Empiricism and Subjectivity

Gilles Deleuze


Deleuze, Gilles. Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature. 1953. Translated by Constantin V. Boundas. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1991. Paperback: 9780231068130.


“One of Gilles Deleuze’s earliest works, published in 1953 before the heyday of structuralism, Empiricism and Subjectivity anticipates and explains the post-structuralist turn to empiricism. At last available in paperback, the book presents a challenging and controversial reading of David Hume's philosophy, with comprehensive coverage of Hume's main texts and ideas. It lays the foundation for Deleuze's later work and is invaluable for understanding the evolution of Deleuze's thought from Hume to Kant to Nietzsche. Constantin V. Boundas's translation profoundly influenced the discussion of Deleuze and his theory of difference. Empiricism and Subjectivity took a significant step toward the idea of ethics without morality and offered an important contribution to the debate about the vanishing subject. Deleuze himself provides a preface to this English-language edition.”


Deleuze’s Preface to the English-Language Edition

“We dream sometimes of a history of philosophy that would list only the new concepts created by a great philosopher” (ix)

Hume: “established the concept of belief and put it in the place of knowledge” (ix)

“He laicized belief, turning knowledge into a legitimate belief” (ix)

“He gave the association of ideas its real meaning, making it a practice of cultural and conventional formations … rather than a theory of the human mind” (ix)

“the association of ideas exists for the sake of law, political economy, aesthetics, and so on” (ix)

Commentator’s Note: Hume innovating on Hobbes and Locke in an externalist way.

“He created the first great logic of relations” (x)

“all relations … are external to their terms” (x)

“a multifarious world of experience based upon the principle of the exteriority of relations” (x)

“We start with atomic parts, but these atomic parts have transitions, passages, ‘tendencies,’ which circulate from one to another” (x)

Commentator’s Note: it’s more like a tendency… https://www.steinea.ca/2021/03/12/its-more-like-a-tendency.

“These tendencies give rise to habits” (x)

“We are habits, nothing but habits—the habit of saying ‘I’” (x)

Translator’s Acknowledgements

“Grateful to Professors Francois Laruelle and Anne-Francoise Schmid-Laruelle” (xi)

One: The Problem of Knowledge and the Problem of Ethics

“Hume proposes the creation of a science of humanity” (21)

“the substitution of a psychology of the mind by a psychology of the mind’s affections” (21)

“psychology cannot find in its object the required constancy or universality” (21)

“Hume is a moralist and a sociologist, before being a psychologist” (21)

“the two forms under which the mind is affected are essentially the passional and the social. They imply each other” (21)

“society demands and expects from each one of its members the display of constant reactions, the presence of passions able to provide motives and ends, and the availability of collective or individual characters” (21)

“On the other hand, the passions implicate society as the oblique means for their satisfaction” (21)

“one must be a moralist, sociologist, or historian before being a psychologist, in order to be a psychologist” (22)

“the question which will preoccupy Hume is this: how does the mind become human nature?” (22)

“Passional and social affection are only a part of human nature; there are also the understanding and the association of ideas” (22)

“The real role of the understanding, says Hume, is to make the passions sociable and the interest social” (22)

“By itself, though, the understanding is only the process of the passions on their way to socialization” (22)

The Deleuzo-Humian formula:

  • “mind is not nature” (22)
  • mind is “identical with the ideas in the mind” (22)
  • “Ideas are given, as given” (22)
  • Ideas “are experience” (22)
  • “The mind … is given as a collection of ideas and not as a system” (22)
  • “The collection of ideas is called ‘imagination’” (22)
  • The imagination is “not a faculty but rather an assemblage of things” (22)
  • This assemblage is “a collection without an album, a play without a stage, a flux of perceptions” (23)
  • “The place is not different from what takes place in it; the representation does not take place in a subject” (23)

So: “the question may be: how does the mind become a subject?” (23)

“the imagination” is “something determinable. Nothing is done by the imagination; everything is done in the imagination” (23)

Commentator’s Note: determinable, as in something that can be determined from the outside. Think Heraclitus and the common, Laruelle and determination.

“The depth of the mind is indeed delirium … change and indifference” (23)

Commentator’s Note: indifference—in-difference, chaos, void, without differentiation.

