Cont Philos Rev (2007) 40:389–406 DOI 10.


The errant name: Badiou and Deleuze on individuation, causality and infinite modes in Spinoza
Jon Roffe

Published online: 29 November 2007 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Abstract Although Alain Badiou dedicates a number of texts to the philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza throughout his work—after all, the author of a systematic philosophy of being more geometrico must be a point of reference for the philosopher who claims that ‘‘mathematics = ontology’’—the reading offered in Meditation Ten of his key work Being and Event presents the most significant moment of this engagement. Here, Badiou proposes a reading of Spinoza’s ontology that foregrounds a concept that is as central to, and celebrated in, his philosophy as it is strictly excluded by Spinoza: the void. In nuce, Badiou contends that for all of Spinoza’s efforts to offer an ontology of total plenitude, the void returns in his philosophy under the (at first sight) unlikely name of infinite mode. The presence of this errant name in Spinoza’s philosophy bears witness to the failure of his most profound intellectual endeavour. However striking Badiou’s reading of Spinoza, this paper argues that it fails to adequately grasp Spinoza’s metaphysics, particularly with respect to the central concept of modal essence, a concept which does not appear at all in the Badiouian text. By introducing a consideration of this concept, it becomes able to resolve the status of infinite modes, and to account for the move across the notorious finite–infinite divide. Thus the argument turns to the reading of Spinoza offered by Gilles Deleuze for a more thorough-going and nuanced approach, much superior to Badiou’s procrustean critique. Keywords Badiou Á Being and event Á Spinoza Á Infinite modes Á Essence Á Deleuze Á Expressionism in philosophy

J. Roffe (&) University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e-mail:


390 J. to see that the strong critique of Spinoza’s project advances only on the basis of a number of significant elisions and oversights. Badiou proposes a reading of Spinoza’s ontology that foregrounds a concept that is as central to. and that when we grasp the meaning of finite and infinite for Spinoza himself. Roffe 1 Introduction Alain Badiou dedicates a number of texts to the philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza throughout his work. Deleuze’s account of the Spinozist concept of modal essence offers a cogent solution to the problem of individuation. The presence of this errant name in Spinoza’s philosophy bears witness to the failure of his most profound intellectual endeavour. notably his treatment of the infinite and the finite. and celebrated in. I will challenge on a number of points Badiou’s exposition of Spinoza. however. and that in particular. which is the problem of individuation: how do infinite modes relate to particular existing modes for Spinoza? Thus. be found throughout all of his published work. I will argue that this issue of individuation can be resolved by paying attention to the theme of modal essence. It is thus all the more surprising when we turn to the most substantial of these engagements. 1 Notable are the passages under discussion here in Being and Event (Badiou 2006) and ‘‘Spinoza’s closed ontology’’ (Badiou 2004). the void returns in his philosophy under the (at first sight) unlikely name of infinite mode. 4). I will first give an exposition of Badiou’s intricate critique of Spinoza. The argument that follows is organised into three moments.2 It is my contention that Badiou only presents the version of Spinoza amenable to his theoretical orientation. In nuce. Meditation Ten in Being and Event (2006) simply entitled ‘Spinoza’. a discussion which also considers the accompanying argument in ‘‘Spinoza’s closed ontology’’. including (perhaps most decisively) his reading of the history of mathematics.1 There are clear similarities between the two projects. Badiou does uncover a different problem in Spinoza’s thought. and thus his attention is not surprising: after all. More generally. the argument presented here can be taken as case study for Badiou’s rigour in addressing figures in the history of philosophy. the conclusions of this piece—which advance an affirmation of Badiou’s reading in its themes if not its details—are at odds with my own. his philosophy as it is strictly excluded by Spinoza: the void. from Plato through to his companion-nemesis Deleuze himself. Next. Badiou contends that for all of Spinoza’s efforts to offer an ontology of total plenitude. References can. However. I contend that this explication of Spinoza removes all of the critical force of Badiou’s reading of his philosophy in Being and Event. p. thirdly. Moreover. the author of a systematic philosophy of being more geometrico must be a point of reference for the philosopher who claims that ‘‘mathematics = ontology’’ (Badiou 2006. the alleged problem concerning the ontological status of infinite modes dissolves. However. Badiou’s discussion of the Spinozist text demonstrates a clear commitment to rigorous reading. 2 Badiou’s discussion of Spinoza is admirably glossed in Gillespie (2001). 123 . In this text.

Book 1. In fact. see Clemens (2005). in itself. For an excellent explication of some of these connections.3 Situation is Badiou’s first and most important ontological or meta-ontological concept. every modality. Inconsistency haunts the abstract form of the situation. We must consider this definition in its proper generality: in order for anything to exist as a consistent whole. they do not come to bear on his reading of Spinoza. and the void as the proper name of being. xi). but it imposes no predication or form beyond the composition of consistency for a given multiple. or what Badiou also calls presented multiplicity) is the result of the countas-one. and is as such global. then inconsistent multiplicity is implicated prior to the activity of the count. This generality also guarantees the abstraction proper to the concept: the count-as-one is the universal operator of consistency. The situation is defined as any result of an operation of counting-as-one— that is. the void is that local inconsistency ‘‘proper’’ to the situation in question. cannot. it is precisely this inconsistency as such that cannot be counted-as-one. Let’s note an important supposition: if consistent multiplicity (or multipleoneness. and it is a void particular to the situation in question. The scope of the concept of situation is likewise completely universal: it pertains to every level. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 391 2 Badiou’s reading of Spinoza The meditation on Spinoza in Being and Event comes at the end of the second division of the text. 4 123 . which is the name of inconsistency in the situation (under the law of the count-as-one). Given that this meditation begins with a paraphrase of Ethics. Badiou says. proposition 15 (‘‘Whatever is. which is the void. and challenges it with a particular kind of formal powerlessness.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. a retroactively legible consequent of the count itself. in which Badiou elaborates his concept of the state of the situation. every form of being. the null set. statement and number: E2P6C referring to the corollary of the sixth proposition of Book 2 of the Ethics. 3 All references to Spinoza’s Ethics will conform to the standard procedure. I leave aside here the further connections between the void of a situation. as oultlined by Edwin Curley in Spinoza (1985. It is. (BE 93) The inherence of that inconsistency particular to a consistent presented multiple is given a very precise name by Badiou. As Badiou suggests: The consistency of the multiple amounts to the following: the void. this inconsistency is in fact the source of a perennial and very real problem that confronts any situation: consistent unified multiples are always threatened with the inconsistency that their count-as-one presupposes. be presented or fixed. Now. references will be structured according to book. it will be worth defining these two terms briefly. The void belongs to every situation. is in God…’’ [Quicquid est in Deo est]) which reads: ‘‘all situations have the same state’’. an operation of counting-as-one must be presupposed. And every consistent whole as such is a situation. That is. and every content thereof. as any consistent multiple whatsoever produced through a unifying operation. As important as they are to Badiou’s philosophy.4 Whereas inconsistency is a retroactive posit relative to every count-as-one.

