A vital science of relations

The distinction between basely sensual appetite and true love

Affection and affect

Affect as duration

The Ethics of joy and sadness, love and hate, expansion and fixation, music and noise

Basely sensual appetite is bad, true love is good

How to live? No science, but the materialism of the sage

Limit situations and simple everyday situations


[The distinction between basely sensual appetite and true love]

«I am led by a basely sensual appetite or else, the other case: I feel a true love. What are these two cases? It is necessary to try to understand them according to the criteria that Spinoza gives us.

A basely sensual appetite, even the mere expression, one feels that it is not good, that it is bad. It is bad in what sense?

When I am led by a basely sensual appetite, what does that mean? It means that: within it there is an action, or a tendency to action: for example desire. What happens to the desire when am I led by a basely sensual appetite? (…) It can only be qualified by its association with an image of a thing, for example I desire a bad woman. (…) Or even worse, even worse: several! (…)

The basely sensual consists in this, that the action, in all manners, even for example making love, the action is a virtue! Why? Because it is something that my body can do; don’t ever forget the theme of power (puissance). It is in my body’s power. So it is a virtue, and in this sense it is the expression of a power.

But if I remained there with it, I would have no means of distinguishing the basely sensual appetite from the most beautiful of loves. (…)

When there is basely sensual appetite (…) it is because, in fact, I associate my action, or the image of my action, with the image of a thing whose relation is decomposed by this action. (…)

But what’s more, in a basely sensual appetite I decompose all sorts of relations: the basely sensual appetite with its taste for destruction, (…), a kind of fascination of the decomposition of relations, of the destruction of relations.

On the contrary in the most beautiful of loves. Notice that there, I don’t invoke the mind at all, it would not be Spinozist, according to parallelism. I invoke a love in the case of the most beautiful of loves, a love which is not less bodily than the most basely sensual love.

The difference is, simply, that in the most beautiful of loves, my action, the same, exactly the same, my physical action, my bodily action, is associated with an image of the thing whose relation is directly combined, directly composed with the relation of my action. (…)

On the contrary, in the basely sensual love, the one destroys the other, the other destroys the one, that is there is a whole process of decomposition of relations. In short, they make love like they are knocking each other about.

All this is very concrete. So it works. (…)

Spinoza tells us: you don’t choose, in the end, the image of the thing with which your action is associated. It engages a whole play of causes and of effects which escape you. Indeed, what is it that makes this basely sensual love take you? You cannot say to yourself: Ha! I could do otherwise. Spinoza is not one of those who believes in a free will. No, it is a whole determinism which associates the images of things with the actions. (…)


[Affection and affect]

Spinoza, if only by his terminology, distinguishes well between the affectio and the affectus, the affection and the affect. (…) The affection envelops an affect. You recall, the affection is (…) the instantaneous effect of an image of a thing on me. For example perceptions are affections. The image of things associated with my action is an affection.

The affection envelops, implicates, all of these are the words Spinoza constantly uses. To envelope: it is necessary to really take them as material metaphors, that is that within the affection there is an affect. (…) What does my affection, that is the image of the thing and the effect of this image on me, what does it envelop? It envelops a passage or a transition. (…)


[Affect as duration]

What is duration? Never anything but the passage from one thing to another, it suffices to add, insofar as it is lived. (…)

The Bergsonian use of duration coincides strictly. (…) Now, what does he call duration, at its simplest? It is the passage from one cut to another, it is the passage from one state to another. The passage from one state to another is not a state, you will tell me that all of this is not strong, but it is a really profound statute of living.

For how can we speak of the passage, the passage from one state to another, without making it a state? This is going to pose problems of expression, of style, of movement, it is going to pose all sorts of problems. Yet duration is that, it is the lived passage from one state to another insofar as it is irreducible to one state as to the other, insofar as it is irreducible to any state. This is what happens between two cuts. (…)

I therefore have a slightly stricter definition of the affect, the affect: what every affection envelops, and which nevertheless is of another nature is the passage, it is the lived passage from the preceding state to the current state, or of the current state to the following state. Good.

