Related titles Kierkegaard: A Guidefor the Perplexed - Claire Carlisle Kierkegaard ~ Julia Watkin


British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN:0-8264-8682-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Roberts. electronic or mechanical. Ethics. God and evil. 3. or any information storage or retrieval system. Bristol Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd.E8R63 2006 170'.Continuum The Tower Building. ISBN 0-8264-8682-7 (hardback) 1. recording. 1813-1855. including photocopying. NY 10010 © David Roberts 2006 All rights reserved. Cornwall . New York. title. David. Easton. without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Soren. Bodmin. 1962Kierkegaard's analysis of radical evil / David Roberts. Includes bibliographical references. cm. p. B4378. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means.92-dc22 2005023351 Typeset by Aarontype Limited. Kierkegaard. I. 2. 11 York Road. London SE1 7NX 15 East 26th Street.

To my wife Debbie .

CONTENTS Ab P An Historical Introduction: Kant and Schelling on Radical Evil Kant Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom The Struggle of Self-Becoming: Spiritless Self-Evasion The Self as a Relation The Spiritless Evasion of the Self The Despair that Abides in Infinitude The Despair that Abides in Finitude The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence The Aesthetic Stage of Existence The Ethical Stage of Existence: Self-Choice Ethical Self-Choice The Positive Self-Choice The Self as a Task The Despair of the Ethical Stage of Existence The Final Movement Toward Defiance: Infinite Resignation The Self s Primary Object of Relation The Initial Expression of an Existential Pathos: Infinite Resignation The Essential Expression of an Existential Pathos: Suffering The Decisive Expression of an Existential Pathos: Guilt The Despair of Religiousness A Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil Transparent Despair Conclusion: The Category of Offense Bibliography Index vii ix 1 2 10 23 23 27 33 42 58 60 68 74 74 78 81 102 102 106 114 120 121 128 128 142 153 157 .

Princeton: Princeton UP. and Edna H. E/O I: Either/Or. FT: Fear and Trembling. and Edna H. Hong. CD: Christian Discourses/The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress. Trans. and Edna H. Alastair Hannay. and Edna H. 89—215. Hong. Ed. CUP: Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments Trans. Trans. Hong. Hong. and Edna H. pp. 1975. Bloomington: Indiana UP. 1987. Trans. Ed. 1980. Part I. Howard V. Bloomington: Indiana UP. Howard V. 1992. Part II. 1970. Princeton: Princeton UP. Trans. and trans. Hong. E/O II: Either/Or. Trans. For Self-Examination/Judge for Yourself! Ed. Trans. CA: . 1997. Howard V. Princeton: Princeton UP. and Edna H. 1-87. Howard V. Reidar Thomte and Albert B. Bloomington: Indiana UP. 1987. and trans. and trans. Hong. 1975. Trans. 1990. 1990. Princeton: Princeton UP. Howard V. Princeton: Princeton UP. FS: For Self-Examination. Princeton: Princeton UP. JRNL II: Saren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers: Volume II. and trans. Howard V. Hong. JRNL III: S0ren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers: Volume III. Ed. EUD: Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. Hong. Howard V. Princeton: Princeton UP. Howard V. and Edna H. Hong.ABBREVIATIONS The following abbreviations have been used for S0ren Kierkegaard's works: The Concept of Anxiety. and Edna H. 1985. 1990. and Edna H. JRNL IV: S0r en Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers: Volume IV. and Edna H. Princeton: Princeton UP. 1962. pp. New York: Harper Torchbooks. PA: The Present Age. Howard V. JFY: Judge for Yourself! For Self-Examination/'Judgefor Yourself! Ed. and trans. Alexander Dru. Howard V. London: Penguin Books. Anderson. Hong.

London: Penguin Books. Howard V. The Sickness Unto Death. Howard V.viii PF: PH: SLW: SUD: Abbreviations Philosophical Fragments. Steere. 1988. Hong. Purity of the Heart is to Will One Thing. and Edna H. 1948. . Alastair Hannay. 1985. Princeton: Princeton UP. 1989. and Edna H. Trans. Stages on Life's Way. Trans. Hong. Trans. New York: Harper. Trans. Douglas V. Princeton: Princeton UP.

. Therefore.willpower (a divided will). The news is full of horrendous images (the worst of which are neither printed nor shown). The problem. The problem of the ground's culpability can be understood as arising from the syllogism that states. The problem does not consist simply in the existence of evil. however. the more powerful its acts of destruction. the more we feel its actuality (energeia). not as ignorance of the Good. however. the Good is that which is — the Real and that out of which everything that exists has its Being. or it is the inability to keep human or divine ordinances. Within the traditional view of evil. A theistic conception of the universe views this ultimate Good as God. and everything that exists flows from the creative act of God. Further. they do not help us understand our experience of evil (both historically and individually) as a powerful force. While these formulations do. the more evil something is the further something is from the Good . rather than seeking an abstract consistency.PREFACE In a non-dualistic formulation of Being. Thus. but in our desire to save the ground of existence (whether viewed as the Good or God) from culpability in regard to evil: if the ground is responsible for evil.' The traditional approach to this problem has been to call the second premise into question. Kierkegaard understood radical evil. There is perhaps no one in Western thought who has explored the existence of evil in a more insightful and profound way than S0ren Kierkegaard. as supremely good. allow one to skirt around the problem that arises if evil has substantial existence. it is a lack of. a nonessence. but as a selfconscious and transparent understanding of one's place before the Good. everything created by God must also be good. is that everything is not transparently good. indeed. 'All that exists comes from God. teaches us just the opposite: the more evil something is. We are daily confronted with what is abstractly put as 'the problem of evil'. we must strive to understand evil in such a way that the explanation is more in line with our experience. evil comes from God. and so the more impotent it should be. and the more we realize the power before which we tremble is not nothing. so that evil is conceived as being nothing — a privation of the Good. Experience. then all hope for redemption seems futile.the less existence or actuality it has. This traditional approach has received various formulations: evil is ignorance of the Good. Evil exists. capable of considerable destruction and terror. along with stories of intense human cruelty.

Evil. As we saw. this is where Kierkegaard becomes our guide. but a human the ground of existence points to human responsibility in regards to evil. despair in the face of one's own impotence). that we will discover the source of evil and our rebellion against God. In becoming a self. whose strength and integration is derived from its rebellion against the Good. we move back into the initial problem raised in the syllogism. This is so far from being nothing that it is to be understood as among the highest actualization of human selfhood. This is an understanding of evil as a privation and negation of the Good. We will see that. the main one being an understanding of how evil acquires existence through humanity . out of which arises a self-conscious defiance against God. In this book it will be the first premise that is called into question: the existence of evil did not come from God.x Preface He also did not understand radical evil as a weakness of will (a 'divided will'). in reality. evil is related to how one. Instead. While this undercuts the conclusion that evil was created by God. Evil is not so much a concern about whether one does or does not do good. for his understanding of the human self is not one in which the self comes into existence as a readymade substance. It is in this most intense form of despair (what Kierkegaard calls 'defiance') that we will discover the nature of our radical rebellion against God. In this. It is in our analysis of the structure of the self.a position or stance around which an individual's existence is gathered. evil becomes a powerful force arising both in and through human existence. but as a self-determined (free) will. but arose through the structure of the self. whatever it may be. . we will discover that the meaning of human existence is crucial for an understanding of evil. rather. Given that evil is something rather than nothing. the problem of evil is no longer a God-problem. What makes this evil radical is that it is a self-determined choice . it brings with it its own set of problems. Further. exist. Again. With this. in becoming more selfconsciously free. as an individual. To say evil is a position is to change our understanding of evil. the traditional approach of overcoming the conclusion was to call the second premise into question: evil does not. human existence is in the process of self-becoming. one may become more transparently offended by God's power (and concomitantly. one chooses whether one will gather oneself around being offended by God. Radical evil is neither a privation nor a negation. a force each individual must confront within himself or herself. This self-becoming consists in a rise in self-consciousness and freedom — what Kierkegaard calls 'spirit'. and responsibility for its existencefalls upon each individual. or will have faith in God. The position consists of a gathering of the self around the passion of 'offense' — a passion born of pride and despair. stands in relation to the Good — how one positions oneself in relation to God. and the rise in self-consciousness and freedom. but a position an individual takes before God. plays itself out within the human heart.

the individual. but is concerned with whether one relates to God in humility (faith) or in pride (offense and defiance). for such a self.Preface xi This choice is not a matter of keeping or breaking rules and regulations. and so it remains bound to the immediate moment. The remaining chapters will consist of an analysis of the self in terms of this rise in self-consciousness and freedom. rather. In choosing to despair of the aesthetic existence. indeed. than about the indescribable depths in which one's existence is grounded. We will also find that the potential for evil exists within this type of existence. In Chapter 3 we will discover that this consciousness of despair allows for the possibility of a leap from the aesthetic stage to the ethical. The first of these establishes that the nature of the self is not such that it is something finished and accomplished. Existence. A spiritless individual is merely a potential self. Several conclusions will be drawn from this analysis. Enjoyment and pleasure are the passions of this stage. this change in our understanding of evil will have a profound effect on how each individual understands the evil residing within his or her own heart. each individual has the task of becoming a self through a rise in self-consciousness and freedom. especially in Schelling. As we will see. It is out of this spiritlessness that each individual must break free in order to become a self. and thereby moves from the contingencies of aestheticism .but only by 'owning' our own evil. will be less about specific actions. a self that has not yet invested itself with self-consciousness and freedom. is spent in the evasion of its task. Evil. We will find that there is a movement within this stage that may bring the self to the brink of a consciousness of its despair. two of which will be especially important in guiding the remainder of the examination. as an essential possibility. in which the self remains lost within the multiplicity of its desires. we will see. and the pleasure that can be found therein. the ethical and the religious. The second conclusion points to the way we must approach the problem. for the first time. We will begin the analysis with a historical review of Kant's and Schelling's examination of the ground of radical evil. and that its seeds are found within the spiritless evasions of itself. We will use as our guide the three Kierkegaardian stages of existence: the aesthetic. and exposing the evasions by which we cover the evil within our own hearts. makes an absolute choice. We will find that there arises out of these two idealist philosophers an understanding of freedom which is intimately connected to the problem of evil. We will not understand human freedom and evil by examining it objectively from a distance . that the issue of human freedom cannot be separated from the problem of evil. Chapter 2 will be an analysis of the relative increase in consciousness and despair within the aesthetic stage. In Chapter 1 we will examine Kierkegaard's analysis of the structure of the self in terms of what he calls 'spiritlessness'.

. In this chapter we will discover a further actualization of the self in its self-consciousness and freedom. to the religious stage of existence. but may gather itself around its offense and defiance of the Good. and so its evil remains a mere potential — that is. though it has no actuality or energy behind it. Offense is at work in even the most spiritless forms of human existence. as it uncovers the evasions it uses in order to hide from the guilt and evil it continually carries within itself. and may choose to gather its existence around this passion of offense. it becomes more aware that it is offended by the Good. as the self becomes more and more itself. As the self rises in self-consciousness and freedom. and so rebel against it in defiance. This will bring us. as necessary as the ethical stage is for gaining oneself. we will examine the ethical stage.xii Preface into the choice for self-becoming — a choice that defines ethical is transparent to the Good . In its most transparent and self-determined form. it ultimately ends in despair. it falls under the traditional view of evil as a negation or privation. It evades and hides from its offense. in Chapter 4. and see how the absolute choice for oneself brings a rise in self-consciousness and freedom. A fully actualized self (spirit) is conscious of itself before the Good . In this chapter. evil becomes a radical choice against the Good — it becomes defiance.and yet it may be offended by the Good. We will see that. We will also discover that. it does not leave evil behind. In the final chapter the category of offense will be examined in relation to all the stages of existence.

notanaciat all. As we examine Kant's moral theory. he is unable to account for immoral actions. where freedom is shown to be based on the possibility of choosing between good and evil. the respect of others. so much as a flowing together of heteronomous forces. in a way. The capital insight of this investigation is that the capacity for freedom is inseparable from the problem of evil. In other words. In providing a basis for such a choice. It is through our discussion of this . however. and seeks to rectify this problem in his book Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. There is a specific development of the themes of freedom and evil from Kant to Kierkegaard. It is in the Religion that Kant provides a basis for the notion of'radical evil'. Such expectations move the incentive for action outside of oneself. Schelling extends Kant's analysis of freedom in his Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom. while Kant is able to provide a foundation for moral action. such an action is. Freedom. whenever there is a discussion on what it means to be human. is to be self-determined rather than other-determined. he shows that the ontological structure of freedom is in this very choice itself. In a book on S0ren Kierkegaard. an initial step toward investigating evil is to problematize human freedom. For Kant. including any anticipated gain from acting morally (whether staying out of jail. this may seem an arbitrary choice. freedom consists in a capacity to act through an internal catalyst which is free from externally influenced or directed incentives. Such an account of freedom has a decisive impact on Kant's moral theory.for we will inevitably feel its bite. In fact. therefore.An Historical Introduction: Kant and Schelling on Radical Evil The problem of evil is a human problem. it is highly relevant — called for by Kierkegaard's own approach to the problem of evil. As we will see in examining Kant and Schelling. it will become apparent that. and are no longer free. by way of Schelling. Kant must develop a moral theory that divorces itself from all expected results. we will undertake just such an investigation by looking at the views of Kant and Schelling. in other words. and is of such central significance for understanding the human situation that. which he outlines in his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. For Kant. Kant himself comes to recognize this. freedom is the freedom^cr good and evil. an ontology of freedom will be developed in the space opened up by the moral division of good and evil. evil cannot be ignored for very long . or getting into heaven). In this introduction.

Indeed. As long as one acts freely (that is. and so amoral. one is free. .the work of Kierkegaard. Before getting deeper into this problem. then one is acting according to natural impulses. then. To do this Kant must distinguish between actions done for a hoped-for effect. then. is to act from the purity of the will's origin (practical reason). one is not free. while respect for this law is the subjective determination. in its purity. Duty is just such an internal motive: 'to perform [an] action only from duty and without any inclination — then for the first time [one's] action has genuine moral worth'. By defining the will as practical reason. if one acts according to reason. One can see how this could create problems for Kant's moral theory. one's will is necessarily good. and so is no longer free. The only free acts. and showing freedom to be acting from this basis. to the extent one is determined by anything external. one acts morally. Kant Kant's Moral Theory in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant seeks to define free. Kant leaves no room for free acts that are contrary to the law. so that. and is an autonomous act of the will. This will allow us to understand how the will is self-legislating. An action done from an inclination is a means to another end. are moral acts. and this origin gives moral worth to an action. in that. and those done from an internally determined motive. yet when one acts from inclinations (incentives other than respect for the moral law). we need to consider how this relates to Kant's famous 'categorical imperative'. Thus. the will is unaffected by inclinations. an action done from duty is an end in itself. moral actions as acts performed without any external influences or incentives.2 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil treatment that we will make our own transition to what is of central importance here . reason infallibly determines the will. all acts apart from this basis are unfree. from the principles of the law determined by practical reason). The law is the objective determination of the will. 3 This moral worth of an action comes from the fact that the laws and principles of reason determine the will. but is an internally derived law. which in turn will show us how unyielding is the difficulty described above. To be self-determined. Kant says that this subjective element is the maxim that 'I ought to follow such a law even if it thwarts my inclinations'. It is autonomous because the law that determines and defines duty is not given externally. Kant conceives the moral law to be a part of the will: the conception of the law serves as the 'determining ground of the will'. This is also the essence of human freedom: when one's actions are self-determined (determined by one's own nature). In other words.

As a human being. This is because all our actions are mixed with natural inclinations. Although the moral law is self-legislated. In this the action is a means to a further object. in an important sense. since reason is an a priori determining ground.' It is the universalizability of the maxim that makes the imperative categorical.An Historical Introduction 3 A hypothetical imperative presents a potential action as something that is required to be done in order to achieve something else — something one desires. Kant says that to act according to the principle of one's own will is the principle of the autonomy of the will. This means that reason alone determines the will. This self-legislation is not relativistic because universal reason is the ground of all rational wills. The first formulation of the categorical imperative is: 'Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Such an action is good only as a means. The categorical imperative is what Kant calls a 'practical law'. The will can be absolutely good. it serves as the universal principle of the law. Only a categorical imperative commands a certain conduct apart from any effects it may bring. Kant says that the categorical imperative does not concern the material of the action or its intended result. As autonomous.' The second formulation is: 'Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature. each person is. Further. which is contrasted to 'all other principles which I accordingly count under heteronomy'. Since reason gives the law to the will as the a priori determining ground of the will. Self-legislation is nothing else than the expression of freedom. because reason is the same in all rational beings. This is how self-legislation can be understood: the 'will is thus not only subject to the law but subject in such a way that it must be regarded also as self-legislative and only for this reason as being subject to the law (of which it can regard itself as the author)'. but the form and its principle.' If we were not independent. and everything empirical falls away. only when determined by a ground that is free from all expected results. A hypothetical imperative allows one to act a certain way one day.J and is determined by reason. because one acts according to what will bring about the desired effect. a law-giver. The only concern of this imperative is that the action be willed at all times without contradiction. This is why Kant says that 'a free will and a will under moral laws are identical'. and one acts on the basis of the hoped-for effect.rather than subject to our own self-legislated law-giving and be incapable of free acts. however. and act the opposite the next. so that we do not follow the . apart from any effects that may or may not result. Autonomy is the property of the will to be a law to itself. one is subject to the law that one has given to oneself. it does not come to us as something that we are 'at one' with. and not as an end in itself. we give ourselves maxims which are independent 'from all [natural] incentives'. Thus. then we would be subject to the natural laws of needs . but as a constraint and obligation.

not only in understanding the nature of evil. and as part only of the world of sense would they have to be assumed to conform wholly to the natural law of desires and inclinations. 'real' self. Here Kant is distinguishing between appearances and things in themselves. but is a member of the intelligible world the world ruled by reason. we come to think of ourselves as obligated . (The former actions would rest on the supreme principle of morality. and also of a will that is mixed with inclinations and external incentives? As we look into this problem. and so speak of the autonomy and purity of the will and of ourselves as self-legislative. we agree 'wholeheartedly' with the moral law within us). This world has its own law. because it provides the categories through which we come to understand ourselves to begin with. It is the law of the intelligible world that is the 'ground of all actions of rational beings'. self-legislation and autonomy. as subject to the moral law. and thus to heteronomy of nature. while at the same time speaking of the need for constraint and obligation in regards to the law? How can we speak of the purity of the origin of the will (Kant is unwilling to allow for a divided will). and the latter on that of happiness). This is the realm of which we speak when using the terms 'autonomy' and 'freedom'. Kant says. just as there is a natural law as the ground of all appearances. the latter is the self behind which we can never get. than when we see ourselves in light of our actions — as effects we see ourselves doing.12 this law consists of the universal principles of morality given by reason. all my actions would completely accord with the principle of the autonomy of the pure will. Yet how can we speak of freedom. and the noumenal. The former is the self we perceive ourselves as. and as belonging to this world. but that we always concur with the self-legislation of our will (that is. Kant attempts to overcome this problem by claiming that it is dissolved when it is seen that we assume different standpoints when looking at ourselves as causes (which are not determined by anything outside of ourselves). we think of ourselves as belonging to both the intelligible world and the sensible world. we will see the great difficulty Kant will have. As a mere member of the intelligible world. but in accounting for evil at all.that is. Thus. because it points out that our will is not divided. we are transported to the intelligible world as its members. The fact that in obligation we think of ourselves as belonging to both worlds is important. when we think of ourselves under the aspect of freedom. We also belong to the sensible world. Kant distinguishes between the phenomenal or empirical self. We can never get behind this self.4 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil law in a purity that would move us simply on the basis of the law within ourselves. But since the intelligible world contains the . when we think of ourselves as obligated. The noumenal self is not determined by empirical laws.

not as immoral. . but as amoral. and this is purely rational. what he calls the 'bad will' is not a will at all. the basis for such willing is the pure. At times Kant does speak of a good will and bad will. yet at the same time he wishes to be free from such inclinations which are burdensome even to himself. 'that to which inclinations and impulses and hence the entire nature of the world of sense incite him cannot in the least impair the laws of his volition as an intelligence'. 18 The laws of the intelligible world cannot be corrupted (the will cannot be corrupted). Kant's analysis in the Religion shows that a corruption of the will can and does take place. as practical itself.'14 Given this relation namely. it follows that no one is able to willfully choose against the moral law. But because of his inclinations and impulses he cannot bring this about. our will ) the notion of evil is left out of the equation. not even the most malicious villain (provided he is otherwise accustomed to using his reason). It is for this reason that the laws of the intelligible world provide the laws that are taken by me to be categorically binding for my actions. practical will it follows that even in acting contrary to this will. No one may willfully choose against the moral law. the laws of the intelligible world hold for me as an 'ought' (I 'ought' to conform to the laws of this world). there is no man. I always will what is in accordance with practical reason. It is in this corruption that radical evil finds its place within Kant's moral theory. which belongs wholly to the intelligible world. and belonging to the intelligible world. since his will is a member of the intelligible world. Thus. . Since I am a member of the sensible world. I will this will — that is. the intelligible worldis (and must be conceived as) directly legislativefor my will. which might better be described as a lack of will. . but a succumbing to the laws of nature. As Kant puts it. who does not wish that he also might have these qualities. the 'villian's' actions are determined by his inclinations and impulses (the laws of nature). Kant further closes the door to evil by saying. l b Yet this is inconsistent. These 'two' wills are the same will: 'besides my will affected by my sensuous desires there is added the idea of exactly the same will as pure. The will of the intelligible world contains the supreme condition of the sensuously affected will. that even as I will in the sensible world. This 'malicious villain's' actions are depicted. Since we are not responsible for our inclinations and impulses we do not attribute them to our proper self (that is. As we will see in the next section.An Historical Introduction 5 ground of the world of sense and hence of its laws. . because there is only one root of will. and so another door by which to explain evil is closed. 15 Here we come to a pause. which have no bearing on his will. Instead. Thus.

he still wills the moral law). The important difference.will and reason.' are aspects or specific functions of this essentially unified faculty of volition. When the Willkiir is determined by the Wille. the 'moral feeling'. in a maxim'. How is this possible. the will as a whole is as it was described in the Foundations when Kant proclaims that the will is practical reason. in the Religion he draws a distinction between these two capacities . and the will as that which adopts its maxim. Thus.' and 'Geisinnung. Whereas in the Foundations the will . Kant allows for a capacity of the will to freely choose contrary to practical reason. These parts. which is respect for the moral law. Sensuous nature could not be the ground of immoral acts because it determined actions according to natural inclinations and impulses. In the Foundations neither the sensuous nature nor the practical law could serve as a source of immoral acts. The distinction between the Willkiir and the Wille is a distinction between that aspect of the will that chooses according to the rule of its maxim (Willkilr). Kant asserts that the will is identical with practical reason. However. Kant says that evil 'can only lie in a rule made by the willw [Willkiir] for the use of its freedom. But. that is.' 'Wille. the normative aspect of the will. in which case it is practical reason itself. however. Kant holds to this in the Religion. the practical law could not be the ground because it was incapable of being corrupted. in his analysis of Kant's change in the understanding the will. it is subject to division into 'parts' for the purpose of analysis. Not that the law of reason is corrupted. According to Silber. and that aspect of the will that is rational (Wille}. by distinguishing between the will as practical reason. Kant rather abruptly adapts his position. Wille is not free. The will according to Kant is a unitary faculty. The Wille is able to arouse desires or aversions in the Willkiir. is that. In looking at this capacity we will come to see Kant's view of radical evil. even when the malicious villain acts contrary to the moral law. which as a norm is neither free nor unfree'. but is a source of a strong incentive in Willkiir. John R. The Wille does not make decisions or adopt maxims. given that in the Foundations Kant defines the will as practical reason? Kant accomplishes this by distinguishing between three 'parts' of the will. namely. in the Religion he allows the will to be corrupted by choosing against the moral law. In the Foundations. ' Wille is rather the law of freedom. while in the Foundations Kant took reason's incorruptibility to prove the will's incorruptibility (that is.6 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Kant's Theory of Radical Evil in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone In the Religion. but the will may choose incentives other than this law for its rule. like reason and the understanding. to which Kant refers by the terms ' Willkiir. Silber. However. says. He now allows for a corruption of the will. Wille can determine the Willkiir.

e. which gives rise to evil within the self." and so Kant regards it as a 'property' of the Willkur — something that belongs to the Willkur by nature. animality and humanity can be used contrary to their ends. The first of these predispositions is 'animality'. The third aspect of the will is disposition (Geisinnung]. If the moral law is one's incentive.. which is the ground or basis out of which we adopt our maxims. None of these predispositions contradict the moral law. In the Foundations. in the Religion. the Willkur adopts a maxim by which it determines the rules of its action. reason may rule over the appetites and spirit. only thus can an incentive. there is personality. though it does so by adopting good maxims or evil maxims. but are predispositions toward good. then one is morally good. This is summed up by the Apostle Paul's discussion in Romans 7. contrary to the Wille. Kant now allows for other incentives to be incorporated into the free will." In other words. and are a part of us naturally. and so maintains itself in freedom. On the other hand. and seeks to acquire worth in the opinion of others. The disposition is adopted by the Willkur. and if one makes it one's maxim. which are able to become the source of the incentives of the Willkur. Every human being has three predispositions. As Kant says.that is. whatever it may be. one is morally evil. . but either good or evil. The 'subjective J ground or cause of this adoption [of the disposition] cannot further be known'. The Willkur is the ultimate ground for determining action. freedom of the willvv is of a wholly unique nature in that an incentive can determine the will w to an action only so far as the individual has incorporated it into his maxim (has made it the general rule in accordance with which he will conduct himself). Of course. the Willkur had one incentive: respect for the law of reason. The second predisposition is 'humanity'. although humans have a 'propensity' toward it that is. These three predispositions loosely follow Plato's three parts of the soul. This is mechanical love. and is the source of moral feeling.just as. as well as the drives for preservation and propagation. Finally. This is self-love. in that they can join in the observance of the law . Kant says that this is respect for the moral law within us. freedom). evil is not a predisposition. co-exist with the absolute spontaneity of the willw (i. which can serve as the maxim of the Willkur. and is never indifferent. a possible inclination to which all humanity is liable. if one adopts as a maxim an incentive other than the moral law.An Historical Introduction 7 necessarily chose as its ground the laws of reason. Kant gives three degrees of propensity to evil. for Plato. and has within it the social impulses. According to Kant. The first is 'frailty' or 'weakness'. They are called predispositions because they are not chosen. the Willkur is viewed as a capacity of the will to adopt maxims contrary to reason .

'actions called for by duty are done not purely for duty's sake'. In his Religion. As Kant says. In this case the maxim is not purely moral. For Kant. does not mean a wicked person acts against social norms. This is also the weakness of will described in Augustine's Confessions. Thus. Those who conform outwardly to the moral law. in 'weakness' one adopts the good (the law) into the maxim of one's Willkur. It should be noted. The problem with the traditional view. while inwardly being determined by incentives contrary to the moral law. is that it goes no further. in favour of those that are not moral. Having said this. but allows an inclination to override one's will. however. In this case the outward obedience to the law is accidental . then we would have a practical reason which is 'exempt from the moral law. The maxim is good in that it intends to observe the law. and so the traditional view of evil is not completely mistaken when it attributes evil to these grounds. and takes the initial step toward a more actualized form of human evil. this time. Those who obey the spirit of the law have. though the maxim is weak in comparison to some inclination one faces. Kant goes beyond these grounds. but it has not adopted the law alone as its all-sufficient incentive. just because the moral law is neglected. it is confused — ignorant. One wills the moral law. Both weakness and ignorance can be the grounds for all sorts of evil actions. the Wille can never be corrupted. a malignant reason as it were (a thoroughly evil will)'. which he calls 'wickedness'. motives beyond simply duty are needed in order to observe the law. for Kant. the law in itself. other incentives are needed for it to act according to the law. rather than the will being weak or divided. Here we see another 'rendition' of the view of evil as weakness. Silber says that 'Whereas the weak-willed individual is strengthened by the knowledge of his weakness and purified by the Wille that condemns his vice. it should also be noted that. Kant denies the possibility of such a . According to Kant. a man is evil when he 'is conscious of the moral law but has nevertheless adopted into his maxim the (occasional) deviation therefrom'. and is important to the traditional view of evil as weakness. This is the third degree of the propensity to evil. By the term 'radical evil'. If the Wille were to be corrupted. In other words. Thus. simply obey the letter of the law. or laws. Indeed. the impure individual is dying the quiet death (euthanasia) of morality through his confusion of moral and non-moral incentives'. however. contingent on the situation. it may be that acting lawfully is the best way to fulfil the will's evil incentive. The second degree is 'impurity of the human heart'. morals. Kant points to an evil that corrupts the ground of all maxims. Here the Willkur acts against the incentives that spring from the moral law.8 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil where he asserts that he does not do what he wants to do.that is. as their sufficient incentive. It reverses the ethical order of incentives of the Willkur. Kant distinguishes between the letter of the law and the spirit.

