Richard Arthur Spinello in his article “Nietzsche’s conception of the body” (link at the end of the post) writes the following:
“The term “body” is a metaphorical way of describing the self not as a soul or simple substance but as an aggregate of forces or drives. In these same works Nietzsche develops a strong critique of consciousness and a highly positive evaluation of our instincts and emotions, the most important of those inner forces which comprise the self.”
According to Nietzsche, the body is an instinctive or force structure where forces are permanently fighting each others. Those forces can be called desires which are of two types: active and reactive. Mainly speaking, active forces or desires represents creativity, love of life, freedom, affirmation of life and all tendencies that can be referred to as positive. The reactive forces are the opposite: they represent resentment, self-hate, jealousy and all negative tendencies. Sometimes, active ones take over reactive ones and produce a positive creative full of life action. Some other times, reactive ones win the fight and results in self-hate resentful attitude or action. The fight and its consequences depend on each individual drives, experiences and general attitude. That being said, Nietzsche believed that his concept of will of power – often mistaken as the will of evil power- comes from the body and its active forces. Therefore, the Nietzschean will of power means the power of the will to be active and creative in a life affirmation attitude.
Understanding the basics of the Nietzschean philosophy requires a different perspective of the human body. If one wants freedom and joy, then one must strengthen active desires. Taken into a different level, science tells that the human body is made of about 600 muscles, which means that humans are movement machines. Combining Nietzsche’s conception of the body with science gives us an idea on how to strengthen active desires; one way to do it is through movement as in being physically active.
One of the main reasons behind some diseases and pain lies in the imbalance of sedentary life and lack of movement.
If you are interested in Spinello’s full article that broader on Nietzsche’s philosophy of the body and not solely focused on movement like my post, click on the following link:
Wellbeing is defined as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” However, it is important to realise that it is a much broader concept than moment-to-moment happiness. It is most commonly used in philosophy to describe what is non-instrumentally or ultimately good for a person. … According to the view known as welfarism, well-being […]
“As they say that love conquers all, though only in the remembrance of the heart’s function. To never forget the greatest importance, is above all what plagues the mind. Reconfirmation. To remind oneself of the greatest treasure, as that is to preserve the heartbeat. Why does it beat? If to love is to feel who […]
Love, probably the most debated concept, is easy (it should be, right?) But complicated (for sure). The most natural feeling that ties people together has never been less than difficult, up to impossible sometimes.
Following a certain pattern of impossible loves, going from one impossible affair into another, is not a pure coincidence. Digging deeper, this pattern hides a subconscious (or unconscious) reason.
Falling for impossible loves more than once says a fear of commitment. Worse, it reveals a guilt feeling of betraying parents or closed loved ones. An impossible love doesn’t lead to commitment; so one is safe from commitment, guilt and betrayal.
Always falling for the “wrong” person is not a lack of chance. It is an unconscious choice. It is repeating the same experience over and over again. This repeated pattern of a person lies between the myth of Sisyphus and the Stockholm syndrome.
Emancipating oneself from the chain of the absurdity of this repeated heartbreaks requires a mind reset. And this is a long sinuous road of self discovery.
A society is a coexistence of people sharing services, values, institutions and a culture. Being born in a society or choosing to live in a new one requires an implicit agreement, better known as the Social Contract. The latter is the guarantee of the vivre-ensemble or the living together through the daily interactions.
On a deeper level, people are a number of persons; a number of many minds and desires. Far from being peaceful by nature, people will naturally become competitive. The paradox of wanting to be alone and dealing with others is what Immanuel Kant named “The Unsociable sociability” which is, according to him, the core motivation for the evolution of a society. Therefore competition is essential in the dynamic of a society. To understand this paradox, some questions need to be asked:
What is the real cause of competition? How come do we always want to compete in one way or another?
The answer is mimesis. But before analyzing it, one needs to understand that the driving force of any action is desire. Hegel noted that the real underlying desire, the desire behind all desires, is the desire of recognition. In other words, no one wishes to be invisible. So whatever one desires to achieve (to buy, to possess, to try etc.) targets the recognition of others for the achievement. This idea explains why there are ranking positions in the professional world, in schools, in sports and in social media. That being said, any achievement will eventually attract from others the desire to be imitated.
