Kierkegaard : the temporality of becoming a self
Department of Philosophy
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Introduction In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze compares and contrasts Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's ideas of repetition. He argues that neither of them really give a representation of repetition. Repetition for them is a sort of selective task: the way in which they determine what is ethical and eternal. With Nietzsche, it is a theater of un belie f. ..... Nietzsche's leading idea is to found the repetition in the etemal return at once on the death of God and the dissolution of the self But it is a quite different alliance in the theater of faith: Kierkegaard dreams of alliance between a God and a self rediscovered. I Repetition plays a theatrical role in their thinking. It allows them to dramatically stage the interplay of various personnae. Deleuze does give a positive account ofKierkegaard's "repetition"; however, he does not think that Kierkegaard works out a philosophical model, or a representation of what repetition is. It is true that in the book Repetition, Constantin Constantius does not clearly and fully work out the concept of repetition, but in Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard gives a full explanation of the self and its temporality which can be connected with repetition. When Sickness Unto Death is interpreted according to key passages from Repetition and The Concept of Anxiety, a clear philosophical concept of repetition can be established. In my opinion, Kierkegaard's philosophy is about the task of becoming a self, and I will be attempting to show that he does have a model of the temporality of self-becoming. In Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard explains his notions of despair with reference to sin, self, self-becoming, faith, and repetition. Despair is a sickness of the spirit, of the self, and accordingly can take three forms: in despair not to be conscious of having a self (not despair in the strict sense); in despair not to will to be oneself; in despair to will to be oneself2 In relation to this definition, he defines a self as "a relation that relates itself to itself and in relating itself to itself relates to another.''3 Thus, a person is a threefold relationship, and any break in that relationship is despair. Despair takes three forms corresponding to the three aspects of a self s relation to itself Kierkegaard says that a selfis like a house with a basement, a first floor, and a second floor.4 This model of the house, and the concept of the stages on life's way that it illustrates, is central to Kierkegaard's philosophy. This thesis will show how he unpacks this model in many of his writings with different concepts being developed in different texts. His method is to work with the same model in different ways throughout his authorship. He assigns many of the texts to different pseudonyms, but in this thesis we will treat the model and the related concepts as being Kierkegaard's and not only the pseudonyms. This is justified as our thesis will show this modelremains the same throughout Kierkegaard's work, though it is treated in different ways by different pseudonyms. According to Kierkegaard, many people live in only the basement for their entire lives, that is, as aesthetes ("in despair not to be conscious of having a self'). They live in despair of not being conscious of having a self They live in a merely horizontal relation. They want to get what they desire. When they go to the first floor, so to speak, they reflect on themselves and only then do they begin to get a self In this stage, one acquires an ideology of the required and overcomes the strict commands of the desired. The ethical is primarily an obedience to the required whereas the aesthetic is an obedience to desire. In his work Fear and Trembling (Copenhagen: 1843), Johannes de Silentio makes several observations concerning this point. In this book, the author several times allows the desired ideality of esthetics to be shipwrecked on the required ideality of ethics, in order through these collisions to bring to light the religious ideality as the ideality that precisely is the ideality of actuality, and therefore just as desirable as that of esthetics and not as impossible as the ideality of ethics. This is accomplished in such a way that the religious ideality breaks forth in the dialectical leap and in the positive mood - "Behold all things have become new" as well as in the negative mood that is the passion of the absurd to which the concept "repetition" corresponds.s Here one begins to become responsible because one seeks the required ideality; however, the required ideality and the desired ideality become inadequate to the ethical individual. Neither of them satisfy him ("in despair not to will to be oneself'). Then he moves up to the second floor: that is, the mystical region, or the sphere of religiousness (A) ("despair to will to be oneself). Kiericegaard's model of a house, which is connected with the above definition ofdespair, shows us how the self arises through these various stages, and shows the stages of despair as well. On the second floor, we become mystics, or Knights of Infinite Resignation. We are still in despair because we despair ofthe basement and the first floor, however, we can be fiill, free persons only ifwe live on all the floors at the same time. This is a sort of paradoxical fourth stage consisting of all three floors; this is the sphere of true religiousness (religiousness (B)). It is distinguished from religiousness (A) because we can go back and live on all the floors. It is not that there are four floors, but in the fourth stage, we live paradoxically on three at once. Kierkegaard uses this house analogy in order to explain how we become a self through these stages, and to show the various stages of despair. Consequently, I will be explaining self-becoming in relation to despair. It will also be necessary to explain it in relation to faith, for faith is precisely the overcoming of despair. After explaining the becoming of the self in relation to despair and faith, I will then explain its temporality and thereby its repetition. What Kierkegaard calls a formula, Deleuze calls a representation. Unfortunately, Deleuze does not acknowledge Kierkegaard's formula for repetition. As we shall see, Kierkegaard clearly gives a formula for despair, faith, and selfbecoming. When viewed properly, these formulae yield a formula for repetition because when one hasfaith, the basement, firstfloor, and secondfloor become new as one becomes oneself The self is not bound in the eternity ofthe first floor (ethical) or the temporality of the basement (aesthete). I shall now examine the two forms of conscious despair in such a way as to point out also a rise in the consciousness of the nature of despair and in the consciousness that one's state is despair, or, what amounts to the same thing and is the salient point, a rise in the consciousness of the self The opposite to being in despair is to have faith. Therefore, the formula set forth above, which describes a state in which there is not despair at all, is entirely correct, and this formula is also the formula for faMi in ^elating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.