Posted by: glue | June 24, 2008

Auto-Ethology

The point of departure for our experiment in Expression is provided by Theory (CATTt):  Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, pp 124-25.  Here is the immediate statement of what is to be tested, in its context (the extension of ethology as a way to understand Spinoza’s ethics).

Measuring ticks

“Long after Spinoza, biologists and naturalists will try to describe animal worlds defined by affects and capacities for affecting and being affected. For example, J. von  Uexkull will do this for the tick, an animal that sucks the blood of mammals.  He will define this animal by three affects:  the first has to do with light (climb to the top of a branch); the second is olfactive (let yourself fall onto the mammal that passes beneath the branch); and the third is thermal (seek the area without fur, the warmest spot).  A world with only three affects, in the midst of all that goes on in the immense forest.  An optimal threshold and a pessimal threshold in the capacity for being affected:  the gorged tick that will die, and the tick capable of fasting for a very long time.

Such studies as this, which define bodies, animals, or humans by the affects they are capable of, founded what is today called ethology.  The approach is no less valid for us, for human beings, than for animals, because no one knows ahead of time the affects one is capable of; it is a long affair of experimentation, requiring a lasting prudence, a Spinozan wisdom that implies the construction of a plane of immanence or consistency.  Ethology is first of all the study of the relations of speed and slowness, of the capacities for affecting and being affected that characterize each thing.  For each thing these relations and capacities have an amplitude, thresholds (maximum and minimum), and variations or transformations that are peculiar to them.  And they select, in the world or in Nature, that which corresponds to the thing.

For example, given an animal, what is this animal unaffected by in the infinite world? What does it react to positively or negatively.  What does it ‘take’ in its world?  Every point has its counterpoints:  the plant and the rain, the spider and the fly. So an animal, a thing, is never separable from its relations with the world.  The interior is only a selected exterior, and the exterior, a projected interior. The speed or slowness of metabolisms, perceptions, actions, and reactions link together to constitute a particular individual in the world.”

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Responses

  1. Instruction: map (compose) your own plane of immanence.

    The special relevance of Spinozan wisdom (after Deleuze) is the further dimension it opens beneath/beyond identity as it has been constructed within literacy. Until now, identity in critical theory has been understood as being constructed with the ideological apparatus, through the process of interpellation (hailing) as described by Althusser. Within the frame of electracy, however, the identity categories of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and the like, are understood as relative to literacy, that is, as concepts, organized in terms of essences. Interpellation is still a useful point of departure for working with the middle voice, for composing from the conative position, except that now we attend to this rhizome that opens beneath the cultural or socialized behaviors to get at this plane of immanence emerging in relation to the affective body.

    Bodies on a plane of immanence may be located using a figurative longitude and latitude (Deleuze explains): a longitude of unformed elements (the relations of speed and slowness), and the latitude of “intensive states of an anonymous force (capacity for being affected” p. 127). Expression manifests not the ideological register of identity but this dimension of conatus: my life feeling.


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