Reading notes: Deleuze’s Empiricism and Subjectivity, Chapter 1

Hume’s project: a science of humanity. Choice is defined in what it excludes (carves out something, actual separated from potential) and historical project is a logical substitution. For H, this is substituting a psych of mind (would require and object, the mind) with a psych of mind’s affections.

THN: mind is affected under two forms – passional and social; an internal unity in history, with political organization and institutions giving history its objects.

Society demands constant reactions, passions which provide motives/ends, availability

Passions make society the means for their satisfaction

So to be a psychologist, one must first be a moralist, sociology, and historian…the mind is not given, but is constituted, but how – how does it become human nature?

These affections are only a part of human nature; understanding and the association of ideas are another dimension. H: understanding makes passions sociable and interest social. Passions/understanding are distinct/coexisting parts, but on its own, understanding is only process of passions on their way to socialization.

Mind = imagination = (collection of) ideas/experience

But how does a collection of ideas, a flux of perceptions, become a system? Comment devenir un sujet?

Nothing is done by imagination, but everything occurs within it; not a faculty for forming ideas b/c anything produced is only a reproduction of perceptions. It does have its own mad (“whimsical and deleirious”) activity: the fancy is the collection of separate items…delirium. Imagination itself is not nature, it is mere fancy: no uniformity in these ideas, nor in their connection (it is by chance).

Constancy and uniformity only present through the ways ideas are associated in the imagination. Three principles of association (contiguity, resemblance, causality) allow it to transcend imagination. Association unifies ideas but is not a quality of ideas in themselves.

Through belief and causality, the subject transcends the given (one believes what one hasn’t seen or touched…). But belief only comes after the principles of association organize the given into a system, imposing constancy on imagination. Privilege of causality: it can make us affirm existence and make us believe. Contiguity and resemblance also fix/naturalize mind, they prepare and accompany belief. Association is not a product of the mind, but a rule of it: guides, gives uniformity, and constrains…ideas connected in the mind, not by it.

Association is a law of nature and is defined by its effect, not its cause (like all laws). Philosophy need not search for cause but analyze effects.

Effects of association appear in 3 ways: general ideas, a new regularity (substance and mode), new relationships of ideas (relation)…creates easy passage from one idea to another. Mind becomes nature and acquires a tendency.

On the one hand, imagination cannot become in itself nature without being for itself the fancy (I am picking up the Hegelian language here but don’t know what to make of it)…On the other hand, the mind cannot be activated by the principles of nature without remaining passive. It is determined; subjectivity is an effect, an impression of reflection. The mind, having been affected by the principles, becomes a subject (again, note the rules of operation…).

A psych of mind is one of ideas, simple elements, indivisibles…a second part of the of understanding (H’s atomism). But psych of human nature is one of dispositions – morality, politics, history. A real critique of psych b/c it locates reality of its object in determinations not given in mind (but how they arise…this is H’s associationism).

Principles do not make mind object of possible science without first giving it objective nature (“all serious writers agree on impossibility of a psych of mind”), critiquing identification btwn consciousness and knowledge, and only differ w/r/t factors giving nature to mind: some say body and matter (psych/physiology), others say principles – this is Hume’s most difficult/audacious route (also his sympathy and reticence toward materialism).

“What is the fact of knowledge? It is a transcendence or going beyond. I affirm more than I know; my judgment goes beyond the idea…I speak in general terms and I have beliefs, I establish relations – this is a fact and a practice.” Empirical subjectivity is constituted in mind under influence of principles affecting it (no characteristics of a pre-existing subject) (29).

The transcendence here is not given, but is a qualification of the mind. In H’s method one goes from absence of idea to presence of an affection. Transcendence is (typically?) understood in its negative relation to that which it transcends, but here, “the mind finds a kind of positivity which comes to it from the outside.”

How can we reconcile this method with H’s principle: all ideas derive from impression, so all given impressions are reproduced in an idea which perfectly represents them. Example: if necessity is an impression of reflection (a qualification of the mind), there must also be an idea of necessity, but it cannot produce the idea as a quality of things (?). Psych of impressions –> phil of constituted subject.

But rationalism has lost this philosophy. H critiques representations, not relations.

Rationalism: representation as a criterion, places ideas w/in reason…and therefore expects ideas to stand for something which cannot be constituted within experience or given without contradiction. It transforms mental determinations into external objects, taking away meaning/intelligibility of practice and the subject. But, “the mind is not reason; reason is an affection of the mind” (30). So reason is instinct, habit or nature. H: “we have found [reason] to be nothing but a general calm determination of the passions, founded on some distant view or reflexion.”

So reason is a kind of feeling; it goes from skepticism to a kind of positivism, from a skepticism of reason to a positivism of feeling (with reason being a reflection of feeling).

Must distinguish between the difference in nature btwn:

Impressions of sensation – origin of the mind. A simple origin which frees ideas from obligation of representing things.

Impressions of reflection – qualification of the mind and effect of principles in it. Real importance is here, b/c they qualify the mind as subject.

We are not interested in the origin of the mind but the constitution of the subject. The self is a synthesis of ideas and disposition, of mind and subject. It ties them together without reconciliation (sublation) (31).

H: distinct perceptions are distinct existences but the mind never perceived a real connection between them.

Two parallel modalities of human nature:

Effects of association determine the system of understanding; belief. Fixes generality. Action.

Effects of passion determine the system of passion and ethics; sympathy. Content of constancy, practical and moral activity, meaning of history. Motive.

This double movement creates human nature, which would otherwise be mere fancy.

Can not say system of understanding= theory or system of passion=practice, b/c with belief there is a practice of understanding; under social org/justice, there is a theory of morality. In H, all theories are theories of practice (understanding has probabilities and general rules; in morality there are general rules and justice).

Fine, but this is “the mere presentation of philosophy and the distribution of its results.” One determines the other and H is above all a moralist, political thinker, and historian.

THN begins with system of understanding and raises prob of reason. For reason to have a problem there must be a domain that escapes reason (“‘Tis not contrary to Reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger”).

Reason can be questioned b/c it does not apply to all there is…it does not determine practice. Influences, sure, to the extent that it informs us of existence of a thing as the proper object o passion, or that it reveals connections between causes and effects as means of satisfaction.

But moral distinctions arouse passions, produce/hinder action. This positivism produces a skepticism of reason, which causes positivism of understanding and theory of practice. Diff between to systems: passional/moral affection vs. transcendence of knowledge. Principles of morality – the original/natural qualities of passions – affect mind, just as principles of association do, but it is under the unequal influence of the latter that the subject transcends the given: belief. Affirms objects, links.

Practice of understanding determines internal economy of nature and proceeds by extension, parts of a whole. Nature as extensive magnitude that can be measured.

Practice of morality: parts are immediately given with no inference req’d. They are not extensive but mutually exclusive; not made up of parts but partial…ethics diverts/slants this partiality. The main thing here is to invent, to create a whole of morality.

The question here is no longer about transcendence, but integration. Whereas reason proceeds from one part to the other, feeling reacts to wholes, so in this domain general rules have a different meaning.

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