The Self According to Kierkegaard

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Søren Kierkegaard
  3. » The Self According to Kierkegaard

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 02:09 am
"The self has the task of becoming itself" - Anti-Climacus, 1849

In his usual ironic style of mocking the Hegelian style of writing, Kierkegaard bases his account of the human self as "a relation which relates itself to itself". The relationship of which Kierkegaard speaks of is the relationship between consciousness and identity.

Notice that sometimes you do not explicitly spell the activities you are doing, even though you are conscious of that activity. You are aware of what you are doing, but sometimes you don't explicitly think or say what you are doing. Sartre called that pre-reflective consciousness. Spelling out the activities you are doing forces reflective consciousness. For both Kierkegaard and Sartre, the self's identity is constructed by reflective consciousness.

For Kierkegaard, the self has the capacity to be aware of one's self and be aware of that awareness. It through that uniquely human self-awareness that causes the creation of identity, which prompts Kierkegaard's famous slogan of the self having the task of becoming itself, the human's excellence over the animal is the human ability to define ourselves:

"The more consciousness, the more self; the more consciousness, the more will; the more will, the more self. A person who has no will at all is not a self; but the more will he has, the more self-consciousness he has also."

In other words, animals and "people with no will" who cannot reflect on themselves have consciousness and live, but cannot change their identity or the nature of their existence. A person who can change the nature of their existence, will always have the ability to be self-aware.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 05:40 am
@Victor Eremita,
The self has the task of denying itself...

Only when the self can consider itself in time, not just as self, but as future self, will it be able to assume the task that makes its life, and the life of humanity possible...People have always had to give up food to grow a garden... They have always had to deny their rest to suffer their work... It is this unfortunate fact that has been most used against humanity because the fact that one must buy their bread with the sweat of their brows which everyone accepts and understands can be used to make some work without respite for others whose only contribution to their own survival is the enjoyment of it...Since they never have to deny themselves to have themselves as an object, they never can see themselves apart from the slaves that make their lives possible... For that reason the master is only another slave...

It was said by another, perhaps by Spinoza, or by Cervantes in another context, and perhaps with more eloquence; but the slave, as many of us are yet, in the act of creation -recreates himself, and in this sense can be happy since the transaction through which he buys his life is clear, as an active choice he makes of his own volition, out of the very freedom no person can ever fully deny to another...

The masters, of which there are still a few, can only see how powerless and dependent is their own existence, and for this reason the masters are miserable, and miserable to be around while their slaves are more cheerful and happy... They can be happy... Happiness for them is not some distant and illusive goal, but one as immediate as quiting time...
 
Jacques Maritain
 
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2010 04:35 pm
@Victor Eremita,
You could also change it to say that the self has the task of being itself too.
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2010 09:08 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
Jacques Maritain;172647 wrote:
You could also change it to say that the self has the task of being itself too.

God; there is a task... Who else would the self want to be...
 
Deckard
 
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2010 09:45 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita;170290 wrote:

"The more consciousness, the more self; the more consciousness, the more will; the more will, the more self. A person who has no will at all is not a self; but the more will he has, the more self-consciousness he has also."

So is Kierkegaard saying that consciousness precedes will?
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2010 10:45 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;172784 wrote:
So is Kierkegaard saying that consciousness precedes will?
There's personal will and God's will. If a person can do no other than God's will, then it would appear they have no will of their own.

Kierkegaard pictures this in Of Fear and Trembling. Abraham takes his son up the mountain to kill him. He has no will but God's. If his own will was operational it would represent resistance to God's will. In fact personal will could be seen to have it's foundation in resistance to divine will otherwise known as nature.

So it's not that he's suggesting some state of lacking will. The more a person surrenders to God, the less personal self they have. Abraham has the love which is "hatred of one's self."

This can happen as a matter of practicality. Imagine a person whose job is to respond to emergencies in a hospital. Prior to entering a room where someone is fixin' to die (ftd), they say a prayer to God: "whatever your will may be, let it be done." This surrender makes the person immune from the potentially paralysing stress. Can you see how they're taking themselves out of the equation, so to speak? They aren't passive, far from it, but they allow a will that's beyond themselves to animate them.

