BRIEF NOTES ON: Deleuze, G.  (1992) Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza.  Trans Martin Joughin.  Zone Books:  New York

[This is far too complex and contextual for me to manage to summarize in any extensive way.  I have read it instead as a more detailed exposition of the arguments that are just stated in Deleuze's shorter book on Spinoza.  This one goes into much more depth about the ways in which Spinoza defends his views, on monism and univocity, for example, against earlier philosophers, especially Descartes.  There also clear entanglements with scholasticism and theology which are beyond me.  All I can get is a gloss.  Incidentally, some of the difficulties I have already experienced with Deleuze on Spinoza and Deleuze on Leibniz are explained, rather reassuringly as arising from difficulties in translation.  For example, 'comprehension' is a much more general term in French, involving both understanding and inclusion, the latter as in comprehensive schools or comprehensive insurance policies, I suppose.  Equally mysteriously, the fold is seen as a much more general distinction, not something that just happens in external reality, but something that divides inner and external reality, which I began to grasp reading Deleuze on Foucault, especially the last chapter.  Similarly, the French terms expliquer and impliquer carry more general meanings than the formal operations of spelling things out and logically trying to see implications].

Part 1 The Triads of Substance [sounds like Dr Who]

For me, the key thing is to recognize that this is about expressionism.  Expressionism is a mechanism that combines universal substance, particular attributes, and specific modes.  These are not joined together by models of causality, nor by processes of analogy (apparently Spinoza sees analogy as anthropomorphic, at least when it is used to try to understand God).  God is not an initial creator.  Instead, he expresses himself in attributes, and those attributes express essences, and essences appear in different ways in modes.  (Philosophers must forgive any imprecision in my  expressions here). This preserves God, but as universal substance or nature -- pantheism, the critics said, apparently. Such a model implies univocity not dualism, including not Cartesian dualisms between thought and matter.  It permits us to understand what is going on through explication and implication.  We can see that modes imply attributes, attributes imply essences, and they also imply an underlying single substance.  Similarly, we can see that substance explicates itself, first in the form of attributes and then in the form of modes.  This seems to me that this then serves the purpose that Deleuze says he is after in his Introduction—a model of reality that works through immanence, connecting the virtual with the empirical or actual, not as a matter of causes, but as a matter of expression.  This is only my initial understanding, but it helps to grasp the processes of actualization spelled out in more detail in Difference and Repetition.

We are offered a homely analogy to help us understand classic expressionism —the seed expresses the tree so that 'what is expressed is at the same time involved in its expression'.  Attributes do not just reflect essences, rather essences are constituted by attributes that express it (80).  God does not just manifest himself in the world, but he expresses himself, it is part of his constitution, his essential nature [and other alternative conceptions of God are seen as confusing propria with essence, specifically all the qualities of omnipotence and perfection and so on are propria compared to the essence of God which is to exist as an infinite or absolute substance.  The suspicion that they are propria arises from Spinoza's argument that they are just anthropomorphised, through the process of eminence. Such absolute infinity provide sufficient reason for things to exist [earlier, there had been some discussion of the notion of conatus or self preservation.  Apparently, Leibniz wanted to argue that God wished to preserve himself in his manifestations, while Spinoza sees that only modes display conatus, and that there is another link between the virtual and the actual, through expressionism, not dependent upon attributing any particular will to God].

The end result of the discussion and debate with Descartes and with Leibniz [who actually met Spinoza apparently] is a threefold formulation of substance (actually, the second attempt, and the third one is hinted at below too, concerning infinity) : '(1) All forms of being are equal and equally perfect, and there is no inequality of perfection between attributes; (2) Every form is thus unlimited and each attribute expresses an infinite essences; (3) All forms thus belong to one and the same substance, and all attributes are equally affirmed, without limitation, of an absolutely infinite substance' (81-82).  Notice that in the middle of that argument is a denial that numerical difference expresses real distinctions, which is probably some sort of basis for Deleuze's discussion of difference?  Spinoza seems to be suggesting that attributes are infinite and therefore must be distinct, while numerical relations imply the same form.  As usual, all this depends on the definitions or axioms with which he began.  As an example of that, try this bit on page 74: 'If absolutely infinite being did not exist there would have to be a reason for this non existence; this reason would have to be internal, and so absolute infinity would have to imply a contradiction']. 

There is also in there somewhere an implication that we can only understand what's going on by explication and implication. As I have noted in comments on Deleuze's other book on Spinoza, this formulation was also trifled with in Althusser's attempts to explain economic determinism in a non-causal and non-positivist manner (see diagram) . 'The economic' at the most general level is what is expressed in the more specific levels in the social formation, and explication and implication works to help us understand this? Deleuze admires this model at one stage in Diff and Rep, seeing the most general level of the economic as providing the problems to which the other levels offer limited solutions.

It also helps explain my personal puzzlement (which you will see now and then in my notes on other works so far), about Deleuze's insistence that inanimate objects 'express' themselves. He (and Guattari) use this form to argue that there is nothing special about human expression. Somehow, Hjemslev's linguistics is connected to this argument as well.  Of course, it only works as an account of objective reality IF you see reality as structured like that in the first place, with common properties (attributes) running between the actual and the virtual. So it is a definitional argument really.  I'm still sceptical enough to insist that this is only so because Spinoza and Deleuze have interpreted it that way in the first place. No doubt there are sound arguments,mostly based on exposing contradictions in Cartesian dualism, I am no philosopher, but the whole thing seems to depend, as usual, on some special pleading of an abductive kind, masquerading as logical deduction from axioms, with some slippery definitions at the heart of it all, and ambiguous uses of the term 'must': a close reading of this book would reveal that easily enough.