If you understand all that, for the moment we’re doing a kind of decomposition of the three dimensions of the essence, of the three members of the essence. The essence belongs to itself under the form of the eternity, the affection belongs to the essence under the form of instantaneity, the affect belongs to the essence under the form of duration. (…)


[The Ethics of joy and sadness, love and hate, expansion and fixation, music and noise]

The passage is necessarily an increase of power or a decrease of power. (…)

Suppose that in the dark you were in deep state of meditation. Your whole body was focused on this extreme meditation. You held something. The other brute arrives and turns on the light, if need be you lose an idea that you were going to have. You turn around, you are furious. We hold onto this because we will use the same example again. You hate him, even if not for long, but you hate him, you say to him: “Hey! Listen”. In this case the passage to the lighted state will have brought you what? A decrease of power. Evidently if you had looked for your glasses in the dark, there they would have brought you an increase of power. The guy who turned the light on, you say to him: “Thank you very much, I love you”. (…)

Every affection is instantaneous, he will always say this, and he will always say: I am as perfect as I can be according to what I have in the instant. It is the sphere of belonging of the instantaneous essence. In this sense, there is neither good nor bad.

But in return, the instantaneous state always envelopes an increase or a decrease of power, and in this sense there is good and bad. So much so that, not from the point of view of its state, but from the point of view of its passage, from the point of view of its duration, there is something bad in becoming blind, there is something good in becoming seeing, since it is either decrease of power or else increase of power. And here it is no longer the domain of a comparison of the mind between two states, it is the domain of the lived passage from one state to another, the lived passage in the affect.

So much so that it seems to me that we can understand nothing of the Ethics, that is of the theory of the affects, if we don’t keep very much in mind the opposition that Spinoza established between the comparisons between two states of the mind, and the lived passages from one state to another, lived passages that can only be lived in the affects. The affects are joy or sadness. (…)

The affects which are increases of power we will call joys, the affects which are decreases of power we will call sadnesses. And the affects are either based on joy, or else based on sadness. Hence Spinoza’s very rigorous definitions: sadness is the affect that corresponds to a decrease of power, of my power, joy is the affect which corresponds to an increase of my power.

Sadness is a affect enveloped by an affection. The affection is what? It is an image of a thing which causes me sadness, which gives me sadness. You see, there we find everything, this terminology is very rigorous. (…)

There is my question: why does the image of a thing which gives me sadness, why does this image of a thing envelop a decrease of power (puissance) of acting? (…) The thing which gives me sadness is the thing whose relations don’t agree with mine. That is affection. All things whose relations tend to decompose one of my relations or the totality of my relations affect me with sadness.

In terms of affectio you have there a strict correspondence, in terms of affectio, I would say: the thing has relations which are not composed with mine, and which tend to decompose mine. Here I am speaking in terms of affectio. In terms of affects I would say: this thing affects me with sadness, therefore by the same token, in the same way, decreases my power. (…)

You see I have the double language of instantaneous affections and of affects of passage. Hence I return as always to my question: why, but why, if one understood why, maybe one would understand everything.

What happens? (…) Why the thing whose relations don’t agree with mine, why does it affect me with sadness, that is decrease my power of acting? (…)

I am going back, I am in the dark, in my room, I am alone, I am left in peace. Someone enters and he makes me flinch, he knocks on the door, he knocks on the door and he makes me flinch. I lose an idea. He enters and he starts to speak; I have fewer and fewer ideas ouch, ouch, I am affected with sadness. Yes, I feel sadness, I’ve been disturbed, damn! (…) Then on top of it all I hate it! I say to him: “Eh, listen, it’s okay”. It could be not very serious, it could be a small hate, he irritates me, damn it: hoooo! I cannot have peace, all that, I hate it!

What does it mean, hate? You see, sadness, he said to us: your power of acting is decreased, then you experience sadness insofar as it is decreased, your power of acting, okay. I hate it‚ that means that the thing whose relations don’t compose with yours, you strive, this would only be what you have in mind, you strive for its destruction. To hate is to want to destroy what threatens to destroy you. This is what hate means. That is, to want to decompose what threatens to decompose you. So the sadness engenders hate. Notice that it engenders joys too. (…)

What are the joys of hate? There are joys of hate. As Spinoza says: if you imagine the being that you hate to be unhappy, your heart experiences a strange joy. (…). These joys are strangely compensatory, that is indirect. (…) If you have a diabolical heart, even if you have to believe that this heart flourishes in the joys of hate, these joys of hate, as immense as they are, will never get rid of the nasty little sadness of which you are a part; your joys are joys of compensation. The man of hate, the man of resentment, etc., for Spinoza, is the one all of whose joys are poisoned by the initial sadness, because sadness is in these same joys. In the end he can only derive joy from sadness. Sadness that he experiences himself by virtue of the existence of the other, sadness that he imagines inflicting on the other to please himself, all of this is for measly joys, says Spinoza. These are indirect joys. (…)

Here is what Spinoza means: suppose that you have a power (puissance), let’s set it up roughly the same, and there, first case you come up against something whose relations don’t compose with yours. Second case, on the contrary you encounter something whose relations compose with your own.