“There is no constancy or uniformity in the ideas that I have. No more is there constancy or uniformity in the way in which ideas are connected through the imagination: only chance makes up this connection” (23)

Principles of ideas/imagination:

“Association with its three principles (contiguity, resemblance, and causality), transcends the imagination” (23-24)

“Association affects the imagination” (24)

“through belief and causality the subject transcends the given” (24)

“the subject goes beyond what the mind gives it” (24)

“Before there can be belief, all three principles of association must organize the given into a system, imposing constancy on the imagination” (24)

The principles “fix and naturalize the mind; they prepare belief and accompany it” (24)

“nothing is ever transcendental” (24)

“Association … is a rule of the imagination and a manifestation of its free exercise” (24)

“philosophy, being a human science, need not search for the cause; it should rather scrutinize effects. The cause cannot be known; principles have neither cause nor an origin of their power” (23)

“the essence of relations becomes precisely this easy transition” (25)

“The mind, having become nature, has acquired now a tendency” (25)

“Causality is felt” (26)

“Subjectivity is determined as an effect” (26)

“the psychology of the mind is a psychology of ideas … This is Hume’s atomism” (26-27)

“the psychology of human nature is a psychology of dispositions, perhaps even an anthropology, a science of practice, especially morality, politics, and history … This second line of inspiration constitutes Hume’s associationism” (27)

Commentator’s Note: a praktognosia.

“What is the fact of knowledge? It is transcendence or going beyond. I affirm more than I know” (28)

Commentator’s Note: inverting Michael Polanyi, “we know more than we can tell.”

“I speak in general terms and I have beliefs” (28)

“‘Show me the idea you claim to have.’ What’s at stake in the challenge is the very psychology of mind” (28)

Commentator’s Note: you open up the brain and there aren’t any ‘ideas’ in there.

“Hume’s philosophy is a sharp critique of representation” (30)

“reason is an affection of the mind” (30)

“reason will be called instinct, habit, or nature” (30)

“Reason is a kind of feeling” (30)

“The mind is not subject; it is subjected” (31)

Hume: “all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences” (32)

“the only possible theory is a theory of practice” (32)

“Reason can be put into question and can raise the problem of its nature, because it does not apply to all there is” (33)

Reason “does not determine practice: it is practically or technically insufficient” (33)

Hume: “A passion is an original existence … not any representative quality, which renders it a copy of any other existence or modification” (33)

“Reason can always be brought to bear, but it is brought to bear on a preexisting world and presupposes an antecedent ethics and an order of ends” (33)

Commentator’s Note: Perhaps when a new world is presented in art, this is why we debate the actions of characters. We apply our own antecedent ethics to a new, potentially different order of ends. We are negotiating these ends insofar as character actions and experiences present them.

“because this skepticism has its origin and its motive on the outside, in the indifference of practice, practice itself is indifferent to skepticism: we can always play backgammon” (34)

“The practice of the understanding determines the internal economy of nature, and proceeds by means of extension” (35)

“Nature, the outside of physics, is partes extra partes [parts outside parts]” (35)

“Nature is not a whole” (35)

“The case of the practice of morality, however, is different” (35)

instead of being extensive, these parts are mutually exclusive; they are not made up of parts (partielles), as in the case of nature; they are rather partial (partiales)” (35)

“In the ethical practice, the difficulty is in diverting and slanting that partiality” (35)

“feeling reacts to wholes” (36)

Two: Cultural World and General Rules

“It is the essence of moral conscience to approve and disapprove … to praise or blame” (37)

Commentator’s Note: Very much an empirical definition, without reference to any transcendental morality. Deleuze asks: what is morality? And following his dictum, that nothing is ever transcendental, he looks to the situation and can say simply, perhaps even naively, that morality is to APPROVE or DISAPPROVE. That is all.

“the pain and pleasure which determine vice and virtue, have an original nature: they are produced with reference to character in general, and with no reference to our particular interest” (37)

“what can make us take hold of something and live in it, because it is useful or agreeable to the Other or to persons in general? Hume’s response is simple: sympathy” (37)

Sympathy “opens up for us a moral space and generality” (37)

“The other side of generality to which sympathy invites us is partiality, that is, an ‘inequality of affection’” (38)

“it is not our nature which is moral, it is rather our morality which is in our nature” (38)

“human beings are much less egoistic than they are partial” (38)

Commentator’s Note: sympathy generalizes but also partializes feeling.

