Proportion as a barometer of the affective life in Spinoza

In Beth Lord (ed.), Spinoza’s Philosophy of Ratio. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 111-133 (2018)

Simon B. Duffy
Yale-NUS College
In this paper, two different ways of thinking about individuality in Spinoza are presented to draw out what is at stake in trying to make sense of what could be described as a double point of view of the degree of the power to act of a singular thing in Spinoza’s Ethics: sometimes it seems to be fixed to a precisely determined degree; sometimes it seems to admit a certain degree of variation. The problem of resolving this apparent contradiction has been responsible for a variety of interpretations among scholars working in the field of Spinoza studies, notably the different interpretations of Spinoza’s theory of relations offered by Pierre Macherey and Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze’s interpretation of the dynamic changes in an individual’s power to act diverges somewhat from that of Macherey. For Macherey, dynamic changes are incorporated by an individual according to the varying degree, or proportion, to which the active expression of its fixed power to act are inhibited or limited. Whereas for Deleuze, an individual’s power to act is open to “metaphysical” or ontological changes. An individual for Deleuze is limited by the passive affections that it experiences in its interactions with other more composite bodies, which, at any given moment, have the potential to limit its further integration, and, therefore, the further development of its power to act, and by consequence, its actual existence. This limit determines the margin of variation, or proportion, of the expression of the given individual’s power to act, which varies from a minimum, below which it would cease to exist (intensity = 0), to a maximum, which would only be limited by the extent to which its power to act is further integrated at any given moment in more composite relations, expressing the affective life of the individual. The paper will examine the implications of this difference to their respective interpretations of Spinoza, with a view to characterising the role that Spinoza plays in Deleuze’s broader project of constructing a philosophy of difference.
Keywords Spinoza  Deleuze  Macherey  ethics  power
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