On Finding Oneself Spinozist: Refuge, Beatitude and the Any-Space-Whatever

A practical philosophy requires that one install oneself in the midst of things such that abstract propositions can lead toward the concrete manner in which one pursues a life. By living out propositions, and, we could add, by creating concepts, Gilles Deleuze suggests that one finds oneself to be Spinozist without having understood why. The question of a way of life concerns affects, the capacity to be affected, and to affect others. This present investigation, or activity of becoming Spinozist, begins with a fascination in a concept taken up toward the voluntary conclusion of Deleuze’s life; the concept of a life. And in the midst of this concept we discover a further perplexing term, that of beatitude. Beatitude is the mode of being in which one achieves the maximum of active power or force of existing, and the minimum of reactive passions; the mind becomes a cause of its own ideas, and the body that of its actions, in relation to an infinite milieu. Following Deleuze’s Spinozist account, the question of a life, which attains to absolute potential and absolute beatitude, installs one in the midst of a plane of immanence, which implies a mode of living, a way of life, an affirmative and ethico-aesthetic pursuit. We are in the midst of things, as Deleuze and Guattari are fond of telling us, and in being so unsteadily placed we discover ourselves in the context of certain contemporary political and ethical problems through which we must grope in an experimental manner. The structure of beatitude promises a refuge of sorts from such striving, like the limited place or shelter from which we make all our necessary departures and returns.

“On Finding Oneself Spinozist: Refuge, Beatitude and the Any-Space-Whatever”, in Charles J. Stivale, Eugene W. Holland, Daniel W. Smith eds., Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text (Continuum Press, 2009), pp. 247-263. Book Chapter

This book chapter was developed from two invited conferences papers.

“Refuge, Beatitude and the Any-Space-Whatever”, Gilles Deleuze: Text and Images, Comparative Literature Dept., University of South Carolina (April 5–8, 2007). Invited Conference Paper.

“On Finding Oneself Spinozist”, Plenary Panel. Wandering with Spinoza Symposium, convened by Elizabeth Presa and Dimitris Vardoulakis, VCA, Melbourne (September 2006). Invited Plenary Paper.

 

But if one truly installs oneself in the midst of these propositions, if one lives them, things are much more complicated and one finds that one is Spinozist before having understood why.

Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy

 

Now we are at home. But home does not preexist: it was necessary to draw a circle around that uncertain and fragile centre, to organise a limited place.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

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