Phil 450  Existentialism and Phenomenology

Spring 2012

Paper Topics

Hegel Readings

Study Questions

Course Outline



Instructor Information: Instructor, Dr. Norman Lillegard

Office: HU 229   Phone 7384  

Office Hours: 10-11 a.m TTh and by appointment.

Best way to contact - e-mail:



Texts: The Essential Kierkegaard ed. Hong (Princeton) (SK in outline)

           Basic Writings of Existentialism ed. Marino (Random House) (Mar in outline)

          The Death of Ivan Illich (Tolstoy, online).


            The purpose of this course:  To familiarize students with some of the principal works of existentialist writers.  To meditate critically on the principal themes articulated by those writers, to ferret out their literary, religious, ethical etc. significance.


            Course Requirements:

1.      1. Attend class and participate, 25 pts for attendance. One unexcused absence allowed before deductions.

2.      2. Bi-weekly return of assigned study questions. 160 pts.

3.      3. Three exams (one mini exam, 60 pts, a mid-term, 100 pts and a comprehensive final worth 150): The exams will be T/F, multiple choice, fill in the blank, short written answers. (310 pts)

4.       4. A short paper (i.e. not less than 1500 words, worth 150 pts): Topics may be chosen by the student but must be approved by the instructor.  There are LOTS of juicy topics. (150 pts. Total).  Philosophy majors who want to write a paper for inclusion in their portfolio may expand their paper, with instructor input.  Some extra credit available.



N.B. Students who have not picked a definite and approved paper topic by Jan 26th will be assigned a topic. All papers must be turned in for preview by Mar. 13.  All papers must be turned in in final form by April 19.


See below for possible topics, format, etc.


            Occasional short quizzes: these will be worth ca. 6 pts each and will be unannounced. Ca. 50 pts. They are extra credit points!


            Extra Credit: Extra points for quality work on paper,  and exams possible plus Quiz points, ca 75 pts.  possible


            Total basis points ca. 645. Normally %90 of total points gets you an 'A', %80 a 'B' and so forth, but significant adjustments for curve are made when necessary.



Conduct of class, Role of the Instructor: Classes will be a mix of lecture, discussion, and also possibly some special presentations by students or others.   Those who need individual help should feel free to ask, provided they have been spending a reasonable amount of time on the material.  I want each student to perform to the best of his or her ability, and I will do all that I can to bring that about (short of patrolling apartments and dorms!).  At the same time I will hold each student responsible for completing all the work.  Moreover, all students are responsible for knowing what has transpired in every class.   Policies on student conduct, and other possibly pertinent information may be found on the instructor’s home page,


You MUST visit  for pertinent materials and directions.



Course Outline: (Approximate: adjustments and changes are likely.) (Study questions, i.e. those questions which will constitute the final exam, will be provided as we proceed.  You are responsible for having a complete and correct list of these questions.)



COURSE OUTLINE: (Approximate. Content and time periods may vary slightly.)

I           Jan 12. Introduction.  Marino intro.  Tolstoy.

II.        Jan 17.  Tolstoy continued etc.. Hegel. SK excerpts from Journals, Either/Or

III        Jan 24.  SK continued.  PAPER TOPIC DUE OR ASSIGNED, Jan 26

IV.       Jan 31   SK, FT.  MINI EXAM I,  Th, Feb. 2

V.        Feb. 7.  SK, FT. Discourses, etc  

VI.       Feb. 14.   SK, Fragments. CUP

VII.     Feb. 21  SK, SUD  MID TERM EXAM Th Feb 23

VIII     Feb. 28. MAR Dostoevsky

IX.       Mar. 5 – 11 Spring Break  .

X.        Mar. 13  PAPER DUE FOR PREVIEW!!  Dostoevsky.

XI.       Mar. 20. MAR Dostoevsky,  Neitzsche.        

XII      Mar. 27  MAR       

XIII.    April 3.   MAR   Heidegger

XIV.    April 10.   ´                

XV.     April 17. Camus.                     ALL PAPERS DUE APRIL 19.

 XVI.  April 24 MAR,  Camus

            April 26  Last day of classes.  Review.  

                        FINAL EXAM (turn in selected questions)



Possible paper topics.

Pick a work by any of the authors we discuss and do an exegesis. You could do further work on something we discuss, or pick a work we have not discussed.  Check with instructor for suggestions, and also see Marino’s suggestions.


Pick a theme: e.g. Freedom, despair, anxiety, responsibility, rationality/irrationality, and develop it in relation to one or more of the authors we study.


Write on some existentialist we have not discussed. E.g. Marcel, Jaspers, Berdaiev, etc.


Discuss existentialist themes in some work of literature. E.g Dostoevsky, Rilke,  Sartre, Marcel, Camus, Musil, O’Connor, etc. or in or some film(s) e.g. Fight Club, Bergman films, Woody Allen


Existentialism and religion/theology – Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Tillich, Dostoevsky, Bultmann etc. Existentialist themes in THE BIBLE


Existentialism and atheism – Heidegger, Sartre, etc.


Existentialism and psychology – Kierkegaard, Rollo May, Binswanger, etc.


Existentialism and post-modernism.



Hegel Readings and Questions



German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), was born in Stuttgart and attended seminary at the University of Tübingen. He worked as a tutor for many years and later held teaching positions at Nuremberg and Heidelberg. He died of cholera in 1831. Though influenced by Kant, Hegel parted company with his predecessor by arguing that philosophy(reason!) could establish fundamental truths about ultimate reality and God.




Unlike most earlier philosophers, Hegel argued that we find all truth, including even truth about God,  within history. Hegel did not believe in a God outside the world, who created it and sustained it. Instead, he believed that history itself was the unfolding of the divine, and as such was perfectly rational. Hegel was troubled by the “contradictions” that arose in philosophy as well as in common life, between our sense of freedom and the determinism of science, between domination by government and individual liberty, between an eternal God and a mortal and contingent history, and so on for many other such cases. Hegel believed that philosophy could show how everything in history was the result of a completely rational process in which all such apparent contradictions would eventually be resolved. In fact Hegel thought his philosophy showed the resolution of all contradictions in history. Hegel’s view seemed to many to sanctify the “status quo” (the way things in fact are). That is to say, on his view it appears that whatever happens in history must happen, and is even in a sense God’s will. So for example the Nazi regime, or the career of a serial killer, are all part of the unfolding of the divine! No merely individual human choices could have made things come out differently than they have.


(1) Mention two main characteristics of Hegel’s thought.


(2) Explain how his view seems to “sanctify the status quo.”




Hegel’s ambitions for philosophy as a discipline are extreme. He believes that it is capable of expressing a “concrete universal,” that is, a combination of general or universal truths (such as that all effects have a cause, or general laws of science) with all particular, concrete, historical facts. It is thus capable of bringing to light the “absolute”, the truth without remainder. This belief comes out strongly in his major work, the Phenomenology of Mind, the Preface of which is excerpted here.


Philosophy as the Tracing of the Development of Reality.  Philosophy arrives at an account of the real by tracing an historical process. That process is “dialectical” in a sense which will emerge in what follows, and at the same time “organic.”



(3) What is it that Hegel hopes to express?


Hegel contrasts his procedure with that of more conventional historians of philosophy, who present various systems which seem to contradict each other. For example they explain Descartes’s rationalism, and show how it is contradicted by Locke’s empiricism. Hegel, on the contrary, intends to show how these apparently contradictory accounts of philosophy (and also of other domains such as art, religion, and politics) are organically related.


... The more the ordinary mind takes the opposition between true and false to be fixed, the more is it accustomed to expect either agreement or contradiction with a given philosophical system, and only to see reason for the one or the other in any explanatory statement concerning such a system. It does not conceive the diversity of philosophical systems as the progressive evolution of truth; rather, it sees only contradiction in that variety.


(4) In what way does the “ordinary mind” fail according to Hegel?


 The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another. But the ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all moments constitutes alone and thereby the life of the whole. But contradiction as between philosophical systems is not wont to be conceived in this way; on the other hand, the mind perceiving the contradiction does not commonly know how to relieve it or keep it free from its one-sidedness, and to recognize in what seems conflicting and inherently antagonistic the presence of mutually necessary moments.


(5) Is Hegel saying that a contradiction between two philosophical systems is not a sure sign that at least one of them must be false and therefore worthless?


            The foregoing passage sums up much of Hegel’s philosophy in a simple image. It is the image of a plant bud developing into a flower and fruit developing from the flower. The flower arrives only by “negating” the bud. Nonetheless the bud is essential for the appearance of the flower, it contains the flower potentially or abstractly. Philosophical systems and systems of thought and culture generally, are like buds which must be “negated” or contradicted in order for higher truth to appear, but the lower form, like the bud, contains the higher implicitly, and negating it does not mean destroying it but surpassing it. The bud, or the “system” (say, for example, the system of Plato) is but a “moment” or stage in the development or “evolution” of something (the plant, or, the truth) Each stage is necessary for what follows, and each stage follows from the “contradiction” or “negating” of the previous stage.

             Thus we might think of some of Aristotle’s thought as arising from the negating of Plato. It too will have to be negated, just as the flower will, but that does not show it to be worthless or merely false. The “inherent nature” of Truth is already present in Plato’s thought just as the inherent nature of the flower is in the bud and indeed the inherent nature of the entire plant is in the seed. Each moment or stage of the plant is necessary to the entire thing, the whole. Each moment or stage in the history of thought and culture is also necessary for the whole, which will be absolute truth. And the development of the whole is guided by some ultimate purpose or aim. We can see that Hegel’s own thinking is strongly colored by some Aristotelian ideas, not least of them being the stress on development in accordance with some inner “teleology” (striving towards some goal). Hegel’s account would thus be the final “system.”

             We will be returning to this image from time to time, but for now it should enable you to frame some preliminary definitions:


(6) Define: negation; system; moment; contradiction; organic unity


            Be on the look out in what follows for expressions or turns of phrase which suggest this same “organic” and “developmental” or evolutionary thinking, and also the stress on “concreteness” and make a note of them.


“External” Teleology, and Internal Grasp of Truth Hegel believes past thinkers were trapped in an external viewpoint.


To trouble oneself in this fashion with the purpose and results, and again with the differences, the positions taken up and judgments passed by one thinker and another, is therefore an easier task than perhaps it seems. For instead of laying hold of the matter in hand, a procedure of that kind is all the while away from the subject altogether. Instead of dwelling within it and becoming absorbed by it, knowledge of that sort is always grasping at something else; such knowledge, instead of keeping to the subject-matter and giving itself up to it, never gets away from itself. The easiest thing of all is to pass judgments on what has a solid substantial content; it is more difficult to grasp it, and most of all difficult to do both together and produce the systematic exposition of it.

            The beginning of culture and of the struggle to pass out of the unbroken immediacy of naive psychical life has always to be made by acquiring knowledge of universal principles and points of view, by striving, in the first instance, to work up simply to the thought of the subject-matter in general, not forgetting at the same time to give reasons for supporting it or refuting it, to apprehend the concrete riches and fullness contained in its various determinate qualities, and to know how to furnish a coherent, orderly account of it and a responsible judgment upon it.

            This beginning of mental cultivation will, however, very soon make way for the earnestness of actual life in all its fullness, which leads to a living experience of the subject-matter itself; and when, in addition, conceptual thought strenuously penetrates to the very depths of its meaning, such knowledge and style of judgment will keep their due place in everyday thought and conversation.


            An example of the “unbroken immediacy of naive Psychical life” might be the habitual handed down beliefs, say about religion or politics, which people inherit from their parents. Those beliefs are in a sense “thoughtless.” When we begin to think for ourselves instead of naively accepting what others say, we begin by looking for general principles, for example, the principle “ only believe what can be experienced.” These principles turn out to be too abstract for the “earnestness of actual life in all its fullness” but their use constitutes a necessary “moment” in the development of thought. They allow us to break with “immediacy.”


(7) Give an example of an “immediate” belief in Hegel’s sense.


            The systematic development of truth in scientific form can alone be the true shape in which truth exists. To help to bring philosophy nearer to the form of science-that goal where it can lay aside the name of love of knowledge and be actual knowledge-that is what I have set before me. The inner necessity that knowledge should be science lies in its very nature; and the adequate and sufficient explanation for this lies simply and solely in the systematic exposition of philosophy itself. The external necessity, however, so far as this is apprehended in a universal way, and apart from the accident of the personal element and the particular occasioning influences affecting the individual, is the same as the internal: it lies in the form and shape in which the process of time presents the existence of its moments.


The external (for example, scientific laws such as the gravitational law, which hold objectively, apart from thought) is the same as the internal! That could only be true if the scientific law was arrived at by a process of thought which conforms perfectly to the way things are. It is an old “rationalist” idea, that reality must conform to thought. Hegel’s particular spin on the rationalist tradition emphasizes development in a new way.


To show that the time process does raise philosophy to the level of scientific system would, therefore, be the only true justification of the attempts which aim at proving that philosophy must assume this character; because the temporal process would thus bring out and lay bare the necessity of it, nay, more, would at the same time be carrying out that very aim itself.


 For Hegel “scientific” refers simply to genuine systematic knowledge. You must keep this use of “scientific” and “science” in mind in all that follows. It does not refer to physics, chemistry, etc.


(8) “The time process raises philosophy to the level of scientific system”. What does this mean? See if you can figure it out in relation to previous discussion and questions.


            When we state the true form of truth to be its scientific character-or, what is the same thing, when it is maintained that truth finds the medium of its existence in notions or conceptions alone I know that this seems to contradict an idea with all its consequences which makes great pretensions and has gained widespread acceptance and conviction at the present time. A word of explanation concerning this contradiction seems, therefore, not out of place, even though at this stage it can amount to no more than a dogmatic assurance exactly like the view we are opposing. If, that is to say, truth exists merely in what, or rather exists merely as what, is called at one time intuition, at another immediate knowledge of the Absolute, Religion, Being – not being in the center of divine love, but the very Being of this center, of the Absolute itself – from that point of view it is rather the opposite of the notional or conceptual form which would be required for systematic philosophical exposition. The Absolute on this view is not to be grasped in conceptual form, but felt, intuited; it is not its conception, but the feeling of it and intuition of it that are to have the say and find expression.


(9) So the “absolute” in Hegel’s usage is identical with what (or, who)?


Science, Reason, and Feeling, Intuition” is never enough for a philosopher like Hegel. Nonetheless thought alone can be cold and kill our sense for the concreteness and warmth of real life.


            [Thought] has not merely lost its essential and concrete life, it is also conscious of this loss and of the transitory finitude characteristic of its content. Turning away from the husks it has to feed on, and confessing that it lies in wickedness and sin, it reviles itself for so doing, and now desires from philosophy not so much to bring it to a knowledge of what it is, as to obtain once again through philosophy the restoration of that sense of solidity and substantiality of existence it has lost. Philosophy is thus expected not so much to meet this want by opening up the compact solidity of substantial existence, and bringing this to the light and level of self-consciousness – is not so much to bring chaotic conscious life back to the orderly ways of thought, and the simplicity of the notion, as to run together what thought has divided asunder, suppress the notion with its distinctions, and restore the feeling of existence.


            Thought may literally lead us to “divide asunder” and we may have to kill something, in ourselves or the world, to divide, and thus to think. Wordsworth, the romantic poet and close contemporary of Hegel complained that “we murder to dissect.” That is what we do in biology labs, right? Of course we dissect in order to further our “thinking.”


            What it [the human mind or soul] wants from philosophy is not so much insight as edification. The beautiful, the holy, the eternal, religion, love – these are the bait required to awaken the desire to bite: not the notion, but ecstasy, not the march of cold necessity in the subject-matter, but ferment and enthusiasm-these are to be the ways by which the wealth of the concrete substance is to be stored and increasingly extended.


We might feel there is a “march of cold necessity” in the way the physical sciences have developed, with each theory developing with necessity out of earlier ones. A clearer example of such a “march” would be the development of theorems out of axioms and postulates in geometry. They follow “with necessity.”

A further example has been used elsewhere in this text. A bachelor is necessarily unmarried. That follows from the concept bachelor. But Hegel thinks that the sort of necessity found in true thought is not at all trivial, in the way “bachelors are unmarried” is trivial.


(10) Hegel uses the word “notion” to refer, roughly, to what is conceptual. Notions are the stock in trade of philosophy. How then does the “notion” connect up with the “march of cold necessity” in his thought? Consult earlier questions.


With this demand there goes the strenuous effort, almost perfervidly zealous in its activity, to rescue mankind from being sunken in what is sensuous, vulgar, and of fleeting importance, and to raise men’s eyes to the stars; as if men had quite forgotten the divine, and were on the verge of finding satisfaction, like worms, in mud and water. Time was when man had a heaven, decked and fitted out with endless wealth of thoughts and pictures. The significance of all that is, lay in the thread of light by which it was attached to heaven; instead of dwelling in the present as it is here and now, the eye glanced away over the present to the Divine, away, so to say, to a present that lies beyond. The mind’s gaze had to be directed under compulsion to what is earthly, and kept fixed there; and it has needed a long time to introduce that clearness, which only celestial realities had, into the crassness and confusion shrouding the sense of things earthly, and to make attention to the immediate present as such, which was called Experience, of interest and of value. Now we have apparently the need for the opposite of all this; man’s mind and interest are so deeply rooted in the earthly that we require a like power to have them raised above that level. His spirit shows such poverty of nature that it seems to long for the mere pitiful feeling of the divine in the abstract, and to get refreshment from that, like a wanderer in the desert craving for the merest mouthful of water. By the little which can thus satisfy the needs of the human spirit we can measure the extent of its loss.


Hegel has just describe the transition from a medieval world view, with its’ “heavenward glance” to the enlightenment, with its stress on experiment and reason. Now he goes on to attack the romantic reaction, which is full of longing for a lost divinity, but lacks the rigor needed in philosophy (“science” in Hegel’s sense).


            This easy contentment in receiving, or stinginess in giving, does not suit the character of science. The man who only seeks edification, who wants to envelop in mist the manifold diversity of his earthly existence and thought, and craves after the vague enjoyment of this vague and indeterminate Divinity-he may look where he likes to find this: he will easily find for himself the means to procure something he can rave over and puff himself up withal. But philosophy must beware of wishing to be edifying.

