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IN PART 1 OF THE ETHICS, Spinoza states that "except for substances and modes there is nothing." (1) This statement is based on (a) the definition of substance as that which is "in itself' (in se); (2) (b) the definition of mode as "that which is in another" (in alio); (3) and (c) the first axiom in the book: "Whatever is, is either in itself or in another." Thus, before Spinoza proves that there is only one substance, he already excludes the theoretical possibility that there is something that does not fall under the definition of either substance or mode. Substance and mode are also defined in opposition to each other in terms of their conception: while substance is "conceived through itself," a mode is "conceived through another." (4) In other words, while modes are dependent entities, substances are independent entities; except for dependent and independent entities there is nothing in the universe. But while this apparently amounts to saying that a mode is not a substance by simply negating with respect to mode what is affirmed of substance, namely self-inherence and self-conception, mode is also defined positively as "the affections [affectiones] of a substance." (5) Thus, for Spinoza, saying that "except for substances and modes there is nothing" is equivalent to saying, as he indeed does in Elp6c, that "in Nature there is nothing except substances and their affections."

The purpose of this paper is to examine the ontological status of the second-order affections of substance, that is, the meaning and degree of reality of the affections of the affections of substance, and especially of the kind thereof that Spinoza designates as passions. (6) While one may be inclined to regard the passions simply as modes and, hence, as part of nature, Spinoza insists that God or nature is "without passions" and "is not affected with any affect of joy or sadness." (7) This appears to imply that human passions, qua passions, are in fact not part of nature.

The metaphysical division of the universe into independent substances and dependent modes is, of course, not a Spinozist innovation. Spinoza himself ascribes this view to Descartes, (8) and one may trace it further back to Aristotle, who in the beginning of the seventh book of Metaphysics states that the "primary" (proton) sense of "being" (ontos) is "substance" (ousia), while "all other things are said to 'be' because they are either quantities or qualities or affections [pathe] or some other such thing." Substance is "primary," Aristotle goes on to explain, in every sense of the word. "For none of the other categories can exist separately, but substance alone." (9) However, in opposition to Descartes and Aristotle, and, for that matter, the entire scholastic tradition, Spinoza follows this rationale in so strict a manner that it leads him to the radical conclusion that there is only one substance, that only God, defined as "a being absolutely infinite," (10) qualifies as such. (11) As Edwin Curley remarks, this is the "most striking and obvious difference between Spinoza's metaphysics and Descartes'." (12) Descartes openly admits that he equivocates on the term "substance," writing in the Principles that "the term 'substance' does not apply univocally, as they say in the Schools, to God and to other things; that is, there is no distinctly intelligible meaning of the term which is common to God and his creatures." (13) Descartes accordingly goes on to employ the term "substance" in a loose sense, speaking of a thinking substance and a corporeal substance, in addition to God, whom he regards as an infinite substance. This enables Descartes to affirm the existence of modes, a term that he employs "when thinking of a substance as being affected or modified" (ab illis affici, vel variari), while denying that "there are modes or qualities in God" on the grounds that "in the case of God, any variation is unintelligible." (14) By contrast, Spinoza is compelled to consider modes as the affections of substance, while considering that very same substance "immutable." (15) The traditional problem is thus radicalized: how is that which is most perfect, indivisible, absolutely infinite, and atemporally eternal related to something imperfect, finite, and whose existence is temporal and limited? What happens to the meaning of reality or existence when it, so to speak, undergoes this transition?

The writings of Spinoza, his contemporaries, his commentators, and his modern, scholastic, and ancient predecessors abound with terms that are commonly used to explain the nature of this dependence. Among these terms are inherence (being in), emanation (following), immanence, causation, change, movement, accidents, properties, qualities, predication, production, creation, conception, comprehension, containment, mediation, deduction, modification, action, expression, representation, and participation. Often overshadowed by this rich vocabulary, however, is "affection of," the only expression that, as we have seen, Spinoza uses in a positive manner when he defines mode in relation to substance. I would therefore like to focus here on this expression, and ask in what sense modes are said to be the affections of substance. Is this way of being related to substance different from their being in it, or from their being conceived through it? Why does Spinoza define substance as something that is in itself, and that is conceived through itself, but not as the affections of itself? (16)

Within this still broad set of questions, I would like to situate a narrower one. Throughout Part 1 of the Ethics, Spinoza speaks almost exclusively of "affections of God" or "affections of the attributes of God," that is, of those affections to which he usually refers as "modes." (17) But from Part 2, Spinoza speaks more and more frequently of "affections of the body," or of "affections of the human body." Given that the human body is a mode rather than substance, bodily affections must be regarded as secondary affections. They are not direct affections of substance, but affections of affections of substance, that is, affections of modes. Instead of examining the ontological difference between substance and modes directly, I wish to examine this difference in light of the apparently secondary difference between modes and their modifications, that is, between substance's affections and its second-order affections. How do these two levels of affection relate to each other? Do second order affections exist? If they do, are they in nature in any way different from substances and modes? I will further concentrate on a certain kind of bodily affection, the one which Spinoza calls "affect" (affectus), and to which Parts 3 and 4 and most of Part 5 of the Ethics are devoted. As the affects are divisible into actions and passions, let us further restrict our focus to passions--the equivalent of pathos, the suffering of action--and ask specifically about their ontological status in the Ethics.

What is at stake in and what can be gained by focusing on the ontological status of affects rather than pausing, as is more customary in the literature on Spinoza's metaphysics, on the already deeply problematic ontological status of modes in general? In the next section, I show that this shift of focus has the merit of resisting the tendency to interpret Spinoza's work in anthropocentric terms and thus in a manner that is incongruent with Spinoza's critique of anthropocentrism. In particular, it offers an alternative to the established interpretation of infinite modes as intermediate categories that, being infinite in kind, mediate between the absolutely infinite substance and the finite modes. Focusing on the ontological status of the affects, one is in a position to see that finite modes such as human individuals can themselves be regarded as intermediate categories, ones that mediate not between the infinite and the finite, but between the infinite and the infinitesimal.

In the subsequent section I examine Michael Delia Rocca's contention that passive affects "don't fully exist," considering in what way it differs from the so-called acosmist reading of Spinoza, according to which Spinoza rejects the reality of not only human affects but also everything else that is finite, multiple, or changing. I show that Delia Rocca's account does not explain this difference and that, while he considers the view that passive affects do not fully exist yet another counterintuitive implication of Spinoza's radical rationalism, this is in fact a commonsense view that is commonly but wrongly ascribed to Spinoza. I then demonstrate that the counterintuitive implication of Spinoza's radical rationalism is precisely the opposite view, namely, that the affects exist in precisely the same sense that God exists. Given that the function of Spinoza's definitions is to affirm rather than deny the reality of the things defined, the various definitions of the affects in Part 3 of the Ethics cannot be construed otherwise. In highlighting the significance of affect and affirmation, I draw on Gilles Deleuze's interpretation of Spinoza's work. Complementing Deleuze's claim that Spinoza is committed to the principle of univocal being, I argue that while "being in" is indeed utilized univocally, "affection of' is utilized equivocally. The meaning of being remains the same; the meaning of feeling changes.


Considering that the existence of the attributes, given that they are only rationally but not really distinct from substance, is not different from the existence of substance, one may either ask about the ontological status of everything that is modally distinct from substance, that is, about modes or natura naturata in general, or else one may identify various Spinozist entities and ask about the ontological status that specifically corresponds to each one of them. Such entities may be listed in the following descending order: (a) affections of substance, including immediate infinite modes, mediate infinite modes, and finite modes; and (b) affections of finite modes, including active affects, passive affects, and sad passions. In the literature on Spinoza's metaphysics, attention has mostly been given to the first order of affection, that is, to the metaphysical gap between substance and finite modes, and accordingly to the first and second parts of the Ethics. In search of intermediate concepts that would help us to fill in this gap, commentators have traditionally concentrated on Spinoza's concept of infinite modes. In doing so, however, they have disregarded the second order of affection, that is, the affections of the finite modes, and correspondingly what Parts 3 through 5 of the Ethics can tell us about the nature of mediation in Spinoza's metaphysics.

