, so self-causation affirms substance's existence].

Likewise for God or "the unique substance: its existence is proved first by the infinity of its essence, then by self-causation as the genetic reason of the infinitude of existence, 'namely the infinitely infinite power of the Ens realissimum, by which this being, necessarily causing itself, absolute posits its existence in all its extension and plenitude, without limit or fault" (152c; Deleuze quoting Gueroult Spinoza 204, 191-193).

it follows that the genetic construction as a whole is inseparable from a deduction of its distinctive features, whose causa sui is paramount.

Substance causes itself by means of its essence, which defines substance as self-causing: this is the genesis of substance's essence. The genesis of substance itself, as thing or existence, comes about through knowledge that its essence causes it to be self-caused.

And what holds for the causa sui holds, in varying degrees, for all the other distinctive features: eternity, infinitude, indivisibility, unicity, etc., because these are nothing more than the causa sui itself from different points of view. (152d; Deleuze quoting Gueroult Spinoza 206)

There are two series of genesis. [Deleuze might mean these possibilities: essence and existence; substance and attributes. Because substance's existence is manifest and expressed through the attributes, and because substance itself is its essence, we might pair them together to obtain the series a) substance/essence, and b) existence/attributes]. The causa sui appears as the "nexus" of these two series, because it causes the attributes to be identical [because by causing itself, substance causes its existence, which means it causes its self-causality to be expressed in the absolutely independent attributes], the causal act

explains the unicity of a single substance existing of itself, despite the difference of its attributes as to its essence: the attributes are diverse and incommensurable realities, integrated into an indivisible being "only by the identity of the causal act through which they give themselves existence and produce their modes." (153a; Deleuze quoting Gueroult Spinoza 238, 447)

[As we noted, the causa sui, when taken from different points of view, is all of substance's distinctive features: eternity, infinitude, indivisibility, unicity, etc. As self-causing, causa sui is power]. However the causa sui's power is not entirely independent, and the distinctive features are not entirely autonomous in relation to substance's essence. And when we mistakenly think so, "we risk a misreading as we evaluate the intertwining notions" (153ab). Causa sui itself is a distinctive feature. When we instead consider it as belonging to the unique substance, it is because the unique substance's essence makes use of the self-causation of its attributes' essences. The power to self-cause is requisite for substance to be unique, but

it is not by virtue of power that the substance is unique, it is by virtue of its essence: "If by the unicity of power (i.e. the power of the attributes), we understand how it is possible that the attributes are one despite the diversity of their proper essences, the reason that grounds their union in one substance alone is nothing other than the infinite constitutive perfection of the essence of God." (153b; Deleuze quoting Gueroult Spinoza 379-380)

[So what makes God one is the perfection of His essence. The perfection of his essence brings it about that substance causes itself by positing itself in the infinity of attributes that express substance's infinity, which goes hand in hand with it being self-caused. Substance's self-causation is its power, which is expressed in the independence of the attributes. But because they all share substance's same self-causation, this power to cause itself is requisite for the attributes to be unified in one substance. However, substance's self-causation is a feature of it's essence; hence substance's essence it the reason that substance is unique].


power is the inseparable distinctive feature of essence, and it expresses at once how the essence is the cause of the existence of substance and the cause of the other things that derive from it. (153c)

Thus the statement "power is nothing other than essence" has two meanings:

1) God has no other power than the power of his essence; he acts and produces only through his essence, and not through an understanding or a will: he is thus the cause of everything in the same sense that he is self-caused, since the notion of power expresses precisely the identity of the cause of every thing with the self-caused;

2) the products or effects of God are properties which derive from essence; they are thus modes, whose unity in the different attributes is in turn explained by the theme of power, that is, the identity of the causal act which posits the properties in each of the modes. (153c.d)

Because essence and power are so intertwined, we cannot take essences as models in a creative understanding [because essences are necessary and infinite], and power cannot be taken as a raw force in a creative will [because the self-causation is eternal, hence not created]. Understanding and will can only be modes (153-154). This devaluation of understanding allows it to take on an ambiguous meaning when we speak of the "understanding of God:" on the one hand, God's understanding would be utterly unlike that of finite creatures such as ourselves, so we could only grasp it analogically. However, by taking God's understanding as a mode, we take our understandings as being parts to it as a whole; but moreover, "we establish the adequation of all understanding to the forms which it includes, since modes envelope the perfections on which they depend in the same form as the perfections which constitute the essence of substance. Mode is an effect; but if the effect differs from the cause in essence and existence, it at least has in common with cause the forms that it envelopes only in its essence, whereas the forms constitute the essence of the substance" (154b).

[So even though modal thoughts are caused by substance and are hence really distinct from it, they also envelop the modal essences of which they are expressions, and these expressions are of the one substance; hence modal thoughts are both distinct from substance while being part of its unity].

Spinoza holds that human understanding may conceive the essence of God; this is the absolute rationalism of Spinozism (154c).

There would be no genetic and synthetic method if what is engendered were not in a way equal to what engenders (thus the modes are neither more nor less than substance). (154d)

Deleuze concludes by praising Gueroult's book for establishing "the genuinely scientific study of Spinozism" (155b).

Deleuze, Gilles. "Gueroult's General Method for Spinoza." in Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. London: Semiotext(e), 2004.

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