Mimesis means imitation and its root is to be found in the desire of recognition. To put it simply, one desires what the other one does or has. Let’s say my neighbour bought a beautiful car and got all the attention and the recognition desired; this will motivate me to do something bigger, maybe buying a more beautiful car to get my neighbour’s recognition first than others’. The “I want what the other has” explains why people in relationships are desired. It explains jealousy and envy. It explains why the fashion industry hires celebrities to wear their clothes.
Mimesis draws a triangle relationship between the subject and the object of desire through the object’s owner. The aim is recognition. Even the ones who live against the mainstream want somehow to be recognized as the “the ones against the mainstream”. This will lead us to ask a different question:
Or what exactly I have learned about the body in general reading Spinoza.
It is not very common to link philosophy to fitness, philosophy being a discipline of the mind and rational thinking. However it is such a vast world that the reader can find any topic analyzed by philosophers. Philosophy is maybe the only real lesson of life.
Baruch Spinoza was a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Hegel said about him: “The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.” His philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted Gilles Deleuze to name him “the ‘prince’ of philosophers”.
Being a big critic of dualism, Spinoza’s philosophy focused on monism starting with the body and he wrote the following:
“We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body”.
In other words, humans aren’t free unless they know the causes of their actions. The cause is in the body. To understand this idea, Spinoza describes life as a series of occursus or encounters. Therefore, we encounter everything: people, events, phenomenons, viruses etc. Each and every encounter affects us differently, depending on each one’s body characteristics and forces.
I learned this lesson seriously and I started to observe my body’s reactions to almost any encounter, including food, fitness exercises, some tasks at work and so on. Progressively, I began to add some little adjustments to my daily life based on my observations. Would you believe me if I say that Spinoza was a life changer?
I recommend reading Spinoza, specially his masterpiece Ethics. You can never go wrong.
(I took the picture of this street graffiti couple of years ago in the streets of Athens)
If peace is defined by quietness, tranquility, harmony, then reconciliation (restoring a friendly relation) is to be seen as a new conciliation, an action of mediating between disputing people or groups, which is the current state of the world. Whereas the Social Contract was conceived like the reference of conciliating differences and reconciliation, Hegel’s State, on the other hand, is an ethical totality, a product of conjunction of the subjective will and the rational will. Ideally the State is supposed to eliminate all conflicts between the subjective desires and the rational law of the government. Mainly, these two theories, among others, are the frame of any peace and reconciliation; unfortunately it seems that they have missed out on the reasons of today’s world problems that lie beneath the surface.
Therefore it is interesting to seek an explanation in the philosophy of immanence, more precisely in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy that demonstrates the problem of war by displaying a plethora of dualisms: nomos/polis, smooth/striated, deterritorialisation/reterritorialisation, minor/major etc. Deleuze’s ontological politics follows a cartography of desires which points out the various issues of identity on a molecular level (or individual) and on a molar level (religious, ethnical, social etc.). In Deleuze’s perspective, to understand the world today in all its identity crisis, violence and emergence of minorities, taking note of the cartography of desires and analyzing capitalism will show us that the current conflicts are a logical response to the way desires shape lives and societies as a reaction to transcendence in religion, philosophy and politics. It shows us ultimately how war is inherent to the State’s nature.
This being said, States want to achieve a worldwide peace by declaring a global war (which is happening today in a way or another). Needless to say that peace and reconciliation as perceived on people’s minds would never happen through the State which times of calmness and security are more likely to be a cold war on a deleuzian perspective. Peace and reconciliation are to be searched in desire and lines of flight.
