Throughout these blog entries I have continued to specify, define, differentiate, complexify, and diagram Gilles Deleuze’s conception of affect. Here is a further attempt, this one taken from Deleuze’s fine book Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, Robert Hurley, trans. (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988) 48-51.
Deleuze makes some crucial distinctions in the definition of “Affections, Affects” given in these three pages. Spinoza’s modes are the affections of substance or of its attributes. These affections are active (in what way exactly? this is a lingering question).
But affections are also “that which happens to the mode, the modifications of the mode, the effects of other modes on it” (48). Then Deleuze gives a definition of these modifications that involves us in thinking about image-theory in a materialist, affective manner. As modifications of the mode, affections are images or “corporeal traces,” and their ideas involve both the nature of the affected body and that of the affecting external body. Deleuze quotes Spinoza thus: “The affections of the human body whose ideas present external bodies as present in us, we shall call images of things….And when the mind regards bodies in this way, we shall say that it imagines.” These image-affections or ideas affect, in turn, the state of the body, pushing it along gradients of intensity, strengthening or decomposing its capacities to affect and be affected. “…from one state to another, from one image or idea to another, there are transitions, passages that are experienced, durations through which we pass to a greater or a lesser perfection. Furthermore, these states, these affections, images or ideas are not separable from the duration that attaches them to the preceding state and makes them tend toward the next state. These continual durations or variations of perfection are called ‘affects,’ or feelings (affectus)” (48-9).
Duration, affect: What is remarkable here is that we see a number of themes that have resonances across Deleuze’s work coming together. Tendency and duration (from Bergson) is a way of understanding the nonlinear and continual modulation of the subject by his/her emergent capacities. This modulation is both virtual and actual given the capacities of the subject’s durations. Image-affections harken back to Bergson’s work on memory and matter, and look forward to Deleuze’s theory of the movement- and time-images in Cinema 1 and 2. More, Deleuze in defining an idea as a corporeal trace is giving us here a profound resource to overthrow “intellectualist” representational theory and, indeed, to question the entire shaky edifice of social constructivism.
Let us pursue this last point further. What is the difference between affection and affect? First, we have the body’s affection and idea involving the nature of the external body, and second, we have the embodied power of action or affect. This latter is defined as an increase or decrease of the power of acting, for the “body and mind alike” (49). Thus, on the one hand, affection refers not to an idealized conception of the body but to a definite state, composition, or set of dispositions of the affected body (the body’s “phase space” or, as Felix Guattari defines it, an “abstract space where the axes represent the variables characterizing the system” [Guattari, “Machinic Orality and Virtual Ecology,” in Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis, trans. [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) 88-97, 97]). The body’s phase space implies the effective action of an affecting body. Affect, on the other hand, refers to the durational passage from one state to another, taking into account the “correlative variation of the affecting bodies” as shifting and emergent capacities along gradients of intensity. There is therefore a difference in nature between affection and affect.
An image-affection is a state of composition of the body, and affect follows from it “as from its cause.” But, and this is decisive for a thoroughgoing displacement of Platonic representationalism, the affect “is not confined to the image or idea; it is of another nature, being purely transitive, and not indicative or representative, since it is experienced in a lived duration that involves the difference between two states” (49). So affect is the durational difference or variation in a body’s phase space, while affection is compositional. Intensive difference passes through the durations of affect such that it both repeats and potentializes the compositional state that is the body’s affection.
Deleuze shows that an existing mode (body) is thereby defined by a definite and yet plastic (a word that he uses in Nietzsche and Philosophy) capacity to affect and be affected. When one mode encounters another mode an affect-event may be produced in which an operation of correlating resonance takes hold of both modes, such that both modes enter into composition or decomposition. Most often we have complex mixtures of both processes, and which one becomes dominant has to do with the patterned but unpredictable nature of processes of correlating resonance. When the composition increases the power to affect of both modes Spinoza calls this joy; when it decreases this power he calls it sadness. But we should not get lost in the representational morass of what will strike the deconstructively inclined semiotician to identify a metaphysical opposition or binary between sadness and joy. We affirm that these are vectors along complex gradients that follow a fuzzy logic of partial and shifting belonging to sets that are themselves plastic and durational.
