Spinoza + ethics of joy
- ---- by Constantin V.BoundasDeleuze has often been praised for his (Stoic) commitment to the ethics of the event - our becoming worthy of the event through the process of counter-actualisation of that which is happening to us. But Deleuze has also laid claim to an ethic of joy, the articulation of which is the result of his many encounters with Baruch Spinoza. The nodal point that represents the linkage of this commitment is the Nietzschean affirmation of the 'eternal return' - the lynchpin of Deleuze's ontology and the indispensable imperative of his ethics.Deleuze thinks of desire as an affirmative, non-intentional intensity, producing connections - real in their function and revolutionary in their multiplicity. Deleuze's desire is modelled after Spinoza's conatus; it is neither a 'want' nor 'lack' but the effort of an individual entity to persevere in its own existence. Spinoza always thinks of conatus as being determined by its capacity to affect and to be affected; it is not, therefore, difficult to think of conatus as desire. Provided that we do not separate essence from action, a conatus can be understood as the essence of an entity or its degree of power. Actions themselves constitute a person's affirmation of life and his will to exist.Spinoza speaks of an order of essences, that is, of an order of intensities, within which all singular essences cohere and are mutually responsible for each other's production. In Deleuze's work, this order helps him articulate the virtual/real. But in Spinoza, there is also an order of organisation, with its own laws eternally determining the conditions for the coming into being and the endurance of singular entities. On this plane, arrangements are made ad infinitum, but not every arrangement is compatible with the others. Spinoza recognises an order of fortuitous encounters: bodies encounter other bodies and in some cases the singular arrangements of one body are such that they 'fit' the singular arrangements of the bodies they encounter; together they increase each other's power of affectivity. Sometimes however, some bodies are incompatible with others' arrangements, thus when they meet they decrease the power of one another.In an effort to think about desire as joy, Deleuze borrows from Spinoza's schema of intensities. To the extent that desire is not phantasmatic, desire is the power that one has, which allows one to go as far as this power permits: the power to annex being. Here the distinction between progressive and regressive annexation becomes the urgent task of the ethicist. Deleuze's allegiance to Spinoza permits him to argue that the question of the effort of the individual to maintain and prolong his existence is also a question of how to enable the maximum experience of active affects. The order of fortuitous encounters does not give us an edge because it leads to the formation of inadequate ideas - an inadequate idea being the idea whose cause is not in our own power to understand. Nevertheless, even an inadequate idea causes an affect, and an affect, whose adequate cause we are not, is a passion. Conversely, an adequate idea finds its formal cause in our power to think and to understand, and also generates an affect in us, an affect whose adequate cause is our own power to think and is, therefore, an action. In this case, we no longer count on accidental encounters to multiply joyful passions.An entire genetic phenomenology of the becoming-active of human beings can be found in Spinoza's Ethics, and this is what inspires Deleuze's ethics of joy.We begin with passive desires/joys that increase our power to act despite the fact that they are at the mercy of inadequate ideas. But, then, thanks to these desires and passions, we begin to form common notions, or adequate ideas. Active desire/joy accompanies the common notions as our power to act increases. Finally, active joy replaces passions, filling us with new capacities to be affected; this combination constitutes the active life of the individual. In turn our capacity to understand sadness and contrariety is enhanced, and as we develop a better understanding of these affections our active joy increases.At this time, the inﬂuence of Friedrich Nietzsche in Deleuze's ethics of joy is revealed: the pedagogy for the formulation of adequate ideas becomes the process of the counter-actualisation of that which happens to us. It is no longer the generality of the common notion that stands for the cogitandum of practical reason; it is the event that must be grasped through the process of counter-actualisation. The sadness in the state of affairs passively affecting us is transformed into a joyful affirmation of the event. Passive affections are turned into active ones that are capable of transvaluing and transforming states of affairs.
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.
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