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Kierkegaard's serious mistake about the ethical personalit y

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  • Jim Stuart
    SK makes a serious mistake about the ideal ethical personality which casts a shadow over the whole of his account of the ethical sphere of existence. I ll
    Message 1 of 14 , Oct 10, 2004
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      SK makes a serious mistake about the ideal ethical personality which casts a shadow over the whole of his account of the ethical sphere of existence.

      I'll start by quoting two passages from CUP, Book 2, Part One where SK's mistake is manifest. (See if you can spot the mistake as you read the passages.)

      "The constant intercourse with the world-historical tends in fact to make the individual unfit for action. The true ethical enthusiasm consists in willing to the utmost of one's powers, but at the same time being so uplifted in divine jest as never to think about the accomplishment. As soon as the will beings to look right and left for results, the individual begins to become immoral. The energy of the will is slackened; or it is abnormally developed in the direction of an unwholesome and unethical craving, greedy for reward and even if it accomplishes what is great, it does not do so ethically: the individual demands something else than the ethical itself. A truly great ethical personality would seek to realize his life in the following manner. He would strive to develop himself with the utmost exertion of his powers; in so doing he would perhaps produce great effects in the eternal world. But this would not seriously engage his attention, for he would know that the external result is not in his power, and hence that it has no significance for him, either pro or contra. He would therefore choose to remain in ignorance of what he had accomplished, in order that his striving might not be retarded by a preoccupation with the external, and lest he fall into temptation which proceeds from it. For what the logician chiefly fears, namely a fallacy, ..., that the ethicist fears quite as profoundly, namely a conclusion or transition from the ethical to something non-ethical. He would therefore keep himself in ignorance of his accomplishment by a resolution of the will; and even in the hour of death he would will not to know that his life had any other significance than that he had ethically striven to further the development of his own self. If then the power that rules the world should so shape the circumstances that he became a world-historic figure: aye, that would be a question he would first ask jestingly in eternity, for there only is there time for carefree and frivolous questions." (CUP, Lowrie translation, p. 121.)

      "Even the ethical posits opposition of a sort between the inward and the outward, inasmuch as it regards the outward as neutral. Outwardness, as the material of action, is neutral, for what the ethical accentuates is the purpose, and it is simply immoral to be concerned about the result; outwardness proves nothing at all ethically; outward victory proves nothing at all ethically, for ethical question is raised only about the inward." (CUP, Lowrie translation, pp. 263-4,)

      SK's mistake is his claim that the ethical personality is not interested in the results of her (ethical) actions. SK does make one valid point here, and this may well lead him astray into his error. His valid point is this: the ethical person (I'm not very keen on Lowrie's phrase 'ethical personality') is not motivated to good actions by the prospect of reward to herself. But while this sort of result of his ethical action should not be of interest to her, the well-being of the person (or persons) to whom her actions are directed will be her concern.

      Remember the ethical person is a person who loves others, and is motivated to action by her love for others. SK seems to not realize this (or, at least, to tend to forget it). For SK in the first passage above, the ethical person's motivation is to increase (or deepen) her own subjectivity. ("[H]e would will not to know that his life had any other significance than that he had ethically striven to further the development of his own self.") But SK is seriously wrong here. In fact SK gets things the wrong way around. SK seems to be saying the ethical person does good deeds in order to advance her own subjectivity . But the precise opposite is the truth: the ethical person seeks to deepen her own subjectivity in order to do good deeds, in order to act out of love for others, for their benefit.

      SK's error here is one theists often make because they hold to the view that God cares for all human beings, and will look after all human beings - think of Jesus' saying about the lilies of the field and the sparrows. The doctrine that God ultimately cares for all, and will always look after them, makes some theists forget that they have an ethical duty to love all and care for all. Jesus himself does not make this mistake - think of the parable of the Good Samaritan or his words on the greatest commandment to love your neighbour as one like yourself.

      SK is correct that to a large extent the results of our actions are out of our control. My attempt to visit my sick mother could be thwarted - my car may break down on the journey; my attempt to help out financially my impoverished nephew may fail - the money I send may not get to him. However, the ethical person, because they love others, will be concerned that their ethical actions do succeed. They will be interested in the results of their actions because their actions are done to benefit others, and they are concerned that the lives of others go well.

      SK's error here is connected, I suggest, with his solipsism. SK claims that the only ethical reality the individual can know is his own ethical reality. Thus for SK, the individual should only be concerned with his own motives. But the person who loves others is no solipsist - her thoughts are outwardly directed to the human beings she interacts with.

      SK is quite correct to tell us to be concerned about our inner lives, and to aim to increase our subjectivity. However SK does not realize that we ought to do this primarily in order to benefit others, and not primarily to benefit ourselves.