also belongs to the situation. b. {c}. then the state of the situation is indicated by the relation of inclusion. This is the root of Cantor’s infamous continuum hypothesis. {a.e. clearly in excess of the three in a. a resecuring of the structural oneness of the situation. the excess in question is radically beyond measure. as in the case of situations for Badiou. Roffe It is at this point that the concept of the state is put into play by Badiou. and. Thus the goal of this second count is to attempt to master the revenant of inconsistency. {a. and which the second count-as-one takes as its regime. In ZF set theory. P(a) = {{a}. by further securing the relation of belonging at a more precise level. . The second count counts-as-one all those elements counted-as-one in the formation of the situation. Here Badiou draws upon a connection between this second count and what he argues is its set-theoretic counterpart. Take the following set a. c} The power set of a. it is always a subset of every set—a point of great importance to Badiou [see Meditation 7 of Badiou (2006a)] Now. what is counted is members of the set. c}. where n is the number of members in the initial set. the word is partie. In short the state of the situation is what guarantees that everything countedas-one in a situation is secured in its belonging by the excessive power of determination that the second count brings about. As Badiou points out in Meditation 7 of Being and Event.6 Badiou also notes another important point which distinguishes the first count from the second: in the first count. the void qua localised inconsistency. the power of this second count is in excess of that of the first. {b}. c}. but they belong in an unregulated fashion. Furthermore. Thus. What remains uncounted directly are the subsets or submultiples of the situation. the void is universally included in every set—that is. {b. c}. the number of members or the size of P(a) (also written |P(a)|) would be eight. {a.5 This is of course one of Cantor’s famous discoveries. If we take the situation as any set (as Badiou himself does). 6 5 Badiou discusses this characteristic of set theory in Meditation 7 of Badiou (2006a). i. The last member is the letter for the empty set. It is for Badiou a second count of the original count-as-one itself.. whereby every subset of the set in question is itself counted-as-one. Now these subsets certainly belong to the situation (insofar as the multiples they belong to have been counted). and in the same fashion. [} The last two members here are of note: the penultimate is known as the maximal subset. or multiples themselves. accounts for the radical excess of the power of the state over its attendant situation. the number of members of any power set is equal to 2n. which concerns the relative size (or cardinality) of certain infinite sets. thereby excluding the void from disrupting the consistency of the situation. Thus. {}.. which is translated by Oliver Feltham.392 J. the void. characterised by the primal relation of belonging [ (or counting-as-one). for a. the size of the power set (or the state of the situation) becomes impossible to measure. Badiou writes: The consistency of presentation thus requires that all structure be doubled by a metastructure which secures the former against any fixation of the void. where a = {a. the power-set axiom. has its members all of the subsets (in the French. 123 . the subset which includes all of the members of the original set. though it also must be read as the more technical subset) of a. written P(a). as part. and when we turn to any infinite set (which all situations are). in Badiou’s terms. b}. It is thus at this sub-level of the situation that the threat of inconsistency remains. Once the set in question becomes infinite. b.

’’ (Badiou 2006a. p. which is also finite and has a determinate existence. if we return to Badiou’s opening paraphrase of Spinoza’s Quicquid est in Deo est. 93–4) Now. For Badiou. Badiou begins with a more detailed account meditation 10 of L’e of the equation between situation and substance than that which I offered earlier: ‘‘for Spinoza. which is also finite and has a determinate existence. and substance (God or nature) the name given to the state. Of course it is the modes that he is referring to here: A composition of multiple individuals (plura individua) is actually one and the same singular thing provided that these individuals contribute to one unique action. 123 . in composing an indissoluble ontological unity between substance and attributes. Spinoza’s philosophy still admits the void. to infinity. or any thing which is finite and has a determinate existence. is causality. however magnificent the effort to bring about this foreclosure. In Badiou’s words: ‘‘If in fact I can only determine the one of a singular thing insofar as the multiple that it is produces a unique effect. 112) That is. So. 112) Here. The force of Badiou’s argument rests on the insistence that. Badiou is invoking the following proposition (EIP28) in the Ethics: Every singular thing [res singulares]. However. Every operation of the count-as-one (which brings about the existence or presentation of singular things) relies upon the supposition of a prior singular thing which would be its cause. this cause also can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exist and produce and effect by another. that is. pp. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 393 (Badiou 2006a. we can say that an inconsistent multiple of existing modes is counted-as-one through the causal activity of an existing consistent multiple (Spinoza’s res singulares). With these points in mind. we can see that this is strictly speaking true. p. the individuated elements of substance are in the first instance presented as unified-by-cause. every situation has the same state. There are thus an infinite number of situations. under the name of the infinite mode. 112). and again. whose coherence or consistency are guaranteed or doubled by the substance that they are comprehended by or included in. structure. Badiou claims. Thus the unity of the singular thing in question is being supposed in its definition. p. insofar as they simultaneously cause a unique effect (unius effectus causa). According to Badiou. the count-as-one of a multiple. this seems consonant with Spinoza’s text. then I must already dispose of a criterion of such unicity’’ (Badiou 2006a. Again. Badiou transposes these terms into Spinoza’s thought in the following way: situation is the name given to the attributes. can neither exist nor be determined to produce an effect unless it is determined to exist and produce an effect by another cause. we are dealing here with a manifest case of circularity. (Badiou 2006a. we can turn to the substance of Badiou’s argument in ˆtre et l’e ´ve ´nement. Spinoza aims to foreclose any possibility of the void returning to threaten the organization or structure of the attributes and the unity of Deus sive Natura.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. and so on.

