21 Dec 2008

Spinoza, Ethics Part 1, Definition 6, with Deleuze's Commentary

by Corry Shores
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[the following is quotation; my summary and commentary is in brackets. Deleuze’s commentary is at the end. The Latin text comes last.]

Spinoza, Ethics

Part I "Concerning God"

Definition VI:

VI. By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite-that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.

[God is infinite substance, whose infinite nature is firstly expressed qualitatively in an infinity of attributes, each of which expresses an eternal and infinite essence of substance.]

Explanation-I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after its kind : for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, infinite attributes may be denied ; but that which is absolutely infinite, contains in its essence whatever expresses reality, and involves no negation.

[Substance is infinite not in any particular way, but in every particular way. If something expresses reality, then it expresses substance as well. Hence nothing that is, is not substance (everything that has being is substantial); in other words, there is nothing negative about substance, because no real thing is excluded from it. Hence there is no negation, rather only pure affirmation.]

Deleuze's Commentary:

The idea of expression appears in the first Part of the Ethics as early as the sixth Definition.


Dans le premier livre de l’Ethique, l’dée d’expression apparaît dès la définition 6.


The idea of expression is neither defined nor deduced by Spinoza, nor could it be. It appears as early as the sixth Definition, but is there no more defined than it serves to define anything. It defines neither substance nor attribute, since these are already defined (Definitions 3 and 4).


Sans doute y a-t-il une raison à cette situation du commentaire. C'est que l'idée d'expression chez Spinoza n'est objet ni de définition ni de démonstration, et ne peut pas l'être. Elle apparaît dans la définition 6 ; mais elle n'est pas plus définie qu'elle ne sert à définir. Elle ne définit ni la substance ni l'attribut, puisque ceux-ci le sont déjà (3 et 4).


Definition 6: The real definition of God, as absolutely infinite Being, that is, as “substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, each of which expresses and eternal and infinite essence.” The definition takes up the terms “substance” and “attribute” and gives them the status of realities.


Définition 6 : c’est la définition réelle de Dieu, comme Etre absolument infinie, c’est-à-dire « substance consistant en une infinité d’attributs dont chacun exprime une essence éternelle et infinie ». Cette définition reprend les termes substance et attribut, pour leur donner un statut réel.


From the Latin:

VI. Per Deum intelligo ens absolute infinitum, hoc est, substantiam constantem infinitis attributis, quorum unumquodque æternam, & infinitam essentiam exprimit.
Dico absolute infinitum, non autem in suo genere; quicquid enim in suo genere tantum infinitum est, infinita de eo attributa negare possumus; quod autem absolute infinitum est, ad ejus essentiam pertinet, quicquid essentiam exprimit, & negationem nullam involvit.


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.

Spinoza. Ethics. Transl. Elwes. available online at:


Spinoza. Ethica. available online at:


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