Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 4.1.1 Self

4.1.1 Self

When Kierkegaard speaks about the development of the self, the question naturally arises: What is the nature of this self? The process of becoming a self (the self relating to itself) explains the relational part of the self (the self as self-relation). The process means that the individual by relating to his or her self is forced to acknowledge selfhood. The point that Kierkegaard is making is in my opinion that the self is more than what meets the eye. Our consciousness shows that the self relates to itself – and is in opposition to itself. It experiences (erfarer) itself as a self that one is always already (Heidegger 1926/1962) related to.

If we use only the process-oriented view of the self (that the self is a relationship that relates itself to itself), then the result is in my opinion that the self is only what it is and becomes itself through what it does. The self-relation is a fundamental mode of self-experience. Relating to one’s self includes both a passiveness (that one suffers under this relating to oneself) and activeness (that the self is determined through and in spite of the way one relates to one’s self). This relation between the active and the passive is in my opinion what the self is all about.
Kierkegaard starts Sickness unto Death (1849/1980) by reflecting on the nature of the self, and finds that there is a self-relation which relates the self to itself. Immediately thereafter he speaks of despair as a disparity within the self. His exploration of the nature of the self thus leads, in my opinion, to the subject of shame, even though Kierkegaard is speaking of despair. Rather than directly explaining the nature of the self, Kierkegaard discusses the negation of the self by analysing the different faces of despair, i.e. the different ways in which a person fails to become a self.

What does this definition through the negative possibility mean? There seems in my opinion to be a connection between becoming oneself and not being oneself. The normative process (of becoming one’s self) goes through a negative process (eliciting shame about not being one’s self) and creates ambiguity. The normative process (of becoming one’s self in order to be one’s self) partly presupposes and partly responds to this negative possibility (of not being one’s self). The task of becoming one’s self presupposes that a person can indeed lose ones self. A human being first becomes a self by freeing itself from shame. This negative method is not a superfluous detour, but a normative goal. Becoming a self requires in my opinion regaining one’s self, but in order to regain a self it is first necessary to lose one’s self, which implies that the only way out of shame is through shame. 
Kaare T. Pettersen

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