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To keep the ball alive...

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  • Médéric Laitier
    Dear Jim, Your but last posting gave me some homeworks to do before I could sit here and answer. Try to answer. A general comment first: If I were to agree
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 3, 2005
      Dear Jim,

      Your but last posting gave me some homeworks to do before I could sit here
      and answer. Try to answer.

      A general comment first:

      If I were to agree with your perspective, I believe I would have picked
      exactly the sentences/paragraphs you have. It is besides noticeable that
      when reading the Post-Script, I did take note of some of them and wrote en
      marge du passage: "There are ... three spheres of existence: the aesthetic,
      the ethical, the religious. Two boundary zones correspond to these three:
      irony, constituting the boundary between the aesthetic and the ethical;
      humour, as the boundary that separates the ethical from the religious."
      "Diantre, Sören, tu auras tout fait pour maintenir l'ambiguité jusqu'au
      bout!" which would give something like "Fiddlestick (Thanks willy for
      enlarging my vocabulary) Sören, you will have done everything possible to
      remain ambiguous till the end!" This has yet not prevented me from some
      reluctance towards the quite often accepted synthesis of K.'s approach in
      what would be termed spheres' philosophy.

      A schedule notice:

      There is a second issue -- not the least of a minor character -- which I
      should never the less like to keep on hold for a later posting: the matter
      of consciousness of guilt opposed to consciousness of sin. My reasons for
      delaying are that I fear it should make the present exceedingly long and
      that the discussion to come about it would need the present to be supported

      So at present I should only acknowledge that you are right: K. alias J.C.
      makes consciousness of guilt a feature of A religiousness opposed to a
      consciousness of sin as being that of the B-religiousness.


      Circumstantial answers -- quite futile

      As I understand your first quote, K. alias Clim. does not really imply that
      Socrates /existed/ as a ethicist but that in the respect of his use of Irony
      as an incognito, and possibly as his thereby dissimulating a relation to the
      Absolute, he was an ethicist. Subtle nuance, if truth be told, but not
      inconsequent. His being an ethicist did not mean his not being an esthete as
      well. For the art he excels at (irony) is performed with quite the sense of
      an artist, and I dare say K. holds him up as an example in this aspect as
      as in the ethical sphere...

      In your second quote the succession is (if my prospect is to be born,
      supported, or adopted) the deceiving part: "(...) immediacy, then comes the
      ethicist, then the humourist, and finally the religious individual. This is
      quite a progressing process, isn't it? Absolutely. But a process in term of
      what? Then we have to turn ourselves to the hidden part of the sentence, the
      (...) part: "Irony is a specific culture of spirit." It follows /as such, as
      a culture of spirit/ immediacy, and preceeds, still as such, ethics, humour,
      and religion. As I take it, not as modes of existence, but as degrees of

      I don't know how you will take my attitude now, but I would rather leave
      unanswered your third quote. Perhaps a sign of your victory? I believe my
      answer to your understanding of this particular paragraph to be better fit
      in my future answer to your other posting (addressed to willy) as it deals
      in my opinion to the other side of the same topic: the ethico-religious tie.
      If you disagree, argue your disagreement! I shall the disargue my

      My answer to your fourth quote would not be essentially different from the
      answer to your second, although now concerning the A/B religiousness
      discrepency. As I further intend to dedicate a whole new contribution to
      this sphere of consideration, I will suspend. Here another possible sign of
      your final victory!

      I behold your fifth as a possible concession from your side since, in my
      eyes, your quoting it reveals a puzzle over K. as Clim's retaining the
      commanding role of ethics in the progress towards religion unsettled. How
      does it work? Is it a progress of the before and after nature, and so
      forth... Why does he not dwell upon it? Puzzling, puzzling! As a
      subject-matter for discussion, once again, Ethico-religious by nature. So,
      alas, to be continued elsewhere as in the case of the third quote!

      Sixth and seventh quotes regard A/B religiousness. So here is only fit
      renewed acknowledgement of your being right: guilt-A, sin-B.


