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Re: Of Cabbages and Ontology

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  • Jim Stuart
    Dear Jim, You ask me a number of questions which will require me to go back to my notes on CoA, CUP and SUD in order to answer properly. I ll make some
    Message 1 of 11 , Sep 27, 2005
      Dear Jim,

      You ask me a number of questions which will require me to go back to my notes on CoA, CUP and SUD in order to answer properly.

      I'll make some introductory remarks here, which hopefully I will be able to back up with relevant quotes in a later post. (Rick - with your detailed knowledge of CoA, CUP and SUD, you may be able to criticise and supplement what I say here.)

      CoA is an earlier work than both CUP and SUD, so perhaps you are correct to claim that K uses the terms 'guilt' and 'sin' interchangeably in CoA. This is certainly not the case in CUP and SUD, where K argues that guilt is a human idea, while sin is a divine idea. Sin is always sin before God, and an individual's consciousness of his own sin can only come as a result of revelation from God.

      Consciousness of guilt requires a degree of inwardness which the aesthetic individual lacks. Rick and Willy are quite correct to emphasize the absolute difference between the aesthetic individual and the ethical individual. (I disagree with their characterisation of this absolute difference.) The essential characteristic of the aesthetic individual is his shallowness - he lacks self-knowledge and has no sense of his own guilt and sin. I am sure that K would say, as you suggest, that the aesthetic individual's ignorance is culpable. To repeat: the aesthetic individual does sin, and therefore is guilty, but he lacks consciousness of his own guilt and his own sin. He lacks the inwardness to have this kind of consciousness. He may have the conception of relative guilt (guilt before other men), but he lacks a conception of absolute guilt.

      The (idealized) ethical individual has an absolute passion for the good, but lacks a relationship to God. Thus, as he does not stand before God, he lacks consciousness of his own sin. Nevertheless the ethical individual has a depth and passion lacking in the aesthetic 'Christians' of K's Denmark. Socrates fits K's picture of the ethical individual.

      There is a general pattern in many of K's books (including the second part of CoA) where K describes categories of individuals from the worst - the spiritless aesthetic individual - up to the best - the person of faith. In CoA, the spiritless individual lacks any anxiety to speak of - his complete shallowness doesn't even allow him to recognize that he has a problem. It is salutary to remember that, according to K, most of us live at this minimum level of existence.

      Yours,

      Jim Stuart



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