The errant name: Badiou and Deleuze on individuation, causality and infinite modes in Spinoza [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 40 (4):389-406 (2007)
Abstract
Although Alain Badiou dedicates a number of texts to the philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza throughout his work—after all, the author of a systematic philosophy of being more geometrico must be a point of reference for the philosopher who claims that “mathematics = ontology”—the reading offered in Meditation Ten of his key work Being and Event presents the most significant moment of this engagement. Here, Badiou proposes a reading of Spinoza’s ontology that foregrounds a concept that is as central to, and celebrated in, his philosophy as it is strictly excluded by Spinoza: the void. In nuce, Badiou contends that for all of Spinoza’s efforts to offer an ontology of total plenitude, the void returns in his philosophy under the (at first sight) unlikely name of infinite mode. The presence of this errant name in Spinoza’s philosophy bears witness to the failure of his most profound intellectual endeavour. However striking Badiou’s reading of Spinoza, this paper argues that it fails to adequately grasp Spinoza’s metaphysics, particularly with respect to the central concept of modal essence, a concept which does not appear at all in the Badiouian text. By introducing a consideration of this concept, it becomes able to resolve the status of infinite modes, and to account for the move across the notorious finite–infinite divide. Thus the argument turns to the reading of Spinoza offered by Gilles Deleuze for a more thorough-going and nuanced approach, much superior to Badiou’s procrustean critique.
Keywords Badiou  Being and event  Spinoza  Infinite modes  Essence  Deleuze  Expressionism in philosophy
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