Kierkegaard points to how otherworldly and unfathomable the ultimate acceptance is and how it relates to identity.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2010 11:17 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;172808 wrote:
There's personal will and God's will. If a person can do no other than God's will, then it would appear they have no will of their own.

Kierkegaard pictures this in Of Fear and Trembling. Abraham takes his son up the mountain to kill him. He has no will but God's. If his own will was operational it would represent resistance to God's will. In fact personal will could be seen to have it's foundation in resistance to divine will otherwise known as nature.

So it's not that he's suggesting some state of lacking will. The more a person surrenders to God, the less personal self they have. Abraham has the love which is "hatred of one's self."

This can happen as a matter of practicality. Imagine a person whose job is to respond to emergencies in a hospital. Prior to entering a room where someone is fixin' to die (ftd), they say a prayer to God: "whatever your will may be, let it be done." This surrender makes the person immune from the potentially paralysing stress. Can you see how they're taking themselves out of the equation, so to speak? They aren't passive, far from it, but they allow a will that's beyond themselves to animate them.

Kierkegaard points to how otherworldly and unfathomable the ultimate acceptance is and how it relates to identity.

That's not what I got out of Fear and Trembling. Faith is more at issue than Will in that book. Abraham is ready to go ahead and kill his son because he believes by the strength of the absurd that it will all work out for the best. I don't see this as the same as surrendering ones will. A surrender of the will would be to believe that it wasn't going to work out alright and kill the son anyway. The believing precedes the willing. It is the faith that makes the willing possible. This is somehow different from having no will of ones own.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 05:22 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;172808 wrote:
There's personal will and God's will. If a person can do no other than God's will, then it would appear they have no will of their own.

Kierkegaard pictures this in Of Fear and Trembling. Abraham takes his son up the mountain to kill him. He has no will but God's. If his own will was operational it would represent resistance to God's will. In fact personal will could be seen to have it's foundation in resistance to divine will otherwise known as nature.

So it's not that he's suggesting some state of lacking will. The more a person surrenders to God, the less personal self they have. Abraham has the love which is "hatred of one's self."

This can happen as a matter of practicality. Imagine a person whose job is to respond to emergencies in a hospital. Prior to entering a room where someone is fixin' to die (ftd), they say a prayer to God: "whatever your will may be, let it be done." This surrender makes the person immune from the potentially paralysing stress. Can you see how they're taking themselves out of the equation, so to speak? They aren't passive, far from it, but they allow a will that's beyond themselves to animate them.

Kierkegaard points to how otherworldly and unfathomable the ultimate acceptance is and how it relates to identity.

In the story of Abraham killing his son, you have the story of a primitive man who could no more ignore the voices in his head as the commands of God than a modern day schizophrenic can deny the voices in his head... There was no psychology or psychological explanation... What the voices said do, people did...In addition, primitives were ethical in every sense because their conception of self came from their communities, and their connection to their people was natural and organic...

Today, people find themselves by breaking with their communities, and they cannot be a part of their communities after except by consciously accepting the morals of their community... It does not matter where a person lives... What makes a person a part of their community, what meakes him/her moral is the way he/she lives, which is a choice, an exercise of will...
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 08:25 am
@Fido,
Deckard;172816 wrote:
That's not what I got out of Fear and Trembling. Faith is more at issue than Will in that book. Abraham is ready to go ahead and kill his son because he believes by the strength of the absurd that it will all work out for the best. I don't see this as the same as surrendering ones will. A surrender of the will would be to believe that it wasn't going to work out alright and kill the son anyway. The believing precedes the willing. It is the faith that makes the willing possible. This is somehow different from having no will of ones own.
Yea. Fundamentally Fear and Trembling is about the paradox of being transparent to God and being a particular human at the same time. The absurdity referred to involves suspension of teleology. Kierkegaard's (SK's) Abraham isn't thinking about the outcome for himself or the world. SK goes on to contrast Abraham with one who is operating within the ethical.


Fido;172917 wrote:
In the story of Abraham killing his son, you have the story of a primitive man who could no more ignore the voices in his head as the commands of God than a modern day schizophrenic can deny the voices in his head... There was no psychology or psychological explanation... What the voices said do, people did...In addition, primitives were ethical in every sense because their conception of self came from their communities, and their connection to their people was natural and organic...

