If, as I argued in an earlier post today and in a post entitled “Objectile and Agere” written long ago, to be a substance is to be an act, then Nietzsche’s conclusion follows as a matter of course. As Nietzsche writes in the third essay of On The Genealogy of Morals,

[T]here is no “being” behind the doing, effecting, becoming; “the doer” is simply fabricated into the doing—the doing is everything.

Objects don’t act. To say that objects act would be to say that there is something, objects, that either act or do not act. But if there is no doer behind or underneath the deed, then we must say rather that objects are acts. The substantiality of substance is the substance’s activity. Likewise, we cannot suggest that substances or objects are products of becomings as Massumi seems to suggest in Semblance and Event because the substantiality of a substance is not a product or outcome of becomings or activities, but rather the substances are their activity. There isn’t first one thing, becomings or activities, and then another thing, objects that are the result of these activities. There is just the one thing, these activities, that is the substantiality of the substance. The idea that the objecthood of a substance is a product of a becoming that precedes it is premised on an arbitrary and subjective cessation of activity on the part of one who observes a substance that is not itself reflected in nature. Rather, when activity ceases so too does substance cease.

It is because substances are acts, because there is no “doer behind the deed”, but only the deed itself, that substances are dynamic systems. A dynamic system is a unity that exists only in and through its activity. Where that activity ceases so too does the system. Where the system ceases, so too does the substance. I cease to be a substance at that point where operations of my body cease and no longer to continue to produce cells and vital functions necessary for life to sustain itself. I cease to be a substance when my body no longer acts. Likewise, it follows that if there is no doer behind the deed, then the individuality of the substance or system is not a subject that lies beneath accidental changes, that identity is not an abiding sameness that is invariant throughout change, but rather that identity itself is an activity on the part of the system. The identity of a substance is a performance on the part of the substance, an activity, that accomplishes itself from moment to moment until the substance dissolves.

Advertisements