Schelling can). There is no repudiation of the moral law in this. . for this would set up opposition to the law itself as an incentive. presupposes a conception of freedom which. Far from languishing in the impotency of personality demanded by Kant's conception of freedom. Kant cannot fathom such a human being (though. Silber goes on to say. 'man's free power to reject the law in defiance is an ineradicable fact of human experience. . for a person to repudiate and reject the moral law? Is there not ample evidence in our own age of a 'thoroughly malignant will'? As Silber says. Every action would be motivated by a maxim whose rule is to act contrary to the spirit of the moral law. No weak personality loses an entire army in Egypt only to lose yet another in Russia. but the moral law [is adopted] along with the law of self-love. but is made a conditional incentive. Hence. As Silber writes. he insists. and even into the artificial limb on which he stamps out his defiance of the law. . devils must be responsibly portrayed in the weakness of wickedness. The moral law is not rejected. since the most evil mode of free expression is wickedness. that there are devilish beings who defiantly and powerfully reject the moral law itself. Kierkegaard consolidated the opposition to Kant's moral optimism in asserting the power of men to fulfill their personalities in the despair of defiance'. but opposition to the moral law itself. our knowledge of freedom is revealed exclusively by the moral law and its realization depends upon the incorporation of that law in volition. he makes the incentive of self-love and its inclinations the condition of obedience to the moral law.. In human experience. In other words. Humans are evil only insofar as they reverse the moral order of their incentives.' . no weak personality leads a civilized nation to moral disaster and a continent to ruin. according to Kant. however. into the rigging of his ship. is hopelessly transcendent and without foundation in human experience. yet when he becomes aware that they cannot remain on a par with each other but that one must be subordinated to the other as its supreme condition. Ahab infuses the excess of his personal strength into the spirits of his men. as we will see.An Historical Introduction 9 corruption. the incentive would not be merely self-love or sensuous nature. To assert . History in turn records the deeds of Hitler and Napoleon. because it is a contradiction to speak of a reason that acts against reason itself. speculation about devilish beings is either transcendent superstition. or. . Is it not possible.

of which evil is a part. neither of which are very enticing. This seems obvious enough.10 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil The issue of fulfilling one's personality in opposition to the moral law becomes the problem Schelling faces in his Treatise. in which the moral law comes to us as an incentive. we may echo Baudelaire's belief that if there is a God. but when one tries to discover how a 'rebellion' could arise within Being how something which is a part of Being could turn against would seem that one is left with only two choices. but in its structure. indeed. freedom was freedom for moral action. everything in Being is good. there is no good. or defiling the purity of the Good. In this latter view. It is this analysis to which we will now turn. Second. to commit evil is. Thus. In Schelling. but he now allows that freedom can be used for evil. all actions contrary to the moral law were deemed unfree acts. In Kant's Foundations. horizons which are much more expansive than allowed by Kant. the primary focus of the power of freedom is the Wille. there are two tendencies of rectifying this seeming contradiction: first. In both cases one loses the sense of the difference and opposition that is good and evil. which are adopted as the maxim of the Willkur. Both these answers give away too much. Schelling's Treatise shows that the ontological structures of human beings do not simply allow for this choice. still. and so itself . The first choice is that of dualism: there is not one Being (Substance). he most certainly is the devil — that is. we will see that freedom is freedom for good and evil. but two eternal Beings. and part of this battle is fought within the soil of the human heart. He comes to see that freedom is structured around the choice for good and evil. Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom As the title of Schelling's book implies. and so is not . in which there is one Being. not simply in terms of its relation to the moral law. The other is that of monism. to subordinate the very power of the will to other incentives. these Beings are in a continual battle with each other. and so it is our limited perspective that sees something as evil. Evil is a problem because of the difficulty of trying to understand a universe in which all is not good. for Kant. Schelling attempts to understand freedom. whether downplaying evil. freedom finds its essence in the choice for good and evil itself. the issue around which the origin of evil revolves is freedom. In tracing Schelling's movement toward this origin. we could say that what we conceive as evil is not actually evil. In this Schelling seeks to comprehend the ontological structures of humans in such a way that we are able to discover the origin of our universal propensity to evil — something Kant conceived as impossible to grasp. freedom is still freedom for moral action. we will discover the horizons with which this free choice for evil consists. In his Religion. but demand it.

An Historical Introduction


so much left with an answer to the problem, as with a denial that the problem actually exists. Schelling's Treatise seeks to allow for the difference between good and evil, without succumbing to dualism. He does this by creating a theodicy which draws a distinction between the basis or ground of God's existence, and God's existence itself.' The basis is not God, though it is a part of God as his basis. In other words, as the basis of God's existence, the ground is not God in his existence itself, yet as the basis of this existence, the ground is inseparable from God - no basis, no God. The basis precedes God's existence as an abyss or chaos, a mixture in which nothing is separated. This abyss is not God, but is nonetheless necessary for his existence (ek-sistence) or revelation. Schelling says this basis is 'the longing which the eternal one feels to give birth to itself. This longing seeks to give birth to God, i.e., the unfathomable unity, but to this extent it has not yet the unity in its own self. Thus, the basis is the longing of God to reveal himself. This longing is not the revelation itself, but the impetus of this revelation. Just as water is never revealed to a fish at the bottom of the ocean, because there is no basis by which the water can stand out for the fish, there is no revelation of God without the opposition or basis. It is in this sense that the basis (the longing for revelation) is not God, and yet is inseparable from God, for without this longing for revelation of existence, God would not ek-sist - stand out. As longing, the basis is also to be understood as will. This will, as the basis, is a kind of blind willing whose movement is toward understanding. The understanding is what eventually gives guidance or content to the will. Thus, one finds here the same distinction between understanding and will as was found between God and his basis. The will is the basis of understanding, just as longing is the basis of God. In both cases the ground is unconscious of its object, though we may say that it longs and wills for that which it serves as a basis. After the eternal act of self-revelation, the world within which we dwell possesses rule, order, and form. Schelling calls the ground the 'incomprehensible basis of reality in things, the irreducible remainder which cannot be resolved into reason by the greatest exertion but always remains in the depths'. 36 Science's attempt to wrap everything up under its covering-laws is a doomed enterprise, for unruliness pervades all that exists. Indeed, apart from unruliness there is no rule; apart from unreasonableness there is no reason, for true reason is born of unreasonableness. This notion that order, reason, and rule are not original is very important for Schelling's understanding of evil. As we saw, the problem of evil is in coming to understand how it can arise out of Being — out of the Good, out of the rule and order of all that is. For Schelling, however, order and rule are not primordial and so evil does not arise out of them. The issue changes, then, for it


Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil

is not an issue of how evil arises out of the more original, already established Good, but how the possibility for good and evil arises out of the seed of unruliness. The question in which Schelling must find his way, then, is how order arises from disorder. As we have seen, the primal longing is a longing for God's revelation, though this longing is unconscious of its object. Since God is pure light, Schelling speaks of the primal longing as 'turning towards reason'. The formation or informing of Being can be understood in terms of the tensions within the longing itself. Examining these tensions will allow for a more detailed understanding of how order arises from disorder. Schelling says that the first effect of reason is the separation offerees. There is a hidden and unconscious unity within the depths of longing, and it is through reason's separation of these forces that this unity unfolds and develops. The forces were always in the depths, though the unity was not conscious of itself as this unity. In other words, it was a chaotic mix, a seething cauldron offerees, which, like a witch's brew, holds within itself a power to change the order of things — or in this case, the disorder of things. Creation itself is this separation of ever more varied and diverse forces. This separation brings to light, at the same time, the hidden unity within the chaotic. It is this primal nature that is the eternal basis of God's existence or revelation. Schelling says that the basis 'must contain within itself, though locked away, God's essence, as a light of life shining in the dark depths'. 3 In this we find that the basis holds within itself both light and darkness, though the darkness rules and the light remains hidden. But once aroused by reason,39 longing strives to preserve the light within itself. Reason 'rouses longing (which is a yearning to return into itself) to divide the forces (to surrender darkness) and in this very division brings out the unity enclosed in what was divided, the hidden light'. Heidegger, in his commentary on this text, describes this yearning of the longing to return to itself as the ground's craving to be more and more ground: The ground thus wants to be more and more ground, and at the same time it can only will this by willing what is clearer and thus striving against itself 'as what is dark. Thus it strives for the opposite of itself and produces a separation • in itself/4 1 The ground can seek to satisfy its yearning to be more and more ground only by willing the light (that which is not ground as such). As the ground wills the light in order to differentiate it from itself, the longing becomes the basis (ground) of the light, thus becoming more and more ground. Longing surrenders the chaotic darkness to the light, and a separation offerees evolves into

An Historical Introduction


ever more differentiation, though in such a way that a higher unity conies about. In the end, all creation and arising of Being is this longing to bring order to what is chaotic, and to bring to light what is hidden in the chaos. Indeed, according to Schelling, nature itself is this combination of order and longing: there are two principles in nature, the longing of the dark depths and the light of reason. Schelling points out, however, that these principles are really one and the same, though 'regarded from the two possible aspects'.43 One can see how these principles are the same by thinking in terms of the will. Schelling says the principle of the darkness is the self-will of the creature, a will that is devoid of understanding and thus blind. This is mere craving and desiring in itself. On the other hand, there is the universal will of reason. These principles differ in that one is a self-will toward the particular, while the other is a universal will toward the light. Still, both are will., and in this sense the same. The will of the self-will, and the will of the universal will are the same will, though seen from two possible aspects. The self-will is opposed to reason as longing is opposed to the light of understanding. Self-will seeks to differentiate itself more and more from the universal will, and yet in this it becomes a tool for the universal will, serving as its ground. In most things of the world, the particular will remains a tool. For example, the animal does not ordinarily venture outside its species. When such a thing happens we often find the result to be grotesque, and are repelled by the ugliness of a self-will asserting itself against the order of the universal will. In humans, however, the 'inmost and deepest point of original darkness' is revealed. The power of this particular will is given over to humans, and yet it is revealed by the light that is, made conscious, given understanding. Thus, Schelling says that in humanity 'there are both centers — the deepest pit and the highest heaven'. Since humans are creatures (natural) who arise from the depths, they contain the dark principle that is independent from God. This principle is transfigured by the light, though it remains basically dark. In terms of will, the particular self-will is transfigured by the light into the universal will of understanding. In Kantian langauge, the Willkur (particular will) has as its motive the Wille (the universal will of reason). It is this unity, arising in nature only in humans, which Schelling designates as spirit. It is the deepest pit and the highest heaven in one. This transfiguration of the particularized self-will by light allows for spirit to arise in human beings. It is because the two principles are 'dissoluble' in humans that the possibility of good and evil arises, since the particular will may try to assert itself in place of the universal will. In other words, it is the combination of both principles in humans that makes them spirit, and it is the dissolubility of these principles that allows for the possibility of evil. In Kantian terms, it is the possession of the Willkur and the Wille that allow for personality (spirit); it is the dissolubility of the two wills that allows for radical evil.

'the spirit of love rules [in the will] in place of the spirit of dissension which wishes to divorce its own principle from the general principle'. . not free but restricted). but above and outside all nature'.that is. This is because the principle of the depths forces itself on humans . in one's very ontological structure. Thus there takes place in man's will a division of his spiritualized selfhood from the light (as the spirit stands above light) . Kant called this the Willkiir. Thus. so that the divine relation of the principles persists'. . Humans have a will that is free from the order of the universe. One relates correctly to the relation of the self by relating to the power that established (combined) the relation — that is.14 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil This unity is indissoluble in God.the Wille cannot be separated from the Willkiir in the divine will which means there is no possibility of evil in God. The second possibility of freedom is that of evil. 47 It is transcendent in the sense that it is able to break with immediacy. The principle of the depths (self-will) is that which allows humans to be independent from God. the choice is between love and dissension.the Wille. and is the principle of selfhood (self-will) in them. that which it is only in its identity with the universal will.48 In Kant's terminology. beyond the depths. by moving out from the centre and asserting itself at the periphery. self-glorification. There is no possibility of a person becoming completely swallowed up by the universal will so that he or she no longer has the particular will. As Schelling puts it. for one is. or an aspect of the will that could choose against the universal will of reason (the Wille). spirit is able to hold itself in complete freedom. a dissolution of the principles which in God are indissoluble/50 Spirit is faced with the possibility of defying the unity of the self. It may seek to be at the periphery that which it is only insofar as it remains at the center. The separation of these two principles can take place in two possible ways: through good or through evil. because this desperate attempt of the particular will to usurp . but in that case it is also a mere particular will.that is. Kierkegaard will call this attempt at self-glorification despair. It may seek to be free as creature (for the will of creature is. Thus. 'no longer the tool of the universal will operating in nature. With the dissolubility of these two principles in humans. It seeks self-revelation. against the light of reason. the Willkiir chooses as its incentive respect for the law . in which 'man's self-will remains in the depths as the central will. The first possibility is that of good. To be completely swallowed up in the universal will is to deny oneself. the depths may rise up and assert themselves against the universal. distinct from God (necessarily so) by having one's own will. as a particular will. forces humans to be themselves. love. . for he maintains the basis within himself. Here. His particular will is the universal will . keeping it under his control through Love. to be sure. Self-will may seek to be. or better.

He writes. 52 Disease is not a privation of health. it occurs when the irritable principle which ought to rule as the innermost tie offerees in the quiet deep. does not lose the forces which make it up. Schelling writes. an attempt of the depths to move toward the periphery. of course. Disease of the whole organism can never exist without the hidden forces of the depths being unloosed. He is not of the belief that evil is a mere negation or privation of the Good. for it rivals order in intensity. the despair of such rebellions. The reason this attempt at a new order ultimately leads to destruction is because the cancer cells do not have the power to establish their order as a general order upon the body. because he did not believe the particular will has enough power within itself to establish itself as a universal will. Schelling says of disease that it 'is indeed nothing essential and is actually only an illusion of life and the mere meteoric appearance of it . just as he does not believe that disease is a mere privation of health.a swaying between being and nonbeing . rather. outside the center and against the creature. activates itself. For example.but nonetheless announces itself in feeling as something very real. cancer is the process of cells dividing in a 'disorderly' manner. strives to reverse the relation of the principles. to exalt the basis above the cause. which leads to disorganization within itself and outside itself/ The particular will's defiance against the order of love leads to disorganization within and outside itself. or when Archaos is provoked to desert his quiet residence at the center of things and steps forth into the surroundings. for the end which it seeks ultimately leads to its own destruction. at one and the same time. each force seeks to organize the individual around itself. This defiance is ultimately self-destructive because the particular will does not have the power within itself to organize and unite the nexus of forces. even to the point that it ultimately destroys the body of which it was a part which is. from a view of evil as a negation of all order. Disease is the effect of an attempted self-revelation of the depths. Just so is the case with evil. in that these disorders are the grounds of a new order. It is in this sense we may say this relation of the self to itself is despair. Will. nor is evil a privation of Good. which should 5 remain in the centre. At this point Schelling is careful to distinguish his view of evil as disorder. and to use that spirit which it received only for the center. This is not a mere privation.An Historical Introduction 15 the universal will is a truly hopeless enterprise. which deserts its supernatural status in order to make itself as general will also particular and creature will. A particular will which has asserted itself.'' . but it sets these forces loose. Schelling also saw evil as a doomed enterprise.

it is the division between the dark depths of longing and the light of reason that allows for an actualized form of evil. The positive aspect of evil is grasped by seeing that it is not derived simply from the dark principle. but only from the dark or selfish principle which has been brought into intimacy with the center. He stands at the dividing line. for there is a temptation to explain good and evil within a dualistic framework. and seeks to 'assert' its particularization through this false unity — a desperate attempt at self-revelation. It is monism that has had difficulty dealing with this issue. the nexus of the principles within him is not a bond of necessity but of freedom. because it is attempting to create a form (its own form) with the forces of the dark ground. As Schelling says. but they have been put in the wrong places or grotesquely deformed. and so it is in humanity where the possibility of good and evil finds its source. and so the self-assertion announces itself as very real.16 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Evil is not a mere privation. in that it does not abide by the form of the species. According to Schelling. evil is discord and disorder in the sense of having built a false unity out of these forces. . In the physical realm one could think of a malformed animal in which the parts are all there. if you will. for it seems unfathomable that a power could arise that is contrary to the source of power. but from the dark principle being brought into an intimacy with the light that forms a nexus offerees. The division between the two principles takes place only within humans (animals are not moral creatures). because the light has penetrated the darkness and so has separated out theforces — consciousness has arisen. a strength that is strong without strength. We know this to be true. still. and carries a power near or equal to the good. there is also an enthusiasm for evil. In other words. whatever he chooses will be this act. an oddity. This often strikes us with horror. evil is not disorder in the sense of going back to pure chaos (the longing of the depths in which the light remains hidden). its universal will. too. And just as there is an ardor for the good. where evil is personified. It is this very possibility that turns out to be the essence of human freedom for Schelling: Man has been placed on that summit where he contains within him the source of self-impulsion towards good and evil in equal measure. something finite. has personality. evil is not derived from the principle of finitude in itself. for it is in a losing battle against its entelechy. It is a false unity. It is this 'enthusiasm for evil' that Kant held to be unthinkable. Yet evil. Instead. evil is also born of spirit. or the creaturely. it is a mere illusion of the species.

as the self-impulsion toward good and evil in equal measure. but it awakens this only so that an independent basis for the good may be there and so that it may be conquered and penetrated by the good'. 6 of being swallowed up by the universal will by what seems to the particular will to be a foreign will. This self-willing comes from the depths. for Schelling there must be a 'solicitation to evil. Schelling will attempt to uncover this 'solicitation of evil'. True. The depths.An Historical Introduction 17 What is paradoxical about this situation is that. This terror is the horror of being consumed and crushed by the centre. and thus define the centre in itself. it provides the independent basis through which it is conquered by the good. as self-will. or that the will of the depths is evil's primal cause. that is. evil is the continual self-willing of selfhood to get itself under its own control. because the very working out of this contradiction is what it means to be a self. but this is nothing more than a rather innocuous method of choosing against the universal will. because it fears the annihilation of itself by the universal will. This awakening. but arouses and awakens us to our freedom . indeed. it is clear that this solicitation does not come from outside of humanity. j9 Thus. it is the dissolubility of the two principles that allow for this arousal of the depths in humans. It is only in creatures other than humans that the particular will is not terrorized by the universal will. What brings humanity out of its seemingly structural indecisiveness? Given the analysis thus far.namely. Thus. this terror that drives the self-will out toward the periphery is not evil. 'for evil can only arise in the innermost will of one's own heart. This solicitation of evil will not allow humans to remain indecisive. but is actually the possibility of good. as . to the anxiety-ridden decision for good or for evil. It is this reaction which 'awakens in the creature passions or the individual will. even if it were only to the principles within him to life. and in this show themselves to be unwilling to be both particular and universal will. people may tranquilize themselves in various ways. and is never achieved without one's own deed'. Schelling writes about the 'terror of life' as that which drives a man out of the centre. is driven to the periphery. the solicitation is built into humanity's very ontological structure. We cannot get out from under this contradiction. the depths are not the solicitation to evil. However. it would be a mistake to say that evil comes from the depths. for 'he cannot remain in indecision because God must necessarily reveal himself and because nothing at all in creation can remain ambiguous'. Nothing is given to explain evil 'except the two principles of God'. and it is this arousal itself which activates the freedom as the possibility between good and evil. to make him conscious of them'/ Here we have a movement beyond where Kant was willing to go. Indeed. Or to put it another way. As we have seen. But this is not possible. as the dividing line. Instead. It is. it would seem that he stands at the place of indecision. to be spirit.

for one is receptive to the non-being (the ground) which seeks revelation. Schelling gives a compelling description of this process. but just on that account more ravenous. when faced with a choice between contradictory . In this. a spiritless form of despair. whether it chooses for good or for evil. dissension and love. Humans are potentially spirit. then. out of this struggle. Evil arises. which. In evil there is that contradiction which devours and always negates itself. hungrier. from truth to falsehood. envy and adoration. This choice arises as the 'terror of life' is consciously faced in the individual. by necessity. and yet freedom is something which itself must be chosen. The choice comes down to this: do I allow the terror of the universal to drive me toward self-revelation and selfglorification. The terror of the universal will remains in the awakening. more poisonous. falls into non-being. in its ambition to be everything. and this reception is supported by one's inclination toward evil. how can one choose freedom before possessing it?63 According to Schelling. where selfhood is activated by being self-consciously and freely before the universal will as a particular will. and so there remains a continual struggle to annihilate the particular will's attempts at self-glorification. a process built on the ever increasing power of selfishness: So the beginning of sin consists in man's going over from actual being to non-being. in God. This intensity is not. For even he who has moved out of the center retains the feeling that he has been all things when in and with God. A problem arises around this view of freedom. that is. despair and faith. but is that which awakens slumbering goodness. The self is activated or actualized in the selfconscious choice between good and evil. in the measure that it deserts totality and unity becomes ever needier and poorer. The self is this very struggle itself. Hence there springs a hunger of selfishness which. True humanity consists in an intensity of personality. from light into darkness. one gives into the illusion inherent in the false nexus or combination of forces. Therefore he strives to return to this condition. which just while striving to become creature destroys the nexus of creation and.18 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil we will see in the next chapter. driven to evil (is not a predisposition to evil). which is to say they do not possess 'activated' selfhood as a matter of course. If the ability to truly choose is something only a free person can do. offense and worship. but he does so for himself and not in the way he could. in order himself to become the creative basis and to rule over all things with the power of the center which he contains. This spiritlessness seeks to hide freedom from itself by blinding itself to the choice of good and evil. or do I allow the terror to show me my need for the universal will's revelation and glorification? It is a distinction between defiance and humility. the 'usual conception' of freedom is that it is a capacity of the will.

freedom is conceived as the capacity to act according to the laws of one's own inner being. to tell the truth. Schelling does not look deeper into this feeling. not an external determination. and yet determines our life in time. 'this Being which is assumed as prior to knowledge is no being. he must first be. Though this idea may seem beyond the grasp of common ways of thought. To posit himself. He regards this as a very deficient view of freedom: 'To be able to decide for A or -A without any motivating reasons would. is completely undetermined with respect to either one. It remains as dark as it did for Kant. . It is an act that belongs to eternity. nor does he examine how it relates to the solicitation of evil. does a human being determine his or her essence? Schelling says it is a determination that cannot occur in time. there is in every man a feeling which is in accord with it. even if it is not knowledge either.An Historical Introduction 19 opposites. in both Kant and Schelling. " Schelling continues. it is primal and basic willing which makes itself into something and is the basis and foundation of all essence'. In this sense. The question. and had in no sense only come . then. however. What is this feeling? Schelling points to a guilt that seems to have been invested to us at our births. it is real self-positing. and how. concerns the inner necessity of human Being. This is where the problem of freedom arises for Schelling: how can freedom be the capacity to act according to the inner necessity of one's own nature. as if each man felt that he had been what he is from all eternity. Thus. which is the ground of all existence and revelation — as well as the possibility of good and evil. only be a privilege to act entirely unreasonably.'' With the advent of Kantian idealism. though not a necessity of compulsion — that is. Freedom is freedom only in terms of an 'inner necessity which springs from the essence of the active agent itself. how can he 'first be' if he must first posit himself? Schelling says. freedom comes to be understood in terms of a higher necessity or determination for making choices. i . When. . this inner necessity is freedom itself. and yet he is nothing other than this self-positing. though it does not 'precede life in time but occurs throughout time (untouched by it) as an act eternal by its own nature'. for what is not cannot posit. According to Schelling.70 to be so in time. Yet. and yet for which we are somehow responsible. and at the same time be this inner necessity? Schelling puts this problem in a single statement: 'man's being is essentially his own deed'. the self-positing arises out of the dark basis.' The paradox consists in this: man posits himself. who attributed this self-positing beyond the empirical and phenomenal world of time and space: for Kant the choice is made from the intelligible world — by the noumenal self. does this self-positing take place? When.

Kant. Ed. and have determined our lives in this choice. This choice remains dark for Schelling. At this point. Kant. 66. 110. This is radical evil. For since he does not. 1986. we have chosen to stand on the side of selfishness from eternity. 1986. 7. 87. 68. as well as to the ontological guilt under which we find ourselves. Kant. 1986. Trans. but from within. 'A man may not know even himself as he really is by knowing himself through inner sensation. evil in general had once been aroused in creation. New York: Continuum. 1986. 9. for Kierkegaard this is a choice made in time — it is an existential choice. 86. we must awaken to the possibility of good and evil. Immanuel Kant: Philosophical Writings. for 'Only an evil which attaches to us by our own act. We will now turn to an examination of this choice between good and evil. Kant. Lewis White Beck. 6. 'When. Ernst Behler. Schelling writes. however. but does so from birth. produce himself or derive his concept of himself as a priori but only empirically. it is natural that he obtains his knowledge of himself through inner sense and consequently only through the 2. and allow the good to arise out of this propensity to evil. . 5. 1986.'71 Thus. p. p. and with which we must struggle. 1986. 11. p. p. 4. 52^125.20 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil What we discover in Schelling is that evil is a choice though it is a choice chosen at birth.. It is the task of freedom to pick up this basis (for the spirit of evil provides a basis for the spirit of love) and be transformed through a self-positing which allows the good to be manifested through one's selfhood. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 1986. 8. can therefore be designated as radical evil'. 1986. Kant. In this sense we may speak of the pre-destiny of evil in man. This guilt means that freedom finds itself solicited by evil in terms of a radical egoism and selfishness. 10. since it took place in the eternal past. Kant. Notes 1. . it is in this guilt that we spend our lives. Immanuel Kant. through the reaction of the depths to revelation. suffice it to say that at some level we are in time as already guilty. . 96. and all who are born are born with the dark principle of evil attached to them. Kant. Kant. p. 1986. p. Kant. p. It is radical because it is not a determination from without. as it were. 68. In other words. man from eternity took his stand in egotism and selfishness. 97. 3. p. p. 1986. 103. 85. p. pp.

He explains it as God's imaginative response. 1986. Ixxix—cxxxiv. Silber. Much of Schelling's language and approach may seem foreign to our 21 st century ears. 1960. 24. W. 1960. 1960. Schelling. xciv. 15. New York: Harper. cxxii. p. Schelling. it is a creative act. pp. p. 30. p. 23). 25. 1960. 34. 27. Kant. Theodore M. 19. 17. p. 31. p. cxxv. Hudson. p. Kant. New York: Harper. 114 [my emphasis]). p. 35. Kant. 1986. 25. Schelling. p. 120. 17. 37. p. 32. Kant. Trans. Kant. p. Kant. 'The Ethical Significance of Kant's Religion'. 20). Kant says that these predispositions have 'immediate reference to the faculty of desire and the exercise of the will w ' (1960. 1986. p. pp. Kant. 28. p. Kant says that the disposition is 'the ultimate subjective ground of the adoption of maxims' (1960. Of Human Freedom. p. appearance of his nature and the way in which his consciousness is affected. John R. 40. Chicago: Open Court. Silber. 115. 1986. 18. p. 1960. 1986. Schelling. 116 (my emphasis). Silber. In other words. civ. p. 1986. . the Willkur is translated as 'will"" in order to differentiate it from Wille. J. p. 116 (my emphasis). 22. 20. 19. 39. 36. F. 1960. p. Introduction to Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. 33. Trans. Immanuel Kant. In the translation by Greene and Hudson. and these insights will be essential for Kierkegaard's approach to the problem of evil. p. 36. Silber. 34. Kant. 117. but some profound insights about Being can be drawn from them. p. it remains hidden in the basis of God's existence. 30. 35.An Historical Introduction 21 12. 117. 14. p. p. Schelling. Kant. Kant. Kant. p. 120. James Gutmann. p. 1986. Greene and Hoyt H. How does this arousal happen? In this question we find the reason for Schelling's allegorical language. Silber. 16. 1986. cxxix. 38. 20-1. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.' (Kant. cxxix. 29. Silber. Kant. p. 26. p. 1960. 27. 1936. 33. 31. 13. 36. 1960. 21. Kant. p. 23. p. and in this sense remains a part of the dark depths that is.