Introduced in Elpp21-23, the concept of infinite modes, as Melamed points out, "is probably the only Spinozist concept that has no equivalent among [Spinoza's] predecessors and contemporaries." (18) It thus appears plausible that this unique Spinozist concept will help us solve the problem, uniquely radicalized by Spinoza, that substance has modes and is nonetheless nonmodifiable. For infinite modes are different from both substance and finite modes. They are not beyond substance, given that they are dependent on it, but they are also not inferior to finite modes, insofar as the infinite exceeds the finite. This reasoning almost compels one to assume that infinite modes are somehow between substance and finite modes. In Elp23d, Spinoza specifies that infinite modes must "follow from the absolute nature of some attribute of God--either immediately ... or by some mediating modification." It is accordingly customary to speak of two kinds of infinite modes: immediate and mediate ones. As infinite modes, positioned between substance and finite modes, are distinguishable in terms of mediation, the overall problem of explaining the derivation of finite modes from substance has likewise been construed in terms of mediation. (19)

Thus, according to Giancotti, the theory of infinite modes was "elaborated in order to join the infinity of the substance with the finiteness of the modes" and thereby address the problem of "deduction of the finite from the infinite and the many from the one." The mediate infinite modes, Giancotti further contends, "represent the most advanced point of the process of pluralization of modes of being." (20) Similarly, Melamed argues that Spinoza introduces the concept of infinite modes because it helps "explain the derivation of the finite modes from the substance." For given that substance is indivisible, Melamed explains, finite modes cannot be considered parts of it, although they are in it. But infinite modes are divisible and, therefore, can be considered as that of which the finite modes are said to be parts. So that it is in virtue of the fact that finite modes are "parts of infinite modes" that they can be said to "follow from God's essence." (21) Precisely how divisibility is introduced into Spinoza's system through the infinite modes is explained by Schmaltz, who seeks to resolve the "tension" that he identifies as generated by the distinction "between God's infinite power and that power insofar as it is realized in a finite actual essence." Distinguishing between emanation (following) and comprehension, Schmaltz argues that the mediate infinite mode of extension, which, as Spinoza specifies in Letter 63, is "the face of the whole universe" (facies totius universi), is "crucial to the resolution of the tension in the Ethics." For "it is only in virtue of the fact that the face of the universe follows from the absolute nature of extension that the bodily essences comprehended in the material universe as a whole can be said to follow from this attribute." This, however, provides only half of the resolution, as it explains the transition from the attribute of extension to the mediate infinite mode of extension. The second half of the resolution is that "finite bodily essences follow from the necessity of the divine nature in virtue of the fact that they are contained or comprehended in the face of the material universe, and in particular in its eternal and infinite form." (22) Thus, according to Schmaltz, the concept of the face of the whole universe functions as an intermediate category. While following from the absolute nature of extension, (23) it is, so to speak, mediate enough (unlike the immediate infinite mode of extension) for finite individual bodies to be directly comprehended in it.

While a detailed assessment of this line of interpretation is beyond the scope of this paper, it is helpful for our purposes to consider two of its shortcomings. First, Spinoza says little about infinite modes in the Ethics and hardly elaborates on them elsewhere. (24) If they play such a crucial role in addressing what is perhaps the problem of Spinoza's metaphysics, why then were they not further discussed by Spinoza himself? Second, the focus on infinite modes implies that the problem of mediation applies exclusively to the ontological gap between substance and the kind of modes that human beings are, that is, finite modes that can either exist or not but whose "idea" remains eternally "comprehended in God's infinite idea." (25) The problem here is that implicit in this conception of the problem of mediation is an understanding of the human individual as the end of God's creation, a view that Spinoza vehemently opposes. (26) The question one can hear in the background of such interpretations is how we as human individuals are in God before, while, and after we live. The question that is thereby overlooked, however, is whether, how, and to what extent that which makes us living human individuals, rather than eternal adequate ideas, is in God, a question that is still anthropological but is nonetheless not anthropocentric. (27)

Both of these problems can be addressed by examining the mediating role of second-order affections. Inasmuch as it is significant that there are intermediaries between God and finite modes, it is also significant that finite modes, such as human beings, can themselves be regarded as intermediaries. Such intermediaries do not mediate between the infinite and the finite, but between the infinite and the infinitesimal, between God along with the infinite modes and those ephemeral changes that occur in the relations between finite modes, such as affects and confused ideas. Inasmuch as the difference between immediate and mediate infinite modes can tell us something about the nature of mediation, about how the pluralization (28) and comprehension (29) of finite modes are made possible in Spinoza's system, one should also expect to learn something about it by studying the ontological difference between finite modes and the affections of finite modes. That Spinoza discusses extensively the affections of finite modes should encourage us to do so more than the scarcity of his utterances regarding infinite modes has encouraged commentators to focus on them. Thus the traditional sequence that begins with God and its attributes, continues with immediate and mediate infinite modes, and ends with finite modes, should be extended to include not only the case of modal existence (as distinct from modal essence), but also the case of the variations of such existence (affections of modes, images of things, affects), the case of those variations of which the existing individual is the adequate cause (actions), the case of those variations of which the existing individual is the "inadequate" or "partial" cause (passions, or passive affects), and the case of those variations of which the existing individual is the inadequate cause and by which the individual's capacity to exist diminishes (sad passions).

What I hope to gain by focusing on secondary rather than primary affections, that is, on affections of finite modes rather than finite modes, and on passive affects and sad passions in particular, is therefore a potentially instructive change of perspective.


Michael Delia Rocca provides an elaborate and nuanced account that merits close consideration here as it purports to address directly the question concerning the ontological status of the affects. Putting forth the argument that for Spinoza emotions are "inherently rational" yet "somehow inferior to reason," Delia Rocca draws the conclusion that "passive affects are not fully in anything" and, hence, that they "don't fully exist." Ascribing this view to Spinoza, Delia Rocca also describes it as "crazy" and "extremely rationalist," and he insists that precisely in this unintuitive vein Spinoza should be understood. Using the expression "fully exist," however, Delia Rocca also contends that for Spinoza, "being-in or inherence is not an all-or-nothing affair" and, likewise, that "existence itself is not an all-or-nothing affair." "For Spinoza," Delia Rocca writes, "there are degrees of existence," and thus, to a degree, passive affects do not exist. Delia Rocca finds support to his claim in the words of H. H. Joachim, whom he quotes as saying: "Our actual mind, with its emotions, volitions, desires is qua passional unreal. In its reality, it is a part of the 'infinita idea Dei', but in the completeness of that 'idea' all passion vanishes." (30)

But although Delia Rocca appears to be making his argument specifically regarding the emotions, he does not restrict his observations to second-order affections. Thus, he does not consider the possibility that the degree or sense of existence, or of the lack thereof, varies according to the ordering of the levels of affections, such that denying the existence of modes might be different from denying the existence of emotions, in terms of either degree or meaning. In fact, Delia Rocca explicitly states: "Not only do our passive affects not fully exist, but--insofar as we have such affects--we ourselves do not fully exist." (31) And in saying "we," Delia Rocca means "modes." (32) Thus Delia Rocca does not draw a clear distinction between minds, on the one hand, and states of minds, on the other, and correspondingly between bodies and states of bodies. (33) He does not elaborate on whether "not fully" applies similarly--that is, to the same extent or in the same sense--to modes, on the one hand, and to their affections, on the other. It is therefore unclear in what manner Delia Rocca's argument specifically applies to emotions or passive affects, and how it is different from the more general argument, namely, that finite modes, and perhaps also infinite modes, do not fully exist--an argument that is not insignificant, but that nevertheless becomes interesting only once the qualification "fully" is further explicated.

In saying "not fully," Delia Rocca wishes to emphasize the negative aspect of having partial existence. He thus writes: "Affects, for Spinoza, literally strip us of our existence"--and then hastens to qualify, "or at least strip us of our existence to some degree." (34) This is so, according to Delia Rocca, because (a) the affects are unintelligible, and (b) "the mere intelligibility of a thing is the existence of that thing." (35) But while the observation that Spinoza identifies existence with intelligibility is well founded--as shown, inter alia, by Spinoza's adherence to the principle of sufficient reason and his symmetric use of the notions of inherence and conception--it is far from clear to what extent the lack of intelligibility or existence is such a transitive quality that the affects, by virtue of having this quality, can contaminate us with it, so to speak, just because we in turn have them. In other words, it is unclear on what grounds Delia Rocca makes the inference that since affects are unintelligible, "in so far as we have affects we ourselves are unintelligible." (36) If we are modes, and our having of affects, or emotions, is in fact having a kind of affection, similarly to the way in which substance has affections such as the modes that we ourselves are, then why don't we, or the passions within us, contaminate God or "strip" him of his existence as the passions do to us? Or is there nonetheless a semantic or ontological difference between the expression "affections of' when it pertains to substance and the same expression when it applies to modes or human bodies?

Delia Rocca sees the novelty of his argument in pointing to the absence of existence and intelligibility in affects and modes, that is, in passions and human beings alike, without accounting for the partial existence or intelligibility that nevertheless remains in them, and without considering the possible variations in degree or sense between the different orders or levels of affection. One may therefore consider his interpretation along the lines of the so-called acosmist reading of Spinoza. According to this reading, famously presented by Hegel in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy but first articulated by Maimon in 1792, Spinoza is not an atheist (as suggested by Jacobi, for instance), but an acosmist, affirming the reality of God as an infinite, unified, and static whole, but rejecting the reality of the cosmos as the manifestation of finitude, multiplicity, and change. (37) In Hegel's words, "The world has no true reality, and all this that we know as the world has been cast into the abyss of the one identity. There is therefore no such thing as finite reality, it has no truth whatever; according to Spinoza what is, is God, and God alone." (38) Quoting H. H. Joachim, Delia Rocca appears to be driven by the same idealist tendency to conceive of Spinoza's universe as uniform and static. But if the universe and the multiplicity of modes that furnish it are mere illusions, then, a fortiori, our "actual mind, with its emotions, volitions, [and] desires," as Joachim contends, is an illusion, just like any other mode, affection, or affect. However, this would be so regardless of how passive or passionate they might be, and here lies the problem. The denial of the reality of motion would thus be conflated with the denial of the reality of emotion.