            Still less must this kind of contentment, which holds science in contempt, take upon itself to claim that raving obscurantism of this sort is something higher than science. These apocalyptic utterances pretend to occupy the very centre and the deepest depths; they look askance at all definiteness and preciseness (horos) of meaning; and they deliberately hold back from conceptual thinking and the constraining necessities of thought, as being the sort of reflection which, they say, can only feel at home in the sphere of finitude. But just as there is a breadth which is emptiness, there is a depth which is empty too: as we may have an extension of substance which overflows into finite multiplicity without the power of keeping the manifold together, in the same way we may have an insubstantial intensity which, keeping itself in as mere force without actual expression, is no better than superficiality. The force of mind is only as great as its expression; its depth only as deep as its power to expand and lose itself when spending and giving out its substance. Moreover, when this unreflective emotional knowledge makes a pretence of having immersed its own very self in the depths of the absolute Being, and of philosophizing in all holiness and truth, it hides from itself the fact that instead of devotion to God, it rather, by this contempt for all measurable precision and definiteness, simply attests in its own case the fortuitous character of its content, and in the other endows God with its own caprice. When such minds commit themselves to the unrestrained ferment of sheer emotion, they think that, by putting a veil over self-consciousness, and surrendering all understanding, they are thus God’s beloved ones to whom He gives His wisdom in sleep. This is the reason, too, that in point of fact what they do conceive and bring forth in sleep is dreams.

            For the rest it is not difficult to see that our epoch is a birth-time, and a period of transition. The spirit of man has broken with the old order of things hitherto prevailing, and with the old ways of thinking, and is in the mind to let them all sink into the depths of the past and to set about its own transformation. It is indeed never at rest, but carried along the stream of progress ever onward. But it is here as in the case of the birth of a child; after a long period of nutrition in silence, the continuity of the gradual growth in size, of quantitative change, is suddenly cut short by the flat breath drawn – there is a break in the process, a qualitative change – and the child is born. In like manner the spirit of the time, growing slowly and quietly ripe for the new form it is to assume, disintegrates one fragment after another of the structure of its previous world. That it is tottering to its fall is indicated only by symptoms here and there. Frivolity and again ennui [boredom], which are spreading in the established order of things, the undefined foreboding of something unknown – all these betoken that there is something else approaching. This gradual crumbling to pieces, which did not alter the general look and aspect of the whole, is interrupted by the sunrise, which, in a flash and at a single stroke, brings to view the form and structure of the new world.

            But this new world is perfectly realized just as little as the new-born child; and it is essential to bear this in mind. It comes on the stage to begin with in its immediacy, in its bare generality. A building is not finished when its foundation is laid; and just as little, is the attainment of a general notion of a whole the whole itself. When we want to see an oak with all its vigour of trunk, its spreading branches, and mass of foliage, we are not satisfied to be shown an acorn instead. In the same way science, the crowning glory of a spiritual world, is not found complete in its initial stages.


Once again we see Hegel using the imagery of biological development to describe historical changes, in this case, the changes wrought by the enlightenment and the revolution of 1789 in which “the spirit of man” broke with “the old order of things hitherto prevailing, and with the old ways of thinking.”


(11) What is he comparing the revolution to, and what is he warning us not to do?



We have come to think of knowledge as the grasp of something which exists independently of thought. Hegel denies that there is any such “something” even though he does not equate reality with what any individual thinks.


Absolute Spirit.  Reality is what is thought by absolute Spirit, which is simply Hegel’s immanent God. That Spirit must not be thought of as some thing (some being) which stands apart from the object which it thinks.


            In my view – a view which the developed exposition of the system itself can alone justify    everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well. At the same time we must note that concrete substantiality implicates and involves the universal or the immediacy of knowledge itself, as well as that immediacy which is being, or immediacy qua object for knowledge. If the generation which heard God spoken of as the One Substance was shocked and revolted by such a characterization of his nature, the reason lay partly in the instinctive feeling that in such a conception self-consciousness was simply submerged, and not preserved. But partly, again, the opposite position, which maintains thinking to be merely subjective thinking, abstract universality as such, is exactly the same bare uniformity, is undifferentiated, unmoved substantiality. And even if, in the third place, thought combines with itself the being of substance, and conceives immediacy or intuition as thinking, it is still a question whether this intellectual intuition does not fall back into that inert, abstract simplicity, and exhibit and expound reality itself in an unreal manner.


            The preceding passage is rich in fundamental Hegelian ideas. Ultimate truth must be expressed as both subject and substance (or object). Spinoza , the 17th century rationalist, seemed to submerge the subject as consciousness or thinking in abstract being. The idea of substance in Spinoza is impersonal, lacking any subjectivity or “personality.” God is simply the one being of which all things are aspects. The idea was shocking because people like to believe in a personal God. The other pole consists in construing thinking as merely subjective thinking, i.e. my thought conceived as simply or merely mine, without attention to the way in which my capacity for thought is function of a larger whole.


(12) What larger whole might be necessary in order for me, as an individual, to be able to think and reason?


            The living substance, further, is that being which is truly subject, or, what is the same thing, is truly realized and actual solely in the process of positing itself, or in mediating with its own self its transitions from one state or position to the opposite. As subject it is pure and simple negativity, and just on that account a process of splitting up what is simple and undifferentiated, a process of duplicating and setting factors in opposition, which [process] in turn is the negation of this indifferent diversity and of the opposition of factors it entails. True reality is merely this process of reinstating self-identity, of reflecting into its own self in and from its other, and is not an original and primal unity as such, not an immediate unity as such. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle which presupposes its end as its purpose, and has its end for its beginning; it becomes concrete and actual only by being carried out, and by the end it involves.

            The life of God and divine intelligence, then, can, if we like, be spoken of as love disporting with itself; but this idea falls into edification, and even sinks into insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labour of the negative. Per se the divine life is no doubt undisturbed identity and oneness with itself, which finds not serious obstacle in otherness and estrangement, and none in the surmounting of this estrangement. But the “per se” is abstract generality, where we abstract from its real nature, which consists in its being objective, to itself, conscious of itself on its own account; and where consequently we neglect altogether the self movement which is the formal character of its activity. If the form is declared to correspond to the essence, it is just for that reason a misunderstanding to suppose that knowledge can be content with the “per se”, the essence, but can do without the form, that the absolute principle, or absolute intuition, makes the carrying out of the former, or the development of the latter, needless. Precisely because the form is as necessary to the essence as the essence to itself, absolute reality must not be conceived of and expressed as essence alone, i.e. as immediate substance, or as pure self intuition of the Divine, but as form also, and with the entire wealth of the developed form. Only then is it grasped and expressed as really actual.

            The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only at the end is it what it is in very truth; and just in that consists its nature, which is to be actual, subject, or self-becoming, self-development.


            Think again of the bud – flower – fruit analogy. In a sense we only understand the whole at the end, when we see what it was all headed for. In that sense “only at the end is it what it is in very truth.” “The truth is the whole.” This is a classic axiom of a certain kind of idealism. Tennyson, for example, writes,

Flower in the crannied wall

I pluck you out of the crannies,

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,

Little flower – but if I could understand

What you are, root and all, and all in all,

I should know what God and man is.


Should it appear contradictory to say that the Absolute has to be conceived essentially as a result, a little consideration will set this appearance of contradiction in its true light. The beginning, the principle, or the Absolute, as at first or immediately expressed, is merely the universal. If we say “all animals”, that does not pass for zoology; for the same reason we see at once that the words absolute, divine, eternal, and so on do not express what is implied in them; and only mere words like these, in point of fact, express intuition as the immediate. Whatever is more than a word like that, even the mere transition to a proposition, is a form of mediation, contains a process towards another state from which we must return once more. It is this process of mediation, however, that is rejected with horror, as if absolute knowledge were being surrendered when more is made of mediation than merely the assertion that it is nothing absolute, and does not exist in the Absolute.

            This horrified rejection of mediation, however, arises as a fact from want of acquaintance with its nature, and with the nature of absolute knowledge itself. For mediating is nothing but self-identity working itself out through an active self-directed process; or, in other words, it is reflection into self, the aspect in which the ego is for itself, objective to itself. It is pure negativity, or, reduced to its utmost abstraction, the process of bare and simple becoming. The ego, or becoming in general, this process of mediating, is, because of its being simple, just immediacy coming to be, and is immediacy itself. We misconceive therefore the nature of reason if we exclude reflection or mediation from ultimate truth, and do not take it to be a positive moment of the Absolute. It is reflection which constitutes truth the final result, and yet at the same time does away with the contrast between result and the process of arriving at it. For this process is likewise simple, and therefore not distinct from the form of truth, which consists in appearing as simple in the result; it is indeed just this restoration and return to simplicity. While the embryo is certainly, in itself, implicitly a human being, it is not so explicitly, it is not by itself a human being; man is explicitly man only in the form of developed and cultivated reason, which has made itself to be what it is implicitly. Its actual reality is first found here. But this result arrived at is itself simple immediacy; for it is self conscious freedom, which is at one with itself, and has not set aside the opposition it involves and left it there, but has made its account with it and become reconciled to it.

            What has been said may also be expressed by saying that reason is purposive activity. The exaltation of so-called nature at the expense of thought misconceived, and more especially the rejection of external purposiveness, have brought the idea of purpose in general into disrepute. All the same, in the sense in which Aristotle, too, characterizes nature as purposive activity, purpose is the immediate, the undisturbed, the unmoved which is self-moving; as such it is subject. Its power of moving, taken abstractly, is its existence for itself, or pure negativity. The result is the same as the beginning solely because the beginning is purpose. Stated otherwise, what is actual and concrete is the same as its inner principle or notion simply because the immediate qua purpose contains within it the self or pure actuality. The realized purpose, or concrete actuality, is movement and development unfolded. But this very unrest is the self; and it is one and the same with that immediacy and simplicity characteristic of the beginning just for the reason that it is the result, and has returned upon itself-while this latter again is just the self, and the self is self-referring and self-relating identity and simplicity.


            The jargon is starting to get thick! The crucial concepts operative in the preceding paragraphs are ‘immediacy’, ‘mediation’ ‘negativity’ ‘purposive activity.’ The first two are obviously related. We can think of mediation as essentially a kind of articulation, a spelling out. Thus if I simply open my eyes and let the world flood in, the result might be called “immediate” experience, but when I begin to articulate that experience, to say something about it or think about it, I find that I am dividing one thing from another, and that is one way to describe what “ mediating” is. Thus if in my visual field there is a tree and a house, to the extent I distinguish them from each other, to that extent I am mediating. In effect I see the tree as a tree, and thus as distinct from, as not, a house. ‘Not’ is of course a ‘negative’ so you can see from this example that mediation essentially involves negating activity, or “negativity.’ To think, in the sense of articulating or distinguishing anything from anything, always involves saying or thinking something as being itself and thus not something else.

            It is interesting in this connection to recall the Eleatic contention that it is not possible to say or think what is not. From this fundamental premise the Eleatics concluded that being is one, eternal and unchanging. One way to put this would be to say that they conceived (or tried to conceive) being or the real as totally devoid of articulation. Perhaps that explains why the views of Parmenides seem to be unexpressible. One cannot say or think “the one” at all. One must remain mute, with all thought set aside.

            Now thought conceived in this way seems to break everything apart, and thus contribute to unintelligibility but at the same time how could anything be intelligible if not thought about? So thought seems to be at war with itself. For in thinking I seek unity, the “universal” as a condition of intelligibility. I bring a variety under unifying concepts, I try to have oneness (immediate unity) together with manyness (articulation). This is the dialectic (back and forth argument) that so preoccupied the ancients, from the Presocratics through Aristotle and beyond to their philosophical offspring right up to the present.

            Aristotle’s solution to this problem consisted in attempting to show how everything is purposively structured, so that change (which is simply articulation in the most general sense, the disintegrating of what is one in space or time) acquires unity and thus intelligibility by virtue of the direction or goal of the change. Each stage in the career of a changing thing is achieved by negating, shedding or shuffling off (the way the flower shuffles off the constricting surface of the bud) something of the previous stage. But the whole process is intelligible by virtue of its direction.

            Activity, whether it is the activity of something in nature or the activity of an individual mind thinking about something or the activity of a culture as it develops thus requires mediation and negation, and the intelligibility of the entire process derives from the goal, the “result” at which the process aims. Hegel takes this Aristotelian solution and gives it a remarkable application, in which everything that is, the entire history of the universe, is simply a goal oriented articulation of mind, or spirit, or God conceived as entirely immanent.


(13) Try to give a preliminary definition of the following: mediation; immediacy; negation; purposive activity.


. . . Among the many consequences that follow from what has been said, it is of importance to emphasize this, that knowledge is only real and can only be set forth fully in the form of science, in the form of system; and further, that a so-called fundamental proposition or first principle of philosophy, even if it is true, is yet none the less false just because and in so far as it is merely a fundamental proposition, merely a first principle. It is for that reason easily refuted. The refutation consists in bringing out its defective character; and it is defective because it is merely the universal, merely a principle, the beginning. If the refutation is complete and thorough, it is derived and developed from the nature of the principle itself, and not accomplished by bringing in from elsewhere other counter assurances and chance fancies.


            An example of a fundamental proposition or first principle of philosophy might be Descartes’ ‘I think’ or the empiricist claim that all knowledge arises from experience. Hegel thinks that such principles are always defective and can be “internally” refuted. Thus these principles are seen to founder when we consider just what the ‘I’ must be, or just what ‘experience’ may be. Yet the process by which these principles are refuted is itself the unfolding of genuine knowledge, unconditioned knowledge which is real science. So these principles are not strictly false; they are a “moment” in the unfolding of the absolute. Thus one should not take account “solely of the negative” aspect, i.e. the refutation. The flower “refutes” the bud, but the bud is nonetheless essential to the reality of the flower.


(14) What might lead a person to give up the claim that all knowledge arises from experience? Does it follow that experience is irrelevant to knowledge? Explain.


The Absolute Truth as “Spirit”. Hegel is arguing that the truth of real science is nothing less than the truth of “Spirit” developing, flowering into a final form in which subject and object are one. The struggle of the human race to know and understand the world IS a process, which includes all of culture, in which all the variety and conflict in history is brought together into a “system,” a unity which is identical with Spirit or an immanent God. This history of the universe is the unfolding, the blossoming so to speak, of God!


            That the truth is only realized in the form of a system, that substance is essentially subject, is expressed in the idea which represents the Absolute as Spirit (Geist) – the grandest conception of all, and one which is due to modern times and its religion. Spirit is alone Reality. It is the inner being of the world, that which essentially is, and is per se; it assumes objective, determinate form, and enters into relations with itself-it is externality (otherness), and exists for self; yet, in this determination, and in its otherness, it is still one with itself-it is self-contained and self-complete, in itself and for itself at once. This self-containedness, however, if; first something known by us, it is implicit in its nature; it is Substance spiritual. It has to become self-contained for itself, on its own account.; it must be knowledge of spirit, and must be consciousness of itself as spirit. This means, it must be presented to itself as an object, but at the same time straightway annul and transcend this objective form; it must be its own object in which it finds itself reflected. So far as its spiritual content is produced by its own activity, it is only we [the thinkers] who know spirit to be for itself, to be objective to itself; but in so far as spirit knows itself to be for itself, then this self-production, the pure notion, is the sphere and element in which its objectification takes effect, and where it gets its existential form. In this way it is in its existence aware of itself as an object in which its own self is reflected. Mind, which, when thus developed, knows itself to be mind, is science. Science is its realization, and the kingdom it sets up for itself in its own native element.


(15) What is “Spirit” or God for Hegel?


Kant tried to show that in so called empirical knowledge one becomes aware of an object in which one’s own self is reflected. The “object” is constituted, and is what it is, by virtue of the minds own activity. Hegel is generalizing this idea to all knowledge whatsoever, and claiming that ultimately the object encountered in “science” is entirely constituted by the subject. Science just is this unity of subject and object.



            It is natural to think of historical events as contingent, that is, such that they might not have happened.  If, for example, Hitler had not held back but had decided to invade England, history might have gone differently. But contingency is incompatible with complete rationality.

What happens cannot just “happen to happen” on Hegel’s view. Since history is the unfolding of the divine mind, the perfectly rational mind, it must have a perfect “logic” to it.


The Necessity of Spirits Development The unfolding or “budding” of Spirit which constitutes world history is unlike the budding of a flower in this sense: everything that takes place in history takes place necessarily, in a sense close to “logical” necessity. (If it is true that either Gore or Bush wins, and if it is true that Gore does not win, then it follows with “logical necessity” that Bush wins. Either A or B. Not A. Therefore, B. )


            . . .This movement of the spiritual entities constitutes the nature of scientific procedure in general. Looked at as the concatenation [joining together] of their content, this movement is the necessitated development and expansion of that content into an organic systematic whole. By this movement, too, the road, which leads to the notion of knowledge, becomes itself likewise a necessary and complete evolving process. This preparatory stage thus ceases to consist of casual philosophical reflections, referring to objects here and there, to processes and thoughts of the undeveloped mind as chance may direct; and it does not try to establish the truth by miscellaneous ratiocinations, inferences, and consequences drawn from circumscribed thoughts. The road to science, by the very movement of the notion itself, will compass the entire objective world of conscious life in its rational necessity.


            The notion of “necessitated development” or of the “rational necessity” of conscious life is of course essential to Hegel’s thought. The development of absolute mind or spirit, its unfolding, is not a merely natural process (thus unlike the bud turning to a flower in that respect) but is driven by rational necessity. So Hegel thinks there is necessity in things, and in history. He thus contravenes a principle which has been influential in 20th century philosophy, to the effect that necessity is a function of meaning (perhaps, of the meaning of logical constants, as given in a truth table). It is as though, for Hegel, each moment in history “follows from” previous moments in somewhat the way that a conclusion “follows from” premises in a deductive argument, as in the Gore/Bush example.


            . . .What seems to take place outside it (i.e., mind), to be an activity directed against it, is its own doing, its own activity; and substance shows that it is in reality subject. When it has brought out this completely, mind has made its existence adequate to and one with its essential nature. Mind is object to itself just as it is, and the abstract element of immediacy, of the separation between knowing and the truth, is overcome. Being is entirely mediated; it is a substantial content, that is likewise directly in the possession of the ego, has the character of self, is notion. With the attainment of this the Phenomenology of Mind concludes. What mind prepares for itself in the course of its phenomenology is the element of true knowledge. In this element the moments of mind are now set out in the form of thought pure and simple, which knows its object to be itself. They no longer involve the opposition between being and knowing; they remain within the undivided simplicity of the knowing function; they are the truth in the form of truth, and their diversity is merely diversity of the content of truth. The process by which they are developed into an organically connected whole is Logic or Speculative Philosophy.


            There is an obvious sense in which logic, unlike empirical disciplines, is self contained. You might say that its object is itself. Logic is simply thinking about thinking. In a logic course we discuss the standards for correct thinking. Thus in the Gore/Bush example, it is not the particular subject matter (politicians, elections) that matters, but the abstract form, ‘A or B’, ‘not A’, therefore B. Logic has no other “subject” matter than “thought” in this very abstract sense. You might even describe it as mind thinking on itself, so that the thinking and the object of the thinking are the same. Hegel is taking this intuitively plausible notion of logic on a very wild ride.


(16) Make this a logical argument by filling in the blank:

            1. If Mary is here, Bill will be glad.

            2. Mary is here.

            3. So, _______.


Can you see that 3 follows necessarily from 1 and 2? But, you might say, “life isn’t like that, it isn’t perfectly ‘logical.’” Well, Hegel thinks that if you understand fully enough, you will see that life is like that in a very fundamental sense.


