Thanks for this question: this gets to the heart of my project in the book. I realised, looking back on my work, from the time I was an undergraduate, my interest has been in the question of ethics, although it is something I haven’t written about much. Most theories of ethics in the history of Western philosophy assume that one wants to be an ethical being, that one is seeking a way to understand and thus to undertake the good. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to argue for an ethical existence for those for whom this holds no appeal, for those who don’t care about good or bad. For most theorists, ethics as a code of action, behaviour or belief that directs action (and will) to the good (defined in various ways), is separate from and even unrelated to what kinds of beings we are. There has been a concerted effort to separate the ‘is’ from the ‘ought’. But with an immanent ethics, of the kind developed by both the Presocratics and Spinoza, and remarkably articulated in a number of Deleuze’s writings, ethics is not separated from being or becoming: it is the modality or the manner of becoming, how and in what directions becomings occur. I became interested in the concept of the incorporeal through the Stoics, for whom it referred to the immaterial conditions of all material things, including living beings. These immaterial conditions – space, time, the void, and especially sense, or expression, are the directions or orientations to which things tend, their future movements. The Stoics created a beautiful conception of ethics as a kind of culmination of existence rather than a set of rules or principles by which to regulate life from outside. Ethics, for them, is the capacity to live up to one’s impersonal fate, to bear it, to live it. In this sense, it is immanent in life itself, not just human life, but in all forms of life. Some people, perhaps a majority, have considered this the realm of religious thought; but for the Stoics and Spinoza, this is not an order separate from the world for it is inherent to it. I wanted to create a perhaps paradoxical non-normative ethics, an ethics unrelated to (Kantian) judgement, one related to the ways in which one directs one’s life. The incorporeal is thus a name for the direction immanent in our actions, the direction to the future in which we may overcome ourselves, become more than ourselves. I am happy to call this ‘the divine’ as long as we understand that this is not an order of judgement, nor an order separate from the world and its tendencies.

Source: An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz – Theory, Culture & Society

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