2.02.2011

Affect, Spirituality, Empiricism

All this talk of the invisible world seems to invoke the mystical, the spiritual, the religious. But this is not how I see the role of affect at all.

For me, affect is part of the empirical world. And, being an empiricist, it is impossible to ignore. I mean, there is so much fucking information beaming around, ricocheting around, right in front of us — and in us, below us, above us, next to us, with us (prepositions are tricky and powerful).

Part of my invocation of affect is to reveal the scope of information that makes up our experiences — information that is usually only engaged peripherally. I wonder, then, what happens when we all take affect more seriously, when we cast our senses upon the invisible world: What world might this breed? What kinds of things might be revealed? What lives might be lived?

What happens when we understand ourselves as fundamentally constitutive of this world, as nodes within an infinite ecology of things and forces, visible and invisible, at once earthly and cosmic?

Is there a mystical component? Perhaps. But, knowing little of mysticism, I am hesitant to use this word or idea. Part of me wants to leave mysticism to the mystics, to those with extraordinary powers. And to suggest that affect is part of the make up of the everyday — it's not something mystical and "out there." On the contrary, it's right here. Where? Here.

This is not a critique of mysticism; it is a declaration of my ignorance.

Is there a religious or spiritual component? Perhaps. But, again, that is not what I'm talking about. I am talking about leading a beautiful life, an engaged life, a vital life — and such a life entails reckoning this world which, empirically, is visible and invisible, material and affective.

Again, this is not to deride the spiritual or the religious. I may or may not consider myself religious or spiritual but it would never be in any terms that anyone uses such as atheist, Jew, Buddhist, and so on. It's just not what I'm talking about here.

My simple point is this: my discussion, my invocation, of affect is empirical. It is what I sense, what I experience, what I know.

2 comments:

drwatson said...

I like this and I'll try to say more when I get a chance, but just knowing that we both enjoy Merleau-Ponty, what would you say about the Chiasm chapter in The Visible and Invisible?

That concept seems very empirical in as much as it's experiential, but I can imagine finding common ground with someone who was coming from a place that was more mystical or religious.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Merleau-Ponty certainly has an almost mystical quality about him, about his writing. But the chiasm seems as logical as it is anything else: we take up the world because we are part of the world, we see the world because we are seen. That is, it is a logical move to an epistemological problem.

But, yes, I have a lot of sympatico with the mystical, the spiritual, and the religious. But the discourses of those things elude me, confound me, annoy me. My own mysticism and religiosity is far too odd, far too private, for me to discuss at this point (this is a personal statement, not a general one about the spiritual).

My empirical world is rather mystical, as it is for Merleau-Ponty, as it is for D&G. And that, I think, was my point.