Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Subjectivity and negativity
When Søren Kirekegaard writes in the Postscript that subjectivity is sincerity or passion, than it is already assumed that we know what subjectivity is. The problem with subjectivity lies on two levels. The first is the problem of becoming a subject. In the second problem, the problem is doubled, because the question of how to become a subject hangs together with already being a subject.
Two determinations make up the concept of subjectivity in the Postscript; that of being in the becoming and that of being a subject in relation to itself and others. Being in the becoming is derived from the German word Werden and the Nordic word Vorden which both means to be or to become. Becoming here means changing and motion in the broadest sence of the word. For Hegel Werden was an expression for that all beginnings are conflicting or defective, and that Werden could do away with the contradiction or shortcoming. Kierkegaard criticized that Hegals dialectical use of the word Werden could explain all transitions between being and nothingness. Kierkegaard differs between dialectical and emotional transitions. The real world consists of both beings and being. Between beings the transitions are dialectical (strictly logical and necessary), but in the transition between beings and being, from possibility to factual existence, is emotional and he calls this form for crossing as a leap (Sprang). Reading the Postscript is a difficult task. With its controversy pathos, Johannes Climacus puts forth a straightforward interpretation of concepts, but without formulating this as a problem. Existing is becoming. The existing person is the self which is holding together the heterogeneous while in motion. Johannes Climacus discusses this problem in the Postscript a somewhat rewritten version of the problem raised in Plato’s Phaidon. He writes:
« At existere, naar dette ikke skal forstaaes om saadan at existere,
lader sig ikke gjøre uden Lidenskab. Enhver græsk Tænker var derfor
ogsaa væsentlig en lidenskabelig Tænker. Jeg har oftere tænkt
over, hvorledes man kunde bringe et Menneske i Lidenskab. Saa
har jeg tænkt, at hvis jeg kunde faae ham sat op paa en Hest og
denne derpaa gjort sky, og bragt i den vildeste Carriere; eller endnu
bedre for ret at faae Lidenskaben frem, hvis jeg kunde faae en Mand,
der saa hurtigt som muligt vilde hen til et Sted (og altsaa allerede
var noget i Lidenskab) sat op paa en Hest, som neppe kunde gaae:
og dog er det at existere saaledes, naar man skal være sig det bevidst.
Eller dersom en Kjøresvend ellers ikke kunde komme i Lidenskab,
naar man spændte ham en Pegasus og et Udgangsøg sammen
for een Vogn, og sagde: kjør nu - saa tænker jeg det lykkedes. Og
saaledes er det at existere, naar man skal være sig det bevidst. Evigheden
er som hiin bevingede Ganger uendelig hurtig, Timeligheden
er et Udgangsøg, og den Existerende er Kjøresvenden, naar
nemlig det at existere ikke skal være saadan hvad man kalder at
existere, thi saa er den Existerende ingen Kjøresvend, men en fuld
Bonde, der ligger i Vognen og sover og lader Hestene skjøtte sig
selv. Det forstaaer sig, ogsaa han kjører, ogsaa han er Kudsk, og
saaledes er der maaskee Mangen, der - ogsaa existerer.