In contrast to this reading, I demonstrate in what follows that Spinoza is concerned with affirming rather than denying the reality of both modes and affects, and that in each case the affirmation is carried out differently, that is, through the employment of a different notion of affection, while the meaning of inherence remains the same.


On several occasions in the Ethics, Spinoza may indeed give the impression that the objective of his writing is to argue against the emotions, both at the moral and at the ontological levels, by revealing their nullity in the light of reason. In the preface to Part 3, he famously proclaims, "I shall consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a question of lines, planes, and bodies." The title of Part 4 equates "human bondage" with "the powers of the affects," while the title of Part 5 analogously equates "the power of the intellect" with "human freedom." In the preface to Part 5, Spinoza manifestly speaks of his objectives in terms of determining "the remedies for the affects" and showing "how great [the] dominion [of the power of reason] over the affects is." (39) And in E5pl7, he explicitly states that "God is without passions, and is not affected with any affect of joy or sadness," while in the corollary to this proposition he writes: "Strictly speaking, God loves no one, and hates no one." Such statements appear to invite the kind of criticism that puts Spinoza on a par with the neostoicism of his age. Nietzsche gives voice to such criticism when he writes:
   All of [morality] is, measured intellectually, worth very little
   and not by a long shot "science," much less "wisdom," but rather,
   to say it once more, three times more, prudence, prudence,
   prudence, mixed with stupidity, stupidity, stupidity--whether it be
   that indifference and statue coldness against the hot-headed folly
   of the affects which the Stoics advised and administered; or that
   laughing-no-more and weeping-no-more of Spinoza [Nicht-mehr-Lachen
   und Nicht-mehrWeinen des Spinoza], his so naively advocated
   destruction of the affects [Zerstorung der Affekte] through their
   analysis and vivisection. (40)

But Spinoza's ethics radically differs from stoicism and other theories and practices of self-control or repression; it is, as Gilles Deleuze argues, primarily a doctrine of expression. (41) It is true that Spinoza writes that he intends to show "how great [the power of the mind's] dominion over the affects is" and "what kind of dominion it has for restraining and moderating them." (42) But having made this statement, he immediately clarifies: "For we have already demonstrated above that it does not have an absolute dominion over them." In line with what he writes in the preface to Part 3, Spinoza reminds us here that his account of the emotions opposes the views of "those who prefer to curse or laugh at the affects and actions of men, rather than understand them" and of those who by the same token believe that man "has absolute power over his actions." Spinoza sees the novelty of his claim precisely in arguing that the power of the mind does not have "an absolute dominion" over the affects, setting it in direct opposition to Descartes's contention that "[t]here is no soul so weak that it cannot, if well-directed, acquire an absolute power over its passions." (43) This is also where Spinoza departs from stoicism: "Nevertheless, the Stoics thought that ... [the affects] depend entirely on our will, and that we can command them absolutely. But experience cries out against this." (44)

This point can hardly be overemphasized. Although Spinoza explicitly presents his "remedies for the affects" as prescriptions concerning what "the mind... can do against the affects," (45) his intention is not to provide us with moral guidance so that we could more efficiently eliminate the affects as Nietzsche and so many other readers of Spinoza have assumed. Nor does Spinoza demonstrate the power of the affects or point to the essential incapacity of the mind or the will absolutely to overcome them in order to help us to avoid underestimating the moral threat that they pose. Quite to the contrary, rather than destroying or getting rid of the affects, Spinoza stresses the importance of maintaining them. "For each one governs everything from his affects; those who are torn by contrary affects do not know what they want, and those who are not moved by any affect are very easily driven here and there." (46) In practice, moreover, a state of not having any affect is not only undesirable according to Spinoza, but also impossible, for "man" as he writes, "is necessarily always subject to passions." (47) And even if a state of utter indifference were possible or desirable, still any attempt at controlling or reducing the affects by means of anything that is external to them, such as the power of the will or of reason, is necessarily futile on Spinoza's view given that "[a]n affect cannot be restrained or taken away except by an affect opposite to, and stronger than, the affect to be restrained." (48) Accordingly, it is not a direct governing of one's affects that Spinoza has here in mind--for that would involve a conception of the will that he precisely rejects--but the governing of things from one's affects. Indeed, rather than equanimity or indifference, it is from within an intense emotional state that the understanding of the third kind of knowledge is to be arrived at; that is, from within the experience of the extreme pleasure or "blessedness" (beatitudo (49)) involved in the intellectual love of God. (50)

Yet Spinoza's God, the object of such love, is "without passions" and "is not affected with any affect of joy or sadness." (51) This apparently cannot be read otherwise: God does not have second-order affections of the kind that Spinoza identifies as affects or passions. (52) According to the acosmist reading this is an understatement, given that God does not even have first-order affections. But if this were the case, then why does Spinoza dedicate a chapter of his Ethics to a mode that does not exist, the human mind, and then two additional chapters--one may even say three--to the affects, which are nothing but an illusion of an illusion? More fundamentally, why does Spinoza say that "there is nothing except substance and its modes," if all there is, really, is just substance? (53)


Claiming that affects and modes alike do not fully exist, Delia Rocca proposes a more appealing reading that takes into account the crucial notion of degrees of existence. But Delia Rocca inadequately shifts the focus of Spinoza's claim by highlighting the absence, as if Spinoza's radical rationalism led him to assert the unpalatable truth that the affects, just like everything else with which we are familiar, including ourselves, should be considered an illusion. This shift of focus is inadequate since Spinoza's rationalism commits him to precisely the opposite view, namely, that the affects should be considered part of nature. One of the clearest demonstrations of this commitment can be seen in the assertion that even the primary affect of sadness, which consists in a "man's passage from a greater to a lesser perfection," is not a privation. (54) "For a privation," Spinoza reasons, "is nothing, whereas the affect of sadness is an act." This is already made explicit right at the outset of the preface to Part 3, where Spinoza begins his discussion of the "Origins and Nature of the Affects," clarifying his stance vis-a-vis the then prevalent views:
   Most of those who have written about the affects, and men's way of
   living, seem to treat, not of natural things, which follow the
   common law of Nature, but of things which are outside Nature.
   Indeed they seem to conceive man in Nature as a dominion within a
   dominion. For they believe that man disturbs, rather than follows,
   the order of Nature, that he has absolute power over his actions,
   and that he is determined only by himself. And they attribute the
   cause of human impotence and inconstancy, not to the common power
   of Nature, but to I know not what vice of human nature, which they
   therefore bewail, or laugh at, or disdain, or (as usually happens)
   curse. And he who knows how to censure more eloquently and
   cunningly the weakness of the human mind is held to be godly.

Spinoza's extreme rationalism is made explicit here, as he goes on to say that to those who adhere to the views on the emotions as just described, "it will doubtless seem strange that I should undertake to treat men's vices and absurdities in the geometric style, and that I should wish to demonstrate by certain reasoning things which are contrary to reason, and which they proclaim to be empty, absurd, and horrible." Thus Spinoza concludes the preface to Part 3 with the famous statement: "Therefore, I shall treat the nature and powers of the affects, and the power of the mind over them, by the same method by which, in the preceding parts, I treated God and the mind, and I shall consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a question of lines, planes, and bodies." (55)

Read in context, these passages clearly show that what qualifies Spinoza's stance regarding the emotions as rationalist is not the view that the emotions are "inherently rational" and yet "somehow inferior to reason." This view, which Delia Rocca ascribes to Spinoza and considers "extremely rationalist," strikes one in fact as moderate and commonsensical. (56) For little seems radical or bizarre in the idea that the emotions have a rational basis, that is, that they are at least partially explainable in terms of their causes, and that they are at the same time inferior to reason in that they do not have the clear and distinct character of, say, mathematical concepts. It is rather the method that should be highlighted in this regard, that is, Spinoza's insistence on employing the geometrical method even when it comes to matters in relation to which it appears utterly inapplicable. For it does indeed seem strange, not only as Spinoza suggests in the eyes of his contemporaries but also in our own eyes today, to study the emotions as if they were geometric entities, to define each and every one of them as if it were a fixed unit, and to suggests that the complexities and subtleties of the human soul can be comprehensively captured by a list such as the one provided toward the end of Part 3 of the Ethics, which consists of forty-eight definitions of the affects.