      Am I correct in this criticism of SK?

      Jim

      Personal message to Een Enkelte: I hope you are alive and well and still reading the Kierkegaardian dispatches, although your abrupt cessation of postings to the group suggests otherwise. The only other reason for the sudden cessation of postings I can think of is that, knowing your commitment to indirect communication, you felt that the Kierkegaardian forum was no longer conducive to edifying communication, and that silence was preferable to unsatisfactory communication. Anyway, in my opinion, the Kierkegaardian group is the poorer since your communications ceased.

      Personal message to Will Brown: Thanks for your response to my last posting on direct and indirect communication. What you say seems correct, and is helpful to me as I grapple with SK's views on this topic.





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    • Jim Stuart
      Willy, In reply to my criticism of SK you write: Jim, you end with the question of the correctness of your criticism. That criticism must, of course, rest
      Message 2 of 14 , Oct 12, 2004
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        Willy,

        In reply to my criticism of SK you write:

        "Jim, you end with the question of the correctness of your criticism. That criticism must, of course, rest upon the way you read the text criticized. Let me suggest another reading. As I see it, you see SK's words that refer to inwardness as expressing the "for me" that represents the selfish. If you read the following words from the quote, where he says, "As soon as the will begins to look right and left for results, the individual begins to become immoral," he could be saying that the "for me" is /not/ the ethical. The rest of the quote could then be seen to be speaking against the "external result" as the manifestation of the "for me.""

        I accept your reading of this passage - that is why I wrote: "SK does make one valid point here ... His valid point is this: the ethical person ... is not motivated to good actions by the prospect of reward to herself."

        I agree that SK thought of the ethical sphere as an unselfish mode of existence, in contrast to the selfish mode of existence of the aesthetic sphere.

        However, accepting this does not negate my criticism that SK has a blind spot when it comes to the ethical life: he doesn't realize that the whole point of choosing the ethical mode of existence is in order to live a life of love for the benefit of others.

        Jim





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      • j15300
        Kierkegaard was about willing one thing unto purity, the wise dominion of his Holy Christ Self. That is the cornerstone of spiritual building. As he wrote
        Message 3 of 14 , Oct 12, 2004
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          Kierkegaard was about willing one thing unto purity, the wise
          dominion of his Holy Christ Self. That is the cornerstone of
          spiritual building.

          As he wrote three years after "Concluding Unscientific Postscript,"
          in "Crisis:" "...the rich man, however generous he is in giving of
          his abundance, cannot escape having times when he is occupied with
          his riches." The very act of true, unselfed giving enriches the
          giver, as the act of true teaching enriches the teacher. That is
          spiritual law, sowing and reaping. The Holy Christ Self accepts the
          merited increase as glory, Shekinah glow-ray, unto the One, the only
          Good. That abiding or true Being, acceptance of wealth, is termed
          in Sufism "baqa."

          The soul is what is noted when there is no egoism.

          Whether one loves God and/or minds God, if the Holy Christ Self is
          eclipsed by egoism's moon, that is a dark night.

          Kierkegaard tends to emphasize the purity of soul via mindfulness,
          and, in over-emphasis, over-analyzing, the heart's love languishes.
          Balance of love, mindfulness, and will-to-purity brings about the
          honor of which Goethe noted that it arises from willing, learning,
          doing, and loving.

          If another prefers selfless love in ethical service to others, yet
          will that one's Holy Christ Self be enriched, strengthened,
          nevertheless. Yogananda noted this psychological issue when he
          advised his disciples to serve selflessly, to love God and neighbor
          as Self. Love for God and neighbor, combined with wise dominion, is
          true ethos, Will of God, which is always Good.


          --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, "Jim Stuart"
          <jimstuart@n...> wrote:
          > Willy,
          >
          > In reply to my criticism of SK you write:
          >
          > "Jim, you end with the question of the correctness of your
          criticism. That criticism must, of course, rest upon the way you
          read the text criticized. Let me suggest another reading. As I see
          it, you see SK's words that refer to inwardness as expressing
          the "for me" that represents the selfish. If you read the following
          words from the quote, where he says, "As soon as the will begins to
          look right and left for results, the individual begins to become
          immoral," he could be saying that the "for me" is /not/ the ethical.
          The rest of the quote could then be seen to be speaking against
          the "external result" as the manifestation of the "for me.""
          >
          > I accept your reading of this passage - that is why I wrote: "SK
          does make one valid point here ... His valid point is this: the
          ethical person ... is not motivated to good actions by the prospect
          of reward to herself."
          >
          > I agree that SK thought of the ethical sphere as an unselfish mode
          of existence, in contrast to the selfish mode of existence of the
          aesthetic sphere.
          >
          > However, accepting this does not negate my criticism that SK has a
          blind spot when it comes to the ethical life: he doesn't realize
          that the whole point of choosing the ethical mode of existence is in
          order to live a life of love for the benefit of others.
          >
          > Jim
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • borderealis
          Hi retired153, ... realize that the whole point of choosing the ethical mode of existence is in order to live a life of love for the benefit of others.
          Message 4 of 14 , Oct 12, 2004
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            Hi retired153,