is well and truly named and placed by Spinoza under the concept of infinite mode. as one singular thing. but that each thing which exists is caused to do so by God. and one which has not been determined by God cannot determine itself to produce an effect. to that extent. Badiou’s point here (one I have noted already) is that Spinoza’s attempt fails: this foreclosure fails. EIP26) This is a textbook example of what Badiou means by the second count-as-one. Thus it is important. He insists in fact that finitude is ‘‘an essential predicate’’ of every singular thing. or even provide an explicit definition of his own. whose metastructural or divine closure should ensure that it remains in-existent and unthinkable. or unified finite modes. and Badiou himself quotes the same text. In Spinoza’s terms: ‘‘A thing which is determined to produce an effect has necessarily been determined in this way by God. is that they have a singular effect. it is at the ‘‘notorious’’ point of intersection between ‘‘the infinite and the finite’’ that the void re-emerges. Roffe Badiou then notes that this circularity does not bother Spinoza at all. The reader is left with two possible explanations. despite himself—and thus with the highest unconscious awareness of his task—the point (excluded everywhere by him) at which one can no longer avoid the supposition of a Subject. p. what individuates singular things. to the effect that every finite thing is caused by another finite thing. To my mind. 123 . which grasps them in their individuality. doubtless making reference to EIID7: By singular thing I understand things that are finite and have a determinate existence. Existing composite modes (singular things) in a given attribute are guaranteed in their composition by the causal agency of substance. only the second of 7 Interestingly. God. and so on to infinity. 113) More precisely. It is not just the case that singular things are determined as such through causation. before turning to the question of infinite modes directly. as we will see. or he is employing a different definition that likewise remains implicit. I consider them all.7 Badiou 2006a. And if a number of Individuals so concur in one action that together they are all the cause of one effect. But in what sense are finite things finite according to Badiou? Here we find a surprising lacuna in his own text: not once does he mention Spinoza’s own account of finitude. In sum. the state of the situation. and this is because the count-as-one of the multiplicity of existing modes that renders them consistent as a singular thing is guaranteed by the state of the situation. I have already quoted EIP28. he continues by adding the following remark which would be worth pursuing elsewhere: ‘‘One could also say that the infinite mode is where Spinoza designates.’’ (Spinoza 1985.’’ This is closely related to the central argument in Badiou (2004).394 J. to insist on the role that finite modes play in Badiou’s analysis. and […] the void. Either Badiou in fact has Spinoza’s definition of finitude (EID2) in mind implicitly. that is.

’’ the name ‘infinite mode’ can only be given to the void that emerges here in the causal chain: that is. and if whatever follows from God or God’s attributes are necessarily infinite. there is no direct answer to this question. as Badiou notes. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 395 these is a viable option. in Badiou’s words. EIP22) Finally P28 tells us that every singular thing (‘‘or [sive] any thing which is finite and has a determinate existence’’) only exists and causes effects of its own if it in turn is caused to exist by another pre-existing singular thing. Badiou’s account of finite modes overlooks their essential character for Spinoza: their limited nature. worth quoting at length. we only find three moments in the text which address these modes directly or indirectly. ‘‘the void would be the errancy of 123 . through the same attribute. in letters for the most part. Taken together.’’ (Badiou 2006a. what concerns Badiou is the ontological status of infinite modes: ‘‘The question is that of knowing in which sense these infinite modes exist. As I will show in the next section of the paper. must also exist necessarily and be infinite.’’ The next proposition. At the ‘‘notorious’’ point of intersection between ‘‘the infinite and the finite’’. a brevity that is for Badiou nothing if not symptomatic of the causal status of the infinite mode. With these points in place we can now turn to the heart of Badiou’s argument. and the point at which the problematic figure of the infinite mode is put into play. given his mathematical orientation. If existing modes are finite by definition. and by and large only repeat the examples given ¨ ller: EIIP13L7 (concerning the entirety of extended modality as a single to Schu Individual). As a result. And. as we know. (Spinoza 1985. EVP40S (which invokes the totality of the modes expressing the attribute of thought as ‘‘the eternal and infinite understanding of God’’) and EIP22 which I have already mentioned (the proposition that argues that infinite causes lead to infinite effects). exists necessarily and is infinite. applies this insight to modes: Whatever follows from some attribute of God insofar as it is modified by a modification which. a (supposed) infinite thing can only produce the infinite. the concept of the infinite mode seems to be a contradiction in terms. for Badiou. and in these cases with puzzling brevity. a contrario. these singular things in Spinoza are none other than existing modes. and. It is the latter that defines the finite. his discussion of what he calls ‘‘Spinoza’s deductive procedure’’ (P21. Proposition 21 claims that ‘‘everything which follows from the absolute nature of any of God’s attributes […] is infinite. then what the name ‘infinite mode’ really refers to is a causal gap between the orders of finite and infinite. p. 117) When we turn to Spinoza’s work itself. rather than their denumerability. ‘‘the immediate cause of a singular finite thing can only be a singular finite thing. according to which finitude is defined by the successor relationship between ordinals. Infinite modes are referred to only in passing.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. 22 and 28 from Book I of the Ethics). In sum: given that. Put in another way. the void re-emerges. On his count. he considers that they show a causal fork emerging which separates infinite and finite.