Today, people find themselves by breaking with their communities, and they cannot be a part of their communities after except by consciously accepting the morals of their community... It does not matter where a person lives... What makes a person a part of their community, what meakes him/her moral is the way he/she lives, which is a choice, an exercise of will...
Many choose the path of standing against the moral outlook of their society.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 08:42 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;172961 wrote:
Yea. Fundamentally Fear and Trembling is about the paradox of being transparent to God and being a particular human at the same time. The absurdity referred to involves suspension of teleology. Kierkegaard's (SK's) Abraham isn't thinking about the outcome for himself or the world. SK goes on to contrast Abraham with one who is operating within the ethical.


Many choose the path of standing against the moral outlook of their society.

Wouldn't that be a mistake, since paths are not for standing in...

Abraham was particularly ethical, and that is why he is a hero to Judah.. When He first defended Israel from Ishmael, and then slew Israel, perhaps for being the idiot he no doubt was, he was acting in a very moral fashion... If as the father of his nation, he was morality and law all wrapped up with a bow, what does it matter... It is always moral for the father to slay the son, and never moral for the son to slay the father, and who better to trim the blighted branch than the man to whom it belongs???
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 10:15 am
@Fido,
Fido;172968 wrote:
Wouldn't that be a mistake, since paths are not for standing in...

Abraham was particularly ethical, and that is why he is a hero to Judah.. When He first defended Israel from Ishmael, and then slew Israel, perhaps for being the idiot he no doubt was, he was acting in a very moral fashion... If as the father of his nation, he was morality and law all wrapped up with a bow, what does it matter... It is always moral for the father to slay the son, and never moral for the son to slay the father, and who better to trim the blighted branch than the man to whom it belongs???

"I brought you into this world... I can take you back out." In fact the Mosaic law teaches that if a man's son isn't assimilating properly one of the options is to take the boy to the outskirts of the city and kill him. The Bible says Abraham had a special love for Isaac though. As SK points out: it was supposed to be through Isaac that the prophecy of Abraham's legacy would come true. When you kill what you love, you're killing yourself.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 11:03 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;172979 wrote:
"I brought you into this world... I can take you back out." In fact the Mosaic law teaches that if a man's son isn't assimilating properly one of the options is to take the boy to the outskirts of the city and kill him. The Bible says Abraham had a special love for Isaac though. As SK points out: it was supposed to be through Isaac that the prophecy of Abraham's legacy would come true. When you kill what you love, you're killing yourself.


Under tribal law, universally, it was the obligation of family to kill their own if they were screwups, and this can be read in the Orestian Trilogy quite boldly, where Electra who is dishonored and married to a commoner tells Orestes that if he does not do the deed, that she will... To read Genesis is to see the whole people going back to the same genetic group time and again for marriage until they were, perhaps, extremely over bred...And later generations in writing the Bible tried to gloss over the times a man introduced his wife as his sister, because they were ashamed; but in fact, it may have been his sister in fact, and it may have been custom to adopt a good wife as a sister to preserve her property rights... In any event, after the mountain, nothing more is heard of Isaac... Just another of histories fools... Where is the lamb, daddy???
 
Jacques Maritain
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 02:08 pm
@Fido,
Fido;172776 wrote:
God; there is a task... Who else would the self want to be...

The self only wants to be God? Perhaps a deluded self would desire that.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 07:20 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
Jacques Maritain;173033 wrote:
The self only wants to be God? Perhaps a deluded self would desire that.

Compared to the animals of which we are a kind, we are gods... And that is what we say when we say we want to be men, to be free, to be just, and to be happy... Are any animals that serve mankind Happy??? And can humans expect any better treatment from their brothers than animals receive from us??? We conceive of ourselves as gods deserving of every sacrifice and obeisance from others, and conceive of others as mere animals underserving of the most basic rights and so suffer the very service we desire to those more powerful yet...
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 07:25 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
Jacques Maritain;173033 wrote:
The self only wants to be God? Perhaps a deluded self would desire that.


I think we are on the razor blade here. There is a "Satanic" version of self-as-God and/or the imitation of Christ, who represents God in the flesh. If God is Love, then a person full of love is part of God. Smile

---------- Post added 06-04-2010 at 08:26 PM ----------

Arjuna;172979 wrote:
When you kill what you love, you're killing yourself.

