20 Jan 2009

Simon Duffy. The Logic of Expression: Quality, Quantity and Intensity in Spinoza, Hegel and Deleuze, Chapter 1, §7 "Et determinatio negatio est"

[The following summarizes Simon Duffy's extraordinary book, The Logic of Expression: Quality, Quantity and Intensity in Spinoza, Hegel and Deleuze, Chapter 1, §7.
Duffy's work is remarkable, so I highly recommend this book. If it costs too much, perhaps encourage your library to obtain a copy.]

Simon Duffy. The Logic of Expression: Quality, Quantity and Intensity in Spinoza, Hegel and Deleuze,

Chapter 1 "Spinoza from the point of view of an idealist or a materialist dialectic",

§7 "Et determinatio negatio est"

We might say that the book lying on the table has many pages, that is, many parts, and the book itself is the whole encompassing those parts. But then we might stand further away, and take into account the whole desk with all its accompanying objects. The whole work area itself is then a whole, whose parts are the many objects contained in it and on it. We could stand even further away and consider the desk as a part of the whole office, then consider the office as a part of the whole building, then the building as a part of the whole city, and so on. [We might even venture to say that all of reality is one whole that only arbitrarily is broken into parts.] In other words, under these considerations, part and whole seem to be arbitrary divisions our mind makes for its given purposes.

Spinoza likewise does not consider parts and wholes as real things. Rather, they are useful mental fabrications, "beings of reason" he calls them. He writes in his Short Treatise:

part and whole are not true or real entities, but only things of reason, and consequently there are in Nature neither whole nor parts.

So we may consider the book as sharing a boundary with the desk. Or we may not grant such a boundary, and consider the whole work area as complete in itself, with its own arbitrarily designated boundary with the other things in the office. Each time we arbitrarily designate a boundary, we are fabricating a being of reason, rather than identifying a real being. What constitutes the boundary between the desk and the book is a negational determination: the book is not the desk and it lies outside it, and vice versa. But really there never was such an internal opposition to all of reality.

However, in our minds, we may construe such a distinction in which there is a mutual negational determination. Hence Spinoza in his 50th letter to Jelles writes determinatio negatio est. [For more on this letter, see Macherey's commentary.]

As Duffy has explained, Hegel wants to write Spinoza into his dialectical history, so to render Spinoza's substance metaphysics as a lesser developed stage in his dialectical system. This turns upon Hegel's suspicious misreading of Spinoza's determinatio negatio est. Hegel reads it as omnis determinatio est negatio, "all determination is negation." This is a misleading misreading, because it suggests that Spinoza meant that for all of being, determination is negation. But really, Spinoza just meant, for only the beings of reason, determination is negation. (18c-19)

In the 50th letter, Spinoza speaks of determination when referring to figures. But Duffy shows that even Hegel himself does not consider figures as identical with the beings bearing them [see §206 of Hegel's Science of Logic.] Here is Duffy's notable contribution to this debate. He has found compelling evidence that even Hegel himself knew he had no grounds to overgeneralize Spinoza's claim.

So for Spinoza, a determinate mode is a unique entity only in our imagination. Modes are produced by substance, and modes modify substance. So in that sense modes are determined by substance. But substance is one with its modes. For, modes are immanent expressions of substance. Modal determinations are merely fabrications of the imagination.

Hence Hegel has "no justification" for interpreting Spinoza's theory of imaginary determinations as implying that all determination is negation. For, substance determines its own modes without them also negating substance. (19a.d)

Duffy, Simon. The Logic of Expression: Quality, Quantity and Intensity in Spinoza, Hegel and Deleuze. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2006.

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