Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unum noris omnes

The observed person shall however not only be an object for experimentation, but s/he shall also receive relief. The idea is that the communication is alleviating. The same thing happens on the other side. The observer shall not only be present, but also do something so s/he is able to see. What s/he does in order to see is something s/he must do to her/himself. This demands an ordinary human flexibility. The person the experiment most of all does something to is the observer. S/he must observe her/himself. For the observer to see, s/he must be aware of her/himself. It is the observer that sits on the knifes edge. The relation that the observer establishes is first of all ethical. Kresten Nordentoft writes in his book about Kierkegaard (Nordentoft 1972) that self-understanding and self-reflection are the primary methods in Kierkegaard’s psychology and he stresses the methods ethical signification.
            Vigilius Haufniensis uses the old Latin proverb “unum noris omnes” in The Concept of Dread. He says that
The Latin Sentence unum noris omnes expresses lightly the same, and expresses really the same, when one with unum means the observer himself, and now not scouting for omnes, but seriously holding onto the One, which in reality is everyone. (The Concept of Dread, p. 168, note 2, my translation)
The Greek expression for unum noris omnes is gnothi sauton and means know thou self. For Vigilius Haufniensis the expression means that all understanding is self-understanding and therefore knowing oneself is the only decisive condition for knowing others. The curious observer is for Kierkegaard a negative phenomenon. That the only thing necessary is the observer her/himself, and this makes the observation not only an ethical enterprise but it also presupposes that the phenomena that are being observed are general or universal. When the observer is emphasized it is because the phenomenon can be overseen. The ethical stated relation means that it is the one how sees that must have their eyes open. This is what Kierkegaard’s pseudonym author of The Concept of Dread Vigulius Haufnienis (which means the watchful Copenhagener in Latin) does. He doesn’t lead the attention directly toward himself as the pseudonym author of Fear and Trembling (Frygt og Bæven, Complete Works, volume 5) Johannes de Silentio does when he speaks of which movements he can make or not make. The observer is playing a role in The Concept of Dread but Johannes de Silentio pulls him at the same time forth as a figure in the text. What the observer stands in front of is in itself a subject, an individual, a conscious or existence which makes movements. The objects under observation are not just problems or themes, but figures of consciousness.
            In both The Concept of Dread and Sickness unto Death the relation between the observer and the observed is of central methodological importance. The question is where the reader is to be placed. The reader is both observer and observed. In Sickness unto Death we are all sick. But in The Concept of Dread the relation between the observer and the observed is especially clear. The remarkable thing is that the self-relation, observing oneself, is written into the text, in the relation between the observer and the observed. The Concept of Dread transcribes as a psychological experimental piece of work, the observer as the one (unum) that shall observe her/himself. When Kierkegaard describes demonic reticence then the ambiguity becomes two different wills. A stronger will for reticence and a weaker will for communication.
            When Anti-Climacus tries to uncover this negative destiny in the phenomenon, he gives his phenomenological method a dialectical character. The phenomena of shame (“fortvilelse”) are characterized by different ways of relating oneself in, and where the individual is in a disparity with her/himself. There is in other words in the phenomenon a negative self-relation. This is composed of a complex relationship between experience and category. Phenomenon must be understood as ways of relating oneself in.
            The investigation in Sickness unto Death does therefore not only describe the different figures of shame, but also phenomena lake pride and humility. The investigation in The Concept of Dread does not only conceptualize the different forms for dread, but also the phenomena of reticence, the phenomena of the demonic, and phenomena like compassion and sympathy. Such phenomena are ways of relating and they are universal in a way that the observer can do after them.


  1. "The Greek expression for unum noris omnes is gnothi sauton and means know thou self."

    This is not actually correct, "unum noris omnes" means: when you know one you know all. "Gnothi sauton" means "know yourself".

    Nontheless i found your text quite interesting.

    1. Hello Alejo
      Thankyou so much for your interesting comment!