However--and this is the crucial point--the function of definition in Spinoza's system is not to capture or even designate, but rather to "express," "affirm," or "explain" the "nature," "reality," or "essence" of the thing defined. (57) Spinoza's development of his system of definitions is an exercise in acquiring the third kind of knowledge, which "proceeds from an adequate idea of certain attributes of God to an adequate knowledge of the essence of things." (58) It is because every definition expresses the essence or reality of the thing defined that it enables this procedure, whereby the reality of things is inferred from their intelligibility. This does not mean that human beings can be known in the same manner in which God can be known, for human beings cannot be known to themselves through themselves with perfect clarity and distinctness as Descartes would have it. For Spinoza, the first and ultimate standard of knowledge is not the cogito but God, and only through him can the knowledge of any other thing be attained. Moreover, for Spinoza, human beings are also not Godlike, that is, they cannot be treated as if they were gods. Spinoza rejects the view that man is to be conceived "as a dominion within a dominion." (59) Yet he does treat God, human beings, and the affects by the "same method," following the indications of reality given by their respective definitions, and proceeding from intelligibility to reality. This is precisely where Spinoza's radical rationalism is expressed and where its unintuitive outcome can be observed.

However, when this method, which is supposed to yield what Spinoza calls "intuitive knowledge" (scientia intuitiva) is applied to human beings and human emotions, it generates not only unintuitive but also inelegant results. Aside from the forty-eight definitions of the various affects just mentioned, Spinoza defines the term affect itself twice. The third definition of Part 3 reads: "By affect [affectus] I understand affections [affectiones] of the body by which the body's power of acting is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time, the ideas of these affections."

The second definition of affect is oddly positioned after the list of forty-eight definitions of the affects. All the more bizarre is the fact that this definition concludes the third part of the Ethics, as opposed to all other definitions in the book, which are provided at the outset of each of its parts. Thus, proceeding from definitions, the systematic exposition of the affects in Part 3 also culminates in a definition. In addition, this obtrusively detached definition is given by Spinoza a special title, "General Definition of the Affects," and it reads:
   An affect [affectus] which is called a passion of the mind is a
   confused idea, by which the mind affirms [affirmat] of its body, or
   of some part of it, a greater or lesser force of existing than
   before, which, when it is given, determines the mind to think of
   this rather than that.

A cursory comparative examination of the two definitions throws light on how Spinoza's system of definitions is adjusted in order to accommodate such inherently confused entities as the human passions. Although the first definition appears to focus primarily on the body and the second on the mind, both of them must comply with the parallelism doctrine, and especially with Spinoza's notion of mind-body parallelism, according to which "the order of actions and passions of our body is, by nature, at one with the order of actions and passions of the mind." (60) On the face of it, then, and given that Spinoza never clearly distinguishes between "the power of acting" and "the force of existing," the two definitions appear almost identical--that is, aside from the incorporation of certain propositions in the second definition, (61) which should have perhaps yielded yet another proposition but not a new definition.

But there is nevertheless at least one important difference between the two definitions: the utilization of the language of affirmation in the second one. In the explication that follows this second definition, Spinoza tells us what he means when he speaks of the mind's affirmation of its body of "greater or lesser force of existing than before."
   And because the essence of the mind consists in this (by 2p11 and
   2p13), that it affirms the actual existence of its body, and we
   understand by perfection the very essence of the thing, it follows
   that the mind passes to a greater or lesser perfection when it
   happens that it affirms of its body (or of some part of the body)
   something which involves more or less reality than before.

The language of affirmation, however, does not appear in the propositions referred to in this passage. (62) Rather, what these propositions establish is that "the idea of a singular thing which actually exists" is the "first thing which constitutes the actual being of the human mind," and that the body is the "object of the idea constituting the human mind." (63) Only in E2p48s does Spinoza begin to utilize the notion of affirmation explicitly, writing that "by will I understand a faculty of affirming and denying [affirmat vel negat], arid not desire." (64) And only after the notion of striving (conatus) is introduced (65) do we learn that "the first and principle [tendency] of the striving of our mind ... is to affirm the existence of our body.'" (66) By the end of Part 3, it consequently becomes clear that as a matter of fact the mind has, so to speak, no choice but to affirm the existence of its body, that in this very affirmation its essence consists: "the essence of the mind consists in this ... that it affirms the actual existence of its body."

This clarifies the function of definition in Spinoza's philosophy. "For the definition of any thing affirms, and does not deny, the thing's essence, or it posits the thing's essence, and does not take it away." (67) Following the geometrical method, the faculty of affirming and denying is compelled to produce only affirmations; it is so compelled, that is, by the very reality of the thing defined. Thus, be it a transition to a greater or lesser level of perfection, it is registered by the mind as an affect only by way of affirmation, so that even sadness is not nothing but an act. And although "the passions are not related to the mind except insofar as it has something which involves a negation," (68) the mind, through its passions, can only affirm. The affirmation admittedly takes the shape of a confused idea, but it would make no sense to try to fight this confusion by negating or eliminating the passions, just as it would make no sense to deny the existence of one's body while one is alive. (69)

Thus, proceeding from definitions, which can affirm only the essence of the thing defined, Part 3 of the Ethics also culminates in a definition, a definition affirming the essence of the thing defined, which in this case is the affects, by positing that through them the mind can affirm only whatever change that happens to occur in its object (that is, its body). The affect remains a confused idea, but that it is confused is something that can be demonstrated according to the geometrical method. This method is bound to affirm whatever is expressed in the definitions that it posits; and what is expressed in a definition is always the very reality, or essence, of the thing defined. Thus the reality of the affects must be posited along with their definitions, and it must be affirmed once again as the product of the application of this method. Spinoza's rationalism is expressed, therefore, precisely in his insistence on regarding that which appears most confused and elusive as something that is nonetheless real, as something, that is to say, that is in Nature.


We have established that when Spinoza says that "in Nature there is nothing except substances and their affections," he means to include not only the modes, that is, the affections of substance, but also such second-order affections as the human affects. The question that remains to be addressed, therefore, is in what sense and to what degree all these things are real.

In Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze argues that Spinoza's philosophy exemplifies a commitment to the principle of univocal being, which, in opposition to the Aristotelian dictum that "being is said in many ways," states that "[b]eing is said in a single and same sense of everything of which it is said." (70) Taken broadly, this reading implies that there is only one sense in which "being" is said in Spinoza's system, be it the "being" of substances, namely, God or Nature; (71) of immediate and mediate infinite modes, such as the idea of God, the understanding, or motion and rest; (72) of finite modes, such as human minds; (73) of "particular things" (res particulares), which Spinoza equates with modes; (74) or of "singular things" (res singulares), (75) which is a term Spinoza employs to designate human beings, (76) human bodies, (77) as well as human emotions. (78)

One of the clearest manifestations of the principle of univocal being in the Ethics, I would like to suggest, is the relation of inherence ("being in"), which, as Don Garrett remarks, "is perhaps the most fundamental relation in Spinoza's metaphysics." (79) When Spinoza ascribes existence to "singular things," that is, to things whose essence does not involve existence, he takes care to clarify that what he has in mind is "the very nature of existence," which is "the very existence [existentia] of singular things [rerum singularium] insofar as they are in God." (80) "Existence" is thus ascribed to singular things for the same reason that it is ascribed to substance. Singular things exist inasmuch as they are in God; God exists inasmuch as it is in itself. This is apparently also why Spinoza insists that "God cannot be properly called the remote cause of singular things [rerum singularium]," namely, because "all things that are, are in God," including God itself. (81) In other words, God is the proximate cause of everything that exists, or as Spinoza writes earlier on, "God is the immanent, not the transitive, cause of all things," because the relation of "being in" is said of modes in the same sense in which it is said of substance, because modes are in substance in the same sense that substance is in itself. (82)

The difficulty with interpreting Spinoza along these lines, however, is to explain the asymmetries that nevertheless manifest themselves in the relation between substance and modes. While modes are dependent on substance, substance is independent of modes. While substance expresses itself through its modifications, substance is not in any way "in" them. And while a substance can be considered either in itself (83) or as "affected by some mode," (84) a mode can be regarded only as affected by yet another affection and so on to infinity. But if modes are in substance in precisely the same sense in which substance is in itself, then why are the modes not also considered something that is in itself? On the other hand, why is substance not in the modes, that is, why is it not dependent on them, if there is no difference between their dependence on it and its dependence on itself? In other words, how can we conceive of modes as dependent on substance in the same sense in which substance is dependent on itself, if the substance's dependence on itself is nothing but its independence, that is, its freedom? (85)