Among other rejections of Descartes, Spinoza wants to revise his view that because a person exists as a thinking being, and those thoughts include the notion of God, those thoughts must have actually been caused by something even more perfect.  Deleuze explains the comment, that you find elsewhere, that Descartes had got to this point of view 'too quickly', that is he quickly jumps to attributing to God this status as a more perfect being, although, for Spinoza, this is a description of propria and not essence.  There is also a strange argument about Descartes thinking that it was as easy for God to go ahead and create a human being with powers to grasp ideas as not to do so.  Instead, Spinoza proposes further thinking about power and the power of things to exist, depending on the notion of the essence of God as absolute, not just as a perfect being.  Ultimately, his own proof of God is going to turn on the argument that humans do not have the power to preserve themselves, so their preservation must depend on some higher power: '1.  The more something has of reality or perfection, the more existence does it involve…;2.  Whatever has the power to preserve itself ...requires no cause of its existence [either possibly or necessarily]...;3.  I am imperfect, and so have no necessary existence, and have not the power to preserve myself; I am preserved by something else, something else that must necessarily have the power to preserve itself, and must therefore exist necessarily' (88)

Be that as it may, the discussion led on to issues raised with the point about conatus earlier.  Existence involves having a degree of power, a capacity to exist.  Only infinite being can exist necessarily, with no external cause, so the more reality or perfection in a thing, the more power it has, the more likely it is to exist.  What is it that has the power to bring modes into existence and preserve them?  The answer must be the attributes not the modes themselves, because modes are mixed, and are also subject to influences from other bodies.  Whenever powers to exist modes have arise from their being part of a bigger whole, and the same goes for the other levels What gives attributes this power is that they contain the essences of modes, but they also are contained themselves in nature.  Nature has the power to come into existence, through attributes and then through modes.  For Spinoza, this is the only way nature can come into existence, so, roughly, the self preservation of nature must involve actualizations through attributes.  So again we can use implications to see what gives modes the power to exist, and we must use explication to understand the dynamics of this process.

There are also implications for thought, which is closely tied to the power of existing.  So knowledge of our own human bits of perfection, human attributes like justice and charity, leads us to see these as communications between us and God, a mere set of the infinite attributes that god possesses—so our power is to be part of the infinite power of God, '"explicated" by our essence itself' (92), and these are infinite powers explicated in our essences, and those of all finite things.  Once we've been granted these essences, we can develop powers up to the maximum they provide, a power of acting and being acted upon: only God is not acted upon.  Deleuze notes here that modes have both fixed essences and variable powers.  Finally, substances only exist by producing an infinity of things, and we can grasp this in in thought.

Part 2 Parallelism and Immanence

Why does God create anything?  [This is an issue that's always interested me how and why the virtual bothers to actualise itself.  DeLanda sees it is entirely a matter of changing the energy settings of different vectors, almost as an unintended consequence?].  Spinoza reminds us that God is infinite and therefore possesses infinite attributes.  It is a mistake to assume that he has creative powers or wills, since that would be to try to grasp him with an analogy with human beings, and also involve some logical difficulties [the only one I think I understood was suggesting that if he exercises his will in a particular direction, that implies he could have done otherwise, which would make him arbitrary, or we are forced to explain evil as something that did not come from God's will. I also like the argument that revelation, as in the Bible, can tell us nothing about the essence of God since it is all about moral codes and precepts for living -- a bit like Deleuze's view that opinion is the enemy of philosophy].  Instead of creation, God simply expresses his infinite essence, as a part of the essence itself, because he must.

Expression follows an interesting staged course, first to attributes, whose essences are part of the universal essence, then those attributes express themselves in modes, first infinite and then finite.  'One may see in this the triad of substance "descending" into the attributes and communicating itself to the modes' (110).  Modifications are also expressions, this time secondary ones, of attributes.  This helps Spinoza move beyond the normal ideas of causality, since we retain a notion of independent things and autonomous series.  The attributes are equal but separate, and so they cannot cause each other.  Instead, they each display the same process, which affects all the different modes, hence the idea of a parallelism. There is also the idea that modes have something in common even though they differ in the attributes to which they relate—it is the same process of modification, a further stage in expression.  I think the argument is there is no other kind of modification, despite the infinity of attributes, except expression in the mode of the essence of the attribute, which is itself an expression of the absolute essence of substance.  The modification is an expression of substance, while actual modes require attributes as an intermediary step.  This difference is one between an ontological and a formal process respectively.  Infuriatingly, the argument goes on to say 'modification has no existence outside the modes expressing it', which is either highly consistent or circular: Deleuze thinks it shows that expression is simply the opposite process of comprehension [as in explication and implication] [See above for the ambiguity of 'comprehension'].

The same structure applies to ideas or thoughts [despite some difficulties which I did not follow, and which were resolved by appealing to the nature of God as having two powers -- one to exist and one to think. Every thought corresponds to a thing,and vice versa. I trhink the issue is that this would produce an infinity of ideas except that, again, the thought of God imposes a consistency]

Sorry but at this point I had to give up. It is all too 'philsosophical' for me, increasingly dependent on you knowing Descartes as well as Spinoza and being familiar with C17th conceptions of cause etc. There are hair-splitting logical arguments where if you accept a point on page 15, you have to draw a conclusion pon page 30 after a great deal of convoluted argument and redefinition. I htink the short book on Spinoza is good enough for me at the moment