            You said:
            >>>SK has a blind spot when it comes to the ethical life: he doesn't
            realize that the whole point of choosing the ethical mode of
            existence is in order to live a life of love for the benefit of
            others.<<<

            Kind of kicks the hermit out of the house of ethics, does it not? I
            take his point to be that the whole point of choosing the ethical is
            to recognize that choosing the ethical /is/ the whole point of
            choosing the ethical.

            Bordo
          • j15300
            Per Husserl, form precedes function :) Per conflating two Jims, I will reply somewhat on behalf of the Jim for whom your reply is surely intended, by
            Message 5 of 14 , Oct 13, 2004
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              Per Husserl, form precedes function :) Per conflating two "Jims," I
              will reply somewhat on behalf of the "Jim" for whom your reply is
              surely intended, by quoting a portion of my post: "Kierkegaard
              tends to emphasize the soul's purity through mindfulness, and, in
              over-emphasis, over-analysis, the heart's love languishes."

              You are absolutely correct that choosing the ethical is the point of
              choosing the ethical: "I am *that* I am": "I am" as ethical
              being. That is Kierkegaard's basic and good point, parallel with
              any other truly ethical one's. Kierkegaard's mentation was so
              Whiteheadian--so feedforward--that he was continually re-warded with
              riches of mindfulness, and, in so being, had to resort often enough
              to the basic premise of ethicality: "I am ethical," and, "what
              means 'ethicality'?" (Similar to Yeats' "Now that my ladder's
              gone/I must lie down where all ladders start/In the foul rag-and-
              bone shop of the heart," from his "The Circus Animals' Desertion"--
              circus of the e-motions as metaphor for "mind at the end of its
              tether"--one of two types of madness, according to Kierkegaard:
              the "objective madness;" the other, "subjective madness," being more
              of the heart's love. Ironically, while Kierkegaard *consciously*
              elected the latter for his cherubic path and ladder, the former is
              perhaps more subconsciously consonant with his style of meticulous
              mindfulness, even unto (over?)analyzing.

              The hermit is, in another tradition, typified as the "solitary
              Buddha," or one who is working on a root problem, e.g. the
              nihilating of nothingness, or, to use Sufi terms, moving through
              fana (putting off the old man and his deeds) to baqa (letting "this
              Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus"). After baqa, or
              Buddha, the ethical Kierkegaard demonstrates Being in the world, or
              Holy Christ Self monadicity, unto the dyadic dialectic, wherein the
              most vulnerable or weakest area of the Monad is opposed. Like King
              Arthur and his knights, the inner sense or childman innocence,
              championed as per Saint John of the Cross in the dark night (fana)
              of the soul-realization, triumphs, wins through to new levels of
              Being, e.g. in ethicality, Being for divine Love (loving God,
              colleague as Self). Kierkegaard focused on this aspect of purity of
              soul ethicality, unto the eternal return to the root decision "to
              be" ethical. Thus while he seems less personal, person (pure son)-
              able, unconcerned with the fruits of divine Love in those for whom
              the ethical (Christed One) servant-leader, he is single-pointedly
              focused on the "Being ethical." That is typical of the overcomer,
              the trail-blazer, and likely why he adopted so many personae, in a
              milieu overburdened with mask-making, synthetic selfness, formalism.

              Two of Soren Kierkegaard's weaker points were his over-balance of
              mindfulness ("jnana yoga"), and his consequential under-emphasis on
              demonstrating divine Love "in the marketplace." He willed to Power
              of Purity, not unlike his psychologized contemporary Friedrich
              Nietzche (who, in the "The Seven Seals" chapter of "Thus Spoke
              Zarathustra, attempts to bring forth a new religion), in effect
              carving his unique spiritual path of discipleship under Christ,
              Truth. This somewhat titanic struggle is typical of the time and
              place, and in general those, who, working to "let this Mind" abide,
              must wrestle with the imbalances/tendencies ("samskaras") of their
              own soul-field's imbalances. Kierkegaard's re-iteration of the
              choice "to be" ("ethical"), with indifference to the fruits, is
              typical advice given by e.g. the Lord Krishna, to aspiring yogis.
              This advice precludes the ego, lesser self, lower mind, from over-
              attachment to the "things of this world," even works done by Self in
              Spirit.

