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Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza Paperback – February 18, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this intricately argued work, Deleuze claims that expression is a key to understanding Spinoza's philosophy: If A expresses B, then A perfectly reproduces all of B's essential characteristics. Nature, for instance, expresses God's essence. Deleuze thinks that Spinoza's use of expression revolutionizes philosophy; God is no longer seen as the world's creator but is identical with it. Furthermore, expression characterizes not only the nature of reality but also the manner in which Spinoza presents his philosophy, for the order in which Spinoza presents his conclusions is supposed to copy the movement of reality. Deleuze maintains that Leibniz shared Spinoza's revolutionary stress on expression. By their use of this idea, they founded modern philosophy. In Deleuze's view, Descartes counts as pre-modern, since he did not use the notion of expression. While Deleuze's grasp of Spinoza's thought is penetrating, his study is suitable only for scholars.
- David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 445 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books; First Paperback Edition edition (February 18, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299519
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was professor of philosophy at the University of Paris, Vincennes-St. Denis. He coauthored Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus with Félix Guattari. These works, as well as Cinema 1, Cinema 2, The Fold, Proust and Signs, and others, are published in English by Minnesota.

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Though this book dates from the less well-known "academic" phase of Deleuze's career, and thus completely lacks the stylistic exuberance of his later works, you can immediately see how it pre-figures many of the concepts he was to create with Guattari. It is interesting, then, both from the perspective of studying Deleuze, as well as for its clear, almost dry, presentation of Spinoza's philosophy. In fact, the book can serve as a bridge between these philosophers irrespective of which of the two names drew you to the title: a Spinoza for the Deleuzians, and a Deleuze that even a Spinozist could love, the two tied together by a shared conception of pure immanence.

The plan of the book is based around the structure of the Ethics and outlines all the main points of Spinoza's masterpiece, starting with Substance and ending in Beatitude. Special care is taken to situate Spinoza with respect to his historical context, particularly next to the philosophies of Descartes and Leibniz. To this end, Deleuze develops his thesis that it is a shared philosophy of "expression" that, despite their differences, unites Leibniz and Spinoza in founding a post-cartesian philosophy. For readers of A Thousand Plateaus, the idea that Nature is expressive will come as no surprise, but seeing this in light of Spinoza adds a valuable depth to it.
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Format: Hardcover
Deleuze's interpretation of Spinoza's Ethics is lively and original; his description of the problem of attributes and modes as numerically distinct from substance but not ontologically so is helpful in understanding Spinoza's metaphysics. His discussion of power, as "pouvoir" and "puissance" and their relationship to active affections, is also fascinating for what it suggests about the possibility of a rational community. A must read for Spinoza students and those interested in the history of philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
An excellent monograph by the great metaphysician, Deleuze. This elaborate text attempts to demonstrate the expressivity of Spinoza's theory of immanence. Deleuze argues that the attributes of God express the essence of substance in its necessity and infinity. There is remarkable explication of finite modes in this text-Deleuze indicates that a mode's essence is a determinate degree of intensity, an "irreducible degree of power." I found this description helpful as the transition from infinite substance to finite modes has always been ambiguous for me. There is also some remarkable work on scholastic philosophy in this work-Deleuze incorporates some insightful comparisons with Scotus' theology in the section on numerical and real distinction. Perhaps most importantly, Deleuze is able to synthesize expressivity in Spinoza with Leibniz and to show how these two figures successfully launched an anti-Cartesian movement. Although this text has been criticized for allowing too much conceptual work to take place at the level of attribution, I found it to be a remarkably precise exegesis.
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Format: Paperback
Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza is one of two books Deleuze wrote about Spinoza, the other being Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. While Spinoza: Practical Philosophy is a slender volume, Expressionism in Philosophy is a massive tome, more than 440 pages in its English translation. The book is complicated, technical, and densely written, and together with its length this means that the reader had better be very patient and persevering. Those who do persevere should find the book both fascinating and rewarding. Expressionism in Philosophy covers some of the same territory as Spinoza: Practical Philosophy; it also deals with Spinoza's ideas in relation to Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant.
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