It thus appears that if "Spinoza's language" were, as Deleuze contends, "always that of univocity," the asymmetries between substance and modes could never be resolved. (86) In order to address this problem, one must look for the places where Spinoza's language becomes equivocal. My argument here is that this primarily happens when Spinoza employs the relation of "affection of." (87) For on the basis of our discussion we must conclude that there is more than one sense in which the expression "affection of' occurs in the Ethics. Substance, albeit--or precisely because it is--in itself, is not the affections of itself. And while the relation "affection of' is applied to both substance and modes, it means something different in each case. It means one thing when it designates a direct relation to substance, and it means another thing when it applies to the secondary difference between modes and their respective affections. This is arguably why Spinoza insists that it is a mistake, anthropocentric in kind, to ascribe human emotions to the divine nature. "God is without passions, and is not affected with any affect of joy or sadness"; "God loves no one, and hates no one." (88) While God can be considered as affected by certain modification, he cannot be considered as affected by second-order modifications. Albeit affected in many ways, one may accordingly say, Spinoza's God does not feel as we do. (89)

The being of whichever modification, however, is always a "being in," a being in substance, which, in turn, is perfectly in itself. "Being in" is thus indeed univocal in the sense that it always sets the object of which it is said in direct relation to substance, regardless of whatever intermediaries may be introduced between the thing under consideration and substance as it is in itself. "Affection of," by contrast, may designate such a relation, but only in the case of modes, which, be they immediate infinite, mediate infinite, or finite, are always the direct affections of substance. But unlike the affections of substance, the affections of modes sire not in any sense "in" their respective modes. If anything, they are somewhere in between the various modes. Unlike the affections of God, the affections of the human body are not in the human body; they are precisely the product of the not-being-in-itself of the human body, its being in another, outside itself. And it likewise must be the case of the human mind with its corresponding affections. Thus, while the univocity of being is indeed maintained throughout the Ethics through the immutable "being in" of substance, this, I would like to suggest, is done by means or at the cost of a complementary equivocation on the notion of "affection of." The meaning of "being" remains the same; the meaning of "being affected," or, indeed, the meaning of "feeling," necessarily changes as the Ethics unfolds.

As secondary affections, the passions are neither in the human mind nor in the human body because "being-in" always designates a positive relation, a relation of affirmation. And while the affections of substance are the necessary affirmation of the reality of substance, from which the existence of infinita infinitis modis must be derived, "the passions," Spinoza writes, "are not related to the mind except insofar as it has something which involves a negation, or insofar as it is considered as a part of Nature which cannot be perceived clearly and distinctly though itself, without the others." (90) The passions are therefore not in the modes, and they can also not be considered as the affections of substance. What then prevents us from following Delia Rocca in drawing the conclusion that the passions are unintelligible, that they are not really in anything?

First and foremost, it is the fact that Spinoza provides definitions for the passions. As we have seen, this already implies that he considers them both real and intelligible, if only to a degree. A definition can only affirm the essence of the thing defined; (91) and, similarly, the geometric method, which is the practice leading to the third kind of knowledge, can only affirm whatever is considered by means of it. Spinoza does not define the passions as empty or false ideas but as confused ideas, (92) that is, as inadequate ideas. Even though he makes it clear that inadequate ideas can be considered in God only as adequate ones, (93) and that "[a]n affect which is a passion ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea of it," (94) the idea that the passions are confused ideas is something that can and should be known adequately. At least in this sense, the passions are in God, even though they are not the direct affections of God.

Spinoza explicitly considers the affects real, and in this consists the sameness of method that in the preface to Part 3 he proclaims to preserve when he moves between God, the mind, and the affects. As he writes in the same place, "The affects ... of hate, anger, envy, and the like, considered in themselves [in se], follow with the same necessity and force of Nature as the other singular things [ac reliqua singularia]." (95) As all other singular things, accordingly, the affects must have God as their proximate cause, for "all things that are, are in God," (96) that is, all things stand in direct and affirmative relation to God. However, and this again is the crucial point, the affects cannot be regarded as direct affections of God, but only as indirect, secondary affections. This is why Spinoza rather hesitantly and equivocally qualifies his assertion that "God cannot be properly called the remote cause of singular things [rerum singularium]" by saying: "except perhaps so that we may distinguish them from those things that he has produced immediately, or rather, that follow from his absolute nature." (97)

Spinoza must retain a notion of remote cause, "which is not conjoined in any way with its effect," although such an effect must somehow still be in that which causes it, (98) given that the remote cause under consideration is God, which is the immanent rather than transitive cause of all things. (99) But what justifies this change of perspective? In Elp5d, Spinoza reasons that since "substance is prior in nature to its affections," to consider it "truly" means that "the affections are put to one side" and the substance "is considered in itself." But substance can nevertheless also be "considered to be affected by some mode." (100) One need only insert the expression "inasmuch as" (quatenus), and one can thereby speak of God, whose "essence excludes all imperfection and involves absolute perfection" and who is both "absolutely infinite" and "indivisible," as something which is nevertheless "affected by a modification" or "modified by a modification." (101) But if considering substance "truly" means to consider it "in itself," while its affections are "put to one side," is then the consideration of substance along with its affections, that is, the consideration of them all "on the same side," in a sense untrue? Or is it still true but somehow to a lesser extent? Given that not only is it not the case that God's affections "strip" him in any way of his existence, as Delia Rocca argues that they do to human beings, but these affections are in fact the very expression of its reality, (102) both options, it is now evident, put us far from a consistent reading of the Ethics. While we cannot resolve here the question as to what justifies the change of perspective, we can at least see how this happens if we consider such further changes of perspective that occur in the Ethics as the one that allows us to consider God not only along with the effects that it produces but also along with those effects that it only remotely produces.

"God cannot properly be called the remote cause of singular things." But to the extent that "we may distinguish [these singular things] from those things that... [God] has produced immediately," that is, to the extent that we may consider not only God and God inasmuch as it is affected, but also the affections of God and these affections inasmuch as they are affected, we must somehow be able, so to speak, to put God to one side and consider the secondary affections as caused, however confusedly, by primary affections. (103) While singular things are not in themselves, which implies that they cannot be perceived clearly and distinctly through themselves, they can nonetheless be considered in themselves unclearly and indistinctly, that is, confusedly and inadequately. But once the confusion is adequately acknowledged, it is no longer confusing: "The affects ... of hate, anger, envy, and the like, considered in themselves [in se], follow with the same necessity and force of Nature as the other singular things [ac reliqua singularia]." (104)

To repeat, my argument is that what enables the transitions between God, the mind, and the affects is the relation "affection of." Notwithstanding the significance of mediation and causation, it is primarily through this relation that we "may distinguish" certain singular things from those things that God "has produced immediately." However, Spinoza's point is not only that we may but also that we should do so, no matter how impossible or absurd such an endeavor may appear to be. His intention is not to demonstrate how the same method is elegantly applicable to God, the mind, and the affects, but to show how the same method should be applied precisely where it appears inapplicable. The imperative of Spinoza's "ethics of geometry" (to use Lachterman's phrase) is not to contemplate God by cultivating indifferent or apathetic attitude toward all contingencies, or by altogether denying their existence, but to consider that which appears contingent necessary: (105) "The more we understand singular things [res singulares], the more we understand God." (106) But in order to understand contingencies as necessary, we must first understand them as contingent. Hence, while in Part 1 we learn that "in nature there is nothing contingent," in Part 2 we are being taught that "all particular things are contingent and corruptible." (107) This transition can only be made if God is somehow put to one side and the things produced by him are considered in themselves. But ultimately this is impossible given that by definition only substance can be perceived through itself. The imperative, however, is to learn that this is impossible; considered in themselves, singular things must be considered as always already in another, that is, as always already affected. One therefore does not gain a better understanding of God as a result of one's understanding of singular things; the better understanding of God is already implicit in the better understanding of singular things. (108)


Understanding things in direct relation to God, which in theory begins with God (ordo essendi), begins in practice with the adequate perception of their contingency (ordo intelligendi)--that is, with the affirmation of finitude. Such affirmation is expressed in the seventh definition of Part 2, in which Spinoza states that "[b]y singular things [res singulares] I understand things that are finite and have a determinate existence." By putting God to one side and considering singular things in themselves, we do not consider them as if they were gods, but precisely as things infinitely different from God. Individual human beings, accordingly, should not be considered as "a dominion within a dominion," but as something that is always already affected, for "man is necessarily always subject to passions." (109) Thus, although "[t]he object of the idea constituting the human mind is the body," "[t]he human mind does not know the human body itself, nor does it know that it exists, except through ideas of affections by which the body is affected." (110)

