behemoth

behemoth wrote (edited )

Nietzsche denies the metaphysical duality of free will versus determinism, revealing strength/power as the reality of our acting and being acted upon. This aligns with Spinoza's thought that free will is an illusion, but we have more or less capacity to act depending on the creation or destruction of relations. For both it is a matter of power: for Nietzsche, it is the will to power; for Spinoza, it is organising our encounters so as to increase our power to act.

"There are no moral phenomena at all" said Nietzsche, "only a moral interpretation of phenomena". Spinoza agrees that Good & Evil do not exist, that morality is an illusion corollary to the illusion of free will, and explains it as a fundamental misunderstanding of the "natural laws" we experience, taking 'what is' for 'what should be', and mistaking the partial for the universal. Nietzsche similarly accounts for the cause of morality in the error of taking what is good for oneself as what is good in itself.

Moral law and knowledge, obedience and comprehension stand opposed, says Spinoza. Nietzsche agrees: "A law-book never tells of the utility of a law, of the reason for it, of the casuistry which preceded it: for in that way it would lose the imperative tone, the 'though shalt', the precondition of being obeyed."

Spinoza identifies freedom with potency, that is, freedom is the real power to act, relative to our capacity to be acted upon. Stirner likewise identifies freedom with potency, attacking notions of 'rights' and 'chartered freedoms'.

Nietzsche wrote that the 'noble' man "conceives the basic conception of 'good' spontaneously, out of himself, and only then creates from that an idea of 'bad'." Spinoza establishes the idea that the good (which is partial to each individual) "is when a body directly compounds its relation with ours, and, with all or part of its power, increases ours", a transformation that we experience as joy, involving an increase in power. The opposite (decomposition, decreased power, sadness) is subsequently identified as bad. In this way, Spinoza's ethic is precisely the self-affirmation, the drawing of values out of oneself, that Nietzsche praises.

We are told that happiness will follow if we act virtuously; Nietzsche reverses this and asserts that what is good is what makes us happy. Spinoza's theory similarly argues that what is good is what brings us joy, the joyful passions being produced by the composition of relations.

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behemoth wrote

The dichotomy here established (between ethics which are always partial to an individual in their immanent reality and morality which is universal to humanity and refers to transcendent values) is employed in the essay "The Anarchist Ethic in the Age of the Anti-Globalization Movement".

To quote at length

"We use the term ethic in a very specific sense and contrast it to morality. Morality stands outside what it rules over, it swoops down from above to organize relationships and discipline behavior. For example, the relationship between two people can be set morally by a third party, the church, the state, or the school. This third party is not a part of the relationship; in other words, it stands transcendent to the relationship. The relationship between two people can also be arranged through an ethic. Unlike morality, an ethic never comes from the outside; an ethic lets us understand how to relate to other people or objects, other bodies, in a way that is beneficial to us. An ethic is thus a doctrine of happiness, one which never comes form the outside of the situation, which never stands above a relationship, but is always developed from within; it is always immanent to the situation instead of transcendent to it. An ethic is a relationship of desire. In an ethical relationship desire is complemented by desire, expanded by it. Morality, on the other hand, always limits and channels desire. A transcendent morality is alien to the situation at hand; its logic has no necessary connection to the desire of those involved or to increasing their pleasure. It is a fixed law whose reasoning is always “because I said so,” “because it is the word of god,” “because it is wrong,” or “because it is the law and what would happen without the law.” An ethic is a tool for the active creation of our own lives; it is never an imposed decision, a bought position in society, or a passively accepted role that we attempt to play. The most valuable thing one can learn in the struggle against imposed decision is how to act, how to become more powerful in our action."

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behemoth wrote (edited )

Chapter 2: On the Difference Between the Ethics and a Morality

I think this chapter is rather important so I have written up a summary below.

