α. Affect: Inquiry & Diagnosis
Anthony Stavrianakis
Gaymon Bennett
Paul Rabinow
Participant-Observation: Affect, Inquiry & Diagnosis

The definitions of  flourishing (eudaimonia) in modern philosophy are too far removed from the lived realities whose discordancies we have encountered.  Our discordancies have arisen in a designed experimental situation in which we have attempted to bring knowledge and ethics into proximity. 

We encountered a repeated demand to provide  a definition of flourishing (eudaimonia). We were reluctant to provide one but not yet clear about the reasons for our reluctance. So, we decided eventually that the time seemed right to devote a studio to working on this problem.   We think we are now on the path to  arriving at a determined formulation. 

The catalyst was our decision to concentrate on the dynamics of affect. This decision enabled us to see our situation in SynBERC (April 2011) as a turning point (kairos, see next studio).  The dynamics of affect, we had long since agreed, were a key component of existing discordancies which we had not yet thematized as an essential quality of the situation. By finding the terms through which to diagnose the affect permeating our situation, we hoped to move our analysis to a second order level in which individual temperaments, specific episodes and irritating passions could be addressed anthropologically as specific structuring structures and not mere epiphenomena (Nietzsche and Spinoza).

Affect

Since it was our experience that: (a) many individuals in SynBERC were in fact happy to render their ameliorative and prosperous activities as activities of flourishing; (b) we were in fact able to learn a lot from our experiences in SynBERC and our human practices collaborative work progressed; and (c) regardless of (rare moments of) individual curiosity or enthusiasm about Human Practices on the part of our natural scientific counter-parts, the difficulty and discordancy was a structural quality and so needed a more structural term. This structural quality is the affect of the situation. So we looked for a contrast term to flourishing with which we could identify those affective dimensions of the situation.

Ethical Differentials

Canguilhem’s distinction between the proper and experimental milieu opened a  fruitful line of questioning about the situation whose discordancies and indeterminacies we were attempting to cope with. For example, Canguilhem proposes that an experimental milieu can be dangerous for the organism because of the possibility of a pathological state developing.

Canguilhem's example suggested to us a way forward without providing a formal definition of flourishing. Posing the question of the contrastive term for flourishing might orient us to an ethical differential which we had been living with and were now trying to conceptualize.

Given the years of difficulty in a situation of knowledge production and given that the ethical stake (and metric) was flourishing, it was logical to start posing parametric questions about this situation.

We knew from our fieldwork that the relations of flourishing to amelioration or prosperity were complicated and contingent.  We concluded that we needed to look elsewhere for relevant contrast terms that would enable us to inquire more precisely into our situation with the hope that this would lead us in a better direction. 

Operative metrics

We have previously drawn contrasts from our experience in SynBERC between amelioration, prosperity and flourishing.  This contrastive set proved fruitful in diagnosing the ethical heterogeneity in the  experimental situation. The insight was that there are three metrics at play. Two of them were dominant (amelioration and prosperity) and one  of them was a long standing metric.  In this set flourishing operated for the most part as an outside and contrast to the other two terms of which a rich description in our experimental situation was possible. As such the term was introduced by us as the stakes of an ethical engagement in the situation.

Deficiency: Wither

The search for a primary affect led us to the term "wither". Initially, the organic overtones of this term raised our suspicions about its appropriateness, however the term has a much older set of meanings. These  include the 13th century usage; hostile, adverse, fierce.

This usage however does not mean that to flourish is not to struggle. Originally struggle and peace applied in the realm of the virtues. Since we were interested in the virtues and not the norms of the production of knowledge, it was exciting that struggle and peace were genealogically bound to virtues and vices of the pursuit of truth.

 

Stultification (stultitia)

We proceeded by looking for contrast terms to flourishing. Our first attempt at finding the term adequate to describing our experience of discordancy was “stultification”. Stultitia permeated our fieldwork experience, in the absence of the minimal engagement on the part of the bioscientists necessary for collaborative human practices work.  Although stultitia pointed us in the direction of the government of self and others (Seneca, Letters to Lucilius), we soon recognized that this term was  secondary to a more primary affect.

AUGANGSHALTUNG

Ausgang: Conjunction Exit, Egression

Haltung: Attitude, Stance, Poise, Posture
Ausgangshaltung: The poise constitutive of an egression.

"Kant defines Aufklärung in an almost entirely negative way, as an Ausgang, an 'exit,' a 'way out.'  ... He is looking for a difference: What difference does today introduce with respect to yesterday ?" (Michel Foucault, 'What is Enlightenment?')

We are asking, what difference today makes with respect to tomorrow?

The German term Haltung, part of Brecht's theatrical equipment, resonates with Foucault's reading of the Greek term parastema,  as an element in equipment for the care of the self and truth-speaking. What we get from Foucault is truth-speaking as an act requiring a certain poisitionality and specific acknowledged character. What we took from Brecht's use of the term Haltung,  is the emphasis on the bodily instantiation required to make active such a position and character. The Haltung makes visible the significance of a specific kairos (occasion, turning point). Such a Haltung might make a difference to tomorrow, one less deficient and stultified from which we are attempting to escape.