“the essence of passion or the essence of the particular interest is partiality rather than egoism” (38)

“No one has the same sympathies as another; given the plurality of partialities, we are confronted with contradiction and violence” (38)

For an idealized society to function: “Egoisms would only have to be limited, but sympathies are another matter, for they must be integrated inside a positive totality” (39)

“What we find in nature, without exception, are families; the state of nature is always already more than a simple state of nature. The family, independently of all legislation, is explained by the sexual instinct and by sympathy—sympathy between parents, and sympathy of parents for their offspring” (39)

“society is in the beginning a collection of families; but a collection of families is not a family reunion” (39)

“families are social units; but the characteristic of these units is that they are not added to one another. Rather, they exclude one another; they are partial (partiales) rather than made up of parts (partielles)” (39)

“a contradiction explodes inside nature” (39)

“The problem of society, in this sense, is not a problem of limitation, but rather a problem of integration” (39)

“To integrate sympathies is to make sympathy transcend its contradiction and natural partiality” (40)

“Such an integration implies a positive moral world, and is brought about by the positive invention of such a world” (40)

“Esteem is the factor which integrates sympathies, and the foundation of justice” (40)

“The problem is how to extend sympathy” (40)

“The reality of the moral world requires the constitution of a whole, of a society, that is, the establishment of an invariable system. This reality is not natural, it is artificial” (40)

Hume: “‘The rules of justice … cannot be derived from nature’” (40)

All the elements of morality (sympathies) are naturally given, but they are impotent by themselves to constitute a moral world” (40)

“Partialities or particular interests cannot be naturally totalized, because they are mutually exclusive” (40)

“Justice is not a principle of nature; it is rather a rule” (40)

Commentator’s Note: see my “Recombinatorics,” June 9, 2021, https://www.steinea.ca/2021/06/09/recombinatorics.

“Justice is a means” (40)

“The moral problem is the problem of schematism, that is, the act by means of which we refer the natural interests to the political category of the whole” (40-41)

“The moral world is the artificial totality wherein particular ends are integrated and added to one another” (41)

“the moral world is the system of means which allow my particular interest, and also the interest of the other, to be satisfied and realized” (41)

“the moral conscience is a political conscience: true morality is politics, just as the true moralist is the legislator” (41)

“a system of directed means” is a “general rule” (41)

“The rule has two poles: form and content, a system of customs (moeurs) [form] and stability of possession [content]” (41)

“The function of the rule is to determine a stable and common point of view, firm and calm, and independent of our present situation” (41)

“The obligation which is thus created differs essentially from natural obligation … it is moral obligation or sense of duty” (42)

“Property and conversation … form[] the two chapters of a social science” (42)

Commentator’s Note: Deleuze is working closely with Hume here, who is greatly interested in property. But I cannot help but feel this positioning of property as the essential content of the general rule to be distinctly western. To what other contents might non-industrial capitalist societies general rules refer? To Deleuze’s credit, when he speaks of “interest” and “property” he is speaking of personal, rather than private, property, though he does not make this distinction explicit.

“particular interests cannot be made identical to one another,” but “nature demands that they be made identical” (43)

“sympathies are faced with the following alternative: either to be extended through artifice or to be destroyed through contradiction” (43)

“the significance of justice is exclusively topological” (43)

“The artifice [the general rule] does not invent a principle other than sympathy” (43)

Passions are not limited by justice; they are enlarged and extended” (43)

Hume: “There is no passion, therefore, capable of controlling the interested affection, but the very affection itself, by an alteration of its direction. Now this alteration must necessarily take place upon the least reflection” (43)

“We must understand that justice is not a reflection on interest, but rather a reflection of interest, a kind of twisting of the passion itself in the mind affected by it” (43)

Hume’s dualism: “between the whole of nature which includes the artifice and the mind affected and determined by this whole” (44)

“justice is not reduced to an instinct” (44)

“it is because of sympathy that we esteem” (44)

“Justice is not a principal of nature; it is an artifice” (44)

“Nature is what history does not explain” (44)

“Nature and culture form, therefore, a whole or a composite” (44)

“Above all, Hume centers his critique on the theory of egoism, which is not even a correct psychology of human nature, since it neglects the equally natural phenomenon of sympathy. If by ‘egoism’ we understand the fact that all drives pursue their own satisfaction, we posit only the principle of identity, A = A, that is, the formal and empty principle of a science of humanity—moreover, of an uncultivated and abstract humanity without history and without difference. More specifically, egoism can designate some means only that humanity organizes in order to satisfy drives, but not all possible means. Egoism then is put in its place, and this place is no longer very important” (45)

Commentator’s Note: this is an important point—egoistic or individualistic theories of the human are unhistorical and undifferentiated, and consequently, false.