"1. A devaluation of consciousness (in favour of thought): Spinoza the materialist"

  • Parallelism: mind and body separate (as in Descartes) but no causality between the two - neither has primacy over the other.
  • Morality predicated on "domination of the passions by consciousness" which is denied by parallelism.
  • "The body surpasses the knowledge that we have of it, and thought likewise surpasses the consciousness that we have of it".
  • There is a profound unconscious of thought waiting to be discovered, through the same movement we gain knowledge of our body.
  • Consciousness registers effects but not causes.
  • Bodies and thoughts constituted by "characteristic relations" between their parts. Causes are to be discovered in the rearrangement of these relations.
  • When two bodies or thoughts encounter one another, they may combine into a more powerful whole (composition), or may deconstruct these relations, destroying the cohesion of parts (decomposition).
  • We experience joy from affects of composition, sadness from decompositional affects.
  • Since we are only conscious of this relational transformation through their effects manifested as passions, we are only able to form inadequate ideas. But consciousness reverses cause and effect, thus producing the illusion of free will and of divine will.
  • 'Appetite' is an expression of the striving to persevere and grow: the will to live ('conatus')
  • This conatus differs according to the objects encountered: it is determined by the affections that come from them.
  • Consciousness is consciousness of conatus, which is caused by these determinative affections, therefore a consciousness of increase or decrease in power.
  • Objects that "agree with my nature" enter into composition with me, while objects that do not endanger my cohesion and divide me from parts of myself.
  • We tend to be aware only of changes to the "superior whole".

"2. A devaluation of all values, and of good and evil in particular (in favour of 'good' and 'bad'): Spinoza the immoralist"

  • The things that we name 'evil' are no more than processes of relational decomposition, i.e. not 'evil', but bad from the partial perspective. Analogous to a poison.
  • The 'good' is when we enter into relational composition with another body or thought, mutually increasing potency.
  • Good & Evil are universal/transcendent, whereas good and bad are always relative and partial.
  • An individual can (subjectively, modally) be called 'good' when they strive to "organise their encounters" so as to maximise relational composition, and thereby increase power and experience joy.
  • "goodness is a matter of dynamism, power, and the composition of power"
  • The bad/servile/weak/foolish undergo the effects of their encounters arbitrarily, and resent the impotence and sadness thereby produced.
  • Ethics refers to "immanent modes of existence", whereas morality refers to "transcendent values".
  • "The illusion of values is indistinguishable from the illusion of consciousness. Because it is content to wait for and take in effects, consciousness misapprehends all of Nature."
  • There exist natural "laws", but these are amoral. We can know them, but we cannot be judged by them.
  • Moral law is an imperative, with no other effects than obedience. It does not provide any knowledge.
  • Knowledge and morality are mutually exclusive.
  • "Law is always the transcendent instance that determines the opposition of values (Good-Evil), but knowledge is always the immanent power that determines the qualitative difference of modes of existence (good-bad)."

"3. A devaluation of all the 'sad passions' (in favour of joy): Spinoza the atheist."