Spinoza, in the Ethics, uses the Latin term: “occursus”, “occursus” is exactly this case, the encounter. I encounter bodies, my body never stops encountering bodies. The bodies that he encounters sometimes have relations which compose, sometimes have relations which don’t compose with his.

What happens when I encounter a body whose relation doesn’t compose with mine? Well there: I would say – and you will see that in book IV of the Ethics this doctrine is very strong. I cannot say that it is absolutely affirmed, but it is very much suggested – a phenomenon happens which is like a kind of fixation.

What does this mean, a fixation? That is, a part of my power is entirely devoted to investing and to isolating the trace, on me, of the object which doesn’t agree with me. It is as if I tense my muscles, take once again the example: someone that I don’t wish to see enters into the room, I say to myself “Uh oh”, and in me is made something like a kind of investment: a whole part of my power is there in order to ward off the effect on me of the object, of the disagreeable object. (…) In other words, I try as much as possible to circumscribe the effect, to isolate it, in other words I devote a part of my power to investing the trace of the thing. Why? Evidently in order to subtract it, to put it at a distance, to avert it. (…) This quantity of power that I’ve devoted to investing the trace of the disagreeable thing, this is the amount of my power that is decreased, which is removed from me, which is as it were immobilized.

This is what is meant by: my power decreases. It is not that I have less power, it is that a part of my power is subtracted in this sense that it is necessarily allocated to averting the action of the thing. Everything happens as if a whole part of my power is no longer at my disposal. This is the tonality affective sadness: a part of my power serves this unworthy need which consists in warding off the thing, warding off the action of the thing. So much immobilized power. To ward off the thing is to prevent it from destroying my relations, therefore I’ve toughened my relations; this can be a formidable effort, Spinoza said: “Like lost time, it would have been more valuable to avoid this situation”. In this way, a part of my power is fixed, this is what is meant by: a part of my power decreases. Indeed a part of my power is subtracted from me, it is no longer in my possession. It is invested, it is like a kind of hardening, a hardening of power (puissance), to the point that it is almost bad, damn, because of lost time!

On the contrary in joy (…). I encounter something which agrees, which agrees with my relations. For example music.

There are wounding sounds. There are wounding sounds which inspire in me an enormous sadness. What complicates all this is that there are always people who find these wounding sounds, on the contrary, delicious and harmonious. But this is what makes the joy of life, that is the relations of love and hate. Because my hate against the wounding sound is going to be extended to all those who like this wounding sound. (…) I hear these wounding sounds which (…) really decompose all of my relations, they enter into my head, they enter into my stomach, all that. A whole part of my power is hardened in order to hold at a distance these sounds which penetrate me. I obtain silence and I put on the music that I like; everything changes. The music that I like, what does that mean? It means the resonant relations which are composed with my relations. (…)

This is what is meant by the music that I like: my power is increased. So for Spinoza, what interests me therein is that, in the experience of joy, there is never the same thing as in sadness, there is not at all an investment (…). My power (puissance) is in expansion (…).

When authors speak of power (puissance), Spinoza of the increase and decrease of power (puissance), Nietzsche of the Will of Power (Volonté de Puissance), (…) it is on this point that Nietzsche is Spinozist, (…) they have in fact something which doesn’t have anything to do with whatever conquest of a power (pouvoir). Without doubt they will say that the only power (pouvoir) is finally power (puissance), that is: to increase one’s power (puissance) is precisely to compose relations such that the thing and I, which compose the relations, are no more than two sub-individualities of a new individual, a formidable new individual. (…)


[Basely sensual appetite is bad, true love is good]

After love, the animal is sad, what is this? This sadness? What does it say to us? Spinoza would never say this. Or then it is not worth the pain, there is no reason, sadness (…).

There are people who cultivate sadness. (…) So far away are the notions of power (puissance) and of power (pouvoir) – the people of power (pouvoir) are the impotent who can only construct their power (pouvoir) on the sadness of others. They need sadness. They can only reign over slaves, and the slave is precisely the regime of the decrease of power (puissance). There are people who can only reign, who only acquire power (pouvoir) by way of sadness and by instituting a regime of sadness of the type: repent, of the type hate someone‚ and if you don’t have anyone to hate, hate yourself, etc.

