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  • What RemainsBeatitude in Spinoza and Deleuze
  • Annemarie Lawless (bio)

In “Beatitude,” the penultimate chapter of Expressionism in Philosophy, Deleuze tackles the final book of Spinoza’s Ethics in which Spinoza appears to claim that the mind can live on after the body dies. Deleuze poses the question in the disarming manner that a child might: “what happens when we die?” (1992, 315). His answer also seems clear and yet, at the same time, completely incomprehensible: following Spinoza, he suggests that the more we increase our experience of the third kind of knowledge, which is the knowledge of essences, the more our power of thinking intensifies. Our body perishes, but this power or intensity that we have cultivated with our minds remains, and “We become completely expressive” (315).1 Though this statement incites religious ideas about the immortality of the soul, Deleuze does take care to argue, as does Spinoza, that one must not confuse “eternity” with the concept of immortality: “We should not imagine that the soul endures beyond the body; it endures while the body itself endures” (314). The soul is eternal only in its “intensive part,” and to the extent that this eternity can become the object of direct experience, which would happen through the cultivation of the third kind of knowledge, “we experience that we are eternal” (314–15). There would not be a problem if Deleuze stopped at the point that eternity is simply a certain way of thinking that opens an experience of eternity while one is alive. But he does not stop: he goes on to say, following Spinoza, that after we die, if we have in our lifetime cultivated enough knowledge of the third kind, then “what remains of ourselves is absolutely realized” (319). What exactly does Deleuze mean by this? What remains?

This chapter has received scant attention from Deleuze scholars and scorn from his critics. Gillian Howie, for example, assails Deleuze [End Page 1] for unveiling and revising “a thoroughly disingenuous form of argument” (170), for being a “theist” (192), for harboring a “new ageist illusion” (179), and for exhibiting a “lack of sincerity” (170). But critics less hostile to Deleuze than Howie tend to pay little attention for two reasons, one having to do with how Deleuze writes and the other with how he is read: first, a consistent problem in reading Deleuze is his tendency to slip into free indirect discourse, which makes it difficult to say if Deleuze is speaking for himself or if he is merely ventriloquizing Spinoza’s argument; second, there is a tendency in Deleuze scholarship to take what is useful from the Deleuzian toolbox and politely ignore the more eccentric moments that do not seem as though they can hold up to rigorous critical interrogation, a reading practice that has been perpetuated in Deleuze studies, perhaps even encouraged, as Daniel Haines has argued.

One important exception is Simon Duffy’s The Logic of Expression. For Duffy, the “logic of different/citation” that is worked out in Difference and Repetition coheres with the logic of expression that is worked out in Expressionism in Philosophy. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze defines differentiation as “the determination of the virtual content of an Idea” and differenciation as “the actualization of that virtuality into species and distinguished parts” (1994, 207). Duffy argues that the differenciation of modes can “range from the differenciations of the differentiated to the actually infinitely composite differenciations of the differenciated” (133). His explanation of “Beatitude,” and specifically the question of the mind’s eternity, hinges on how Deleuze understands Spinoza’s “Idea of the Idea,” which Duffy frames as the joining of two or more composite integrations in order to produce a new composite relation (or differenciations of the differenciated). One of the examples that Duffy uses to illustrate comes from Spinoza’s Letter XVII to Pieter Balling, in which Spinoza discusses the relation between Balling and his recently deceased son. Spinoza writes: “a father so loves his son that he and his beloved are, as it were, one and the same. According...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1460-2458
Print ISSN
0882-4371
Pages
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
2020-09-05
Open Access
No
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