but inexistent: the infinite mode. Badiou gives an account of the issue under discussion here that rests on slightly different points of emphasis: As regards questions of existence. and therefore itself inadequate ground for any existence. The entire series of causes reaching back to infinity cannot ex hypothesi be summed. then there must be. In EIP8D we find the demonstration of the proposition: ‘‘Every substance is necessarily infinite’’. is infinite. a ‘‘body of a body’’. the infinite is only introduced as a predicate in EID6. It fills in […] the causal abyss between the infinite and the finite. the reality of which we cannot grasp. His problem is rather ‘‘on the other side’’. the definition of God: ‘‘By God I understand a being absolutely infinite…’’ The axioms that follow these opening definitions make no reference to infinity at all. of the object).396 J. the extensive attribute. on the other hand. In the words of Errol Harris: Every finite and contingent existence requires a cause which is itself finite and contingent.9 An awareness of the fork between finite and infinite in the regime of causation is certainly in play in medieval thought. Roffe the incommensurability between infinite and finite. (Badiou 2004[k1]. and he was quite justified. In fact. For him. a definition which I will return to). 4. if there is a rigorous parallelism between the chain of ideas and the chain of bodies. relies on the positing of an uncaused cause. and that is the claim that the existence of the infinite is axiomatic for Spinoza. But. However. He did not at all seek to infer the existence of the infinite from the recurrence of ideas.’’8 I quote the final paragraph of Badiou’s discussion: Necessary. it produces only a vicious circle. It is. its radical absence. in wanting to draw from the Spinozist recurrence a conclusive (and non-axiomatic) thesis on the infinite. p. 120) 3 On Badiou’s reading Before going on. what is striking about the opening of Book 1 of the Ethics is that whereas the finite is defined (EID2. Because. etc. in the context of his sympathetic yet critical reading of Dedekind’s account of the infinite. a thesis whose roots are of course found in Aristotle. There is no axiomatic reference to infinity to be found anywhere in Ethics.. the existence of the infinite is an axiom. involved as it is to take only one important example—in the cosmological argument for the existence of God. the side of the body (or for Dedekind. it only does so in being the technical name of the abyss: the signifier ‘infinite mode’ organises a subtle misrecognition of this void which was to be foreclosed. Unless it can be grounded (as a whole) in a necessarily existent first 8 In Badiou (1990).22) There is at least one obvious point we can take issue with here. And this argument itself. back to Aristotle). in theory. because he postulated an infinite substance that he was able to establish that the chain that goes from the idea of a body to ideas of ideas of ideas. 9 Badiou himself is aware of this—he opens his 13th meditation of Being and Event by invoking the issue in Greek ontology of ‘‘the compatibility of divine infinity with the essentially finite…’’ 123 . at least in the form given to it by Aquinas (and beyond him. let’s note that the problem that Badiou’s analysis concerns itself with is not a new one. does not intervene. corresponding to the idea of an idea. Spinoza himself made sure not to proceed like Dedekind. (Badiou 2006a. but which insists on erring beneath the nominal artifice itself from which one deduced. Dedekind evades this problem because his site of thoughts assumes the Cartesian closure: the corporeal exterior.

a process which can continue indefinitely without the intervention of such an axiomatic decision. and on the basis of Spinoza’s theory of ideas expounded in Book II of the Ethics. pp. (Harris 1995. Now Harris demonstrates that the common solution to this problem has been recourse to either medieval or contemporary logic.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. According to this view. I want to discuss Spinoza’s definition of finite things. but only through an axiomatic decision (precisely the axiom of infinity in ZF set theory)—the more general point still holds. and that I will return to at the close of the paper. On the basis of these three points.1 The letter to Meyer: on-non numerical infinity For Badiou. Harris takes issue with this (and he manifestly has reason to do so) arguing that Their interpretation […] fails to do justice to Spinoza’s insight [concerning the relationship between infinite and finite]. Stewart Hampshire and AC Watt as proponents of this view. First. 3. I want to examine Spinoza’s account of infinity more closely. In sum. p. which to exist of necessity must be both infinite and eternal (for finitude implies contingency). it is ultimately unaccountable. Thus the causal connection between infinite and finite is rethought as a logical one. both finite and infinite are categories of number. particularly as he formulates his position in the letter to Meyer. I will then turn to Deleuze’s reading to offer an alternative to Badiou’s damning assessment. Thirdly. In the world of finite ordinals. For the moment. to cite his formulation of the set-theoretic axiom of infinity: ‘‘There exists a limit-ordinal’’ (Badiou 2006a. 28) It is this implicit insight that motivates my reading of Spinoza on this point. linking general propositions to particular cases. the infinite must be seized under this auspice. how it can be causally connected with any finite thing remains a mystery. the relationship of succession holds such that there can always be ‘one more’ finite number. Following Cantor. the infinite modes are taken to be a body of propositions which directly express the attribute in question. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 397 cause. But even if there is a necessarily existing being. 27–8) While Badiou would not agree with this account—on the grounds that infinity on his set theoretic account is not produced by the successive addition of finite instances. as he puts it in Le Nombre et les 123 . I want to challenge Badiou on three points of interpretation. I want to offer a provisional definition of a singular thing on the basis of the excursus on physics in Book II of the Ethics that undermines to a certain degree the importance given by the latter to causation. therefore. which went well beyond the ideas of the medievals and of his own day. and he cites Edwin Curley. 156). and finite existing modes are particular deductive applications of these. (Harris 1995. In some degree it even goes beyond his own explicit exposition. Second.