Everything that Spinoza diagnoses as a kind of immense culture of sadness, the valorization of sadness, all of which says to you: if you don’t pass by way of sadness, you will not flourish. Now for Spinoza this is an abomination. And if he writes an Ethics, it is in order to say: no! No! Everything you want, but not this.

Then indeed, good = joy, bad = sadness.

But the basely sensual appetite, you see now, and the most beautiful of loves, it is not at all a spiritual thing, but not at all.

It is when an encounter works, as one says, when it functions well. It is a functionalism, but a very beautiful functionalism. (…)

There are always local sadnesses, Spinoza is not unaware of that, there are always sadnesses. The question is not if there is or if there isn’t, the question is the value that you give to them, that is the indulgence that you grant them. The more you grant them indulgence, that is the more you invest your power (puissance) in order to invest the trace of the thing, the more you will lose power (puissance).

So in a happy love, in a love of joy, what happens? You compose a maximum of relations with a maximum of relations of the other, bodily, perceptual, all kinds of natures. Of course bodily, yes, why not; but perceptive also: “Ah good, let’s listen to some music!”. In a certain manner one never stops inventing. (…)

Each time that you proceed by composition of relations and composition of composed relations, you increase your power.

On the contrary, the basely sensual appetite, it is not because it is sensual that it is bad. It is because, fundamentally, it never stops gambling on the decomposition of relations. It is really this sort of thing: Come on, hurt me, sadden me so that I can sadden you. The spat, etc. Ha, like we are okay with the spat. Ho. Like it is long after, that is, the small joys of compensation. All that is disgusting, but it is infectious, it is the measliest life in the world. Ha come on, let’s make our scene… Because it is necessary to hate one another, afterwards we like one another much more.

Spinoza vomits, he says: what are these mad people? If they did this, again, for themselves, but they are contagious, they are propagators. They won’t let go of you until they have inoculated you with their sadness.

What’s more, they treat you as idiots if you tell them that you don’t understand, that it is not your thing. They tell you that this is the true life. And the more that they wallow, based on the spat, based on this stupidity, on the anguish of Haaaa, Heu… The more that they hold on to you the more that they inoculate you, if they can hold on to you, then they pass it on to you. (Gilles Deleuze looks extremely nauseated). (…)


[How to live? No science, but the materialism of the sage]

How to live? You don’t know beforehand which are the relations. For example you are not necessarily going to find your own music. I mean: it is not scientific, in what sense? You don’t have a scientific knowledge of relations which would allow you to say: “There is the woman or the man who is necessary for me”. One goes along feeling one’s way, one goes along blind. That works, that doesn’t work, etc.

And how to explain that there are people who only launch into things where they say that it is not going to work? (general laughter). They are the people of sadness, they are the cultivators of sadness, because they think that that is the foundation of existence.

Otherwise the long apprenticeship by which, according to a presentiment of my constituent relations, I vaguely apprehend first what agrees with me and what doesn’t agree with me. You will tell me that if it is in order to lead to that, it is not strong. Nothing but the formula: above all don’t do what doesn’t agree with you. (…)

How is it that someone very concrete is going to lead his existence in such a manner that he is going to acquire a kind of affection, of affect, or of presentiment, of the relations which agree with him, of the relations which don’t agree with him, of situations where he must withdraw, of situations where he must engage himself, etc.

That is not at all: “It is necessary to do this”, it is no longer at all the domain of morality. It is not necessary to do anything at all, it is necessary to find. It is necessary to find his thing, that is not at all to withdraw, it is necessary to invent the superior individualities into which I can enter as a part, for these individualities do not preexist. (…)

There is something which goes beyond a simple science, or a simple application of science. It is necessary to find your thing, it is like an apprenticeship in music, finding at the same time what agrees with you, what you are capable of doing.

This is already what Spinoza will call, and it will be the first aspect of reason, a kind of double aspect, selecting-composing. To select, selection-composition, is to manage to find by experience those relations with which mine compose, and drawing from them the consequences. That is: at any cost flee as best as I can ˜ I can’t totally, I can’t completely ˜ but flee as much, to the maximum, the encounter with relations which don’t agree with me, and compose to the maximum, be composed to the maximum with the relations which agree with me. Here again is the first determination of freedom or of reason.

