Drawing by Artist Marc Ngui

It seems to me that a very useful concept in philosophy is affect.  This is something other than the everyday way we use or come across the word.

I thought it would be helpful to put this definition up here.  From Brian Massumi’s introduction to  A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari.

Neither word denotes a personal feeling
(sentiment in Deleuze and Guattari).
L ‘affect  (Spinoza’s affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act.

(Spinoza’s affectio) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body (with body taken in its broadest possible sense to include “mental” or ideal bodies).


In conversation on occasion, I’ve picked up on what may be a bit of a battleground in terms of this concept.  Or at least so it has seemed to me, with a sense of the term’s use in psychology coming from an understanding that it is in some way a precursor or building block to the formation of emotion.  It doesn’t seem objectionable, however, I think it just as important to understand that affect can apply in relation to things far beyond the body of another human being.  In this sense, I also understand it to apply to sound and space, as the sense of its collective tonality or impact in terms of an encounter and its experience.  In a way it feels like affect in this sense pertains to Deleuze and Guattari’s drawing upon Henry Miller’s exhortation to be ‘re-born to the swarm’.  Wherein the swarm in question can also be understood as the world of feeling of encounter, which then in terms of Massumi’s description above, can lead to a body’s augmentation or otherwise.

What can be also so remarkable in this concept and thinking is that a word such as ‘augmentation’ when taken in reference to the fact that bodies ‘taken in its broadest possible sense…’ gives us the potential realisation of such augmentations as worlds of perception, worlds of capacity, of lines of flight and of potential in feeling which need not have been defined to this point in time, in either language or space-time.

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