However. does not reside in the fact that they are a denumerable set of elemental particles. whereas there are other things. unlike Badiou’s presentation of his thought might suggest. he does give an alternative account of the nature of finitude such that it comes to bear on individuals composed infinitely in a certain manner without engaging with number. because they are alike incapable of numerical expression. when conceived abstractedly. and can by no means be conceived as finite. because they are alike incapable of numerical expression. For example. It does not follow that such are equal. be divided into parts. that is. 3.10) For Spinoza. the infinite can in no way be accounted for in terms of number. indefinite. there are some which are called infinite or. in the first of these. indefinite. Lastly. something we will turn to shortly. a body is called finite because we always 123 . Their finitude. §10. which provides well-known definitions of three different kinds of infinity: certain things are in their nature infinite. As Spinoza shows in Book 1.’’ (Badiou 1990.398 J. which may yet be conceived as greater or less. Proposition 8. Now. however. Spinoza’s world in a substantive sense is only composed of infinites—finitude as countability finds no place in his thought. we have no trouble recognizing the infinite pertaining to substance. however. and regarded as finite. ‘‘The space of the ordinals allows us to define the infinite and finite. Badiou is right to insist that finitude constitutes an irreducible part of the definition of any singular thing qua unified composite mode. it could not justifiably bear the name substance at all—a point that he also impresses upon Meyer earlier in the same letter. It does not follow that such are equal. infinite in virtue of the cause from which they are derived. We can recognize in this second definition the attributes. but also the infinite modes themselves. if you prefer. because they cannot be expressed in number. the second definition in Book 1 of the Ethics. Roffe nombres. never appears in Badiou’s text: That thing is said to be finite in its own kind that can be limited by another of the same nature. The definition of finitude in question. which can.2 Finitude and limitation We are now led to ask about the definition of finitude that Spinoza might utilise. which may yet be conceived as greater or less. The third kind of infinite defined by Spinoza concerns modal existence: ‘‘there are some which are called infinite or. along with its demonstration and scholia. because they cannot be expressed in number. The infinity proper to infinite modes—as the direct or mediate expressions of the attribute in question—is the result of their cause. if you prefer. if substance was not intrinsically infinite. This is most forcefully stated in the well-known letter 29 to Ludovicus Meyer of April 1663.’’ The surprising consequence of this claim is that finite modes are also infinite.

or una acto. To quote again: A composition of multiple individuals (plura individua) is actually one and the same singular thing provided that these individuals contribute to one unique action. This is in fact far from being correct. and worth highlighting because it is a fairly straightforward element of Spinoza’s account of extended modes. There are two other accounts of individuation to be found in the Ethics. 3. The second is at the level of existing modes themselves. insofar as they simultaneously cause a unique effect (unius effectus causa). the distinction between modal essence and existence. finitude is limit not denumerability. in Spinoza’s texts. But a body is not limited by a thought nor a thought by a body. a claim familiar from the famous Hegelian mobilisation of limit in relation to determination. Existing modes are only finite insofar as they are limited by another existing mode of the same kind. p. Spinoza provides only one way of individuating finite existing modes: that they together contribute to a single effect. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 399 conceive another that is greater. In another equally ontological sense they are infinite by definition. there is one aspect of individuation that can be explicated on the grounds that Badiou has already laid out. (Spinoza 1985. Spinoza’s account of finitude can be described as an account of the limitations imposed upon certain infinite composite modes or individuals by other such individuals. Thus a thought is limited by another thought. I will briefly outline this point before moving on to the more substantive issue. Badiou’s argument thus rests on causation being the sole agent of individuation on the level of the modes. However.3 ‘‘This union of bodies’’: an harmonic account of the individual Let’s recall that on Badiou’s account. 112) Or in other words. The first and more important of these concerns modal essence. (Badiou 2006a. EID2) For Spinoza. the count-as-one of a multiple […] is causality’’ (ibid). which we will return to in the next section of the paper. insofar as it cannot have another to be opposed to if it is to be infinite. Taken together with definitions contained in the letter to Meyer. and which problematises his account. ‘‘for Spinoza. My contention here is this: that Badiou’s insistence on the void that opens up between finite and infinite in Spinoza’s philosophy is misplaced. that is.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. constituting what could be characterised as a harmonic 123 . The real kernel of the problem is thus the question of individuation: how can a limited being come to exist on the basis of determinations effected by an unlimited substance with an infinite number of attributes? The answer to this new question manifestly concerns. This definition will play an important part in grounding his arguments for the uniqueness of substance.

