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Modes, monads and nomads: Individuals in Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze

Dissertation
Author: Adam Wilkins
Abstract:
The dissertation is a comparative study of the theory of individuals (in the most general ontological sense) in Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze, aiming to reach a better understanding of all three of these theories. The parallels drawn between them serve to illuminate all three, but this study is especially oriented towards the understanding of Deleuze, whose theory, being about three hundred years younger, has received the least philosophical attention. My comparison is structured by parallel subdivisions into essence, existence and actual individuals. That is, for each of the three philosophers to be studied, I consider what they propose as the essence of an individual, how they conceive its existence to come about, and what activity characterizes the actual individual once it exists. Based on readings of key primary texts, I show that all three philosophers share a conception of essence as the principle of activity of the individual of which it is the essence. Their accounts of how existence comes about, however, are widely divergent, and as a result the way the essence acts as a principle of activity for the actual individual is distinctive in each philosopher's account. As a secondary task, I undertake to criticize a few points in Deleuze's reading of Spinoza and Leibniz. I contend, through a careful consideration of Deleuze's claims and a comparison with the relevant texts in Spinoza and Leibniz, that Deleuze's introduction of the concepts of intensity and extensity into his reading of Spinoza, and his account of the relationship between individual and world in Leibniz, do more to obscure Spinoza and Leibniz's claims than to clarify them. As might be expected, the overall picture that emerges is a complicated one. Deleuze is not as close to Spinoza or Leibniz as his own comments on them might at times suggest. Spinoza and Leibniz differ on many specific points. And yet all three philosophers share a broad conception of the role of the essence of an individual.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations...........................................................................................................v Introduction.........................................................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Spinoza............................................................................................................10 1. Essence......................................................................................................................12 2. Existence...................................................................................................................34 3. Actual Individuals.....................................................................................................56 Chapter 2: Leibniz.............................................................................................................73 1. Essence......................................................................................................................74 2. Existence...................................................................................................................94 3. Actual Individuals...................................................................................................113 Chapter 3: Deleuze on Spinoza and Leibniz...................................................................134 1. Deleuze on Spinoza.................................................................................................136 i. Intensive Essence.................................................................................................138 ii. Extensive Existence............................................................................................147 2. Deleuze on Leibniz..................................................................................................155 i. The Critique of Possibility...................................................................................157 ii. World and Individual..........................................................................................163 Chapter 4: Deleuze..........................................................................................................175 1. Virtual and Essence.................................................................................................177 2. Actualization and Existence....................................................................................206 3. Actual Individuals...................................................................................................230 A Rationalistic Epilogue.................................................................................................247 Bibliography....................................................................................................................249

v List of Abbreviations

Spinoza

References to Spinoza are to The Collected Works of Spinoza, Vol. I, edited and translated by Edwin Curley, unless otherwise indicated. References to the Ethics are made with the usual system of abbreviations, in which, for example, 1d1 refers to definition 1 of part 1 of the Ethics, 4p34 refers to proposition 34 of part 4 of the Ethics, and 3p7d refers to the demonstration of proposition 7 of part 3 of the Ethics. The numbers 15 refer to the parts of the Ethics, and a second number refers to the particular definition, proposition, etc. The following abbreviations are used:

a = axiom c = corollary d (followed by a numeral) = definition d (not followed by a numeral) = demonstration p = proposition s = scholium exp = explanation

Leibniz

The following abbreviations are used in citing Leibniz:

A: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe, Ed. Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Darmstadt, Leipzig, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1923 –. (Series number, volume number, page number.)

AG: G. W. Leibniz, Philosophical Essays, Trans. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989.

G: Die philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Ed. C. I. Gerhardt, Berlin: Weidmann, 187590. Reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1978. (Volume in roman numerals followed by page number).

GM: Leibnizens Mathematische Schriften, Ed. C. I. Gerhardt, Berlin: A. Ascher; and Halle: H. W. Schmidt, 194963. Reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1971. (Volume in roman numerals followed by page number).

Grua: Textes inédits d’après la bibliothèque provinciale de Hanovre, Ed. Gaston Grua, Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1948. Reprint, New York and London:

vi Garland Publishing, 1985.

Huggard: G. W. Leibniz, Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, Trans. E. M. Huggard, Chicago: Open Court, 1985 (First published London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Limited, 1951).