51. p. p. . 66 (my emphasis). 67. p. p. 70. 64. 63 (my emphasis). p. Schelling. Trans. Schelling. Schelling. Schelling. 60. p. 38. p. Schelling. Schelling. p. p. 53. p. 59. 1985. Schelling. 60.' Schelling. 69. p. Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Martin Heidegger. p. p. 79. p. This analysis reminds me of a quote sometimes attributed to Michelangelo: 'Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. Schelling. Athens. p. 67. p. p. 38). Schelling. 50. 50. p. Schelling. 46. Schelling. 68. 72. 54. 48. 40. 59. p. The 'self-will of creatures stands opposed to reason as universal will.22 41. Schelling. Schelling. 62. Schelling. p. 79. 43. 49. Schelling. Schelling. 65. This problem will unfold more fully as we examine Kierkegaard's view of evil. p. p. 37. 41-2. 66. 52. 50. Schelling. 64. and the latter makes use of the former and subordinates it to itself as a mere tool' (Schelling. 69. Schelling. p. Schelling. 61. Schelling. 41 (my emphasis). p. pp. 47. 40. 41. 57. 71. 55. 44. Schelling. 42. p. 38. 45. Schelling. Joan Stambaugh. 41. 51. Schelling. Schelling. 69. 63. p. Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom. p. 64. 42. p. Schelling. OH: Ohio UP. Schelling. 50. 48. Schelling. 136. 61. so it is not necessary to grasp the problem completely at this point. 58. p. 63. 56.

namely. consequently also in gaining the soul. and where change is internal and bound . The proble can be stated in a question: If we are to choose and become ourselves while in temporal existence. he certainly does not need to gain it.the work in which this structure is most systematically presented that self-becoming is connected to the problem of evil. it is along the lines of the Aristotelian notions ofenergeia and entelechy. and for Schelling it was a choice made in the eternal past).1 The Struggle of Self-Becoming: Spiritless Self-Evasion The task of every human being is to become a 'self. however. how then can he gain it. or telos of the action is geared toward the creation of another object — for example. both Kant and Schelling believe the self must choose itself in its freedom. and that the nature of the self should be conceived in terms of a self-becoming. it is clear from The Sickness Unto Death . As we have seen. Rather. process. Thus. believes this choice is made within time. where the change. who are we while in the midst of this becoming? In his upbuilding discourse 'To Gain One's Soul In Patience'. in that self-becoming is its very nature. Could there be a possession of that sort. though this choice is made outside time (for Kant all free acts transcend the phenomenal world which comes to us through time. Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard problematizes this issue in terms of gaining what is already possessed: [I]f a person possesses his soul. that 'man's being is essentially his own deed'. Further. the change that takes place in selfbecoming is not like the Aristotelian notion of kinesis. The self is not a readymade. since the soul itself is the ultimate condition that is presupposed in every acquiring. it is a choice. He develops this view in terms of the unique structure of the human self. where the process is the telos. the human self finds itself in just such a condition. which signifies precisely the condition for being able to gain the same possession?1 For Kierkegaard. The Self as a Relation We begin at the paradox of human freedom discussed at the end of the introduction . and if he does not possess it. substantial entity that we possess simply by virtue of existence. the telos of the act of building a house is found in the house that is built. rather.

of being in what he calls 'despair'. Again. Aristotle's concepts of energeia (act) and entelechy may be helpful here. this is what it is from the point of view of soul for soul and body to be in relation. then this relation is the positive third. we become what we always are: a selfcontradiction continuously seeking equilibrium. One who comes naked into the world possesses nothing. does not have it outside himself as something new that is to be possessed. that is as something that is to be gained. which is to say that it plays out its . The self. the relation relates to itself. In Schelling's terminology. and not accept the task of self-becoming. nor an all-final point to be reached in which we finally become something completely other than we formerly had been. Part of Kierkegaard's purpose in writing The Sickness Unto Death was to show the ever-changing stance of the self to itself. but more importantly. on the other hand. our Being is in the process of (self) becoming. and in the relation to that relation. then. is a possession that can be gained or lost. An animal too has its entelechy. Thus. an animal's particular will becomes a tool for the universal will. Looked at in this way a human being is not yet a self. and could be said to possess itself in this form. to the possibility of not being a self .in all its acts. Becoming a self is what the self is'. It possesses itself — its form . especially as it stands in its murelation to itself. This is not an external act. The self is not the relation but the relation's relating to itself. his definition of the self speaks not only to the possibility of becoming a self. A synthesis is a relation between two terms. It has its entelechy in the form and eidos of the species. But what is the self? The self is a relation which relates to itself. Kierkegaard writes. In short a synthesis. it fulfils its form in simply being. or that in the relation which is its relating to itself. of freedom and necessity. and the two relate to the relation. Rather.24 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil within the form or structure of the process itself. The process of self-becoming consists in the continual struggle of bringing the poles of the self into equilibrium. Even if it is true that one exists as becoming. If. one may choose against this structure. and thais is the self. In other words. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. and to the structure of the self as a self-contradiction. of the temporal and the eternal. In a relation between two things the relation is the third term in the form of a negative unity. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite.2 This situation is due to the ontological structure of the self as a relation that relates itself to itself. but the one who comes into the world in the nakedness of his soul does nevertheless possess his soul. Kierkegaard gives his structural definition of the self in The Sickness Unto Death: A human being is spirit. but which remains a type of possession even in this gaining or losing.

then one loses oneself. For Kierkegaard. and in the next moment in its infinitude in a rejection of its finitude. and possess ourselves as something to be gained. They may choose not to be themselves. feeling. that most people exist as a mere negative unity. as something to be united. a self which is bound by its past (necessity). on the other hand. there exists a more radical separation between the particular and universal wills.' The problem we face. but only as a negative unity. is aware of the syntheses of the self. but as a struggle in which it must gain itself. the possibility of failure is an ever-present danger. and. something distinct from and above the mere negative unity which makes up the syntheses. though somehow continuous throughout this flux (eternal). In humans. will. a self which is not constituted as substance. In possessing the world. they possess this as something to be gained — that is. in which one lives 'according to the categories of nature and culture totally devoid of an awareness of one's self as a self. It flits between the poles of these syntheses. What is the self lost in? It is lost in what Kierkegaard calls the 'negative unity'. if we are to believe Kierkegaard. It is a positive unifier of the opposing poles of the syntheses. as John Elrod puts it. and also a self as it could be (ideal). and actually quite probable. This is a self that lacks self-consciousness and freedom. because his soul was lost in it and possessed the world in itself. they possess themselves as this separation of the 'deepest pit and the highest heaven'. This is why Kierkegaard calls it a 'positive third' — that is. This negative unity is a rather innocuous phenomenon. we abandon ourselves to it. we are possessed by it — that is. It is possible. unify already having lost itself in the categories of nature and culture. and so it does not. and yet is open to the future (possibility). The self is not conscious of the contradictory poles that make up its structure. for in it one exists. and so not accept themselves as this task of self-becoming. This is due . a self that is limited (finite). 'What people aspire to — to possess the world a person was closest to it in the first moment of life. Kierkegaard says. in 'immediate unity with one's natural condition'. but whose imagination. a self that is scattered in the moments of its life (temporal). This is what Kierkegaard calls spiritlessness and the aesthetic stage of existence.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 25 particularity within its eidos or species. This triadic structure constitutes Kierkegaard's ontological understanding of the self. If one does not take up this task. The unity of these syntheses remain. thus. is that we cannot both possess the world. Humans become conscious of themselves as particular wills. failure is much more common than success. It realizes there is a self as it is (real). and knowledge take it beyond its limitations (infinite). The spiritual self. at one moment living out of its finitude in denial of its infinitude. The negative unity is simply the various syntheses that make up the self. as a positive third element. and of the possible misrelations of these syntheses. As in all struggles. however. however. The self initially approaches the world as a negative unity .

While those who are lost in worldliness are more likely to envy the fortunate soul. and no human can become lost in the world as an animal is lost. she shows her strength over us. we discover that these formulas and guides do not ensure the possession of the world. to slave for it — and yet not to be satisfied by it. And yet. . Yes. which every human being is commanded to do. [I]t is to live in order to slave. a slave to the ever-changing whims of temporality. and he senses this resistance that does not follow the movements of the world's life. . and it becomes apparent how thoroughly she possesses our lives. in spiritless busyness. to lose one's soul. to damn oneself and one's life to this slaving despondent greed day and night. its contingent nature binds us. Instead of being willing to be what one is. but also loved by God . to lose oneself.. It is not simply watching a person being tossed around by the whims of the world that is so troubling. A good example of this possession can be found in a work like Machiavelli's The Prince. The structure of the self remains. when a human being is lost. to cease to be a human being and live as a human being instead of being freer than the bird. . And so.26 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil to the contingent nature of the world. for. and we are forced to bow to its contingencies as we attempt to gain it. in spending the 'periods of calm'8 building the dikes and floodgates in an attempt to control the torrents offortuna. If ever there was a guide to possessing the world. in dark and brooding dejection. If he now wants . At the same moment he is different from the world. unlike animals. toward the end of the book. It isfortuna who rules. poor. this is it. we return to the fact that in the midst of this lostness the self does not thereby completely surrender possession of itself. and godforsaken to slave more wretchedly than the animal. and the fact that our possession of it can be lost or diminished. . . Kierkegaard is horrified to see a person succeed in this way. because the care is to become rich. with heart burdened by worry about making a living. . . . but the realization that the self is thereby abandoned in this futile undertaking. If we give ourselves over to the longing and desire of possessing the world (allowing its possession to guide our lives). . Kierkegaard expands on this theme: What is the temptation that in itself is many temptations? Certainly it is not the glutton's temptation to live in order to eat. This is to be a slave tofortuna. but only prove to be ways in which we have a better chance of holding onto the world against the whims offortuna. . The temptation is this. Having said all this. There are pages and pages of practical formulas to help the would-be prince gain the world and keep it in his possession. to slave! Instead of working for the daily bread.

This is a difficult task. which do not allow for complete and utter lostness. which for Kierkegaard is God. It is the structure of the self as a self-relating relation that allows the self to become free from the world in which it is lost. if he wants to gain his soul. public. like the undulation of the waves. Kierkegaard says that one's soul is gained from God. the infinite. The task of existence is to free ourselves from worldliness.whether in humility or pride. he must let his resistance become more and more pronounced and in doing so gain his soul. Thus. the self remains. when it manifests itself— and it does not always do so — is committed against others. the ideal. So even while lost to itself. the self continues to possess itself in. an understanding of evil can be arrived at prior to all ontical. in that our relationship with others is always mediated by our relationship with the Good. this structure is established by an Other. and the possible. and relational manifestations of evil. evil is first and foremost an ontological something to be gained away from the world. he must overcome this disquiet until once again.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 2 7 to gain the world. However. at some level. In this chapter we will examine the ontological structure of the self with this view of . But this is not all that is at work in becoming oneself. he vanishes in the life of the world . which is why most people abandon it. this difference . The Spiritless Evasion of the Self Spiritlessness and Choice For Kierkegaard. for his soul was this very difference: it was the infinity in the life of the world in its difference from itself. because the structure of the self is a derived relation. 11 The possibility of despair is due to the fact that God has released the self from his hand.then he has won the world. Another way of saying this is that we commit evil against the Good before we commit it against others. aw ay from the world. the seat of evil is not in these actions. Although evil.10 This resistance is the eternal. In other words. and as. Thus. we are released from the hand of God that we may choose ourselves in him. Kierkegaard's authorship is an attempt to make us feel the contradictions within ourselves. in order to find ourselves in the power that established the structure of the self. heterogeneous to the life of the world. and through oneself. We will begin our analysis of despair and evil by examining our least awakened state of consciousness: spiritlessness. in hopes of awakening us to the struggle of becoming a self. and thus abandon themselves. because the ground of evil is found in the individual's choice against his or her self and the Good. While lost in the world. and yet the self only becomes itself by freely turning and relating itself back toward God .

although the ground of evil is found in the structure of the self. we will see that. primordially. if I am not myself?). This is essentially selfdeception and an evasion of the self s true task.28 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil evil in mind. a taking possession of oneself. 'Freedom does not consist in always being able to do the opposite of what has been done up to now. which consists of a deepening of self-consciousness and freedom. is not the ability to 'undo' oneself from moment to moment (the ability to posit the opposite of what has been posited up until now). of something external. and how it maintains itself in a mere potential for selfhood. The spiritless self is secure in the power of its negative unity. the spiritless person asks. of some effect which is distinct from and opposed to the free act itself. To gain a clearer understanding of this. The process by which selfhood (as well as evil) is actualized will be the theme of the last four chapters. of the reality of one's own creative power over oneself. but the self in its negative unity. Karl Rahner. and come to see how the potential for evil arises. For Rahner. is satisfied with dwelling in existence as potential. we must recall that multiplicity is not the milieu of freedom. and finds all talk of becoming a self ludicrous (who else am I. we will be examining the ways the self despairs of itself. As we explore the structure of the self in terms of the finite and infinite poles. the structure itself allows only for the potential of evil. as self-presence in oneself. and projecting oneself in a single direction. In the introduction we saw that for Kant freedom of will is not found in the willing of heterogeneity. the essence of freedom is not the willing of a multiplicity of external things. we will be dealing with the 'spiritless' mode of the self. but the ability to take possession of oneself: a free act is originally not so much the positing of something else. we do not first come upon an actualized self. the actualization of evil must be addressed through an analysis of the process of self-becoming. Kierkegaard is very Kantian (and Rahnerian) in this regard: freedom. As we have seen. one gains the unity of character found in personality. but consists in being able to effect once and for all into finality'. . as the seat of selfhood. The Catholic theologian. makes this point well when he writes. nor to will in a number of different directions. In the same way. It is rather the self-fulfillment of one's own nature. Since we will be looking only at the potential for selfhood in this chapter. and not from our relationship with others. but in willing one thing — the maxim of reason — and in this. Thus. but is taking possession of oneself. it is coming to oneself. This self is characterized by potentiality and movement. and seeks to define itself through its relation to the world. from this structure. It reacts to what comes to it externally. A spiritless individual has no interest in actualizing the self.

there is a fundamental difference between spiritless 'choices' and the choice of an actualized individual: while spirit is characterized by earnestness (an acquired originality of disposition). While Kierkegaard does not believe an individual makes a self-conscious choice to be spiritless. Even in the case of called sin. yes. it is the person's own fault. but because it is accepted through default. he finds it questionable whether we could call a potential self a self that sins: Where in all the world could one find a real sin-consciousness . as avoid existential decisions . not because spiritlessness wasfreely chosen as the meaning around which life is to be gathered. . and through the continual repetition of this moment. to be 'spewed out'. In order to understand the nature of spiritless indifference. and simply reacts to what is happening around it externally. in a life so immersed in triviality and chattering mimicry of 'the others' that it can hardly . As Kierkegaard states. In this. . No person is born spiritless. Kierkegaard does not attribute any actualization to the spiritless self.those choices that project and posit the self. Freedom and Repetition Kierkegaard believes human existence gains continuity in a moment of passion. it must be contrasted to the Kierkegaardian view of the earnestness of freedom. and however many take it with them to the grave. especially in reference to the notion of evil. . and gives expectancy to the future. spiritlessness is characterized by indifference. and for which the individual has no responsibility: Ts it something that happens to a person? No.The Struggle of Self-Becoming The willing or choice that arises out of this self-possession is qualitatively different from that which arises out of the merely potential too spiritless to . he is not willing to say that spiritlessness is something which has come upon an individual by necessity. This moment gathers one's past and future: it redeems the past by drawing it up into the passion. a continuity is gained in and through the passion. Frederick Buechner describes this event or moment. The potential self does not so much choose. as all they have got out of life — that is not life's fault'. are so far from the good (faith) as almost to be too spiritless to be called sin. whereby a person invests his or her existence with meaning. characterized by the dialectic of indifference. It is just this distinction between earnestness and indifference that is to be made clear in this work. The person is responsible. 'the lives of most people. even almost too spiritless to be called despair'. A spiritless self runs from all situations that require creative choice. and merits only. While it could be argued that there is an aspect of human choice in this default. as the Scripture says.

and just this repeatability of meaning is what Kierkegaard means by the term 'repetition'. but upon something which reaches to the deepest roots of my existence and wherein I am connected into the divine and held fast to it. of course. and this means that I must find a truth which is true for me. the goal of motion is decision and repeti This passion. 20 Although these moments are unrepeatable in an aesthetic or immediate sense. one must repeat the passion in an existential decision. it does not define one's life onceandfor all.. the meaning they contain is repeatable. while the earnestness of the eternal manifests itself in infinite passion. to see what God wants me to do. Sometimes an event occurs in our lives (a birth. in time. A good example of this is found in one of Kierkegaard's journal entries: There is something missing in my life. Kierkegaard says. does not mean it will continue to be gathered in the future. Kierkegaard discusses this in terms of Jesus' parable of the foolish maidens: . Thus.. even though the whole world falls apart. a death. joy) through which we catch a glimpse of what our lives are all about and maybe even what life itself is all about. Just because one has a moment of passion around which one's life is potentially gathered. this is what I lack and this is what I am striving for. a marriage — some event of unusual beauty. pain. This 'idealizing passion' intensifies the interest in one's existence.30 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil As humans we know time as a passing of unrepeatable events in the course of which everything passes away including ourselves. we stand on such occasions with one foot in eternity. 'For an existing person. on something one calls 'objective' — on something not my own. come to nothing. The Idea was what I lacked in order to live a complete human life and not merely knowledge. . the passionate decision may. and this glimpse of what 'it's all about' involves not just the present but the past and future too. To gain continuity. Because we are in the process of becoming. because it is a decision. So I could not base the development of my philosophy of life — yes. I need to understand my purpose in life. that a certain amount of knowledge is presupposed in every action. since one's existence is not finished. As human beings. but a choice. not what I must know — except. as Buechner seems to imply. that I must find that Idea for which I can live and die. there is the ever present possibility of losing this passion. is not something passively undergone. and yet. Inhabitants of time that we are. Yes. and it has to do with my need to understand what I must do. we also know occasions when we stand outside the passing of events and glimpse their meaning.

Repetition brings to each moment the same originality found in the moment of passion. In its historical development. . Repetition and earnestness point to the responsibility laid upon every human being to acquire and preserve the 'originality of disposition'. for which reason earnestness can never become habit. though he rejects that an acquired originality of disposition takes place outside time: he sees it as an historical development. . Repetition. with possibility.when it is self-conscious is earnestness. The acquiring takes place as qualitative leaps in the moment. and gives to existence the continuity of the eternal. with the issue. then there is succession and repetition. but this still must take place in temporality. 6 To be earnest is to keep the originality of the acquired disposition ever before one. . So the lamp went out. 3 Self-becoming is a matter of acquiring and preserving. the preserving is the continual repetition of these leaps throughout one's life. its originality preserved in the responsibility of freedom and its originality affirmed in the enjoyment of blessedness. is the acquired originality of disposition. . The door was shut and they were shut out. . Kierkegaard gives an example that will be helpful: . When Kierkegaard speaks of the originality of disposition. in its 'maturity' . there is habit. Kierkegaard says that earnestness . the originality of disposition marks precisely the eternal in earnestness. Then a cry arose that the bridegroom was coming. around which one's life was gathered. Kierkegaard took from Kant and Schelling the view that disposition is something chosen and acquired ('man's being is his own deed'}. One may gather one's life in a moment of passion. and when they knocked at the door. True. with my infinite interest. This was not just a quip by the bridegroom but a truth. for one may only repeat what is in time. The five foolish maidens had indeed lost the infinite passion of expectancy. for in a spiritual sense they had become unrecognizable through having lost the infinite passio Repetition is the oil in the lamp that keeps the flame of infinite passion burning. . the moment is the important element of acquiring a continuity of disposition.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 31 I prefer to remain where I am. but to bring continuity over one's entire life. but as soon as originality is lacking in repetition. In The Concept of Anxiety he writes: 'When the originality of earnestness is acquired and preserved. . one needs repetition. the bridegroom said to them: I do not know you. The earnest person is earnest precisely through the origin- ality with which he returns in repetition'. he is pointing to the essence of freedom. but a rise in consciousness and freedom through a series of qualitative leaps. . This development is not simply a quantitative building up of experiences.

To speak of habit. one loses passion and becomes disinterestedly involved. The fire burns out. passionate decision) with the same originality. not from passion (the spirit of the law). however. Take away the originality from disposition and one has habit. is that after time they lose the original passion that accompanied this transformation. at some moment in their lives. through this analysis we will come to see the characteristics. but mostly one is simply going through the motions. which gives continuity to their lives through the realization of a task they have as human beings. however. This brings us back to the issue of spiritlessness. but these actions are derived. The problem. Think back to the foolish maidens who had lost their infinite passion. by which all things again become new. Now. and its evasion of freedom's task. This will give us a basis by which to examine how evil is actualized through the self s relation to itself.. Kierkegaard says they became unrecognizable to the bridegroom through their having lost the earnestness of their infinite passion. find the passion in which all things become new. and every Sunday he baptizes children. but at one time more and at another time less. comes before the same leap (the same existential. but from habit. he will stir and move people. on the other hand. they did not have the same disposition because they did not have it in its originality. Without this originality. For instance. in terms of finitude and infinitude. without a grasp of the eternal and what is required of us. let him be enthusiastic.32 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Every Sunday. They were unrecognizable because they did not have the same disposition. etc. It is true that one may make all the right external movements when one lacks this originality of disposition (one may obey the letter of the law). Further. Their existence is transformed by being gripped by a new meaning. Earnestness alone is capable of returning regularly every Sunday with the same originality to the same thing. etc. Kierkegaard writes that 'The development must accordingly consist in infinitely coming away from . is simply to speak of having lost the sense of one's task. Earnestness. The Task of Becoming Oneself Self-becoming takes place within a continual mode of expansion and contraction. and so they now 'fulfil' this task out of habit. aims. Perhaps one gains enthusiasm once in a while. In the remainder of this chapter we will be examining the self-deception of spiritlessness. Kierkegaard says that most of us live our lives without any true direction. a clergyman must recite the prescribed common prayer. however. There are some. with a continual eye on how the self is able to maintain itself as a mere potential of selfhood. and dangers of remaining as a mere potential self. who.

The self should continually move away from what it is at the moment. never becoming a onedimensional self that allows the given to define the horizon of reality. ideality). In his journal. Further. so that one is not returning to the same limitations. But to become something concrete is neither to become finite nor to become infinite.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 33 oneself. we are to take what we can from them and make them concrete. The imagination is the capacity that allows for the infinitizing of the self. the finite is always changed in some way. because in its expansion it has lost sight of the self it is. When the self loses itself in the contracting poles (the temporal. for that which is to become concrete is indeed a synthesis.29 While our dreams exceed our grasp. Merold Westphal describes this expansion and contraction as follows: As infinite the self must move away from itself. Kierkegaard writes: Imagination is what providence uses to take men captive in actuality. in existence. The human self is always more than it is at any given moment. To be spirit is to be conscious of oneself in one's freedom. and yet it can only do this as itself. what it needs is self-understanding. This is why Kierkegaard expresses self-becoming as becoming concrete: 'To become oneself. . exceed our grasp. or down into . But as finite the self must always come back to itself. in an infinitizing of the self. the potential for evil arises out of this task. in order to get them far enough out. and in infinitely coming back to oneself in the finitization'. In this infinite moving away and returning. or within. but also do. is to become something concrete.' Whenever the self loses itself in the expanding poles of its syntheses (the eternal. possibility. We will come to see that the responsibility and meaning of the self is found in the attempt to fulfil this task. It is through the imagination that we are taken beyond ourselves into the possibilities and ideals that exceed our present situation. reality). necessity. finite. recognizing that our dreams not only should. and thus relate oneself to both one's limitations and one's possibilities. The Despair that Abides in Infinitude Imagination Above we noted that the idealizing passion is that around which a person gathers his or her life. that which allows it to choose itself in its becoming.. but it is this 'more' in such a way that it never loses contact with what it immediately is. it needs freedom. infinite.

Kierkegaard says that if a person understood himself or tried to understand himself. fortunate or unfortunate. Since imagination has only a negative relation to the finite . According to that which it seeks to move beyond and away from — it is up to spirit to bring the meanings and possibilities which imagination envisions down into one's finite situation. Infinite Feeling Feelings and emotions are extremely important for Kierkegaard. his will not mature'. by itself. if he truly was concerned about understanding himself. because they are what often give the impetus for movement within a person's life. and the way the world normally comes to it. however: while it is necessary for moving beyond oneself. and so forth. the self. Life comes to them as pleasant or unpleasant. his knowledge only strengthened through contemplation. We will examine several concrete forms of this despair by looking at the imagination's influence over the capacities of feeling. is imagination. Imagination presents a danger. This will show us that spiritlessness is able to maintain itself in self-deception. that 'His feeling is purely immediate.34 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil actuality.32 The imagination helps the self get out of its given situation. One need . The evasion takes place by giving the imagination free reign to lead one farther and farther away from the finite pole of the self. and so remain within the categories of the purely sensate. and ending with infinite knowing. there are far too many people who never take in the expanding breath of infinitude. move back into the self— it does not make the imagined possibilities and ideals its own. dissolving the tensions within the self. and need more of. Kierkegaard says of the person whose imagination is given free reign. in order to overcome its despair.then actuality genuinely begins. What they lack. and willing. and continually keeps its eye on the place to which it is to return — namely. knowing. if the inner being announced itself within him in that concern then he will not occupy himself withflights of fancy and fortify himself with dreams but in his adversity will be concerned about himself. and has a profound need for self-knowledge. Spirit will not allow one's limitations to be evaded. then it becomes a capacity that moves the self away from itself. These flights of fancy are evasions in which fantasy becomes the mode of existence. 34 We will look at each of these capacities. If the imagination is not combined with earnestness. it does not. beginning with infinite feeling. And when imagination has helped them get as far out as they should be .

this is an illusion. for they assert it only to reassure themselves . Infinitized feeling can take another form. It is all too easy to love 'humanity'. What makes the feeling concrete is the love one has and shows toward one's neighbour. But the stability of such a conviction is mere fantasy on the part of the one whom fate has actually doing what love requires. Indeed. Although the feeling lacks the power necessary to make the resolution concrete. since the cause of its exemption is only that by sheer chance his life was not touched by any change. even though it remains unreal. . These feelings show themselves to be real. Thus. When feelings are infinitized in this way. it is usually those who profess such love that are unable to concretize it. It is rare indeed that a man's life is able to escape all changes. The feeling is never made concrete. for even this 'power' is based on the imagination. Rather. . and may actually be held onto for quite a while. and in the changes the conviction based on immediatefeeling is a fantasy.' . and one becomes emotionally 'moved' by a phantasm.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 35 only see how love can determine the direction of life to understand how this is the case. . its true stability is revealed when everything is changed.and others of their love. and about their desire for everyone to be at peace with one another. In this. the difficulty comes in loving the person who just cut in front of you in line. Kierkegaard characterizes this as shortsightedness: [I]n selfish shortsightedness his conviction is continually being altered. Being unwilling to face one's true relationship with others . The problem is that feelings can become completely grounded in imagination. only when confronted by an actual person. the one who truly loves people spends his or her time and energy in action . and evades oneself in despair over oneself. the conviction and feeling disappears. or even more telling. it can be held fast in the imagination. some people speak eloquently about their love for humanity. one imagines oneself to be other than who one is. Such a feeling is captured by the circumstances of the moment. There is a feeling of fond resolution that can seem all-consuming. If it is not altered it is an accident. 'the self is simply more and more volatilized and eventually becomes a kind of abstract sensitivity which inhumanly belongs to no human'. because it cannot remain stable and consistent throughout the changes of the finite. feelings lose all relation to finite's selfcentredness and cruelty .one deceives oneself by imagining a kind of abstract or displaced love for humanity. While feelings arising only within the imagination may seem to have an affective power. the momentary impression simply inflated into a consideration of the whole life. but as soon as the circumstances change. For example. however. but which has no staying power (passion) behind it. one's ability to be at peace with one's adversary.

and determine whether he or she is willing to pay the price for actualizing the ideal? Spirit is this honest transparency toward oneself. this feeling of the moment is simply imaginitively extended through time. With infinite feeling one is caught . To speak of an 'unwillingness' is to point to an infinitized will that remains a mere potential capacity. spiritlessness deceives itself into thinking that it is making choices upon it resolutions. but proved to be without reality. Nietzsche recognized this same distinction when he wrote: 'To breed an animal with the right to make promises — is not this the paradoxical problem nature has set itself with regard to man? And is it not man's true problem?'37 The problem facing humanity. There may turn out to be no movement of the infinite into the finite because one is unwilling to shoulder the responsibilities placed on the self by the finite. when actuality works against the feeling of the resolution. In this self-reflection. Infinite Willing Like infinite feeling. Such people are not free. A person who is self-consciously free has the power within the self to keep the promise. though all this happens only in the imagination. though from the aspect of selfconsciousness: does the person have sufficient self-consciousness to grasp onto what imagination brings before his or her eyes. and yet this willingness is a fantasy. It shows itself to be a fantasy when the difficulty of existence confronts it — that is. Unless this moment is truly the 'moment of eternal passion'. Thus infinite feeling consoles itself through the empty assurances of an infinitized will. The feeling arose through the beginning of a new year. One is simply evading and denying the reality of one's existence. and make it an actuality? Will a person be honest enough to count the costs. is whether it has sufficient power and hold upon itself to follow through with its promises. infinite willing is a matter of evasion: one imagines one is willing. and is held onto through repetition. according to Nietzsche. it is 'passionate' and 'moving'. Kierkegaard is pointing to the same problem. one discovers some things one would like to change about oneself.36 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil A mundane example of this infinitized feeling is the New Year's Resolution. but are bound by the changes that take place in the immediate situation. and because the power of the imagination makes the fantasy seem so real. A true resolution is like a promise an individual makes to himself or herself. This is what distinguishes self-conscious choice from the empty promises and 'choices' of spiritlessness. The resolution felt substantial in the imagination. By allowing the will to reside in the infinite pole of the self. This shows the danger of all types of despair that abide in the infinite: such despair is full of conviction and resolution. and its accompanying reflection on the past year. the individual is allowed to keep the deception from rising to consciousness.

simultaneously. weed. then I shall at least shut up about assurances 'that if. the will is concrete in its carrying out of the smallest tasks that such infinitized will necessitates. more often than not. he merely went on giving the assurance 'that i f . plant.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 3 7 up in doing great things. however. mundane. . . . I would be willing to forsake everything.. dig holes. it is simultaneously as near as can be to itself in the carrying out of the infinitely small part of the task that can be accomplished this very day. and thus evades the task of self-becoming. What keeps the will infinitized is the little word 'if: people kept on using this assurance: Tf it were required of me.' Meanwhile. However. To test one's resolution one must merely see the path one's life has taken since the resolution arose: Tf year after year my life continually expresses that I am just like everybody else. A garden is not created by throwing an arm full of flowers on the ground. using the example of the garden. . the world has seen an almost complete moral disintegration . oo Thus. . so that when furthest away from itself (when it is most infinitized in its purpose and decision). ' . water. one must usually start with the small things. Kierkegaard says the problem with these assurances is that the time is always right . The problem is that in order to fulfil resolutions. with all sorts of exotic specimens and colours.there is always a step to be taken in the direction of the fulfilment of the resolution.V39 A concrete resolution knows nothing about this ' i f . but one must till the soil. the will is infinitely away from itself as it imagines a beautiful garden. The unwillingness is due to the difficulty involved in concretizing the possibilities and ideals . not to assure. an unwillingness to become concrete with regards to one's will.but not one of the assurers found that it was required of him. . and the like. The will can maintain itself in the infinite by the continual reassurance that the resolution will be carried out when the time is right. sacrifice everything . this very hour. because the requirement of such a resolution is to act. this assurance is the means by which the self remains unconscious of its self-deception. and when it despises the moments of small beginnings: [T]he more it [the will] is infinitized in its purpose and decision. and imagines one is willing to act on these resolutions. and not very extraordinary. making great changes. . those which are. this very moment. . the closer and more contemporaneous it becomes with itself in that small part of the task which can be carried out now. .. immediately . We see again that the issue revolves around a self-deception — namely. A will becomes infinitized when it is unwilling to start with these 'small' tasks.

