I’ve recently been thinking about a claim Malabou makes in her brain book. She says that plasticity entails explosiveness, as when we think of C-4 plastic explosives or similar material. The analogy is to the vitality of life, the creative way it bursts forth and strives beyond itself, its form. Nietzsche says in Ecce Homo, “I am no man, I am dynamite!” Life aims beyond preservation, natural kinds, sedimented forms. Such is will to power.
But is it plasticity that is explosive, or is it life? If life is plasticity, then it seems possible. I prefer to think of plasticity dispositionally, as a state of material rather than as the impulse of vital matter. Material objects take on form, hold form, succumb to and resist influence. It does not seem that they seek to explode their own form; or rather, they cannot do this on their own. Nietzsche would seem to agree: the will to power is not self-explosive unless it is hindered in its release, turned against itself. This, however, is a perversion of life–what gives birth to things like consciousness, conscience, moral reflection.
Perhaps we then have at least two versions of plasticity. Plasticity conceived as a disposition of matter, on the one hand, and plasticity conceived as the dual nature of vitality, of life, on the other. In the latter case plasticity is something like the impulse of life, which is at once a striving to preserve and a striving to surpass. In Spinoza, this latter would be the desire to unite with other bodies in friendship and create a more powerful composite body, along with the desire for self-preservation/desire to persevere in existence (conatus). Or, taking the first understanding of plasticity, it would be equivalent to the ratio of motion and rest, quickness and slowness that constitutes the integrity/identity of any composite body. Plasticity is in Spinoza, in one of these forms. I tend to think it’s ratio, rather than conatus.