But there is a doubling back that also happens, as a kind of image of the image-affection. “The feeling affect (joy or sadness) follows from the image affection or idea that it presupposes (the idea of the body that agrees with ours or does not agree); and when the affect comes back upon the idea from which it follows, the joy becomes love, and the sadness, hatred. In this way the different series of affections and affects continually fulfill, but under variable conditions, the capacity for being affected” (50).
And then Deleuze shows how Spinoza blows everything up.
Joy or sadness are both passions, or confused ideas, insofar as a person’s “power of acting is not increased to the point” where the conception of self and its action is adequate (we should recall Derrida’s critique of adequation in Margins of Philosophy). This critique of inadequate passions prepares, says Deleuze, for another very different distinction, between passions and actions.
An idea of affection [affectio] always gives rise to affects. But if the idea is adequate instead of being a confused image, if it directly expresses the essence of the affecting body instead of involving it indirectly in our state, if it is the idea of an internal affectio, or a self-affection that evinces the internal agreement of our essence, other essences, and the essence of God (third kind of knowledge), then the affects that arise from it are themselves actions (III, 1). Not only must these affect or feeling be joys or loves, they must be quite special joys and loves since they are no longer defined by an increase of our perfection or power of acting but by the full, formal possession of that power or perfection. The word blessedness should be reserved for these active joys: they appear to conquer and extend themselves within duration, like the passive joys, but in fact they are eternal and are no longer explained by duration; they no longer imply transitions and passages, but express themselves and one another in an eternal mode, together with the adequate ideas from which they issue. (50-51)
It is difficult for me to comment on this passage. I have such poor training to accept it for what it is: an affirmation of something mystical in the potential of affect to return the body to its infinitely virtual vocation. It scares me not a little, but there are hints and markers that allow us to make of the affirmation an invitation to experiment in and with life—Whitehead’s eternal ideas, Nietzsche’s eternal return, Suzuki’s one continuous mistake in Zen, and of course Deleuze’s own method of counter-actualizing toward the virtual. Without necessarily following Spinoza into his quasi-Christian, quasi-Judaic pantheism, what we can affirm in Deleuze’s analysis is the crucial distinction between confused passions, which arise from an inadequate sense of how compositions between bodies are mutually affected, and the expressive activity of an affection that spontaneously modulates intensive relations in terms of their critical thresholds.
As many have commented—and just as many have shied away from—what Deleuze’s conceptual experimentation with affect necessitates is a dynamic understanding of the body unmediated by culture or language. I have in these blogs made clear my intellectual and political debt to virtual philosophy as I have little by little tried to diagram the body, even this body, as a non-coinciding resonant unity. I maintain that contemporary political philosophy has fetishized the non-conincidence (thereby spatializing difference, idealizing it from its material processes), and relegated unity to “Western metaphysics.”
Bullocks and balderdash! We should consider affect an eternal object in the sense that Alfred North Whitehead meant the phrase:
Actual occasions in their ‘formal’ constitution are devoid of all indetermination. Potentiality has passed into realization. They are complete and determinate matter of fact, devoid of all indecision. They form the ground of obligation. But eternal objects, and propositions, and some more complex sorts of contrasts, involve in their own natures indecision. They are, like all entities, potentials for the process of becoming. Their ingression expresses the definiteness of the actuality in question. But their own natures do not in themselves disclose in what actual entities this potentiality of ingression is realized. Thus they involve indetermination ina sense more complete than do the former set. (Whitehead, Process and Reality 29)
We should think affect in terms of self-organization in molecular phase space. Tying Whitehead to Spinoza to Stuart Kauffman to Felix Guattari allows us to do just that. Consider:
AXIOM I. All bodies are either in motion or at rest. AXIOM II. Every body is moved sometimes more slowly, sometimes more quickly. LEMMA I. Bodies are distinguished from one another in respect of motion and rest, quickness and slowness, and not in respect of substance. Proof.-The first part of this proposition is, I take it, self-evident. That bodies are not distinguished in respect of substance, is plain both from I. v. and I. viii. It is brought out still more clearly from I. xv, note. LEMMA II. All bodies agree in certain respects. Proof.-All bodies agree in the fact, that they involve the conception of one and the same attribute (II., Def. i.). Further, in the fact that they may be moved less or more quickly, and may be absolutely in motion or at rest. LEMMA III. A body in motion or at rest must be determined to motion or rest by another body, which other body has been determined to motion or rest by a third body, and that third again by a fourth, and so on to infinity. Proof.-Bodies are individual things (II., Def. i.), which (Lemma I.) are distinguished one from the other in respect to motion and rest ; thus (I. xxviii.) each must necessarily be determined to motion or rest by another individual thing, namely (II. vi.), by another body, which other body is also (Ax. i.) in motion or at rest. And this body again can only have been set in motion or caused to rest by being determined by a third body to motion or rest. This third body again by a fourth, and so on to infinity. Q.E.D. Corollary.