If these evasions start to fall apart. Indeed it might be said that science is based upon the alienation of man from reality and of reality from man. There is an objective and disinterested kind of knowing that moves away from the self. knowledge of the spirit as it is in itself and not as objectified in nature. Everything becomes an . and in understanding. As Kierkegaard says. but they can also devastate his consciousness and sever him from reality. Nicolas Berdyaev. i. and the reality he knows is external to him. but in eyeing these assurances suspiciously: Earnestness is precisely this kind of honest distrust of oneself. knowledge of meaning and participation in meaning. 'We make out that if we only understand the right it follows automatically that we do it.. in his book The Destiny of Man. as a financier treats an unreliable client. explains the importance for philosophy to keep an existential connection to the issue it seeks to understand: The only way radically to distinguish between philosophy and science is to admit that philosophy is unobjectified knowledge. Kierkegaard says that self-knowledge does not consist in the ready assurances of despair. Infinite Knowing Infinite knowing is an accumulation of knowledge that one fails to relate to one's existence. the self has still another way to deceive itself in its infinite willing: one may see the action of the will as something that follows — as a matter of course — upon the consideration of how to proceed in one's resolution. The knower is outside reality. in the 'making certain'. then the imagination can be used to hide this reality. these big promises are not much help. What a grievous misunderstanding or what a sly fabrication!' 42 Here again.e. saying. to treat oneself as a suspicious character. one is not honest about one's desires or abilities to fulfil the resolution. In the end. Such a view believes that the problem is in the planning. or that one is more interested in being comfortable than in actualizing one's ideals. I would rather have a small part of the total right away'. 41 It is not easy to admit that one does not have the power of self to face the difficulties and tensions of becoming oneself. we find a self-deception based on a continual assurance that what is grasped infinitely in the moment will become concrete if or when the time is right — when one has all the facts and contingencies worked out. Science and scientific foresight give man power and security.38 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil of imagination. and consciousness of despair begins to arise. 'Well. This leads to the issue of infinite knowing. If the courage to face this knowledge about oneself is not present.

in the end. but it can also be dangerous to the task and purpose of one's existence: To come to oneself in self-knowledge. but if I do not act on this knowledge. however. a professor. and knowledge about the Good . then my life is not changed in any substantial way. then.. . is a pleasure. One relates to oneself and to the Good through action. No doubt. " One can spend a lifetime studying various views of what is good and worth pursuing. Most agree that action is what changes one's circumstances. From the Christian point of view this is intoxication. and becomes an objective world standing over against me as something alien to me. For Kierkegaard. but Kierkegaard says more than this: one becomes oneself only in action. As we will see. in artistic production.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 3 object. the significance of all knowledge is measured in whether. to understand has its pleasures.whose overarching goal is to enjoy life. upright. but if one does not act on it. . . and unselfish one — no. The world of philosophical ideas ceases to be my world. . or any other of a number of occupations that traffic in knowledge . — precisely this is called being sober. in thinking. but action. is not about what one knows and can espouse. that would indeed be an effort. . The issue of life. foreign to man and opposed to him. no cultured person would put up with being thought ignorant of it. . are absent from yourself. it is appropriated by the individual. But personally to strive to be the honest. For the person in the aesthetic stage of life — whether the aesthetic individual is an artist.e. knowledge is significant to the extent that it brings pleasure and joy. to go away from oneself by losing oneself in knowing. it is not knowledge that changes one's life. self-knowledge is the only knowledge the value of which is without qualification. for it is in action that one's desires. I can learn all about how I should relate to the Good. In any other knowledge you are away from yourself. in one's hands. this knowledge becomes a means of evading one's unwillingness to relate one's life to the Good. More often than not. but about how one is: [W]e all know how to talk about the good. passions and goals are tested and evaluated. you forget yourself. . This is the case because. . because to understand . with being thought personally unable to describe it profoundly and eloquently. All knowledge becomes essential by becoming self-knowledge. a political analyst. and how. etc. . the knowledge becomes empty and a means of evasion. in comprehending.4 This type of knowledge can become a place where the self can hide itself from its task. . and the knowledge is superfluous. Knowledge not related to oneself may be interesting. revealing itself in me. To forget oneself. i.

. Anyone who has applied the ideal to one's life knows how dangerous it can in this knowing far beyond what he is in his life or what his life expresses'. but is a weak evasion and lack of earnestness toward one's existence. So the ideal is kept at arms length. will expose that one prefers to remain in this state. whereupon the army withdrew.49 Knowledge is not in itself bad. As usual. Spiritlessness' conscious belief is that it is on the side of the Good. how when it is allowed to inspect one's heart and character. This is the case because one's knowledge can be far ahead of what one is capable of at the present moment: 'In every human being there is a capacity. will wrench one out of this state and as a result of such a step will make it impossible for one to slip back again into that adored state. Kierkegaard views this abstract state of knowledge as a spiritless form of rebellion against the Good. if one does not start with the small tasks the Good requires in the moment. one's identity and self-estimation can be decimated. And every person . these assurances are evasions. what we need is to come back to ourselves and act on what we know. David had her brought to the palace. slept with her. It evades and denies its actual relationship to the Good. Kierkegaard says 'the more understanding increases. into intoxication. Most of us already know far too much for our own good. because it is possessed by an unconscious anxiety of what will be found if it relates its knowledge to its life: One fears that one's knowing. turned inward toward oneself. David then took Bathsheba as his wife. the capacity for knowledge.the most knowing and the most limited . He shows this by pointing to the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel. David had Uriah — Bathsheba's husband — put at the front line of the battle. Knowledge can become a means of venturing off into boundless territories that have nothing to do with our own existence. leaving Uriah to be killed.40 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil is viewed as a sufficient relationship to it. though it went against the ideal he himself claimed to follow. and assures itself that when enough knowledge has been gained. and never allowed to penetrate one's life. and one's relationship with the Good. then one is being led away from the Good by knowledge of it. but the state of knowledge is. will expose the state of intoxication there. During this time David felt no remorse for his action. Kierkegaard says the failure to apply the ideal to one's life is a lack of conscience. Spiritlessness is not the conscious and earnest movement against the Good we will come to see as radical evil. it will certainly act accordingly. To cover this up. and she became pregnant. Although Bathsheba was married to another man.50 Knowledge is to be understood as the prerequisite to action. the more it becomes a kind of inhuman knowledge in the production of which man's life is squandered'.

and he repented.' See. did not. the latter had the poor man's lamb killed in order to serve it to the traveller. There was a poor man who owned nothing but a lamb. earnest forms of existence: Prior to the outbreak of cholera there usually appears a kind of fly not otherwise seen.J By the choice of the method of thought. be cautious with an abstract thinker who not only wants to remain in abstraction's pure being but wants this to be the highest for a human being. The man loved this lamb. Kierkegaard believes that valuing an objective and speculative form of knowledge of the Good will eventually lead to a loss of all ethical and religious . his conscience awakened. of course. Then the prophet says to him. I imagine that David listened attentively and thereupon declared his judgment. When the story became personal when the issue was no longer about a king objectively rendering judgment over a matter within his kingdom — David gained radical self-knowledge. to be the highest human thinking. Kierkegaard says. which results in the ignoring of the ethical and a misunderstanding of the religious. the tale the prophet told was a story. and then to be completely unrelated to them in one's own life is hypocrisy. If the ideal is not applied to existence.this was the transition to the subjective. Kierkegaard uses the story in order to question whether one really comes to know the ideal through objective knowledge of it. When a traveller came to visit the rich man. and wants such thinking.this was another story . in like manner might not these fabulous pure thinkers be a sign that a calamity is in store for humankind — for example.until it is given flesh and blood. Until it is expressed in life . and treated it as one would treat a child. . one does not know it. . There was also a rich man who had many sheep. .The Struggle of Self-Becoming 41 So God sent the prophet Nathan to tell David a story. Nathan told David about a grave injustice. the objective thinker is using thought as a diversion from something. intrude his personality (subjectivity) but impersonally (objectively) evaluated this charming little work. for the ideal is what it is only in relation to human existence. with what is good and meaningful for human existence.that is. What is being diverted is the individual's . 'Thou art the man. but this 'Thou art the man' . Kierkegaard says that to believe that a disinterested knowledge in the Good is in some way to relate correctly to the Good is selfdeception. the loss of the ethical and the religious? Therefore. one's own flesh and blood — one does not truly understand what the ideal is calling for what it means. to claim to be dealing with ideals.

42 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil misrelation to his or her own self. worldliness develops a system whereby the individual may evade the responsibility of becoming a self. A spiritless rebellion against the Good loses sight of that which can lift it out of this danger. then the people will follow those norms. and God can at least catch hold of such a criminal'. murder men.are closer to God than the Pharisee ever was: 'it is terrible living life to become mold on the immanental development of the infinite. instead of this deceitful rebellion against the Good in the complacency of objective knowledge about the Good. in order to evade the path of self-becoming. the comfortable. Christianity turns 'ethics' on its head. and knowledge to evade its true relation to the Good. cultured rebellion against the Good holds within itself a great danger. It seems sophisticated. . which such a person willingly and even conscientiously follows. defensive and barbaric. and while it is adept at keeping within the norms of society. Its depravity only becomes apparent when the norms of a society. because it is the infinite that allows the self to transcend the established order of things. then the people within that order will live accordingly. the evasion becomes a cultural affair. In this. it uses infinite feeling. If the established order is relatively humanitarian or 'civilized'. according to Kierkegaard.if they feel the pain of their weakness . The abstract thinker blocks the path of existential self-knowledge. As against this comfortable and safe infinitizing of feeling. As we will see. with its inherent struggles and tensions. sin outright. Somewhat ironically. seduce girls. and which continues on into the twenty first. calls for the butchering of other human beings — something we saw happen over and over again in the twentieth century. To relate only to the finite pole of the self is to become trapped within the established order and its modes of existence. willing. It has always been the judgement of Christianity. rob on the highways — that at least can be repented. the secure. This is due to the fact that spiritlessness always sides with the expedient. that it is better to face God as a tax collector. by the levelling of all selves down to the lowest common denominator. it turns out that the spiritless. and we find that the rebellion against the Good is often perpetrated by those who are most religious. whereas the irreligious . harlot and a swindler. Kierkegaard would rather we commit outright sins and evil acts. for then we could at least have the self-understanding that we are wretched. The Despair that Abides in Finitude In this form of despair. however. and the tranquil. than as a self-righteous Pharisee. if it becomes fearful. Then instead let us sin. willing and knowing. This will become more clear as we now turn to the despair that abides in finitude.

one gives one's entire life over to what has no connection to the task of becoming oneself. because he saw it as the power behind the spiritlessness that was overwhelming his age. As for the task of becoming oneself. we will see that Kierkegaard has a particularly strong distaste for its inner workings. to secure for itself an earthly comfort. to speak of'infinite value' is to point to that which encompasses and defines one's entire life. 58 For Kierkegaard. To relinquish the infinite is not simply to stop growing. Thus. but to gain self-satisfaction. the goals they offer and present. such as. and the selfish'.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 43 Kierkegaard develops many categories (strewn throughout his authorship) to describe this form of despair. One need only watch advertisements on television for a few hours . we move away from ourselves en masse.59 The goal of existence for the secular mentality is.5 Kierkegaard sees this as the greatest tragedy to happen to humanity. because. first and foremost. the secular mentality. the temporal. the 'indifferent' is that which has nothing to do with the task of becoming oneself. sagacity. 'worldliness is precisely to ascribe infinite value to the indifferent'. The Secular Mentality or Worldliness Sensibleness and Levelheadedness Kierkegaard says. and the levelling of the crowd. of course. As we look at this despair.paying attention to the 'ideals' they hold up. One is 'intoxicated in one's attachment to this earthly life. As we look at this form of despair. and all tasks gain significance . in this form of despair. moderation. sensibility. this is meaningless. His. Feeling at home. probability. will take one's entire life to gain. for the 'strength' of this despair is that it allows one to feel quite at home in the world. only its comfort does. the point is not to gain oneself. and their definition of success to get a sense of this narrowing reductionism. worldliness. as the 'ideals' and requirements for a human being become less and less. and ours. which. The clamp does not have to be very tight though. we will find that what we view as a normal and comfortable life is in reality an insidious trap that threatens to plunge Western civilization into irretrievable despair. making sure he or she does not try to rise above the established order within the culture. but is actually to begin a retrogression. after all. Each of these processes work together in order to clamp down on the individual. for in moving away from spirit. and provides numerous means of maintaining one's denial and self-deception. because this is not a trap the individual wishes to escape: one can find great comfort in the despair that abides in the finite. The self does not take on infinite importance. secure and comfortable in the world is the one goal that spans the individual's entire existence. the secular. is an age of spiritlessness that has turned its back to spirit. or to stop moving ahead.

62 One cannot have both an infinite. turning everything upside down for him. and perhaps are mentioned in history. In a spiritual sense they have no self. and sagacity. indeed he can do so all the more easily. it is not seeking a balanced relation between the finite and infinite.however selfish they are otherwise. and before which all worldly aims are low indeed. consists in its understanding nothing spiritually and comprehending nothing as a task. Moderation seeks mediocrity. levelheadedness. as well as its security. demanding and risky. When it comes to the earnest aim of life. before there is any hope of being a success in the world. are immoderate. what we call worldliness simply consists of such people who. honoured and esteemed.44 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil only in relation to how they help attain creature comforts. the infinite and eternal. the wisdom of moderation is pathetic: 'Too little and too much spoil everything. if one may so express it. Kierkegaard says.' 63 Kierkegaard views the mentality that seeks to guard against inconveniences as dangerous because it is actually guarding itself against the infinite — that which disrupts the flow of the finite current. no self for God . etc. but the safest course of action. In order to stay within the flow of the finite one must keep from making any sudden or grand moves in . When the secular mentality seeks moderation. eternal concern for one's self. even if it is able to fumble after everything with its limp clamminess. praised by others.61 The first action that must take place.' The despair that abides in the finite does not comprehend the loss of the self and its task. on the other hand. because it is too busy being a success in the world: A man in this kind of despair can very well live on in temporality. which it then goes on to interpret as worldly success. These are all qualities we readily perceive as good to have. They use their abilities. and pursuing. In the face of these eternal and infinite ideals. be to all appearances a human being. and this he cannot long endure. but they are not themselves. occupied with all the goals of temporal life. Kierkegaard thinks in terms of the possibilities and ideals that face each individual. aspiring. amass wealth. carry out worldly enterprises. This is because of the qualities necessary for succeeding in the world: sensibleness. and seek to be a success in the world.. is the abandonment of the task of becoming oneself. The point in moderation is to keep from having to face inconveniences. pawn themselves to the world. 'The lostness of spiritlessness. and yet for Kierkegaard. these are the planks on which we walk into spiritual death. it would promptly aim a fatal blow at all his worldly thinking. Levelheadedness and sensibility speak to moderation. no self for whose sake they could venture everything. If he were to think the thought in its eternal validity. Yes. make prudent calculations. difficulties and anything that can possibly disrupt one's tranquillity.

' This is because the probable deals only with the finite.the resolute choice for oneself. I stick to the facts. and is familiar only with the facts.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 4 existence. spiritlessness and denial are held fast through a conventional wisdom that continually esteems the self in its mere potentiality. . then cleverness is put to death. It fights for its life and its honor. not my own child. he views the probable as rebellion against oneself and God: 'A person who never relinquished probability never became involved with God. except what I can touch and feel. Simply put. is perhaps the most dangerous defilement'. and finds its satisfaction in the relative safety and predictability of the finite. and one must definitely not commit oneself to anything. is by way of relinquishing probability. All religious . and I believe no one. might accidentally commit oneself to something which. Probability The problem with any ideal is that there is no guarantee of success. truth and falsity. is nothing other than a rejection of the infinite. nothing whatever. because he or she is always gathering more facts and evidence. and so there are those within the secular mentality who proclaim. . I believe only what can be demonstrated — because I stick to the facts. on the other hand. not my best friend. Thus.' Such a person is incapable of moving in any essential or transforming way. A person living by what is . because the infinite is beyond the realm of the probable. for who knows where the current will turn next . 'Cleverness strives continually against commitment. So moderation and prudence call for continual reflection on the probability of success. for if the decision wins. By neglecting the infinite pole of the self. neither drunk nor crazy. the decision that comes along with the idealizing passion . the ethico-religious. The closer one is clamped to the finite. the more certainty that is needed in order to 'act'. Seeking probability. Even those who venture out a little further than the facts.' One evades the decision in which one would need to stake oneself. the self remains a mere potential self by never conceiving of an actualization. 67 The issue of probability moves us into the ethicoreligious concerns that are always at the heart of Kierkegaard's critiques. will still never choose against the probable. not my own wife. I am neither a fanatic nor a dreamer nor a fool. and goes so far as to say that 'probability. Ghristianly understood. I believe nothing. T stick to the facts. Thus. runs against the current. it comes to rest in its current state of despair. next week. venturing is on the other side of probability. deals with good and evil. and one never knows for certain what will happen in one's life if it is actualized. Kierkegaard views this use of probability as a spiritual issue. In this despair.

72 To move beyond the finite is considered fanatical. and why? Because one might lose. and only by stretching beyond the probable can the highest human potential be discovered and attained. as though it were nothing — oneself. Kierkegaard writes. Kierkegaard writes. the prudent thing is not to venture. But if I haven't ventured at all.whether it is true is a matter of indifference or is at least of less importance. an individual is called on to act against the probable. We seldom consider whether there may be an unconditioned requirement laid upon us by existence. The world thinks it is dangerous to venture in this way. Think of the power behind the accusation of being a fanatic. then we will discover nothing of what it means to be human. so completely. so that I can believe it . if we simply sit in complacent probability. and find that the ideal is an illusion. For if I have ventured wrongly. I am not talking here about anything analogous to a gambler's risk. so easily. he asks impartially: which is the probable. you will in any case never lose in this way. or that we only become ourselves by seeking to fulfil this requirement. No. From time to time. what is true and what is false. A fanatic is intoxicated. who helps me then? William James said that we must. Indeed. The person who inquires about the probable and only about that in order to adhere to it does not ask what is right and what is wrong. No doubt. whatever you lost. the risk is with one's own existence. meet truth halfway. even dangerous — think of all the religious fanatics. Not that one will lose oneself— for the self is lost as a result of never taking this type of risk . very well. what is good and what is evil. there is also potential for making a mistake. Instead of pondering this possibility. life then helps me with its penalty. which is the probable. where one gives up a part of one's material possessions for the chance to gain more.46 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil merely probable will give lip-service to these latter categories. And yet by not venturing it is so dreadfully easy to lose what would be hard to lose by venturing and which.but one may step out into the infinite. so that I can adopt it and side with it whether it is evil or wrong is a matter of indifference or is at least of less importance. and how we so readily shrink from any action or belief that would put that label on us. but not act on them. to risk loss for the chance at gain. Rather. put life to a test and see what boils over. we conceal 'ourselves in finitude and among the finitudes in the same way as Adam hid among the trees'. we cannot deny . and nothing of what it means to be before God. where there is risk. but venturing and risk are necessary for human development. 71 We must move out into the tension and danger of life. in a sense.

an attempt to usurp the universal will. Indeed. with an ideal upon which one will stake one's entire life. the secular mentality seeks to abolish the unconditioned. but for its inability (that is. The Ultimate Rebellion of Spiritlessness Here we see how the seeds (or potential) for evil are found in the structure of the self. and all the other virtues of the secular mentality. or a humanly established order. The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. poverty and disease.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 47 that many of these fanaticisms are dangerous. He is the judge: God is in the dock. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock. he is ready to listen to it. as C. if we remain open to correction. 75 Kierkegaard expresses this same idea: God is not like something one buys in a shop. particularly in terms of how the spiritless self abides in a rebellion against the Good. but asks us to venture into the infinite with an eye to a return to the finite. unwillingness) to fathom that there is a passionate. but Kierkegaard is not proposing a fanaticism that has no contact with the finite. by which we are continually disciplined and corrected for our false fanaticism — that is. The trial may even end in God's acquittal.determine the order of existence — and to this end it must become the sole judge of reality. Kierkegaard says that in abandoning the unconditioned requirement 'it is really you [God] that people want to abolish. and to establish existence on the basis of one's particular will. measured . without demanding control over the consequences that follow from it. to put 'God in the dock'. enthusiastic and earnest movement toward the ideal that flies in the face of probability. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the God who permits war. moderation. we attempt. Kierkegaard is not chiding the secular mentality for not being open to fanatics (though there are times when he seems to relish such openness). and do not hold onto our infinite ideals at the cost of the finite. which by abolishing the unconditioned requirement wants to abolish you'. Lewis writes. For the modern man the roles are reversed. after having sagaciously and circumspectively examined. ' This is. This rebellion consists of an unwillingness on the part of the secular mentality to come to terms with an unconditioned requirement — that is. in Schelling's words. S. Kierkegaard views this as the idolatry of our age. and this is why I cling so firmly to it and denounce sensibleness. Lewis says. With this we move into an area of rebellion where spiritless pride becomes apparent. The secular mentality wants to be in control of existence . or like a piece of property that one. even God's reality.

77 It is here where we see the notion of evil begin to become dialectical in Kierkegaard. What Kierkegaard detests is 'disconsolateness': a refusal to find any consolation in what is higher. and find at least some contentment within its little kingdom: What is disconsolateness? Not even the wildest scream of pain or the presumptuousness of despair. to curse him. When one has done that. For all Nietzsche's atheism. This is. Kierkegaard would welcome a wholehearted (unconditional) attack against God. for when he speaks of defiance. however terrible. because in this way God is thrust down from the throne. although one can still go on living if only nothing reminds one of it . What Kierkegaard despises about this rebellion is its movement toward an indolent. he is speaking of a radical. Not even to grieve disconsolately. is not its . one actually has already chosen another master. his enthusiastic attacks were at least right in the face of God. What Kierkegaard sees as terrible in disconsolateness. that everything higher is lost. is disconsolate. Disconsolateness chooses to sink into spiritless emptiness. what is the same thing. precisely this that is the insubordination. the strongest intensification of evil. To be offended by God may be an unhappy relationship to the infinite and eternal. spiritual evil that consciously rages against the Good or God. from being the master. It has found that the best way to get rid of God's universal will is not through a frontal attack. as the attempt is made to put the particular self-will in the place of the universal will. and therefore contains something of spirit in it. however. at least this is passionate. in a way. it is the ungodly calmness with which the indecisive person wants to begin (indeed. The secular mentality is the means by which the modern age has sought to achieve this most human of endeavours. is not so terrible as to lose him in this way or. This seems inconsistent. and then becomes the slave of indecisiveness. see itself as king and master. to be able to lose God in such a way that one becomes utterly indifferent and does not even find life intolerable — that is disconsolateness and is also the most terrible kind of disobedience. self-will. to lose oneself. in that he sees the weakest form of evil (a mere potential for evil) as more terrible than the more actualized forms. disconsolate spiritlessness.this is disconsolateness. he wants to begin with doubt). where it can be left alone in its own little world. but to have entirely ceased to grieve. more terrible than any defiance — to hate God. But this understanding with oneself. With regard to God. arrived at in dead silence. but at least it is a relationship — at least one is still before God.48 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil and calculated for a long time. decides is worth buying. but by simply letting God slip from our memories. And yet here he says spiritless disconsolateness is more terrible still.

but yet is it not too much to make it into . the most horrendous acts will be enthusiastically committed. Like Nietzsche. It may appear pious. We no longer have enough spirit even to grieve the death of God. If called on by the 'right' circumstances. he asked. He has not overstated the loss of spirit. Kierkegaard condemns the established order of Western society as being thoroughly permeated by a rebellion against the Good. but that it rebels with such happy lukewarmness. it manifests itself with moderation. to a certain degree. He is. seeking only what brings them comfort. in a sense. and then with taste and culture. and mock any ideal not conditioned (sanctioned) by our culture. the >79 murderers of all murderers comfort ourselves?' We comfort ourselves through the disconsolateness of worldliness. Kierkegaard recognizes that the death of God is a trivial joke for Western . Kierkegaard lived in a time when God's death was taking place.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 49 weakness. and just because the rebellion is unconscious and takes place in the most normal and 'moral' actions does not mean that it is less dangerous and perhaps even more insidious than conscious evil. and ill-advised — no. and the fact that it has so easily spread throughout Western society. a lack of conscience does not manifest itself as criminal acts — which would be foolish. They are completely self-centred. How shall we. no. but simply for the sake of comfort.78 earnestness and culture!' Such people put their individual wills over the universal will. Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. and we lack the concern for ourselves necessary to be passionate about the 'death of God'. This form of evil is most likely to be committed against those who have come to be viewed as enemies of such comfort. God is dead. What is so terrible about disconsolateness is not that it acts in 'immoral' or criminal ways. though not out of any conscious defiance of the Good. What is also terrible about this form of rebellion is that the self has lost complete contact with the Good. When this happens we become too spiritless to see the loss we have suffered. When Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead. the Nietzschean 'madman'. it makes life cozy and comfortable . and yet it lacks all conscience: Of course. but I believe it is more likely that we have not sufficiently appreciated our loss. at whom the crowd laughs. stupid. God remains dead. but the comfortable and secure way it unconsciously gives up the Good. And we have killed him.

is that the former is a single individual. The difference between one who feels the death of God in the innermost being. . It is because of this deadly comfort that Kierkegaard picks up the category of 'the single individual' with such fervency. never as a member of the crowd: 'only as an individual can a man ever relate himself most truly to God. to lose God in such a way t h a t .50 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil civilization. we will first examine what Kierkegaard calls the 'established order'. secure.and the ideal has vanished . but to lose God as if one has lost nothing at all.whether in faith or defiance only as a single individual. The worldly point of view always clings closely to the difference between man and man. To lose God in such a way that one takes offense at him. To feel the loss of God would be a sign of earnestness and spirit. well." is the category of awakening.' In order to see why this category is so important for awakening from the spiritless despair that abides in the finite. and as if it were nothing! The Single Individual It is with this that we come to one of Kierkegaard's most important categories: 'the single individual'. but also between how one loses. . when everything is peaceful. One can relate to God .then the single individual is awakening. what terrible perdition! Not only is there certainly an infinite difference between what one loses and what one loses. and those who are spiritlessly disconsolate. and indolent . this is what makes spiritlessness so offensive to Kierkegaard: To lose something trivial in such a way that one does not pick it up. one despairs over it .' In the midst of the crowd. and has naturally no understanding (since to have it is . but to lose one's own self (to lose God) in such a way that one does not even care to bend down to pick it up.but to lose God as if he were nothing. is indignant with him or groans against him. and believes it will remain so. The Established Order and the Crowd According to Kierkegaard. while the latter are lost in the crowd. The spiritless person is never alone. that perhaps is all right. He says that Tn times of peace the category "the single individual. because there is tranquillity and comfort within the established order and the crowd. one no longer feels the heat of the universal will's all-consuming fire. for he can best have the perception of his own unworthiness alone. it is impossible to make this really clear to another person. nor does one shiver in the coldness as the fire goes out. or in such a way that it entirely escapes one that one has lost it! Oh.

but by being altogether finitized. one more person. Dialectically the position is this: the principle of association. being 'on top'. This is the case because. ought to make up his mind about his conviction. it strengthens numerically.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 51 spirituality) of the one thing needful. It is ironic that those within the secular mentality look for ways to distinguish themselves from others — distinguish in the sense of gaining honor. single out the poorest wretch who thought he was overlooked. . This causes a narrowing of possibilities. pointing to 'the single individual' is an attempt to awaken the conscience in the person who has become lost in the crowd: Wanting to hide in the mass or the crowd. that there can be any suggestion of really joining together. within the crowd. one more repetition of this perpetual Einerlei [one-and-the-same]. in which one loses oneself to the way things are done within the established order. but ethically that is a weakening. it is an escape. . One does not know by himself that he is a human being but through an inference: he is like the others — therefore he is a human being. by strengthening the individual.and yet do so from within a levelling that seeks to destroy all distinctions. single him out as individually . and to what it requires of an individual. to the possibilities it gives. it is necessary to point to the single individual as the only way in which a person can again feel the responsibility of what it means to be a human being: Nowadays the principle of association . just as in the next world eternity will single out the busy one who thought he was in a group. When this happens. then. is not positive but negative. Even if this makes life easier by making it more thoughtless in the din — this is not the question. and so forth . instead of being an individual. enervates him. by instead of being a self. Only God knows whether any of us is that!' Kierkegaard is not against human communities and groups per se. not by being volatilized in the infinite. In a spiritless group 'one becomes a human being by aping others. It is only after the individual has acquired an ethical outlook. in face of the whole world. but only as they are used as sources of evasion. is the most corrupt of all escapes. so that one discovers who one is and what is possible only from the crowd. The question is that of the responsibility of the individual — that every individual human being ought to be a single individual. a distraction and an illusion. one is always looking to others to see what it means to be a successful human being. to be a little fraction of the crowd. and therefore no understanding of that limitation and narrowness which is to have lost oneself. having become a cipher. succeeding. being more talented. For Kierkegaard.