Excellent line..................Smile
 
Jacques Maritain
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 08:48 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Imitation of God-made-flesh is quite different from the self seeking to become God.
 
qualia
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 09:17 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
The self is a relation that relates itself to its self, or is the relation relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation relating itself to its self. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity; in short a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered this way, a human being is not a self. Kierkegaard.

The self is the despairing relation. The self is not a substantial thing, but a relation, but it is not that relation, but the relating of relations; a synthesis. That is Kierkegaard's message of the self here.

We soar into the abstracts, the infinite, the utopics and paradises, but we are rooted to the finite-material-banality of our everydaynesses. We are deep felt aspirations, passions and care, but also brutal necessity. And because of this relation we are incomplete. The self is not a self, but a despairing relation. And this is not a mood which can be fixed, but accordingly, the ontological structure of our being.

Despair? Can we even use the term today? Has our modern times not banalised and cheapened it? Sold it and numbed it - comfortably? Perhaps despair in a contemporary setting means not being conscious of having a self - that fundamentally, we are aware that there is no fundamental connecting narrative, no connecting thread in our life, no meaningful purpose to it.

In its place are just the scenes, scenes upon scenes, daily plods through an everyday much the same as any other day; otherly directed aspirations, otherly timetables, needs and desires. That's despair. That's the kind of despair which fills people with emptiness when they ask themselves, What does my life mean?

Perhaps the modern malady is really the despair that is unaware that it is despair, that there is no fundamental crisis at the very core of one's existence. That, surely, is hopelessness. The problem of old time society was always the unbeliever, the contemporary problem - the nonperson. The new social malady: what is left of self in these modern conditions? Despair being the ultimate refuge-struggle of being human in inhuman conditions.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 09:25 pm
@Jacques Maritain,
Jacques Maritain;173218 wrote:
Imitation of God-made-flesh is quite different from the self seeking to become God.


Yes, and perhaps they are opposites. But how close these opposites can seem at times. No wonder there is confusion.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2010 10:21 pm
@qualia,
qualia;173235 wrote:
The self is a relation that relates itself to its self, or is the relation relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation relating itself to its self. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity; in short a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered this way, a human being is not a self. Kierkegaard.

The self is the despairing relation. The self is not a substantial thing, but a relation, but it is not that relation, but the relating of relations; a synthesis. That is Kierkegaard's message of the self here.

We soar into the abstracts, the infinite, the utopics and paradises, but we are rooted to the finite-material-banality of our everydaynesses. We are deep felt aspirations, passions and care, but also brutal necessity. And because of this relation we are incomplete. The self is not a self, but a despairing relation. And this is not a mood which can be fixed, but accordingly, the ontological structure of our being.

Despair? Can we even use the term today? Has our modern times not banalised and cheapened it? Sold it and numbed it - comfortably? Perhaps despair in a contemporary setting means not being conscious of having a self - that fundamentally, we are aware that there is no fundamental connecting narrative, no connecting thread in our life, no meaningful purpose to it.

In its place are just the scenes, scenes upon scenes, daily plods through an everyday much the same as any other day; otherly directed aspirations, otherly timetables, needs and desires. That's despair. That's the kind of despair which fills people with emptiness when they ask themselves, What does my life mean?

Perhaps the modern malady is really the despair that is unaware that it is despair, that there is no fundamental crisis at the very core of one's existence. That, surely, is hopelessness. The problem of old time society was always the unbeliever, the contemporary problem - the nonperson. The new social malady: what is left of self in these modern conditions? Despair being the ultimate refuge-struggle of being human in inhuman conditions.

The self is an infinite; and a moral form.. Not one self has ever been captured alive and thrown on the disecting table... No self skin hangs in any museum, no artifacts or fossils are stored in any dusty drawer.. The self is presumed, and better yet, denied... It is not a fact, but a fiction; and as you say, sort of, the self is a form of relationship... Yet the more the self is asserted the worse the relationship grows; so it is the poison of relationships...
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Søren Kierkegaard
  3. » The Self According to Kierkegaard
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 08/03/2020 at 12:48:36