thigein & conatus

What is important is that this
contemplation without knowledge, which at times recalls the Greek con-
ception of theory as not knowledge but touching [thigein], here functions to
define life. As absolute immanence, a life . . . is pure contemplation beyond
every subject and object of knowledge; it is pure potentiality that preserves
without acting.


– Giorgio Agamben, “Absolute Immanence,” p. 164


Spinoza’s theory of ‘striving’ (conatus) as the desire to persevere in one’s
own Being, whose importance Deleuze often underlines, contains a possible
answer to these questions. Whatever the ancient and medieval sources of
Spinoza’s idea (Harry A. Wolfson lists a number of them, from the Stoics to
Dante), it is certain that in each case, its paradoxical formulation perfectly
expresses the idea of an immanent movement, a striving that obstinately
remains in itself. All beings not only persevere in their own Being (vis
inertiae) but desire to do so (vis immanentiae). The movement of conatus thus
coincides with that of Spinoza’s immanent cause, in which agent and patient
cannot be told apart. And since conatus is identical to the Being of the thing,
to desire to persevere in one’s own Being is to desire one’s own desire, to
constitute oneself as desiring. In conatus, desire and Being thus coincide without


– Ibid., p. 166