What is spiritlessness? It is to have changed the criterion by leaving out the ideals. being like everybody else. indeed. replacing the universal will with the particular will of the established order. because it is still much higher to put up willingly with being number seventy according to a genuine criterion. sensibleness will never unconditionally acknowledge any requirement but continually claims itself to be the one that declares what kind of requirement is to be made'. is to destroy the unconditioned. The situation is much like that described by Ivan Ilych as he faced death: . 'there is .. let it have a class of one hundred pupils. yet. to those who profess to be one able to break free from this illusion. to have changed the criterion in accord with how we human beings who now live here in this place happen to be. and being a little bit better is greatness'. . Kierkegaard gives an analogy of this lowering that interprets itself as an ascension: Imagine a school. only then can the full force of the unconditioned requirement be felt. . what amounts to the same thing. who are supposed to learn the same thing and have the same criterion. it might be put that way.88 While spirit seeks the ascension and expansion in the consciousness that comes from being before the unconditioned requirement as a single individual. . The unconditioned requirement cannot be felt while being a part of the crowd. Only by realizing one is singled out by all eternity.God or death . but according to my conception that would be sinking even lower. then number seventy would be number one in the class. To be number seventy and below is to be far down in the class. Now. is all done in such a way as to create the illusion that we are all ascending. Only as the single individual facing eternity . of course. . all of the same age. sinking into contemptible false self-satisfaction. so distinctly individual that an eternity seems to lie between him and the next man. and yet whose criterion has become so low as to abolish Christianity altogether. He says that instead of imitating Christ as an ideal. This. if the other thirty pupils from number seventy had the idea that they might be allowed to form a class by themselves. If so.. In the midst of this regression there will be a continual message that progress is taking place.52 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil responsible. That would be an advancement. spiritlessness seeks to make life easier by a continual lowering of the bar. to make it conditioned on the established order. well. it seeks to get rid of the bar altogether. . To destroy the sense of one's responsibility. though the reality is that we are becoming less and less human.89 Kierkegaard is speaking to Christendom here. And yet it is this that the established order and crowd cannot tolerate: 'nothing so offends sensibleness as the unconditioned. or. and .

all for the . And now it is all done and there is only death. The crowd and the established order know absolutely nothing about this uplifting. Evading oneself by hiding in the crowd is based on the presupposition that one cannot go wrong in life if one simply does what everyone else is doing. but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. checking oneself against others.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 53 'It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up. and remains within the status quo. differs from person to person. The infinite requirement calls us to the task of becoming more than we were before. I was going up in public opinion. it is in this place of comfort and security that one loses oneself.'" One finds one's worth in conformity with the crowd.definitely not in any comparison to others. that means only that it is to be worked smooth. to be uplifted. and who is also open to the ideal and the future. characteristically determined to become himself. and is done only as a single individual . Kierkegaard writes. For every human being is primitively organized as a self. and transformed. or even through fear of man simply not dare to be itself in that more essential contingency (which precisely is not to be ground away) in which a person is still himself for himself. before which each person stands and gains significance. our own limitations to be overcome and transcended. indeed. it is their goal to make sure the criterion for being human becomes more and more paltry. and take up the task existence has laid upon you. The only concern is to stand alone before God. However. We are rough to begin with. not through fear of man wholly abandon being itself. One cannot check to see if one is fulfilling one's task by comparing oneself to others. The unconditioned requirement. And that is really what it was. for we each have our own facticity to deal with. Primitivity is to stand before God as a single individual — in one's particularity an individual with a facticity and past. Primitivity To ape others is to lack primitivity. and although indeed every such self has sharp edges. and in this way helps us maintain our self-deception. The crowd also provides a sense of significance and worth when everything has lost its meaning. There is to be no turning to the right or to the left. We are called to be engaged with God. but our shape is given by the unconditioned itself. and our own needs. seeing how one measures up against them. not ground away. No other person can be used as a crutch or support. while detachment from the group becoming a single individual is to become insignificant. and must be worked smooth.

Trans. possibility and necessity. for nothing is sacred. in a completely spiritless age. 10. EUD. ignorant.replaced by its opposite. p. produced by the friction which arises when the individual ceases to exist as singled out by religion. pp. 3. p. like a trade wind. the established order does not really provide a criterion. pp. With this choice the self takes itself. 40. for the first time. 7. 5. 2. EUD. 13. nor lacking in spirit. He is pessimistic about a mass movement toward spirit: such a movement would be. The Prince. 165. 12. 165. the problem becomes how. 43. Being and Existence in Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Works. Given all this. 167. It is a somewhat paradoxical choice. and consume everything. There are several syntheses by which to analyze the structures of the self (for example. 162-3. 84. p. and nothing is free from the danger of being overthrown tomorrow . but an evasion of all criteria. EUD. p. Notes 1. Daniel Donno. We will now turn to this movement out of spiritlessness. A movement out of spiritlessness is possible. p. Kierkegaard has little optimism of being able to free ourselves from finitude's despair and its concomitant levelling: 'The abstract levelling process. it may be the case that despair is intensified. EUD. is bound to continue. Elrod. 8. This does not mean despair is completely overcome. New York: Bantam Books. given the current situation. SUD. EUD. 164. the eternal and the temporal. a contradiction. 163-4. 4. but Kierkegaard sees it as essential for a movement out of the spiritlessness of the aesthetic stage of existence. 10. p. 11. EUD. pp. John W. pp. and begin the journey toward spirit. ideality and . that self-combustion of the human race. SUD. for there are forms of evil that are neither weak.' This lack of optimism may be another reason Kierkegaard focuses in on the category of'the single individual'. Princeton: Princeton UP. the only hope is for each individual to move toward spirit alone by picking up the unconditioned requirement. Thus. Niccolo Machiavelli. 43-4. we can become a 'single individual'. 1985. if we are willing to recognize and choose despair. p. 21-2. Actually. 1975. as a task to be picked up.54 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil sake of comfort and self-esteem. CD. Elrod. 9. 6.

Trans. The Geneaology of Morals. p. p. p. 1956. Karl Rahner. p. 93 (my emphasis). CUP. 134. 1956. 15. San Francisco: Harper/Collins. p. Quoted in Louis P. 189. KarlH. 'Kierkegaard's Psychology of Unconscious Despair' in International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Sickness Unto Death. This reversal of direction of the evaluating look. pp. Frederick Buechner. p. this invariable looking outward instead of inward. New York: Doubleday. George Connor. Robert L. p. p. Listening to Your Life. 59-60. 149 (my emphasis). 61. Ed. CA. PH. 134. 29. Trans. 22. 1998. SUD. PH. pp. I have chosen the synthesis of the infinite and finite because of the particular issues it presents in terms of a potential or spiritless evil. New York: Continuum. 26. 134 (my emphasis). 37. 149 (my emphasis). It should be noted that it is in these leaps that evil finds its intensification. 39-66. SUD. 19. Nietzsche. Nietzsche was also aware of the distinction between acts of freedom. Trans. 79-80. CUP. EUD. p. pp. 31. SUD. 56. pp. 23. begins by saying no to an "outside. p." an "other. 24. Georgia: Mercer UP. Physiologically speaking. Francis Golffing. 60-1. p. JRNLII. p. 33. . He writes. 21. The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. 16. pp. p. SUD. 59. pp. Ed. 36. 312-13. Joseph Donceel. Merold Westphal.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 55 actuality). 'All truly noble morality grows out of a triumphant self-affirmation. 902-3. SUD. 267. Theological Investigations: Volume II (Man in the Church). all its action is reaction' (Friedrich Nietzsche. 35. SUD. 20. Baltimore: Helicon Press. 32. Perkins. 18. 146-299. 1967. is a fundamental feature of rancor. New York: Oxford University Press. Slave ethics. Macon. CA. 118. 1987. 17. 25. 149. CA. Pojman's Classics of Philosophy. Kruger. p. pp. 170-1). SUD. 30. The self finds more and more integration (integrity) within its personality as it is in-gathered through these passionate leaps. 34." a non-self. 1992. just as all selfhood is intensified in these qualitative leaps. 14. Karl Rahner. and that no is its creative act. on the other hand. 1994. 248.#1832. and 'acts' which are born out of bondage to the external. 16-17. pp. pp. Slave ethics requires for its inception a sphere different from and hostile to its own. 27. 28. 1 1 3-14 (my emphasis). it requires an outside stimulus in order to act at all. The Hearer of the Word. pp.

67-9. 119. 61. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 97. 61. JFY. Far from anyone thinking him to be in despair. 181). John J. . 67. S. 56. 1970. 63. such a person gains all that is required for a flawless performance in everyday life. FS. p. 95. 135-6. Walter Hooper.p. 41. JFY. 55. 66. 118. p. EUD. pp. p. 49. but so is knowledge without works. p. CD. p. p. 244. 71. JFY. pp. 42. 105. JFY. JFY. 'The world does not truly hate evil but loathes what is unsagacious. 40. 104-5. 44. 1960. The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition. JFY. JFY. C. New York: Harper & Row. 51. 127. McDermott. p. JFY. PA. 63. 'Precisely by losing himself in this way. it loves evil' (p. SUD. 102-3. p. he is just what a human being ought to be' (SUD. 99-100. 44. 116. CUP. JFY. 102. pp. 118. 50. SUD. pp. 118. 545. p.300. . 76. Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil SUD. In Christian Discourses Kierkegaard writes. p.p. 115-16. FS. p. p. SUD. p. p. Nicolas Berdyaev. 72. 64-5. p. JFY. CA. 46. p. Lewis. JFY. 75. p. 74. 88-9. p. CUP. SUD. 113. 47. . 65. 53. 65. p. p. pp. The Destiny of Man. 73. JFY. 70. pp. p. SUD. 43. 59 60. 115.56 38. 64. Ed. God In the Dock: Essays On Theology and Ethics. 1977. 69. 57. yes. 133. 62. 2 Samuel 12: 1-13. 38. that is. p. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 47. pp. for making a great success out of life. PH. p. 45. 52. 54. JFY. 167. p. 99. 64). JFY. 48. Ed. JFY. William James. 39. JFY. JFY. 6—7. Not only is faith without works dead. 62. p. . 306-7. 58. pp. 68. 312. p. JFY. p.

80. JFY. such a person forgets himself. Friedrich Nietzsche. 95. p. 81. New York: Signet. PA. p. 90. 79. 1996 (my emphasis). 78. finds it much easier and safer to be like the others. 93-102. The Gay Science. 90. Walter Kaufmann. The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories. to become a copy. 63-4). p. 88. From The Portable Nietzsche. p. New York: Penguin. a number. 95-156.558. This same theme of evasion is expressed in The Sickness Unto Death: 'By seeing the multitude of people around it. 87. JRNL III. 52-3. SUD. 91.The Struggle of Self-Becoming 5 7 77. PA. 86. 94. 148. pp. CD. Aylmer Maude. p. 40. 79. pp. p. 1960. . 155. by being busied with all sorts of worldly affairs. finds being himself too risky. 92. 63. JRNL II. p. Trans. p. FS. 199-200 (my emphasis). pp. SUD. 83. dares not believe in himself. Leo Tolstoy. by being wise to the ways of the world. p. JFY. 55-6. 200. p. 85. JRNL II. JFY. 40. along with the crowd. 93. JRNL II. 84. in a divine sense forgets his own name. Trans. 90. #2009. PA. CD. CD. 63. pp.' (pp. 1976. 89. 3. 82. pp. #2014. p. and Ed.

' The ability to evade despair is central to the issue of self-consciousness. specifically. in how the structure allows for the possibility of spiritless forms of despair.2 The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence In the preceding chapter we looked at despair in terms of the structure of the self. The most intense despair is completely transparent to itself. and more self-knowledge. an increase in consciousness results in an intensification of despair. The danger of spiritlessness is this lack of relation. the more pockets that exist in which to hide from facing one's rebellion against the Good. With regard to the choice of evil. then the pockets become practically non-existent. the issues of self-consciousness and freedom become central. his despair is therefore the most absolute defiance. according to Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard writes. but a conscious willing against the Good. and the act of despair becomes more and more a conscious act — a growing awareness that one is seeking to evade the Good. This choosing involves the basic distinction between good and evil. At this point the rebellion against the Good is no longer a matter of seeking a place in which to evade one's responsibility. If consciousness continues to develop. Spiritless despair has no concern about the Good. and are able to engage in horrendous acts in order to evade responsibility to the Good. that both spiritlessness and defiance are grounded in a despair over the Good. The less consciousness one has of oneself. The more intense forms of despair have a closer relationship to the Good (this closeness is . however. and the self s misrelationship to it. because the self becomes more and more conscious of its state of despair. As we move into the intensification of despair. If despair persists as consciousness grows. the weaker forms of despair have their own modes of danger. 'The devil's despair is the most intense despair. It should be noted. and relates to the world and itself in terms of comfort and security. Kierkegaard knew that those who are unaware of their despair have the least relation to the Good. In the preceding chapter I have argued that. and begins to choose itself in this self-knowledge. at times. there are less pockets of obscurity. what he is really wishing for is more consciousness. We have seen that. Just as Socrates recognized that those who are unaware of their own ignorance are furthest from the Good (wisdom). Kierkegaard wishes the more intense forms of despair would manifest themselves in place of the weaker. for the devil is pure spirit and to that extent absolute consciousness and transparency: in the devil there is no obscurity as a mitigating excuse.

Because this movement from one existence stage to another is always accompanied by the despair of the preceding existence-stage. In the remaining chapters we will be examining the ethical and religious stages in more detail. I believe this is the case. Although those in unconscious despair are capable of enthusiastically committing terrible atrocities. It is spirit. along with a growing consciousness of how . a relatively cohesive exposition can be given of the movement of consciousness. The development of this consciousness is portrayed by Kierkegaard in his pseudonymous writings. and yet because their rebellion against the Good is more intense. Still. These existence-stages move toward an ever-increasing consciousness of the self.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 59 something to be desired). as does despair. However. Existence does not allow for a completely closed system. just as one would not attribute a line spoken in Hamlet to a belief Shakespeare himself held. it would be reasonable to expect that what is written in The Sickness Unto Death will tie in well with the movement through the various stages of existence. A defiant evil. and will do what it wills in self-conscious freedom. he did not author them under his own name.from spiritlessness to defiance — in terms of an intensification of despair. The strongest form of despair is more dangerous than spiritlessness in terms of its qualitative character . and are often very law-abiding. because consciousness fluctuates. What will be discovered is an ever-increasing inability to evade oneself and one's task. This analysis coincides with the general growth of consciousness portrayed in Kierkegaard's other pseudonymous works. rather than concern for the Good. the pseudonym Anti-climacus looks at the increase of consciousness . since these books do not necessarily represent Kierkegaard's own standpoint. They are malleable. In this. As spirit it is not concerned about comfort. and this means that it determines itself from itself. it can become extremely destructive. there is an intensification of despair and evil (something that is not desirable). it is by no means worked out systematically. The pseudonyms are to be regarded as performers in an extended portrayal of the different stages of existence. Kierkegaard goes so far as to say that nothing written by a pseudonym should be attributed to him. if you will — if by nothing else than the fear of punishment. We now turn to this intensification of despair by examining the move from the aesthetic stage to the beginnings of the ethical stage. thus. but has taken possession of itself in its opposition to the Good. and its concomitant movement of despair. In The Sickness Unto is qualified as spirit. on the other hand. since Kierkegaard was no system builder. and so the various forms of despair can be found in the various existence-stages. they can still be kept in check — tamed. cannot be kept in check so easily. Kierkegaard used pseudonyms in his authorship because each book was written from the standpoint of someone within a particular existencestage. though their obedience is based on self-concern.

For example. a multiplicity of intellectual gifts may be necessary. As the Judge says. Two important qualities characterize the aesthetic stage.or humbled by it. who looks at the aesthetic stage from the vantage point of the ethical. . much more powerful senses than human beings do. status or free time (retirement). a talent for business. The Aesthetic Stage of Existence Immediacy and the Enjoyment of Life The spiritless form of despair falls under the aesthetic stage of existence. a talent for writing. though this reflection is by no means self-reflection. As we have already seen. honour. however. such as wealth. It is not at all my intention to deny that in order to live esthetically . no matter how philosophical or poetic it may be. Judge Wilhelm. Despair arises out of this sense of weakness and lack of control. For others. the reflection within the aesthetic stage is never able to separate itself completely from its immediacy. but they are in bondage to animal instinct.60 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil weak one is in relation to this task. a talent for art. He writes. recognizes that aesthetes may often live in very intense modes of reflection. Thus. at this stage the self lives in such a way that it is not conscious of its self in any Kierkegaardian sense of the term. 'It is a talent for practical affairs. enjoyment. For some these conditions are completely external to the individual. . it exists in immediacy. the question is whether we will be crushed by the responsibility placed on us — thereby having a heavy and hopeless relationship to the Good . there are animal species that possess much sharper. though all the variations have in common the belief that certain conditions must be met in order for life to be enjoyable. indeed. and so uplifted into a joyful relationship with the Good through faith. Satisfaction in life. that these may even be intensively developed to an unusual degree. the task of existence is found in the attainment of these conditions. is sought in the unfolding of this talent. a talent for philosophy. Thus. The second quality of the aesthetic stage is the meaning and purpose it proposes for life: aesthetes believe that the meaning and purpose of life is to enjoy life.' This remains . First. but they are still enslaved and lack transparency. conditions that are 'not there by virtue of the individual himself. a talent for mathematics. This life-view has as many variations as there are definitions of enjoyment. In the end. though this does not mean aesthetes are devoid of reflection. a condition for enjoyment may be found within the individual.

the absolute that a human can be. While there is a rise in consciousness in these forms. Comfort and satisfaction are proof enough that all is well. thus. unconscious in a deeper sense of where it has them from. the conception they usually have of themselves is very humble. and in this sense lacks a self that has taken hold of itself. in which there is nothing higher than the immediate moment to bring some talent. No doubt certain talents or capacities may be developed. or not personally conscious of itself before God as spirit. nor is the true nature of despair understood by them. they are nevertheless in despair: Every human existence not conscious of itself as spirit. however astounding its accomplishments. the self remains a conglomeration of disorganized forces. none of them break completely free from immediacy. nation. The aesthete does not have control over these forces.what they fear more than being in error about the meaning of existence is being uncomfortable or bored. however much it can .). if there were any question of accounting for its inner being. etc. simply takes its capacities to be natural powers. Anti-climacus says. they are organized by the need of the moment — what the need is calling on for the sake of enjoyment. it would seem ridiculous to speak of being in despair. which remains a seething cauldron of disorganized powers. and have not developed personalities that encompass their entire lives. The person who measures human existence in terms of enjoyment has such a low conception of the self that he or she is unable to assess the truth concerning the health of the self. Anti-climacus tells us. that we are not to trust the word of a completely sensate person concerning the self s health. The Various Forms of Spiritless Despair in the Aesthetic Stage of Existence We will now move to the various forms of despair within the aesthetic stage. they have no conception of being spirit. These forces are analogous to Schelling's dark ground. if life is pleasant and enjoyable. but there is still no self that rules over them as a whole. mood or thought to the fore.' What concerns and interests such people is not whether they are in despair. Aesthetes are at the prey of the moment.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 61 immediacy because. Anti-climacus writes: 'However vain and conceited people may be. or in the dark about its self. but whether they are happy. however. takes its self to be an unaccountable something. but opaquely rests or merges in some abstract universal (state. What they fear more than being in despair . every human existence which is not grounded transparently in God. that is. To a person at this level of despair. at this level. The first form of despair is an unconsciousness of being in despair. however. no matter how happy they are. because it has not yet been penetrated by a higher ideal. every such existence.

the despair will disappear. . I ask them if they are any better informed than I. While despair is acknowledged. A higher form of despair may eventually arise in the aesthetic individual. when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light. In the face of that depth of the self. and the task for which it was established. I see other people around me. Pascal illustrates this well in his Pensees: When I see the blind and wretched state of man. and they say they are not. in which the self relates to itself through . all the externals are merely diversions. Despair can be felt only in the shudder whose tremors reverberate deep into the soul. and hence the meaninglessness of their existence. though the true source of despair is not recognized. The presence of despair is felt within 'pure immediacy' only because an item that was being used to cover up the real source of despair was lost. when the fortunes turn bad. what he has come to do. Then these lost and wretched creatures look around and find some attractive objects to which they become addicted and attached. incapable of knowing anything. a form Anti-climacus calls 'Pure Immediacy'. When the fortunes of the world are good. and grand things are accomplished. without knowing who put him there. Kierkegaard and Pascal have recognized the depth of their hopelessness: they have such a meagre conception of the self. They cannot fathom that despair is not an issue of circumstances — whether they are pleasant and enjoyable — but concerns a lack of development. that they are unable to grasp the longing and pain that underlies all their activities. the despair hidden beneath the surface shows itself.because it believes as life becomes better. In this form of despair there is a small rise in reflection within the aesthetic stage. because despair has reference to a deep and profound level of the self — so deep that although the whole world be gained. due to a person's inability to make the world go his or her way. however intense its aesthetic enjoyment: every such life is none the less is still essentially ignorant of despair . when in reality it consists in the loss of the self— the self's unwillingness to grasp its eternal validity. life is enjoyable. as though lost in this corner of the universe. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair.62 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil account for even the whole of existence. I am moved to terror. with the loss of this item. Though life goes on without a hitch. . Though people are not 'moved to despair'. made like myself. This is a passive relation to the world. Thus. the despair will remain untouched. one may nevertheless be in despair. its true source remains dark . . one 'despairs'. The person in pure immediacy believes despair consists in losing something in the world or something temporal. what will become of him when he dies.

But to despair is to lose the eternal — and of this loss he says nothing. and thus begins to enjoy one's enjoyment — one enjoys oneself.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 63 the conditions of its circumstances: 'there is no infinite consciousness of the self. despair is thought to be the result of unfortunate external circumstances. . As in all forms of the passive despair of spiritlessness. athletic. but the enjoyment itself is linked to an external condition'. but reflectively. Enjoyment is no longer to be found immediately in the experience. changing careers. This shows that a separation has taken place — however small and ethically insignificant between the . To lose the earthly is not in itself to despair. and so forth). and then one imagines it occurring to a self whether it might not let itself be another — than itself. the capacity to lose oneself completely in the world is weakened. Anti-climacus says. undergoing any number of surgical augmentations. enjoys himself only in the enjoyment. more reflection might arise. . he calls it despair. or of the state's being one of despair. though without moving the person out of immediacy. the only way for it to sense its despair is for the world to deal it a blow: So he despairs . 'If only I could have been born wealthy (or beautiful. or even by changing relationships. 'One imagines a self (and next to God there is nothing so eternal as a self).' * If life has dealt a sufficient number of blows. the despair is going on behind him unawares'. The despair is mere passivity. and so the belief that life brings enjoyment simply of itself begins to fade. and satisfies his immediate desires but in seeking what is eternal. this is ultimately an unwillingness to be oneself. Since the external world has let one down so many times. as he says. it comes not at all from within . it wishes it were someone else: it says to itself. perhaps losing some weight. wearing designer clothes. Eventually the realization may arise that life is not always — or even often — enjoyable. They try to gain a different self by buying a better model car. then I would be a happy self People at this level of consciousness have come to identify themselves so much by externals that they believe they can change their selves by changing their externals. And so he points at the wrong object of despair: 'he stands there pointing at something that is not despair. of what despair is.9 as an action. One now becomes aware of one's enjoyment. and yet that is what he speaks of and he calls it despair. He is unaware that the struggle of life is not found in seeking what is temporal — that which brings enjoyment to the sensate. he doesn't dream of it. explaining that he is in despair. Thus. The self is so connected and possessed by the world. a succumbing to external pressure. 12 Since the self does not even have enough self to will to be itself. and yet. sure enough. intelligent. This enjoyment is still connected to the external world because 'although he.

the purpose of such a life-view.15 Thus a small amount of reflection becomes the basis for this despair. which is able to discover a possibility that would wrench it out of its immediate contact with the world. reflective immediacy has come to realize that its self is 'essentially different from the environment and the external world and their effect upon it'. so that there is a recognition that the self is somewhat disconnected from the external. Reflective immediacy is too possessed by the finite to venture into the infinite in any ethical sense: The difficulty he has stumbled on requires a complete break with immediacy. Still. The weakness found is seen as something to despair over only because one is still relating to the world in an immediate way. adding to it through reflection. the self may reflect upon itself in terms of its situation. its despair is in its unwillingness to be itself.1 As in all cases of spiritless despair. This life-view also ends in a particular type of despair. This self. and so one cannot stop seeking one's . One's tastes become more refined. Perhaps it reflects on a possible physical illness. and so one must learn to intercede on one's behalf. is still enjoyment within the temporal. He has no consciousness of a self that is won by infinite abstraction from all externality. no guarantees have been handed out by existence. however. therefore. because one knows it will more than likely leave one dissatisfied and even bored in the end. This can happen in two ways. and thus could only sense its despair when the world dealt it a blow. First. The importance of this is that the conditions of enjoyment can. in contrast to the fully clothed self of immediacy. In all this. one has learned that the world does not always flow with milk and honey. and there is a desire for higher forms of amusement. What the moment offers is no longer enough. and come to recognize weaknesses and imperfections that make it recoil. Whatever it may be. so that one is not so easily amused by bread and circuses. a complete break with it has not been achieved. no matter how much it is couched in the language of selfdevelopment (see.64 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil external and internal. which Anti-climacus calls the despair of'reflective immediacy'. this reflection causes it to despair. Through the despair of pure immediacy. The second way it despairs is through its imagination. Whereas pure immediacy completely identified itself with the world. be discarded. one dresses up what the moment gives. and he does not have the self-reflection or the ethical reflection for that. the aesthete remains in immediacy in a very important sense: the thought of the possibility of a catastrophe or failure is still always related to the external world. naked and abstract. to some extent. 17 Thus. Oprah]. and so remains enamoured by a temporal goal. although one has a sense of being separate from the world. and enjoying oneself reflectively. or a failure in some worldly endeavour. to own this less-than-adequate self. for instance.