      In an aside: a deceiving word in philosophy and elsewhere alikely.

      I believe it is common experience to face a word in a piece of philosophy
      litterature that is easily understood in its usual acceptence but which
      opposes resistance in one of its specific occurrences.

      The word I have in mind is: moment. Everybody knows what a moment is. I
      would only point at the peculiar property of moments that the next one is
      the one coming /immediately/ after. But still it is coming after. I hope you
      will have a moment to ponder over it.


      A hegelian parody of existence:

      Our time is much tributable to Hegel for it is common knowledge now that
      everything has been thought. And since everything is in everything, nothing
      remains to be thought...

      Existence, as everything else, is thought through the three-moment system:


      Now what's the thesis? Well, probably the immediate. Have you got a
      systematical name for this? Why, then, esthetics! Beauty is the immediate
      appropriation of the world by the subject according to the principle of
      pleasure or enjoyment.

      Now what's the antithesis? Well, the contrary most probably. The strength to
      uphold yourself against the natural desire. Why, this should be ethics, to
      be sure!

      Now, finally, once progressed through life, having passed through the
      successive moments, what is left? Synthethis, dear old synthethis! The
      Spirit surpassing contradiction in the last moment of Thought.


      A post-thought thought by an old danish trouble-maker:

      "In the existence, all the moments have to be laid at once. For existence,
      thought is not higher than imagination, or feelings but it is coordinated
      with them."

      "Science orders subjectivity's moments within an inward knowledge; and this
      knowledge is what highest rests. And all knowledge abstracts from existence,
      is a wayout out of existence."

      "The duty is not to cancel one at the cost of the other, it consists in
      maintaining their balance, their simultaneity and the stage upon which they
      are tied is existence.

      ex /Post-Scriptum définitif non-scientifique aux miettes philosofiques/, Ed.
      Gallimard 1949, Tr. Paul Petit, p233 -- Tr. de la Tr. & Ed. de la Tr. du Tr.
      your servant's, 2005)


      I trust your understanding enough not to state how I take these quotes. I
      have stated it the best way I could in my previous posting and I haven't
      changed my position eversince. To allow contextual reading, I further
      indicate that the quote has been taken from the third paragraph, besides
      entitled: /the simultaneity of the various subjectivity moments in the
      subject, Simultaneity as an antithesis to the speculative process/, from the
      third paragraph of the third chapter of the section two of the
      Post-Scriptum. An interesting reading I believe, not even too long...

      I want to ascertain that I do not consider this to be a proof of my
      allegings. It is only part of the ground it supports itself on. I still
      believe your reading to be a coherent one as I do not hold that K. is
      contradictionless, nor that I am.


      A one and final quote -- The art of existing:

      "The subjective thinker thus possesses at the same time an esthetical
      passion and an ethical passion, by which is produced the concrete reality.
      All the problems of existence are passionate, for existence, once one has
      become aware of it, giveth passion. Thinking about the problems setting
      aside passion is not thinking about them at all, it is forgetting the spear
      that one is oneself an existing being. Yet a subjective thinker is not a
      poet, whereas he is also a poet, he is not an ethicist, whereas he is also
      ethicist, but at the same time a dialectician and essentially existing by
      himself, whereas the existence of the poet is accessory to poetry, that of
      the ethicist to the task, and that of the dialectician to thought. The
      subjective thinker is not a man of science but an artist. Existing is an
      art. The subjective thinker has enough esthetics for his life to have an
      esthetical content, enough ethics to rule his life, enough dialectics to
      behold it with his thought."

    • Will Brown
      Jim & Meddy, I have been following your going s on with interest and it seems as of now that interest is due, payable in full. The three of us are meshing in
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 3, 2005
        Jim & Meddy, I have been following your going's on with interest and
        it seems as of now that interest is due, payable in full. The three of
        us are meshing in what I see as the ultimate SK-fest; we are going to
        capture the core that is Kierkegaard. Well, maybe that should be cast
        as an attempt. We have the difference between Sin and Guilt and we
        have the border territories of the spheres, to say nothing of what the
        ethico-religious means.