              If one tends to a "Bibliolatrous" (over)dependence on S.K.'s texts
              for spiritual mentoring/guidance, then other Jim's insight is
              especially valuable, in that SK does focus more on mind, purity of
              intent, than on Goethean honor arising of per-Formance, or
              the "bhakti" path of divine Love, selfless service, typified in
              modern times by Yogananda and Mother Teresa. Either is a valid line
              of light, able to arise from the basic point of will to ethicity,
              election to be ethical, the hermit in the confessional/self-
              awareness rag and bone shop unto "I and Thou." "Don't kick against
              the hermits" may be good advice, as everyone phenomenologically is
              born through a unitary birth passage, and leaves via a "tunnel" (or
              diminishment of material five-sense data stream), hopefully unto
              Light of God, and most of these arrivals and passings are hermitic
              (if not Hermetic). The Community of the Holy Spirit is enriched by
              Saints' Charity, however, all Saints are rewarded, regardless of
              their degree of selflessness, and must come to terms with the
              embarassment of riches to the glory of God ("my cup runneth over").
              (Even Saintly King David noted his issues of disobedience were
              ultimately of an "I and Thou" quale, which is the choice of true
              hermitage.)


              --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, "borderealis"
              <borderealis@y...> wrote:
              >
              > Hi retired153,
              >
              > You said:
              > >>>SK has a blind spot when it comes to the ethical life: he
              doesn't
              > realize that the whole point of choosing the ethical mode of
              > existence is in order to live a life of love for the benefit of
              > others.<<<
              >
              > Kind of kicks the hermit out of the house of ethics, does it not?
              I
              > take his point to be that the whole point of choosing the ethical
              is
              > to recognize that choosing the ethical /is/ the whole point of
              > choosing the ethical.
              >
              > Bordo
            • Jim Stuart
              Hi Bordo, Thanks for your response to my criticism of SK s view of the ethical sphere of existence. I respond with two points: 1. Yes, I agree, my conception
              Message 6 of 14 , Oct 14, 2004
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                Hi Bordo,

                Thanks for your response to my criticism of SK's view of the ethical sphere of existence. I respond with two points:

                1. Yes, I agree, my conception of ethics "kicks the hermit out of the house of ethics". There may be value in a hermit's life, but it isn't ethical value - the hermit does not interact with others.

                2. We disagree in our interpretation of SK concerning what the ethical life involves. For you SK's view is that "the whole point of choosing the ethical is to recognize that choosing the ethical /is/ the whole point of choosing the ethical". I think you are completely wrong here. Certainly, choice is an essential aspect of the ethical sphere of existence for SK, but it is not all there is to SK's conception of the ethical sphere. SK talks of the ethical sphere as the sphere of action, and throughout his writing he was centrally concerned with how we live our lives. (He was centrally concerned with what was involved in acting well.) Your interpretation of SK involving the reduction of the ethical to choice for its own sake seriously misinterprets SK's position, and fails to do justice to his rich conception of the ethical.

                Yours,

                Jim

                P.S. I hope you are no longer confusing me with retired153 (the other Jim) - our styles and views are quite different.



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              • Jim Stuart
                Hi Willy, Your post has helped me to clarify the differences between us. However I think there is more distinguishing to be done. In particular, there are two
                Message 7 of 14 , Oct 14, 2004
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                  Hi Willy,

                  Your post has helped me to clarify the differences between us. However I think there is more distinguishing to be done. In particular, there are two separate questions to ask:

                  1.. What was SK's conception of the ethical?
                  2.. Was SK's account of the ethical satisfactory in all respects?
                  On question (1), I think SK had a very rich conception of the ethical - a conception which cannot be reduced to one aspect. Thus I criticised Bordo for reducing SK's conception of the ethical to choice for its own sake. I think you also are guilty of over simplifying SK's conception of the ethical when you imply it can be reduced to the notion of self-presence or self-transparency.

                  I agree that self-presence is one aspect of SK's conception of the ethical, but SK also talks of the ethical sphere as the sphere of action. The ethical person is no spectator of life's passing show, rather she is an active participant in the midst of life. Also SK's conception of the ethical sphere is not value-neutral: it is not just the sphere of action, but the sphere of good action. Further the ethical person has a certain constancy or stability of purpose in their lives which the aesthetic person lacks.

                  So, yes, we do disagree in our interpretations of what SK meant when he talked about the ethical sphere of existence. I have tried to describe what our differences are in this respect.

