Rosi Braidotti over Eeuwigheid in de tijd

In het verlengde van enige recente blogs, citeer ik hier een deel van een paragraaf uit het artikel van de aan de universiteit van Utrecht docerende filosofiehoogleraar Rosi Braidotti, “The Ethics of Becoming Imperceptible.” *)

Uit het hele artikel blijkt dat Deleuze Braidotti's lievelingsfilosoof is. In het hierna geciteerde, waarin een poging wordt gedaan te duiden wat Spinoza met “het deel van geest dat eeuwig blijft” bedoeld kan hebben, baseert zij zich grotendeels op een studie van Genevieve Lloyd uit 1994 die ik daarom aan het eind uit de bibliografie bij het artikel overneem.  

                                       ETERNITY WITHIN TIME

Lloyd argues (1994) that the eternity of the mind makes death an irrelevance for a spinozist vision of the subject. To understand a thing as eternal for Spinoza means understanding it as actual, as a life-force present in all things, though in different degrees. Eternity is not the same thing as ‘duration’ and thus it does not mean: ‘lasting forever’. Minds can understand themselves as partaking of a larger totality – for Spinoza this is the mind of God (sub specie aeternitatis) – which is by definition eternal in the enjoyment of its perfection and love. The intellectual love for such a vision makes our own mind eternal as well. Wisdom is the contemplation of the eternity of the life-forces, not the perennity of death.

Spinoza’s thought is not free of contradictions on this point- notably on the distinction between the notions of ‘eternity’ and of ‘duration’ - which also affects his view of God, religion and salvation. Spinoza contests the orthodox view of God that is upheld by major religions and defends instead the existence of an infinite and eternal God, without whom nothing exists or can be understood – given that the human mind is only a mode in the attribute of the thought of God. The mind, according to Spinoza, strives to make itself into a unity in temporal as well as spatial terms. A subject is necessarily embodied and inscribed in a temporal sequence guaranteed by his/her memory. A radical disruption of consciousness induced by death through the destruction of the body is such that the person could not survive. And yet, for Spinoza self-preservation is written into the essence of the subject and death can only occur through external causes. Setting limits to this internal complexity through qualitative analysis of costs is the key to an ethics of sustainability. Time itself sets some limits, in so far as it organizes experience in a sequence of past, present and future, thus limiting the complexities and the proliferation of associations by the memory and the imagination.

The mind involves the realisation of its inter-connection with other modes of thought and forces, it can thus also comprehend the rivalry with other minds and consequently external sources that can prove negative or destructive. But it cannot contemplate the possibility of its own death. As Lloyd outs it: “death is the destruction of the conatus” (Lloyd 1994: 132), and dying means ceasing to partake of that vital flow of positive and negative interactions with others, which is the distinctive trait of the embodied subject. Something in our existence will go on after death, but it is not the continued existence of the self. The mind’s eternity rests on its partaking of a larger reflexive totality. But the existence of the mind is contingent upon that of the body and exists only in so far as the body actually exists. So that the mind does cease to exist with the death of the body, yet the idea of that mind/body entity does not get wiped out with the disappearance of the body. The truth of what has been the case, the subject, cannot be lost. The past remains steadfast and self-assured and is thus the true object of becoming. For the subject to understand itself as part of nature means to perceive itself as eternal, that is to say both vulnerable and transient. It also involves, however, a temporal dimension: what we are is bound up with things that existed before and after us and some of which go on after us. Death does affect it, of course, but “death does not have the power to make it not have been” (Lloyd 1994: 132). Being dead does not reduce one to the status of a figment of other people’s imagination, but it dissolves the self into an interconnected continuum with nature as One. Whatever happens – and death always does happen - we will have been and nothing can change that, not even death itself. The future perfect paves the road to the continuous present.

The embodied mind remains part and parcel of a larger and more articulated whole. The point of this is that one can come to this awareness during life, namely the awareness that there is something which transcends time. Once this insight is acquired, there is little to fear from actual death. I think this is a crucial passage: that the truth about the nature of the embodied self can and must be grasped from within existence.
The crucial aspect of this notion of death is that it is the opposite of transcendence: it does not locate eternity in “the totality of omnipresent truths” (Lloyd 1994:137), but in the actualisation of specific patterns of forces which define each specific singularity. It makes the subject into something which “will continue to have been” (Lloyd 1994: 138). The eternity of the mind not as duration but as the partaking of a continuing existence makes death powerless to intrude on what a subject has been. Thus, salvation occurs in the realization of eternity within time. What makes a mind eternal is precisely the knowledge of its eternity, which in turn is determined by its power of synthesis between reason, the memory and the imagination.

*) Uit: Rosi Braidotti, “The Ethics of Becoming Imperceptible” [In: Constantin Boundas (Ed.), Deleuze and Philosophy. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2006, pp. 133-159. PDF]. 
Veelvuldig wordt verwezen naar:

Lloyd, Genevieve (1994) Part of Nature: Self-knowledge in Spinoza's Ethic. Ithaca/Londen: Cornell University Press.