“Hume adds many other motives to interest … prodigality, ignorance, heredity, custom, habit, or ‘spirit of greed and endeavor, of luxury and abundance’” (45)

“History” is “the true science of human motivation” (45)

“The fault of contractual theories is that they present us with a society whose essence is the law … and no other origin than the contract” (45)

“Thus, anything positive is taken away from the social, and the instead the social is saddled with negativity, limitation, and alienation” (45)

“The law cannot, by itself, be the source of obligation, because legal obligation presupposes utility” (45)

“Utility is on the side of the institution” (45)

“The institution, unlike the law, is not a limitation but rather a model of actions, a veritable enterprise, an invented system of positive means or a positive invention of indirect means. This understanding of the institution effectively reverses the problem: outside of the social there lies the negative, the lack, or the need” (45-46)

“The social is profoundly creative, inventive, and positive” (46)

“Society is a set of conventions founded on utility, not a set of obligations founded on a contract” (46)

“the legislator is not the one who legislates, but rather first of all the one who institutes” (46)

“there is no question any longer of the relation between rights and the law, but rather of needs and institutions” (46)

“an entire remodeling of rights and an original vision of the science of humanity … of social psychology” through the “principle” of “Utility” (46)

“The institution, being the model of actions, is a designed system of possible satisfaction” (47)

The means of the institution “do not satisfy the drive without also constraining it at the same time” (47)

We must ask: “Why this system and this form?” (47)

“A thousand others, which we find in other times and places, are possible” (47)

Commentator’s Note: somewhat of an answer to my earlier question with regard to property.

“If nature is the principle of resemblance and uniformity, history is the scene of differences” (47)

“examining the relations between drive, circumstance, and imagination” (48)

“Imagination is revealed as a veritable production of extremely diverse models” (48)

Commentator’s Note: the mind is a factory…

“institutions are determined by the figures traced by the drives according to the circumstances” (48-49)

“The institution is the figure” (49)

Commentator’s Note: strong presaging of A Thousand Plateaus’ use of Hjelmslev, form and content, etc.

“the rule … does not determine real people; it is determined and modified in statements reflecting situations and possible circumstances” (49)

Commentator’s Note: the rule does not determine REAL people, but POSSIBLE people; to assume a rule is to become-virtual.

“We must therefore in the case of the general rule distinguish three dimensions which are nonetheless simultaneous: its establishment, its determination, and its correction” (50)

“The question is no longer how to specify the rule, but rather how to provide it with the vividness which it lacks” (50)

“how to reinforce and enliven justice” (50)

“extension [of sympathy, justice] must itself become now a real situation” (50)

“True morality does not address itself to children in the family but rather to adults in the state. It does not involve the change of human nature but the invention of artificial and objective conditions in order for the bad aspects of this nature not to triumph” (50)

“This invention … will be political and only political” (50)

“the main problem of the state is not a problem of representation, but rather a problem of belief. The state, according to Hume, is not charged with representing the general interest but rather with making the general interest an object of belief” (51)

First series of rules: “possession has turned into property” (51)

Second series of rules: “stability of possession” (51)

But: “Society is also faced with scarcity of goods. And stability, far from surmounting this obstacle, aggravates it further as it provides possession with conditions favorable for the formation of large properties … property engenders and develops inequality” (51)

Third series of rules: “correct both inequality and scarcity” — “commerce” (51, 52)

“the object of political economy” (51)

“The meaning of commerce in general is to guarantee landed property (a political phenomenon) the economic equilibrium that it does not have on its own” (52)

The “state finds in commerce the possible affirmation of its power and the real condition of its subjects’ prosperity” (53)

Hume differs from the utilitarians in three ways:

“the natural fusion of interests (sympathies) in ethics” (53)

“the artificial identification of interests in politics” (53)

“the mechanical identity of interests in economics” (53)

These three are one and the same: “this period, at the dawn of the development of capitalism, had not seen or had only sometimes dimly foreseen that the interests of landowners, capitalists, and above all workers do not coincide in one and the same interest” (53)

“economic activity involves a qualitative motivation” (53)

“the table of general rules or moral categories” (53):

Commentator’s Note: remember three dimensions of the general rule: establishment, determination, correction.

First series     Second series     Third series
1. Content of the general rule: the stability of possession;     1. Support of the general rule: loyalty to the government;     1. Complement of the general rule: the prosperity of commerce
2. Specification of the general rules: immediate possession, occupation, etc.;     2. Specification of support: long possession, accession, etc.;     2. Specification of the complement: monetary circulation, capital, etc.;
3. Correction of the preceding specification by means of general rules, promise, transfer.     3. Correction: resistance.     3. Correction: taxes, state service, etc.