Hegel envisions a world which is dynamic and evolving, according to a perfectly rational plan. Everything that happens makes sense within that plan or system. What appear to be conflicts or “contradictions”, say between democracy and monarchy, or empiricism and rationalism, or for that matter between marrying Jane rather than Joan, are really illusory, for when fully understood or “mediated” they all fall into place in the system. Thus, in some peculiar sense there is no room for “choice,” since there are no real alternatives to choose between. It only looks as though there are.



Hegel quotes:

mediating is nothing but self-identity working itself out through an active self-directed process


But this very unrest is the self; and it is one and the same with that immediacy and simplicity characteristic of the beginning just for the reason that it is the result, and has returned upon itself-while this latter again is just the self, and the self is self-referring and self-relating identity and simplicity.


Study Questions/Assignments

Week I and II

Give brief answers to these questions.

Tolstoy:The Death of Ivan Illich – Questions to Ponder

1. This story begins with Illich dead.  How does it end? (Don’t be too literal minded!) Any biblical allusions in this?

2. What is the larger significance of the answer to #1?

3. Mention one way (at least) in which Ivan, his wife,  and the doctors, deceive themselves, OTHER THAN self-deception regarding the reality of death.

4. ditto #3 but regarding the reality of death.

5. In the gospel of John (ch. 8) it is said that “the devil is the father of lies.” This statement relates directly to a story from Genesis 3 (read it!). What IS the governing, determinative, lie in Tolstoy’s story?  How might it be taken as illustrative of those biblical passages? (don’t forget that self deception is lying, to oneself!).

6. Cite as much evidence from the story as you can that shows that Ivan’s “social climbing” is closely related to, or is part of, his denial of death and is at the same time the thing that makes him dead. (again, don’t be literal minded, but don’t miss the literal either)

7. Present evidence that the peasant Gerasim is, perhaps with the exception of Ivan’s young son, the only person in this story who is presented as thoroughly truthful. Relate that fact to (a) his ability to care  (b) Ivan’s responsiveness to his care (c) biblical ideas about children and the lowly (the crude, the foolish, the uneducated etc.)  (d) care vs. treatment; human responsiveness to “suffering” (not just pain) vs. the “treatment” of pain and related stigmatized conditions.

8. What roles does the notion of “scientific objectivity” play in this story? There are several. Attend to Ivan himself, and to the Doctors. Attend to the role of this notion in self deception.

9. Ivan is a judge, or court magistrate.  How does he think of his work?

10. Explore the ironies (or ironical reversals) in the fact that Illich is a judge.

11. In the light of this story, what do you think Tolstoy might have to say about current emphases upon “self esteem?”  That emphasis aims to increase happiness or well being. Consider the different kinds of happiness and well being explored in this story.

12. This story is obviously meant to provoke some thought about both life and death, both what it is to be truly alive, and about different ways of being dead (e.g. dead to the world, dead to the truth, dead to human community, physically dead, “spiritually” or ethically dead etc.) Discuss what it is to be truly alive, per this story.

13. Tolstoy wrote this story later in life, after he felt that he had found in the gospels the solution to the riddles of life. It helps in reading these late works to have some familiarity with the bible and the gospels specifically. If you don’t, it is never too late! (well, almost never).  Consider in particular the sermon on the mount (matt 5: 2-12, Matt 6: v.1,2) as it might apply to this story.

14. What is the MAIN OBSTACLE to ‘life’, per this story?


Hegel questions. I will collect 8 and 13 (questions are in the text given above)


Week III  Study p. ix-xii, 7-12, 27-36, 37-65:

Pay particular attention to the second full paragraph on p. 30 thru the first full paragraph on p. 31; try to answer this:

1. what is meant by ‘Irony is the first and most abstract qualification of subjectivity.’?  (Remember that the ‘subjective’ thinker is concerned with what matters to him/her

personally, and therefore looks with suspicion on ‘objective’ standards of truth, knowledge, etc. )


Pay particular attention to p. 35, the ‘summary’ (3rd full paragraph) to the end.

2. What is meant by this: ‘what his (Socrates’) irony was demanding was the actuality of subjectivity, of ideality.’


3. Provide textual support for the claim that each of the following is already (in the early journals) central to SK’s thinking: freedom, individuality vs conformism, subjectivity (ethical passion), the sidelining of “objective” truth,  anti-“rationalism”, anti-Hegelianism, the temporal character of human existence.

4. Relate what you understand about irony to the anecdote about the clown and the theatre fire (p. 41).

5. Cite textual evidence that ‘A’ is not a follower of ‘young Germany’ as represented by Heine’s poem (web site).

6. Cite some expressions of “anti bourgeoise” sentiments in ‘A’

7. Describe the “immediacy” of Don Juan, and contrast it with the ironic search for pleasure in Johannes the seducer.

8. What is the positive value of possibility and recollection for A? What bearing does this have on the temporal character of human life?


Study Either/Or II and answer the following:

9. Judge William says “inner history is the only true history (p. 67).”  What “existential theme” is stated here, and how does it conflict with history as experienced by A? (consider what “outer history” would be).

10. A mocks “either/or” (that is, he mocks the importance of decision). Why? Why is decision so important to William?

11. An aesthetic choice is no choice . . .to choose is a stringent term for the ethical. p. 73 Give an example of an aesthetic “choice” and of an ethical choice and explain the difference between them. 

12. Know the definition of the aesthetic and the ethical given on p. 77 (top) and be able to explicate it.

13. The person who (authentically) despairs chooses himself in his absolute or eternal validity.  Explain ‘despair’, ‘eternal (absolute) validity’ and cite text.

*14. William sounds Aristotelian on p. 82. Is he? Remember this from EN book III; “character is revealed more fully in choice (prohairesis).” Is he then anti-Kantian?


 Study the Upbuilding Discourse (p. 83-92) and answer the following:

15. What is the highest according to this discourse, and what relationships does it have to Socrates and to William?


Study Fear and Trembling (FT) in MAR (p. 7-39)  and ponder the following:

16. What is meant by the following: the tragic hero; teleological suspension of the ethical; the universal; infinite resignation; the knight of faith; believing by virtue of the absurd. The inner is higher than the outer (the paradox of faith)  and vice versa, (ala Hegel). The new interiority (cf. p.26) and ‘repetition’ for Abraham.  Commensurability. Redintegratio in statum pristinum.


Study Philosophical Fragments, p. 116-125.

17. Explain the following: the teacher as (vanishing) occasion; the moment and the fullness of time; the teacher as savior; Socratic immortality vs. rebirth in time.



Study CUP, SK 187-246, and answer the following:

18.     Contrast Climacus’ vocation (to make things more difficult) with the spirit of his age. Cite text. Bring in Hegel.

19.     The subjective thinker exists in his thinking, and that rules out direct communication. Why?  Use the lover analogy, and cite text, in answering this.

20.     Contrast the subjective thinker with the objective thinker who has “inhumanly become speculative thought”( 191)

21.      A logical system is possible, a system of existence is not.  Why?

22.      One can only get from a historical (i.e. contingent) truth (e.g. Jesus lived in 30 CE) to an eternal, non-contingent (and paradoxical) truth (e.g. Jesus is God who saves) by a “leap.” Discuss what the leap is and whether it could be rational in any sense. v. 194-95

23.     What is affirmed, and what denied, in the claim that existence can be a system only for God?

24.     Explain: the system . . .has no ethics (p.198)

25.     Give Kierkegaard’s (Climacus’) definition of truth p.207. Ditto what faith is NOT p.. 219-20.

26.     Irony comes between the aesthetic and the ethical.  Humor comes between the ethical and the religious.  Explain and illustrate. 

27.      Compare the Socratic relation to the paradox (eternity, or eternal truth, in time) to the xtian relation to the paradox (the God in time) cf. p.208-18

28.     What then IS the role of thinking in existing? 226

29.      Religiousness A and B. What is the difference?



Read the selections in the Course Outline below. Answer the 13 questions included in that outline (all of them are numbered ‘10’!).  Then study the remaining material in the course outline, and check the page references in SK.




32. On FN’s view, what must a “genealogy” of morals do?

33.  Outline, and give some of the details of, FN’s view on the historically accurate account of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Contrast with utilitarianism.

35. Discuss at length the contrast between aristocratic (master) morality and slave morality. Be sure to discuss “ressentiment.”

36. How does the aristocrat understand ‘enemy’? The slavish man?

37. What, according to FN, is the origin of bad conscience. Discuss the “right to make a promise, the place of cruelty, the relation of bad conscience to debt.

38. How is the realm of justice NOT reactive? 

39. How does hatred of the “animal self” and the idea of a debt so great as to be unpayable play a role in xtian thinking, as opposed to pagan (e.g. Greek polytheist) conceptions of God? Remember how the Greek gods behave!

39.B The essence of life is the will to power (instinct for freedom)

.168. Power over what?

Critique p. 165



40. How is the underground man’s rejection of a kind of rationality linked to his perverse infliction of suffering upon himself? A spiteful aesthete. Enjoying spite. Having it my way (cf A EO I).

41. What is “the whole meaning of life” according to the Underground man? 221

42.  Draw out the parallels between SK and FD in the latter’s grand inquisitor legend. Discuss all three temptations.

43. How does FD’s opposition to socialism etc. surface in the legend?

44. Discuss the view of the “herd” in both selections from FD.

45. Discuss the relations between Jesus’ view on power and freedom to the inquisitor’s view.

46. Discuss ‘not knowing how to become anything’ p.195  (freedom and self formation)

47. Discuss consciousness as disease 197 (split between consciousness and action 207-7)

48. Study p. 228¸and relate it to the quest for ‘transparency’ in SUD and the dawning of self awareness via sin consciousness in Ivan Illich.

49. In each of the three temptations, what is it that is rejected by Jesus (as Dos understands him) that the vast majority of humans desperately want? And WHY does Jesus reject what most want?


Ironical distance from ALL modes of evaluation.  Inability to identify the ‘I’ with anything. 210

How explain the ‘ordinariness’ of evil 213

Despair of necessity

SK attacks Hegelian determinism.  Dos attacks ‘scientific’ rationality. 214-17  individuality vs. scientific rationality 218



Study the selection given below, in the Course Outline, and answer the questions that appear within it (there are about 15 or so, all numbered ‘10´except for one, numbered 12.) Then do the following: (there will be some redundancy) 


Explain each of the following passages. Attend to the particular terminology, and try to illustrate what it means.


That in the face of which one has anxiety is Being-in-the-world as such. What is the difference phenomenally between that in the face of which anxiety is anxious and that in the face of which fear is afraid? That in the face of which one has anxiety is not an entity within-the-world. Thus it is essentially incapable of having an involvement. . . .That in the face of which one is anxious is completely indefinite. Not only does this indefiniteness leave tactically undecided which entity within-the-world is threatening us, but it also tells us that entities within the-world are not ‘relevant’ at all. Nothing which is ready-to-hand or present-at-hand within the world functions as that in the face of which anxiety is anxious...

. That which anxiety is anxious about is Being-in-the world itself.


Death is Dasein’s ownmost possibility. Being towards this possibility discloses to Dasein its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, in which its very Being is the issue. Here it can become manifest to Dasein that in this distinctive possibility [the possibility of death] of its own self, it has been wrenched away from the ‘they’...


We may now summarize our characterization of authentic Being-towards-death as we have projected it existentially: anticipation reveals to Dasein its lostness in the they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility of being itself, primarily unsupported by concernful solicitude, but of being itself, rather in an impassioned freedom towards death - a freedom which has been released from the Illusions of the ‘they, and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious... [Heidegger’s emphasis] cf. p. 335


“Resoluteness” signifies letting oneself be summoned out of one’s lostness in the “they.”



Heideggerian musings:

How are things with me today? In my world? In fact I am in more than one world, the world of teacher, parent, colleague, friend, enemy, etc. The world at home. There is no such thing as just plain “the world.” Unless that is shorthand for all the worlds possible.

. . .being in the world is the kind of being people have, the only kind.


Always stuff to do, to think about. Get this paper done. Finish that prep. Mow the grass and try to plant a few things before it is too late, too hot. Anyway, I am always in “the world,” surrounded by what is relevant to my projects, worries, etc. by what is ‘ready to hand.’ People, tools, equipment, for getting on with this and that. Mow the grass. Need to change the  mower oil. Mower stands out as a thing needing something else (with a use) for its use. Hermeneutics of the mower.  To be in the world understandingly (unlike a child?) is to see things as means to other things, to experience everything, everything, in terms of purposes, goal, anxieties, what is not yet done, what needs to be made up, what is coming or maybe coming.  That’s me. Hmm, that is everybody.  Lost in everydayness. From moment to moment.


Nothing gets nailed down until I actually do it, and then something else steps in immediately. Got the mower done. Now, need to mow. Etc. etc. that is the way with us. Always ahead of ourselves. Nothing is holding down the fort, even though I would like to think I could, or someone else could, someone powerful, smart etc. who could plan my life. Maybe I should turn life over to a smart planner who can “take care of” life. What am I saying? THOSE people? Really …. Who would they be? How could LIFE be ‘taken care of’ in any case?


This is life. Everyday life. I chat with others. About everyday life. The weather. The price of gas. The war. My grouchy grandmother who died 25 years ago after living too long. My daughter who thinks life is supposed to be fun. Students who think life is supposed to be fun. The troubles of life. We all hope nothing too bad will happen. But if it does, well, we can talk, chat about it, try to not get upset.

            We do not wish anything to happen

            Seven years we have lived quietly,

            Living and partly living

            There have been oppression and luxury,

            There have been poverty and licence,

            There has been minor injustice


            We have brewed beer and cider,

            Gathered wood against the winter,

            Talked at the corner of the fire,

            Talked at the corner of the streets, Talked not always in whispers,

            Living and partly living.

            We have seen births, deaths, and marriages

            We have had various scandals,

            We have been afflicted with taxes


            Several girls have disappeared

            Unaccountably, and some not able to.

            We have all had our private terrors. (T.S.Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)


Life goes on, “they” say. But of course, you have to either keep busy or turn into some sort of zombie.  Have to engage with “the world” and we have what we need to do it.

I use tools, I use equipment, I chatter, I fill the air with clichés, and get clichés in response. I realize life is pretty loose. Nothing sticks.  The floating character of everyday life does explain the undertone of anxiety, which however shows up only now and then. For the most part I try to conceal it, in fact, all this talk and busyness does conceal it usually. It is essential to being human that I be engaged, dealing with what is ready to hand.  I hardly ever just stand back and look at something (the mower say). It is there for use, it is “in order to.” I am always already engaged with just about everything even when I’m not doing much. Because I’m thinking about what to do (worrying about it etc). That involves taking everything one way or other, or other or other or other. Lots of ways to engage, and nothing mandates which.  I can go in a thousand different directions and nothing holds me down, or my worlds down. Well, but I don’t think about that. Mowing holds you down. Yeah, but even then I’m thinking about what I’m going to do. And nothing is certain, cause I can go so many ways. I feel like I’ve been thrown into the world without instructions on how to make something definite out of myself.


There are some things that are certain of course. Death and taxes.  Everyone dies. No avoiding that. But what does death have to do with everyday life? Wait a minute. Everday life in the world is just this always being ahead of oneself.  That is what it, my life, any human life,  most essentially is. Being ahead of oneself. So, isn’t death relevant to life since it too is almost by definition ahead of me?  In fact, it is even more possible for me, than that I will mow the grass. It is as possible as anything can get before being actual. . I would rather not think about it. Hard not to though since a friend died recently.  Well, I can live with that. I mean, his death was an event in the world. It did not have to happen, but it did. The ol grim reaper catches us all sooner or later (chatter chatter). So they say.


Hmm. There was something dishonest, concealed, in that. Something about

 Me.  Something not a topic of conversation, not what they talk about when death is the topic. Namely, MY death. Of course, it will happen, another event in the world. But, it will not be that for me. For me it will be the end of . . .of what? Of everyday being ahead of oneself.  Which is just about all I have ever been. In that sense of me it will be the end of me.  ME, and there is nothing else, no after life (what would that be, being ahead of oneself in eternity?)Not just the stopping of my ticker etc. It will be the end of all possibilities. Death is itself pretty special as a possible (i.e. not yet actual) future when you consider that. In fact, thinking about it (which I would rather not do) makes it perfectly clear what sort of thing I am, as nothing else does. So, why do I, and everyone else, conceal it, lie about it, dissimulate, joke, watch horror films? Maybe that finiteness of myself just doesn’t sit well with me. So I will join (or rather, I will just fall into ) the everydayness (which is inevitable anyway) in which my “ownmost” possibility is concealed.  What is so bad about that? Concealment is bad (truth=un concealment, Greek aletheia). It is to live a lie, not just to tell one. It is what being inauthentic is.  i.e. phoney, or fundamentally dishonest.


To be resolute is to be called out of that falleness in the they.  Of course there is no such thing as being permanently called out of it. That would be to cease being (human). But it is possible to not be entirely defined by the they. It is possible to be an individual in that sense.



Read Marino pp 441-492. 


50. “We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking” (p. 445). What does this remark suggest about Camus’ notion of ‘thinking?”

51. “The absurd is essentially a divorce” (p. 462).  A divorce of what from what? V. p 476.

52. “This ridiculous reason is what sets me in opposition to all creation.”p. 477 Discuss whether or not it IS reason that does that. Compare to SK and Heidegger.

53. One must imagine Sisyphus happy (492).  How come? Do you agree? Why or why not?











Course Outline;

Ex histemi

Existence ism. 1.A reaction against various forms of “rationalism” in the 19th and 20th centuries, that downplay or ignore or misunderstand the ways in which human existence cannot be programmed, grasped, assimilated to a system.

                        2. A reaction against the ‘herd.’ ‘Individualism’ and FREEDOM.

                        3. A reaction against ‘objectivity’ (and the kind of literature it produces). In everyday life, in cultural products (science),  in religion, in ethics.

                        4. A struggle with self deception, escapisms of various kinds, (denial of death, etc.)

                        5. A struggle with, deep recognition of, TIME or temporality

                        6. A struggle for human authenticity

Interrelations between 1-6    1-3 and the Milgram experiments.


Early forms of these reactions, struggles, in

                                    The bible




                        Consequently an emphasis upon ?



Chrystal palace. Hyde park, London, 1851.  14000 exhibitors, all the wonders of technology to serve a utilitarian nation.





                                    War and Peace

                                    Anna Karenina

                                    Lies, self deception, trivialized life.  Story, contingency, vs. system, necessity. Deep responsibility. Authenticity. See questions.




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18--      18





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Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard

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Regina Olson


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The rise of “liberalism” in a traditionalist monarchy.

                        Freedom, individualism. Rejection of constraints. Nationalism rather than enlightenment universalism.