In my exposition of Badiou above. Thus. It is rather that the internal quotient of movement and rest—the primal characteristics of all extended existing mode (‘‘All bodies either move or are at rest’’ [Spinoza 1985. The importance of this oversight is great. relate to the individuation of finite modes? Reference to infinite modes in the Spinozist text is. and thus their nomenclature is worth distinguishing from the rest of the Ethics. that they communicate their motions to each other in a certain fixed manner. or if they move. 4 Modal essence: individuation and infinite modes However.. I did not introduce any reference to the distinction between modal essence and modal existence for the simple reason that Badiou himself does not. even if the 10 The asterisk here and in what follows only indicates that the texts in question form part of the excursus on the physics of bodies. without any change of its form. there is no doubt that causation is an important part of this description—but it is not what ultimately characterises the Individual or res singulares in question. which is composed of a number of bodies. a ballet of parts. composite existing modes or res singulares are less effected products than swarms. or if the whole Individual moves in a new direction (L7*). as the immediate effects of God’s nature.. contrary to Badiou’s insistence on causality as the sole count-as-one. 123 . the same Individual is maintained: If. we shall say that those bodies are united with one another and that they all together compose one body or Individual. My contention is that we need to turn our attention to the distinction between modal essence and existence to make some headway. as Badiou notes. Spinoza’s Individuals. extremely sparse. if the internal movements of members change but without effecting their contribution of movement and rest to the Individual (L6*). whether with the same degree or different degrees of speed. Roffe account of the individual. of a body.400 J. the Individual will retain its nature. (Spinoza 1985. or of an Individual. EIIDef*)10 Now. EIIP13L4*) The same is true if the members of the Individual diminish or increase while still retaining the same harmony of movement (L5*). and at the same time as many others of the same nature take their place. The central definition of Spinoza’s account of the physics of bodies that we have already seen states the following: When a number of bodies […] are so constrained by other bodies that they lie upon another. (Spinoza 1985. some are removed. as before. the more substantial problem remains: how do infinite modes. EIIA1’*])—of a given set of modes that defines the greater unified individual. It is even the case for Spinoza that if the particular bodies that make up the Individual change without thereby changing the overall harmony of movement.

Badiou’s increased sensitivity to the issue of the transcendental and to certain themes at the heart of phenomenology (from Kant to Heidegger) does not assist in the attempt to grasp Spinoza’s ontology. that do not exist must be comprehended in God’s infinite idea in the same way as the formal essences of the singular things. As I have tried to show above. since it involves precisely this distinction. P22 and P28) that Badiou insists make up the essential deductive chain that his argument rests on. 114). this distinction (while latent in the distinction between consistent and inconsistent multiplicity as already discussed above) is not fully elaborated in a way that might take account of Spinoza’s position until the 2006 Logiques des Mondes. Indeed. for example: The essence of things produced by God does not involve existence. there is no real development of the encounter with Spinoza. no way to make any sense of Spinoza’s account of evil without it. the reading of Spinoza offered by Gilles Deleuze gives detailed attention to the distinction between modal essence and existence. unlike Badiou. which takes the form of the latter is the localised appearance (or being-there [e object. as Badiou himself suggested to me following a presentation of an attenuated version of this paper. and existence is the corresponding regime of objectivity. but also of their essence. for example. the being/existence distinction is given a great deal of attention. nowhere more than in the case of infinite modal essence. according to which the former is the ontological dimension of any multiple whatsoever. that the being/existence distinction could never function as an acceptable transliteration—into Badiou’s own terms—of Spinoza’s distinction between modal essence and existence. (EIIP8) It is striking in particular that these first two propositions lie in the middle of the three propositions (EI P21. for Spinoza. First of all. Thus being is the regime of consistency. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 401 concept of modal essence itself presents other very difficult problems. gives an account of the process of individuation that moves from infinite to finite without giving infinite modes the impossible task (strictly inconceivable for Spinoza) of mediating between substance and modes. In fact. infinity is irreducible to the order of enumeration and quantity. In this text. (EIP25) The ideas of singular things. or modes.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. despite numerous passing references. in insisting on this distinction. not only of the existence of things. Now.11 a point which is massively contradicted by a number of Spinoza’s own propositions. (EIP24) God is the efficient cause. p. Badiou’s apparent failure to distinguish between modal essence and modal existence renders many other elements of Spinozism impossible to understand—there is. Furthermore. we find him making the following claim and relying upon its efficacy throughout the tenth meditation: ‘‘‘to belong to God’ and ‘to exist’ are synonyms’’ (Badiou 2006a. or of modes. However. In short. since it would be set theory itself that would have to correspond to modal essence. the distinction between essence and existence in Spinoza does indeed have its correlate in his thought in the distinction between being and existence. Aside from its importance in giving an account of the nature of individuation in Spinoza’s system. even on the basis of this extremely brief account. In what follows. are contained in God’s attributes. However. It seems. there is substantial evidence that Badiou does not have any grip on the distinction itself. and the ˆtre-la `]) of this multiple. 123 . I will argue that Deleuze. the title of chapter 12 of his Expressionism in 11 A caveat is worth noting here.

Deleuze writes that: Modal essences are contained in their attribute. In brief. and so on. It should now be clear. the facies totius universi from the point of view of existence itself. 195–6) Deleuze summarises these points. p. infinite in virtue of the cause from which they are derived.. (Deleuze 1995. Where do modal essences fit in this picture? It is clear that they can neither be reduced to the attributes directly. while at the level of God’s essence (which is also modal essence). no extrinsic distinction between its essence and the attribute. (Ibid.13 Furthermore. and only subject to limitations in thought—limitations which moreover could only be extrinsic—through misunderstanding. all in agreement given that they express God’s own essence. These qualities. always a certain degree. Roffe philosophy: Spinoza sums up his position well: ‘‘Modal Essence: The Passage from Infinite to Finite’’. A mode is. there is only necessity and complete harmony. a part so to speak of God’s power. 183) 12 13 Gilles Deleuze (1995). or between its essence and other essences. we can precisely locate these infinite modal essences in the attributes in question. which is likewise his power of existing. while the former are identified here with the total of modal essences. the quality of thought. of a quality. and regarded as finite.402 J. We must then see that what Spinoza calls an immediate infinite mode is nothing other than the integral totality of modal essences. Precisely thereby is it. It is also clear that modal essences are caused by God in the same way that everything else is. pp. Let’s recall the second definition of infinity in the letter to Meyer: ‘‘there are other things. in Spinoza’s philosophy express God’s essence. in its essence. contingent encounters. I realise that this paper does not address the issue of distinction between immediate and mediate infinite modes.’’ I insisted earlier that this second infinity invokes infinite modes. The problem is how this indivisible quality can pertain to individuated finite—that is. but without any existence beyond what pertains to essence itself. limited—existing modes. within the attribute containing it. among other reasons. hereafter abbreviated as EPS. 123 . is possible. which can. And this is the case.—these points in turn lead Deleuze quite rightly to assert the identity of attributes and power.12 Deleuze begins by describing Spinoza’s attributes as infinite and indivisible qualities—the quality of extension which expresses the essence of substance. that it strictly speaking refers to the former rather than the latter. the latter would be the totality of existing modes taken together. as long as a mode does not exist. when conceived abstractedly. remarking that: Attributes are so to speak dynamic qualities to which corresponds the absolute power of God. a certain quantity. be divided into parts. because the order of existing modes is characterised by contingency. in the light of the division between modal essence and modal existence. nor do they belong in the world of modal existence.