Three: The Power of the Imagination in Ethics and Knowledge

“Sometimes Hume says that the general rule is in essence the combination of reflection and extension” (55)

“The passions are extended because they are reflected; this is the principle of the institution of a rule” (55)

“we must distinguish between two kinds of non-identical rules, that is, between determining and corrective rules” (55)

Determining rules are “more extensive than reflective” (55)

Determining rules “are characterized by the fact that they are extended beyond the circumstances from which they arise” (55)

Determining rules “do not account for the exception, and they miscontrue the accidental, confusing it with the general or the essential” (55)

Corrective rules “are more reflective than extensive, precisely because they correct the extension of the determining rules” (56)

Corrective rules “present themselves as general rules concerned with the accidental and with the exceptional” (56)

“Corrective rules express a status of experience that accounts for all possible cases … the exception is a natural thing” (56)

“extension and reflection are identical, but they are also different” (56)

“how is the rule possible?” (56)

“the rule is simultaneously the extension and the reflection of the passions” (56)

“The general rule is passion as reflected in the imagination” (56)

“Being reflected, the passions are found before an enlarged reproduction of themselves, and see themselves liberated from the limits and conditions of their own actuality” (56)

The passions see “an entire artificial domain opening up … the world of culture; they can project themselves in it” (56)

“The reflected interest transcends its own partiality” (57)

“In reflection, the passions imagine themselves, and the imagination becomes passionate: the rule is possible” (57)

“three types of rules” (57)

  1. “The rule of taste” (57)
  2. “The rule of freedom” (58)
  3. the rule of interest and duty” (58)

“The general rule is the resonance of an affection in the mind and the imagination” (59)

“the imagination reflects affection, and affection resounds inside the mind. The mind ceases to be fancy, is fixed, and becomes human nature” (59)

“The fancy is reestablished in the principles of its own transformation, for at least something within the affections escapes all reflection” (59)

“Imagination, as it reflects on the forms of its own stability, liberates these forms, and liberates itself from them; it extends them infinitely” (59)

“the rule determines itself” (60)

“Only on this condition, the passions are able to trace effectively constant and determined figures in the imagination” (60)

“culture is a false experience, but it is also a true experiment” (62)

Nature has “given some original qualities to the mind” (63)

Commentator’s Note: not entirely tabula rasa.

“The modes of association give the ideas possible reciprocal relations, while the qualities of the passions give the relations a direction and a sense; they attribute them with a reality, a univocal movement, and hence with a first term” (63)

“association links ideas in the imagination; the passions give a sense to these relations, and thus they provide the imagination with a tendency” (63)

“Ideas get associated in virtue of a goal, an intention, or a purpose which only the passions can confer upon human activity” (63)

“Thus the imagination follows the tendency which the passions give it; the relation that they suggest, by becoming univocal, has been made real” (64)

“The subject is not a quality but rather the qualification of a collection of ideas” (64)

“The idea of subjectivity is … the general rule itself” (64)

“it is not representational” (64)

“the problem of the self, insoluble at the level of the understanding, finds, uniquely within culture, a moral and political situation” (64)

“Practical reason is the establishment of a whole of culture and morality” (64)

“theoretical reason is the determination of the detail of nature, that is, of parts submitted to calculation” (64)

“reason is imagination that has become nature” (65)

“two kinds of reason: the reason that proceeds on the basis of certainty (intuition and demonstration) and the reason that proceeds in terms of probabilities (experimental reason, understanding)” (65)

“Habit is the root of reason” (66)

“To the logic of mathematics … must therefore be juxtaposed a logic of physics or of existence” (67)

“habit allows the understanding to reason about experience, as it transforms belief into a possible act of the understanding” (68)

“habit presupposes experience” (68)

“habit is experience” (68)

“The fact is that experience and habit are two different principles; they stand alternatively for the presentation of cases of constant conjunction to the inspecting mind, and for the union of these cases inside the man which observes them” (68)

“The philosopher, having spoken continuously of faculties and occult qualities, ends up believing that these words ‘have a secret meaning, which we might discover by reflection’” (70)

“in the field of the understanding and in the field of morality, the imagination is essentially exceeding. However, we can see the difference. When knowledge is exceeded, we no longer find the positivity of art; we find only the negativity of errors and lies” (71)

“reasoning, in order to be absolutely legitimate, must be born of habit” (71)

Hume “The following of general rules is a very unphilosophical species of probability; and yet ‘tis only by following them that we can correct this, and all other unphilosophical probabilities” (72)

“habit has opposite effects upon the imagination and on the judgment: on one hand, extension, and on the other, the correction of this extension” (72)

Four: God and the World

“an example which would bring together all the significations that we have successively attributed to general rules, we would find it in religion” (73)

“Four kinds of rule” (73):

