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Søren Says

Last week we read that, according to SK, “The self is not the relation but the relation’s relating to itself,” a sentence whose somewhat torturous logic was noted by Potter (in other words, “lost in the cosmos”), analogized by Nguyen (“trinitarian implications!”), and clarified by IC (“meant to be a satirical take on Hegel’s castles unfit for human habitation”). This week we’ll continue with this first section of Sickness Unto Death:

Such a derived, established relation is the human self, a relation which relates to itself, and relating to itself relates to something else. That is why there can be two forms of authentic despair. If the human self were self-established, there would only be a question of one form: not wanting to be itself, wanting to be rid of itself. There could be no question of wanting in despair to be oneself. For this latter formula is the expression of the relation’s (the self’s) total dependence, the expression of the fact that the self cannot by itself arrive at or remain in equilibrium and rest, but only, in relating to itself, by relating to that which has established the whole relation.

I like this paragraph in particular because it brings to mind St Augustine: Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Confessions, Book I) I’m not suggesting that Kierkegaard derived this from Augustine (Hannay says nothing about SK and Augustine in his bio, and I don’t know the scholarship very well), and of course it would be just grand if Kierkegaard and Augustine arrived at such similar conclusions independently.

And since many of us have recently read Lost in the Cosmos, I like the way these passages shed light on the problem of trying to recognize oneself in the self-analysis of all twelve astrological signs or in sixteen schools of psychotherapy with sixteen theories of the personality and its disorders. Although it is true that both the twelve astrological signs and the sixteen schools of psychotherapy are others—entities separate from the self (obviously, they are not the self), it does seem to me that (at the very least) both the signs and the schools have catered for so long to various needs and desires that they have, in effect, been appropriated by the self. What is needed is a truly radical Other that we can trust to comprehend our selves …

This then is the formula which describes the state of the self when despair is completely eradicated: in relating to itself and in wanting to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the power that established it.

Comments

  1. Hmmmm. SK may have known of Augustine through Luther. They do seem like peas in a pod in many ways. But dusting the cobwebs of my mind, I just don’t recall any direct references to Augustine in SK’s lit…then again, he didn’t quote much of anyone, he acted like an authority unto himself.

    Without a major reread of the lit, I’d say they came to this commonality on their own.

    This is reminding me I did two of my five PhD qualifying exams on Augustine and Kierkegaard. Explains a lot….

  2. Or could it be that–for Percy, anyway–“trying to recognize oneself in the self-analysis of all twelve astrological signs or in sixteen schools of psychotherapy with sixteen theories of the personality and its disorders” is an example of what Kierkegaard calls the self “not wanting to be itself?” (I.e. the first “form” in your Sickness quotation.)

  3. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    What is needed is a truly radical Other that we can trust to comprehend our selves …

    Calls to mind the classic anecdote from Cardinal Dulles:

    Some years ago, while making his thanksgiving after Mass in a parish church, [Dulles] noticed a banner hanging from the pulpit which read: “God is other people.” He thought at the time: “If I had had a magic marker within reach, I would not have been able to resist the temptation to insert a comma after the word “other”(28).

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