                  On question (2), I am contrasting SK's conception of the ethical with a general understanding of what a lived ethical life ought to consist in. Again, I don't think the concept of a lived ethical life is a value-neutral concept. To live an ethical life is to live a good life - isn't this part of what we English speakers mean by the term "an ethical life"? Thus, I ask myself: "Is the life of SK's ideal ethical personality a good life ('a life well lived')? This is where my criticism of SK comes in - I think SK's ideal ethical personality is a person who is so wrapped up in himself, he isn't able to interact in a loving way with others. I think this is partly due to SK's solipsism, which is clearly evident in your first quotation (CUP, Hong p. 320).

                  You, of course, can criticise my position on either of two counts: (1) You can object that I misinterpret SK's account of the ethical, or (2) You can object that my own conception of what the ethical life should involve is incorrect. I guess you may want to criticise me on both counts.

                  Finally, thanks for taking the trouble to type out the four quotes - I do find it helpful to have short passages from SK to provoke my thinking.

                  Yours,

                  Jim



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                • Jim Stuart
                  Hi Jim, You put forward a strong defence of SK s account of the ethical, and make out a case for us to be lenient with him with regard to his weakness on the
                  Message 8 of 14 , Oct 14, 2004
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                    Hi Jim,

                    You put forward a strong defence of SK's account of the ethical, and make out a case for us to be lenient with him with regard to his weakness on the issue of loving others.

                    I also think that there are strong parallels between SK and Nietzsche: I like both philosophers for the same reasons - their vitality, their passion, their striving for excellence, their dislike of complacency and apathy.

                    Yours,

                    Jim


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                  • j15300
                    Not unlike Saints Augustine and Francis of Assisi, Soren Kierkegaard was known for womanizing, during his years as a theology student, and before he enjoyed a
                    Message 9 of 14 , Oct 16, 2004
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                      Not unlike Saints Augustine and Francis of Assisi, Soren Kierkegaard
                      was known for womanizing, during his years as a theology student,
                      and before he enjoyed a profound spiritual awakening. Perhaps a
                      portion of his enthusiasm for purity and non-overemphasis of the
                      love-others-as-self wisdom reflects a necessary midlife stance.
                      Further, when he attended lectures by Schelling in Berlin, that
                      immediately preceeded his publishing years (when he self-published),
                      and seemed to have allowed him the freedom to aspire to radical
                      theological confrontation with the established spiritual behavior
                      patterns of the time (c. 1843-1848).

                      Not so coincidentally, Schelling had himself been a womanizer, e.g.
                      marrying the wife of the elder brother of Friedrich Schlegel, after
                      a scandalous affair with the (older) woman. Tracing back this
                      lineage, Schelling had been a student of Fichte, who'd studied with
                      and been championed by Kant. Fichte had perhaps misunderestimated
                      Kant's "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics," broadening Plato's
                      more Idea-centered "hypothesis" procedure into "categories of
                      understanding," which lowered Kant's clear bridge or bar against
                      mystification, i.e. contemplations less pure than Platonic
                      intuition, and so the diluted platonism went on, becoming German
                      Romantic Idealism. The difference between Kant's "Prolegomena" and
                      Fichte/Schelling is similar to the difference between the Edenic
                      Mystery School and the immediate thereafter, in terms of purity of
                      Light. Kierkegaard turned that idealism around, using purity of
                      intent as a knight-errant to guard the spirit of the individual and
                      church, as a Saint Augustine, Saint Francis, or Saint Paul, with the
                      intensity toward purity that sinners-turned-saints often muster.
                      Saint John wrote lovingly to the beloved lady; Kierkegaard warned
                      the actress, predicting her sadness after the public would pass her
                      by; tellingly, he could also write sublimatingly on the "musical
                      erotic," extolling Mozart, one of the more (merely for its own sake)
                      sexual composers. For Saint John, purity and love were hand-in-
                      hand; for Kierkegaard, disinterest was perhaps a recovering
                      subjectivity addict's necessity. "Subjective madness" is what
                      Kierkegaard experienced as a youthful party goer, and yet
                      subjectivity--the way of "the drunkard and the whore"--is his
                      preference, over and above the "objective madness" of the overly-
                      heady, needlessly intellectual hegelian.