Klopp: Die Werke von Leibniz. Edited by O. Klopp. Erste Reihe. 11vols. Hannover: Klindworth, 18641884. L: G. W. Leibniz, Philosophical Papers and Letters, Ed. Leroy E. Loemker, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989. (First edition: Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1956; Second edition: Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1969).

Mason: The Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence, ed. and trans. H. T. Mason, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. (Originally published: Manchester: Manchester University Press; New York: Barnes and Noble, 1967.)

NE: G. W. Leibniz, New Essays on Human Understanding, Ed. Peter Remnant and Jonathan Bennett, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (The page numbers given in the margins of this edition are equivalent to the page numbers of A 6.6.)

Riley: The Political Writings of Leibniz. Edited and Translated by P. Riley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972. Schrecker:

G. W. Leibniz, Monadology and Other Philosophical Essays, Trans. Paul Schrecker and Anne Martin Schrecker, Indianapolis: The BobbsMerrill Company, Inc., 1965.

WF: G. W. Leibniz, Philosophical Texts, Trans. and Ed. R. S. Woolhouse and Richard Francks, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Deleuze

The following abbreviations are used in citing Deleuze:

DR: Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Originally published as Différence et répétition (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968).

LS: The Logic of Sense. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. Trans. by Mark Lester and Charles Stivale. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. Originally published as Logique du sens (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1969).

1 Introduction

What follows is a comparative study of the theory of individuals in Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze. Its purpose is simply a better understanding of all three of these theories. Of the three philosophers to be studied, Leibniz is the only one who is well known for his theory of individuals. My hope is that parallels drawn between them will serve to illuminate all three, but this study is especially oriented towards the understanding of Deleuze, whose theory, being about three hundred years younger, has received the least philosophical attention. A secondary aim will be to criticize Deleuze’s reading of Spinoza and Leibniz with regard to a few key points relating to the theory of individuals. Since Deleuze’s aim in reading other philosophers was generally creative appropriation rather than accuracy of interpretation, these criticisms will be beside the point in that respect. However, as far as the understanding of Deleuze goes, it is helpful to be able to distinguish between a comparison with Spinoza and Leibniz, and a comparison with Deleuze’s version of Spinoza and Leibniz. It seems to me that some of the secondary literature on Deleuze would gain in clarity by making this distinction. My comparison will be structured by parallel chapter subdivisions into essence, existence and actual individuals. That is, for each of the three philosophers to be studied, I will consider what they propose as the essence of an individual, how they conceive its

2 existence to come about, and what activity characterizes the actual individual once it exists. This frame will provide a way to highlight similarities and differences, hopefully without distorting the theories to be presented too severely. To give some context to the main discussion, it might be helpful to provide a very quick overview of the context in which Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze develop their respective theories of individuals. Spinoza’s main work is the Ethics, and although I will be considering it only for a section of the ontology it presents, it is oriented by the much grander goal of laying out the path to human blessedness. To this end, Spinoza begins by giving an account of the nature of God, demonstrating God’s existence, and more or less identifying God, substance and nature. Finite individuals, such as human beings, are then shown to be ‘modes’ of God or substance, characterized by their dependence on God both for their essence and their existence. They also depend on, and are at the mercy of, one another, as far their existence is concerned. The main thrust of Spinoza’s discussion is then aimed at identifying the forces that destabilize and threaten human existence and at studying the means for promoting those forces that stabilize and improve human existence. The ultimate goal is to achieve a kind of eternal existence through one’s relation to God. Within this project, the ontology of individual finite modes is a small step along the way, one with significant consequences for Spinoza’s project, but which receives relatively little direct discussion. Leibniz’s project is much less unified than Spinoza’s, and he has no single primary philosophical work. One of his main motivations seems to have been the goal of

