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Friday, 15 January 2016

Grosz on freedom to and the nature of spontaneity

Elizabeth Grosz, in her "Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom"(in New Materialisms, ed. by Coole and Frost, 2010, Duke), draws on Bergson to explore the notion of freedom to, a predicate of acts that involves the capacity to move in an unconstrained way. She cites Bergson (on page 148) saying that the "absence of any tangible reason is the more striking the deeper our freedom goes". She understands freedom as something positive, akin to what Deleuze had in mind when he insisted on a connection between freedom and movement (see my previous post on freedom to). It interesting to compare Bergson's notion, under Grosz' lenses, with the analysis Leibniz offers in section 288 of the Theodicy. There he considers freedom to be composed of intelligence, contingency and spontaneity - but not of indifference. Indifference, Leibniz claims, has nothing to do with freedom, it is just nonsense to assume that there are real clinamina, swerves, in the world like the Epicurists have postulated. Plus, indifference is the exact opposite of freedom because there is no choice in absolute indifference. To be sure, he ties freedom with reasons to act and to individual intelligence which is itself tied to what an agent substantially is - as substances are nothing but bundles of past, present and future events. To act according to one's own motives is to act spontaneously and therefore not determined by somebody else's motives, including those of overarching necessities - this is where spontaneity connects with contingency. With Leibniz we could say that there is a measure of freedom everywhere, like what Grosz would like to say, especially if we consider freedom to to have to do with spontaneity and contingency (no matter intelligence and preventing indifference). Bergson then can be understood either as analyzing the nature of spontaneity by saying that to act according to one's own motives is to act by what goes beyond any tangible reason or as stressing again the key of indifference if the absence of any tangible reasons amounts to no reason at all.

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