One of the things that fascinates me about evolutionary theory– comprehended in suitably Deleuzian terms, though sans vitalism –is that evolution is not simply an evolution of bodily phenotypes, but is also an evolution of passive affects or modes of sensibility/perception. Perception doesn’t so much represent as invent through evolutionary processes. Bat sonar, the sensing of the world through electro-magnetic fields in eels and sharks, spectrums of color for different animals, spectrums of sound in dogs, humans, cats, the language of pheromones in ants, the language of vibrations for spiders on their webs, the language of colors in octopi and squid, the infrared vision of insects, the circular polarized vision of mantis shrimps, and all the action-schemas– or action oriented sign-structures of anticipation and body movement –that are built up around these things.
And there is a spectrum here from those inventions of affect or sensibility that are more or less “hard-wired”, to those forms of affectivity, those powers of sensibility, that are acquired in more complex organisms capable of learning. In creatures like dogs, horses, octopi, certain types of computers, etc., inventive affects are not things that are simply “hard-wired” and there from infancy (though there is this too). No. These passive affects, these forms of receptivity, are also acquired and invented over the course of the organisms life. The psychoanalyst has a different type of affectivity than the cognitive psychologist, and the wood carver has a different structure of affectivity than the industrial wood producer. The biologist has a different type of affectivity than the accountant or doctor. These forms of affectivity do not fall from our genes ready-made, but are inventions in the world. Before art, philosophy, science, and politics represent, “mean”, or make true or false claims about the world, they first invent new forms of sensibility. Virgina Woolf did not report how she sensed the world, she invented or created a new way of sensing the world. Freud did not report what he heard, but invented a new way of hearing. This is why there is a transcendental aesthetics where, to paraphrase Deleuze, aesthetics as the form of receptivity and aesthetics as the theory of art are united and are one and the same thing. Before we sense anything at all there is the formation of this power or capacity of sensing, this invention of affect, that is the genesis of something new in the world rather than the simple reception of what is already there in the world.