-Hence it follows, that a body in motion keeps in motion, until it is determined to a state of rest by some other body ; and a body at rest remains so, until it is determined to a state of motion by some other body…So far we have been speaking only of the most simple bodies, which are only distinguished one from the other by motion and rest, quickness and slowness. We now pass on to compound bodies. Definition.-When any given bodies of the same or different magnitude are compelled by other bodies to remain in contact, or if they be moved at the same or different rates of speed, so that their mutual movements should preserve among themselves a certain fixed relation, we say that such bodies are in union, and that together they compose one body or individual, which is distinguished from other bodies by the fact of this union. Axiom III.-In proportion as the parts of an individual, or a compound body, are in contact over a greater or less superficies, they will with greater or less difficulty admit of being moved from their position ; consequently the individual will, with greater or less difficulty, be brought to assume another form. Those bodies, whose parts are in contact over large superficies, are called hard ; those, whose parts are in contact over small superficies, are called soft ; those, whose parts are in motion among one another, are called fluid… Note.-We thus see, how a composite individual may be affected in many different ways, and preserve its nature notwithstanding. Thus far we have conceived an individual as composed of bodies only distinguished one from the other in respect of motion and rest, speed and slowness ; that is, of bodies of the most simple character. If, however, we now conceive another individual composed of several individuals of diverse natures, we shall find that the number of ways in which it can be affected, without losing its nature, will be greatly multiplied. Each of its parts would consist of several bodies, and therefore (by Lemma vi.) each part would admit, without change to its nature, of quicker or slower motion, and would consequently be able to transmit its motions more quickly or more slowly to the remaining parts. If we further conceive a third kind of individuals composed of individuals of this second kind, we shall find that they may be affected in a still greater number of ways without changing their actuality. We may easily proceed thus to infinity, and conceive the whole of nature as one individual, whose parts, that is, all bodies, vary in infinite ways, without any change in the individual as a whole. (Spinoza, Ethics, Part Two, On the Nature and Origin of the Mind, 28-30)
…one substance with an infinity of attributes…And Kauffman on phase space and self-organization:
Consider a gas at thermodynamic equilibrium, confined to a box. Statistical mechanics is constructed from Newtonian mechanics, and Newton’s laws of motion apply to each molecule of the gas. The position of each molecule in the box can be described by three spatial coordinates. Similarly, the momentum of each molecule can be described by three coordinates showing how fast the molecule is moving as a projection of its velocity onto the three spatial coordinates. Therefore, each molecule’s position and momentum at any instant can be described by six coordinates. If there are N molecules in the box, then 6N coordinates specify the positions and momenta of all N molecules at one instant. It is convenient to conceive a 6N-dimensional phase space, each axis of which represents one coordinate among the 6N specifying the current positions and momenta of the molecules. Then the present state of the entire N molecules can be visualized as a single point in this 6N-dimensional space. Furthermore, over time the gas molecules move and collide with one another, thereby changing position and momentum. Consequently, over time the point representing the entire system moves through a trajectory in its phase space. The entire phase space represents all possible combinations of positions and momenta of the N molecules in the box. This set of all possible combinations is the ensemble of possible states of the gas. Statistical mechanics is built up from analysis of this ensemble of possibilities… In the examples of self-organization in complex systems to be discussed below, we shall in each case find that it is natural to first consider an ensemble of all possible systems and then characterize the typical, average, or, more generally, generic features of such systems. It will become natural to think of evolution as exploring such an ensemble, as mutations drive populations through neighborhood volumes of the ensemble. I shall want to say that selection is analogous to Maxwell’s demon, for selection may attempt to pull the evolving population toward properties which are rare in the ensemble, but as it does so, the “back pressure” of mutations toward the statistically typical properties of the ensemble will increase. Thus if selection is a sufficiently weak force with respect to the mutational processes, the evolutionary process will come to rest at an equilibrium modestly displaced from the average properties of the underlying ensemble. But then those robust generic properties will serve as good predictors of properties actually found. In short, if selection is operating on systems with strongly self-organized properties that are typical of the ensemble being explored, then those properties simultaneously are the proper null hypotheses concerning what we would expect to find in the absence of selection and may be good predictors of what we will observe even in the presence of continuing selection. In brief, if selection can only slightly displace evolutionary systems from the generic properties of the underlying ensembles, those properties will be widespread in organisms not because of selection, but despite it. (Kauffman, The Origins of Order, 23-4).