The second axiom in Part 2 of the Ethics, which states that "[m]an thinks" or "we know that we think," would therefore lead us nowhere (in spite of Descartes) insofar as we restrict our understanding of thinking to the formation of clear and distinct ideas, (111) and unless we add to it another axiom: "We feel that a certain body is affected in many ways." (112) In order to engage in the task of understanding things, that is, the task of understanding singular things in conjunction with God, an "I feel," to use a Deleuzian language again, should complement the "I think." This "I feel" is arguably the closest thing in the Ethics to an "I will," which for Spinoza is nothing but "a faculty of affirming and denying." (113) The system of definitions, as we have seen, forces this faculty to produce only affirmations. More precisely, it is designed to extract the affirmations that must be involved in every act of perception, (114) or rather, conception, (115) and consider them in themselves. When we think of God, we necessarily affirm its affections, and when we think of these affections we must in turn affirm yet further, second-order affections that belong to them. But each time that we say "affection of," we cannot, so to speak, look backward. When we consider the human mind, we momentarily lose sight of God; that is, we forget for a minute that there is nothing contingent in it. When we consider the human affects, we lose sight of God twice, for not only do we, through the affects, affirm something of contingent things, but we also affirm the very reality of contingency as such. (116)

The General Definition of the Affects can thus be read as an expression of a double affirmation. Just like any other definition, it affirms the defined thing, but in this case, that which is affirmed in the definition is yet another affirmation, namely, the mind's affirmation of its body of "greater or lesser force of existing than before." This definition affirms that there are degrees of reality, and that which is specifically affirmed in the definition, which is the mind's affirmation of its body of "greater or lesser force of existing than before," is nothing but the affects themselves. Both affirmations are affirmations of a certain reality, the reality of the various degrees of reality and the reality of the idea that there are such degrees of reality. In both cases, however, the affirmation of reality is carried out in direct relation to the reality of substance and not in relation to the affected thing under consideration. This is why the affect of sadness is not nothing, not even "just" a passion, but an act, although it paradoxically appears as a self-destructive act, given that it must be understood as "an act by which man's power of acting is diminished or restricted." (117) But since these affirmations of reality are carried out only in direct relation to the reality of substance, we learn from them nothing about how precisely each degree of reality relates to another, or about how the entire system of human affections relates to the system of God's affections. For each affect, each instance of "affection of," leads us to another existential sphere that cannot be compared to anything but can only be affirmed in relation to God. (118)

However, precisely because each affirmation of reality is carried out in direct relation to God, through the very affirmation, we acknowledge the radical difference between that which is somehow finite and that which is absolutely infinite. "The mere intelligibility of a thing," as Delia Rocca rightly states, "is the existence of that thing." (119) But this does not mean that the only thing worthy of philosophical consideration is that which exists absolutely. Even confused ideas such as the affects, as Spinoza writes, have properties "worthy of our knowledge as the properties of any other thing." (120) Rather, the imperative in the Ethics is to consider singular things as singular things, that is, as contingent, and only then understand them as necessary. It is through reason that we ultimately understand what looks contingent as necessary; (121) but in order first to consider contingencies as contingent, we must begin with an "I feel" rather than an "I think." For "a thing is called contingent only because of a defect of our knowledge," that is, because of our affects, which, unlike God's affections, render our thinking confused. (122) And since we are "necessarily always subject to passions," we can never form clear and distinct ideas or think without experiencing accompanying feelings and confusion. (123) This is why Spinoza says that "there is in the mind no absolute faculty of understanding, desiring, loving, and the like." (124) We can never think like God, that is, as something that acts according to its own nature alone, because our thinking is permeated with desires and feelings, because unlike God, we are affected in a way that involves confusion.

God loves no one and hates no one. But this does not mean that God is indifferent. (125) It is only affected in ways that are incommensurable with the ways in which human beings are affected. Nor is Spinoza in the business of preaching apathy to human beings. While God loves no one in a human way, we can and should love God, and we can do so only in our human way. We should love God not by contemplating it in isolation but by considering singular things, such as ourselves and the passions, as singular things--that is, by considering them as affected in a way altogether different from the way God is affected--and through the understanding, which is already implied in this very consideration, that these things are nevertheless real in precisely the same sense, yet not to the same degree, in which God is real, that is, in the sense that they are all in Nature.

Johns Hopkins University

Correspondence to: Department of Comparative Thought and Literature, Gilman Hall, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.

(1) E1p15d. All citations of Spinoza's Ethics (Ethica, abbreviated as E) and Letter 63 (Epistola, abbreviated as Ep.) are taken from Benedict de Spinoza: The Ethics and Other Works, ed. and trans. Edwin Curley (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994). Further abbreviations: 1-5 (part number); d (definition, if positioned directly after digit); a (axiom); p (proposition); s (scholium); d (demonstration, if not positioned directly after digit); app (appendix). Citations of the Short Treatise (Korte Verhandeling, abbreviated as KV) are from Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Weil-Being, ed. and trans. Abraham Wolf (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1910). Citations of Metaphysical Thoughts (Cogitata Metaphysics, abbreviated as CM), the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione; abbreviated as TdIE), the Political Treatise (Tractatus Politicus; abbreviated as TP), and Letters 34 and 64 (Epistolae, abbreviated as Ep.) are from Spinoza: Complete Works, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002). Original language references are to Spinoza Opera, 4 vols, (abbreviated as Geb.), ed. Carl Gebhardt (Heidelberg: Carl Winters, 1925).

(2) E1d3.

(3) E1d5.

(4) E1d3, E1d5.

(5) E1d5.

(6) The expression "second-order affection" is from Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books, 2005), 146.

(7) E5p17.

(8) In Metaphysical Thoughts (2.5), Spinoza reminds us of what "Descartes said" in Principles of Philosophy, namely, that "in nature there is nothing but substances and their modes." Indeed, in article 51 of the Principles, Descartes states: "there is only one substance which can be understood to depend on no other thing whatsoever, namely God. In the case of all other substances, we perceive that they can exist only with the help of God's occurrence." It should be noted, however, that although Spinoza refers to articles 48 and 49 of Part 1 of the Principles when reminding us here that "Descartes said" that "in nature there is nothing except substances and their modes," this is in fact not what Descartes says in these articles, at least not explicitly. Article 48 states that "[a]ll the objects of our perception may be regarded either as things or affections [affectiones] of things, or as eternal truths." Descartes goes on to specify the "only two ultimate cases of things" (that is, the intellectual and the material) and to mention those things that are somehow between these two categories (such as appetites, emotions, and passions). In article 49, he explains what eternal truths are. These articles are, therefore, more directly relevant to the main theme that Spinoza discusses after he makes the reference to Descartes, namely, the three kinds of distinction (real, modal, and conceptual), which Descartes presents in Part 1, articles 60 through 62, on the basis indeed, as Spinoza suggests, of what he previously said in articles 48 and 49. It is in fact in article 51 of the same part that the division of the universe into dependent and independent entities is clearly made. Citations of Descartes's Principles of Philosophy, The Passions of the Soul, and Meditations on First Philosophy are taken from The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vols. I--II (abbreviated as CSM), trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-85). Citations of the Latin text of the Principles (Principiorum Philosophiae) are from Oeuvres de Descartes, Vol. 8 abbreviated as AT, ed. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery (Paris: Cerf, 1905).

(9) Aristotle, Metaphysics 7.1.1028al3-33. Citations of Aristotle's Metaphysics are from Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vols. 17-18, trans. Hugh Tredennick (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014).

(10) E1d6.

(11) E1p14.

(12) Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza's Ethics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), 8.

(13) CSM 1:210, original emphasis.

(14) CSM 1:211-12; AT 8:26.

(15) E1p20c1; E3pref.

(16) One may argue that the same question can be asked regarding the relation of causation. For while, as we learn from E1p7d, substance must be considered the "cause of itself," it is not defined as the effect of itself. However, the notion of natura naturata implies that Spinoza in fact regards substance as the effect of itself, while it does not imply that substance is also the affections of itself. As John Carriero points out, Spinoza does not make use of causal idioms in the definitions of substance and modes. Not only is substance not defined as the cause of itself, but also mode is not defined as the effects of substance. This suggests that the notion of affection is prior to or more general than the notion of effect, at least when it comes to Spinoza's explication of the relation between substance and modes. Furthermore, human actions and passions are defined as ideas of "affections," rather than "effects," of the human body (E3d3). "Affection" thus appears to have a wider extension which includes the case of inadequate cause, which cannot be ascribed to God. As we shall see, this is what enables Spinoza to use the notion of affection in an equivocal manner. See John Carriero, "On the Relationship Between Modes and Substance in Spinoza's Metaphysics," Journal of the History of Philosophy 33, no. 2 (1995): 26.

(17) Another kind of affections is mentioned in the appendix of Part I of the Ethics: "affections [affectiones] of the imagination."

(18) Yitzhak Melamed, Spinoza's Metaphysics: Substance and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 113.

