Sunday, May 20, 2012
Anti-Climacus is diagnostically orientated in his examination in Sickness unto Death. The diagnostically orientated method seems to demand that one uses an objective standard, which means that if shame is a sickness of the self, than what is the objective standard for health. But there seems to be a one-way speaking tendency in Anti-Climacus use of this diagnostically orientated method and perspective. He who speaks is a doctor which is in his right to use and enforce his standard, and to appear as an expert over the unknowing patient. The doctor that has knowledge about health is the one that has the standard and the power to make the diagnosis.
Kierkegaard also uses a road and movement metaphor. The person who was a patient is also the wanderer. To become oneself is a movement, a double movement, a movement in the same place. One can run after a possibility, so that one can find ones way back to oneself. Kierkegaard describes different ways of walking astray. One can turn off on the right road away from shame towards faith.
The point is that this examination has to do with figures, what Hegel calls figures of consciousness. Anti-Climacus relates to figures that already are relating themselves – both to themselves and to others. Anti-Climacus phenomenological method is dialectical, because the reality he is describing is done so in a negatively way. He is not using two different methods in Sickness unto Death, both a diagnostically orientated method and a phenomenological method. The picture does not go further than telling us that the doctor, who is speaking, also is the patient who is speaking to himself. Sickness unto Death is about a sickness that is different dialectically than what one usually calls a sickness. The dialectical method goes two ways. On the one hand the sickness is dialectical by being a sickness in the self-relation, in this way the “patient” can hide the sickness from her/himself. On the other hand both health and sickness are critical by not having any immediate objective health standard for the self. The dialectical text shows that it is the figures in themselves that decide their own standard. The diagnosis is dialectical, in so far that it points to the sickness that the figures themselves show.
The reality that is described is negatively decided. The methodological key to understand this reality is having the necessary standard. The dialectical character of the method is about this negative decision, and that is why Anti-Climacus method in Sickness unto Death is called dialectical phenomenology. He describes a progress of figures that are negatively destined. It might sound surprising that Kierkegaard uses a phenomenological method, but the dialectical course is phenomenological (Grøn 1998).
A critic of Kierkegaard: The Danish theologian Knud Ejler Løgstrup is of another opinion. He does not find a phenomenological method in Kierkegaards works (Løgstrup1991). Løgstrup understands phenomenology as a description and analysis that does not reduce the phenomenon in consideration, but that the understanding (meaning) already lies in the phenomenon itself. He uses his phenomenology in a religious and cosmological context, and his phenomenology is therefore more of at religious philosophy than scientific perspective which demands a methodological and ontological reduction.
Kierkegaards method of phenomenology must be seen in light of his previous authorship, first and foremost The Concept of Dread (Begrebet Angest), written by the pseudonym author Vigilius Haufniensis and published in 1844 (Complete Works volume 6). In The Concept of Dread he says “…who is not used to being daring enough to regard the Phenomena” (p 161, note 1, my translation) and further
I will not go closer to fulfilling this experimental Observation here, because it delays. Life is
however rich enough, when one just understands to observe; one does not have to travel to Paris or London, -and it does not help any, if one can not observe” (p 164, my translation)
The phenomenon shows itself in the person’s way of putting oneself. It’s not possible to completely understand it right away since it calls for a special kind of attention. Vigilius Haufniensis is asking for what he calls a psychological intermediate position. A central passage in The Concept of Dread is:
To use ones Category is conditio qua non, so that the Observation in a deeper Sense shall
have a Meaning. When the Phenomenon is present to a certain Extent, most People will be aware of it, but will not be able to explain it, because they lack the Category, and when they have it, then they have a Key, which opens all doors, where there is a Trace of this Phenomenon; thus the Phenomenon under the Category is obedient just as the Spirit of the Ring obeys the Ring. (p 209, note 1, my translation)
When the category opens up then this is because there is something universal in the phenomenon.
The Concept of Dread has a rising curve which has its climax, so to speak, in the destination of dread for the good as “demonic Reticence”. A phenomenon is what we deal with when we observe or describe. Vigilius Haufniensis does not call this a thing but a phenomenon. A phenomenon is something which shows itself. It is in many ways a symbol that needs to be translated. It is however a phenomenon in an emphasizing meaning, that it is an expression of something, a use of symbols. In The Concept of Dread he also writes:
What determines if the Phenomenon is demonic, is the Individuals Attitude to the
Revelation, if he will go through the Facts with Freedom, receives it in Freedom. As soon as
he will not do this, then the Phenomenon is demonic. (p 211, my translation)
The phenomenon is what we as observers stand directly in front of. The question is if it really is a demonic reticence we have in front of us. Demonic reticence is the resistance towards showing oneself, of revealing oneself. How can this reticence, which precisely is resistance towards revealing oneself, come forth? The answer is that it can be read in the expression itself, in the unwilling, sudden or broken character. It might be a sudden movement or word. The phenomenon as an expression uses signs, movements and words, which we can interpret. But in the expression there is a relation expressing itself, a resistance which shows itself in the way the expression happens, and this is the phenomenon.
What frees a person from this demonic reticence is language, because in using our language, we communicate. “Freedom is always communicative” (The Concept of Dread, p. 207, my translation). But not all communication sets free. Only the truth sets free, but the truth is decided by the works of freedom. The truth is only for the individual as s/he reveals it in action.
The Contents of Freedom is in a intellectual way the Truth, and it is the Truth that sets Humans free, But just therefore is the Actions of the Free Truth such, that it always brings forth the Truth. (The Concept of Dread, p. 220, my translation).
When Vigilius Haufniensis in this context emphasizes that a category is necessary in order to interpret a phenomenon, he means that there is something universal in the phenomenon. There is a universal recognizable way of relating oneself. The phenomenon is a way of relating.