ethics


ethics
  ---- by John Marks
  Throughout his work, Deleuze draws a clear distinction between ethics and morality. Morality is a set of constraining rules that judge actions and intentions in relation to transcendent values of good and evil. Morality is a way of judging life, whereas ethics is a way of assessing what we do in terms of ways of existing in the world. Ethics involves a creative commitment to maximising connections, and of maximising the powers that will expand the possibilities of life. In this way, ethics for Deleuze is inextricably linked with the notion of becoming.Morality implies that we judge ourselves and others on the basis of what we are and should be, whereas ethics implies that we do not yet know what we might become. For Deleuze, there are no transcendent values against which we should measure life. It is rather 'Life' itself that constitutes its own immanent ethics. An ethical approach is, in this way, essentially pragmatic, and it is no surprise that Deleuze admires the American pragmatist model that substitutes experimentation for salvation. Deleuze sets the ideal of this pragmatism - a world which is 'in process' - against the 'European morality' of salvation and charity. It rejects the search for moral consensus and the construction of transcendent values, and it conceives of society as experiment rather than contract: a community of inquirers with an experimental spirit.
  Friedrich Nietzsche and Baruch Spinoza are the two main influences on Deleuze's notion of ethics. From them, he takes the idea that ethics is a form of affirmation and evaluation. Such an ethics applies the acceptance that the world is, as Deleuze puts it, neither true nor real, but 'living'. To affirm is to evaluate life in order to set free what lives. Rather than weighing down life with the burden of higher values, it seeks to make life light and active, and to create new values. Both thinkers reorientate philosophy by calling into question the way in which morality conceives of the relationship between mind and body. For the system of morality, mind as consciousness dominates the passions of the body. Spinoza, however, proposes an ethical route that is later taken up by Nietzsche, by rejecting the superiority of mind over body. It is not a case of giving free reign to the passions of the body, since this would be nothing more than a reversal, a licence to act thoughtlessly. Rather in claiming that there is a parallelism between mind and body, Spinoza suggests a new, more creative way of conceiving of thought.
  For Deleuze, Spinoza is the great ethical thinker who breaks with the Judeo-Christian tradition, and who is followed by four 'disciples' who develop this ethical approach: Nietzsche, D. H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka and Antonin Artaud. They are all opposed to the psychology of the priest, and Nietzsche in particular shows how judgement subjects man to an infinite debt that he cannot pay. This means that the doctrine of judgement is only apparently more moderate than a system of 'cruelty' according to which debt is measured in blood and inscribed directly on the body, since it condemns us to infinite restitution and servitude. Deleuze goes further to show how these four 'disciples' elaborate a whole system of 'cruelty' that is opposed to judgement, and which constitutes the basics for an ethics. The domination of the body in favour of consciousness leads to an impoverishment of our knowledge of the body. We do not fully explore the capacities of the body, and in the same way that the body surpasses the knowledge we have of it, so thought also surpasses the consciousness we have of it. Once we can begin to explore these new dimensions - the unknown of the body and the unconscious of thought - we are in the domain of ethics. The transcendent categories of Good and Evil can be abandoned in favour of 'good' and 'bad'. A 'good' individual seeks to make connections that increase her power to act, whilst at the same time not diminishing similar powers in others. The 'bad' individual does not organise her encounters in this way and either falls back into guilt and resentment, or relies on guile and violence.
  Deleuze's commitment to ethics is closely connected to the concept of becoming, and in particular that of becoming-animal. The ethical drive for the 'great health' that allows life to flourish is all too often channelled into serving the petty 'human' ends of self-consolidation and selfaggrandisement. One way of going beyond this calculation of profit and loss is to 'become' animal. The drive for justice, for example, must overcome itself by learning from the lion who, as Nietzsche says, refuses to rage against the ticks and flies that seek shelter and nourishment on its body. In a more general political sense, it is a question of maintaining our 'beliefin-the-world'. We do this by creating forms of resistance to what we are becoming (Michel Foucault's 'actual') and not simply to what we are in the present. Rather than judging, we need to make something exist.
  Connectives
   § becoming

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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