(19) In one the earliest works dedicated to Spinoza's doctrine of infinite modes, Elisabeth Schmitt presents what she considers the most common view in the literature on the topic by quoting from J. E. Erdmann's Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie (1840): "Between the substance as the infinitum and the things as the finitis, one finds in the middle that to which one reaches, ultimately, by ascending from things, and, initially, by descending from the infinite.... Spinoza's expressions 'infinite modification,' 'infinite mode,' and others capture this midpoint in a very striking manner." Schmitt ascribes a similar view to Camerer (though she regards his reading as an alternative to Erdmann's), explaining that according to him "the meaning of the infinite modes lies in that they allow for the gradual causal mediation between the infinite attributes and the finite singular things." See Elisabeth Schmitt, Die unendlichen Modi bei Spinoza (Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1910), 5, 9 (my translation). Curley mentions the parallels that Gueroult draws between Spinoza's theory of infinite modes and the teachings of Philo and the Neoplatonists, who "had also inserted intermediaries between the infinite cause and its finite effects." Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method, 149 n. 49. See Martial Gueroult, Spinoza: Dieu (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1968), 309 and following. For interpretations along these lines by contemporary authors, see Emilia Giancotti, "On the Problem of Infinite Modes," in God and Nature: Spinoza's Metaphysics, ed. Yirmiyahu Yovel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991), 97-118; Yirmiyahu Yovel, "The Infinite Mode and Natural Laws in Spinoza," in God and Nature: Spinoza's Metaphysics, 79-96; Tad Schmaltz, "Spinoza's Mediate Infinite Mode," Journal of the History of Philosophy 35, no. 2 (1997): 199-235; and more recently, Melamed, Spinoza's Metaphysics, 113-36.

(20) Giancotti, "On the Problem," 110, 113.

(21) Melamed, Spinoza's Metaphysics, 131.

(22) Schmaltz, "Spinoza's Mediate," 214-15, 219.

(23) For the opposite view, see Giancotti, "On the Problem," 105.

(24) In Elp21d, Spinoza suggests that the idea of God (idea Dei) is an immediate infinite mode. But, as Schmaltz points out, this mode was often regarded as a mediate infinite mode; Schmaltz, "Spinoza's Mediate," 222; see also Henry Wolfson, The Philosophy of Spinoza: Unfolding the Latent Process of His Reasoning (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1934), 1:241 and following. In the Short Treatise, Spinoza specifies that the "understanding (Verstaan) is the immediate infinite mode of thought and that the immediate infinite mode of extension is "motion" (Beweginge) or "motion and rest" (KV 1:9, 2:19; Wolf, 57, 120; Geb. 1:48, 89-90). Only once, however, does Spinoza provide an example for a mediate infinite mode, and he does that only in response to a specific request made by Schuller on behalf of Tschirnhaus to this end (Ep. 63). In his reply to Schuller, Spinoza once again confirms that "absolute infinite intellect" (intellectus absolute infinitus) is the immediate infinite mode of thought and that "motion and rest" (motus et quies) is the immediate infinite mode of extension. As regards the category of mediate infinite modes (or, in Schuller's words, "those [modes] which are produced by the mediation of some infinite modification"; Ep. 63), Spinoza somewhat enigmatically provides the example of "the face of the whole universe" (fades totius universi), which, as he goes on to explain, "although varying in infinite ways, remains nonetheless always the same." (Ep. 64; Shirley, 919; translation modified; Geb. 4:278). But Spinoza remains silent on what is precisely the correlate of the mediate infinite mode of extension in the attribute of thought. Hence the "missing" mediate infinite mode of thought, sought after by Schmaltz and others.

(25) E2p8.

(26) E1app: "All the prejudices I here undertake to expose depend on this one: that men commonly suppose that all natural things act, as men do, on account on an end; indeed, they maintain as certain that God himself directs all things to some certain end, for they say that God has made all things for man, and man that he might worship God." See also TTP, chap. 16.

(27) For attempts to reconcile Spinoza's metaphysical rejection of anthropocentrism with his apparently human-centered ethics, see Genevieve Lloyd, "Spinoza's Environmental Ethics," Inquiry 23, no. 3 (1980): 293-311; and Herman De Dijn, "Knowledge, Anthropocentrism and Salvation," in Spinoza, ed. Gideon Segal and Yirmiyahu Yovel (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), 341-55. For a reading of Spinoza as "the most radical anti-humanist among modern philosophers," see Yitzhak Melamed, "Spinoza's Anti-Humanism: An Outline," in The Rationalists: Between Tradition and Innovation, ed. Carlos Fraenkel, Dario Perinetti, and Justin E. H. Smith (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011), 147-66; quotation is from 148. For recent readings that highlight Spinoza's rejection of anthropocentrism in what can be broadly described as a posthumanist or poststructuralist framework, see Spinoza Beyond Philosophy, ed. Beth Lord (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). The expression "nonanthropocentric anthropology" appears in Lord's introduction to this volume, p. 1.

(28) Giancotti, "On the Problem," 113.

(29) Schmaltz, "Spinoza's Mediate," 214, 215, 219.

(30) Michael Delia Rocca, "Rationalism Run Amok: Representation and Reality of Emotions in Spinoza," in Interpreting Spinoza: Critical Essays, ed. Charles Huenemann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 27, 49-50.

(31) Ibid., 49.

(32) Ibid., 28.

(33) See ibid., 29 n. 6, where Delia Rocca makes this view explicit.

(34) Ibid., 52.

(35) Ibid., 36.

(36) Ibid., 28.

(37) Regarding Maimon's first articulation of this reading, see Yitzhak Melamed, "Why Spinoza Is Not an Eleatic Monist (Or Why Diversity Exists)," in Spinoza on Monism, ed. Philip Goff (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2011), 218 n. 22.

(38) G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, vol. 3, trans. E. S. Haldane and F. H. Simson (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 281.

(39) E5pref.

(40) Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1989), 109; Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Bose: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft (Leipzig: Naumann, 1886), 120.

(41) Deleuze, Expressionism; see also Giancotti, "On the Problem," 111: "The passage from the attributes to the modes does not entail the deterioration or loss of power of being, but rather the articulation and infinite pluralization of the modes of the being, as a spontaneous explication of its power. Within this process--which is an expression of the essence/power of the substance--all the modes occur: immediate infinite, mediate infinite, and finite."

(42) E5pref.

(43) CSM 1:348.

(44) E5pref.

(45) E5p20s.

(46) E3pref.

(47) E4p4c. Spinoza repeats this argument in the first chapter of the Political Treatise: "For this much is quite certain, and proved to be true in our Ethics, that men are necessarily subject to passions" (TP 1.5).

(48) E4p7; emphasis added. Nietzsche similarly argues in Beyond Good and Evil (98; Jenseits, 94): "The will to overcome an emotion is ultimately only the will of another emotion or of several others" ("Der Wille, einen Affekt zu iiberwinden, ist zuletzt doch nur der Wille eines anderen oder mehrerer anderer Affekte"). Likewise Heidegger writes in Being and Time: "when we master a mood, we do so by way of a counter-mood" ("Herr werden wir der Stimmung nie stimmungslos, sondern je aus einer Grundstimmung"). Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 175; Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 2006), 136.

(49) E5p33s.

(50) Compare Short Treatise (2:2; Wolf, 69): "But we call that clear Knowledge which comes, not from our being convinced by reasons, but from our feeling and enjoying the thing itself."

(51) E5p17.

(52) For a consideration of Spinoza's explicit ascription of love to God in E5p34-35, see below, n. 89.

(53) E1p28d.

(54) E3da3.

(55) See TP 1.1: "So I have regarded human emotions such as love, hatred, anger, envy, pride, pity and other agitations of the mind not as vices of human nature but as properties pertaining to it in the same way as heat, cold, storm, thunder and such pertain to the nature of the atmosphere."

(56) Delia Rocca, "Rationalism," 27.

(57) E1p8s2i-ii, E1p16d, E3p4d, E3da6, TdIE [section]95, Ep. 34.

(58) E5p25d; E2p40s2.

(59) E3pref.

(60) E3p2s.

(61) Notably E2pll-13 and E3p3.

(62) That is, E2pll and E2pl3.

(63) Tellingly, these arguments serve Spinoza as the point of departure for what Lachterman calls the "physical digression," the set of lemmata about the body presented in Part 2, which is yet another important point in which the structuring of the system of definitions is adjusted in an apparently inelegant fashion. In a similar way, we may regard the set of definitions of the affects as a "pathological digression." The question as to how these digressions relate to each other in view of the overall structuring of the book, however, must be postponed at this stage. See below, n. 116.

(64) This assertion appears to confirm what Descartes says about the will in the Fourth Meditation, namely, that "the will simply consists in our ability to do or not do something (that is, to affirm or deny, to pursue or avoid)." (CSM 2:40). However, Spinoza makes this assertion precisely in the context of rejecting the Cartesian conception of the will and especially the distinction between the will (as infinite) and the intellect (as finite). See corollary and scholium of EII49. See also John Cottingham, "The Intellect, the Will, and the Passions: Spinoza's Critique of Descartes," Journal of the History of Philosophy 26, no. 2 (1988): 242.

(65) E3p6-7.

(66) E3p10d.

