Passions before passivity, actions after self-certainty : binding the philosophy and neuroscience of affects

Bevan, Andrew (2019) Passions before passivity, actions after self-certainty : binding the philosophy and neuroscience of affects. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis examines the turn to affect in both philosophy and neurobiology beginning in the 1990s. Both fields shared themes of a return to emotional aspects of the body; a rapprochement between natural sciences and humanities; and rethinking of causality, intentionality, identity and temporality. Yet the field remains contentiously divided. Disputes arise mainly from differences in understanding of key terms (notably between affect and emotion) and the place of the intentional subject within expanded, flattened conceptions of agency, causality and the animate/inanimate, differences ultimately between implications in and overcomings of past metaphysics of coupled opposites and the philosophy of the subject. Implication because conceptions of affect have been historically dominated by the active and passive understood as a doing and being done to; affects then become quantitative, external impositions disrupting purely self-present subjects requiring philosophies of defence that privilege sameness over difference. Whereas overcomings posit a pure activity or passivity, simultaneities of active and passive, or a non-temporal ‘before’ prior to activity/passivity. This thesis explores the alternative possibility that ‘active/passive’ never really translated the Greek ποιεῖν/πάσχειν that is its root and root of affect as translation of πάθος. The thesis is in two parts: in philosophy, I uncover a broader sense of πάσχειν as bindings of implicit differences prior to any explicit separation of agent and patient. Meanwhile, in contemporary neuroscience, action is being redefined through ‘prediction processing’ theories where error as the difference between world and an organism’s implicit models of that world motivates action. Affective neurobiology then describes this radical contingency of expectation and actuality in specifically affective terms as the organism in its self-difference. I conclude by binding the radical transformations in active and passive each turn effects to understand affect still as a pairing of active/passive but where these terms signify not an oppositional agent acting on patient, but as the binding of contingent, implicit differences with their making explicit through the affections of error in the organism’s necessary difference and togetherness with world.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page