The Arts

Romantic rebellion against rationalism, conservatism. Freedom, individualism. Bohemian rejection of constraints.  (cf. contemporary Vampirism)

B e different. Be somebody. Be special. Gloomy, melancholy, world weary, etc. (These are marks of distinction!!)


Young Germany – Heine


by: Heinrich Heine (1799-1856)

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This wild orgy of the flesh,

Ends at last and we two, sobered,

Look at one another, yawning.


Emptied the inflaming cup

That was filled with sensuous potions,

Foaming, almost running over--

Emptied is the flaming cup.


All the violins are silent

That impelled our feet to dancing,

To the giddy dance of passion--

Silent are the violins.


All the lanterns now are darkened

That once poured their streaming brilliance

On the masquerades and murmurs--

Darkened now are all the lanterns.



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Schliermacher – emotion rather than reason

Strauss – critical construal of scripture


Above all, Hegel – Absorbing of religion into philosophy.


The state church (the “establishment”).  SKs father and this.  Mynster.  Martensen.


Resources: D.Anthony Storm



I. Hegel – History, Dialectic and Reason

                        A. reason is exemplified by “dialectic”, a back and forth that gradually sorts out the truth.

                                    1. each step or “moment” is a necessary component.  Illustrations:



                        B.the dialectic of history is identical with the dialectic of reason.

                                    1. each step, moment, etc.

                                                a. example: rationalism requires empiricism, etc.  – Kant

                                                b. the importance of “negation.”


Quotes:           For the rest it is not difficult to see that our epoch is a birth-time, and a period of transition. The spirit of man has broken with the old order of things hitherto prevailing, and with the old ways of thinking, and is in the mind to let them all sink into the depths of the past and to set about its own transformation 


                                    2. the French revolution, - reason (universal form) vs Romanticism (content) –


                        the concrete universal.


                                    3. Mediation


                        For mediating is nothing but self-identity working itself out through an active self-directed process


                                    4. Unity of subject/object

                        everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well.


                                    5. Hegelian pantheism –

                        God injected into the world, rather than vice versa. Nothing happens by accident in God – nothing happens by accident in the world.  Necessity rules.


II Kierkegaard

            A. Themes in the journals

                        1. freedom,


                        2. individuality vs conformism,


                        3. subjectivity (ethical passion), the sidelining of “objective” truth, 


                        4. anti-“rationalism”, anti-Hegelianism,


                        5. the temporal character of human existence.


            B. Themes in the Concept of Irony selection. 

                        Seinfeld, Garrison Kiellor

                        1. negation and irony (infinite absolute negativity). Explain ‘the present does not match the idea” (e.g. the idea of God)


                        2. objective and subjective irony,


                                    a.  Hegelian features.


                        3. Socrates is irony

                                    a. infinite subjectivity. Devotion to the “idea” i.e. that which escapes ironic negation (since one exists in it)

                                    b. ironic ignorance (34)


                        4. earnestness, seriousness, subjectivity.


            C. Either/Or I  (You can’t LIVE the system).

            Choose: either aestheticism or the ethical.

                        1.  ‘A’ and ‘young Germany’ (cf.  Heine’s poem (web site) and ‘A’s eroticism.  A is more sophisticated, anticipates boredom.


                        2.  “anti-bourgeois” sentiments in ‘A’

a.  aesthetic irony (I’m no sucker)


b. cf. Hegelian “sittlichkeit” (a concrete



                        3.  “immediacy”,  Don Juan, Johannes the seducer


                                    a. ironic search for pleasure.


                                    b. inter esse


c. boredom –the threat in the face of which one must learn to control experience (J. the             seducer is an extreme case)


                        4. The accidental. Discontinuity – required to avoid boredom, yet produces meaninglessness.


                        8. The positive value of possibility and recollection for A.

                                    a. possibility is not yet and is pluriform (undecided upon).


                                    b. recollection is of what no longer exists (beyond decision or choice). 


                                    c. to live in time (seriously) involves decision or choice, including the choice of how to now bear the past. Being and TIME.  A avoids being, human existence.


Either/Or II

                        1. Judge William; “inner history is the only true history (p. 67).” 

                                    a. inwardness, subjectivity, vs. what is external (what happens TO you (the aesthete ) or what exists apart from the self,  objectivity (the “world historical” scholar ala Hegel)


                                    b. cf. the ‘outer history’ that captures the aesthete.


                        2. A on “either/or” vs. William on either/or. Choice as self-constituting. Is that right?

                                    a. how about luck?


                        3. An aesthetic choice is no choice . . .to choose      is a stringent term for the ethical. p. 73

                                    a. An example of an aesthetic “choice”


                                    b. example of an ethical choice


                        4. SK’s IRRATIONALISM, version #1. Some claim that William praises a ‘criterionless choice’ (MacIntyre 1979).  See p. 75.  Does the ‘choice’ of the ethical require a ‘rationally’ unmotivated move away from the aesthetic stage? Debate over this. Does MacI assimilate SK/William’s thought to Sartre? Cf. p 83.   cf. p. 80. The self IS freedom.  But freedom does not = arbitrary self creation. (liberum arbitrium). Cf. 81


            5. The definition of the aesthetic and the ethical given on p. 77 (top).


            6. Despair and “eternal validity” or “the absolute self.”  Authentic despair gives up on (despairs of, ceases to hope in) all relativities (I am not defined by what “happens to me” or what I “happen to be”  though it is very tempting to think so (cf. 89)). 

                                    a. Cf. resentment, and the “extraordinary person” p. 83.

                                    b. the dignity of each person, p. 80.             Continuity.

                                    c. transparency and the ethical


            “the person who chooses himself ethically has himself as his task, not as a possibility, not as a plaything” 81


            7. The “transfiguration” of the aesthetic. (the aesthetic validity of marriage, the equilibrium etc. Making something coherent, character driven, out of the “stuff” of my life)

                        a. stuff includes?


                        b. not Sartrean. Rather ‘agency’ in an Aristotelian sense.


            8. Problems with the ethical?

William thinks that with effort I can ??


The problem of guilt. The perils of self-mastery.


The problem of self-deception. Cf. The four discourses; to Need God etc.  “ someone who actually knows himself perceives precisely that he is not capable of anything at all.”


The thought that as before God, I am always in the wrong (the parson’s sermon attached to the last of William’s letters.)



Agamemnon sacrifices Iphiginia


The sacrifice of Isaac, contrasted with that of Agamemnon, Jeptha. Brutus.  All can be mediated (made intelligible) by reference to higher ethical requirements.

            Abraham ‘cannot be mediated.’ P.15  A ‘trial.’

            Abraham is ‘the individual’ who exemplified ‘faith in the paradox.’

The individual qua individual is higher than the universal.

The individual has an absolute duty to God

The individual relates absolutely to the absolute


The individual exists in this ‘paradox’ in fear and trembling, in anguish, since all the usual supports (of community standards, objective standards of right and wrong, or what is reasonable and prudent, have been stripped away (sacrificing Isaac is none of those).   It must be viewed as a ‘trial’.  Contrast to Agamemnon etc.




Repetition-getting Isaac (Regina) back. (Constantine)

            1. Desire for a “redintegratio in statum pristinum.” Joni Mitchell at Woodstock.


            2. Immediacy vs. reflection or consciousness.  The more Con, the less Immed.  The curse of Con.  The conflict (contradiction) between reality and ideality is only possible for consciousness.

                        a. consciousness is not identical with “awareness”.  Even a clam might have that.

                        b. awareness of awareness. Frankfurt


            3. Aesthetic repetition – hope for recovery of “the first” vs. cynicism, irony.


            4. Ethical repetition - The ethical is striving. The aesthetic is receptive.  Strive to achieve an integrated state.


            5. Religious repetition – Abraham,  Job.  Infinite resignation plus hope for/ reception of the finite (by virtue of the absurd).


                        a. meaning of “absurd”  No relation between effort and result, or between what you (reasonably) expect and what you get (look ahead to Camus). 


            Could be good (gift, religious repetition, SK on Abraham and Job )


            or bad (Sisyphean meaningless toil, Camus on the myth of Sisyphus).



                        b. reason as a “broker of the finite.”  Reason and Anxiety. “IRRATIONALISM” version #2; the rejection of that ‘broker’ is taken to be ‘irrational.’  That would be so from a utilitarian perspective, for instance.


Religion and Christianity

CUP (Concluding Unscientific Postscript)

1. Climacus’ vocation is to make things more difficult. 

            a. cf. the way Hegel makes things easy.

            b. cf. institutionalized Christianity.


            c. the easiness of just “stating the facts” etc. No need to engage others or oneself in the struggle to overcome the weakness, laziness, etc. all around.

                        i. could be intellectually difficult, of course.




2. The issue of “indirect communication”

            a.. The subjective thinker exists in his thinking, and that rules out direct communication. Why? 

                        i. Consider a person in love who would communicate how he sees things, what the world means to him, what the beloved means.  How would he or she do that?


            b. SUBJECTIVITY opposed to thinking about something ‘at a distance.’ Doing as opposed to commenting, where doing is what counts.

                        i.  The objective (scientific) thinker has “inhumanly become speculative thought”( 191)

Journalists might be included.


Remember the old adage about never wanting to eat in a restaurant when you’ve worked in its kitchen? Well, those of us who write for newspapers and magazines know our work is much the same: You don’t actually want to taste the sausage once you’ve seen it made. “Journalism is a character defect,” as Andy Ferguson once began a review of a journalist’s biography. “I think most non-journalists would agree with this. It is life lived at a safe remove: standing off to one side of the parade as it passes, noting its flaws, offering glib and unworkable suggestions for its improvement. Every journalist must know that this is not, really, how a serious-minded person would choose to spend his days. Serious-minded people do things; a journalist chatters about the things serious-minded people do, and so, not coincidentally, avoids having to do them himself.


             ii. The subjective thinker is enroute, not finished, cannot present a “result” that sums it all up, anymore than a real lover could. He is living something, not commenting on or theorizing about, something. The subjective thinker “appropriates” i.e. makes it his own


2. Suppose the something in question is Christianity. The unique question it poses is


            ‘can there be a historical point of departure for an eternal happiness?”

The common answer is NO


The “Fragments” on xtianity.  History vs. idealism (any view of the truth as immanent.) 


a. History cannot deliver necessary (or eternal) truths (Lessing’s “ditch”)

                        i. thus, no certainty.  Miracles, etc. do not help.


            b. thus, faith requires a “leap.”

                        i. leap and decision.  And the comic. It is funny to be very close to a decision that is never made, and then say, ‘well, I was close.’


            c. A logical system can be given, a system of existence cannot.  The latter contains movement, the former cannot contain movement. 

                        i. 20th cent. discussions of the nature of necc. truth. Cf. p. 197


            d. existence can be a system (can be complete, closed, ) only for God. NOTE that! What is affirmed, and what is denied.



3. The definition of truth – subjectivity is truth etc. (cf. p. 207)


            a. the Socratic subjectivity – turning away from speculation in order to preserve the focus on existing. Speculative truth cannot be grasped by an existing being.

                        i. the “paradox”  of the seeker of truth who also refuses “objective truth” in order to honor existing.


            b. religious subjectivity that gives up all finite claims in recognition of ones own lack, religiousness A.


            c. Religiousness B. The Christian subjectivity – turning way from common sense in order to relate to God by virtue of “the absurd” i.e. the claim that eternal truth is present in time. 

                        i. this subjectivity is more intense than the Socratic, or rel. A. Is beyond “immanence”



                        ii. the absolute paradox jacks up subjectivity to the highest levels. 



            c. The Christian subjectivity is faith – utterly distinct from grabbing on to what is probable etc.  Faith is a passion.

                        i. the object of faith cannot be objectively grasped. It cannot be directly grasped (paganism) . It is hidden in the ordinary.

                        ii. relates to what is external, as does the aesthetic! Yet is absolute! How can that be?


                        iii. the difficulty of faith – not a matter of solving an objective puzzle, but of “declining it in the casibus of life” 226.

            d. Faith is a leap – because there is no way to get from a truth of history (always uncertain) to an eternal truth.

                        i. even though for a human it is a leap, God joins time and eternity in himself.  Even existence can be a system for God. There is a real world, Virginia.

            e. The Socratic relation to the paradox

            (how can an existing individual apprehend the eternal truth)


            vs. the xtian relation to the external paradox, that time and eternity are joined, outside of us.


Irony – the unity of ethical passion, which infinitely emphasizes the ‘I’ in relationship to the ethical requirement,  and culture, which infinitely abstracts from the personal (leaving you as one among others) p. 232   Irony understood this way is an ‘existence qualification’ not simply a matter of style or occasional wit.


The humorist joins together the idea of God and ‘immediate’ religion in order to bring out the ‘contradiction.’   Humor deals in ‘contradictions’ , absurdities, what is ridiculous.  Immediate religion is ridiculous (though not always obviously so). Religulous.  Seeing God directly in the world. Having God in one’s pocket. 234

The ‘incommensurability of the inwardness of religion with the “outer.”’


Irony and humor as ‘incognitos.’


The religious uses the negative as the essential form.  Cf Ivan Illich.




In a work titled The Sickness Unto Death he undertakes to analyze the most fundamental aspects of the human self. The abstractness and complexity of parts of this work are perhaps a jesting imitation of the philosophy of Hegel. Kierkegaard considered that the Danish Hegelians of his day did not deserve to be taken seriously. But there is no doubt that the claims made here are meant seriously. The opening passage is notoriously complex, but contains fundamental claims that need to be understood.


            Nothing Comes Naturally. A human being is not just soul as Plato believed, or thought as Descartes believed, or body as materialists believe. Instead, human nature consists of a constant struggle and activity, which Kierkegaard denotes as “spirit.”


*{begin line}

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself1 to itself2 or it is that in the relation whereby it relates itself to itself. The self is not the relation but is that whereby the relation relates itself to itself. 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 thus, a human being is still not a self.

*{end line}


This sounds very complicated. But consider just the claim that a human is a synthesis of freedom and necessity. Some of what I am I am necessarily. My height and eye color, my place of birth and parents, my mortality, my gender, are not things I chose nor can I get rid of them. On the other hand some of what I am I am by choice; a married or single person, a baker or candlestick maker, honest or dishonest. This synthesis of necessity and freedom characterizes all people, at all times and all places. But not everyone deserves to be called a “self” (there are, after all, some “nobodies”). So there must be something more to being a self than this invariable synthesis.


(10) Try to imagine what more might be involved in being a self, and state it here.


*{begin line}

In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification “Psychical” the relation between the Psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self.

*{end line}


In a “negative unity” (the term is a piece of Hegelian jargon) the things united lose their independence. Sugar dissolved in water might be an example of a negative unity; the relation between the sugar and the water in the solution is one in which they are no longer apart or independent. It belongs to humans as such to be relations between necessity and freedom, the temporal and eternal, that is, these different dimensions are always interacting and that they are is what constitutes our “psychical” or psychological makeup. But that interacting can be more or less active or passive. If I drift along, allowing my life to be dictated by its necessities and finitude, without trying to realize anything by choice, I will lack a self. Only when I actively relate what I am by nature (the natural self) to what I might be (call that the “ideal” self) in a “positive” way do I begin to be a self, a somebody. Doing that requires constant attention and struggle as I seek to come closer and closer to some ideal. My actual existing self never can be a complete “merger” with any ideal, cannot be “dissolved” into it. It will always be a “positive” unity of the necessary (that which I am by heredity, for instance) and the possible or ideal (that which I think I ought to be, or would like to be), between the finite and infinite, etc.


(10)      Give an example of some ideal that you strive for (something, or some way, you would

 like to be), and describe how some “necessity” of your life (some natural trait for instance) tends to get in the way of your attempt to achieve that ideal


*{begin line}

Such a relation that relates itself [the natural self] to itself [the ideal self], a self, must either have established itself or have been established by another. If the relation that relates itself to itself has been composed by another, then the relation is no doubt the third, but this relation, the third, is yet again a relation and relates itself to that which composed the whole relation. The human self is such a derived, composed relation, a relation that relates itself to itself and in relating itself to itself relates itself to another.

*{end line}


(10) Whom do you suppose the “other” that “composed the whole relation” might be?


Given the constant struggle involved in being a self, despair is also a constant possibility. My necessities and finitude and the pressures of time will tempt me to give up, to relax my effort to become somebody and settle for being a “nobody” more or less (perhaps even a “couch potato”), or they may drive me to total frustration and suicide. I may give up “willing to be” my self or may even will to get rid of myself. The latter would normally be considered a form of despair, but a passive apathetic life is also despair on Kierkegaard’s view. But he thinks there is another more basic form of despair.


*{begin line}

Thus it turns out that there can really be two forms of despair. If a human self had itself composed itself, then there could only be a question of one form: not to will to be oneself, to will to do away with oneself, but there could not be the form: in despair to will to be oneself. This form of despair is in fact the expression for the entire relation’s (the self’s) dependence, the expression for the fact that the self can not come to equilibrium and peace by itself, but only by relating itself to that which composed the entire relation even as it relates itself to itself.

*{end line}


(10) One form of despair consists in refusing to be oneself. The other form consists in what?


*{begin line}

 Yes, so far is it from being that case that this second form of despair (the despair of willing to be oneself) merely indicates a particular species of despair, that on the contrary, all despair ultimately can be traced back to it and analyzed into it. If the despairing person is aware of his despair, as he thinks he is, and does not speak meaninglessly of it as of something that is happening to him (somewhat as one suffering from dizziness speaks in nervous delusion of a weight on his head or of something that has fallen down on him, etc., a weight and a pressure that nevertheless are not something external but a reverse reflection of the internal) and now with all his power seeks to break the despair by himself and by himself alone-he is still in despair and with all his presumed effort only works himself all the deeper into deeper despair. The misrelation of despair is not a simple misrelation but a misrelation in a relation that relates itself to itself and has been established by another, so that the misrelation in that relation which is for itself Lfor Sig ]6 also reflects itself infinitely in the relation to the power that established it.

*{end line}


Put less abstractly, you cannot succeed in becoming an authentic self without relating yourself to God. So if you are trying to become a lawyer, say, or even, trying to become an honest person, then no matter how well you succeed in realizing those ideals, you will still be in despair if you are simply trying to construct a life for yourself apart from the one who put you together in the first place. Kierkegaard goes on to illustrate how the various ideals that we pursue all fail in some way to be worthy of the human task, unless they are taken up into a striving to realize an “ideal ideal” which is, he argues, the ideal of a self “before God.”


*{begin line}

The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.

*{end line}


(10) What do you suppose is referred to by “transparently” in this remark? Remember that “transparent” contrasts with “opaque”, “obscure”, “hard to see through.”


            Despair as a Sign of Value. The task character of human existence, the need to struggle for selfhood, is the distinctive thing about us as humans. But it is also what makes despair possible. A dog does not struggle to be a dog, and cannot despair over failure to be a dog. A human is always struggling for self-realization. Those who struggle least are, we might say, closest to being dogs. Kierkegaard argues that even though despair is a kind of sickness in the self, indeed a deadly sickness, it nevertheless is a sign of human dignity.