3 establishing a unified metaphysical theory that would undermine sectarian divisions within Christianity, and perhaps also attenuate other religious conflicts as well. Leibniz also wanted to unify ancient and modern philosophy, and he was motivated by the goals of scientific inquiry, making significant contributions to mathematics and physics, besides having intellectual pursuits in numerous other areas as well. His metaphysics was conceived, then, with various interests in view, and his goal was that it should harmonize with all of them. Leibniz had a more orthodox view of God than Spinoza, conceiving of God as a transcendent creator who chose to create the world of finite things in which we find ourselves. Finite individuals are not modes, but substances, which depend for their existence only on God. These individuals are unextended and do not interact causally with one another. They are simple and imperishable except through direct annihilation by God. Their internal complexity is conceived on the model of perception. The extended world of everyday experience is a phenomenal one, resulting from the perceptions of these unextended substances. Leibniz’s theory of individual substances is one of the most striking theories of individuals in the history of philosophy, because of the extreme selfcontainment and isolation that he ascribes to them on the strict ontological level. Leibniz was only fourteen years younger than Spinoza, although he outlived him by almost forty years. The context of Deleuze’s philosophy, coming almost three hundred years later, is radically different. A good candidate, at least, for Deleuze’s main work of philosophy is Difference and Repetition. There Deleuze tries to develop a philosophy of difference, one that does not accord the notion of identity its traditional

4 privilege, and he promotes an ethical vision that privileges transformation and instability over stability, identity or unity. Arguably something in Deleuze’s ontology does take up the role played by God in the ontologies of Spinoza and Leibniz, but in his case it would have to be called Becoming or Life or Process or Event – a nonunifying dynamic level of reality that is not an entity independent of the finite individuals that actualize it. Individuals, then, are understood in relation to this process of difference, as actualizations of it. Deleuze uses this theory to undermine both traditional philosophical ideas about individual identity and common sense ideas on the same topic. His focus in Difference and Repetition is rarely on the actual individuals themselves, but rather on the processes and events which contribute to their genesis and transformation. I will be abstracting from these significant differences of context in comparing the work of these three philosophers. Given these differences, it is not surprising that the parallels I will be able to draw will be far from perfect; but against this background the similarities that do exist should seem all the more striking. Three concepts that structure my whole discussion are those of individual, essence and existence. A few brief remarks in advance may be in order. We will be looking at three complex metaphysical answers to the question of what an individual is. However, it should be noted that I am not using ‘individual’ in the sense of ‘rational human agent’ or in any sense that would imply personhood, but rather in a much more general ontological sense. Briefly, individuals are the basic, finite, actually existing things of each of our three philosophers’ respective ontologies. Their individuals do not necessarily correspond to what would normally be called an

5 individual. Strawson proposed a rough distinction between descriptive and revisionary metaphysics; if we adopt Strawson’s distinction, the three philosophers I will be considering here clearly fall on the revisionary side. Strawson writes, “Descriptive metaphysics is content to describe the actual structure of our thought about the world, revisionary metaphysics is concerned to produce a better structure.” 1 Spinoza, Leibniz a nd Deleuze all contend that our usual way of thinking about individual things is misleading, and propose challenging alternatives defined within the conceptual structures they themselves work out. As for essence, there are strong similarities in the way that Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze think of essences or their equivalents. They all use the term in a way that has ontological import, that is, essences for them are part of reality and not just mental constructs. Also, for all of them, essences, in the sense with which I am concerned, are referred to individuals rather than to, say, species or categories of things. Finally, for all of them, one of the main things an essence does is account for the activity of the individual of which it is the essence; this can be contrasted with theories of essence aimed mainly at securing identity. The notion of essence that is relevant here, then, is ontological, tied to individuals, and provides a principle of activity. Essences form a domain of reality that can be contrasted with the domain of existence, which corresponds at least partially to the spatiotemporal world of everyday experience. Essences have neither the same temporal structure nor the same spatial structure as existing individuals.

1 P. F. Strawson, I ndividuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (London: Routledge, 1990; First published in 1959) 9.

6 Also, for all three philosophers we will be looking at, existence will require an additional ground or cause that is not needed to ground the reality of essences alone. Existence, I have said, is that domain of reality that has approximately the spatio temporal structure of everyday experience. It is the domain in which an essence becomes the principle of activity for an existing individual. My approach to existence will not be to ask what each philosopher thinks existence is, but to ask how the existence of individuals comes about. It is on this topic, it seems to me, that the contrasts between Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze become most striking, and threaten to overshadow the similarities. Spinoza will ascribe coming into existence to the activity of finite individuals already in existence; Leibniz will ascribe it to a direct act of creation by God, following the choice of which world to create; and Deleuze will describe a complex process of actualization that creates the features of existing individuals. The point for me of speaking of essence and existence is not to prejudge the meaning of those concepts, but to provide a framework for comparison. This framework will prove justified to the extent that a worthwhile comparative study is made possible by its use. However, the terminology of essence and existence is closer to Spinoza and Leibniz than to Deleuze. Indeed, it might strike a reader familiar with Deleuze as strange is that I refer to the ‘essence’ of an individual in Deleuze. (In fact, there are commentators on all three of the philosophers I am considering who think that the philosopher in question has no real use for the notion of essence – it all depends on what one takes ‘essence’ to mean.) Deleuze does not often use the terminology of essence when speaking in his own voice. One reader of Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, portrays