In the end. incoherence. one still loves the world too much to give it up. the aesthete may come to the place of recognizing the meaninglessness. When I consider its various epochs. True to the aesthetic stage of existence. and again lose itself in the world and its desires. My life is utterly meaningless. he reckons the problem will pass. though this recognition is not grasped in a way that the aesthetic existence itself is despaired of. So too with the person in despair. and emptiness of the aesthetic existence. But no doubt it will vanish. in that the self is becoming something over which one despairs. it may decide to give up reflection and this whole business of inwardness. The despair has become more personal at this point. where the knowledge of human failings and weaknesses actually become a source of enjoyment. but he does not move away. the self is no longer at stake in the fortunes and misfortunes of external circumstances. The author of Part I of Either/Or is called simply 'A'. If. If the difficulty does not pass. All that is lacking is that in the third place Schnur means camel. 20 . So he leaves it. the aesthete has found this despair to be interesting. both the philosopher and artist stand 'outside' existence as observers and nonparticipants (that is. and second a daughter-in-law. he does not establish a new residence. He writes. he does not want to be himself. which first of all means string. and so remain within the aesthetic stage. it has sufficient strength to stay with the difficulty. in the fourth a whisk broom. my life is like the word Schnur in the dictionary. perhaps it will change. he dares not (as the saying so suggestively puts it) 'come to himself. it may move into a deeper form of aestheticism ('despair itself). Anti-climacus uses an analogy to clarify what is happening within reflective immediacy: His relation to the self is like that of a man to his place of residence which may come to disgust him because of the smoke or whatever other reason. it does not give up the view that the purpose of life is enjoyment. Thus. At this level. and to face its failures in any decisive manner.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 65 nourishment from the world. The aesthete has recognized the despair of finding life in external conditions. because it recognizes that all of existence ends in misfortune. Still. diving back into pure immediacy. he continues to regard the old one as his address. the sombre possibility will surely be forgotten. though the self is still not self-conscious enough to remain with itself. however. Although such aesthetes' thinking and art may reach depths beyond any of their predecessors. remain indifferent to their own existences). and is a representative of the aesthetic stage of existence. As long as the difficulty remains.

there can be a light-heartedness that takes nothing seriously. passion. because they are beyond his meaning-structure. 21 While A can see through the shallowness of the lowest levels of love. that piety was to go to communion once a year. all of existence becomes trivial for him. satisfy him. He can access and understand them only in regards to his low conception of human existence. a mere joke for his own amusement. this very thought does. somehow. that courage was to risk being fined ten dollars. He finds great satisfaction in his ability to see what others cannot recognize. As an aesthete. indeed. He does not grieve for himself. that cordiality was to say 'May it do you good' after a meal.but does so for the sake of enjoying the finite. and often such aesthetes can have an amazing sense of humour. This I saw. its goal to become a councilor. or for the human race in general. A laughs to hide his fear: he does not have the courage to appropriate . there is nothing higher that ties these moments together into a meaningful whole. friendship.22 The irony in this situation is that. that the blessedness of friendship was to help each other in financial difficulties. All higher ideals appear to be nonsense to him. because the aesthete does not resign the finite for the sake of something higher . I saw that the meaning of life was to make a living. courage. when I became an adult. so there is nothing that unifies the various decades or years of A's life. In the initial stage of finite resignation. he simply finds his source of enjoyment in this meaninglessness. the general purpose and meaning are said to be enjoyment. that the rich delight of love was to acquire a well-to-do girl. In all this. When I was very young. as they make light of. True.66 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Just as there is nothing unifying the various meanings of the word Schnur. he seems barely to have been touched by it. to become himself. that wisdom was whatever the majority assumed it to be. I forgot in the Trophonean cave how to laugh. He writes. the aesthete is evading the task of becoming a self. however.namely. In all of this. Ever the aesthete. but because the objects and conditions of this purpose change from moment to moment. cordiality and religion he is much too cynical to see the possibility of any higher manifestations of these human pursuits. that enthusiasm was to give a speech. for others. however. and pats himself on the back for his astute observations of the finer nuances of this great comedy. A does not become horrified by this knowledge. then I started to laugh and have not stopped laughing since that time. and show the insignificance of others' selfimportance and pretentiousness. and I laughed. although A realizes nothing in the finite can satisfy him. A uses his laughter in order to cover over what is missing in his life: because his life is empty. when I opened my eyes and saw actuality. Kierkegaard calls this type of recognition of meaninglessness 'finite resignation'.

when it has been consumed. in turn. and for gaining one's personality. Spiritlessness finds it more and more difficult to be interested in anything for very long.' Depression becomes a refreshing relief from the dryness of existence. A begins to feed off the intense feelings of the darker and more sorrowful aspects of life. Cornelius Nepos tells of a general who was kept confined with a considerable cavalry regiment in a fortress. In choosing despair one 'activates' one's will for the first time. then. the spiritless person again sinks into inactivity. He writes. the aesthete may seek out physical pain as a means of relief from the encroaching consciousness of despair. then. A is to leap into the ethical stage of existence by despairing of the aesthetic life. I live in this age as one besieged. not out of satisfaction. and so this dark spiritlessness drinks from the cup of enjoyment in ever deeper gulps in its attempt to escape boredom's persevering encroachment. In reality. it is an ethical act. And so A welcomes pain as a relief. In its most intense forms. A says. he had them whipped daily in like choosing despair. and yet which demands a constant flow of new diversions. He must appropriate the despair into himself. choosing despair is not something an aesthete does. then. The aesthete at this level has too much reflection to go back to pure immediacy. . that I return the love.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 67 the despair existentially. and will have surrendered enjoyment as the meaning of life.the task of self-becoming . while the malaise of a lukewarm existence feels like death. There is a growing hunger. to keep the horses from being harmed because of too much inactivity. 'My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known no wonder. that depression becomes a constant — and often welcome . It is not surprising. but in a boredom that remains starved. and yet it must be taken in drops. As something new is discovered. Choosing despair is a choice for becoming oneself. At this point life becomes a dark comedy. slowly.companion. I cry myself tired. by gathering oneself away from the multiplicity of immediacy. the Judge gives some strange advice: Choose despair! The Judge tells A to choose himself in his eternal validity . which nothing in the world seems to satisfy. gathering one's life around this absolute choice.' 23 He feels alive only in the midst of his pain. As finite resignation increases. Pain and sorrow at least have an intensity desire can latch onto. causes the cup to be emptied even quicker. the greatest danger the aesthete faces is boredom. He writes. and yet all enjoyment has been sucked out of life. because when he does he will have transcended the aesthetic stage. and must have a constant flow of novelty. counting. it is ravenously seized upon. 'Life for me has become a bitter drink. In the face of this despair. this. thus moving beyond it. but lest I be harmed by sitting still so much. and this darkness provides the sustenance the aesthete desires.

to give up on the world. What. which is nothing less than giving birth to himself. and a revaluation of their values (how they measure what is significant and insignificant). This struggle. 28 The Judge says that doubt is thought's despair. more terrible than ever. As we talk about this change. then!'26 The Judge says that A is like a woman in labour who is terrified at what is demanding to be born. He wants to continue to take existence lightly. . If I ask what this ideal might mean for them. I am struck by their refusal to free themselves from the world — that is. and yet. He would say that this struggle is not with intellectual doubt. and I listen to their dissatisfaction with what the world has to offer. then. with the negative choice of choosing despair. one puts doubt between the thought and the action. .68 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil The Ethical Stage of Existence: Self-Choice The Negative Choice of Choosing Despair The ethical stage consists in choosing oneself. because the eternal remains a part of who he is. they have a sense that it would entail a radical change in the direction of their lives. which brings about a leap from the aesthetic stage into the ethical. If I ask them about an ideal they might want to live for. meaning the world that will be given up). than about fear and timidity. It begins. and distressed at the pain it will cause. they can usually formulate some vague 'something' they feel passionate about — some thing that has nothing to do with worldly success and enjoyment. but a question of whether one has the courage to choose against the worldly. though it has discovered that sorrow and unhappiness are the inevitable results of this pursuit. The last form of aestheticism described above is a kind of transitional point: it is still connected to the aesthetic view that life is to be lived for enjoyment. however. while despair is personality's doubt. Even if the aesthete tries to cover this realization through busyness or diversions. What A fears is the responsibility of the task his self puts on him. but with 'personality's doubt'.27 As I watch and interact with my students who are in the midst of this struggle. and to the overall . In other words. doubt is often less about intellectual honesty. . it does not take long before the uncertainty that is a part of every ideal causes the student to wonder whether the risk would be worth it ('it'. the triviality of his light-mindedness is too sorrowful for him to stand. When this unwillingness to risk is attached to one's very existence. And so the Judge tells him to give birth to his despair. according to the Judge. is not an intellectual issue (a matter of certainty about one's ideal). it can never be completely escaped: 'it will still break out at certain moments. This is the fear and trembling the Judge is pointing to in the analogy of the labouring woman. unwilling to risk one's life on a thought content that is uncertain. is there to do? I have only one answer: Despair.

ideologies and so forth). says that 'the first important outcome of the project of self-knowledge is the knowledge that one is essentially opposed to the whole project'/ In other words. The Judge tells A. A realizes the meaninglessness of the aesthetic existence. 'Generally speaking a person cannot despair. he is unconsciously fighting for his life — that is. and actually part of the work of despair. The first movement of self-knowledge is to recognize and admit the barriers one builds to this knowledge. There is no doubt that one knows things about oneself. In choosing despair. Thus. In this choice one moves beyond personality's doubt into the openness of freedom and self-knowledge. if you will. A needs to come to the point where he understands despair. or the self one is). Because his focus remains in the world. terror and depression. he is oblivious to the true abode of despair. and so the world becomes his enemy that which brings trouble and boredom. To choose despair is to take hold of one's existential doubt in a free resolution. but when he truly wills it. and thwarts his attempts at enjoyment. entraps and keeps one from acting. He has no sense of what leaping out of the aesthetic stage would mean for his life. so that he can find himself and his of its formative lessons — is to destroy his immediate relation to the world. He interprets the despair he feels as coming from the world. In a sense. in his book Kierkegaard: The Descent into God. but rather than actively shouldering this despair.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 69 direction of one's life (to the personality. to keep the only view of life he has ever known.through a methodical building up of knowledge . he is truly beyond despair. is to become conscious of this self-deceit. not as something suffered from outside. a person must will it. The movement out of despair. but as a matter of the self. and this 'unknown' fills him with dread (angst). one becomes conscious of how much one has been fighting the task of self-becoming.' 29 Self-Knowledge As always. When a person has truly chosen despair. Jeremy Walker.but through a leap. Kierkegaard does not regard doubt as a sign of intellectual freedom (freedom from prejudices. but as that which oppresses. Despair. this process is not simply about choice (freedom). then. He does not recognize that the 'job' of despair . he passively suffers under it. This doubt is not broken by methodically working through life's uncertainties — which would be an endless task anyway. but also about self-consciousness. is the personality's unwillingness to give birth to itself because of its doubt and fear its lack of faith. he has chosen what despair chooses: himself in his eternal validity. This break is not done quantitatively . one's ignorance of one's self or lack of self — is a 'willed' ignorance. but this accidental self-knowledge is only knowledge of . then one remains hidden in dreams. one is choosing to ignore oneself.

or a temporal loss eternally. and then despairs over the earthly in toto'. when the world becomes meaningless and hopeless because of a number of particular loses). but that it lacks spirit. specifically the despair he calls 'despairing over the earthly in toto'. . Anti-climacus writes. the aesthete must allow 'the power of despair . that one has attributed infinite worth to the finite.' Despairing over the earthly leads to an understanding that. At this point. this means that the self 'increases the total loss infinitely. The aesthete may come to see that it is not the loss of an individual item that causes despair. Despairing Over the Earthly In Toto This issue of the eternal in the human being brings us again to Anti-climacus' analysis of despair in The Sickness Unto Death.70 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil the self's relation to what is not the self— the world. . This can be made clearer by looking at Kierkegaard's Christian Discourses. because the one who despairs finds the eternal human being'.33 One recognizes. . An inauthentic selfknowledge is nothing but a mask behind which the self can hide from itself. this something. This form of despair is the next step in the consciousness of despair. 'When with infinite passion the self despairs in imagination over something earthly. in other words. . In describing this. the infinite and eternal aspect of this despair must come from the self. Thus. and despairs over 'the earthly' (that is. It is this realization that becomes the basis for choosing despair: one comes to realize that. the infinite passion makes of this particular. [to] consume everything until he finds himself in his eternal validity . and serves as the basis by which the aesthete 'chooses despair'. since no particular thing in the world is infinite or eternal. in order to despair over a finite loss infinitely. the earthly in toto [as a whole]. when one loses some particular thing in the world. This consciousness is a movement from despairing over the loss of some particular earthly thing (or some particular weakness or possibility one's reflection has discovered) to a type of despair that gives access to the category of totality. despairing over the earthly in toto mediates between immediacy and a despair directed inwardly as despair over oneself or of the eternal. that is to say the totality concept is inherent in and belongs to the despairer. To despair over something earthly points to a particular loss. while despairing over the earthly itself is a totalizing despair. Spiritlessness may come to see that the true nature of its despair is not that it lacks something in the world. one comes to see that one has given . but the despair of the eternal within the self— that which gives totalizing meaning to the world. Genuine self-knowledge is knowledge of the self s relation to itself. and the distinction between the goal of temporality and the goal of eternity. In despairing over the earthly in toto.

then the issue is whether he. One finally realizes it is not the world one despairs over. Through this choice and in this choice he becomes open. If he does this. traitorous to himself and to eternity. he would change the direction of his life from the immediate and the temporal. 'With the passion o the infinite. and so is open to the light that will bring more self-knowledge. is the sign that the eternal within him has been despairs over the self one is. a deeper understanding of the true nature of despair has been gained. then the eternal within him has won the victory. In coming out of hiding into openness. . One is not earnest about oneself. . and begin to move toward freedom. In despai he has chosen himself. does not allow temporality's loss to become anything else for him than what it is.'' What is this openness? Later Climacus writes.. As long as A is simply 'in despair'. . transparency. To let go of the lost temporal thing in such a way that it is lost only temporally. the ethicist in the moment of despair has chosen himself out of the terror of having himself. his actuality. but has fixed 'a temporal loss eternally fast in your soul'.despaired of the eternal. [T]he sufferer himself is a synthesis of the temporal and eternal. in depression.' 37 One chooses oneself out of the hiddenness.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 11 oneself completely over to temporality's goal. to lose the lost temporal thing only temporally. one does not value the eternal at all. Kierkegaard writes. in hiddenness. however. The self is open to receiving its task. but one despairs over oneself . and that this 'giving oneself over completely' is actually to despair of eternity's goal. and so is unwilling to be oneself. or whether he. If now temporality inflicts upon him the greatest loss it is able to inflict.. . In the Postscript. will give temporality's loss the power to become something totally different from what it is. lost the eternal . in esthetic dreams. This is to discover that the self is more than the sum total of its relationships to things within the world. a temporal loss. J When one comes to see that 'despair' over a temporal loss is actually despair over the eternal. where everything is done behind masks. he despairs over the world. whether he will lose the eternal. true to himself and the eternal. his life. and has. one becomes open to one's task the very thing one was hiding from. in a deeper sense. Climacus says that 'The ethicist has despaired. On the other hand. and himself in his eternal validity. and remains immediately connected to it. in bestowing the temporal with eternal value. and the concomitant choosing of it. is a qualification of the eternal within the loser. The Ethicist has Chosen Despair This consciousness of despair. is the negative aspect of choosing oneself. If he would choose despair. .

180. in which a person 'chooses himself in his eternal validity'. though again in such a way that he is not altogether clear that he is doing it to keep himself in the dark' (SUD. . 6. apart from any other propulsion. 4. When I despair over losing the whole world. 625-30). p. I will begin to use the pseudonyms' names when pointing to specific books. When I despair of it by choosing it. 7. pp. p. Since at this point the movement between the existencestages becomes crucial for our examination of evil. SUD. pp. then I. for I am no longer bound by what is external to me. In the aesthetic stage the self reacts. To 'choose despair' is an act of resolve. SUD. E / O I I . 73.. for example. 5.39 When one wills and is lost in the finite. 88. Krailsheimer. and this is despair. New York: Penguin. Notes 1. for I make it finite in the very same way. but my choosing it certainly is. The Judge says that it is 'an act that takes all the power and earnestness and concentration of the soul'. Kierkegaard discusses his use of pseudonyms in 'A First and Last Explanation' (CUP. 1984. 179. 183. for I choose it just as much when I attain it as when I lose it. for the first time.. but bind myself to myself in my eternal validity I bind myself to the Good. In choosing despair one chooses by the determination of one's own will. if you will. an act rising up from within the self. for my attaining is not under my control. p . 76. Kierkegaard echoes Pascal's sentiments concerning diversions: 'Or perhaps he tries to keep his own condition in the dark by diversions and other means. A. 78-9). I am no longer defined by what is not me. Trans. as ways of distracting attention. an unfree despair. by fate. being moved by the determination of the sensual desires over which it has no control. and ultimately by its triviality. take control of the direction of my life. 3. SUD.p. since here again I see my soul is established by the finite. Finite despair is. but begin to define myself in terms of my task.72 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil This is no easy choice. one is bound by necessity. E / O I I . Blaise Pascal. Pensees. J. reminiscent of what was discussed in The Sickness Unto Death as despair of the earthly in toto. 2. therefore. p . E / O I I . work and pressure of business. The Judge says. but it wills the finite. I damage my soul.38 This is because it is the self's first real act.. p . p. 8. Every finite despair is a choice of the infinite. 72. it does not actually will despair.

E/O II. 82. 36. p. E/O I. 85. yet they are able to gather themselves in what Kierkegaard calls 'infinite resignation'. 27. E/O I. E/O II. SUD. E/O II. p. 16. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP. p. SUD. p. p. p. 19. 82. 206. p.The Despair of the Aesthetic Stage of Existence 9. p. 73 20. 82-3. p. CD. . 26. 39. One may see it today in certain strains of rock music. E/O II. 213. p. 34. pp. 139. SUD. 11. Kierkegaard: The Descent Into God. E/O I. p. p. p. 91. pp. E/O II. Still. 23.211. 258. 80-1. SUD. 36. 20. 34. 86. SUD. 1985. 21. 10. but actually calls for an ever increasing intensification of the bizarre. CUP. SUD. p. 21. E/O I. 38. Those in infinite resignation are able to resign the finite for the sake of something infinitely higher. p. 85-6. p. E/OII. 15. 17. E/O II. p. 12. pp. 24. but out of an aesthetic enjoyment of the dark themes presented by it. 40. 28. this despair does not lead such people to pick up the task of the self. 221 (my emphasis). 13. This is. 221. 22. 190-1. 25. CD. 33. pp. 32. SUD. Those who are spiritual also recognize the emptiness of the finite. in the 'Goth' culture. p. There is a particular kind of pleasurable quality in reflecting on despair. CUP. 208. 208. E/O II. p. 29. 84-5. 37. 31. p. 141. E/O II. 147. not out of a concern for the self. 30. p. SUD. 14. to some extent. p. 18. 91. 209. 253-4. and in an aesthetic enjoyment of art that focuses on the grotesque. Jeremy Walker. like those who dabbled in the French rendition of existentialism. E/O I. p.p. 84. pp. SUD. p. 35. SUD. 26. SUD.

and I myself am the absolute. in one and the same act. as absolutely despairs of the aesthetic existence. But in other words. I posit the absolute. and in despair I choose the absolute. then my category of choosing is untrue. and yet only the self. At the same time. and yet he does choose himself and not someone comes into existence only by my choosing it: 'It is. This self has not existed before. When I choose myself as free.' What the absolute choice brings into existence — though does so only as already existing — isfreedom. I could not choose it. for I am myself the absolute. with exactly the same meaning I may say: I choose the absolute that chooses me. because it is precisely the identity of both.not in the finite sense. because if it did not already exist. I do not create freedom. Further. for it first comes into existence through my choosing it. for if it were not I could not choose it. this absolute choice . is able to make such an absolute choice. while what is chosen already exists . . again. I posit the absolute that posits me for if I do not keep in mind that this second expression is just as absolute. but created . Here. for then this 'self would indeed be something finite that would fall among all the other finite things — but in the absolute sense.. it is a choice to become oneself: He chooses himself . . and yet it has existed. I.otherwise it would not be chosen. it is not. The paradox consists in the fact that. choose the absolute and become the absolute that does the choosing.3 Ethical Self-Choice The Positive Self-Choice Choosing Freedom Choosing despair is an absolute choice: When I choose absolutely. this choice is more than simply a choice concerning abstract freedom. yet this freedom does not exist until I choose it. because it came into existence through the choice. for it was indeed 'himself This is an absolute choice because one chooses absolutely . 1 I choose myself absolutely. and otherwise my choice would be an illusion. we find the paradox of the self-positing of the self. I choose despair.

Ethical Self-Choice 75 posits the ethical. It is an absolute choice, not simply because it changes the direction of one's entire life, and the categories by which one confronts the world, but more importantly, because through it one discovers oneself in one's eternal validity. The Judge says, [T]o become conscious in one's eternal validity is a moment that is more significant than everything else in the world. . . . It is an earnest and significant moment when a person links himself to an eternal power for an eternity, when he accepts himself as the one whose remembrance time will never erase, when in an eternal unerring sense he becomes conscious of himself as the person he is.4 Self-identity is radically altered in this knowledge and choice: it is to choose oneself as one whose remembrance time will never erase. Whether this eternity be conceived within a Judaeo-Christian view of an eternity with God, or in the Nietzschean conception of an eternal recurrence, it is to shoulder the eternal within oneself. Indeed, this is what is chosen: [Wjhat is it, then, that I choose - is it this or that? No, for I choose absolutely, and I choose absolutely precisely by having chosen not to choose this or that, I choose the absolute, and what is the absolute? It is myself in my eternal validity. Something other than myself I can never choose as absolute, for if I choose something else, I choose it as something finite and consequently do not choose it absolutely.'' The phrase 'eternal validity' does not speak to some substance of the self that I choose, but speaks to my essence as freedom. Freedom becomes, for the first time, my responsibility and task. I give myself the task of becoming myself — becoming more free and more transparent as spirit. The problem of evil arises around this issue of self-possession. As traditionally conceived, evil is problematic because it is difficult to determine where a rebellion against Being can originate. If it originates in Being itself, how can it be considered a rebellion against Being? Whatever exists is within Being, and so would be within the inner necessity of Being — would be a part of its order, and so, it seems, could not be a rebellion against this order. Thus, according to the traditional view, evil, as a rebellion against Being could not exist — that is, evil is a privation or lack of Being, a movement into nothingness and nonessence. But is evil really devoid of essence? The description of freedom as an absolute self-positing is the answer idealism gives to this question. Idealism came to see that the Being of humans is freedom, which means that this Being itself is to be chosen. For Schelling, man posits freedom by his own deed, a deed that is possible only through


Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil

freedom. This is what Kierkegaard is struggling to make clear through Judge Wilhelm's ethical understanding of existence. Kant and Schelling were able to resolve the difficulties inherent in this self-positing by pointing beyond time. In other words, by the time we philosophers come upon the issue, the positing has already taken place in the eternal - it is, in an important sense,finished,in that freedom has already been posited. Kierkegaard, however, believes this choice takes place in time, at the moment when one takes hold of oneself, and determines one's essence as free. In this, one determines oneself for the first time by taking possession of oneself. Only in this choice is the inner necessity of one's Being determined from oneself. It is in this self-determination, which is a part of the inner necessity of Being, that a rebellion against Being can find its place. As a dissolubility between the dark depths and the light of reason, the inner necessity of Being dictates (ordains) that I should have the ability to determine my own inner necessity apart from the universal will of Being itself, for I exist as the contradiction of the deepest pit and the highest heaven. It is this prescribed inner necessity of Being that allows for the possibility of radical evil: I have been granted, from Being itself, the possibility of determining myself in opposition to the universal will of Being. This possibility arises from the structure of the self, a structure in which the self is born out of the principle of contradiction through which I must choose myself: 'whereas nature is created from nothing, whereas myself as immediate personality am created from nothing, I as free spirit am born out of the principle of contradiction or am born through my choosing myself.' As we move deeper into an understanding of the self in terms of consciousness and freedom, we will find an intensification of the self around its relation to the Good. Although the ethical is usually viewed as the highest relation to the Good, we will find areas of evasion that show the ultimate despair of this relation. To discover this we must examine Kierkegaard's analysis of the ethical stage of existence. Choosing One's Facticity In choosing oneself as free, one does not annihilate the aesthetic; rather, in this choice, the esthetic is absolutely excluded or it is excluded as the absolute, but relatively it is continually present. In choosing itself, the personality chooses itself ethically and absolutely excludes the esthetic; but since he nevertheless chooses himself and does not become another human being by choosing himself but becomes himself, all the esthetic returns in its relativity.

Ethical Self-Choice 77 Although an individual's concrete contents or capacities are given by nature, when the ethical self posits itself, these capacities are transformed by finding their proper place in the individual's life. They become determined by the self, rather than externally determined. As the ethical individual is gathered away from the external through the absolute self-positing, a new consciousness of the aesthetic qualities that is, the talents, moods, social influences, inclinations, and so forth — is gained. Before choosing oneself these capacities were simply seen as things nature bestowed upon the individual, products of fate, if you will; after the choice, these become things for which one is now responsible. Aesthetes do not feel responsible for the moods or social influences they suffer, nor can they help the talents and inclinations given to them by nature or their upbringing. The ethicist, however, feels responsible for these concrete contents, and shoulders them as the material out of which one becomes oneself. Further, in choosing oneself, one begins the movement of self-possession, or in-gathering. Aesthetes have their lives on the periphery, living in immediate contact with things; the ethicists, on the other hand, reside in the centre, in the heart and core of the self- the home of personality and so their concrete contents find their meaning in the choices that personality makes. It is in these choices that all the relative or accidental qualities of the self- its facticity - become transformed into essential qualities, and so are products of the self. While these qualities always existed as a part of the self, they are, for the first time, produced by the ethical self in the sense that they now find their meaning as a part of a newly integrated whole. They are undefined raw material until the self becomes absolute enough to define and form them out of itself. These capacities, which the ethicist always had, are for the first time coming into existence as his. No longer has he merely been thrust into existence, forced into forms not of his own making, given desires and goals not of his own choosing, but he has taken hold of himself, and now places himself into the world in absolute terms. The Judge says, As a product he is squeezed into the forms of actuality; in the choice he makes himself elastic, transforms everything exterior into interiority. He has his place in the world; in freedom he himself chooses his place — that is, he chooses this place. 10 We are moving into the realm of spirit here. Spirit is not tossed around by circumstances, nor is it taken in by what the world presents as desirable and worthy of pursuit. Spirit moves within itself, deciding for itself what its existence means, and what it is to do. Its passions, talents, desires and tastes no longer make sense apart from the meaning given to them by the self. The task of the ethical individual is to gather all these qualities into a well integrated whole or personality. Every feature of the self is to be transformed from a

78 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil mere finite ability. stating that it is the ideal of every human being to become the 'paradigmatic human being': 'Every person. They do not exist simply so I can create conditions for my enjoyment.' 14 The ethical individual has a vision of the ideal as the paradigmatic human being. but by remaining in them and ennobling them. if he so wills. This is possible because one is always both the actual and the ideal. which he cannot acquire anywhere else but within himself. in which case the individual's task would be to claw his or her way to some abstract ideal. in this absolute self-choice. If he does not hold firmly to the truth that the individual has the ideal self within himself. The self is both the task and that which fulfils the task. capacities and other such concrete contents? The Judge answers these questions vaguely. and a pleasant (secure and comfortable) existence. so that what has been given to me is posited for the first time as mine — as my responsibility. but as the contents I must work on as a self that has absolutely chosen itself. What he wants to actualize is certainly himself. in that one recognizes oneself as a task to be taken up and performed. Above it was said that the self becomes pregnant with itself in the ethical self-choice. I come to myself as both actual and ideal. !! Thus.12 The self's ethical task is to actualize this ideal in the concrete contents and situations of its life. but only potentially so. disconnected from the individual. Through choosing myself I become aware of the responsibility I have for what I have been given by nature and by society. The Particular and the Universal For the aesthete. This ideal remains as a mere potential until one gives it to oneself. This means the ideal is intimately connected to the finite contents that make up the material self. not by brushing offhis accidental qualities. and the task of the self is to actualize . all of his aspiring and striving becomes abstract. The Judge says. can become a paradigmatic human being. We possess an inner teleology that fits with the concrete contents of our individual lives. my talents become infinitized through the possibilities the ideal presents me. The ideal does not exist out beyond the stars. But he ennobles them by choosing them. How do I know or discover who I am to become? How do I know the direction that will ennoble my talents. the task of existence is to find means of enjoyment. Thus. but it is his ideal self. into an ideal and a task. In ethical self-choice the task changes. The Self as a Task The Transformation of Existence: The Actual and the Ideal.

