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Published by: Noemi-Krisztina Kozma on Nov 16, 2013
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The Sickness Unto Death by Sören KierkegaardSören Kierkegaard is one of the towering Christian existential thinkers of the mid-nineteenth century. hile his literary style was ex!erimental" his writings call for Christian morality# a defense of faith and religion. $mong his many books are Training in Christianity" Sickness Unto Death" and %ear and Trembling. &ublished by &rinceton Uni'ersity &ress" &rinceton" (ew )ersey" *+,*. This material was !re!ared for eligion nline by Ted and innie /rock.Cha!ter *0 That Des!air is the Sickness Unto Death$. Des!air is a Sickness in the S!irit" in the Self" and So 1t 2ay $ssume a Tri!le %orm0 in Des!air at (ot /eing Conscious of 3a'ing a Self 4Des!air 1m!ro!erly So Called5# in Des!air at (ot illing to /e neself# in Des!air at illing to /e neself.2an is s!irit. /ut what is s!irit6 S!irit is the self. /ut what is the self6 The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self" or it is that in the relation 7which accounts for it8 that the relation relates itself to its own self# the self is not the relation but 7consists in the fact8 that the relation relates itself to its own self. 2an is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite" of the tem!oral and the eternal" of freedom and necessity" in short it is a synthesis. $ synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded" man is not yet a self.1n the relation between two" the relation is the third term as a negati'e unity" and the two relate themsel'es to the relation" and in the relation to the relation# such a relation is that  between soul and body" when man is regarded as soul. 1f on the contrary the relation relates itself to its own self" the relation is then the !ositi'e third term" and this is the self.Such a relation which relates itself to its own self 4that is to say" a self5 must either ha'e constituted itself or ha'e been constituted by another.1f this relation which relates itself to its own self is constituted by another" the relation doubtless is the third term" but this relation 4the third term5 is in turn a relation relating itself to that which constituted the whole relation.Such a deri'ed" constituted" relation is the human self" a relation which relates itself to its own self" and in relating itself to its own self relates itself to another. 3ence it is that there can be two forms of des!air !ro!erly so called. 1f the human self had constituted itself" there could be a 9uestion only of one form" that of not willing to be one:s own self" of willing to get rid of oneself" but there would be no 9uestion of des!airingly willing to be oneself. This formula 7i.e. that the self is constituted by another8 is the ex!ression for the
total de!endence of the relation 4the self namely5" the ex!ression for the fact that the self cannot of itself attain and remain in e9uilibrium and rest by itself" but only by relating itself to that &ower which constituted the whole relation. 1ndeed" so far is it from being true that this second form of des!air 4des!air at willing to be one:s own self5 denotes only a !articular kind of des!air" that on the contrary all des!air can in the last analysis be reduced to this. 1f a man in des!air is as he thinks conscious of his des!air" does not talk about it meaninglessly as of something which befell him 4!retty much as when a man who suffers from 'ertigo talks with ner'ous self-dece!tion about a weight u!on his head or about its being like something falling u!on him" etc." this weight and this !ressure  being in fact not something external but an in'erse reflection from an inward ex!erience5" and if by himself and by himself only he would abolish the des!air" then by all the labor he ex!ends he is only laboring himself dee!er into a dee!er des!air. The disrelationshi! of des!air is not a sim!le disrelationshi! but a disrelationshi! in a relation which relates itself to its own self and is constituted by another" so that the disrelationshi! in that self-relation reflects itself infinitely in the relation to the &ower which constituted it.This then is the formula which describes the condition of the self when des!air is com!letely eradicated0 by relating itself to its own self and by willing to be itself the self is grounded trans!arently in the &ower which !osited it./. &ossibility and $ctuality of Des!air 1s des!air an ad'antage or a drawback6 egarded in a !urely dialectical way it is both. 1f one were to stick to the abstract notion of des!air" without thinking of any concrete des!airer" one might say that it is an immense ad'antage. The !ossibility of this sickness is man:s ad'antage o'er the beast" and this ad'antage distinguishes him far more essentially than the erect !osture" for it im!lies the infinite erectness or loftiness of being s!irit. The !ossibility of this sickness is man:s ad'antage o'er the beast# to be shar!ly obser'ant of this sickness constitutes the Christian:s ad'antage o'er the natural man# to  be healed of this sickness is the Christian:s bliss.So then it is an infinite ad'antage to be able to des!air# and yet it is not only the greatest misfortune and misery to be in des!air# no" it is !erdition. rdinarily there is no such relation between !ossibility and actuality# if it is an ad'antage to be able to be this or that" it is a still greater ad'antage to be such a thing. That is to say" being is related to the ability to be as an ascent. 