7 Deleuze’s philosophy in direct contrast to theories that posit essences: “[I]n some realist approaches the world is thought to be composed of fully formed objects whose identity is guaranteed by their possession of an essence, a core set of properties that defines what these objects are. Deleuze is not a realist about essences . . . .” 2 However, another c ommentator on Deleuze, Bruce Baugh, proposes on the contrary “to make sense of the proposition that Deleuze is a realist about essences . . . .” 3 The issue here is t erminological. DeLanda finds it useful to give a narrow definition of ‘essence’ and to view Deleuze in opposition to that. 4 Baugh, who is reading Deleuze’s texts on Spinoza, w here the term ‘essence’ is used freely and in a way that suggests parallels with Deleuze’s other work where this term is not used, finds it useful to see some kind of essences playing a role in Deleuze’s philosophy. We will see in chapter 4 that Deleuze does acknowledge parallels between his own concepts and traditional discussions of essence and existence.

Chapter outlines

What follows is divided into four chapters. The first deals with Spinoza. Spinoza grounds the reality of the essences of individual finite modes in the attributes of God.

2 DeLanda Intensive Science 23 3 Baugh “Real Essence...” 32 4 DeLanda actually seems to refer to more than one notion of essence, but they are all o nes that he takes Deleuze to reject. For instance, he writes, “Essences are thought to act as models, eternally maintaining their identity, while particular entities are conceived as mere copies of these models, resembling them with a higher or lower degree of perfection” (Intensive Science 4). He also refers to the notion of essence as a set of ‘core properties’ on the previous page.

8 The key text is Spinoza’s discussion of individual bodies in the Ethics, which reveals a conception of individual essence as a structure or relation of moving parts. Essentially made up of parts, such an individual comes into existence by being composed out of the parts of preexisting individuals and endures as long as the structure relating the parts can be maintained. For the actual individual, then, the essence determines actions to be taken internally and sometimes externally for the preservation of the essential structure. The activity of the individual appears as a striving to maintain this structure. The second chapter concerns Leibniz. The essences of Leibnizian individual substances are first of all concepts in God’s understanding. These define not only entire individual histories, but an infinity of possible worlds of such histories. God chooses the best of the possible worlds for existence, seeking to maximize metaphysical perfection, harmony, and the happiness and virtue of rational creatures. In the actual individual substance, the essence is the law of the series of its states, which unfolds without opposition or deviation. We will see that there are striking differences between Leibniz and Spinoza with respect to the ontology of individuals. Spinoza presents us with partial, composite, conflictual, perishable individuals, while Leibniz presents closed, simple, harmonious, imperishable ones. Spinoza’s primary model seems to be the body, while Leibniz’s is the soul. Having offered some interpretation of the theories of individuals in Spinoza and Leibniz in the first two chapters, I will turn in the third to criticize a few key points from Deleuze’s interpretation of these philosophers. I will point to some of the ways in which Deleuze seems to me to import concepts of his own into his interpretation of texts

9 relevant to the theories I am discussing. I will be far from offering an overall assessment of Deleuze’s treatment of Spinoza and Leibniz. My aim will be to show how he assimilates these philosophers to his own position, and to let this stand in contrast with the far less perfect parallels that will emerge from my discussion of all three philosophers. In the fourth chapter I will discuss the theory of individuals in Deleuze’s own philosophy, focusing especially on Difference and Repetition, drawing parallels to Spinoza and Leibniz whenever possible. The essences of individuals are not grounded in God as an independent entity, but are considered either as immanent to the domain of actual individuals, or else in relation to a kind of fundamental creative principle that Deleuze calls Life or Process or Event, the activity of pure difference. These essences are not in a onetoone correspondence with actual individuals, as those of Spinoza and Leibniz are, but are rather considered as starting points for a process of differentiation that culminates in the actual individual. Existence, then, requires a differentiation of the essence, a process that progressively structures the individual as its is actualized. In the actual individual, the essence appears as a potential for transformation, and the activity of the individual sometimes takes the form of a radical sort of learning. The overall picture that emerges from this chapter, it seems to me, is one that puts Deleuze a significant distance away from both Spinoza and Leibniz.