within the attribute that contains them.) The final piece of the puzzle concerns how it comes about that an intrinsically individuated modal essence relates to an existing mode. EIIP8]).. cause of all things. EIP18) In fact the relationship is more novel. but quantitative and intrinsic.. presenting an intrinsic principle of individuation. whereby the modal essence would be the primary agent in the individuation of an existing mode. that of the white wall: As long as the wall is white.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. Nothing more follows from this. no [white] shape is distinguished from or in it. This capacity. even if the corresponding mode does not exist. not the transitive. a distinction of modal essences. a certain capacity. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 403 It is these infinite modal essences that immediately express God’s attributes. p. Modal essences are not distinct in any extrinsic way. 197) To quote once more Individuation is. a modal essence expresses a certain degree of power. being contained in their attribute. We are not led to posit here a direct causal link. in Spinoza. There is indeed. But there remains the question of knowing whether there is another type of modal distinction. being expressed by a modal essence. But how? (Deleuze 1995. or modes. However. neither qualitative nor extrinsic. ‘‘A mode 123 . similarly. given that they cannot be subject to any extrinsic distinctions. any extrinsic distinction seems to presuppose a prior intrinsic one. are contained in God’s attributes’’ [Spinoza 1985. as ‘‘different degrees of intensity. but they have nonetheless a type of distinction or singularity proper to them. we can say that the essence is expressed by an existence when existing modes are composed in a certain way which embodies or expresses the particular degree of power precisely expressed by the essence in question. since this would void Spinoza’s claim that ‘‘God is the immanent. both from the attribute that contains them.’’ (Ibid. which Deleuze states he takes from Scotus. 196) Taking this principle of intrinsic individuation. we can posit that modal essences are distinguished without reference to an external limit. and one from another.’’ (Spinoza 1985. 196) It is here that Deleuze ambitiously invokes the figure of intrinsic differentiation. in this sense. So a modal essence should be singular in itself. and an example that appears throughout his work starting with Bergsonism. (Ibid. However. and the attributes which comprehend or contain the modal essences in the first instance (Spinoza says ‘‘the formal essences of the singular things. is immutable and eternal. (Ibid. it may seem that this identification does no more than return us to the problem: how can a single and undivided infinite modal essence be related to particular finite modes? Deleuze poses the question like this: We cannot distinguish existing things except insofar as we suppose their essences distinct. In Deleuze’s words. That is: in such a state the quality is not affected by anything extrinsically distinct from it. p. As we have seen. intensive. p.

and the infinite understanding of God [EVP40]). that part corresponding to a particular degree or quantity of power. that the presentations of substance that lend themselves to being read as descriptions of existing infinite modes do not form a part of the deductive chain (Badiou’s examples are nature as a single Individual [EIIP13L7]. When it happens that existing modes are brought into a certain configuration by purely external relations. While being one. However.404 J. Two observations spring to mind to the reader of Expressionism in Philosophy—a 123 . then. their lack of external limit does not exclude. Modal essences are contained in their totality in the relevant attribute. The ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ infinities pertaining to existing modes are now also explicable. intrinsic differentiation. Rather. more decisively. understood as God’s essence or power.—and this is the more important point—we are no longer dealing with a relationship between infinite and finite in Badiou’s limited numerical sense either. If it is true. We can thus again reconsider Spinoza’s greater or lesser infinite existing modes as more or less powerful. nominal and descriptive rather than intrinsic entities. Roffe comes into existence. they are also intrinsically differentiated as intensive quantities. They play no role of agency in the determination of finite existing modes. They are. 5 Conclusion Let me close by foregrounding a concern with Deleuze’s account of modal essence. because the totality of the infinite mode is not what addresses itself to existing modes. And. in which its essence expresses itself. this is precisely because the concept of the infinite mode has no ontological or causal priviledge in relation to other existing modes. 210) The relationship between modal essence and modal existence in a particular case thus cannot be reduced to a causal one. finite-limited existing composite modes can be said to express a modal essence. To summarise. expressing more or less of God’s essence. It is this theoretical configuration which at once answers the questions of individuation and the relationship between finite and infinite without involving Spinoza in any commitment to an infinite-finite transfer of causal force. they can be said to express a particular modal essence. not by virtue of its essence. In addition.’’ (Deleuze 1995. as Deleuze argues. The scarcity of Spinoza’s discussions of infinite modes that Badiou notes can now be comprehended. we can say. Individuated modal essences (qua intrinsic degree of power) express a degree of God’s essence. p. The greater the degree of power that an existing mode expresses is what is ultimately determinate. when in fact they do. which are themselves also infinite in a certain respect. as Badiou asserts. it is not as infinite that infinite modes come into a formal or expressive relation with existing modes. Infinite modes are infinite because they are not limited by another of the same kind—they constitute the immediate or mediate expressions of God’s essence in its totality from the point of view of a particular attribute. but only in part. as a particular modal essence. but by virtue of purely mechanical laws which determine an infinity of some extensive parts or other enter into a precise given relation. Thus it is that infinite modes do not constitute the shadowy mediating figures that Badiou suggests they do.