Duty: Taking Responsibility for One's Future Repentance is the way in which one shoulders the responsibility for one's past. because love has found its place and calling by being put under the realm of freedom. For example. Repentance is the recognition that one has chosen to be self-centred rather than gaining the view of the universal. and is thus posited by one's freedom. love is no longer something one 'suffers'. and emerges through them. If the universal human being is outside. Indeed. . In the act of despair. for without this concern. one's concern for the beloved is no longer simply a matter of mood — which may pass . but find their deeper expression in marriage. no matter how things change. . . It is a promise that. and is a decision to turn from this mindset (metanoia}\ duty is the working out of this change of mind in the future by transforming one's particularity into the universal.but becomes the basis of a promise. as though one dies to one's particularity to become the universal. This concern is no longer an accidental quality of love something that burns hot and then fades away — but is now an essential quality of one's love for the beloved. I am becoming myself because . when a person marries. to a lifelong commitment. but gets under them. the universal human being came forth and now is behind the concretion and emerges through it. it is one's task to become the universal in all aspects of one's life. love is not expressed. transforming them from mere immediate and contingent passions. Another way to say this is that one is. if you will. the marriage vows are an expression of a movement from aesthetic to ethical love. One does not throw off all one's aesthetic concretions. Thus. But that is not the way it is. In this transformation. and will care for the beloved with deep ethical passion. the particularities of love come under the universal. and that is to take off my entire concretion. The Judge describes this transformation as selfbecoming because the universal human being is within the individual as a potentiality: [T]o transform himself into the universal human being is possible only if I already have it within myself Kara Sufa^if [potentially]. the universal is then actualized. . This is not to become someone completely different. In this actualization of the universal. .. as a particular individual. one will remain concerned about the welfare of the beloved. the concrete contents are not thrust away. committed to and affirmed through this free choice. This striving out into the unconstraint of abstraction is frequently seen. duty is the way in which one shoulders the responsibility for one's future. but is chosen. One's accidental characteristics are put under the universal.Ethical Self-Choice 79 this ideal. there is only one possible method. This is but one example of the expression of one's duty. to become the universal individual.

but is a type of self-actualization. then it comes to be something standing outside myself. This means that freedom consists in self-determination. However insignificant he may be. he does not exist for the sake of any other person.80 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil the universal I am to become is accessed through my particularity. I stand at my window and look at people. The Judge expresses this dignity in terms of beauty: If at times I have a free hour. he is victorious. stay out of hell. and even detestable. What are we to make of the times we fail to discharge . I see him according to his beauty. and remain externally directed. or not look bad in the eyes of others. for I see him as this individual human being who nevertheless is also the universal human being. see its beauty and security. because they do not touch the deeper personality. . the beauty and dignity of a human being consists in the fact that he or she is self-sufficient. To say that humans have an inner teleology is to point to every individual as an end in himself or herself. These are all pitiful teleologies. the task becomes heavy. the Judge has confidence that the individual will be victorious in the ethical struggle. This would mean ethics is a working away from who I am in order to become someone else. it is said that I have my duty. The individual has an inner teleology. Second. But when I grasp the universal within myself. even if he is the lowliest hired waiter. Human dignity consists in being this end.trying to keep my ugliness from spilling out . Thus. burdensome. that is why his struggle is beautiful. however humble. then ethics becomes beautiful and full of joy. He is bound to be victorious. When the ethical task is seen as simply following rules. however. He has his teleology. and desire it above all else. and closely connected to this. . While we are self-sufficient in regards to the ethical task. I see him as one who has this concrete task for his life. and it would be a contradiction for Being to require something of the individual that he or she is incapable of fulfilling. and I see each person according to his beauty. the individual is self-sufficient in regards to this teleology. of that I am convinced. First. and gather my life in such a way that it makes sense as a coherent whole. therefore. These rules become means I must suffer through because I want to keep out of trouble. but discover the meaning and purpose of my existence from within. . even the most ethical person realizes there are several things in the self that will not readily bend to the universal. If duty is seen as a multiplicity of particular rules and regulations I am to obey. because the teleology is internal to the individual. ethics is not a task whereby I continually fight against myself as I try to cover myself with the universal . and will end in victory. I no longer do what is 'right' in order to avoid unpleasant circumstances. he actualizes this task. This beauty is seen from a couple of different aspects. The Judge is both confident and optimistic that the battle to actualize the universal is not a futile undertaking.

but is conditioned by that which constitutes its failure to achieve continuity. and the reassurance that the universal gives. self-consciousness and self-possession. In order for the ethical stage to be consistent. I stand alone. without fellow-feeling. he does not lose heart. then it is no longer absolute. The Judge grieves over standing outside the universal: 'At this point. the security. but if he detects that he has made a mistake.' 18 He comforts himself in the midst of failure by viewing his grief as a sign that he is still within the universal. It is a movement from the immediate and scattered existence of . and must determine the world. This would be to confess that the aesthetic stage of existence is the truly consistent stage. I have deprived myself of all guidance. The Judge says. personality must be absolute. or if obstacles are raised that are beyond his control. The Judge is confident of the ultimate victory of the ethical life. he is to act in such a way that this split within his personality is healed. Although his task may begin in the sorrow of repentance. however. for I am an exception. rather than being determined by the world.Ethical Self-Choice 81 our duty? The first step in overcoming this failure is to repent. he [the ethicist] says. This sorrow arises because of one's love for the universal. If ethicists are to have stability and integrity. The person who lives ethically will also be careful about choosing his place properly. if they cannot be overcome. nor selfsufficient. and he again becomes a well-integrated whole. To repent is to sorrow over one's personal failures. then the personality is not absolute — is not its own objective. and submitted to it. It is those without an ethical consciousness who do not grieve over their failures. He promptly sees his task and therefore is in action without delay. To believe there is a place where the self is not self-determined is to confess that ultimately the self is not free — that freedom is not its essence and is bound by the whims of circumstances. I have placed myself outside the universal. Thus. and so the grief of failure brings solace to the ethicist. The Despair of the Ethical Stage of Existence The Law Judges The ethical existence has opened up the self to freedom. for he does not surrender sovereignty over himself. If there is any area where the personality is not self-determinative. the ethical person must continue to act in such a way as to bring all aspects of the self under the universal. they must overcome them. then they must do more than grieve over their failures. as sovereign and selfsufficient. If it could not be victorious. then the ethicist is neither sovereign over the self.

Kierkegaard calls this despair because one is unwilling to continue to take the steps necessary for becoming oneself. Glenn writes. and a source of despair. Its gaze has been raised to a much broader horizon. to believe that the ability to lift one's gaze is somehow a sign of one's capacity to put one's life in order . What is said of the law is also true of ethics: it is a disciplinarian that demands.that is. as the ethical stage progresses. . However. It is the ultimate self-reliance that he [Judge Wilhelm] has in common with the defiant types of despair described in The Sickness Unto Death. but to gather the individual from lostness in the world. inasmuch as it makes clear both the difficulty and the impossibility. and this lifting of the gaze is the task of the ethical. problems arise. As transparency within the ethical stage deepens — as more and more pockets of evasion are infiltrated by the light of self-consciousness . Self-Sufficiency Self-sufficiency with regard to the task of the self is always defiance. The authentic purpose of the ethical stage is not to find existential victory or repose in the ideal. that the ethical stage also ends in a mistake. Still. ennobling the individual's stature. focused on dust. and by its demands. while the ethical stage is necessary for the self to become itself.82 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil the underlying anxiety begins to make itself felt: the ethicist comes to suspect that the ethical stage itself has become an evasion of the self s task . whereas Kierkegaard thought that . He understands an unconditional self-affirmation. only judges but does not bring forth life. Thus ethics develops a bring order to all one sees within the horizon . Despair arises from the attempt to remain within the ethical stage after the contradictions have become apparent. The ideal within the ethical stage lifts the face upward. contradictions that will not allow the self to gain the repose it believed was possible. The overarching contradiction arising within the ethical stage is due to the ethical individual's inability to bring the ideal to fruition. but that. Ethics points to ideality as a task and assumes that every man possesses the requisite conditions. into the realization that one is not a self as a matter of course. To recognize this is not to say the self took a wrong turn by becoming ethical. . . The pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis writes in The Concept of Anxiety: Ethics proposes to bring ideality into actuality. it is not sufficient. The self is no longer shuffling along with its head down.

While these systems may offer guidance in right action. but I do not enter into relation with God in the duty itself. but if one cannot say more one says in effect that really I have no duty to God. and its fulfilment in the religious stage. they do not provide any internal power for fulfilling the ethical requirements. and so cuts itself off from the source of power necessary for self-becoming. Johannes de Silentio. the universal and the particular. infinitude and finitude. The problem with the ethical stage is that it seeks to establish itself by its own power — through self-choice — and yet the power needed to bring together ideality and actuality.Ethical Self-Choice 83 affirmation of our true selves is ultimately dependent on a 'condition' that can be given only by God. And so the ethical stage's self-sufficiency becomes its despair. and so ordained the self as that which gives itself the task of becoming itself. the divine. and even a kind of passion for what is right. and the best ethics can do is determine this failure negatively as a judgement: no one measures up to what a true ethical system demands (by 'true ethical system' I mean one that does not lower the demands of the ideal in order for human beings to attain to the demands of the 'ethical'). Ultimately they do not allow for what Augustine called 'wholly willing' the Good. It is therefore correct to say that all duty is ultimately duty to God. but our neediness before God will become even more apparent as we look at the despair of the ethical stage. except as the one who ordained the whole situation. . Duty finds its essence in being traced back to God in the sense that he established the relationship of the self to itself (established the inner teleology). The ethical is the universal and as such. While lip service is given to God by the Judge . The pseudonym of Fear and Trembling. is not within it. Although the Judge says that one's duty in civic life is the same as one's duty to God. in self-contradiction. They may provide incentives. but they do not offer the kind of internal oneness with the Good that is necessary for ethical victory. Ethical self-sufficiency turns God into an 'invisible. What is important for the ethical individual is how to relate to one's duty. in turn. The human self is fractured. vanishing point'. This self-sufficiency is the despair of all systems of ethics. God does not play any essential role in this relationship. and may provide reasonable accounts of what we ought to do. We have already seen that Kierkegaard believed despair could be overcome only by transparently resting in the power that established the relation of the self to itself.and perhaps even held in the highest regards in the end God becomes superfluous to the ethical task. reasons. says. The duty becomes duty to God by being referred to God.

The deepest pit. Just as Deists view God as a being who created the universe. . vanishing point. however. he becomes superfluous to its ongoing movement .as it always does for the ethical stage . circular motions. The Judge is optimistic that all these areas will soon be brought under the universal. a psychiatrist who has written extensively on addiction. an impotent thought. has nothing outside itself that is its telos but is itself the telos for everything outside. Ethics cannot comprehend anything outside its own demand. De Silentio says that ethics 'rests immanently in itself.then God becomes unnecessary. he is merely being extravagant and loves a phantom which. God becomes an invisible. The Deistic God is needed to establish everything. the self has been given the requisite conditions for fulfilling itself. and so it cannot recognize any telos beyond itself. but only through the exteriority of duty. and his power is to be found only in the ethical. which fills all existence. So if it should occur to someone to want to love God in some other sense than that mentioned. cannot be overcome in self-choice. according to the Judge. and the ethical is at once the limit and completion. would say to him. when duty becomes the emphasis . I don't ask for your love. so too. Just as the universe has been given the requisite conditions for continuing in its eternal. and just this is his despairing evasion of reality. 'For the addicted person . as a sphere. it disregards the self as both the highest heaven and the deepest pit. entirely self-enclosed. and then left it to itself in order to run according to its own efficient mechanisms. it has no further to go'. By seeking to tame and constrain spirit. But then there is no breathing room for spirit. and when that is taken up into it.23 The ethical seeks to bring the self into repose by confining it in the straightjacket of the universal.. And so de Silentio says that in the ethical stage. set it in motion..its becoming. it cannot. . but once this is done. Or more to the point. notes in his book Addiction and Grace. it believes the deepest pit can be fully integrated into the highest heaven.that is. if it only had the strength to speak. The whole of human existence is . The longings and cravings of the deepest pit continually attach to certain objects or actions to which a person becomes addicted. struggling only with .' Because the self is self-contained. Gerald May. God becomes defined and related to in terms of how he fits into the notion of duty. by power of the human will. thus allowing the self to fulfil itself according to the freedom given to it by God . so the ethicist views God as having created the self and its relations.84 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil However. 'Stay where you belong. be forced to conform to the universal will. This is what is meant by saying that God is not related from interiority. this containment defines and fills all existence. The ethical stage sets up a kind of Deistic notion of God with regards to the self. by its own sufficient capacities.

because this cannot be done. and remains relative and contingent: it can fulfil the ethical ideal only to a certain degree. and to the inability of primordial longing to be satisfied in resolutions and 'absolute' choices. Being universal in nature. . the self shows it is not absolute in this task. and never rests in its demand for satisfaction. . then by the end of the ethical stage one comes to realize just how infinitely wild and dark the human heart is.Ethical Self-Choice 85 willpower. is not to enslave the dark energies under the power of the highest heaven. One of the tasks of the ethical stage is to bringjust this darkness to light. pre-cosmic freedom. desire to continue the addiction will win. Willpower and resolutions come and go. and any attempt to do so will end in despair. The basic characteristic of the ethical situation is that full justice can never be done to ethical demands. in its despair. As Berdyaev says. uncreated. ethical rules set up a horizon towards which the ethical personality strives without ever being . Thus. but the addictive process never sleeps. By its continual failures. but if they are not truly transformed (if they are only subdued). it is always operative. The task of spirit. then.' No human is strong enough to get under. It is infinite in depth. This is his perennial tragedy. to act as if we have integrated our wild longings into our meaning structure. While the spiritlessness of the aesthetic stage relates only to the longing and cravings of the self. The ethical stage has done its work in awakening the self to the universal (to that which is above the cravings and longings of the particular will). The Ethical Stage's Over-Optimism The State of Sin The despair of the ethical stage rests in the fact that it is unable to fulfil its own requirement. If one remains earnest in the task of selfbecoming. though it becomes blind to the power of its original darkness. but that the 'process never sleeps'. 'Man is a free being and there is in him an element of primeval. seething cauldron of forces by its own strength ends in despair.' This darkness is not revealed until the end of the ethical stage. Michael Wyschogrod writes. The problem the ethicist faces is not that he or she has occasional lapses (as the Judge believes). being replaced by guilt and judgement. we may be able to behave. True. they will eventually find an opportunity to seek satisfaction. and it does this very well. the ethical stage relates only to the call of duty. it seeks to dissolve the painful tension by relating to only one pole of the self. It will win because . when its attempt to tame this wild. and much of the early optimism begins to fade. and shoulder the dark ground. But he is powerless to master his own irrational freedom and its abysmal darkness.

but we do not always see the infinite gap between the requirement and where we stand. and this resolution is expressed in the duty of marriage. In terms of the ethical: the more one actualizes the ideal. . It is not much different from what happens as one increases one's knowledge in certain areas: the more one learns. The longings and cravings that drive the aesthetic individual must be transformed through the power of freedom and the light of reason by willing the universal. Ethics may understand individual sins. . becomes tamed and made beautiful by the power of ethical freedom. But guilt is also the extreme point of ethics. Sin is a religious category. but the aesthetic. Thus. . Desire. It is this state of sin that ethics is incapable of comprehending. because it is outside its sphere of influence. enslaving one under its power. in a sense. it naturally develops toward immanent religiousness if the self is honest with itself. Haufniensis writes. The magnitude of guilt that is the inevitable result of a strictly ethical point of view is staggering to the subject. George Connell points out. however. except as that which is its limit. the repeated process of resolution and failure makes the self increasingly recognize the depth of its guilt.86 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil able to reach it. the point at which ethics is destroyed. in that sin is a state of being.28 None of us are truly naive enough to believe that we always measure up to the ethical demand. This tension finds its highest pitch in the consciousness of sin. it is much more difficult to hide failures from oneself. the more one discovers how little one knows. but the category of sin is totalizing.29 Instead of leading to a right relation with the particular and universal. As freedom and transparency become awakened and increased. . [The] ethical stage is an unstable form of selfhood. the collapse of the ethical caused by bringing the self to the threshold of the discovery of sin can. and as such. He is lost in the sheer impossibility of the ethical demands. is a category upon which ethics becomes shipwrecked: ethics is incapable of dealing with sin. the guilt of lust can be overcome by the resolution to love only one. which before had been a wild force. also be described as its culmination. While this optimism about the human condition is the basis for ethical endeavor. For instance. the ethical stage actually increases the tension. At this point a new leap takes place. then he would not be in the ethical stage. the more one discovers how far one truly is from actualizing the ideal. The Judge believes that he is able to fulfil the demands of ethics through free resolutions. If he did not believe this. or the breaking of individual laws and rules. we believe that freedom is able to span the separation between what we should be and what we actually are. the ethical expression for ethical failure. The expression for this situation is guilt for guilt is an ethical determination.

One is not to see one's powerlessness as a weakness to be overcome ethically. Its ideal cannot be actualized. nor is it lowered. if only enough ethical passion is present. however. for in that case the suspension is no more postulated than the man who administers his office in an ordinary way is suspended. In other words. heterogeneous with the ethical requirement. but the individual is not capable of fulfilling it. The ideal is not abandoned in the religious stage. ethics is a stage that points beyond itself. in which one apprehends an absolute duty to God'. In the end. then. And yet. the more it increases the tension of the difficulty. This powerlessness of the individual must not be seen as an imperfection in the continued endeavor to attain an ideal. 31 Ethics. belongs to ethics only insofar as upon this concept it is shipwrecked with the aid of repentance. What the ethical ideal actually accomplishes (its true task). . in its despair. the ideal remains just as stringent. If ethics is to include sin. . It is not simply that one is currently powerless with regard to fulfilling the ethical ideal. Climacus writes. Those with even a limited acquaintance with Kierkegaard have heard faith described as the ideological suspension of the ethical. the individual comes to discover how really impotent are the ethical passions and resolutions. The more ethics remains in its ideality. The Judge speaks about the particular and universal as if the positing of the self in ethical self-choice necessarily brings about a reconciliation between the actual and the ideal. as transparency progresses.Ethical Self-Choice 87 Sin. The ethical is then present at every moment with its infinite requirement. but it brings about the collision and tension between the ideal and the actual. and this is what the ethical. is to bring to light the religious ideality as the ideality that can be actualized. but that one is. Climacus writes in the Postscript: The ideological suspension of the ethical must have an even more definite religious expression. and never becomes so inhuman as to lose sight of actuality . and so it points to that upon which it is shipwrecked. In bumping up against the religious stage. He acts as if the ability to bring the actual and ideal together in a single sentence is a sign that they can be held together in existence. ignores. rather. one does not have it in oneself to fulfil the ethical requirement. . but an individual's relationship to it is transformed by the leap into the religious stage. the ethical comes in contact with categories that suspend it. Kierkegaard also stresses sin as that which suspends the ethical. then. as Climacus puts it. is not that which actualizes the ideal. its ideality comes to an end. it is to be seen as that upon which the ethical itself is shipwrecked.

and then seeks to transform itself into the universal. There comes a point when the ethical has reached its limit. de Silentio says that the ethicist. ontological opposition to the ethical requirement. Kierkegaard. . every moment he continues in this state he is more and more prevented from being able to begin: he relates himself to actuality not as possibility but as impossibility. the spiritless answer is to lower the requirement to a place where people can reach it. but he also uses absolutely all his power for it and therefore cannot possibly come back under his own power and grasp actuality again'. guilt is seen as a weakness of will. Although the ethical is not completely ignorant of its guilt. it accepts its responsibility. and the continual sorrow over its ethical failure leads freedom back into necessity and fate. By repenting of its guilt. which 'is sin as a state in a human being'. 5 The ethical stage's initial answer to failure is repentance. far from being able to begin. the highest the ethical can attain is to grieve over its guilt — it cannot do away with it. Against the persistence of the state of sin in which humans find themselves. it is. which still has the claim of the infinite upon him and at every moment heterogeneity is only more definitely marked by heterogeneity. by its very nature. As the sense of guilt increases with a greater self-consciousness. What does this mean? Repentance is the means through which the ethical seeks to gain control of its past failures. Thus the individual is suspended from the ethical in the most terrifying way. In Fear and Trembling. The problem is that repentance can only deal with guilt by sorrowing over it. As we know.36 Sorrow over failure is 'the deepest ethical selfcontradiction'. however. 'can make the movement of repentance under his own power. This is its grief. optimistic of the possibility of fulfilling its task. Repentance Kierkegaard holds that ethics is shipwrecked with the 'aid of repentance'. and so it returns to this repentance after every failure. and through resolutions. does not view the problem as simply weakness of will — whatever that may be — but as a radical. In the face of its failures. Ethical repentance is never able to get ahead of guilt. Therefore. but must always follow behind it. is in the suspension heterogeneous with the ethical. since it has become too much of a self for such a digression. one expends all one's energy repenting. This is no longer an option for the ethical. and has no power over the possibility of future guilt.88 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil The suspension consists in the individual's finding himself in a state exactly the opposite of what the ethical requires. ethics is optimistic this weakness can be overcome by positing the absolute. according to the traditional formulation of evil.

the ethicist's only course of action within this rising consciousness of guilt is to repent. but in a disclosure arising from anxiety. .that is. and the ethicist senses the heterogeneity with the ethical requirement. Repentance has lost its mind. but becomes the work of a slave. It conceives of the consequence of sin as suffering penalty and of perdition as the consequence of sin. but always a moment too late. . This repentance. but like the mad King Lear . At this point. repentance follows step by step. deeper and deeper into the discovery of the state of sin. Seeking to remain within the universal. It soothes its battered identity by asserting that its sorrow at least shows it is a lover of the universal. the sorrow of repentance is sweet — like the sweet aroma of a sacrifice given to the ethical requirement. Sin conquers. and the augmented judgment is that the individual shall be dragged through life to the place of execution. As the tensions of the poles within the self begin to unravel. It forces itself to look at the dreadful [the dreadful exemption]. and anxiety is potentiated into repentance. The sweet sorrow begins to turn more and more into dread. as a presentiment that something deeper and uglier resides in the self than initially thought. and this darkness demands to be affirmed as a part of the self. . Repentance remains its only defence against this growing consciousness. Its sweetness is found in being of one mind with the requirement. At this point. repentance is no longer a means of freedom. . In other words. why does one continue to fail? . as its powerlessness against its sin grows more and more conscious. and it has retained only the power to grieve. This is a description of the despair of the ethical. it begins to wonder if its repentance is truly sorrow. It anxiously senses itself to be in a state over which its willpower is powerless.Ethical Self-Choice 89 Kierkegaard comes at the same point from another direction in The Concept of Anxiety. however. . The tension of this internal contradiction begins to make itself known. Its judgment is pronounced. Haufniensis describes this movement in The Concept of Anxiety: Sin advances in its consequences. Repentance ventures all. and yet this discovery has not yet become conscious and chosen. It is lost. As long as the Judge stands firm in the conviction that the ethical life will end in victory. After all. if one were truly sorrowful. its condemnation is certain. anxiety takes hold of the individual. however. the state of sin becomes more and more disclosed. At first this is not disclosed in consciousness. As the ethical existence progresses. repentance has gone crazy. anxiety is at its highest. Anxiety throws itself despairingly into the arms of repentance. it has lost the reins of government. and knowing the requirement is derived from within oneself as an inner teleology. The original darkness and the universal are not so easily reconciled. leads the ethicist further and further away from freedom . However.

Repentance begins to lose its bearings in this dizzying anxiety. and the suffering it has caused. not as a beautiful goal. and in this sense its anxiety is without an object. if he would gladly endure anything in order to avoid falling into the old sin in the future. De Silentio quotes from Richard III in order to give an example of how sin is the suspension of the ethical: I. When this happens. Its conscious understanding of life is still defined by ethical categories. the tension created by the fixation on the ideal (sobriety). its anxiety is due to a presentiment that there is something beyond the conscious limits of the ethical existence — it is anxious over what is beyond its horizons. There are collisions here (especially in the sphere of sinful thoughts) in which anxiety over the sin can almost call forth the sin. and so the alcoholic goes on a drinking binge. Kierkegaard means by this that repentance is no longer the sweet sorrow of an ethicist who is optimistic of victory. that am curtailed of this fair proportion. but expends all its power in repentance. may become so tightly wound that something has to give. The growing consciousness of its weakness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: having gone crazy. it actually produces sin. But if a man shudders at the thought of his sin.90 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil In its powerlessness over guilt. What is so dreadful for the ethicist is the realization — held just below the surface . When this is the case. As consciousness grows. and that we may actually choose against it. it begins to sense itself as an exemption from the ethical. Eventually it no longer even seeks to actualize the ideal. but as that which is beyond its reach. The ethicist is anxious about the ideological suspension of the ethical. Its continuous failure becomes so all consuming that the ethical person begins to see the ideal. a desperate wrong turn may be made. Vigilius Haufniensis described it thus: Repentance loses its mind. that am rudely stamped. I. . an alcoholic who becomes conscious of his or her problem. then the new sin is the most terrible punishment. confident sinner will understand it this way. may become obsessed with the power alcohol holds over him or her. and one's past failures to reach this ideal. For example. and yet this takes place in anxiety. Kierkegaard writes concerning repentance that has gone crazy: The most terrible punishment for sin is the new sin. This does not mean that the hardened. that our freedom does not always tend toward the universal. but is now driven by the anxiety of being unable to get out from under the guilt. and want love's majesty I strut before a wanton ambling nymph. repentance eventually goes crazy.that humans do not will the good simply by becoming conscious of it.

one must choose to despair of the existence-stage (the meaning-structure) one is in. The conscious realization that one cannot measure up begins to bring about a break with the ethical/44 The Ethical Stage's Despair: Inclosing Reserve The criticism implicit in Kierkegaard's view of the despair of the ethical stage is that ethical systems do not take into account that we are imperfectible.Ethical Self-Choice 91 Cheated of feature by dissembling nature. calling on people to do the very thing they are incapable of. In this. it calls from the religious stage of existence. despair becomes an act. Deformed. In this greater consciousness. . On the other hand. the . a greater consciousness of the actual nature of one's despair increases. this intensification of despair is closer to salvation. The decision one is confronted with at this point is whether to be completely crushed over not being able to wrench oneself from this weakness.. As despair intensifies. unfinished. This choice for despair is an intensification of despair. there is a chance one will seek to obtain the cure. because in the awareness of what despair is. in order to leap into the next stage of existence. As Kierkegaard says. 'What lifts up more.' 43 These 'half made up' human beings are not necessarily more imperfect than others. though hope calls from beyond this despair. it would thereby exceed itself. it is a futile discipline.42 De Silentio says people like Gloucester cannot be saved by fulfilling their civic duty or by obeying the order of society: 'Ethics really only makes fun of them. As we saw with regards to the aesthetic stage. there is also a greater freedom. In being chosen. but as something that crushes the self. the self's eternal validity is the absoluteness of the task of positing itself. or become poor in spirit. sent before my time Into this breathing world scarce half made up. for it is powerless to overcome sin. As the consciousness of failure at this task grows. And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them. If an ethical system were to take sin seriously. the requirement is no longer seen as something uplifting. The Judge understood this freedom in terms of self-determination. the more apparent it becomes what is needed for its cure. The more clear one's conception of despair. and their inability to reconcile their particularity with the universal. rather than something passively suffered. but they have become conscious of the contradiction of the self. if ethics ignores sin. or to be broken and humbled by it — whether one will continue in pride. . One correctly sees one is too weak to lift or fulfil the requirement. In the end. but continues to believe that it is one's duty to do so. Further. the ethical stage must be despaired of.

Its continual torment is just this inability to close itself off from the Good. itself as free. it is the possibility of new guilt that causes the ethical person to become anxious. In transcending the ethical. because freedom is lost. and in this sense is on the brink of defiance. and so . Thus. Pride begins to manifest itself more powerfully in this anxious despair. in that a deeper self-knowledge has led to unfreedom rather than freedom. This recognition is posited by self-conscious freedom as unfreedom. Haufniensis says that freedom 'underlies unfreedom or is its ground'. it differs from defiance only in the sense that its despair becomes something it chooses to suffer under. Kierkegaard calls inclosing reserve demonic because it is despair and anxiety over the Good. this unfreedom is posited by freedom: 'Freedom is posited as unfreedom. and so no torment. It has become a single individual before the Good. 46 Kierkegaard says that anxiety over the Good is an unwillingness to be open to redemption. and so one realizes one is not self-sufficient. in that one gains strength from one's guilt — becomes proud of one's guilt — though still in a brooding and only relatively conscious manner. while inclosing reserve wills against the Good in unfreedom — and so wills not to be itself. one has despaired so much over one's guilt that one accepts and chooses oneself as guilty — which is the right thing to do. It has lost the optimism of the ethical stage. rather. there would be no sense of weakness. though it is still not yet outright spiritual defiance. This choice for unfreedom is inclosing reserve's attempt to close itself off from the Good . a strange state of affairs has arisen within inclosing reserve. and move into the form of despair that transcends the ethical stage: inclosing reserve. openness. If it could turn away from the Good. The ethical requirement cannot be fulfilled. In the movement into the demonic. inclosing reserve falls under the spiritual category of the 'demonic'.' The freedom that is lost is the optimistic ethical freedom of autonomy and self-sufficiency.45 To be humbled by one's powerlessness is to leap into the religious stage of existence by choosing to despair of the ethical stage. since one is guilty — but does so in despair and anxiety. to take pride in one's weakness is to intensify one's despair. because the reaction to one's failures and weaknesses is self-chosen.that which is freedom. but it is too conscious to return to such spiritless disconsolateness. or the thought of God's grace'. And yet. truth and disclosure. where one still holds onto the belief that one can fulfil the ethical requirement. Another way to put this difference is that defiance is freedom choosing or willing to be itself against the Good.92 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil thought of my own good deeds. one's weakness is sensed in the mood of anxiety over evil ~ that is. that is. It is still a free choice. willingly and defiantly takes upon itself. rather than humility. In the ethical stage. rather than something it freely. this is neither the unfreedom of spiritlessness. nor that of being externally determined.