1n the case of des!air" on the contrary" being is related to the ability to be as a fall. 1nfinite as is the ad'antage of the !ossibility" ;ust so great is the measure of the fall. So in the case of des!air the ascent consists in not being in des!air. <et this statement is o!en to misunderstanding. The thing of not being in des!air is not like not being lame" blind" etc. 1n case the not being in des!air means neither more nor less than not being this" then it is !recisely to be it. The thing of not being in des!air must mean the annihilation of the !ossibility of being this# if it is to be true that a man is not in des!air" one must annihilate the !ossibility e'ery instant. Such is not ordinarily the relation between !ossibility and actuality. $lthough thinkers say= that actuality is the annihilated !ossibility" yet this is not entirely true# it is the fulfilled" the effecti'e  !ossibility. 3ere" on the contrary" the actuality 4not being in des!air5" which in its 'ery
form is a negation" is the im!otent" annihilated !ossibility# ordinarily" actuality in com!arison with !ossibility is a confirmation" here it is a negation.Des!air is the disrelationshi! in a relation which relates itself to itself. /ut the synthesis is not the disrelationshi!" it is merely the !ossibility" or" in the synthesis is latent the  !ossibility of the disrelationshi!. 1f the synthesis were the disrelationshi!" there would be no such thing as des!air" for des!air would then be something inherent in human nature as such" that is" it would not be des!air" it would be something that befell a man" something he suffered !assi'ely" like an illness into which a man falls" or like death which is the lot of all. (o" this thing of des!airing is inherent in man himself# but if he were not a synthesis" he could not des!air" neither could he des!air if the synthesis were not originally from >od:s hand in the right relationshi!.hence then comes des!air6 %rom the relation wherein the synthesis relates itself to itself" in that >od who made man a relationshi! lets this go as it were out of 3is hand" that is" in the fact that the relation relates itself to itself. $nd herein" in the fact that the relation is s!irit" is the self" consists the res!onsibility under which all des!air lies" and so lies e'ery instant it exists" howe'er much and howe'er ingeniously the des!airer" decei'ing himself and others" may talk of his des!air as a misfortune which has befallen him" with a confusion of things different" as in the case of 'ertigo aforementioned" with which" though it is 9ualitati'ely different" des!air has much in common" since 'ertigo is under the rubric soul what des!air is under the rubric s!irit" and is !regnant with analogies to des!air.So when the disrelationshi! -- that is" des!air -- has set in" does it follow as a matter of course that it continues6 (o" it does not follow as a matter of course# if the disrelationshi! continues" it does not follow as a conse9uence of the disrelation but as a conse9uence of the relation which relates itself to itself. That is to say" e'ery time the disrelation ex!resses itself" and e'ery instant it exists" it is to the relation one must re'ert. bser'e that we s!eak of a man contracting a disease" maybe through carelessness. Then the illness sets in" and from that instant it affirms itself and is now an actuality" the origin of which recedes more and more into the !ast. 1t would be cruel and inhuman if one were to continue to say incessantly" ?This instant thou" the sick man" art contracting this disease?# that is" if e'ery instant one were to resol'e the actuality of the disease into its !ossibility. 1t is true that he did contract the disease" but this he did only once# the continuance of the disease is a sim!le conse9uence of the fact that he once contracted it" its !rogress is not to  be referred e'ery instant to him as the cause# he contracted it" but one cannot say that he is contracting it. (ot so with des!air0 e'ery actual instant of des!air is to be referred back to !ossibility" e'ery instant the man in des!air is contracting it" it is constantly in the  !resent tense" nothing comes to !ass here as a conse9uence of a bygone actuality su!erseded# at e'ery actual instant of des!air the des!airer bears as his res!onsibility all the foregoing ex!erience in !ossibility as a !resent. This comes from the fact that des!air is a 9ualification of s!irit" that it is related to the eternal in man. /ut the eternal he cannot get rid of" no" not to all eternity# he cannot cast it from him once for all" nothing is more im!ossible# e'ery instant he does not !ossess it he must ha'e cast it or be casting it from him -- but it comes back" e'ery instant he is in des!air he contracts des!air. %or des!air is

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