In the classical conception of desire as a lack to fill in order to get pleasure, ethics has the role to evaluate the desire, to controle it, to let it be or not, depending on the ethical values, on morality and of course, on desire itself, if it fits the required ethical and moral criteria or not. This classical dualism can be found in Plato’s definition of Éros (half human, half god, the desire seen as in double nature: lack and abundance ) and the importance of guiding the latter in a way to become the urge of Contemplating the Ideals, instead of just being a pure concupiscence, constantly searching for physical pleasures. Therefore, ethics can only be understood and conceived in philosophy, as the Contemplation of the Ideal Good.
In a different yet similar form, the psychoanalysis theory argues that the personality and its behaviour is the result of the interaction of three structures: the Id, the Superego and the Ego. In fact, Freud took over this dualistic conception of desire/ethics mentioned above and presented it as an unconscious dilemma between the Superego ( our socialised and civilised internal control, understood as morals ans ethics) and the id (the biological aggressive and pleasure seeking). Here again, ethics fights against desires and repress them in case of an eventual social disagreement on them.
In between all this, desires and needs are not to be thought of as solely natural. They are also linked to culture:
Society creates desires that become needs after a while. Take the example of the phone: before Graham Bell, the phone or any communication tool was a mere fantasy. Now it is almost a vital need. A smart phone is a vital need too, along with the tremendous effort of advertising it as the way to modernity, independance and success. Media’s role is to sell us a prefabricated dream, a prefabricated opinion with the twisted idea of us actually feeling modern and independent just by possessing the phone or any tool of an advertising propaganda. What was fundamentally a natural need (I.e communication that shaped up consciousness as Nietzsche pointed out) is now a cultural need, after being just a foolish desire of the ones who could afford it at its start. Mass communication is possible, an idea that scared Habermas!
The contemporary concept of ethics:
On a parallel ground, society, inventor of needs and desires, invents all along its ethics. Considering again the example of he phone, being ethical is to reply to a phone call or to a message, per se the phone is a prolongation of the hand. So being fast, being effective, being workoholic, being sociaholic, being connected, being exposed, marketing oneself etc… are all conform to nowadays ethics, which deleted the frontier between the public and the private; a phenomenon warned on by the Ancient Greeks. Therefore, an anarchist, a romantic, a real-book reader, an introvert, a money hater etc. are perceived as schizophrenics, anachronistic, dangerous.
Can we say that the 21st century brought Plato’s intelligible world down to the raw sensible world? Can we say to Freud that finally the Id and the Superego are in peace and our peronality’s development is an old theory? Can we say that freedom is to have it all and easily? Can we say that our imagination is at rest because we don’t fantasise anymore and we don’t need it? The intelligence of our contemporary world is in its capacity to overcome the desire/ethics dualism in general and replacing it by a monism of desire=ethics. This is totalitarism at its best!
The word “addiction” is always linked to a bad habit: drugs, booze, smoking etc. So it never occurred to me that someone can in fact be addicted to avocados!
What follows is not another speech on the health benefits of avocados, since we are permanently bombed with such infos everywhere. According to health advocates, if we have to be “healthy”, we end up eating all day, all kind of fresh fruits, dried fruits, sun kissed fruits, red fruits, green fruits, yelow fruits, local fruits, exotic fruits.. In other words, a complete mayhem of fruits and vegetables.
It all began this year with avocado cocktails tasting, a kind of avocado smoothie with honey, decorated with raw cashew nuts and fresh fruits… a massive “pint” of all this, filled with hundred calories.. It was so good! Heavenly good! A taste of food orgasm, melting in my mouth, waking up my senses (does it sound like an ice cream advertising company? ) invading my stomach (yummi) and my soul, making my heart smile with pride, honour, dignity and self-esteem! Oh yes, avocado is good for self-esteem, good for the body (a wink to health advocates), good for humans, good for elephants, good for octopuses (what on earth? an octopus ?)!
Happiness is chemistry, as much as sadness is.. Being addicted to happiness, we become addicted to chemicals, the good ones and the bad ones. Forget the bad ones (if you can) avocados are a source of joy! Because there is nothing, not a single virtue, not a single action or word, not a single feeling that are not fundamentally a chemical combination of hormones, pheromones, enzymes, synapses. Again forget poetry and big fat words, love your body and treat it well, for it is the flesh of the world!