Forsaavidt Existents er Bevægelse gjelder det, at der dog er et
Continueerligt, som sammenholder Bevægelsen, ellers er der nemlig
ingen Bevægelse. Ligesom det, at Alt er sandt, betyder, at Intet er
sandt, saaledes betyder det, at Alt er i Bevægelse, at der ingen Bevægelse
er. Det Ubevægelige hører med til Bevægelsen som Bevægelsens
Maal, baade i Betydning af telo og metron ellers er det,
at Alt er i Bevægelse, hvis man ogsaa vil tage Tiden bort, og sige, at
Alt er altid Bevægelse, eo ipso Stilstand. Aristoteles, der paa saa
mange Maader fremhæver Bevægelsen, siger derfor, at Gud selv ubevæget
bevæger Alt. Medens nu den rene Tænken uden videre hæver
al Bevægelse, eller meningsløst faaer den ind med i Logiken, er
Vanskeligheden for den Existerende, at give Existentsen den Continueerlighed,
uden hvilken Alt blot forsvinder. En abstrakt Continueerlighed
er ingen Continueerlighed, og det at den Existerende
existerer, forhindrer væsentligen Continueerligheden, medens Lidenskab
er den momentvise Continueerlighed, der paa eengang holder
igjen og er Bevægelsens Impuls. For en Existerende er Bevægelsens
Maal Afgjørelse og Gjentagelse. Det Evige er Bevægelsens Continueerlighed,
men en abstrakt Evighed er udenfor Bevægelsen, og en
concret Evighed i den Existerende er Lidenskabens Maximum. Al
idealiserende Lidenskab nemlig er Anticipation af det Evige i
Existents for en Existerende til at existere; Abstraktionens Evighed
vindes ved at see bort fra Existents; den rene Tænken kan en
Existerende kun ved en mislig Begynden være kommen ind i, en
Mislighed, der ogsaa hævner sig derved, at den Existerendes Existents
bliver ubetydelig, og hans Tale noget afsindig, hvad næsten
er Tilfældet med Menneskenes Mængde i vor Tid, hvor man sjelden
eller aldrig hører et Menneske tale, som var han sig bevidst, at
han er et enkelt existerende Menneske, men pantheistisk lader det
svimle for sig, naar ogsaa han taler om Millioner og Stater og verdenshistorisk
Udvikling. Men Lidenskabens Anticipation af det
Evige for en Existerende er dog ikke den absolute Continueerlighed,
men Muligheden af Tilnærmelsen til den eneste sande, der kan være
for en Existerende. Herved erindres man igjen om min Thesis, at
Subjektiviteten er Sandheden, thi den objektive Sandhed er for en
Existerende ligesom Abstraktionens Evighed.» «Efterskriften II, s.18-19)
Anti-Climacus makes it quite clear when he writes that; ”But in order to reach the truth, one must go through every negativity” (Sickness unto Death, p.100). The negativity he speaks of here is the formulated in the concept of ”Fortivilelse”, which can be directly translated as despair, but which I chose to interpret and anderstand as shame, and the ignorance about shame being a new negativity. Subjectivity is not just existing in the becoming, but also in the self relation there is built in a negativity.
Relating to onseself demands that has a distance to oneself, so that one can relate to oneself. Both Johannes Climacus and Anti-Climacus use negativity to hold on to the decisive knowledge; that the Being is in the becoming and that it is important to hold the wound of negativity open. Shame is a negativity, ignorance of ones shame is a new negativity and the only way to reach the truth is through every negativity. Negativity with Kierkegaard is different than with Hegel. Kierkegaard changes negativity by holding on to the unfinished, the unconcluded and all the different describing states of shame. That shame is negativ does not mean that it denies reality. On the contrary it has a state of being exactly a negativ destined reality.
Litturature about Kierkegaard have to a very limited degree looked at his negative method in Sickness unto Death and therefore the problem that lies in the different forms for loose of self has been unseen. The Danish Kierkegaard researcher Arne Grøn (1997) is one of the few that have gone in depth into the concept of negativity of Kierkegaards philosophy. He differs between two levels of negativity. The first is the structural negativity which signifies subjectivity. To experience (”Erfare”) oneself as someone else does not mean that one does not see oneself. The other level has its starting point in the normative goal for subjectivity and when the possiblity for negativity was opened up, that the syntesis that the human being is went wrong, that passion (which is the highest concern for subjectivity) took a wrong turn, and when a person that is passionate lacks passion. In this second level, where a human being is no longer him/herself, it is important to distinguish between the different meanings of not being oneself. Everything depends on sorting things correctly here. On the first level the self relation is a structural differenceness, while on the second level it is a disparity. Shame is therefore on this first level of negativity not only a feeling experience (”Opplevelse”) but mostly a understood experience (”Erfare”). Which means that the person in shame not one feels that something is different in oneself, but shame signifies also a understanding of being different than before and different than everyone else, and at the same time one is able to see oneself as different. On the second level the person in shame, the signifier, is no longer him/herself because the synthesis which holds the self together as a whole is out of relation with itself.