10 Chapter 1: Spinoza

Spinoza’s Ethics is about how a human individual (a “wise man,” according to 5p42s 1 ) can achieve blessedness (b eatitudo) or “the true good.” 2 His ontological r eflections are oriented by this project, as the prefatory note to Part 2 of the Ethics makes clear. In the service of his ethical task, then, Spinoza comes up with the outline, at least, of an ontology of individual finite modes, individuals not external to the one substance or God that is the basis of Spinoza’s ontology. This chapter will give an account of this ontology of individual finite modes, taking note of some of the interpretive difficulties that arise. There seem to be two main senses of ‘individual’ in Spinoza. One, which is not the most relevant to my discussion, is used in 2p21s: “we have shown that the idea of the Body and the Body, i.e. (by P13) the Mind and the Body, are one and the same Individual, which is conceived now under the attribute of Thought, now under the attribute of Extension.” Spinoza claims that the mind and the body are two ways of conceiving of the same individual, much as God can be grasped both as thinking substance and as extended substance. However, there is no individual apart from the attributes under which it is conceived, so the notion that mind and body are one and the

1 For abbreviations used in citing texts by Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze, see the list at t he end of the main text. 2 T reatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, II/5

11 same individual does not contribute directly to a theory of individuals. More important will be Spinoza’s notion of a ‘parallelism’ between mind and body, in which each is supposed to enjoy a perfect causal independence from the other. Much more relevant is a second sense of ‘individual,’ one which is stated as applying only to bodies, and which appears in a definition after 2p13s: When a number of bodies, whether of the same or of different size, are so constrained by other bodies that they lie upon one another, or if they so move, whether with the same degree or different degrees of speed, that they communicate their motions to each other in a certain fixed manner, we shall say that those bodies are united with one another and that they all together compose one body or Individual, which is distinguished from the others by this union of bodies.

While the former sense of individual referred to the identity of mind and body, this one attempts to define an individual body within extension. It is formulated in such a way as to apply only to bodies, but it might be able to provide a model for understanding what an individual would be in any attribute. One thing we can note right away is that according to this definition, an individual is necessarily composite. This will create a fundamental contrast between the ontologies of Spinoza and Leibniz, since Leibniz’s theory of individuals is a theory of simple substances or monads. (It will be interesting to see whether Deleuze falls clearly on one side or the other of this disagreement.) An existing individual mode is composite, but such an individual also corresponds to an eternal essence. Spinoza’s individuals are not simply ephemeral compositions. What is the essence of an individual, according to Spinoza? My attempt to address this question constitutes the first section of this chapter. The second section, taking individual essences as given, asks what it is for an individual mode to come into existence. The

12 composite nature of an individual mode is here at the forefront. I will also consider what is involved in Spinoza’s characterization of modal existence in terms of duration. The third section, finally, will consider the essence of the existing mode itself, what Spinoza calls the “actual essence” (3p7). It is here that the pieces of Spinoza’s theory of individual finite modes come together.

1. Essence

Do the essences of individuals have any independent reality apart from the existence of the individuals concerned, according to Spinoza? The aims of this section will be to show that they do, to attempt to define the essence of an individual finite mode, and to delimit just what is contained in what could be called the ‘realm of essences’. Spinoza’s commitment to the reality of essences is, I think, relatively clear, and the ground of their reality will be discussed first. I will then attempt to work out the features of individual essences from Spinoza’s discussion of individual bodies. In order to clarify Spinoza’s account further, I will consider how Spinoza’s realm of essences might relate to a realm of logical possibility such as seems to have been envisaged by Leibniz, arguing that Spinoza has a more limited conception of what counts as an essence. Finally, I will consider how the realm of essences relates to the realm of things that at some time exist: are there essences of things that never exist, according to Spinoza? I will also consider an attempt of Leibniz’s to reduce Spinoza’s position to absurdity.