  • "The slave, the tyrant, and the priest..., the moralist trinity."
  • This trinity, in which the slave loves his chains, is possible because the sad passions "join desire's boundlessness to the mind's confusion".
  • The tyrant needs the sad spirits, who submit to him, and the sad spirits need the tyrant, who gives them security and lifts from them the weight of responsibility. They are united by a hatred for life.
  • "There is, then, a philosophy of 'life' in Spinoza; it consists precisely in denouncing all that separates us from life, all these transcendent values that are turned against life, these values that are tied to the conditions and illusions of consciousness. Life is poisoned by the categories of Good and Evil, of blame and merit, of sin and redemption. What poisons life is hatred, including the hatred that is turned back against oneself in the form of guilt."
  • Spinoza: "it is slaves, not free men, who are given rewards for virtue".
  • Freedom coincides with potency and with joy.
  • An individual constitutes a certain degree of power, which corresponds with a certain capacity for being affected.
  • Affections can be divided into actions and passions.
  • Actions originate internally, from the individual's essence, and manifest the capacity for affection as the power of acting.
  • Passions originate externally, and manifest the capacity for affection as the power of being acted upon.
  • An individual has a given power, a given capacity for being affected, but the power of acting and of being acted upon vary in inverse proportion.
  • The nature of the passions is separating us from our power to act.
  • An encounter involving decomposition of relations creates the sad passions and decreases our power to act (increasing our power to be acted upon).
  • An encounter involving composition of relations creates joyful passions, and although, as a passion, it separates us still from our power of acting, it nonetheless increase our capacity/potential for acting relative to be acted upon.
  • The sad passions indicate our lowest degree of power, the greatest separation from our power of acting, "when we are most alienated" and therefore most susceptible to the "mystifications of the tyrant".
  • Spinoza's philosophy is therefore an ethics of joy. The question is then, how to maximise one's joyful passions? How may we form 'adequate' ideas? How do we extend our consciousness?
  • "immanence is the unconscious itself"
  • In conclusion, the joyful passions become available to us when we disregard transcendent values and illusions of will and instead embrace the immanent, seeking out encounters by which to compose relations between our characteristic relation and things in the world that agree with our nature.
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behemoth wrote (edited )

Chapter 1: Life of Spinoza

"In every society, Spinoza will show, it is a matter of obeying and of nothing else. This is why the notions of fault, of merit and demerit, of good and evil, are exclusively social, having to do with obedience and disobedience."

This sounds thoroughly individualist, that is, equating social organisation with authority. To this Errico Malatesta replied:

"The source and justification of authority lie in social disorganization […] So, far from conjuring up authority, organization represents the only cure for it and the only means whereby each of us can get used to taking an active and thoughtful part in our collective endeavor and stop being passive tools in the hands of leaders."

However, in this context (the life of a philosopher) I empathize with such a yearning for autonomy and innocence. Thought, especially Spinoza's vital, elemental, kind, escapes all social necessities.
I guess the point here, in any case, is that the thinker, the philosopher, must find their way in the peripheries of society, where the rules and norms fade, and day-to-day practicalities are trivial.

"[...] he never confuses his purposes with those of a state, or with the aims of a milieu, since he solicits forces in thought that elude obedience as well as blame, and fashions the image of a life beyond good and evil, a rigorous innocence without merit or culpability."


"In his whole way of living and of thinking, Spinoza projects an image of the positive, affirmative life, which stands in opposition to the semblances that men are content with. Not only are they content with the latter, they feel a hatred of life, they are ashamed of it; a humanity bent on self-destruction, multiplying the cults of death, bringing about the union of the tyrant and the slave, the priest, the judge, and the soldier, always busy running life into the ground, mutilating it, killing it outright or by degrees, overlaying it or suffocating it with laws, properties, duties, empires - this is what Spinoza diagnoses in the world, this betrayal of the universe and of mankind."

Oh lord, such poetry! And when did this anarchist spirit take the stage?
This emphasis on affirmation, this reckoning for collective sado-masochism, of course brings to mind Nietzsche, but also Camus. Camus, whose word of advice for the anarchists is that not everything is to be destroyed after all, but we seek out and fight for the good that exists in the world. Beauty, truth, joy. These things precede morality and intellect, and if we deny they exist now, we deny that they can ever exist.

"In his view, all the ways of humiliating and breaking life, all the forms of the negative have two sources, one turned outward and the other inward, resentment and bad conscience, hatred and guilt."

For Nietzsche, resentment is the expression of weakness, the root of 'slave morality'; and bad conscience, or guilt, is a Christian horror, the mutilation of life.

"Spinoza did not believe in hope or even in courage; he believed only in joy, and in vision. He let others live, provided that others let him live. He wanted only to inspire, to waken, to reveal."

A man after my own heart. Is this not the anarchist way? Is this not the way of freedom?

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behemoth wrote (edited )

The preface (by Robert Hurley) was intriguing. But I think it is something I will have to go back and read again once I've finished the book to understand it properly.

