What Can an Affect Do? Notes on the Spinozist-Deleuzean Account

Kasper Kristensen


The role of cognition and the thought-determining power of affects has been a subject of lively debate within current affect theory. In this article I focus on a recent critique put forth by Leys and Zerilli, according to which scholars, e.g. Massumi, inspired by the Spinozist-Deleuzean understanding of affect arrive at such a strong dichotomy between cognitive judgment and affects that it leads to affective determinism. Arguing that there is a considerable gap between Massumi’s influential Spinozist-Deleuzean inspired notion of affects and the defini- tions that Spinoza and Deleuze’ reading of Spinoza actually present, I show how key points in the contemporary critique concerning the ontology, epistemology, and emancipatory politics of the new affect theory would be positioned in the Spinozist-Deleuzean account of affects. I conclude by claiming that the Spinozist-Deleuzean account in fact serves as one possible way of distinguishing between emancipatory and enslaving affects, hence hoping to clarify contemporary discussions about the emancipatory nature of affects.

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