                      Interestingly, Schelling, Hegel, and Hoederlin were housemates in
                      Berlin, and "later Heidegger" found in Hoederlin ("Elucidations of
                      Hoelderlin's Poetry") the freedom of Sein peeping through the Word,
                      giving wings to Dasein and subjective hope that beyond the "wall of
                      unknowing" lay an Ideal Elysian field of green, the Greco-German
                      being the Word of the "Lord is my Shepherd" for this Catholic soul
                      who'd traveled to the far country of philosophy. Ironically, his
                      colleague, and fellow-student of Husserl, Edith Stein, who completed
                      her book on Saint John of the Cross the fortnight she was arrested
                      and martyred by the state police, has justly become Saint Edith
                      Stein. (Edmund Husserl, whom few rightly learned from, held that
                      scientists could realize God via phenomenological reduction. Edith
                      Stein, his beloved disciple, truly understood and applied the
                      phenomenological reduction, and found in Saint John of the Cross a
                      similarity to the joy and beauty of the purification of the soul-
                      field which Husserl taught. In this wise, Kierkegaard also strove
                      for that clarity, even in ethics.)

                      Nietzsche's life is of course marked by his early childhood
                      preaching of the Gospel to his classmates, who dubbed him "The
                      Preacher." When his minister and beloved father suddenly passed
                      from the screen of life, and after a prophetic dream in which
                      Nietzsche saw his beloved younger brother also taken into the grave,
                      it becomes a little more clear why Nietzsche despised churchianity
                      as neither strong nor comforting, in a way similar to Kierkegaard's
                      somewhat rebellious cri de coeur, and enrolled himself with two
                      strong father figures (Renaissance man Jakob Burckhardt, and
                      Wagner), before finding in "Zarathustra" an alter-ego by which to
                      bring forth his "last man" childhood faith (somewhat similar
                      to "Citizen Kane's" "Rosebud," is the "Seven Seals" chapter in "Thus
                      Spake Zarathustra"). Interestingly Burckhardt, whom Nietzche
                      studied with in Basel, had studied with Schelling in the 1840s, at
                      about the same timing as Kierkegaard's.

                      As both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were either strongly hot or cold,
                      God could use them; it is my opinion both were to some degree
                      redeemed and their soul-fields assumed into the heavenlies (in the
                      case of Friedrich Nietzsche, he lived out his days as a childlike
                      individual, obediently following his Christian mother, Franziska, at
                      their home: "Even at present, to be sure, there are some like this
                      preacher of virtue, and not always so honorable: but their time is
                      past--'Thus Spake Zarathustra'").

                      Respectfully,

                      j.


                      --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, "Jim Stuart"
                      <jimstuart@n...> wrote:
                      > Hi Jim,
                      >
                      > You put forward a strong defence of SK's account of the ethical,
                      and make out a case for us to be lenient with him with regard to his
                      weakness on the issue of loving others.
                      >
                      > I also think that there are strong parallels between SK and
                      Nietzsche: I like both philosophers for the same reasons - their
                      vitality, their passion, their striving for excellence, their
                      dislike of complacency and apathy.
                      >
                      > Yours,
                      >
                      > Jim
                    • Jim Stuart
                      Hi Willy, Thanks for your last post. You make a strong case for your claim that the foundation stone of the ethical sphere for SK is
                      Message 10 of 14 , Oct 17, 2004
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                        Hi Willy,

                        Thanks for your last post. You make a strong case for your claim that the foundation stone of the ethical sphere for SK is self-presence/self-transparency/self-observation self-knowledge - I take it that we can use these expressions interchangeably.

                        Given the quotations and what you say, I am more reconciled to your view of what is the essence of the ethical for SK than I was before. However I am still a little bit wary of reducing the whole of what SK says about the ethical to one key idea.

                        Even if I were to agree one hundred percent with you on this, I think my charge of solipsism still sticks. This is because the solipsism charge is not related to SK's view of how we can have ethical knowledge of the self (i.e. each of us can have ethical knowledge of our own selves - provided we are living within the ethical sphere), rather the charge is related to SK's claim that we cannot have ethical knowledge of others or of the ethical features of the world at large.

                        On my interpretation, SK claims that we are not justified in making the following sorts of ethical (or moral) judgements - 'Hitler was an evil man', 'The US/UK war on Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time', or (alternatively) 'The US/UK war on Iraq was the right war in the right place at the right time').

                        SK is following a strand in Christian ethics which holds that we should not judge others ("Judge not, that you be not judged" Matt. 7:1). However Jesus berates his audience at one point for not having the courage or independence of mind to make moral judgements concerning the events in the world around them. ("And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" Luke 12:57).

                        I agree with SK that we should be constantly inward looking to examine our own motives and make ethical judgements concerning them, but my complaint against SK is that we should also be outward looking at the world in general and those human beings we directly interact with in particular. SK does not have an inter-personal ethic because, for him, the inward was all that mattered. Thus there is a gaping hole in SK's account of the ethical.

                        Thus, using the two questions of my last post, I think we can agree on what SK's account of the ethical sphere involves, but disagree about whether or not his account was completely satisfactory. I wonder if your reluctance to offer even the tiniest criticism of SK's position is the sign of a "bibliolatrous" attitude to SK. Or is it a sign of a postmodernist relativism which views direct criticism of the views of another as fundamentally wrong-headed?

