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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Fall 2010

Tom Sparrow
Pages 165-186

A Physiology of Encounters
Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Strange Alliances

The body is central to the philosophies of Spinoza and Nietzsche. Both thinkers are concerned with the composition of the body, its potential relations with other bodies, and the modifications which a body can undergo. Gilles Deleuze has contributed significantly to the relatively sparse literature which draws out the affinities between Spinoza and Nietzsche. Deleuze’s reconceptualization of the field of ethology enables us to bring Spinoza and Nietzsche together as ethologists of the body and to elaborate their common, physiological perspective on ethico-political composition. This is accomplished by reading the concepts of force, power, and affect as they are mobilized in their discussions of corporeity and intercorporeity. What emerges is a metaphysics of bodies that can simultaneously be regarded as a physiology of encounters, one which renders the friend/enemy distinction indiscernible and opens the door for a rethinking of the nature of political alliances. Both Spinoza and Nietzsche are shown to be invaluable resources for helping us imagine the potential of the individual’s body and the body politic.

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