  1. “extensive” rules of passions
  2. “corrective rules of passions”
  3. “extensive” rules of knowledge
  4. “corrective rules of knowledge”

“Theism has its source in the unity of the spectacle of nature, in other words, in the sort of unity which only resemblance and causality can guarantee in phenomena. Polytheism has its source in the diversity of the passions and the irreducibility of successive passions” (73)

“there are no physical objects or objects of repetition except in the world. The world as such is essentially the Unique. It is a fiction of the imagination” (75)

“in religion, the passions are not reflected in an imagination already settled by principles of association in a way that would make seriousness possible. On the contrary, there is religion only when these principles are reflected in pure imagination and mere fancy. Why is that? because religion, by itself and in its other aspects, is only fanciful usage of the principles of association, resemblance, and causality” (76)

Commentator’s Note: this is the genesis of apologetics.

“We cannot make use of the principles of association in order to know the world as an effect of divine activity, and even less to know God as the cause of the world; but we can always think of God negatively, as the cause of the principles” (77)

“continuous existence is not a particular object; it is the characteristic of the World in general. It is not an object because it is the horizon which every object presupposes” (80)

fiction becomes a principle of human nature” (80)

“The World is an Idea” (80)

“There is no complete system, synthesis, or cosmology that is not imaginary” (83)

“The system is a mad delirium” (83)

“Ancient philosophy forges the delirium of substances, substantial forms, accidents, and occult qualities” (83)

“the new philosophy has also its ghosts. It thinks that it can recuperate reason by distinguishing primary from secondary qualities, but in the end it is no less mad than the other” (83)

“if the mind is manifested as a delirium, it is because it is first of all, and essentially, madness” (83)

Commentator’s Note: Meillassoux is better on primary and secondary qualities, helping to get us out of the difficulties of this chapter while maintaining the key point of “delirium”—i.e., original contingency.

“the choice is to be made … *between the contradiction or nothingness. ‘We have, therefore, no choice left but betwixt a false reason and none at all’” (83)

Hume: “[T]he understanding, when it acts alone, according to its most general principles, entirely subverts itself” (84)

“the mind must be referred to nature” (84)

“good sense is the mind related to human nature” (84)

“we must reach the depths of madness and solitude in order to find a passage to good sense” (84)

“the mind is identical to its ideas” (74)

*Commentator’s Note: this chapter works to destroy the authoritarianism of the transcendental ego/individual/One. “Good sense” is only in human nature, which is collective moral affect. Compare my “Generic Science,” March 28, 2021, https://www.steinea.ca/2021/03/28/generic-science.

Five: Empiricism and Subjectivity

“Subject is that which develops itself” (85)

“if it is true that belief is the knowing act of the subject, then his moral act, on the contrary, is not sympathy; it is rather artifice or invention, with respect to which sympathy, corresponding to belief, is only a necessary condition” (85)

“believing and inventing is what makes the subject a subject” (85)

“I affirm more than I know” (86)

“the problem of truth” is the “problem of subjectivity itself” (86)

“By what right does man affirm more than he knows?” (86)

“The subject invents; it is the maker of artifice” (86)

“the subject is normative; it creates norms or general rules” (86)

“The subject who invents and believes is constituted inside the given in such a way that it makes the given itself a synthesis and a system” (87)

In this, “we discover the absolute essence of empiricism” (87)

“how can there be a given, how can something be given to a subject, and how can the subject give something to itself” (87)

“the critical requirement is that of a constructivist logic which finds its model in mathematics” (87)

“The critique is empirical when, having situated ourselves in a purely immanent point of view, which makes possible a description whose rules is found in determinable hypotheses and whose model is found in physics, we ask: how is the subject constituted in the given?” (87)

Commentator’s Note: this is Zizek’s question—“how must the real be structured so that something like a subject can emerge within it?”

“what is the given?”

“the flux of the sensible” (87)

“the totality of that which appears, being equals appearance” (87)

“Empiricism begins from the experience of a collection” (87)

Hume: “everything separable is distinguishable and everything distinguishable is different” (87)

“This is the principle of difference” (87)

The mind is identical to ideas in the mind” (88)

“one must always avoid endowing, in the beginning, the organism with an organization, an organization that will come about only when the subject itself comes to mind, that is, an organization that depends on the same principles as the subject” (89)

“the given, the mind, the collection of perceptions cannot call upon anything other than themselves” (89)

“What is the consistency of the mind?” (90)

“The mind’s constant is … the smallest idea” (90)

“The smallest impression is neither a mathematical nor a physical point, but rather a sensible one” (91)

