Saturday, June 9, 2007

affective thought

When Spinoza makes the distinction between active force and passive force, he also weighs in indirectly about materiality. Deleuze sums in Expression and Philosophy: Spinoza, <<But on a deeper level Leibniz asks: should passive force be conceived as distinct from active force? Is its principle autonomous, does it have any possibility, is it in any way assertive? Answer: "Passive force has no autonomy, but is the mere limitation of active force.">> It is perhaps not immediately apparent how materiality, per se, enters into a discussion of the limited assertiveness of passive forces, but I would propose that both of these aspects--materialism and the duality of active and passive force--are components of a theory of work, for Spinoza, which might always be "working for a cause." And it is the question of the cause that Spinoza poses by asking whether or not passive force is autonomous. Even as he asserts the non-autonomous character of passive force (something which seems to be a logical consequence of the idea of adequate thoughts, and notions, of the adequacy of cause and effect), he nonetheless raises the question of why it is that the "autonomy" is the question. Of the passions (those things that we suffer, passively), there are those of joy and those of sadness. Because passions are only understood as the inhibition of action (and Spinoza acknowledges the differential in inhibitions based on the particular passion), they are not understood, or perhaps, they don't count until they become translated into activity (this translation, I have been thinking, is one way of thinking about affect). Maybe it makes sense that passive joy needs to be taken as active (as part of the conatus) in order for it to be "real action," but it makes less sense for sad passions, things for which there seems never to be an "adequate" cause. Sad passions seem to be a part of the Spinozan unconscious, things you know you should be able to turn to active but which perhaps instead dwell in a realm of affective thought (something I need to return to Freud's 1912ish papers for). But work, in the above quotation, is what makes this transference to activity possible, I think. And somehow, this seems to put off work, and put off the cause, as well.

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