Sickness unto Death has two superior features which relates to each other. It is a book about the self and it is a book about shame (”Fortivilse”). Both are held together by ”... in order to reach the truth, one must go through every negativity” (Sickness unto Death, p.100). The task of the self is to become ist self, but it becomes itself only by going through the negativity of not being itself.
When Anti-Climacus unreveals what it means to be oneself, he goes forth negatively by analysing forms of that of not being one self. In back of the negative method lies the books thesis and which differs between different meanings of the negativity of not being oneself.
It is Micheal Theunissen[i] who has most strongly signified the thought of Kierkegaards negativistic method. With Theunissen’s negativisme thesis the Sickness unto Death can be interpreted into a large historical and systematical perspective. When Theunissen gives the method in Sickness unto Death such attention, it is in order to bring forth the expanatory significance this method has. Arne Grøn follows Theunissen’s emphasis on Kierkegaards negativistic methode, but Grøn goes thematically in a different direction than Theunissen. Grøn’s goal is to investigate the relationship between normativity and reality, and by so doing differ between the different meanings of negativity. His investigation includes the ”negative” phenomena of dread, shame (”Fortivilelse”), lack of mind (”Åndløshet”) and vagueness, and he askes what these phenomena mean for the understanding of the self.
Anti-Climacus writes that ”Shame (”Fortivilelse”) is a sickness in the spirit, in the self” (Sickness unto Death, p.73). Shame is in other words a sickness or a disparity in the self relation. The question is what signifies a self relation as a disparity. Grøn starts by going through The Concept of Dread and Sickness unto Death to try to get hold of how one can explain a self relation in the different negative phenomena, first and foremost dread and shame (”Fortivlelse”).
When Anti-Climacus writes ”But shame is a destination of the spirit, it relates to the indefinite, and has therefore something indefinite in its dialetic” (Sickness unto Death, p 83), then he says directlt that shame has to do with the self relation. But what about dread?
Gregor Malantschuk[ii] has tried to read Sickness unto Death as a continuation of The Concept of Dread. As an argument for his interpretation Malantschuk refers to a draftKierkegaard once wrote in connection to Sickness unto Death ”...what dizziness is in relation to the composition between the soul and the body, shame is to the spirit.” (Posthumous works, ”Etterlatte Papirer”, VIII, 2B, 6, p 261). Kierkegaard differs between feeling dizzy and shame. Malantschuk says that the draft speaks of dizziness and not dread, but he means that dizzyness characterizes the area of dread, the soul/body area. Grøn says that it is here talk of two different meanings of dizziness. Vigiulius Haufniensis compairs dread with dizziness, but he calls it the dizziness of freedom; ”
Dread can be compaired til dizziness...In this way dread is the dizziness of freedom, which comes forth when the spirit sets the synthesis and freedom now sees its own possibility. That is when finiteness graps hold of the spirit and dizziness is felt as freedom sinks to the bottom (The Concept of Dread pp 152-153)
The dizziness which is spoken of in the draft til Sickness unto Death above is not the dizzyness one feels at the edge of existence as dread is compaired with, nor is it the dizzyness of freedom, which dread is.
When Malantschuk leaves out the spirit as the destination for ”the third”, the view upon dread becomes misleading. It is in dread that a person discovers him/herself as a task. Dread is all about ”the third”, the self relation, as a possibility and as a task. If one should speak of dreads territory, it whould have to be the spirits. Vigilius Haufniensis writes that ”Dread is a destination of the dreaming spirit, and as such becomes a theme for psychology” (The Concept of Dread, p.136). The the spirit is present as dreaming, means that it always disturbs ”...the relation between soul an body, which is established but at the same time is not establisked, because it is so only in the spirit” (The Concept of Dread, p.138). The spirit relates to itself in dread. Vigilius Haufniensis talks about that ”Man was therefore a synthesis of soul an body, and also a synthesis between the hourly (”det timelige”) and the eternal” (The Concept of Dread, p.173). The synthesis between the soul and body must, in order to be a syntesis, be constituted by the spirit, but ”...the spirit is eternal” (The Concept of Dread, p.176). The concern of dread is therefore the synthesis between the eternal and the hourly, as ”...the Moment in the individual life” (The Concept of Dread, p.176). Vigilius Haufniensis writes in an important segment that the spirit relates ”...it itself and its own terms” (The Concept of Dread, p.138) as dread.