So Rousseau’s theme, what he himself called “the materialism of the wise” (…), this art of composing situations that consists above all of withdrawing from situations which don’t agree with you, of entering into situations which agree with you, etc.. This is the first effort of reason.

But I insist overall: at this level, we have no previous knowledge, we have no preexisting knowledge, we don’t have scientific knowledge. It is not about science.

It is really about living experimentation. It is about apprenticeship: I never stop deceiving myself, I never stop running into situations which don’t agree with me, I never stop etc., etc. And little by little is sketched out a kind of beginning of wisdom (…).

The incapable people are not incapable people, it is people who rush to what they are not capable of, and who drop what they are capable of.

But Spinoza asks: What can a body do?‚ It doesn’t mean: what a body in general can do, it means: yours, mine. Of what are you capable? It is this kind of experimentation with capacity. To try to experiment with capacity, and at the same time to construct it, at the same time that one experiments with it, is very concrete. Yet we don’t have prior knowledge (savoir). (…) No one knows what he is capable of. (…)


[Limit situations and simple everyday situations]

There was a theme that Jaspers had launched, and which was a theme, it seems to me, which was very profound: he distinguished two types of situation, limit situations and simple everyday situations.

He said: limit situations could befall us at any time, they are precisely situations which we can’t anticipate. What do you want: someone who was not tortured what does that mean? He has no idea if he will hold out or if he won’t hold out. If need be, the most courageous types collapse, and the types that one would have thought, in that way, pathetic, they hold out marvelously. One doesn’t know. The limit situation is really a situation such as this, I learn at the last moment, sometimes too late, what I was capable of. What I was capable of for better or worse. But we can’t say in advance.

It is too easy to say: Oh that, me, I would never do it! And inversely, we ourselves pass our time doing things like that, but what we are really capable of, we pass right by.

So many people die without knowing and will never know what they were capable of. Once again: in atrocity as in the very good.

It is the surprises, it is necessary to surprise oneself. We tell ourselves: Oh look! I would never have believed that I would have done it. People, you know, they are quite artful.

Generally we always speak of the manner (…) in which people destroy themselves, but I believe that, finally, it is often so for discourse too. It is sad, it is always a very sad spectacle, and then it is annoying! (…)

There are a lot of people who destroyed themselves over points which, precisely, they themselves have no need of. Then evidently they are losers, you understand, yeah, I suppose someone who, at the limit, renders himself impotent, but it is someone who doesn’t really have the desire to do it, it is not their thing. In other words it is a very secondary relation for them. To budge is a very secondary relation. Good. He manages to put himself in states where he can no longer budge, in a certain way he has what he wanted since he set on a secondary relation.

It is very different when someone destroys himself in what he himself experiences as being his principal constituent relations. If running doesn’t interest you a lot, you can always smoke a lot, hey. (…)

Obviously I destroy myself because if I can no longer budge at all, in the end I risk dying of it, in the end I would have the boredom of another nature that I would not have foreseen. Oh yes, it is annoying. But you see, even in things where there is self-destruction, there are tricks which imply a whole calculus of relations. One can very well destroy oneself over a point which is not essential for the person himself, and try to keep the essential, all this is complex. It is complex.

You are sly, you don’t know to what extent you are all sly, everyone. (…)

I would call reason, or effort of reason, conatus of reason, effort of reason, this tendency to select, to learn the relations, this apprenticeship of the relations which are composed or which are not composed. (…)

You have no previous science, (…) you are perhaps going to arrive at a science of relations. But what will it be? Funny science. It won’t be a theoretical science. The theory will perhaps be a part, but it will be a science in the sense of vital science. (…)

We are forced to set out from there, to pass by there, in order to construct our apprenticeship, that is in order to select our joys, eliminate our sadness, that is to make headway in a kind of apprehension of the relations which are composed, to arrive at an approximate knowledge (connaissance) by signs of the relations which agree with me and of the relations which don’t agree with me.

So the first effort of reason, you see, exactly, it is to do everything in my power (pouvoir) in order to increase my power (puissance) of acting, that is in order to experience passive joys, in order to experience of the joys of passion.

The joys of passion are what increase my power of acting according to still equivocal signs in which I don’t possess this power (puissance). (…)

How can I pass, how can this long apprenticeship lead me to a more sure stage, where I am more sure of myself, that is where I become reasonable, where I become free. How can this be done? (…)


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