*{begin line}

Is despair an excellence or a defect? Purely dialectically, it is both. If only the abstract idea of despair is considered, without any thought of someone in despair, it must be regarded as a surpassing excellence. The possibility of this sickness is man’s superiority over the animal, and this superiority distinguishes him in quite another way than does his erect walk, for it indicates infinite erectness or sublimity, that he is spirit. The possibility of this sickness is man’s superiority over the animal; to be aware of this sickness is the Christian’s superiority over the natural man; to be cured of this sickness is the Christian’s blessedness.

            Consequently, to be able to despair is an infinite advantage, and yet to be in despair is not only the worst misfortune and misery-no, it is ruination. Generally this is not the case with the relation between possibility and actuality. If it is an excellence to be able to be this or that, then it is an even greater excellence to be that; in other words, to be is like an ascent when compared with being able to be. With respect to despair, however, to be is like a descent when compared with being able to be; the descent is as infinitely low as the excellence of possibility is high. Consequently, in relation to despair, not to be in despair is the ascending scale. But here again this category is ambiguous. Not to be in despair is not the same as not being lame, blind, etc. If not being in despair signifies neither more nor less than not being in despair, then it means precisely to be in despair. Not to be in despair must signify the destroyed possibility of being able to be in despair; if a person is truly not to be in despair, he must at every moment destroy the possibility.

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(10) Does it seem to follow, from what is said here, that a little child must be in despair?

 After all little children generally just live from moment to moment. They do not worry much about whether they are realizing an ideal, leave alone “the” ideal.


            Despair is Everywhere. We normally think of despair as the exception, and would only think of ourselves as being “in despair” in particularly bad circumstances. But anyone who is less than completely integrated with the highest ideal is, according to Kierkegaard, in despair.


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...just as a physician might say that there very likely is not one single living human being who is completely healthy, so anyone who really knows mankind might say that there is not one single living human being who does not despair a little, who does not secretly harbor an unrest, an inner strife, a disharmony, an anxiety about an unknown something or a something he does not even dare to try to know, an anxiety about some possibility in existence or an anxiety about himself, so that, just as the physician speaks of going around with an illness in the body, he walks around with a sickness, carries around a sickness of the spirit that signals its presence at rare intervals in and through an anxiety he cannot explain. In any case, no human being ever lived and no one lives outside of Christendom who has not despaired, and no one in Christendom if he is not a true Christian, and insofar as he is not wholly that, he still is to some extent in despair. No doubt this observation will strike many people as a paradox, an overstatement, and also a somber and depressing point of view. But it is none of these things. It is not somber, for, on the contrary, it tries to shed light on what generally is left somewhat obscure; it is not depressing but instead is elevating, inasmuch as it views every human being under the destiny of the highest claim upon him, to be spirit; nor is it a paradox but, on the contrary, a consistently developed basic view, and therefore neither is it an overstatement.

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(10) Why is the view that nearly everyone is in despair neither (a) sombre, (b) depressing, or (c) an overstatement?


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However, the customary view of despair does not go beyond appearances, and thus it is a superficial view, that is, no view at all. It assumes that every man must himself know best whether he is in despair or not. Anyone who says he is in despair is regarded as being in despair, and anyone who thinks he is not is therefore regarded as not. As a result, the phenomenon of despair is infrequent rather than quite common. That one is in despair is not a rarity; no, it is rare, very rare, that one is in truth not in despair.

            The common view has a very poor understanding of despair. Among other things, it completely overlooks (to name only this, which, properly understood, places thousands and thousands and millions in the category of despair), it completely overlooks that not being in despair, not being conscious of being in despair, is precisely a form of despair. In a much deeper sense, the position of the common view in interpreting despair is like that of the common view in determining whether a person is sick-in a much deeper sense, for the common view understands far less well what spirit is (and lacking this understanding, one cannot understand despair, either) than it understands sickness and health. As a rule, a person is considered to be healthy when he himself does not say that he is sick, not to mention when he himself says that he is well. But the physician has a different view of sickness. Why? Because the physician has a defined and developed conception of what it is to be healthy and ascertains a man’s condition accordingly. The physician knows that just as there is merely imaginary sickness there is also merely imaginary health, and in the latter case he first takes measures to disclose the sickness. Generally speaking, the physician, precisely because he is a physician (well informed), does not have complete confidence in what a person says about his condition. If everyone’s statement about his condition, that he is healthy or sick, were completely reliable, to be a physician would be a delusion. A physician’s task is not only to prescribe remedies but also, first and foremost, to identify the sickness, and consequently his first task is to ascertain whether the supposedly sick person is actually sick or whether the supposedly healthy person is perhaps actually sick. Such is also the relation of the physician of the soul to despair. He knows what despair is; he recognizes it and therefore is satisfied neither with a person’s declaration that he is not in despair nor with his declaration that he is. It must be pointed out that in a certain sense it is not even always the case that those who say they despair are in despair. Despair can be affected, and as a qualification of the spirit it may also be mistaken for and confused with all sorts of transitory states, such as dejection, inner conflict, which pass without developing into despair. But the physician of’ the soul properly regards these also as forms of despair; he sees very well that they are affectation. Yet this very affectation is despair: he sees very well that this dejection etc. are not of great significance, but precisely this-that it has and acquires no great significance-is despair.

            The common view also overlooks that despair is dialectically different from what is usually termed a sickness, because it is a sickness of the spirit. Properly understood, this dialectic again brings thousands under the definition of despair. If at a given time a physician has made sure that someone is well, and that person later becomes ill, then the physician may legitimately say that this person at one time was healthy but now is sick. Not so with despair. As soon as despair becomes apparent, it is manifest that the individual was in despair[all along].

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Suppose that I despair because I lose my job. Before losing it everything seemed fine to me, but now everything is gloom and all seems lost. What this shows, according to Kierkegaard, is that I was in despair all along. Why? Because it shows that my idea of living well and being somebody was a function of my having a certain job. But to have such a thought is to fail to understand what it is to be a self, and thus necessarily entails that I have not been a self, and that in turn entails that I have been in despair all along. To despair is to lack a real self.


(10) Would you agree that someone who thinks that being somebody, being a self, requires, to take one example, having a certain job, or having a job at all, is gravely mistaken about what is involved in being someone? Why, or why not?


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 Hence, at no moment is it possible to decide anything about a person who has not been saved by having been in despair, for whenever that which triggers his despair occurs, it is immediately apparent that he has been in despair his whole life. On the other hand, when someone gets a fever, it can by no means be said that it is now apparent that he has had a fever all his life. Despair is a qualification of the spirit, is related to the eternal, and thus has something of the eternal in its dialectic.

Despair is not only dialectically different from a sickness, but all its symptoms are also dialectical, and therefore the superficial view is very easily deceived in determining whether or not despair is present. Not to be in despair can in fact signify precisely to be in despair, and it can signify having been rescued from being in despair. A sense of security and tranquillity can signify being in despair; precisely this sense of security and tranquillity can be the despair, and yet it can signify having conquered despair and having won peace.

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(10) In what circumstances might a sense of security and tranquility signify despair, and in what circumstances might it signify having conquered despair?


(10) Which person is more “realistic” about security and tranquility, the despairing person or the one who has conquered despair? Explain.


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[T]he condition of man, regarded as spirit (and if there is to be any question of despair, man must be regarded as defined by spirit), is always critical. We speak of a crisis in relation to sickness but not in relation to health. Why not? Because physical health is an immediate qualification that first becomes dialectical in the condition of sickness, in which the question of a crisis arises. Spiritually, or when man is regarded as spirit, both health and sickness are critical; there is no immediate health of the spirit.

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This claim that “there is no immediate health of spirit” could be rephrased in the following way: nothing comes naturally. In all my activities I am pursuing something which is apart from me, and I could act otherwise. I cannot achieve happiness, contentment or security by good luck, by having lots of money, by being good looking, all of which are matters of immediacy (see above p. ) etc. What matters is what I do with my luck, looks etc. Some people make themselves miserable with their money, looks, etc. Others achieve contentment amid poverty and failure. Nothing “works” automatically or “naturally.” What matters is how I fashion myself, not what I am “immediately” (i.e. through nature, good luck, momentary feelings, and the like).


(10) What do you think Kierkegaard would say about the claim that people are what they are as a result of heredity and environment? Try to use his vocabulary in answering this.


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As soon as man ceases to be regarded as defined by spirit (and in that case there can be no mention of despair, either) but only as psychical-physical synthesis, health is an immediate qualification, and mental or-physical sickness is the only dialectical qualification. . . happiness is not a qualification of spirit, and deep, deep within the most secret hiding place of happiness there dwells also anxiety, which is despair; it very much wishes to be allowed to remain since for despair the most cherished and desirable place to live is in the heart of happiness.... For that reason, it is impossible to slip through life on this immediacy. And if this happiness does succeed in slipping through, well, it is of little use, for it is despair. Precisely because the sickness of despair is totally dialectical, it is the worst misfortune never to have had that sickness: it is a true god send to get it, even if it is the most dangerous of illnesses, if one does not want to be cured of it.

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(10) Why is it the worst misfortune not to have (consciously) despaired?


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There is so much talk about human distress and wretchedness-I try to understand it and have also had some intimate acquaintance with it-there is so much talk about wasting a life, but only that person’s life was wasted who went on living so deceived by life’s joys or its sorrows that he never became decisively and eternally conscious as spirit, as self, or, what amounts to the same thing, never became aware and in the deepest sense never gained the impression that there is a God and that “he,” he himself, his self, exists before this God-an infinite benefaction that is never gained except through despair. What wretchedness that so many go on living this way, cheated of this most blessed of thoughts! What wretchedness that we are engrossed in or encourage the human throng to be engrossed in everything else, using them to supply the energy for the drama of life but never reminding them of this blessedness. What wretchedness that they are lumped together and deceived instead of being split apart so that each individual may gain the highest, the only thing worth living for and enough to live in for an eternity. I think that I could weep an eternity over the existence of such wretchedness! And to me an even more horrible expression of this most terrible sickness and misery is that it is hidden-not only that the person suffering from it may wish to hide it and may succeed, not only that it can so live in a man that no one, no one detects it, no, but also that it can be so hidden in a man that he himself is not aware of it! And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then-whether you were man or woman, rich or poor, dependent or independent, fortunate or unfortunate, whether you ranked with royalty and wore a glittering crown or in humble obscurity bore the toil and heat of the day, whether your name will be remembered as long as the world stands and consequently as long as it stood or you are nameless and run nameless in the innumerable multitude, whether the magnificence encompassing you surpassed all human description or the most severe and ignominious human judgment befell you-eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not, whether you have despaired in such a way that you did not realize that you were in despair, or in such a way that you covertly carried this sickness inside of you as your gnawing secret, as a fruit of sinful love under your heart, or in such a way that you, a terror to others, raged in despair. And if so, if you lived in despair, then as far as everything else goes, whether you won or lost, everything is lost for you, Eternity knows you not, or, more appalling still, it knows you as you are known, and binds you firmly to yourself in despair.

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(10) Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and others kinds of counselors are in the business of trying to heal “selves”. What do you suppose Kierkegaard would say about the chances of such people healing the most fundamental sickness in people? Would you agree or not, and why?



A human being is spirit. Spirit is the self.  

            (‘→’ = relates to, is related to )

A mocking of Hegelian “syntheses” and “spirit”?



                        The self is a synthesis

            Self I                                       Self II

                        More exactly, it is that in the relationship between selfI and self II whereby selfI relates itself to selfII.



            “Given” self                        the goals (aims, ideals) of forward movement


            Necessity                                 possibility/freedom

            Finite                                       infinite

            Temporal                                 eternal


e.g. psychological givens               fulfillment of a momentary desire with little thought

                                                            about “myself”(but, all actions aim etc. ). Or, higher on the                                                              human scale, fulfillment of a high and strenuous ideal.

      Sense of temporality                reaching out to an ideal that can survive the test of

                                                            Time.  (something eternal in that minimal sense)


Etc. This synthesis of two, this ‘putting together´ of two aspects or dimensions of selfhood, the dual nature of human beings, is observable, (requires no normative commitments  in the “minimal range”?)  A structural feature of human life. Cf. Frankfurt on the hierarchy of desires. Unique to humans. I do not just want, I want or don’t want what I want.(cf. the willing and unwilling addicts).  Unlike other animals I am unsettled, not confined to “first order desires.”  That is what freedom of the will requires. But a great variety is possible.

(What about sub-humans, non-persons, wantons, psychopaths, the severely brain damaged etc.? )


On Kierkegaard’s view also

There is a range of possibilities, of types of synthesis, along a continuum (gradations). 


Negative unity ----------------------------------------------------------------positive unity


Minimal active engagement in forward                                   active engagement, pursuit of

thrust of my life.                                                                       full blooded ideal

I simply “dissolve” into my future, e.g.who

I am physically dissolves into tomorrow by                           I am restless with who I am,

 unconscious eating, other forms of sensuality.                      I struggle to relieve the

whom I am psychologically dissolves into a realized

desire.                                                                                      discomfort. Unable to simply

                                                                                                dissolve into my future.


On the left end of the spectrum, there are two factors that are related to each other and “I” relate myself to them (e.g. take my orientation in those terms.) At the lowest level, “I” am more or less merely what is going on in my life, these transitions from actuality into possibility that just take place. I am hardly a self at all. I barely observe them.

 On the right end I relate myself to the two factors by being actively involved in the attempt to overcome the disunity in the self, but no merger is possible. I cannot simply be satisfied that today I have managed to become that which, when I become it, would be the very point of life.


Who is this “I” ? The “third.” It is as though in a person there is a kind of “oversight”  Thus “I” desire that I do (not) desire x.   Self not reducible to its first order desires, or to any other (e.g. 2nd or 3rd) order! Always the possibility of reflexive oversight. There is something in humans by virtue of which they can shape themselves, or there is something about them describable only in that way.



Almost pure negative unity – General Sash

Semi-conscious struggle  - Madame Bovary

Conscious struggle at the end. Positive unity achieved – Ivan Illich


Suppose there is something more to humans than psychological facts.  Suppose that what disturbs the “psychical/physical” synthesis, and explains anxiety, struggle, attempts at positive unity, is some sort of standard, something pressing upon humans, like a non-negotiable demand to be,  suppose that demand presents itself as unqualified by contingencies (cf. Judge William as a boy) and therefore as “eternal.”  And suppose that it is an adequate response to that demand,  which “constitutes” human life as human (as fulfilling a norm for humanness.).            


How is the demand experienced? As a demand to be someone; (not as say just a demand to follow certain rules);  but as various selves are “tried on” and successively fail, it begins to appear that something is required of the whole self thru time. A demand for chronological and synchronic unity (not just, say, a self defined in terms of a job. SK mentioned “being a cattleman.” X is who he is “before his cattle.” That is an inadequate criterion for a self, to put it mildly. Think how limited such a self would be! What about family, love of beauty, ethical relations, etc.). Being who I am ‘before God.’ THAT would be an adequate criterion.  Purity of heart, passion, subjectivity etc.


Despair is the condition in which this “constituting factor” is not satisfied (in a logical sense. I do not instantiate the norms that make me human).  To speak less neutrally, it is the condition in which a person fails to live with complete transparency before an “eternal” scrutiny. Cf. Sash again, and Illich. To speak even less neutrally,  before God, who “established” the relation to begin with. (There may be several ways to think about how that establishing is “done” or achieved. Creatio continua. )


Forms of despair: unconscious kind (Sash);


semi-conscious struggle that refuses to be transparent (deluged by romantic illusions and self deception – Madame Bovary). In despair not to will to be oneself. Hatred of the self one is. Cf. 356


In despair to will to be oneself (Illich). Desperate attachment to the self one is, i.e. the self as constituted thru the “they”(the self as a function of conventional norms, aspirations, etc.)  His story ends in a conscious struggle that opens up the whole of life. It ends in authentic despair, which is the highest thing possible for a human and inseparable from the rooting out of despair. On the way to that he gets “a little closer” to being cured (p. 360). At the VERY end he is cured.


Here a specifically xtian/theological dimension becomes operative.

Despair is sin.  Sin is always “before God” i.e. has a necessary theological reference. God is the

 “criterion” for the self, i.e. the standard (the only criterion that expresses the unity of self). 

Relief from despair is forgiveness (cf. Illich).  One must have faith in that. The opposite of

despair (sin) is not virtue, but faith.  Abraham as the father of faith (trusting that with God all things, even forgiveness, are possible). Faith as ‘becoming nothing’.  (Faith has nothing to do with credulity). Nonetheless the person of faith is the person who has all virtues, but as gift, transformation through the power of forgiveness. Cf. 365. redintegratio in statum pristinum. “Repetition”

The religious repetition.


Resting transparently (how be transparent without forgiveness?) 


Liberal Protestantism, then and now, drains the criterion of substance, thereby making things easy. Authentic despair is to be avoided. Xtian categories are replaced with psycho-babble, paganism, etc. The result is pervasive despair (of the lower unconscious kind?).


Atheism as avoidance.  Cf. the exclusion of Tolstoy, from literature anthologies.    Atheism presupposes Christianity or some other high conception of God (otherwise it is a mere harmless inflection of paganism. Not to believe in Zeus doesn’t amount to much, just as believing doesn’t amount to much). Cf Buddhism.


Consider the Socratic definition of sin; =ignorance.  I cannot know x is wrong and still do x.  Socrates sniffs out the baloney in “I knew it was wrong, but did it anyway.” There is understanding and there is understanding. 


Nonetheless, that could be true. How about the WILL? The Greeks do not have this idea. 

Kierkegaard’s analysis: I know x is wrong. I wait around and the knowledge simmers down. I would rather do x, so I wait a day, stretch things out.  Pretty soon knowing comes over to the side of willing p. 370. A person fails to understand because he is unwilling to understand. Such a person must be SHOWN what sin is (requires a revelation).


So, the expanded definition of sin (thus of despair) is: after being taught etc. p. 371


The offense – you are wrong. Always. Offended by this as revealed – you are wrong about God, about yourself, way off base. Main way to be wrong about God – associate God with power as WE think of power.  Power to push around.  The ‘weakness of God’ is “offensive” to that understanding.  Offense as a central theological concept.  SK on ‘blessed is he who is not offended.”






The family –


The scholar- classical philology


The musician, and Wagner


The flunky lover – Lou Andreas Salome


The Genealogy of Morals.





Morals (mores, habits of life)


The English moralists – no sense of history. No real sense of origins


For FN, origins can be traced by a philologist (such as, HIMSELF)

          a. is that a safe way to get a history?

                   i. what does it include?



                   ii. what does it omit?



