Are we not, then, at this point capable of solving the problem of the self, by giving a sense to Hume’s hope?
– Gilles Deleuze, Empricism and Subjectivity
In a previous post we were left with another question by Deleuze: “We do not really understand how we can move from dispositions to the self, or from the subject to the self. How can the subject and the mind, in the last analysis, be one and the same inside the self? The self must be both a collection of ideas and a disposition, mind and subject. It is a synthesis, which is incomprehensible, since it ties together in its notion, without ever reconciling them, origin and qualification.”(31)
As we see in the above we have dispositions, subject, and self: three terms in relation that is both one and two, origin and qualification, source and reflection – a double issue unresolved by the theory of passions and the theory of knowledge of which Hume aware of this difficulty would work through certain general rules to provide a distinct answer to the problem posed. As Deleuze states it we are capable of stating what the idea of subjectivity is: the “subject is not a quality but rather a qualification of a collection of ideas” (64). It is not a particularized or determinate quality of the mind but an “impression of reflection” (26). It’s not a fixed substance but a tendency or disposition that affects the imagination. “To say that imagination is affected by principles amounts to saying that a given collection [of ideas] is qualified as a partial, actual subject” (64). He continues:
The idea of subjectivity is from then on the reflection of the affection in the imagination and the general rule itself. The idea is no longer here the object of a thought or the quality of a thing; it is not representational. It is a governing principle, a schema, a rule of construction. Transcending the partiality of the subject whose idea it is, the idea of subjectivity includes within each collection under consideration the principle and the rule of a possible agreement between subjects. Thus, the problem of the self, insoluble at the level of the understanding finds, uniquely within culture, a moral and political solution.(64)
He reminds us that in the original question we came to the conclusion that there could be no reconciliation at the level of origin and affection because there is a great difference between “principles and fancy” (64). But what is possible is the constitution of the self as a “synthesis of the affection and its reflection, the synthesis of affection which fixes the imagination and of an imagination which reflects the affection” (64). This reflexive movement of synthesis is an intervention or cut in time and its extension in historical reflection upon that cut or splice in time. It is this gap between two intervals, the time of intervention and the time of reflection between affection marked and affection reflected that produces the sense or synthesis of self. The self is this process of a double reflection. Neither form nor substance the self is the gap or cut between two modalities that is resolved not at the level of understanding but within the moral and political domain of culture. Neither intentional nor directed the self becomes a synthetic unity brought into play by the mind’s own innate processes, and yet these very processes cannot be reduced to the physical manifestations of the brain itself which is both origin and qualifier of the mind’s reflexive nature. It is the general rules of culture manifested in morals and politics which harbor the solution to this movement between knowledge and passion as reflected in the self as a collection of ideas.
1. Gilles Deleuze. Empiricism and Subjectivity An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature. trans. by Constantin V. Boundas (Columbia University Press, 1991)