Shame on the other hand is not just something that comes, but it is something one incurs, and incurs in every moment because one feels shame. Dread is more ambiguous. Dread comes or takes one into possession, but this is because one give in, falls or grips something wrong. Dread is a foreign power which takes a grip of one and therefore one sinks into dread. The object of dread is not something concrete, but Nothing[iii], or more correctly, something that is Nothing. While fear refers itself to something concrete, dread is ”Freedoms reality as a possibility for the possible” (The Concept of Dread, p.136). This reality is Nothing.
That it is freedoms possiblity means that in dread, freedom shows itself or the self relations radical meaning shows itself. In dread one discovers oneself as a task. The possibility of making a freedom come true or to become unfree. Dread is concerned with freedoms possibility as an ambiguous possibility. This ambiguousness is a key concept in the analysis of dread.
Anti-Climacus writes that ”The disparity of shame is not a simple disparity but a disparity in a relation, which relates itself to itself” (Sickness unto Death, p.74). When a person is in shame, s/he is relating to something that s/he is standing in a disparity to.
Theunissen writes that an investagation of the concept of shame in Sickness unto Death ”hätte vornehmlich die Verkürzungen und Verfälschungen aufzudecken, die aus der Vorentscheidung folgen, als Verzweiflung nue geltenzu lassen, was sich aus der Perspektive der Bedrohung des Selbseins dararbeidet” (1991 p.6). He also investigates the way shame is put into use in the beginning of Sickness unto Death, namely as a sickness in the self. The basic assumption in the analysis of shame in Sickness unto Death is ”daβ alle Verzweiflung in der Kreis der Selbstverhältnissens eingeschossen sei” (1993 p.61). Theunissen defines shame ”Als Dedizienz eines auf die Exekution des eigenen Daseins reduzierten Selbstverhältnisses” (1993 p.76) and it is identified ”...mit der Defiziens des Sich-zu-sich-Verhaltens” (1993 p.119).
The question is if the concept of shame as Anti-Climacus uses it gripes the significant features of the phenomenen of shame. Anti-Climacus describes in Sickness unto Death a course where it is shown what it means to be in shame. The question is here what it means that a person is not oneself. Before Anti-Climacus investigates the different forms of shame in Sickness unto Death, he incircles what it he means by shame. He does this in already in the books first chapter and forst sentence; ”Shame is a sickness in the spirit, in the self, and accordingly can take three forms: shamed not to be conscious of having a self (not shame in the strict sense); shamed not to will to be oneself; shamed to will to be oneself” (p. 73).
Anti-Climacus differs between shame in the not so strict sense and shame in the strict sense, and in the last he differs between two forms of shame. Two questions arise here. What is shame in the not so strict sense? How do the two forms for shame in the strict sense relate to each other? All forms for shame can be connected to ”the other form for shame in the strict sense; shamed to will to be oneself” (p.74). But a little later he says the oposite, that ” the other form for shame, shamed to will to be oneself, can be connected to the first, shamed not to will to be oneself...the same way as we befor dissolved the form for shame not to will to be oneself in the shame of to will to be oneself” (p. 79). The fact that the two forms for shame in the strict sense are connected to each other intensifies the problem. Are they equal or is there a basic form for shame? Already in the preface the question is asked, in a double sense, and put forth inverted, what shame really is.
Shame is not just somethning that happens to a person. The desparity of shame is something one takes upon oneself, i.e.that a person does something when s/he feels shame, because one is in shame. These two meanings are brought together in what is the key formulation in Sickness unto Death: shame is to have lost oneself.
