[eDebate] 'education for grownups'

John Cook johntheempire
Sun May 11 17:44:25 CDT 2008

Setting aside Bryant's criticism of reading Deleuze with a focus on his
Nietzschean influence (which I'm not familiar with and isn't really
presented in Kevin's post), I will discuss this difference (no pun intended)
on between these concepts of "Multiplicity".

I wholly agree with Kevin's claim that while recognizing "reason is? nothing
more than a certain 'system of relations between various passions'"(Smith),
"this hardly means we're free from grounding our ideas with sounds reasons"
(Mr. Sanchez). Smith's interpretation however does not conflate multiplicity
in a way that would lead one to think "anything goes" or that there should
not be a privileging of certain modes of existence.

>From Smith:

Now according to Deleuze, this immanent approach to the question of ethics
was developed most fully, in the history of philosophy, by Spinoza and
Nietzsche, whom Deleuze has often identified as his own philosophical

Both Spinoza and Nietzsche?perhaps not surprisingly?were both maligned by
their contemporaries not simply for being atheists, but even worse, for
being "immoralists."

A potent danger, in other words, was immediately seen to be lurking in
Spinoza's *Ethics *and Nietzsche's *Genealogy of Morals*: without
transcendence, without recourse to normative universals, we will all fall
into the dark night of chaos, and ethics will be reduced to a pure
"subjectivism" or "relativism." Both Spinoza and Nietzsche argued, each in
his own way, that there are things one cannot do or think except on the
condition of being weak, base, or enslaved, unless one harbors a vengeance
or ressentiment against life (Nietzsche), unless one remains the slave of
passive affections (Spinoza); and there are other things one cannot do or
say except on the condition of being strong, noble, or free, unless one
affirms life, unless one attains active affections.6 Deleuze calls this the
method of "dramatization": actions and propositions are interpreted as so
many sets of symptoms that express or "dramatize" the mode of existence of
the speaker. "What is the mode of existence of the person who utters a given
proposition?" asks Nietzsche, "What mode of existence is needed in order to
be able to utter it?

Rather than "judging" actions and thoughts by appealing to transcendent or
universal values, one "evaluates" them by determining the mode of existence
that serves as their principle. A pluralistic method of explanation by
immanent modes of existence is in this way made to replace the recourse to
transcendent values: in Spinoza and Nietzsche, the transcendent moral
opposition (between Good and Evil) is replaced an immanent ethical
difference (between noble and base modes of existence, in Nietzsche; or
between passive and active affections, in Spinoza).In Spinoza, for instance,
an individual will be considered "bad" (or servile, or weak, or foolish) who
remains cut off from its power of acting, who remains in a state of slavery
with regard to its passions. Conversely, a mode of existence will be
considered to be "good" (or free, or rational, or strong) that exercises its
capacity for being affected in such a way that its power of acting
increases, to the point where it produces active affections and adequate
ideas. For Deleuze, this is the point of convergence that unites Nietzsche
and Spinoza in their search for an immanent ethics. Modes are no longer
"judged" in terms of their degree of proximity to or distance from an
external principle, but are "evaluated" in terms of the manner by which they
"occupy" their existence: the intensity oftheir power, their "tenor" of

It is always a question of knowing whether a mode of existence?however great
or small it may be?is capable of deploying its capacities, of increasing its
power of acting to the point where it can be said to go to the limit of what
it "can do."

The fundamental question of ethics is not "What must I do?" (which is the
question of morality) but rather "What can I do, what am I capable of doing
(which is the proper question of an ethics without morality).

Given my degree of power, what are my capabilities and capacities? How can I
come into active possession of my power? How can I go to the limit of what I
"can do"?


[Smith, Parrehesia, "Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward and Immanent
Theory of Ethics"]

Here, I think Smith gives us a hint of what a Deleuzian interpretation of
debate may look like (or rather what the "Deleuzian paradigm" might do). By
brining us to the question of what ethics *can* do, the question of capacity
instead of the question of obligation, Smith effective returns us to the
conclusion the Deleuze makes in the passage Kevin cited previously from 'To
Have Done with Judgment'

Maybe it's my mistake, but the lingering question I'm left with is how does
this interact with the traditional model of judging the community has
constructed (objectivity is prized above all else, violators are ideological
"hacks"). To really address this interaction, it would do us well to
(momentarily or partially) leave behind our preoccupation with standpoint
epistemology as such and address "decision making" as it is experienced by
those making decisions. Again, Smith addresses this in a way the community
is sure to find familiar": Do I study or get drunk?

What then is the act of deliberation? At the moment when I am torn between
staying home and going out for a drink, the tissue of my soul is in a state
of disequilibrium?oscillating between two complex perceptive poles (the
perceptive pole of the tavern and the perceptive pole of the study), each of
which is itself swarming with an infinity of minute perceptions and
inclinations.. Here, the movement of the soul, as Leibniz says, more
properly resembles a pendulum rather than a balance?and often a rather
wildly swinging balance at that.