“We mean that the imagination, having been a collection, becomes now a faculty; the distributed collection becomes now a system” (92)

“The mind becomes human nature” (92)

“The subject invents and believes; it is a synthesis of the mind” (92)

“Habit is the constitutive root of the subject, and the subject, at root, is the synthesis of time—the synthesis of the present and the past in light of the future” (93)

“time was the structure of the mind, now the subject is presented as the synthesis of time” (94)

“memory alone does not bring about a synthesis of time; it does not transcend the structure, its essential role becomes the reproduction of the different structures of the given” (94)

“It is rather habit which presents itself as a synthesis, and habit belongs to the subject” (94)

“not only is habit to memory what the subject is to the mind, but also habit easily does without this dimension of the mind which we call ‘memory’” (95)

“the body is the subject itself envisaged from the viewpoint of the spontaneity of the relations that, under the influence of principles, it establishes between ideas” (97)

“The subject is the entity which, under the influence of the principle of utility, pursues a goal or an intention; it organizes means in view of an end and, under the influence of the principles of association, establishes relations among ideas. Thus, the collection becomes a system” (98)

“Relations are external to their terms” (99)

“When James call himself a pluralist, he does not say, in principle, anything else. This is also the case when Russell calls himself a realist. We see in this statement the point common to all empiricisms” (99)

“Every relation is external to its terms” (99)

“The relation always presupposes a synthesis, and neither the idea nor the mind can account for it” (100)

“Relations are the effect of the principles of association” (100)

“These principles naturalize and give constancy to the mind … contiguity, to the senses; causality, to time; resemblance, to imagination” (100)

“Ideas are designated in the mind at the same time that the mind itself becomes a subject” (101)

“the effects of the principle of association are complex ideas: relations, substances and modes, general ideas” (101)

“The specific progress of a mind must be studied, and there is an entire casuistry to be worked out: why does this perception evoke a specific idea, rather than another, in a particular consciousness at a particular moment?” (103)

Hume “merely thought that the superficial and the formal should also be explained, and that this task was, in a sense, the most important” (103)

“affectivity is a matter of circumstances” (103)

“These are precisely the variables that define our passions and our interests” (103)

“a set of circumstances always individuates a subject since it represents a state of its passions and needs, an allocation of its interests, a distribution of its beliefs and exhilarations” (103)

“subjectivity is essentially practical” (104)

“Its definitive unity—that is, the unity of relations and circumstances—will be revealed in the relations between motive and action, means and end” (104)

“there is no theoretical subjectivity” (104)

This is “the fundamental claim of empiricism” (104)

Six: Principles of Human Nature

“a philosophical theory is an elaborately developed question, and nothing else; by itself and in itself, it is not the resolution to a problem, but the elaboration, to the very end, of the necessary implications of a formulated question” (106)

“To put something in question means subordinating and subjecting things to the question, intending, through this constrained and forces subsumption, that they reveal an essence or a nature” (106)

“To criticize the question means showing under what conditions the question is possible and correctly raised; in other words, how things would not be what they are were the question different from the one formulated” (106)

“The classical definition of empiricism proposed by the Kantian tradition is this: empiricism is the theory according to which knowledge not only begins with experience but is derived from it” (107)

“But why would the empiricist say that? and as the result of which question?” (107)

“were empiricism to be presented simply as a theory according to which knowledge begins only with experience, there would not have been any philosophy or philosophers—Plato and Leibniz included—who would not be empiricists” (107)

“knowledge is not the most important thjng for empiricism, but only the means to some practical activity” (107)

“We see why Hume never showed any interest in the problems of genesis or in purely psychological problems. Relations are not the product of a genesis, but rather the effect of principles. Genesis must refer to the principles, it is merely the particular character of a principle. Empiricism is not geneticism: as much as any other philosophy, it is opposed to psychologism” (108)

Commentator’s Note: we can only do empiricism because of how the subject is constituted, so we have analyze that constitution, not the subject’s faculties. Like Simondon, individuation before the individual.