13 It is not obvious, at first glance, what distinction there can be between essence and existence in individual finite modes, within the framework of Spinoza’s system. He affirms, after all, that “God’s existence and his essence are one and the same” (1p20); and nothing is outside of God (1p15), so one could easily expect that the identity of essence and existence in God is transferred to things in God. On the other hand, in the Metaphysical Thoughts, at least, Spinoza seems to think that the distinction of essence and existence in created things is obvious: Finally, if any Philosopher still doubts whether essence is distinguished from existence in created things, he need not labor greatly over definitions of essence and existence to remove that doubt. For if he will only go to some sculptor or woodcarver, they will show him how they conceive in a certain order a statue not yet existing, and after having made it, they will present the existing statue to him. (I/239)

Despite this appeal to the obviousness of the distinction, from a systematic point of view Spinoza will have to ground it in some manner, given that the distinction is not there at the level of the essence and existence of God. One possibility Spinoza mentions and rejects in the Metaphysical Thoughts is that an essence could be thought to be nothing different from an idea, and to have no being outside the intellect (I/238). He clearly rejects this possibility in the Short Treatise as well: “The true essence of an object is something which is really distinct from the Idea of that object” (I/116). Spinoza is thereby committed to a certain ontological reality of essences, and allows two options. The first, that the essence itself really exists, seems to be equivalent to saying that the thing of which it is the essence really exists. For example, God’s essence really exists because God exists. The second option is the one that Spinoza will pursue with respect to created things. Their essences are “contained in

14 another thing which exists really” (I/116). It is clear that according to the Short Treatise, an essence is inseparable from some existence. The only question is whether the thing itself of which it is the essence exists, or whether something else may exist in which the essence is contained. This same alternative is at work in the Ethics, as evidenced by 1p8s2. What must exist in conjunction with an essence hinges on the distinction between what is “conceived through itself” and what is “conceived through another” (1a2). Substance, which is conceived through itself, cannot have its essence contained in another. It can only be truly conceived if it itself exists: “Hence, if someone were to say that he had a clear and distinct, i.e., true, idea of a substance, and nevertheless doubted whether such a substance existed, that would indeed be the same as if he were to say that he had a true idea, and nevertheless doubted whether it was false” (1p8s2). However, if something is conceived through another, then it is possible to conceive of it even though it does not exist: “This is how we can have true ideas of modifications which do not exist; for though they do not actually exist outside the intellect, nevertheless their essences are comprehended in another in such a way that they can be conceived through it” (1p8s2). This, then, is the condition for the separation of essence and existence in finite things: the essence must be contained in something else, through which it is conceived, which really exists. Eventually, Spinoza lets us know that he thinks it is the attributes that play this role of ‘container’ for the essences of created things (2p8). The essences of modes of extension will be contained in the attribute of extension, the essences of modes of thought in the attribute of thought, and likewise for whatever other attributes there may be.

Full document contains 261 pages
Abstract: The dissertation is a comparative study of the theory of individuals (in the most general ontological sense) in Spinoza, Leibniz and Deleuze, aiming to reach a better understanding of all three of these theories. The parallels drawn between them serve to illuminate all three, but this study is especially oriented towards the understanding of Deleuze, whose theory, being about three hundred years younger, has received the least philosophical attention. My comparison is structured by parallel subdivisions into essence, existence and actual individuals. That is, for each of the three philosophers to be studied, I consider what they propose as the essence of an individual, how they conceive its existence to come about, and what activity characterizes the actual individual once it exists. Based on readings of key primary texts, I show that all three philosophers share a conception of essence as the principle of activity of the individual of which it is the essence. Their accounts of how existence comes about, however, are widely divergent, and as a result the way the essence acts as a principle of activity for the actual individual is distinctive in each philosopher's account. As a secondary task, I undertake to criticize a few points in Deleuze's reading of Spinoza and Leibniz. I contend, through a careful consideration of Deleuze's claims and a comparison with the relevant texts in Spinoza and Leibniz, that Deleuze's introduction of the concepts of intensity and extensity into his reading of Spinoza, and his account of the relationship between individual and world in Leibniz, do more to obscure Spinoza and Leibniz's claims than to clarify them. As might be expected, the overall picture that emerges is a complicated one. Deleuze is not as close to Spinoza or Leibniz as his own comments on them might at times suggest. Spinoza and Leibniz differ on many specific points. And yet all three philosophers share a broad conception of the role of the essence of an individual.