The question of decision is: On which side will I "fold" my soul? With which
minute inclinations and perceptions will I make a "decisive" fold? Arriving
at a decision is a matter of "integrating" (to use a mathematical term) the
minute perceptions and inclinations in a "distinguished" perception or a
"remarkable" inclination.

The error of the usual schema of judgment is that, in objectifying my two
options?staying home or going out?as if they were weights in a balance, it
presumes that they remain the same in front of me, and that the deliberating
self likewise remains the same, simply assessing the two options in terms of
some sort of decision procedure (whether in terms of my interest, or a
calculus of probabilities, or an assessment of potential consequences). But
this falsifies the nature of deliberation: if neither the options nor the
self ever change, how could I ever arrive at a decision? The truth of the
matter is that, during the entire time the deliberation is going on, the
self is constantly changing, and is that, during the entire time the
deliberation is going on, the self is constantly changing, and consequently
is modifying the two feelings that are agitating it. What Leibniz (and
Bergson, for that matter) calls a "free" act will be an act that effectuates
the amplitude of my soul at a certain moment, the moment the act is
undertaken. It is an act that integrates the small perceptions and small
inclinations into a remarkable inclination, which then becomes an
inclination of the soul. But this integration requires time: there is a
psychic integration and a psychic time of integration.

Thus, at 10:15 p.m. I have a vague urge to go to the tavern. Why do I not
go? Because at that moment, it remains in the state of a minute inclination,
a small perception, a swarm. The motivation is there, but if I still remain
at home, working, I do not know the amplitude of my soul. Indeed, most of
the time my actions do not correspond to the amplitude of my soul. "There is
no reason," says Deleuze, "to subject all the actions we undertake to the
criterion: Is it free or not? Freedom is only for certain acts. There are
all sorts of acts that do not have to be confronted with the problems of
freedom. They are done solely, one could say, to calm our disquietude: all
our habitual and machinal acts. We will speak of freedom only when we pose
the question of an act capable or not of filling the amplitude of the soul
at a given moment."

At 10:30 p.m., I finally say to myself, to hell with this paper, I'm going
out drinking. Is that because the drive to go out has won out over the drive
to stay home working? Even that simplifies the operation, since what came
into play may have been other motives that remain largely unknown to us,
such as (these are all examples given by Nietzsche in *Daybreak*): "the way
we habitually expend our energy"; "or our indolence, which prefers to do
what is easiest"; "or an excitation of our imagination brought about at the
decisive moment by some immediate, very trivial event; or "quite
incalculable physical influences"; or "some emotion or other [that] happens
quite by chance to leap forth."


This turn to Leibeiz is a very helpful and familiar way to approach decision
maker. I don't think I'm on a limb saying that in many decisions a judge may
become multiple ? that is, feel the inclination (almost "irrationally) to
sway or fold on a certain issue one way or the other. Various framework
arguments or role of the ballot arguments which cavalierly dismiss the
judge's multiple selves, treating them as neutral scales which objectively
weigh two thoroughly exposed options largely miss the mark.

Decision making is an infinitely constituted act. Here Kevin or others may
criticize me for straying from the path marked (at least, explicitly) by the
philosopher(s) being discussed; so be it. It would seem to me that while
"not everything goes", to be a truly operative paradigm or method of
evaluation, we should understand ? perhaps including an admission of a lack
of understanding ? the innumerably small things which constitute even the
minutest things in our life. Chance here is largely operative; how do you
meet someone by chance? how do you happen to have good "luck" or bad "luck"?
Given the time and patience, we can trace most of the variables which
constitute human agency to moments of chance or unreasoned decisions.

I participated in debate by a handwriting mistake made on my freshman high
school class schedule. That seemingly innocuous and non-consequential
mistake radically altered my life up to the present. The same is true for
the people I have met, the numerous car accidents I *almost* have on a daily
basis, and the terrible sense of style with which I dress myself in the
morning. Extended to debate and judging, certainly I have heard more than a
few RFDs include the phrase " X makes more sense to me". Let's take this as
a test case.

For something to make sense to someone, there has to be a level of
comprehension or familiarity reached. Perhaps, this is the result of in
round adaptation (a series of Russian analogies for Calum, angry, white male
asides for Russell, etc) consciously made by the debater or something else
entirely ? an unintentional explanation which grips the judge and makes a
complex issue familiar and brings them to a conclusion in an indirect (if
not "irrational") way. This explanative form of argument is largely hit or
miss which perhaps illustrates the irrational way debaters "make sense" of
their arguments to judges.

When a "bad judge": "does not get our argument", there is more than silly
angst at work but something that illustrates the irrational nature of
decision making at work in the community at large. At core, debate is still
a game of persuasion and even while it may hoist itself on laurels of
objectivity and neutrality, there are always undercurrents of emotive
responses to an argument and it will initially either "make sense" or not
"make sense" to someone. This seems like an interesting if not useful way to
think about debate and objectivity

For the record, this post is heinously long and comes in the midst of
finals. I think I may have "folded" my time allocation in a "un-grownup way"
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