 (The hermeneutics of) SUSPICION


I. Moral Concepts in pristine form (Master, Aristocrat).

          a. Good / evil—what are the origins of these concepts?


          b.  Not utility. That presupposes

                   i. goodness as that which is shown to people which they find “useful”

                   ii. useful-practical (the forgotten background, or, ala                           Spencer, the remembered…either way misses what is             crucial)


          c. goodness as an intrinsic property of the noble (kalos) soul.  Greek aristocratic notion. the noble man define values, creates values, give names to values 113


                   Q 1. Does that “man” create value out of nothing?


                   Q 2. Is it just a brute fact that such people create value,                       or ,is the result somehow “justified” as well? (cf.                                       Thrasymachus in the Republic)


                   Q 3. If not justified, then is there anything more than                          personal preference involved, so that someone else (e.g.                 a Jew) could “create” a completely different morality                           and it would just be “I like chocolate, you like vanilla”?


                   Regarding Q3.  Are there some limits to human attitudes, stances, that limit what could count as “moral” and explain disagreements about the moral? Could any disagreement be a moral disagreement? Structures of human life. Thus we could get master or slave morality, but that exhausts the possibilities?


          d.  ‘good’ = high, over, powerful (overman), brave, noble,       aristocratic, the warrior etc. A fact about meaning or use.


          e.  evil = low, submissive, worm like, etc. slave-like, herd animals


          f. this is a glorification of a “heroic” culture, e.g. Homeric Greek, or Nordic-Germanic sagas, Beowulf, Niebelungenlied, etc. with their supermen and superwomen (Siegfried, Brunhilde)

                   i. are these people as FN describes them? What about the “Lords” at the home of Oddyseus?  Truthful=?



II Priestly Moral Concepts vs. Aristocratic

          a. Pure – literal at first, i.e. clean, eating the right foods

                             abstinence, denial of senses etc.

                   i. the tendency towards “nothingness” as God. Brahmans.



          b. impure- the opposite of the pure. But eventually, the opposite of the “good” aristocrats.


          c. prime example – the Jews. Priestly haters of vitality.

                   Nietzsche’s anti-semitism is undisguised.  121

                   Those who are impotent must be sneaky, liars,

          EVIL.  Aquiring “depth” as opposed to a kind of “naieve” external directness.  120


          d. the jews or priests generally are the greatest haters because they exact “spiritual revenge.” i.e. they turn everything upside down, the good are bad, the bad or evil are good.  The Jewish “revaluation” is of course inherited by xtianity.  The song of Mary.

Tertullian. 138. Hatred of Rome – the noble.


          e. Slave morality - revenge in the form of a triumph over all “nobler” ideals. The hatred of the weak for the strong

                   RESSENTIMENT cf. SK 258. ‘Characterless envy.’

Ressentiment is not to be considered interchangeable with the normal English word "resentment", or even the French "ressentiment". While the normal words both speak to a feeling of frustration directed at a perceived source, neither speaks to the special relationship between a sense of inferiority and the creation of morality.

                   i. the revenge of imagination – no real action, only reaction. 124.  Against the noble and strong.


                   ii. the slave needs something to react against. The noble person does not – he acts out of his own self-affirmation. (what does that mean?)


[‘good’ is understood by the noble as referring to himself, evil or bad as what is below him. 

‘good’ as understood by the slave is derived from his reaction to the noble. The noble is evil, the opposite of evil is good. We are the opposite of the noble, so we are good. Thus, slave morality has an essentially reactive view of the good. To be good is simply to lack the master’s evil traits. ]


          f. The contrast between priestly and noble = the contrast between lies or deceit and truthfulness.

                   i. cf. the contrast in ‘enemy’127

                   ii. what is relation of truthfulness to power? 


          g. The value of value (?).   Not the same as  The order of rank of values.


Conclusion: the origin of the current [xtian] idea of moral goodness is in slavishness, slave mentality.




          The morality of mores (conventional morality)  requires regular-ism, which FN then equates with the thing he most despises, conformism, herd behavior. 147


(But what if you CHOOSE those mores? Judge William)



          A person only has a “right” to make a promise when he has risen above that herd morality. In order to rise above it, it must be there to be surpassed.  By THE INDIVIDUAL. Typical existentialist themes 148  Let ‘making a promise’ stand in for ALL kinds of commitments, thus of much that we think of as moral/immoral and as subject to conscience.


Responsibility cannot be a property of the “moral man” but only of the free man (who is free also of conventional morality).


This “sovereign man” who by making promises exercises power over himself and his own fate, has become “instinct”, which HE calls ‘conscience.’ = the right to affirm himself.


FN seems to think this man has real conscience. Non-sick conscience.  Later he seems to suggest there very idea of conscience is corrupt and should be overcome.


Genealogical question: how could such a man be produced (how could such a thing as conscience be produced)? What could make the human animal, who loves to live in the moment, have a memory? (a memory of the fact that he said “I promise” , which now binds him)


Answer: it must be burned into that animal. By pain and cruelty. That explains the importance of sacrifice, blood, in all religions. Also cruel civil punishments.


GUILT is also thus accounted for. It is related to “debt” and thus to financial transactions and contracts. You fail to pay as you promised. You OWE.  What? Something equivalent – like – a pound of flesh (literally!).  I have a right to demand whatever I think is of equal value. Shylock

Thus, the relation between guilt (debt) and conscience and justice is cemented by cruelty.

What is so attractive about cruelty? Why do people like to witness it or inflict it? (think of all the “torture” movies, gladiators, etc.)  The will to power on the part of the weak.  The strong do not need it. Do not care about what they are “owed” etc. (Is Hannibal Lecter an overman? Merely pathological? Is he actually weak? What moves him?)


The most elementary canon of justice; everything has a price.

We owe for this or that.

We owe the community for protecting us etc. Are in debt to it (cf. Socrates).  So we regard the debtor to the community (the criminal) as an attacker, deserving what such a one deserves. That due an enemy with whom one is at war. No mercy. But, consciousness of growing power brings a letting go. No need to worry about these little gnats. That would be deliverance from revenge – the thing FN aspires too – the elimination of sin, mercy etc.


The realm of justice is NOT reactive – is active. Roman. Law. Law is impersonal, away from resentment. Injury is to the law, ergo not personal, ergo does not arise from the resentment felt by the weak


Punishment is what the animal who has been caged (by the state or community) directs against himself as he tries to assert his animal past. He feels bad about himself – has a bad conscience. To heighten this feeling bad about oneself –as-animal-who-naturally-strikes-out, - one eventually gets a God to whom the debt owed is unpayable it is so great. Requires ETERNAL punishment.


This is of course the xtian God. Cf. the Greek Gods, who are NOT opposed to the animal, who even take it on, express it. No bad conscience before SUCH Gods!


Everything FN seems to despise, such as guilt, conscience, the self-overcoming of the ascetic,  has another version that is a property of the highest man.







Doestoevsky 1821-1881 (8 years younger than SK, 23 older than FN)

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Life – Father shot by a serf. He himself almost shot by a firing squad.  Preoccupation with murder, poverty, degradation.


Admired by FN and Freud. Another “psychologist.” Like SK. But note the note at the beginning. FD sees a “type,” a nihilist.


The Notes from the Underground (FD’s most “influential” work. Cf. Camus’ The Fall and The Stranger Mersault). A history of self-degradation, going back to Cain.


Freedom and determinism (or fate, or rational order, or what must be) 203, 208


The bug (Kafka). “We grow weary of being human beings at all”  One variant of despair.


The “dis-ease” of acute consciousness, Consciousness and Sartrean nausea 197 freedom, SUD


revolt against a kind of “reasonableness” (cf. SK, reason as the “broker of the finite.”)  The anti-utilitarian animus of FN is here also. 210.  Forget your crystal palace (1851) 224. Your world constructed on reason.

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The irrational comes from below (underground) in the psyche. A common image, and a type in literature. Rameau’s nephew in Diderot’s imaginary dialog. (One of the first “confessors” in the modern sense.)


Perverse rejection of reason as affirmation of freedom. The misfortune of Petersburgh.  “The terribleness of the city pursued me to my dreary room” (Rilke, in Notebooks of MB)


The description of perversity, and note esp. spite, of the mouse, 201. FN’s description of the anti-hero. Would FD laugh at FN here?


Nietzschean hatred of being tamed, like an ant, 222.  The alternative is perpetual striving.  Reason constructs a beautiful edifice, but humans will not live in it (cf. SK on Hegel, who lives in an outhouse, not in the “idea”). 


The whole meaning of human life is? (top p. 221)


The Grand Inquisitor


Consider the parallels to SK.


Temptation I

Produce bread (from stones).  Satisfy the most “immediate” need.  (Compare to the story of Esau. A parable of immersion in “immediacy.” ) 


SK – The inquisitor says, don’t require the exercise of freedom necessary to move beyond immediacy. Keep people as babies (248) at the breast.  “Feed men, then ask of them virtue” goes on the anti-christ banner.  

But (SK) there is no immediate health of spirit, and what JC comes to bring is health of spirit. Freedom/responsibility are opposed to immediate satisfactions in which there is “no crime, no sin” but only hunger 239.


Here also is FD’s attack on all “social engineering schemes” that are based on this “need for bread.” Socialism, communism, utilitarian engineering.  They are the builders of the new tower of babel. It takes a long time to find it doesn’t “reach.” Cf. Steiner 340


But it works for a while (before it self-destructs). People will give up freedom for bread. And they will worship the one who gives it. 

Also they crave “community” of worship. Another form of immediate satisfaction is being part of “one harmonious antheap.” 240, 245

“Selskab” in SK.


Temptation II

Cast yourself from the temple.

(The first two temptations rely heavily on miracle)

Compare this to “come down from the cross” , the legions of angels etc.  Jesus refuses to use power to overawe the weak, make them submissive and slavish.


Miracle “compels assent.”  Jesus refuses to compel assent. Promotes the “free” worship of God. 243. Compare to SK – Jesus is the prince disguised as a beggar in order to not overwhelm the freedom of the humble maiden. SK’s distaste for miracles. (cf. The reticence of the NT on this, compared to the apochrypha).  Jesus refuses to supply a “firm foundation” (241) i.e. immediate proof.


Freedom desired by JC can also be misused.  The denial of an “immediate God” opens the world to science, which will “lead them into such straights” as described on 246.


Temptation III

Establish a world order, rule all (as slaves ) and thus “bring the kingdom” NOW (an immediate kingdom, one people will love, though they are slaves). Submission (islam) is what people want. 247 Huddling under the masters who protect.  Cf. allusion to Matt. 23:37.  What Jesus will not do by power, the inquisitor will do. It is what people want. 


The inquisitor “loves” and suffers as a result. He represents the despair that wills to be itself, defiant despair. 


The herd represents the despair of not willing to be anyone, the despair of weakness.


Numerous overlaps in the three temptations.


The persistent theme of the “legend”– humanity’s denial or rejection of freedom.


The persistent theme of the underground man – the assertion of freedom. He is the exception.  And, he asserts his freedom AGAINST the very forces that the inquisitor represents. A rationalizing certainty based in “what people want” (to be slaves, to be fed, to be certain).


Freedom poses a problem for reason. SK shows how. And he sees how the problem is so pervasive that there is no escape that is not precarious and painful.

FD sees the same thing.  Humans hate being human (cf FN!) because of freedom, which involves always anxiety, uncertainty, paradox.  The despair of weakness.


Sources of existentialism?  Christianity. It is not an accident that SK and FD are intensely Xtian, nor that FN is also intensely anti-xtian (defines himself in relation to it).


Suffering, anguish, (crosstianity) and JOY.  Joy is qualitatively distinct from feeling good, happiness, being satisfied.


Faith is qualitatively distinct from admiration (SK). Following a road that is ??


Compare to hope. Hope is only a possibility in the face of (possible) hopelessness.


Joy is only a possibility in the face of defeat, loss, trial, anfectung, death.  Illich at the end.  The temptation of St. Anthony.  St. Paul. The psalms.


Now comes another atheistic existentialist.


A question to confront: are the xtian (religious) existentialists, or the atheistic existentialists, more consistent (intellectually, existentially)?




Life. 89-76




Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) taught philosophy at Freiburg University, Marburg University and again during the Nazi regime at Freiburg University in Germany. As rector of Freiburg he joined the Nazi party, and his continuing sympathy with the Nazi’s thoughout their time in power has provoked much discussion about the relations, if any, between his philosophical thought and his political loyalties.

            Heidegger was influenced by Husserl’s “phenomenology,” in which an attempt is made to focus strictly on the content of everyday consciousness, of what is simply “given” apart from all philosophical or other kinds of theorizing about that content. Phenomenologically, my shovel appears as “something to dig with” rather than as an object existing independently of my interests which simply appears to the senses as one more object, perhaps having “objective” characteristics which would be the same for all observers.  Objective properties would include being constituted by kinds of metal and wood  and having a certain color,  properties which could be further described in “objective” disinterested scientific theories. Considered in these last ways the shovel is said by Heidegger to be merely “present to hand.’

            Heidegger was influenced by some of Kierkegaard’s writings. The selection in this chapter from Kierkegaard’s “The Sickness Unto Death” would make good preliminary reading for much of what follows. Heidegger’s style is not reader friendly. He uses technical terms and coins new terms out of old, or gives a new sense to familiar language. The selections which follow from Being and Time (1927) amply exemplify that style.



Heidegger raises what he calls the question of “being.” This is an “ontological” question (from the Greek term ‘ontos’ meaning ‘being’). Heidegger distinguishes between an entity (things that are) and the being of an entity. We may naturally assume that a stone, say, exists independently of any use we could find for it, and that the ‘real’ stone is the stone which we discover through pure perceptions. But on Heidegger’s view, the stone adapted for use as a hammer, say, is ontologically prior to the stone as a mere object.

            The being of an entity is a function of its meaningful status within human experience. An entity is meaningful when it serves some human interest, purpose, passion. Thus human life becomes the crucial focus of Heidegger’s work. Being is a matter of ‘is’ (what x is, how x is, even merely that x is). What is distinctive about human being is awareness of being, including its own being. Thus Division I of this major work begins with an account of human being, which he dubs “Dasein” (‘being there’ in German).


Chapter 1. The Task of a Preparatory Analysis of Dasein.


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We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed. The Being of any such entity is in each case mine.. . .Being is that which is an issue for every such entity.. .

            The “essence” of this entity lies in its “to be.” Its Being-what-it-is (essentia) must, so far as we can speak of it at all, be conceived in terms of its Being (existentia). But here our ontological task is to show that when we choose to designate the Being of this entity as “existence,” this term does not and cannot have the ontological signification of the traditional term “existentia” - ontologically, existentia is tantamount to Being-present-at-hand, a kind of Being which is essentially inappropriate to entities of Dasein’s character. To avoid getting bewildered, we shall always use the Interpretative expression “presence-at-hand” for the term “existential” while the term “existence,” as a designation of Being, will be allotted solely to Dasein.

            The “essence “ of Dasein lies in its existence. Accordingly those characteristics which can be exhibited in this entity are not “properties” present-at hand of some entity which “looks” so and so and is itself present-at-hand; they are in each case possible ways for it to be, and no more than that. All the Being-as-it-is which this entity possesses is primarily Being. So when we designate this entity with the term ‘Dasein’, we are expressing not its “what” (as if it were a table, house or tree) but its Being.

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10. Would it generally be correct to replace ‘Dasein’ with ‘the kind of being humans have?’


Look at a soccer ball that is green, Then remove all thought of its use to people. Considered apart from possible uses, such a thing appears as “present at hand,” a mere object in a world without value. On the other hand there is a special class of things such that their “properties” are simply possible ways of being. Therefore they do not have any fixed properties.  Humans are like that. I cannot say what I am (my essentia or essence) without saying what my projects or interests are, and above all by saying what I am trying to become. Perhaps I can say what the ball is, namely a spherical thing filled with air, which is green, without bringing in any human purposes. I cannot similarly consider myself as simply a lump of matter without eliminating what is “essential” to human being, to “Dasein.”


10.  Might a physicist who is studying my batting swing regard me as merely “present at  hand.”? Explain.


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            That Being which is an issue for this entity in its very Being, is in each case mine. Thus Dasein is never to be taken ontologically as an instance or special case of some genus of entities as things that are present-at-hand. To entities such as these, their Being is “a matter of indifference”; or more precisely, they ‘are’ such that their Being can be neither a matter of indifference to them, nor the opposite. Because Dasein has in each case mineness, one must always use a personal pronoun when one addresses it: “I am,” “you are.”

            Furthermore, in each case Dasein is mine to be in one way or another. Dasein has always made some sort of decision as to the way in which it is in each case mine. That entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue, comports itself towards its Being as its ownmost possibility. In each case Dasein is its possibility, and it “has” this possibility, but not just as a property, as something present-at-hand would. And because Dasein is in each case essentially its own possibility, it can, in its very Being, “choose” itself and win itself; it can also lose itself and never win itself; or only “seem” to do so. But only in so far as it is essentially something which can be authentic –  that is, something of its own - can it have lost itself and not yet won itself. As modes of Being, authenticity and inauthenticity (these expressions have been chosen terminologically in a strict sense) are both grounded in the fact that any Dasein whatsoever is characterized by mineness. But the inauthenticity of Dasein does not signify any ‘less’ Being or any ‘lower’ degree of Being. Rather it is the case that even in its fullest concretion Dasein can be characterized by inauthenticity - when busy, when excited, when interested, when ready for enjoyment. The two characteristics of Dasein which we have sketched - the priority of ‘existentia’ over essentia and the fact that Dasein is in each case mine, have already indicated that in the analytic of this entity we are facing a peculiar phenomenal domain.

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Dasein, human existence, is always the existence of an individual who is concerned about his or her existence, it is existence of a type that is aware of itself as a “me” capable of becoming (changing), and such that not all possible outcomes of living are equally authentic. Heidegger stresses the need to struggle in order to win oneself. As Kierkegaard also would have insisted, living does not come naturally.


10.  The word ‘existence’ (existentia), which is reserved for Dasein, means, etymologically, “to stand forth” or “reach forward.” How is that term appropriate for an understanding of humans in particular?


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. . .At the outset of our analysis it is particularly important that Dasein should not be Interpreted with the differentiated character of some definite way of existing, but that it should be uncovered in the undifferentiated character which it has proximally and for the most part. This undifferentiated character of Dasein’s everydayness is not nothing, but a positive phenomenal characteristic of this entity. Out of this kind of Being-and back into it again-is all existing, such as it is. We call this everyday undifferentiated character of Dasein ‘averageness’. . . .

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To illustrate: if I consider Dasein in terms of some ”definite way of existing” such as that exhibited by a holy person, or a rich person, then I have construed it as concrete, rather than as a kind of being which is “defined” by possibility. Any ordinary person is at any moment undefined, undifferentiated, able to be many things and many ways, in a way that no dog, for instance, is. So each human must strive for some definite ideal, otherwise he or she will be “neither this nor that,” that is, “average.”