(67) E3p4d.

(68) E3p3s.

(69) See E5p34.

(70) Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 36, 40. See also Deleuze, Expressionism, 104, 165, 180, 300, 330-33, where the univocity of being is linked to the univocity of causation, the univocity of attributes, the univocity of production, common cause, common notion, and the notion of expression, all of which are contrasted with "the domain of signs," which includes "the indicative signs of natural perception, [and] the imperative signs of moral law and of religious revelation" (330).

(71) E1p14, E4pref.

(72) E1p21d; KV 1:9, 2:19.

(73) E2p48d.

(74) E1p25c.

(75) E2d7.

(76) E4app9.

(77) E2p31d.

(78) E3pref.

(79) Don Garrett, "Representation and Consciousness in Spinoza's Naturalistic Theory of the Imagination," in Interpreting Spinoza: Critical Essays, ed. Charles Huenemann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 10.

(80) E2p45s.

(81) E1p28s.

(82) E1d18. A similar claim is made by Melamed regarding the "univocity of 'follow.'" See his Spinoza's Metaphysics, 121-22.

(83) E1p5d.

(84) E1p28d.

(85) E1d7.

(86) Deleuze, Expressionism, 332. It is sometimes hard to draw the line between Deleuze's reading of Spinoza and his appropriation of Spinoza. But it nevertheless can be said that inasmuch as Deleuze appropriates

Spinoza, it is precisely these asymmetries that he wishes to overcome or even cancel out. As he explains to the English translator of Expressionism (Expressionism, 11): "What interested me most in Spinoza wasn't his substance, but the composition of finite modes. I consider this one of the most original aspects of my book. That is: the hope of making substance turn on finite modes, or at least of seeing in substance a plane of immanence in which finite modes operate, already appears in this book." Thus in Difference and Repetition (40) Deleuze proposes a "categorical reversal" according to which "[s]ubstance must itself be said of the modes and only of the modes."

(87) Saying "primarily," I mean that this happens before causation; see above, n. 16.

(88) E5p17; E5p17c.

(89) Spinoza appears to contradict both himself and what is here suggested when in E5pp35-36 he states that "God loves himself with an infinite intellectual love," and that "[t]he mind's intellectual love of God is the very love of God by which God loves himself," as well as when he writes in the corollary to the latter proposition that, "inasmuch as God loves himself, he loves men, and ... God's love of men and the mind's intellectual love of God are one and the same." But all this is said inasmuch as things are considered under the species of eternity. It is only the intellectual love of God that is "eternal" (E5p34c), and as such it is different from all the other affects, which are experienced only as long as one's body endures. The intellectual love of God is thus indistinguishable from God's self-love to the same extent that the intellectual and emotional aspects of this love are indistinguishable from each other; but love as a passion, that is, as something ephemeral that involves confusion, is ascribable only to finite beings.

(90) E3p3s.

(91) E3p4d.

(92) General Definition of the Affects.

(93) E3pld.

(94) E5p3.

(95) See TP 1.1; see above, n. 55.

(96) 1p28s.

(97) E1p28s. Since Spinoza makes this remark in Part 1 of the Ethics and in close proximity to the discussion about infinite modes, and since the notion of mediation is used in it, it may appear to warrant a consideration of it in the context of the question concerning the status of the mediate infinite modes and their role in the process of mediation (see for example Giancotti, "On the Problem," 98-99). However, it should be observed that what Spinoza distinguishes here from "things that [God] has produced immediately" is not the mediate infinite modes, but "singular things," which he is about to define as "things that are finite and have determinate existence" (E2d7). Thus the question of mediation should be conceived of more broadly, that is, as a question regarding the difference not only between various kinds of infinite modes, but also between all sorts of singular things. See also KV 1:3, where Spinoza states that "God is the proximate cause [naaste oorzaak] of the things that are infinite, and immutable, and which we assert to have been created immediately [onmiddelyk] by him, but, in one sense, he is the remote cause [laatste oorzaak] of all particular things [bezondere dingen]" (Wolf, 43; Geb. 1:36). According to Wolfson (Philosophy of Spinoza, 250-51), the infinite modes are considered by Spinoza in relation to substance as singular things. To support this reading Wolfson cites the following passage from the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect ([section]101; his translation): "It may indeed be said that these individual mutable things so intimately and essentially, if I may so speak, depend upon those that are fixed that the former without the latter can neither be nor be conceived. Hence these fixed and eternal things, although they may be individual [singularia], nevertheless, on account of their presence everywhere and their extensive power, will be like universals to us, or so to speak, the genera of the definitions of individual mutable things, and proximate causes of all things."

(98) E1p28s.

(99) E1p18.

(100) E1p28d.

(101) E1p11d; E1p13; E1p28d.

(102) Deleuze, Expressionism; Giancotti, "On the Problem," 111.

(103) Thus Spinoza writes with regard to the affects (E3p3d; emphasis added): "whatever follows from the nature of the mind and has the mind as its proximate cause, through which it must be understood, must necessarily follow from an adequate idea or an inadequate one." See also Short Treatise (KV 2:2; Wolf, 69): "knowledge [that is, human knowledge] is the proximate cause of the 'passions' in the soul."

(104) E3pref.

(105) E2p44.

(106) E5p24.

(107) E1p29; E2p31c.

(108) The correspondence between our better understanding of singular things and our better understanding of God does not imply that for Spinoza we know God through singular things, for the knowledge of God is always immediate. As Spinoza writes in the Short Treatise (2:24), "It is ... impossible to get to know God through something else ... [b]ecause, in that case, such a thing would have to be better known to us than God himself' (Wolf, 142). Yet, as Spinoza writes earlier on in the Short Treatise (2:22), "the body is the very first thing of which our soul becomes aware" (Wolf, 134; see E2ppl2-13: "The first thing which constitutes the actual being of a human mind [is the idea of its body]"). The logic that Spinoza follows here is similar to the one according to which Descartes famously asserts the primacy of the infinite over the finite in the Third Meditation ("my perception of the infinite, that is God, is in some way prior to my perception of the finite, that is myself'; CSM 2:31) as well as to the logic that is to be found in Heidegger's extensive use (to the very opposite effect of asserting the primacy of finitude) of the notion of "always already" (je schon immer). Thus, after asserting in the Short Treatise that "the body is the very first thing of which our soul becomes aware," Spinoza explains: "But, as this idea can by no means find rest in the knowledge of that without which the body and Idea [sic] could neither be, nor be understood, so (after knowing it first) it becomes united with it immediately [terstond] through love" (KV 2:22; Wolf, 142; Geb., 102). In other words, only after knowing our body do we become immediately, or "at once" (terstond), aware of God.

(109) E4p4c. See TP 1.5 (see above, n. 47). There is a remarkable similarity here to Heidegger's notion of Befindlichkeit, which is usually rendered "state of mind" or "affectedness," and which corresponds to what we usually (or "ontically") understand as moods (Stimmungen). The crucial point in Heidegger's analysis of Befindlichkeit in Being and Time is that Dasein is always already "attuned" (gestimmt) through a certain "mood" (Stimmung), or, in Heidegger's words, that "das Dasein je schon immer gestimmt ist" (Sein und Zeit, 134). Moreover, for Heidegger, too, though much more explicitly, what is at stake in the understanding of moods is precisely the question of finitude.

(110) E2p13; E2p19.

(111) See E2p49s.

(112) E2a4.

(113) E2p48s.

(114) E2p49s3a.

(115) E2d3exp.

(116) This perhaps explains why in addition to the "physical digression," which is regarded by Lachterman as the second beginning of the Ethics ("The Physics," 83), there is what I propose to term the "pathological digression" (that is, the definitions of the affects), which can likewise be understood as a new beginning. With every insertion of "affection of' the system recommences because "affection of' does not point backward. The physical digression is designed to explain the body, which is an affection of God; the pathological digression explains the affections of such an affection.

(117) E3da3.

(118) Thus Spinoza writes in the explanation to the General Definition of the Affects: "But it should be noted that, when I say a greater or lesser force of existing than before, I do not understand that the mind compares its body's present constitution with a past constitution, but that the idea which constitutes the form of the affect affirms of the body something which really involves more or less reality than before."

(119) Delia Rocca, "Rationalism," 36.

(120) E3pref.

(121) E5p3.

(122) E1p33sl.

(123) E4p4c.

(124) E2p48s.

(125) See Elpl7s. See also chap. 22 of Part II of the Short Treatise, titled "On God's Love of Man," where Spinoza writes: "when we say that God does not love man, this must not be taken to mean that he (so to say) leaves man to pursue his course all alone, but only that because man together with all that is are in God in such a way, and God consists of all these in such a way, therefore, properly speaking, there can be in him no love for something else" (Wolf, 13839).
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Title Annotation:Benedict Spinoza
Author:Rot, Avraham
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Essay
Date:Jun 1, 2018

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