                        Yours

                        Jim

                        P.S. I never include any previous post in my own postings unless I paste in specific text in the body of my own post. As you say, it is easy enough to move up and down the thread on the Kierkegaardians web site.



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                      • Will Brown
                        Hi JimS, let me say where I see us in respect to our present discourse. There are two views here of what SK is saying. Your view is that he was speaking about
                        Message 11 of 14 , Oct 18, 2004
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                          Hi JimS, let me say where I see us in respect to our present
                          discourse. There are two views here of what SK is saying. Your view is
                          that he was speaking about the ethical, but from a position that puts
                          the ethical into doubt, leaving that gaping hole as it were. My view
                          is that he was speaking to the ethical, but the ethical he was
                          speaking to was limited to and had to do solely with one's relation to
                          oneself. We have reached the point where you are somewhat convinced
                          that my view of SK's view of the ethical is probably what SK was
                          speaking to. Your criticism of that view, directed at SK, is expressed
                          in your following statement:

                          "I agree with SK that we should be constantly inward looking to
                          examine our own motives and make ethical judgements concerning them,
                          but my complaint against SK is that we should also be outward looking
                          at the world in general and those human beings we directly interact
                          with in particular. SK does not have an inter-personal ethic because,
                          for him, the inward was all that mattered. Thus there is a gaping hole
                          in SK's account of the ethical."

                          I'll counter that with the following quote: "Worldly wisdom thinks
                          that love is a relationship between man and man. Christianity teaches
                          that love is a relationship between: man-God-man, that is, that God is
                          the middle term." (Works of Love, Hong, pp. 112-13)

                          In my argument for SK's approach, I would say that placing the
                          God-relation between the 'giver' and the 'given to' would insure that
                          the giver is not giving in double-mindedness, to resort to SK's
                          Purity. That is to say that in purity of heart one's doing for others
                          is not done for oneself but for the other, and that the ethical state
                          of being is that insurance. I see him as saying what Polonius said in
                          Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must
                          follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any
                          man." I would say that what was said is up SK's alley; get the self to
                          self relation in order, and the self to world/other relation will
                          order itself.

                          However, you are correct when you state, "Thus, using the two
                          questions of my last post, I think we can agree on what SK's account
                          of the ethical sphere involves, but disagree about whether or not his
                          account was completely satisfactory." We could let this set here with
                          my having made the point that SK could be interpreted as speaking to
                          an ethical sphere of existence that changes the meaning of ethical,
                          albeit to the point where, in your view, the "charge of solipsism" is
                          appropriate. In this, we have agreed that there is another way of
                          interpreting his message, even if we disagree on the correctness of
                          that other way. You have reduced that difference between the two views
                          to what I would consider to be at the nub of it; namely what you see
                          as "SK's claim that we cannot have ethical knowledge of others or of
                          the ethical features of the world at large." In fact, SK responds to
                          such a charge:

                          "To give thinking supremacy over everything else is gnosticism; to
                          make the subjective individual's ethical actuality the only actuality
                          could seem to be acosmism. That it will so appear to a busy thinker
                          who must explain everything, a hasty pate who traverses the whole
                          world, demonstrates only that he has a very poor idea of what the
                          ethical means for the subjective individual. If ethics deprived such a
                          busy thinker of the whole world and let him keep his own self, he
                          would likely think, `Is this anything? Such a trifling thing is not
                          worth keeping. Let it go along with all the rest' –then, then it is
                          acosmism. But why does a busy thinker like that talk and think so
                          disrespectfully of himself? Indeed, if the intention were that he
                          should give up the whole world and be satisfied with another's
                          person's ethical actuality, well, then he would be right to make light
                          of the exchange. But to the individual his own ethical actuality ought
                          to mean, ethically, even more than heaven and earth and everything
                          found therein…If it is not so, it is the worst for the individual
                          himself, because then he has nothing at all, no actuality at all,
                          because to everything else he has at the very most only a relation of
                          possibility." (CUP, Hong, p. 341; Lowrie, p.305)

                          I'll cut this off here. Your other question still hangs fire, the one
                          having to do with my view of SK's view: "I wonder if your reluctance
                          to offer even the tiniest criticism of SK's position is the sign of a
                          "bibliolatrous" attitude to SK. Or is it a sign of a postmodernist
                          relativism which views direct criticism of the views of another as
                          fundamentally wrong-headed?" To answer that question, it will be
                          necessary to get into how I came to my view, and I see that as a
                          separate discussion. willy
                        • Jim Stuart
                          Hi Willy, I think our thread on SK s account of the ethical has just about run its course and is drawing to a close. I agree with most of what you say in your
                          Message 12 of 14 , Oct 20, 2004
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                            Hi Willy,

                            I think our thread on SK's account of the ethical has just about run its course and is drawing to a close.