By putting Kauffman together with Spinoza, I want to suggest the important conceptual continuity between thinking of compound bodies (the affections, or capacities of phase space) in relations of motion (durational affects), and the evolutionary implications of mutational and self-organizing populations.
This is the very definition of an ecology of sensation that I have tried to put forth in Untimely Bollywood and through this blog…To make an affirmation of becoming, we turn finally to Felix Guattari’s notion of virtual ecology, and attempt to draw the connections to sensation.
Very much in the vein of Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy? Guattari in “Machinic Orality and Virtual Ecology” argues that ethico-aesthetic practice should focus on “blocks of sensation” formed by aesthetic practices “before the oral, textual, gestural, postural, plastic” (89). Such experiments in and with sensation “elude significations attached to the trivial perceptions and opinions informing common sentiments” (89). Such sentiments are tied to capitalist subjectivity—“the subjectivity of one-dimensionality, generalized equivalence, segregation, and deafness to true alterity” (91). What then do such ecologies of sensation effect?
This extraction of deterritorialised percepts and affects from banal perceptions and states of mind takes us from the voice of interiority and from self-presence—and from what is most standardized about them—on paths leading to radically mutant forms of subjectivity. A subjectivity of the outside and of wide-open spaces which far from being fearful of finitude—the trials of life, suffering, desire and death—embraces them like a spice essential for the cuisine of life.
I am tempted to smile a little at Felix’s—how shall I say—naïveté? But remembering that he wrote these lines as he was dying makes one wonder what they meant for him, how they could add to or possibly jam our affections, how we can experience them as durational affects that move us from one state to another, thereby tweaking our own ecology of sensation.
Key to Guattari’s definition of ecologies of the virtual (and by extension sensation) is machinic autopoesis. That technologies of co-evolving mutation were central to the work of Deleuze and Guattari can hardly be doubted—recall that the definition of assemblages were first and foremost situated in the phylum of the machinic—see for instance A Thousand Plateaus. And Guattari makes a crucial distinction between machinism and mechanism in a later essay in Chaosmosis—“The New Aesthetic Paradigm”:
One must never confuse here machinism and mechanism. Machinism, in the way that I understand it, implies a double process—autopoietic-creative and ethical-ontological (the existence of a “material of choice”)—which is utterly foreign to mechanism. This is why the immense machinic interconnectedness, the way the world consists today, finds itself in an autofoundational position of its own bringing into being. Being does not precede machinic essence; the process precedes the heterogenesis of being. (108)
In “Machinic Orality and Virtual Ecology,” Guattari locates ecologies of the virtual in practices of aesthetic and hence ethical experimentation that are “deterritorialised machinic paths capable of engendering mutant subjectivities” (90). Deconstruction of the structures and codes is just a preliminary step on such paths, and as we go further we are invited to take “a chaosmic plunge into the materials of sensation” (90).
It has become imperative to recast the axes of values, the fundamental finalities of human relations and productive activity. An ecology of the virtual is thus just as pressing as ecologies of the visible world. And in this regard, poetry, music, the plastic arts, the cinema—particularly in their performance or performative modalities—have an important role to play, with their specific contributions and as a paradigm of reference in new social and analytic practices (psychoanalysis in the broadest sense). Beyond the relations of actualized forces, virtual ecologies will not simply attempt to preserve the endangered species of cultural life but equally to engender conditions for the creation and development of unprecedented formations of subjectivity that have never been seen and never felt. This is to say that generalized ecology—or ecosophy—will work as a science of ecosystems, as a bid for political regeneration, and as an ethical, aesthetic and analytic engagement. (91-2)
Guattari urges us toward a fractal ontology where the subject is an anchor point within “incorporeal fields of virtuality” (95). An ecology of sensation can be diagrammed as a historically specific but at the same time Untimely phase space of a non-coinciding resonant body, never identical to itself, “in permanent flight on a fractal line” (95).