The Univocity of Substance and the Formal Distinction of Attributes: The Role of Duns Scotus in Deleuze’s Reading of Spinoza

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This paper explores Gilles Deleuze’s thesis that Spinoza takes up and transforms medieval theologian John Duns Scotus’s concepts of formal distinction and the univocity of being to develop his ontology of substance. It will begin by explaining how Deleuze’s idiosyncratic reading reflects his aim of using Spinoza to challenge post-Kantian and specifically Hegelian conceptions of the Absolute. Afterwards, it will trace the development of univocity and formal distinction from their Aristotelian and early Christian origins to show how Duns Scotus deploys them to respond to questions concerning the unity of the categories, the nature of divine attributes, and the problem of individuation. It will then examine how Deleuze reads Spinoza as taking these concepts away from their role in sustaining divine transcendence and deploying them in a project of ontological immanence by re-reading them through Spinoza’s notion of expression. The conclusion will outline the limitations Deleuze finds in Spinoza’s development of univocity and how this leads him towards Nietzsche.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-176
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2020

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