                            I agree with most of what you say in your last post - our interpretations of SK on the ethical are very close. I'll just make three brief points.

                            First, I'm a bit wary of an account of the loving relationship between two individuals that makes the relation "man-God-man" rather than the direct man-man. I think that two individuals existing in the ethical sphere can establish a direct relationship, without the need for an intermediary. Of course, it all depends on how the man-God-man relation is actually constituted in practice.

                            Second, I think you make a very good point when you say that "get the self to self relation in order, and the self to world/other relation will order itself". If SK himself makes this point (does he?), then the charge of solipsism would lose a lot of its force.

                            Third, I don't think your last quote (CUP, Hong p. 341) answers my complaint that SK needlessly claims that we cannot have ethical knowledge of others or of features of the world. In the quote, SK seems to be saying that for an individual, his own ethical well-being is more important than anything else, and should take up all of his attention. As I have said previously, I think SK only holds this view because he thinks that God can look after the rest of the world. But I think SK is wrong here. Of course we have an ethical duty to attend to our own ethical well-being, but we also have a duty to do what we can to reduce the terrible suffering in the world, and make the world a better place, if we can. Further we are able to judge when people around us need help, and when we need to seek to change the course of local or national events in some small way.

                            Yours,

                            Jim



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                          • Will Brown
                            Three brief answers to your three brief points, then I will agree that we have reached a good place to let this particular subject rest. First point: As I see
                            Message 13 of 14 , Oct 21, 2004
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                              Three brief answers to your three brief points, then I will agree that
                              we have reached a good place to let this particular subject rest.

                              First point: As I see it, Kierkegaard thinks of the God-relation as
                              the self to self relation, where that relation rests in transparency,
                              not to itself, but supported by the power that posited it. He sees
                              that rest as resting in the power of God. hence the God-relation. I
                              see that rest as the necessary self-understanding that allows one's
                              grasp of oneself to acquire the flexibility of a dynamic relation to
                              itself, as opposed to the frozen static relation of identity. The
                              ground in which it rests is the fact of being. All of that is a
                              gesture to what I understand. So, I think of that between not as a
                              between but as a common ground of self-understanding, more like a
                              place we can find ourselves in, together.

                              Second point: To continue the theme of the first point, here is a
                              quote from his Purity of Heart. SK talks about one's eternal
                              responsibility before God, but I can read that from my non religious
                              point of view as the ethical as the expression of an order in which
                              the expression of disorder has been negated. I know, my words are
                              loose, but the thrust is there. I see his quote as fulfilling your
                              requirement.

                              "The talk will not go into this further. It will only ask you again
                              and again, do you now live so that you are conscious of being an
                              individual and thereby that you are conscious of your eternal
                              responsibility before God? Do you live in such a way that this
                              consciousness is able to secure the time and quiet and liberty of
                              action to penetrate every relation of your life? This does not demand
                              that you withdraw from life, from an honorable calling, from a happy
                              domestic life. On the contrary, it is precisely that consciousness
                              which will sustain and clarify and illuminate what you are to do in
                              the relations of life." PH, Steere, p. 197)

                              Third point: To continue the theme of the first two points, and, as I
                              see it, the three points are really one point; the being that finds a
                              common ground of being with other beings, instead of separate beings
                              making their own ground, is the one that sees the world as "us" and
                              not as "me." As I see it, SK is saying to break that "me" and find the
                              "us." The "us" is the universal, and the ethical. The complication for
                              SK is to separate the Christian view of that universal from views such
                              as mine. I see his invention of the categories of religiousness, A &
                              B, as that attempt.

                              Ok, enough blather. I have thoroughly enjoyed our discussion and am
                              more than willing to begin another thread. Do you have a preference as
                              to the subject of the next thread? I'll leave that up to you as you
                              seem to have more questions of SK than I. Which of his books have you
                              read? willy
                            • Jim Stuart
                              Hi Willy, I have read Fear and Trembling and The Sickness unto Death, and I am currently reading Concluding Unscientific Postscript. I don t think I ll
                              Message 14 of 14 , Oct 23, 2004
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                                Hi Willy,

                                I have read Fear and Trembling and The Sickness unto Death, and I am currently reading Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

                                I don't think I'll initiate any new discussion until I complete CUP, but there are some themes in the latter half of CUP which perplex me and are not very conducive to my way of thinking, so I may send out a posting on them at some point.

                                Jim


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