Being-in-the-world in general as the basic state of dasein.  A Preliminary Sketch of Being-in-the-World, in terms of an Orientation towards Being-in as such. An understanding of Dasein requires the recognition that it is “in-a-world.”

            Dasein’s engagement with various possibilities is not an engagement with one possibility at a time, so to speak. Rather every focus of attention affects all other possibilities, organizes them, we might say, in a certain way.


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            . . .Dasein’s facticity is such that its Being-in-the-world has always dispersed itself or even split itself up into definite ways of Being-in. The multiplicity of these is indicated by the following examples: having to do with something, producing something, attending to something and looking after it, making use of something, giving something up and letting it go, undertaking, accomplishing, evincing, interrogating, considering, discussing, determining.... All these ways of Being-in have concern as their kind of Being - a kind of Being which we have yet to characterize in detail. Leaving undone, neglecting, renouncing, taking a rest - these too are ways of concern; but these are all deficient modes, in which the possibilities of concern are kept to a ‘bare minimum’. . . .

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Being-in-the-world is a way of being in which the subject is engaged, acting, interested. So if I am producing a piece of furniture, then everything around me stands out or recedes in a certain way. Woodworking tools stand out, the color of my shop door does not. I am “concerned” with the tools, not “concerned” with the color of the door.


10.  What might Heidegger say about the mode of being in the world exemplified by a couch potato, that is, someone who is hardly engaged in anything whatsoever, but is almost entirely passive?


Chapter 3. The Worldhood of the World. Heidegger acknowledges various uses of ‘world’ but for his analysis of Dasein as ‘being in the world’ the following are especially significant.


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            2. ‘World’ functions as an ontological term, and signifies the Being of those entities which we have just mentioned [i.e. Dasein]. And indeed ‘world’ can become a term for any realm which encompasses a multiplicity of entities: for instance, when one talks of the ‘world’ of a mathematician, ‘world’ signifies the realm of possible objects of mathematics.

            3. ‘World’ can be understood in another ontical sense not, however, as those entities which Dasein essentially is not and which can be encountered within-the-world, but rather as that ‘wherein’ a factical Dasein as such can be said to ‘live’. ‘World’ has here a pre-ontological existentiell signification, Here again there are different possibilities: “world” may stand for the ‘public’ we-world, or one’s ‘own’ closest (domestic) environment.

            . . .The Being of those entities which we encounter as closest to us can be exhibited phenomenologically if we take as our clue our everyday Being-in-the-world, which we also call our ‘dealings’ in the world and with entities within-the-world. Such dealings have already dispersed themselves into manifold ways of concern. The kind of dealing which is closest to us is, as we have shown, not a bare perceptual cognition, but rather that kind of concern which manipulates things and puts them to use; and this has its own kind of ‘knowledge’. The phenomenological question applies in the first instance to the Being of those entities which we encounter in such concern.

            . . .We shall call those entities which we encounter in concern ‘equipment’. In our dealings we come across equipment for writing, sewing, working, transportation, measurement. The kind of Being which equipment possesses must be exhibited. The clue for doing this lies in our first defining what makes an item of equipment - namely, its equipmentality.

            Taken strictly, there ‘is’ no such thing as an equipment. To the Being of any equipment there always belongs a totality of equipment, in which it can be this equipment that it is. Equipment is essentially “something in-order-to”...... A totality of equipment is constituted by various ways of the “in-order-to,” such as serviceability, conduciveness, usability, manipulability.

            In the “in-order-to” as a structure there lies an assignment or reference of something to something. Only in the analyses which are to follow can the phenomenon which this term ‘assignment’ indicates be made visible in its ontological genesis. Provisionally, it is enough to take a look phenomenally at a manifold of such assignments. Equipment - in accordance with its equipmentality - always is in terms of its belonging to other equipment: inkstand, pen, ink, paper, blotting pad, table, lamp, furniture, windows, doors, room. These ‘Things’ never show themselves proximally as they are for themselves, so as to add up to a sum of realia and fill up a room.

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A table is a table for something, for example, for writing on, eating on, sitting around in gatherings, and is thus presented to consciousness in connection with other things such as tableware and meetings, rather than as a single isolated object perceived by the senses. It exists ‘in order to.’


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What we encounter as closest to us (though not as something taken as a theme) is the room; and we encounter it not as something ‘between four walls’ in a geometrical spatial sense, but as equipment for residing. Out of this the ‘arrangement’ emerges, and it is in this that any ‘individual’ item of equipment shows itself. Before it does so, a totality of equipment has already been discovered.

            Equipment can genuinely show itself only in dealings cut to its own measure (hammering with a hammer, for example); but in such dealings an entity of this kind is not grasped thematically as an occurring Thing, nor is the equipment-structure known as such even in the using. The hammering does not simply have knowledge about the hammer’s character as equipment, but it has appropriated this equipment in a way which could not possibly be more suitable. In dealings such as this, where something is put to use, our concern subordinates itself to the “in-order-to” which is constitutive for the equipment we are employing at the time; the less we just stare at the hammer-Thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiledly is it encountered as that which it is – as equipment.

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We may tend to think of the world as the totality of objects in it, and of human interests as being secondary impositions or interpretations placed upon that world. We may tend to think of the world as existing independently of humans. That tendency must be eradicated in order to come to an understanding of being.


10.  If I encounter a ball simply as spherical and green, would that be a more “primordial” (basic) way of encountering it than if I encountered it as a soccer ball, on Heidegger’s account? Explain.


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In equipment that is used, ‘Nature’ is discovered along with it by that use - the ‘Nature’ we find in natural products.

            Here, however, “Nature” is not to be understood as that which is just present-at-hand, nor as the power of Nature. The wood is a forest of timber, the mountain a quarry of rock; the river is water-power, the wind is wind ‘in the sails’. As the ‘environment’ is discovered, the ‘Nature’ thus discovered is encountered too. If its kind of Being as ready-to-hand is disregarded, this ‘Nature’ itself can be discovered and defined simply in its pure presence-at-hand. But when this happens, the Nature which ‘stirs and strives’, which assails us and enthralls us as landscape, remains hidden. The botanist’s plants are not the flowers of the hedgerow; the “source” which the geographer establishes for a river is not the “springhead in the dale.”

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Heidegger is arguing that even natural objects are understood first of all (most “primordially”) in relationship to human interests and aims. At the same time,  if we try to understand the world apart from all interests, as merely “objects with properties,” we will miss out on other characteristics such as those revealed in poetry.


10.  If I ignore the beauty of a flower, I may be treating nature as simply part of the________  _______  _________, rather than as something which moves and stirs me, apart from any use I can make of it.


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 .... To lay bare what is just present-at-hand and no more, cognition must first penetrate beyond what is ready-to-hand in our concern. Readiness-to-hand is the way in which entities as they are “in themselves “ are defined ontologicocategorially....

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This and previous claims have a strong “pragmatist” flavor to them. Very roughly, pragmatists argued that reality and truth are functions of use, of human action in the world, rather than vice versa.


Being-in-the-World as Being-With and Being-One’s-Self.  Our being in the world has so far been characterized in terms of our purposes and uses, so the stress has been on “equipment.” But there is another aspect of being in the world which is distinctive, namely the fact that in the world we are with others.


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. . .Dasein is an entity which is in each case I myself; its Being is in each case mine. This definition indicates an ontologically constitutive state, but it does no more than indicate it. At the same time this tells us ontically (though in a rough and ready fashion) that in each case an “I” - not Others - is this entity. The question of the “who” answers itself in terms of the “I” itself, the ‘subject’, the ‘Self’. . . .

            The assertion that it is I who in each case Dasein is, is ontically obvious; but this must not mislead us into supposing that the route for an ontological Interpretation of what is ‘given’ in this way has thus been unmistakably prescribed. Indeed it remains questionable whether even the mere ontical content of the above assertion does proper justice to the stock of phenomena belonging to everyday Dasein. It could be that the “who” of everyday Dasein just is not the “I myself”....

            The kind of “giving” we have [in the direct givenness of the “I”] . . . is the mere, formal, reflective awareness of the “I”; and perhaps what it gives is indeed evident. This insight even affords access to a phenomenological problematic in its own right, which has in principle the signification of providing a framework as a “formal phenomenology of consciousness.” . . .

            But if the Self is conceived ‘only’ as a way of Being of this entity, this seems tantamount to volatilizing the real ‘core’ of Dasein. Any apprehensiveness however which one may have about this gets its nourishment from the perverse assumption that the entity in question has at bottom the kind of Being which belongs to something present-at-hand, even if one is far from attributing to it the solidity of an occurrent corporeal Thing. Yet man’s ‘substance’ is not spirit as a synthesis of soul and body; it is rather existence.

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Heidegger is attacking certain views about what constitutes the ‘I’ and what can be known about it. Descartes in particular comes to mind as one who held that the ‘I’ is directly given, and that the ‘I’ in question is a thinking or mental thing. It is worth noting that the last sentence quoted is completely consistent with Kierkegaard’s notion of the self as “spirit,” since he denied that the self is a synthesis of body and soul.


10. Descartes thought that the “substance” of the self is an entirely non-physical “thinking”, a non-extended thing that engages in “mental”activities. Heidegger denies this. Does he then assert that human selves are simply bodies?


Our dealings in the world are always at least implicitly dealings with others. One of the problems generated by Descartes’ account of the self was the “problem of other minds.” How could I even know there are other thinking things, since I only have access to my own thoughts? But for Heidegger my relation to others is just as primordial or basic as my relation to myself.


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The answer to the question of the “who” of everyday Dasein is to be obtained by analyzing that kind of Being in which Dasein maintains itself proximally and for the most part. Our investigation takes its orientation from Being-in-the-world - that basic state of Dasein by which every mode of its Being gets co-determined. If we are correct in saying that by the foregoing explication of the world, the remaining structural items of Being-in-the-world have become visible, then this must also have prepared us, in a way, for answering the question of the” who.”

            In our ‘description’ of that environment which is closest to us - the work world of the craftsman, for example, - the outcome was that along with the equipment to be found when one is at work, those Others for whom the “work” is destined are “encountered too.” If this is ready-to-hand, then there lies in the kind of Being which belongs to it (that is, in its involvement) an essential assignment or reference to possible wearers, for instance, for whom it should be “cut to the figure.” Similarly, when material is put to use, we encounter its producer or “supplier” as one who “serves” well or badly. When, for example, we walk along the edge of a field but “outside it,” the field shows itself as belonging to such-and-such a person, and decently kept up by him; the book we have used was bought at So-and-so’s shop and given by such-and-such a person, and so forth. The boat anchored at the shore is assigned in its Being-in-itself to an acquaintance who undertakes voyages with it; but even if it is a “boat which is strange to us,” it still is indicative of Others. The Others who are thus “encountered” in a ready-to-hand, environmental context of equipment, are not somehow added on in thought to some Thing which is proximally just present-at-hand; such “Things” are encountered from out of the world in which they are ready-to-hand for Others - a world which is always mine too in advance....

            By “Others” we do not mean everyone else but me- those over against whom the “I” stands out. They are rather those from whom, for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself-those among whom one is too. . .The world of Dasein is a with-world. Being-in is Being-with Others. Their Being-in-themselves within-the-world is Dasein-with...

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10.  Human being is in itself a being-with -others. There is no other kind of human being. If Heidegger is right, would “individualism” be impossible? Define the main terms in your answer.


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... We must hold fast to the phenomenal facts of the case which we have pointed out, namely, that Others are encountered environmentally. This elemental worldly kind of encountering, which belongs to Dasein and is closest to it, goes so far that even one’s own Dasein becomes something that it can itself proximally “come across” only when it looks away from “Experiences” and the “center of its actions,” or does not as yet “see” them at all. Dasein finds “itself” proximally in what it does, uses, expects, avoids - in those things environmentally ready-to-hand with which it is proximally concerned...

            Being-with is such that the disclosedness of the Dasein-with of Others belongs to it; this means that because Dasein’s Being is Being-with, its understanding of Being already implies the understanding of Others. This understanding, like any understanding, is not an acquaintance derived from knowledge about them, but a primordially existential kind of Being, which, more than anything else, makes such knowledge and acquaintance possible. Knowing oneself is grounded in Being-with, which understands primordially....

            One’s own Dasein, like the Dasein-with of Others, is encountered proximally and for the most part in terms of the with-world with which we are environmentally concerned. When Dasein is absorbed in the world of its concern-that is, at the same time, in its Being-with towards Others-it is not itself. Who is it, then, who has taken over Being as everyday Being-with one-another?

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The They. If it essential to the kind of being human beings have to be in the world with others, then might it not be the case that my life will be dictated by whatever fads and fancies the majority happen to favor? Must I be a conformist? Will my life be absorbed into theirs? This question directs us to the “who” of the “others” that I am with.


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            In one’s concern with what one has taken hold of, whether with, for, or against, the Others, there is constant care as to the way one differs from them, whether that difference is merely one that is to be evened out, whether one’s own Dasein has lagged behind the Others and wants to catch up in relationship to them, or whether one’s Dasein already has some priority over them and sets out to keep them suppressed. The care about this distance between them is disturbing to Being-with-one-another, though this disturbance is one that is hidden from it. If we may express this existentially, such Being-with-one-another has the character of distantiality. The more inconspicuous this kind of Being is to everyday Dasein itself, all the more stubbornly and primordially does it work itself out.

            But this distantiality which belongs to Being-with, is such that Dasein, as everyday Being-with-one-another, stands in subjection to Others. It itself is not; its Being has been taken away by the Others. Dasein’s everyday possibilities of Being are for the Others to dispose of as they please. These Others, moreover, are not definite Others. On the contrary, any Other can represent them. What is decisive is just that inconspicuous domination by Others which has already been taken over unawares from Dasein as Being-with. One belongs to the Others oneself and enhances their power. “The Others” whom one thus designates in order to cover up the fact of one’s belonging to them essentially oneself, are those who proximally and for the most part “are there” in everyday Being-with-one-another. The “who” is not this one, not that one, not oneself, not some people, and not the sum of them all. The ‘who’ is the neuter, the “they”.

            .. . We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the “great mass” as they shrink back; we find “shocking” what they find shocking. The “they,” which is nothing definite, and which all are, though not as the sum, prescribes the kind of Being of everydayness.

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10.  In our thinking and acting we tend to be absorbed into the thinking and acting of the “they.” We tend to be conformists through and through. What might be some synonyms for “the they?”


Heidegger is expressing a theme common to much existentialist literature, the theme of the “mass man,” or what Nietzsche called “the herd.” To be nothing but a member of the herd is to be fallen. According to Heidegger this “fallen” condition is inevitable.




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This term does not express any negative evaluation, but is used to signify that Dasein is proximally and for the most part alongside the “world” of its concern. This “absorption in . . . “ has mostly the character of Being-lost in the publicness of the “they.” Dasein has, in the first instance, fallen away from itself as an authentic potentiality for Being its Self, and has fallen into the “world.” “Fallenness” into the “world” means an absorption in Being-with-one-another, in so far as the latter is guided by idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. Through the Interpretation of falling, what we have called the “inauthenticity” of Dasein may now be defined more precisely. On no account, however, do the terms “inauthentic” and “non-authentic” signify “really not,” as if in this mode of Being, Dasein were altogether to lose its Being. “Inauthenticity” does not mean anything like Being-no-longer-in-the-world, but amounts rather to a quite distinctive kind of Being-in-the-world - the kind which is completely fascinated by the “world” and by the Dasein-with of Others in the ‘they’.. . .

            Dasein, tranquillized, and “understanding” everything.... drifts along towards an alienation in which its own-most potentiality-for-Being is hidden from it. Falling Being-in-the-world is not only tempting and tranquillizing; it is at the same time alienating.

            . . .The alienation of falling - at once tempting and tranquillizing- leads by its own movement, to Dasein’s getting entangled in itself.

            The phenomena we have pointed out - temptation, tranquillizing, alienation and self-entangling (entanglement)-characterize the specific kind of Being which belongs to falling. This ‘movement’ of Dasein in its own Being, we call its “downward plunge”

            . . . In falling, nothing other than our potentiality-for-Being-in-world is the issue, even if in the mode of inauthenticity. Dasein can fall only because Being-in-the-world understandingly with a state-of-mind is an issue for it. On the other hand, authentic existence is not something which floats above falling everydayness; existentially, it is only a modified way in which such everydayness is seized upon.

            Falling reveals an essential ontological structure of Dasein itself...

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If falling is an “essential ontological structure of Dasein” then it appears that no one can avoid it. No one completely resists the tendency to fall into “idle chatter” for instance. We are not thereby condemned to inauthenticity, however, provided we face up to the character of our being in the world. We must then discover a “modified way” in which everyday life with others is lived.  But to do so brings to the surface the care or anxiety that always characterize Dasein.


Care and Anxiety as the Being of Dasein. Anxiety is not something that a few people feel now and then, when the future is uncertain, for instance. Rather it is essential to the very structure of Dasein’s being in the world.


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            That in the face of which one has anxiety is Being-in-the-world as such. What is the difference phenomenally between that in the face of which anxiety is anxious and that in the face of which fear is afraid? That in the face of which one has anxiety is not an entity within-the-world. Thus it is essentially incapable of having an involvement. . . .That in the face of which one is anxious is completely indefinite. Not only does this indefiniteness leave tactically undecided which entity within-the-world is threatening us, but it also tells us that entities within the-world are not ‘relevant’ at all. Nothing which is ready-to-hand or present-at-hand within the world functions as that in the face of which anxiety is anxious...

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10. Heidegger apparently means by ‘anxiety’ a condition of general uneasiness. Thus, if I am anxious about something specific, such as whether I will get an ‘A’ in a course, that is not the sort of anxiety he has in mind. Anxiety, according to him, has no definite ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________ .


Nonetheless, specific anxieties may be symptomatic of a deeper condition.


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            What oppresses us is not this or that, nor is it the summation of everything present-at-hand; it is rather the possibility of the ready-to-hand in general; that is to say, it is the world itself. When anxiety has subsided, then in our everyday way of talking we are accustomed to say that “it was really nothing.” . . . If the “nothing”-that is, the world as such exhibits itself as that in the face of which one has anxiety, this means that Being-in-the-world itself is that in the face of which anxiety is anxious.. . .

            Anxiety is not only anxiety in the face of something, but, as a state-of-mind, it is also anxiety about something. That which anxiety is profoundly anxious about is not a definite kind of Being for Dasein or a definite possibility for it. Indeed the threat itself is indefinite, and therefore cannot penetrate threateningly to this or that factically concrete potentiality-for-Being. That which anxiety is anxious about is Being-in-the world itself.

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Anxious feelings are often indefinite. We do not know exactly what is making us anxious. Heidegger claims that it is our very situation as beings who are not fixed by nature, but rather must always live in the face of possibilities, which explains anxiety.


(10) Why would a sense that life is essentially open to all sorts of possibilities make someone anxious?