and that the result of this actualisation is an extrinsically identifiable individual.14 And it is true that the discussion of intrinsic modes plays a key role in Scotus. see also Deleuze ‘‘Seminar sur Spinoza’’ 123 . one cannot help but be struck by the similarity of Deleuze’s account of individuation here. However plausible Deleuze’s account—and it is. to the extent that we are left to realise. p. the fact that Spinoza himself does not explicitly address this problem that Deleuze solves on his behalf. with a certain Leibnizian twist. my emphasis) Deleuze. both in Expressionism in Philosophy and in lectures relating to the question of individuation in seventeenth century thought. causality and infinite modes in Spinoza 405 book written concurrently with and published in the same year as Difference and Repetition—who is familiar with the wider philosophy of both Spinoza and Deleuze.’’ (Ibid. the textual support in Spinoza’s oeuvre drawn on by Deleuze in this ` -vis modal essence is very slim. notes that the theme according to which intensio equals modus intinsecus (and gradus) has a long history. ‘‘all the intensities are implicated in one another. p. and more generally that the relation of intrinsicality and immutable essence is a part of many discussions (particularly as regards morality) in thinkers as divergent as Suarez and Aquinas. However. like Errol Harris.’’ (Deleuze 1994. 197) On the other hand. it gives rise to it. 14 EPS 191. in the moving depth of individuating differences or differences in intensity. p. connecting Spinoza to themes in medieval philosophy and theology.. that singular modal essences are ‘‘contained’’ in the attributes without being in all propriety subject to division: ‘‘so long as singular things do not exist. each in turn both enveloped and enveloping. while he does not explicitly develop such a theory. except insofar as they are comprehended in God’s attributes. First of all. there is an activity of determination. it account of intensive differentiation vis-a resides in a single claim. made in both the Ethics and before it in the Short Treatise. p. 252) We can also invoke. in a short sentence. their objective being.’’ (Spinoza 1985. as though in a crystal ball. do not exist except insofar as God’s infinite idea exists. and that offered in the final chapter of Difference and Repetition.’’ (Ibid.Badiou and Deleuze on individuation. the variable ensemble of differential relations. as such. that within this milieu. but this determination is only ever intrinsic (it can only be so for a thinker bent on the theme of ontological univocity). this point seems wholly missing from Spinoza’s own thought. a form of the response I have given to Badiou’s arguments about Spinoza: ‘‘Individuation does not presuppose any differenciation. such that each continues to express the changing totality of the ideas. intrinsically differentially determined virtual Ideas are actualised.’’ (Deleuze 1995. Spinoza is looking toward the idea of a distinction or singularity belonging to modal essence as such. 247) And later. as Deleuze also notes. or ideas. Deleuze is at least modest enough to admit this: ‘‘One may be permitted to think that. EIIP8C. Consider the following Deleuzean formulation of Spinoza’s facies totium universi: ‘‘the entire world may be read. We need only recall the general principles of this latter discussion: that intensity is a primary and pre-individual milieu. In fact. 247) Thus we see that Errol Harris’ insight about infinite modes still holds: that whatever Spinoza himself had in mind regarding the relationship between finite and infinite is never explicitly stated..

6(3). it seems. G. ‘‘what is decisive is to follow [their thought] in its own movement […]’’15 It seems clear that. While serving his own theoretical ends admirably. 81–93). In R. it seems that Deleuze’s presentation is the more faithful of the two. Spinoza’s closed ontology. Filozofski vestnik. And. 63–77. Roffe arguably. producing a Spinoza shorn of power. Expressionism in philosophy: Spinoza. E. (trans: Patton. The collected works of Spinoza.). Badiou proclaims that. Theoretical writings (pp. Difference and repetition. 123 . (2004). a Spinoza who is indeed. A.1. Badiou. (1995). Placing the void: Badiou on Spinoza.). to a certain extent.406 J. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.). (2000). Badiou notes in passing that ‘‘Spinoza was a point of intersection’’ between he and Deleuze. Deleuze. Curley (Ed. this is. more an act of fidelity than Badiou’s reductionist account. M. New York: Zone. (2006b). Badiou. if Deleuze’s account goes beyond the letter of the text and explicitly posits a plausible account of what remains implicit in Spinoza himself. References Badiou. at issue in the text is a reading of Hegel. a strong presentation—it works by supplementing the letter of Spinoza’s text. L. Deleuze. 15 Badiou (2006b). in this instance. New York: Columbia University Press. However. Logiques des Mondes. The substance of Spinoza.’’ (Badiou 2000. & Trans. & trans. G. O. Elsewhere. Harris. At the beginning of his book on Deleuze. 1) The argument presented here does nothing if not support this conclusion. (trans: Joughin.). (trans: Feltham. A. (1994). (1985). confronted with the breadth of the Spinozist text. E. 153. Spinoza. Princeton: Princeton University Press. but that ‘‘‘his’ Spinoza was (and still is) for me an unrecognisable creature. Toscano (Eds. Brassier & A. (1995). New Jersey: Humanities Press. A. P. Angelaki. Doubles of nothing: The problem of binding truth to being in the work of Alain Badiou. (1990). in reading another philosopher. Clemens. Le nombre et les nombres. this account is a procrustean bed. (2001). ‘unrecognisable’.). Gillespie. (2005). Paris: Editions du Seuil. Deleuze: The clamor of being. A. v. London: Continuum Press. B. S. Being and event. Badiou. J. 21–35. London: Continuum Press. p. Badiou. we can also observe that. 1(2). Paris: Editions du Seuil. A.). he does not succeed in this. (2006a). (trans: Burchill.

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