relative states

My friend and I have an ongoing conversation about freedom and the will. We both took a Spinoza course that did a close reading of the Ethics, and underlying our exchanges is the ability to choose. I particularly like Deleuze’s notion of ‘choose to choose’ (Cinema 2), in which the individual sees – is open to- the range of possibilities that are in front of him. Not as if one can control the outcome, but seeing the range of choices in all of their complexity, rather than seeing a binary choice- this or that- or even an ‘what other option do I have?’.

Throughout this conversation, we continually come back to agency (well, I do. I am interested in agency on many levels, in part because it is easy to feel that there is no room to move if we consider the ‘power’ discussion and more current, the neo-liberal order.) Regardless, I am optimistic about the role of the individual in terms of locating agency, and as a result, I generally tune into a certain kind of ‘spirit of engagement’ that gives me space to think.

I’m currently reading Difference and Repetition- and in order to maximize my comprehension (and Deleuze can just be hard sometimes) I am consulting a secondary source by James Williams. It’s been a great companion with heuristic devices to restate ideas. But this morning, I found this articulation of the synthesis of time in relation to ‘destiny’ and the active choosing, which feels more clear than I’ve been able to articulate.

“Shouldn’t any materialism be deterministic? No, since our passivity with respect to the syntheses of time still allows for actions to alter the localities we are passive to. We can alter where we may acquire habits and to what degree. We can alter where our lives may be contracted and to what degree. Underlying your conscious activity there is a series of passive processes on a physical plane and on a spiritual plan (your destiny as a contraction of the pure past). But your conscious activity has an effect on those syntheses – not in the sense that you can finally determine their outcome but in the sense of opening up and closing down different paths.” (97)