Anxiety is uncomfortable precisely because it amounts to a heightened awareness of possibility, of the unfixed character of my ‘world’ and myself. But that awareness also tears me away from the ‘they.’ The ‘they’, the sense that I am with others and like them, provides a sense of security. Anxiety tears me away from that comfort. But at the same time it can open the way towards genuine individuality.


 10.  Would Heidegger think of the authentic individual, the one who has become conscious of the “unfixed” or “unanchored” character of human life, as an “individualist” who will have nothing to do with communal norms and ways of life?


 Dasein and temporality: Dasein’s Possibility of Being-a-whole, and Being-toward-death.

Heidegger believes that there is nothing beyond death. We are finite beings. Death is not one possibility among others for such beings, but the possibility of the end of possibility, the end of that particular way of being in the world in which one is concerned about realizing this or that future possibility. And since, unlike most of what concerns us, death cannot be shared, it can set each individual apart from the “they” definitively.


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. . .With death, Dasein stands before itself in its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. This is a possibility in which the issue is nothing less than Dasein’s Being-in-the-world. Its death is the possibility of no-longer being-able-to-be-there. If Dasein stands before itself as this possibility, it has been fully assigned to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. When it stands before itself in this way, all its relations to any other Dasein have been undone. This ownmost nonrelational possibility is at the same time the uttermost one.

            As potentiality-for-Being, Dasein cannot outstrip the possibility of death. Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. Thus death reveals itself as that possibility which is one’s ownmost, which is nonrelational, and which is not to be outstripped. As such, death is something distinctively impending. Its existential possibility is based on the fact that Dasein is essentially disclosed to itself, and disclosed, indeed, as ahead-of-itself. This item in the structure of care has its most primordial concretion in Being-towards-death. As a phenomenon, Being-towards-the-end becomes plainer as Being towards that distinctive possibility of Dasein which we have characterized ....

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(12) In saying that in death Dasein is disclosed to itself as ahead of itself, is Heidegger in effect claiming that human beings are temporal beings in a way that dogs, for instance, are not? Would it make sense to say that a dog is “ahead of itself?” What does it mean to say that of a human? Give an example.


Being-towards-death and the Everydayness of Dasein .The refusal to face our own individual deaths serves to conceal the true character of Dasein. One form of that refusal shows itself in the way we generalize about death. “Everyone has to die sometime” we say. But we do not really think “I” must die sometime. The following passage evokes Tolstoy’s story “The Death of Ivan Illich,” a story which Heidegger acknowledged as an important source for his own thinking. In that story Illich, who is terminally ill, has difficulty realizing that he is going to die, though in an abstract way he knows that all die and he is one of the all.


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 . . The analysis of the phrase “one dies” reveals unambiguously the kind of Being which belongs to everyday Being-towards-death. In such a way of talking, death is understood as an indefinite something which, above all, must duly arrive from somewhere or other, but which is proximally not yet present-at-hand for oneself, and is therefore no threat. The expression “one dies” spreads abroad the opinion that what gets reached, as it were, by death, is the “they.” In Dasein’s public way of interpreting, it is said that ‘one dies’, because everyone else and oneself can talk himself into saying that “in no case is it I myself,” for this “one” is the “nobody. “ “Dying” is levelled off to an occurrence which reaches Dasein, to be sure, but belongs to nobody in particular. If idle talk is always ambiguous, so is this manner of talking about death. Dying, which is essentially mine in such a way that no one can be my representative, is perverted into an event of public occurrence which the “they” encounters. In the way of talking which we have characterized, death is spoken of as a “case” which is constantly occurring. Death gets passed off as always something “actual”; its character as a possibility gets concealed, and so are the other two items that belong to it-the fact that it is non-relational and that it is not to be outstripped. By such ambiguity, Dasein puts itself in the position of losing itself in the “they” as regards a distinctive potentiality-for-Being which belongs to Dasein’s ownmost Self. The “they” gives its approval, and aggravates the temptation to cover up from oneself one’s ownmost Being-towards-death. This evasive concealment in the face of death dominates everydayness so stubbornly that, in Being with one another, the “neighbors” often still keep talking the “dying person’ into the belief that he will escape death and soon return to the tranquillized everydayness of the world of his concern. Such “solicitude” is meant to “console” him. It insists upon bringing him back into Dasein, while in addition it helps him to keep his ownmost non-relational possibility-of-Being completely concealed. In this manner the “they” provides a constant tranquillization about death. At bottom, however, this is a tranquillization not only for him who is “dying” but just as much for those who “console” him. And even in the case of a demise, the public is still not to have its own tranquillity upset by such an event, or be disturbed in the carefreeness with which it concerns itself. Indeed the dying of Others is seen often enough as a social inconvenience, if not even a downright tactlessness, against which the public is to be guarded.. ..

            But along with this tranquillization, which forces Dasein away from its death, the “they” at the same time puts itself in the right and makes itself respectable by tacitly regulating the way in which one has to comport oneself towards death. It is already a matter of public acceptance that “thinking about death” is a cowardly fear, a sign of insecurity on the part of Dasein, and a somber way of fleeing from the world. The “they “ does not permit us the courage for anxiety in the face of death. The dominance of the manner in which things have been publicly interpreted by the “they,” has already decided what state-of-mind is to determine our attitude towards death. In anxiety in the face of death, Dasein is brought face to face with itself as delivered over to that possibility which is not to be outstripped. The “they” concerns itself with transforming this anxiety into fear in the face of an oncoming event.

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10.  Once again, what is one fundamental difference between fear and anxiety? And, why is anxiety more revealing of the nature of human existence (Dasein)?


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            . Factically one’s own Dasein is always dying already; that is to say, it is in a Being-towards-its-end. And it hides this Fact from itself by re-coining “death” as just a “case of death” in Others - an everyday occurrence which, if need be, gives us the assurance still more plainly that ‘oneself’ is still ‘living’. But in thus falling and fleeing in the face of death, Dasein’s everydayness attests that the very “they” itself already has the definite character of Being-towards-death, even when it is not explicitly engaged in “thinking about death.”

            Being-towards-death is the anticipation of a potentiality-for-Being of that entity whose kind of Being is anticipation itself. In the anticipatory revealing of this potentiality-for-Being, Dasein discloses itself to itself as regards its uttermost possibility. But to project itself on its ownmost potentiality-for-Being means to be able to understand itself in the Being of the entity so revealed-namely, to exist. Anticipation turns out to be the possibility of understanding one’s ownmost and uttermost potentiality-for Being-that is to say, the possibility of authentic existence. The ontological constitution of such existence must be made visible by setting forth the concrete structure of anticipation of death. How are we to delimit this structure phenomenally? Manifestly, we must do so by determining those characteristics which must belong to an anticipatory disclosure so that it can become the pure understanding of that ownmost possibility which is non-relational and not to be outstripped-which is certain and, as such, indefinite. It must be noted that understanding does not primarily mean just gazing at a meaning, but rather understanding oneself in that potentiality-for-Being which reveals itself in projection.

            Death is Dasein’s ownmost possibility. Being towards this possibility discloses to Dasein its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, in which its very Being is the issue. Here it can become manifest to Dasein that in this distinctive possibility of its own self, it has been wrenched away from the ‘they’.. . .

            We may now summarize our characterization of authentic Being-towards-death as we have projected it existentially: anticipation reveals to Dasein its lostness in the they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility of being itself, primarily unsupported by concernful solicitude, but of being itself, rather in an impassioned freedom towards death - a freedom which has been released from the Illusions of the ‘they, and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious... [Heidegger’s emphasis]

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 Authenticity and Resoluteness. The reader may have begun to wonder whether Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein has any ethical import. Does it imply that certain behaviors and attitudes are definitely better than others? The analysis of falleness and the “they-self” certainly carries negative connotations, despite Heidegger’s insistence that they are invariant features of Dasein. Heidegger seems to be calling for  “authenticity.” But what is that like?

            Heidegger uses the term “resoluteness” to describe the authentic person. The resolute person, who faces her own death honestly and fully apprehends her finiteness, is no longer drawn into idle chatter about life, for that idle chatter only served to conceal anxiety and disguise the being-towards-death of Dasein.  Nor is she drawn into meaningless striving for some final superiority over others, for nothing is final. Thus she is able to avoid those features of the “they” which are most infected by existential dishonesty. To that extent ‘authenticity’ has a recognizable ethical content. But is there no more to it?


10.  Could a person be resolute in doing evil? Try to imagine an example.


Heidegger does not provide answers to the question ‘what should I resolve to do?’ What I resolve will depend upon the particular historical situation into which I have been “thrown” but the ‘how’ of my action is what matters most. I must act with an awareness of my finiteness, my being with others, and with courageous acceptance of responsibility.


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            What one resolves upon in resoluteness has been prescribed ontologically in the existentiality of Dasein in general as a potentiality-for-Being in the manner of concernful solicitude. As care, however, Dasein has been Determined by facticity and falling. Disclosed in its “there,” it maintains itself both in truth and in untruth with equal primordiality. This “really” holds in particular for resoluteness as authentic truth. Resoluteness appropriates untruth authentically. Dasein is already in irresoluteness and soon, perhaps, will be in it again. The term “irresoluteness” merely expresses that phenomenon which we have Interpreted as a Being-surrendered to the way in which things have been prevalently interpreted by the “they.” Dasein, as a they-self, gets “lived” by the common-sense ambiguity of that publicness in which nobody resolves upon anything but which has always made its decision. “Resoluteness” signifies letting oneself be summoned out of one’s lostness in the “they.”

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10. Describe a case where what ‘they,’ meaning most people around you, typically think or do, has determined how you, without thought or real decision, have behaved.  In other words, describe a time when you were “lost in the they.”


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. Even resolutions remain dependent upon the “they” and its world. The understanding of this is one of the things that a resolution discloses, inasmuch as resoluteness is what first gives authentic transparency to Dasein. In resoluteness the issue for Dasein is its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, which, as something thrown, can project itself only upon definite factical possibilities.

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10.  Do the immediately preceding remarks allow for the possibility that I could be “completely different” from those around me?


I cannot vote for the communist party in the up-coming election, that is not a “definite factical possibility,” since there is no such party where I live. I can only act resolutely in relation to possibilities actually available. But that does not make me a “meek conformist” provided that, whatever I do (vote, do not vote at all, vote for the Greens, etc) I do so resolutely, with full awareness of my own agency, of commitments already undertaken, and the limits of my life. The most important limit is death. Everything I do must be understood in the light of the inevitability of my very own death.



Da-sein is human being.  Ex isting.

It is “being in the world.” Dealing with what is “at hand” (tools, equipment.  Pragmatist element etc.)


Hermeneutics and “seeing as.”  Denial of the “given”

That is a general issue. For human being the problem is particularly intense. Cannot separate oneself from this PROBLEM

Problem: how to characterize, or give a ‘logos’ of, dasein.


What characterizes dasein is its incompleteness, its yet-to-be. (the human self is a relation which relates what is to what may be, actuality to possibility).


Accounts and completion (system in CUP).  Getting hold of, grasping, “comprehending” requires totality, being “finished” in some sense.


Different possible senses of ending, being finished, and of not being ended (being outstanding, like a debt not paid, being over like a game, a road come to an end, etc.) None of these senses of complete, at an end, seem to fit dasein. The ending of dasein is death. But not just the cessation of biological function. Rather

        The end of all possibilities



Camus 1913-1960


The absurd man

The man of revolt


Absurdity = disparity between what our intellect craves (unity of world, understanding) and what it gets, (no unity, no order). 


Sartre, Camus, and French Cartesianism and intellectualism. Also l’esprit de finesse (Pascal). A view of intellect as theoretical, precise.  NO concept of “practical reason” (understood since Aristotle as imprecise, and fittingly so).   Linked with atheism, this becomes absurdism. God is viewed as the guarantor of order, precision, essence. No God entails no order, precision, essence. NO order. Ergo, absurdity for mind that requires TOTAL order.


Very unlike SK and FD, and FN also, both Sartre and Camus were tempted by the social planners, communism.  


Ques. Why should we expect that kind of order?  Religious faith is not typically linked to such ideas. Rather it is as messy as ethics.


FD saw the social planners as dehumanizers.  It is ironical that these French protestors against claims about order should be drawn to the superficial order of the socialist state.  And it is interesting and very noteworthy that they both offer dehumanized versions of humanity (e.g. the characters in Huis Clos (Sartre) or l’Etranger (Camus’ Mersault).  Mersault is out of touch with his own life, does not know what he is doing. He ‘revolts’ against his condition, refuses all ‘false’ consolations. Why should we be impressed with this affective and moral zombie? He needs an Aristotelian tutor to raise him up to adulthood.


FD is with those who believe that ‘ideology’ (another name for abstract, and thus superficially precise, conceptions of human life) is the source of horror and murder (cf. Raskolnikov). FD is a true prophet who saw what such abstractness could produce. FD is with those who were IN the Gulags and extermination camps, who


 addressed their God in conversation, under the name of Truth. In the twentieth century, prisons and torture chambers have often been better places to encounter God than universities.

The twentieth century has been not only the bloodiest but also the most ideological of centuries. Ideology is the atheist’s substitute for faith, and, lacking faith, our age did not want for warring ideologies.

 this story is connected to the intellectual’s devaluation of the human person.


Sartre and Camus, on the other hand are (uneasily) WITH those who put people in those places. Neither one saw what post 1989 people have seen.


Indeed, once the Iron Curtain was joyfully torn down, and the Great Lie thoroughly unmasked, it became clear that in the heartland of "real existing socialism" the poor were living in Third World conditions; that a large majority of the population was in misery; that both the will to work and economic creativity had been suffocated; that economic intelligence had been blinded by the absurd necessity to set arbitrarily the prices of some tens of millions of commodities and services; that the omnivorous State had almost wholly swallowed civil society; that the society of "comrades" had in fact driven an untold number of people into the most thoroughly privatized, untrusting, and alienated inner isolation on earth; that this Culture of the Lie had been hated by scores of millions; and that the soils of vast stretches of the land and the waters of rivers and lakes had been despoiled.


By requiring something of reason (defined, tendentiously, in a way that ignores practical reason) that it cannot give, and then surrendering to the “absurd,” Sartre and Camus join a history of irrationalism that eventually exalts force and will. (Will is understood quite differently in SK and FD).  To do that is


to give to Mussolini and Hitler, posthumously and casually, what they could not vindicate by the most willful force of arms. It is to miss the first great lesson rescued from the ashes of World War II: Those who surrender the domain of intellect make straight the road of fascism. Totalitarianism, as Mussolini defined it, is la feroce volanta. It is the will-to-power, unchecked by any regard for truth. To surrender the claims of truth upon humans is to surrender Earth to thugs. It is to make a mockery of those who endured agonies for truth at the hands of torturers. (M. Novak)


It is evident that Camus in particular does not WANT to do that. He comes to reject the communists. He even becomes critical of his own creation, Mersault. Maybe if he had lived a little longer . . .


Perhaps Heidegger’s involvement with the Nazi party can be understood in this light also. But he has quite a different view of “reason” than that found in Camus and Sartre.  Non-Cartesian?



“Flying vs. Walking: Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein and the Moral Import of Literature,” in The Force of Tradition: Response and Resistance in Literature, Religion, and Cultural Studies,  ed. Don Marshall (Rowman and Littlefield) p. 107-147 Lillegard


Anyone, and thus a writer in particular, can be credited with a “life view” when they appreciate how passionate attachment or sustained enthusiasm, which are concepts that only have an application under the ordinary limits of human life, are conditions for character.  The word “character” suggests a particular pertinence to novels, since characters are what novels must contain if they are to be narratable.  Narrative and character are interdependent.[1]  There must be some coherence in a life in order for there to be a narration of it, as opposed to the mere recitation of haphazard occurrences, the mere play of contingency.  Character is a matter of constancy, the imprinting of self upon the materials offered by contingency.  The novelistic portrayal of lack of character, or, alternatively vicious character, thus also obviously presupposes that the author has a conception of what would give life constancy.  “The novel leads one into the world that the (life)view creatively supports. But this world, as a matter of fact, is actuality” (ibid. 20), that is, the thing that through the bruises and jostlings it imposes invites, as one possible response, the development of character.  It is by virtue of this relation to actuality that the novel can persuade.   “Persuasion presupposes that there is a difficulty, an obstacle, an opposition; it starts with this, and then persuasion clears it away.  In other words, persuasion is a movement on the spot, but a movement that changes the then and there”(ibid. 20).  The change in question is the modification in a person, for example, the acquisition of patience, which changes the world, how it appears and is thought about, and consequently how it is handled.  Note that movement on the spot clearly cannot be described as any kind of flying.

It will be useful at this juncture to briefly consider a well known novel which might be considered a counterexample to the foregoing claims about narrative and character.  The protagonist of Camus’ The Stranger  lives at  a quite primitive level of immediacy, and appears unable to form attachments or develop enduring enthusiasms.  He is utterly lacking in character in the sense just described.  Yet he is obviously a “character” in a novel, one who makes a deep impression and has even been construed as a hero of sorts by some people.  He seems a hero because of his absolute sincerity.  Yet oddly he has no positive content to reveal, nothing about which to be sincere, no self constituted over time that acts, as opposed to being acted upon.  The deep impression this story may make might better be described as a kind of intoxication, since there is nothing in Meursault’s life, no story, that leads up to and explains the murder he commits.  He does not seem to know what he is doing.  Rather he seems to live at the level of sensation and to the extent that his story seems to be even a story about a human, rather than say a dog, it is due to flashes of awareness of himself as an agent who willfully refuses to take responsibility, thus implying that there might be responsibility to be taken. 

The sympathy that Mersault nonetheless manages to evoke in many readers is arguably a function of their own banality, a banality that is not harmless.  Roger Shattuck brings this story together with Arendt’s famous remark about the “banality of evil.”   In her “Postscript, Eichmann in Jerusalem she explains the phrase thus; “He [Eichmann] merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing. . .this lack of imagination. . .[this] sheer thoughtlessness. . .can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together.”(quoted in Shattuck, 1996, 158).   The description fits Meursault exactly.  It is tempting to suppose that it must also be lack of imagination that enables sympathy with such characters.  It is also tempting to question the worth of a piece of literature which builds on and appeals to forms of alienation which show a lack of imagination.   At any rate it is moral imagination in the form of appreciation of character which is lacking in the novel and in those who wish to excuse its protagonist.[2]   It does not follow that such a novel cannot display artistic skill.  It might even achieve fame as a parable of its time, what Kierkegaard would have called a “reflection of the age.”  Yet he scorned such “reflections” and praises Gyllembourg precisely because she has enough imagination to avoid merely “reflecting” the “demands of the age” (1978, 1-17) .























































[1]. These remarks allude to MacIntyre’s discussion of character and narrative (MacIntyre, 1981, 190 - 209). 

[2]. According to Shattuck Camus himself was once beguiled by his own story into excusing Mersault.   But his later work rejects the imaginative laxness implied by such excusing (Shattuck,  1996, 148-9).