In Sickness unto Death it is indirectly set forth a third meaning of the disparity of shame. The self relation is more than just a self relation. One is in a disparity with oneself and therefore one wishes to do away with oneself. But this is no easy task.One can say that shame in such a double relationship is wanting to do away with oneself and being able to do so. One is bounded to oneself inspite of oneself. This is expressed through the eternal;
”...the eternal in man. But he cannot rid himself of the eternal – no, never in all eternity. He cannot throw it away once an for all, nothing is more impossible; at any moment that he does not have it, he must have thrown it or is throwing it away – but it comes back again, that is, every moment he is in shame he is bringing his shame upon himself. For shame is not attributable to the misrelation but to the relation that relates itself to itself. A person cannot rid himself of his self, which, after all, is one and the same thing, since the self is the relation to oneself” (Sickness unto Death p.76)
Even if he has ”...lost himself in such a manner that the loss is not at all detectable
eternity nevertheless will make it manifest that the condition was shame and will nail him to himself so that his torment will still be that he cannot rid himself of his self (Sickness unto Death p.80). Eternity is such that it ”...binds you to yourself in shame” (Sickness unto Death, p.86). Johannes Climacus writes that willing to be rid of oneself means doing something to oneself, ”When I feel shame, I use myself to be in shame” (Postscript, p.215).
 Many languanges distinguish between two forms for experience, as does Kierkegaard in his original Danish text. “Opplevelse” is the feeling of experiencing something, while “Erfare” is the understood experience. One can say that the felt fom for experience often comes before the understood form for experience. Very often this difference disappears in English translation because both forms are translated to experience, and an important element in many philosophical text are lost in the English translations.
 Almost all European languages distinguish between shame as modesty/skyness and shame as disgrace. The German word for shame is “Scham” as modesty/skyness or “Schande” as disgrace (Scheff and Retzinger 1991). Theunissen uses the word “Verzweiflung” which in German means despair. In my investigation I chose to interpret despair as Kierkegaard uses the term (“Fortivilelse”) as shame. When Theunissen and others investigate Kierkegaards concept of despair, I still follow my intention that Kierkegaards concept of despair is equivalent to the concept of shame.
[i] Micheal Theunissen, born 1932 is a German philosopher and professor in philosophy at the University of Berlin. He was before an active defender of the dialogical philosophy of Martin Buber. Since 1980 he has turned towards the so-called negativism, i.e. a philosophy that, as in Kierkegaard, begins in a situation where the people have not yet realized themselves as whole human beings, and where s/he therefore does not yet know what it means to be a free human being. He means that all modern philosophy must be negativistic.
[ii] Gregor Malantschuk (1902-1978) was a Kierkegaard researcher born in Ukrania and became in 1949 Danish citizen. My references here about how Malantschuk tries to read Sickness unto Death as a continuation of The Concept of Dread is taken from two of his books, Dialectic and Existence (Dialektikk og Eksistens, 1990 pp.321) and The Problem of Freedom in Kierkegaards The Concept of Dread (Frihetens Problem i Kierkegaards Begrebet Angest, 1971 pp108).
[iii] To say something concrete about what Nothing is, is not an easy task. Should I against all reason try, it would have to be with the words of Martin Heidegger:
“…with that the answer to the question of Nothing is given. Nothing is neither an object nor a Being altogether. Nothing exists neither for itself nor next to the Being which it clings on to. Nothing is the possibility of the Beings openness as such towards the human existence. Nothing is not a counter-concept to the Being, but belongs originally to the being itself. In the Beings being - Nothings nothingness occurs” (Was is t Metaphysk? 1979 )
What this Beings being is, is something that no one can say anything about with certainty, not even Heidegger tries to do so. This is because we are all affected by Beings historically conditioned self-disclosedness, what Heidegger calls “Seinvergessenheit” in his two volume work called Nietzsche 1997 [1927/1961]. Here Heidegger writes that this means “…self-disclosedness of the Beings original difference between What-Being (“Was-sein”) and There-Being (“Das-sein”), for the benefit of Being which enlightens the Beingness as Beingness and stays unconquered as Being” (p.366).