22 Dec 2008

Spinoza's Ethics Part 1, Proposition 10, 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"

Proposition X:

Prop. X. Each particular attribute of the one substance must be conceived through itself.

[We cannot conceive one attribute by means of another.]

Proof.-An attribute is that which the intellect perceives of substance, as constituting its essence (Def. iv.), and, therefore, must be conceived through itself (Def. iii.). Q.E.D.

[We know that attributes are substance's essences, and it is by means of essences that our intellect perceives substance. Because substance must be conceived through itself, so too must its attributes be conceived through themselves, because substance is no different from its essence; for, its essence is its existence.]

Note–It is thus evident that, though two attributes are, in fact, conceived as distinct-that is, one without the help of the other-yet we cannot, therefore, conclude that they constitute two entities, or two different substances. For it is the nature of substance that each of its attributes is conceived through itself, inasmuch as all the attributes it has have always existed simultaneously in it, and none could be produced by any other ; but each expresses the reality or being of substance. It is, then, far from an absurdity to ascribe several attributes to one substance : for nothing in nature is more clear than that each and every entity must be conceived under some attribute, and that its reality or being is in proportion to the number of its attributes expressing necessity or eternity and infinity. Consequently it is abundantly clear, that an absolutely infinite being must necessarily be defined as consisting in infinite attributes, each of which expresses a certain eternal and infinite essence.

[Nothing prevents substance from having more than one attribute, even though each attribute must be conceived without reference to the others. In fact, because substance is infinite, it has an infinity of infinite attributes.]

If anyone now ask, by what sign shall he be able to distinguish different substances, let him read the following propositions, which show that there is but one substance in the universe, and that it is absolutely infinite, wherefore such a sign would be sought in vain.

[But if all substances have an infinity of attributes, we might wonder how we are to distinguish them. And we might ask what sign can represent their distinguishing features. We need not do so, however, because as we will see in the following propositions, there is only one substance anyway.]

Deleuze's Commentary:

Propositions 9 and 10: The second stage: as real distinction is not numerical, distinct attributes or qualified substances together form one and the same substance having all these qualifications, that is, all the attributes. The second sequence closes in the Scholium to Proposition 10, which establishes that an absolutely infinite substanceimplies no contradiction, so that Definition 6 is indeed a real one.

Propositions 9 et 10, seconde étape : la distinction réelle n'étant pas numérique, les attributs distincts ou substances qualifiées forment une seule et même substance ayant toutes les qualifications, c'est-à-dire tous les attributs. Cette seconde série s'achève dans le scolie de 10 ; celui-ci constate qu'une substance absolument infinie n'implique pas contradiction. La définition 6 est donc une définition réelle.

From the Latin:

Unumquodque unius substantiæ attributum per se concipi debet.
Attributum enim est id, quod intellectus de substantia percipit, tanquam ejus essentiam constituens (per Defin. 4), adeoque (per Defin. 3) per se concipi debet. Q.E.D.
Ex his apparet, quod, quamvis duo attributa realiter distincta concipiantur, hoc est, unum sine ope alterius, non possumus tamen inde concludere, ipsa duo entia, sive duas diversas substantias constituere; id enim est de natura substantiæ, ut unumquodque ejus attributorum per se concipiatur; quandoquidem omnia, quæ habet, attributa simul in ipsa semper fuerunt, nec unum ab alio produci potuit; sed unumquodque realitatem, sive esse substantiæ exprimit. Longe ergo abest, ut absurdum sit, uni substantiæ plura attributa tribuere; quin nihil in natura clarius, quam quod unumquodque ens sub aliquo attributo debeat concipi, &, quo plus realitatis, aut esse habeat, eo plura attributa, quæ & necessitatem, sive æternitatem, & infinitatem exprimunt, habeat; & consequenter nihil etiam clarius, quam quod ens absolute infinitum necessario sit definiendum (ut Defin. 6 tradidimus) ens, quod constat infinitis attributis, quorum unumquodque æternam, & infinitam certam essentiam exprimit. Si quis autem jam quærit, ex quo ergo signo diversitatem substantiarum poterimus dignoscere, legat sequentes Propositiones, quæ ostendunt in rerum natura non, nisi unicam substantiam, existere, eamque absolute infinitam esse, quapropter id signum frustra quæreretur.


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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