"The kinship of Spinoza and Nietzsche will be made quite clear in these pages, but there is also a historical line of connection between the two [...] this line passes through the form that we call, all too familiarly, Man. Spinoza is prior to that form, and Nietzsche sees beyond it. What they share, on this line, is a philosophy of forces or powers that compose such forms." (Hurley)

I'm really excited to see how this connection plays out. I'm interested to find out how exactly Spinoza's thought is prior to the form, 'Man', which I assumed to have been taken for granted long before his time.

"One wonders, finally, whether Man is anything more than a territory, a set of boundaries, a limit on existence." (Hurley)

This relates back to the Pythagorean view: "Nature in the universe was harmonized out of both things which are unlimited and things which limit; this applies to the universe as a whole and to all its components." (Philolaus)
The things which we distinguish as individual/singular (an object, a moment, an experience, a person) are so distinguished by boundaries, or limits, in this narrative limits between forces. (And a worldview beginning from the interplay of forces and the boundaries thereby created brings to mind Nietzsche and Stirner).

"Deleuze offers a model in this regard: the unit of understanding is not the form or function or organism but the composition of affective relations between individuals, together with the 'plane of consistency' on which they interact, that is, their 'environment'. [...] The environment is not just a reservoir of information who circuits await mapping, but also a field of forces whose actions await experiencing." (Hurley)

What is meant by "unit" of understanding?
From wikipedia:
Affect: a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body's capacity to act
Affection: each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body
So here, understanding refers to relations between things, but more specifically relations of experience and action (therefore forces/powers).
I think this touches on the poverty of the cybernetic perspective.

"Man and Nature, a tragedy, Man in Nature, a pious homily, Man against Nature, a hecatomb." (Hurley)

This would be a perfect aphorism.

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behemoth wrote

Note: I'm not a platformist.

When discussing these things, I think it is best to start by clarifying a definition.

The Black Rose Anarchist Federation (platformist) defines 'social insertion' as "Active involvement in and building of autonomous and popular social movements".

"Social insertion means anarchist involvement in the daily fights of the oppressed and working classes. It does not mean acting within single-issue advocacy campaigns based around the involvement of expected traditional political activists, but rather within movements of people struggling to better their own condition, which come together not always out of exclusively materially-based needs, but also socially and historically rooted needs of resisting the attacks of the state and capitalism. [...] Especifismo’s conception of the relation of ideas to the popular movement is that they should not be imposed through a leadership, through “mass line,” or by intellectuals. Anarchist militants should not attempt to move movements into proclaiming an “anarchist” position, but should instead work to preserve their anarchist thrust; that is, their natural tendency to be self-organized and to militantly fight for their own interests. This assumes the perspective that social movements will reach their own logic of creating revolution, not when they as a whole necessarily reach the point of being self-identified “anarchists,” but when as a whole (or at least an overwhelming majority) they reach the consciousness of their own power and exercise this power in their daily lives, in a way consciously adopting the ideas of anarchism. An additional role of the anarchist militant within the social movements, according to the Especifists, is to address the multiple political currents that will exist within movements and to actively combat the opportunistic elements of vanguardism and electoral politics"

Source: https://blackrosefed.org/especifismo-weaver/

I believe 'social insertion' as an explicit strategy first came about in reaction to the dominant attitude of anarchists at the time that they should not participate in struggles unless they were specifically anarchist, an attitude that isolated anarchists from popular struggles and revolts, and fed into ideological elitism.

Many anarchists outside of the platformist/especifismo tradition made similar arguments, perhaps without the 'social insertion' jargon, for example Errico Malatesta.

Taken to simply refer to anarchist engagement with the struggles of the exploited and oppressed, regardless of whether they identify with anarchism and its methods, and then as autonomous participants of such struggles encouraging direct action and self-organisation while fighting off emergent authorities and recuperation, at the same time as spreading a revolutionary perspective, I think most anarchists today except for the nihilists would have little to disagree with, except perhaps the unnecessary jargon.

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