“We will call ‘nonempiricist’ every theory according to which, in one way or another, relations are derived from the nature of things” (109)

“Only one device will permit Hume to present the agreement between human nature and nature as something more than an accidental, indeterminate, and contingent agreement: this device will be purposiveness” (112)

“Purposiveness” is “the agreement of the subject with the given, with the powers of the given, and with nature” (112)

Purposiveness “presents itself to us under so many different expressions, because each of these expressions corresponds to a moment, a step, or a dimension of the subject” (112)

“the subject … is but the mind being activated” (112)

“subjectivity is in fact a process” (113)

“the subject is an imprint, or an impression, left by principles, that is progressively turns into a machine capable of using this impression” (113)

“principles of association”—“contiguity, resemblance, and causality” (114)

“In these three cases, the effect is an impression of reflection, a passion, a calm passion, or a determination undergone by the mind … a tendency, custom, freedom, or disposition” (114)

“principles of passion … the chosen impressions are pleasures and pains” (116)

“Hume’s entire philosophy (in fact, empiricism in general) is a kind of ‘physicalism’” (119)

“one must find a fully physical usage for principles whose nature is only physical” (119)

“The relations find their direction and their sense in the passion; association presupposes projects, goals, intentions, occasions, an entire practical life and affectivity” (120)

“Association gives the subject a possible structure, but only the passions can give it being and existence” (120)

Relations are not the object of a representation, but the means of an activity” (120)

Conclusion: Purposiveness

“The mind … must be determined in some other way … It is no longer a matter of fixed relations, but of centers of fixation” (124)

“But for a cause to be considered as a means, the effects which it brings about must interest us, that is, the idea of the effect must first of all be posited as an end for our action. The means exceeds the cause: the effect must be thought of as a good, the subject who projects it must have a tendency to achieve it. The relation of means to end is not merely causal; it is rather a kind of utility. The useful is defined by its appropriation or by its disposition ‘to promote a good.’ A cause is a means only for a subject that tends to achieve the effect of this cause” (125)

Hume: “He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to any circumstances” (125)

“The utility, which designates the relation between means and end, also designates the relation between individuality and the historical situation. Utilitarianism is as much an evaluation of historical acts as it is a theory of instrumental action” (126)

“moral judgment is not brought to bear on the utility of things, but, in a way that must be specified, on the utility of characters” (126)

“a mind equipped with ends and relations—with relations responding to those ends—is a subject” (126)

Commentator’s Note: we could say that the mechanics of ends (purposiveness) is motricity—Merleau-Ponty’s body begins with the intentional arc.

“to transcend is always to move from the known to the unknown. We call this operation the schematism of the mind (general rules)” (127)

“there is no intensive knowledge” (127)

Commentator’s Note: Umberto Eco makes this same claim in Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language.

“we are not only a subject, we are something else as well; we are also a self, which is always a slave to its origin” (129)

“The principles of the passions fix the mind by giving it ends; they also activate it because the prospects of these ends are at the same time motives and dispositions to act, inclinations, and particular interests” (129)

“the principles constitute affections, giving them ‘a proper limited object.’ However, this object is always caught within a system of circumstances and relations” (129)

“The affection, which seeks out its object, forms general views upon this very object, because both are reflected in the imagination and the fancy” (130)

“General interest is thus invented” (130)

“General interest exists only by means of the imagination, artifice, or the fancy; nonetheless, it enters the natural constitution of the mind as a feeling for humanity or as culture” (130)

“It is in fact the reaction of the mind to the totality of circumstances and relations. It provides action with a rule and it is in the name of this rule that it can be pronounced good or bad in general” (130)

“the fancy finds itself at the foundation of a world, that is, of the world of culture and the world of distinct and continuous existence” (131)

“Fiction integrates into a whole all those passions that excluded each other because they represented particular interests” (131)

“The principles of human nature act separately within the mind; nevertheless they constitute a subject that functions as a whole” (132)

“We call ‘intentional purposiveness’ the unity of a subject that functions as a whole” (132)

“In itself, the mind is not subject” (132)

“the mind has two fundamental characteristics: resonance and vividness” (132)

“Recall the metaphor that likens the mind to a percussion instrument” (132)

“When does it become subject? It becomes subject when its vividness is mobilized in such a way that the part characterized by vividness (impression) communicates it to another part (idea), and also, when all the parts taken together resonate in the act of producing something new” (132)

“We should not ask what principles, are, but rather what they do” (132)

“They are not entities; they are functions. They are defined by their effects” (133)

“These effects amount to this: the principles constitute, within the given, a subject that invents and believes. In this sense, the principles are principles of human nature. To believe is to anticipate. To communicate to an idea the vividness of the impression to which it is attached is to anticipate; it is to transcend memory and the senses” (133)

“the given will never justify relations between its separate parts” (133)

“the subject … conserves itself” (133)

“as we believe and invent, we turn the given itself into a nature” (133)

“Philosophy must constitute itself as the theory of what we are doing, not as a theory of what there is. What we do has its principles; and being can only be grasped as the object of a synthetic relation with the very principles of what we do” (133)

Commentator’s Note: Practice. Bricks.

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