        Having said that, it means that our paths must cross here. I'll begin
        the work on answering Jim's question about the ethico-religious then
        sashay into the border territory. Somewhere down the line I will also
        toss my reading of what SK means by the sin/guilt process. Luckily, el
        Hook is among us to point out wherein I err in my reading of SK.

        PS: bordo, bordo, wherefore art thou? Look at the fun you will be
        missing if you don't join in. ----Willy Brown, wearing two caps!
      • Jim Stuart
        Dear Mederic, Once again you have given me plenty to think about, however I have not found it easy to fully understand all of what you are saying. Let me try
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 6, 2005
          Dear Mederic,

          Once again you have given me plenty to think about, however I have not found it easy to fully understand all of what you are saying. Let me try to express the gist of what you are saying in my own words - then you can come back to me if I have misunderstood you in any way.

          You disagree with me over how best to interpret Kierkegaard's remarks on the spheres of existence. You see me as arguing that movement between spheres is a temporal thing - an individual can make the transition from the aesthetic sphere to the ethical sphere at a particular time, then that individual exists within the ethical sphere (as an ethical individual) till such a time as he makes the transition to the sphere of religiousness A sphere. Etc. As against my chronological (series) account of the spheres of existence, you see SK's talk of the spheres of existence "not as modes of existence, but as degrees of spirituality", such that an individual can be one moment an ethicist, the next moment an aesthete. I could call your account an atemporal (parallel) account of the spheres of existence. Thus with regard to Socrates you write: "His being an ethicist did not mean his not being an esthete as well. For the art he excels at (irony) is performed with quite the sense of an artist, and I dare say K. holds him up as an example in this aspect as well as in the ethical sphere".

          If I have correctly captured the essence of the disagreement between us, as you see it, then your "one and final quote -- The art of existing" does seem to support your interpretation of SK.

          So how do I respond? I choose to soften or nuance my own chronological account, whilst holding on to the essence of my position.

          I still feel that SK would want to claim that Socrates was essentially an ethical individual, despite his artistic abilities in the realm of discourse. Any individual who made a transition from one sphere to a 'higher' sphere would, no doubt, maintain the skills he attained at the lower sphere. So Socrates will have maintained his scientific knowledge of astronomy, as well as his skills as a public speaker when he moved from the aesthetic sphere to the ethical sphere. What changes, if I may so put it, is his orientation. Now as an ethical individual he was an absolute and infinite passion for the absolute requirement, and his passion for enjoyment and the life of a poet, or scientist, or artist, if it remains at all, is a mere relative passion. SK says a number of times in CUP, that the art of existing means maintaining an absolute passion for the absolute, and a relative passion for the relative. So I read SK as allowing that Socrates could behave as an aesthete from time to time, provided he maintained 'an inner relationship to the absolute requirement'.

          Secondly, I wouldn't want to rule out that SK allowed a certain 'overlapping' of the spheres, particularly when an individual was close to one of the transitions. Whether SK would allow that an individual could be an ethical individual on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and an aesthetic individual on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, I'm not so sure. It is a psychological fact (I claim) that all of us have good days and bad days - some days we are more spiritual and are passionate for the highest things, while other days our resolve is not there and we wallow in lower things. However (and here the recent exchange between myself and Willy is relevant), the three transitions from a lower sphere to the next sphere up, involve Gestalt switches such that things look, from the new perspective, entirely different. If a genuine Gestalt switch takes place, then there's no going back - One always has the new perspective.

          I'm not sure what to say about the phenomenon of 'backsliding', where an individual can exist as a better (more subjective) person for a while, only to be tempted back by the pleasures of life to a less spiritual existence - SK does mention this phenomenon in CUP somewhere. However I don't think this is the sort of phenomenon you are thinking of when you talk of Socrates being both an ethicist and an aesthete. You almost talk as if being an ethicist is no better than being an aesthete. However, as I read SK, being an ethicist is better than being an aesthete, and being a religious individual is better than being an ethicist.

          I'll leave things there for now, and look forward to your response.



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