Therefore. 50 As Dostoevsky's 'Underground Man' puts this unfreedom: The more aware I was of goodness and of everything 'lofty and beautiful. and yet it cannot stop reflecting on this weak self. as did the demoniac in the New Testament with regard to salvation: rie^oi KOti aoi [What have I to do with you]? Therefore it shuns every contact [with the Good]. and of being conscious that its own self does not measure up. It is proud of being determined by spirit. it does not completely identify itself with its weakness: in an evasion of itself. he takes it along. This is why Anti-climacus characterizes it as pride/ Inclosing reserve is proud of itself: it is proud it cannot stand this weakness within itself. whether this actually threatens it by wanting to help it to freedom or only touches it casually. In this state. and even if it belongs to the past. but as though it had to be so. and the more likely I was to get mired down in it altogether. . But the main point is that all seemed to take place within me not by chance. Kierkegaard explains this need for solitude in an Upbuilding discourse:' [T]he troubled person expects no victory. he has all too sadly felt his loss.. from such a demoniac is quite commonly heard a reply that expresses all the horror of this state: Leave me alone in my wretchedness/52 Inclosing reserve yearns for solitude. expecting the future will at least grant him peace to be quietly occupied with his pain. It has moved beyond the ethical consciousness . This solitude is not the deeper spiritual ability to be away from the world due to one's contentment with oneself. Haufniensis writes. T am too good for you'. the demonic manifests itself in saying. He wants to be left alone by the Good so that he can at least lick his wounds in peace.' the deeper I sank into my slime. in hopes of breaking all contact with the Good. but is a need to be alone with one's torment. The utmost extreme in this sphere is what is commonly called bestial perdition. becoming completely consumed with itself..' j3 A twisted knot becomes tightened within inclosing reserve: it despairs over its weakness. Obviously. and hates itself because of this weakness. than by its actual weakness. inclosing reserve says this to itself. but an internal determination to lock himself up inside his own wretchedness. it identifies itself more as that which is tormented by its weakness.Ethical Self-Choice 93 remains in continual anxiety. While one can easily imagine a proud person saying to someone else. It is proud of itself for having such a high conception of what the self is. This is not an external determination. even though this determination comes through its weakness.

of resolution adopted for eternity. but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. this fever of vacillations. from the knowledge that you have gone to the utmost limit. . is that it does not ask the question Paul asked . this weakness is its source of pride. The torment and pleasure it feels over its weakness is an expression of its contradiction as unfree self-consciousness. I am no longer the one doing it.rather than maintaining hope in the possibility of redemption.abiding in its wretchedness . . half-belief. because this contact is its torment. in this assiduously constructed. you would do nothing about it anyway. We see here a man who is falling in love with his despair. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish. its pleasure consists in its ability to 'rise above' the weakness as self-consciousness. . in all this poison of unfulfilled desires turned inward. but sin which dwells in me. yet cannot be otherwise. sharp pleasure I spoke about. Dostoevsky's Underground Man expresses this pleasure of inclosing reserve: But it is precisely in this cold. because. although the self is weak against the Good. and so it finds pleasure in it.94 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil into a consciousness that the Apostle Paul described in his letter to the church in Rome: For the good that I wish. and of repentances a moment later that you find the very essence of that strange. that you will never become a different man. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? What makes inclosing reserve what it is. it is strong in its consciousness of this misrelation to the Good. there is perhaps nothing to change to. that even if there were still time and faith enough to change yourself. in this deliberate burying of yourself underground for forty years out of sheer pain. you probably would not even wish to change. It despairs in the face of the Good . beginning to embrace it with some gusto. Its torment consists in its unfree relation to the Good. This makes its relationship to the Good extremely complex. that it is despicable. on the other hand. and finding pleasure in his conscious misrelation to the . On the one hand. and yet somewhat dubious hopelessness. I do not does not seek to be free from its body of death. the self desires to close itself off from any contact with the Good. loathsome half-despair. in fact. The pleasure it feels is pride's selfsatisfaction that. that you no longer have any way out.56 Earlier the Underground Man describes this pleasure in terms of selfconsciousness: This pleasure comes precisely from the sharpest awareness of your own degradation. and if you wished.

and so leaps into the infinite. In this stage the self becomes conscious of total guilt. to be strengthened in its weakness. Inclosing reserve is a prideful reaction to the realization that. It is not. it does not express the specifically Christian existence. and a radical turn from temporality's goal to eternity's goal. in relation to God. You are quite right about the weakness. he is unwilling to imagine moving beyond this despair. inclosing reserve does not move beyond it. unconditional. only in this way can it go beyond inclosing reserve into a deeper consciousness of the self. before the absolute. and in its anxiety and despair about the absolute the dread inherent in its contact with the Good. who is now a priest in the Jutland of Denmark.' By both despairing over and loving its weakness (that is. The pride comes out in its focus on itself. Although this sermon is written by a Christian priest. and infinite relation to God. but broken by it. Kierkegaard says that the person in inclosing reserve has a right consciousness about his or her weakness . he would probably not wish to. It sees its weakness as its only strength. it is a movement into what Kierkegaard calls immanent religion or Religiousness A. since he has come to define himself through his despair. Immanent religion is part of the religious stage of existence.Ethical Self-Choice 95 Good. The wrong turn is taken in trying to establish the self (one's identity) on the basis of this weakness: 'you must go through with this despair of the self to get to the self. but that is not what you are to despair over. finding its meaning in its weakness). Total Guilt There is a gnawing pain that accompanies the consciousness of one's own weakness before the absolute. the development of an absolute.Kierkegaard would find nothing wrong with the consciousness of guilt described by the Apostle Paul. though it is not a fully actualized spirit. just stop despairing over it. one is always in the wrong. We find a clue to this movement in a letter written to Judge Wilhelm by an old friend. its unwillingness to be itself before the absolute. and there are also several means of finding relief. even if there were time to change. and is content to stay within the horizons of inclosing reserve — his underground dwelling. we are always in the wrong. we can see that all forms of despair revolve around whether one will relate to the Good in humility or in pride. the self must be broken down to become itself. The Priest gives three clues to a right (humble) relation to the absolute: acceptance of total guilt. however. We have already looked at two despairing attempts at relief: one may . The Priest's upbuilding thought is that. Indeed. At this point. In Relation to God One is Always in the Wrong From the vantage point of spirit.

The Judge. Once this happens the doubt spirals out of control. continually to discover new difficulties. achievable) level. maintains he is in the right. however.' To bring out why it is necessary to admit one's total guilt. then. One becomes frozen in the knowledge of being unable to make any judgement concerning one's standing ethically. the heart of a true lover would never seek to be right in relation to the beloved. The fact that there is no way to get outside our existence in order to make such a judgement can easily lead to doubt or scepticism . and the Good should be discussed only in emotive terms. The Priest says that. ? Is doubt to rule. when in fact he would be better advised to see it as a moral defect. one may come to believe that the ethical requirement is a subjective undertaking. in the midst of the wrong committed. . though he continually tells others about his love for the absolute. The Priest adds a third despairing means.exhibit how little love he actually has for the absolute and God. In reality the Judge is more impressed with himself and his own self-sufficiency than with the demand of the requirement. to some degree in the right. or trying to make excuses to the beloved for the wrong. my existence measures up to the requirement? I can remember many times when I have been either too harsh or too lenient with myself. who. He does not blame the absolute. which he calls doubt: If a person is sometimes in the right. sometimes in the wrong. Louis Mackey says 'the Judge is no stranger to guilt. . There is another approach. He does this in order to show that the Judge's attempts to justify his wrongs — and even his sorrow over them . or one may despair over one's weakness in inclosing reserve. and so admits the defeat of the ethical stage. then. and to what extent. but in the decision may he not again be to some degree in the right and to some degree in the wrong .96 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil evade the requirement by lowering it to an acceptable (that is. to some degree in the wrong. however: one can transcend the ethical stage by appropriating the thought that 'in relation to God we are always in the wrong'. It is hard to imagine a person in love seeking to shift blame to the beloved.much as the Learner's Paradox led to the Sophists' ethical scepticism. but maintains that his sorrow over . and is care to accompany the anguished soul and drum past experiences into it? How can we ever determine whether we are in the right or in the wrong? Where do I go outside of my existence in order to judge whether. thus gaining some relief by having transcended the weakness in despair. the Priest describes how lovers relate to each other when a wrong has been committed. when a wrong has been committed. But he takes his guilt as a moral challenge. is the one who makes that decision except the person himself. Since personality has no absolute or secure place to situate itself in existence. and eventually the whole notion of the Good dissolves into sophistry.

The decision for absolute guilt — and it is a decision. Mackey writes: [T]he priest tells his hearers. the Judge is sorrowful because he is not absolutely connected to the absolute. You gain yourself eternally as soon as you recognize your nothingness. This is the act of freedom by which a man's self acquires absolute worth: the choice of his self as worthless in relation to God. However. or the desires that are in opposition to the absolute. or finding it painful to be in the wrong. In other words. [Wjishing to be in the wrong is an expression of an infinite relationship. one relates contingently to the absolute. his weakness. and makes a passionate leap into the religious stage of existence. but only by confessing that one is always completely wrong in relation to it. choose yourself. The Priest writes. is an expression of a finite relationship! Hence it is upbuilding always to be in the wrong — because only the infinite builds up. All ethical relationships are finite and conditional in the sense that sometimes one is right and sometimes wrong. The ethical existence is often nothing more than the worship of one's own self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. and wanting to be in the right. then one absolutely relates to the absolute as absolutely in the wrong. it is simply the particular will seeking to glorify itself by means of the universal will. But choose yourself as you are: in the wrong against God. the finite does not! The Priest is accusing the Judge of being disingenuous toward the absolute. If one confesses one is always in the wrong in relation to the the only edifying (constructive) decision available. The Priest says that if the Judge were truly interested in himself as a task . The Judge claims to have chosen the absolute absolutely — that is. to be in an infinite relation to it . not reached by calculation but taken in freedom . The Judge seeks to cover this contingent relationship by saying that even when he is wrong he sorrows over it. and so shows that his relationship to the Good is contingent on other things — for instance. Infinite Resignation As an Absolute Relation to the Absolute The choice for oneself as totally guilty is an absolute and infinite choice. for one sometimes does not relate to it rightly. You lose yourself eternally as long as you continue to absolutize your freedom. This conflict cannot be overcome through justification.Ethical Self-Choice 97 having committed his wrong shows he is not in conflict with the his eternal validity .and yet he is not. He seeks to justify himself in the face of his failings. In this confession the self becomes infinitized.

p. 8.64 The Change from Temporality's Goal to Eternity's Goal In this choice for total guilt. p. pp. 2. Here the emphasis is on the absolute telos of an eternal happiness. Religiousness A consists in a radical break from the finite and contingent. his talents. In this. E/OII. One's happiness and joy is found in a break from the world. In the end. but attempts to raise the temporal and finite up to the eternal and ideal by ennobling them. Jeremy Walker says. 177 (my emphasis). p. pp. E/O II.215. ideal and actual. 7. and find himself as nothing before God. It is incapable of doing this. the eternal goal comes to be seen only in terms of temporal goals. in hopes of finding repose within an infinite and absolute understanding with God. E/OII. But he will never have asked himself what it all means. there is also the first radical movement away from temporal goals.211. We will now examine this decisive break with the finite. Notes 1. and a leap into the religious stage is possible. E/O II. 6.p. 'The man who is living aesthetically may have a normally clear and accurate picture of himself. The ethical life does not make this decisive break. his likes and dislikes. naturally. 4. he will . Although the Judge says his choice is a choice for eternal validity. circumstances and the activities of others.98 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil and responsibility to the absolute — then he would choose what the Priest espouses: total guilt. 206 (my emphasis). absolute and relative. and gets split up into the various activities of one's civic life. 215-16. 213-14. So. In this he would leap into the religious stage of existence. goals. E/O II. and so remains mired within intrinsically relative activities — relative to conditions. 5. 214. p. in order to see the rise in selfconsciousness and freedom that results from it. E/O II. his actual existence expresses interest in his civic duty. so that one'sjoy rests completely in one's relationship with God. E/O II. etc. and yet still remain infinitely and unconditionally engaged with Him. the victory and security the Judge had expected actually increases the tension between the eternal and temporal. Eventually the tension between these poles becomes so great that a kind of energetic discharge looms. 3. To fully comprehend the eternal goal of an eternal happiness one must make a decisive break with the temporal.

52. 266-7. 28. 34. 19. Addiction and Grace. E/O II. E / O I I . one senses the Aristotelian theme here of the fulfilment of one's form through acts which are themselves the fulfilment of the form. Robert L. p. E/O II. 12. 167). Michael Wyschogrod. p. p. 31. John D. 103. Gerald May. 20. The reason for this is because Kierkegaard's criticisms of the ethical stage are sometimes given from within the aspect of Religiousness A and sometimes within Religiousness B. 23. 10. p. 1988. p. 35. E / O I I . For even to listen to such talk 9. 183. and not specifically at these two modes of religious existence. 17-19. 11. It must not permit itself to be distracted by the babble that it is useless to require the impossible. 25. p. CUP. 22. CUP. E/O II. 5-21. GA: Mercer UP. I will be using criticisms from both modes without explicitly distinguishing between them. E / O I I . 262. p. pp. p. 'The Definition of the Self and the Structure of Kierkegaard's Works' in International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Sickness Unto Death. GA: Mercer UP. E/O II. p. Perkins. 27. 29. Macon. 32. 263. Again. p. 1987. 259. George Connell. 267. Sin is a category of the latter. 96. To Be One Thing: Personal Unity in Kierkegaard's Thought.p. E / O I I . 259. pp. FT. 261-2. Ed. the better. p.251. E/OII. and not sin). Glenn Jr. Macon. 96. and so there will be a mixure of the two modes. pp. 30. 252 (my emphasis). FT. 1985. 26. 24. p. 1954. p. 96. 262. San Francisco: Harper/Collins. 33. p. the religious stage will be dealt with more generally. 15.Ethical Self-Choice 99 be unable to answer the question that marks the ethical: What does your life mean?' (p. p. 21. 18. E / O I I . 275-6. 14-15. FT. 'The more ideal ethics is. . E/O II. CUP. 13. pp. 330. For our purposes. pp. 16. Kierkegaard and Heidegger: The Ontology of Existence. 88. Berdyaev. 16. p. p. CA. 266. Since we are looking at the despair of the ethical stage. p. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.pp. CA. 14. Kierkegaard distinguishes between two modes of religious existence. FT.251. 17. p. or Christianity). which he calls Religiousness A (immanent religion) and Religiousness B (paradoxical religion. and is actually a category that distinguishes it from Religiousness A (which knows only guilt. 82.

37. anxiety is rooted.96. This self-fulfilling prophecy could have many rationales behind it. For instance. pp. p. 115-16. New York: Bantam. 130. p. Ethics will have nothing to do with bargaining. FT. is that one is outside the universal. Even unfreedom uses the strongest possible expressions to affirm that it does not will itself. What one has become conscious of. CA. CA. 1992. 43. one succumbs to the temptation. Dostoevsky. JFY. Trans.p. 56. For Kierkegaard. 52. p. 42. 123. 41. 44. after it. Or the alcohol itself becomes a means by which one tries to forget the struggle. This consciousness of radical guilt has the effect of making one a single individual. it is not an 'excessive consciousness' that causes one's guilt. 48. 40. Notes from Underground. FT. as a concept. it is untrue. Eventually there must be relief from this situation. Mirra Ginsburg. 47. and so one simply acquiesces. one's fixation on the ideal and one's continual failure may cause one to believe that one cannot overcome the 'dependency' on alcohol. 39. p. 6 (my emphasis). 57. 20. '[Ujnfreedom is a phenomenon of freedom and thus cannot be explained by naturalistic categories. 24. in an anxiousness over nothing. By 'relatively conscious' I mean that it is not yet the defiance which draws its existence from its conscious hatred and despair of the Good. 7 (my emphasis). 137. 45. p. FT. EUD.100 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil is unethical and is something for which ethics has neither time nor opportunity. 38. . 130. nor can one in this way reach actuality' (CA. 49. p. pp. 46. This realization of being an exception is an initial break with the ethical. and it always possesses a will that is stronger than the wish' (CA. p. CA.98n. CA. but the defiance and pride that intensifies with this growing consciousness.p. 17). 50. In either of these instances. 123. 173. While it is true that it is only through having become spirit that these twisted knots begin to form in consciousness. CA. 99-100. Romans 7:19-20. As yet that has not been decided. Fydor Dostoevsky. p. p. p. 12 (my emphasis). This is contrasted with fear. 135n). and since one does not have it in oneself to fulfil the ideal. 51. SUD. 153. p. The defiance and pride are present 36. which has a specific object. FT. perhaps singled out for all eternity. there is a release which takes place. p. a further question arises as to whether one will make the break in defiance or in faith. Dostoevsky. 55. however. 123. p. 54. CA.p. 53.

353.96. SUD. Kierkegaard: A Kind of Poet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 58. 348. p. Mackey. 61. E/O II.p. JFY. but they become intensified and felt . for it is unable to determine these degrees from itself (unless it is willing to take the leap which consists in the absoluteness of the thought that in relation to God one is always in the wrong. In seeking to assess the degree of guilt we arrive nowhere else than in the personality's doubt. all their torment and pleasure . . p. 62. which is just what the Priest proposes). The question of guilt eventually becomes a question of the degree of guilt. 347-8. E/O II. 106. 65. 94. consciousness intensifies. p. pp.Ethical Self-Choice 101 even at the lowest levels of (un)consciousness. p. E/O II. E/O II. 63. 90. 64. 1971. 346. The Priest is speaking directly to the Judge's own definition of despair as personality's doubt. 59. Louis Mackey. p.

and will gladly and 'heroically' surrender the self in order to gain this object of'infinite' worth. In the ethical stage of existence.4 The Final Movement Toward Defiance: Infinite Resignation The Self's Primary Object of Relation The Distinction between the Stages The Priest's letter at the end of Either/Or II ushers in a change in the primary object of relation for the individual. whereby the individual is continually transformed through an infinite movement away from the world and self-sufficiency — that is.4 Self-becoming is just this preparation. Anti-climacus writes: The progression in consciousness we have been concerned with up to now occurs within the category of the human self. but what. What is stressed here is the individual's object of passion. from what it is initially lost in. the individual is primarily related to himself or herself— the Judge stands before his duty. A movement into the religious stage of existence prepares an individual to be open to the highest human good. the ethical person has the self as the object. the self directly before God. . In the religious stage.a right relation to the ground of our Being. and has the criterion within himself as the paradigmatic human being. For the religious stage. But this self takes on a new quality and specification in being the self that is directly toward God. Kierkegaard believed that an individual's will. It is in focusing on what is beyond both the world and the self that the religious existence arises. and will gladly give up all in the world in order to gain this self. hoping not to be misinterpreted. passions and intellect are not initially set or prepared to receive the highest good. the object of existential focus becomes God. Kierkegaard understood this preparation in terms of his Christian context. *^ . o _ . The aesthetic person is passionate about what is external. or of the self that has man as its standard of measurement. Eternal happiness is a right relation to the will of God . I would call the theological self. which is viewed as the absolute telos of human life. This change in the highest object of existence makes a difference in how one understands oneself and one's telos. This self is no longer the merely human self. the individual's primary relationship is to God. . and so spoke of the highest good as an eternal happiness expressed in a relationship with God. In The Sickness Unto Death.

the rank of a councilor of justice — and in addition an eternal happiness. and simply seek the pleasure found in the contemplation of an eternal happiness. and one admits to an inability to fulfil one's inner teleology? If ethics doesn't lead to the highest human good. Aesthetes are oblivious to their despair of the eternal.then an eternal happiness can be expected as a reward. but he conceives the Good as inseparable from the self. It is a matter of interest. One's main concern while living is the fulfilment of one's duty. not personal relationship. What an eternal happiness may actually mean for their lives is not something aesthetes find interesting. and not as something which essentially alters or affects his or her existence. I do not know whether one should laugh or weep on hearing the enumeration: a good job. For the ethical person. The change is not merely. intellectual in content.if one becomes the paradigmatic human being .The Final Movement Toward Defiance 103 He believed that each of the stages has a relation to this eternal happiness. in which one is transformed. The 'how' of an individual's existence is the result of the relation . theatrical or philosophical works. which is the same as assuming that the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom along with all the other kingdoms on earth and that one would look for information about it in a geography book. and if this is fulfilled . Where does one find an eternal happiness when the awareness of total guilt arises. it involves the whole person. what does? In what does the highest human good consist? An understanding of the highest human good comes through a leap into the religious stage of existence. Climacus writes. and to God. and changes one's relationship to the world. or even essentially. health. Certainly the Judge will say that he is interested in the Good. a beautiful wife. The aesthete views the eternal happiness as a great source of inspiration for poetic. but only in its relation to the fulfilment of one's inner teleology. passions and intellect. This type of relation to an eternal happiness is essentially disinterested: it is outside the poet as a muse. an eternal happiness finds its relative place within the overall ethical task of becoming oneself. which impacts a person's will. an eternal happiness is something tacked on at the end of a good life. to oneself. The ethical stage places an eternal happiness alongside all the other aspects of duty. Climacus says that Religiousness A does not base the relation to an eternal happiness upon one's existence but has the relation to an eternal happiness as the basis for the transformation of existence. One's responsibility is conceived in terms of personal duty. In other words. but existential — that is. There is no sense of standing before God as a single individual. and understands it in terms of an inner teleology not something distinct from the individual as his or her ground.

they were attempts at selfglorification: 'The genuinely humble man is he who conies to see that all his efforts at humility have really been efforts to express his pride. As we have seen. in moral consciousness is essentially transgression. situated before God. however. As the despair of this stage is confronted and chosen in a more transparent manner. the ethical person conies to realize that all ethical efforts were ultimately attempts to be something — that is.104 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil to the eternal. it is God whose power alters the individual's existence. and Religion' in such a way as to show that the rise in religious consciousness is able to plumb the depths of the evil inherent in the purely ethical existence: Evil. In the ethical existence. subversion of a law. and that is why infinitely more conies out than was put in. One's existence determines one's relationship to the Good. pretension of man to be master of his own . the genuinely loving man he who sees that his acts of love have been acts of self-glorification. one measures and understands one's relationship to the Good in terms of how one has succeeded or failed in one's duty. evil is qualitatively changed. In other words. not the converse. Self-Knowledge Essential self-knowledge consists in a purification from the evasive selfknowledge which knows itself only in relation to what is external to itself. in the leap from the ethical to the religious stage. that is. Ethics. In the religious stage. if only the individual is willing. it is in this way that the majority of pious men continue to consider sin. the ethical stage is ultimately divided by a multiplicity of civic roles and duties connected to the world. since the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing. This purification takes place in the ethical stage through a distancing of oneself from the world through an absolute choice. in that one's existence is transformed in the relation to it. in the religious existence. And so on. it consists less in a transgression of a law than in a. to God's power to transform a person's existence. Paul Ricoeur puts the distinction between the ethical and religious existence in 'Guilt. the focus changes from the selfsufficiency of the individual in fulfilling the Good. it is the possibility of an eternal happiness that determines one's existence. an ethical person is too much in love with the multiplicity of worldly tasks to find the purity needed for relating directly to God. and all one's righteousness is selfrighteousness. it is the individual who has the power. And yet.' There comes a point in the growth of consciousness when the pride of the ethical existence shows itself: all one's expressed love for the absolute or others is really self-love.6 In an ethical existence.

but at first glance the discouraging aspect of this would frighten a person away from beginning if in due time he were not aware of and inspired by the thought that precisely this is the perfection. and yet radical. and enough freedom to allow for a purification through the existential pathos of infinite resignation. and that one is capable of nothing on one's own. evasive and comfort-seeking. and the motives which drive the ethicist are far from pure. and gives it a transforming energy. are usually opposed the spirit of the law. consciousness of God: Insofar as a person does not know himself in such a way that he knows that he himself is capable of nothing at all. Kierkegaard believed we are to move beyond this ethical evasion. The ethical existence found its perfection in self-sufficiency. calls upon him occasionally. and become conscious of the fact that our most ethical actions. is the thought that to need God is one's highest perfection. but religious consciousness does. though it is an illusion to believe one is fulfilling them. Even though a person mentions his name at times. What holds this three-dimensional pathos together. worse than injustice is one's own justice. The ethical ideals are to be upheld.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 105 life. Nietzsche showed how the 'darker' drives behind the ethical life are sublimated and hidden within the ethical standards of society and the individual. therefore. Unlike Nietzsche. one learns precisely that one needs God. Kierkegaard does not chastise the ethical stage for its ideals. This leads to a rather simple. Ethical self-sufficiency is a misunderstanding of oneself and one's relation to God. Within the religious stage there is enough self-consciousness to understand the heart. perhaps in the more momentous . an expression of evil ~ and even the most deadly. while often holding to the letter of the law. Ethical consciousness does not know this. and all the ethical pretensions of humility and duty as spiritless and nihilistic attempts at will to power. and its relation to God was the same as the Deists': 'Thank you very much for what you have done. He came to see this drive to be the master of one's own life as the very Being of existence. guilt and suffering. The will to live according to the law is. he does not actually become conscious in a deeper sense that God is. The religious existence understands the heart is deceitful and corrupt. but for its evasions. Part of the transformation that takes place in the movement into the religious stage is a change in this knowledge of oneself and God: one discovers that one's highest perfection is to need God. but I can manage from here.' The religious existence finds its perfection to be the opposite of this autonomous self-sufficiency: Through a more profound self-knowledge. because the most dissimulated'. inasmuch as not to need God is far more imperfect and only a misunderstanding.

even if millions degenerated and forgot the task. The analysis of this rise in consciousness and freedom will help us understand the depths of defiant despair. We have looked at three wrong reactions to this problem: lowering the ideal. because the highest is this: that a person is fully convinced that he himself is capable of nothing. we do not conceal the fact that it is rarely achieved in this world. This leads us to an analysis of the existential pathos of the religious existence. Kierkegaard is convinced that the meaning of human existence is never found without going through this thought. nothing at all. the despair of inclosing reserve. I will nevertheless achieve it. he is nevertheless somewhat piously deceived if he therefore believes it is manifest to him that God is or that the being of God would not have another manifestness in this earthly life. has been called into question: the impossibility of fulfilling one's ideal shows this cannot be the criteria for humans. 10 Only those who understand what it means to be poor in spirit . This. we do not want to defraud the highest of its price. 'Even if no one in the world has ever achieved it. and becoming the paradigmatic human being.what is the highest?' Well. and a scepticism that mocks ethics. then.that one is spending one's years making an uproar for nothing — only they understand that their highest perfection is found in their poverty before God. when burning with zeal it says. . the meaning of which is continually confused if God is not implicitly understood. The Initial Expression of an Existential Pathos: Infinite Resignation A Human Being's Highest Perfection begins with the Knowledge that One is Capable of Nothing What does it mean to be an excellent human being? The Judge had no problem answering this question: fulfilling one's duty. is he himself capable of nothing? And what is his power. when the glorious combination of willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish great things. what is the utmost he is able to will? What kind of answer should be given to this question when the brashness of youth combines with the strength of adulthood to ask it. Kierkegaard says religious existence gives a different view of human excellence: But what is a human being? Is he just one more ornament in the series of creation. and that one knows oneself best only .106 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil decisions thinks he sees him and is moved . however. or has he no power. and the most vehement form of evil. I will nevertheless keep on striving . .

Kierkegaard is writing to Christendom. Given this relationship to God. The Deist God was no longer even needed to set up the drives and telos of human life. it still thinks that being capable of something is human perfection. but work ourselves through it into a dependence on God. It is a coming to terms with this dependence on God. He was also suspicious of Christendom. to be something good in its own right. it is not surprising that religion came to be viewed as a crutch for the difficulties of human existence. he finds that God is simply a relative help used in order to take care of those few aspects of existence in which the individual presently feels weak. Religion in general. In the end. We are not to despair of our weakness. but the religious person has grasped its significance: it takes the focus off oneself and puts it on God. Inclosing reserve is what it is because it has consciousness enough to know it cannot reach this perfection. came to be seen as the opium of the people. and has its own view of human perfection: to see through the illusion of one's need for God. because it sought to remain independent from the Good — that is. and sensed . This came out especially in Marx. then. and the illusion that spares people from falling into neuroses. the period in which the masters of suspicion wrote. 13 Human success is not to be measured by external exploits or fulfilments of duty. and who take this self-sufficiency as a sign of their perfection. to have a close relationship with God because they are members of the Danish Church. because the dark longings and cravings of human existence became the forces that guide and move our lives . is a move from self-sufficiency to this total dependence. to those who claim to know God. Nietzsche and Freud. This too is beyond the ethical. and Christianity in particular. the more independent and self-sufficient a person is. yet who believe they are capable of so very much. To be capable of nothing is to realize one's impotence in fulfilling the ideals required of a human being.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 107 when this thought is existentially understood. and during. It is in this transformation of the human ideal that one becomes conscious that God is. Religious existence. yet not enough consciousness to realize this is not human perfection. the more perfect he or she is said to be. Inclosing reserve sensed it was capable of nothing. but this was its torment. Kierkegaard wonders what part God plays in this self-sufficiency. Indeed. Although it knows it is capable of nothing. and the realization (perhaps 'acceptance' would be a better term) that this dependence is itself the meaning and good of human existence. It is difficult to fully grasp and accept this until one has an understanding with oneself— that one is ultimately dependent on a power other than oneself. but by this relationship to God. Kierkegaard lived just prior to.the ground of life. The despairing move of inclosing reserve is to refuse to relate to anything higher than its own weakness. Such a contradiction makes no sense within the ethical stage. the expression of spiritlessness and nihilism.

but the self-sufficiency which was reigning within Christendom.all ourfiniteachievements: That which has been exists no more. relative. he hoped. in the next moment. the most reprobate sinner. it exists as little as that which has never been. though there are no outward manifestations. Hence something of great importance now past is inferior to something of little importance now present. Kierkegaard knows that eternity's goal — the goal of an eternal happiness — seems like nothing in relation to what is being accomplished in this bustling world. however. may be gaining the eternal. He did not believe. sitting at the bar. Kierkegaard writes. and not. Schopenhauer recognized the ultimate nothingness we confront when we authentically face death. our independence from the idea of God. In relation to eternity's goal. that it has been. by nature. and that is the saddest thing of all if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God. not simply the nothingness of death itself. and to give infinite value to what is finite. But of everything that exists you must say. whose character is beyond reproach. and whose accomplishments are readily observable to all who would look may be losing himself in the world. to see more clearly our need for God. God was dead in Christendom. Thus. that religious consciousness or Christianity were the causes of spiritlessness. because self-sufficiency became the criterion for perfection. the more ambiguous the outward manifestations. 'to need God is nothing to be ashamed of but is perfection itself. .108 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil humanity's need to be roused from its slumber. and the resulting transparency will lead us. The most outstanding Christian in the church. It is not the temporal and finite goals that are capable of moving all of existence.' Kierkegaard does not deny that human beings are capable of accomplishing many finite. Existentially speaking. To think one is capable of something is to absolutize what is. in that the latter is a reality. as the masters of suspicion thought. all this busyness and our human accomplishments within the established order come to nothing. however. relative and contingent ends. but how the nothingness of death also swallows up — in its infinite nothingness . and related to the former as something to nothing. but he is pointing out the illusion of believing that these relative ends are absolute (which is to think that one is capable of something). at the same time. or that one is to relate oneself to them absolutely (which is to think that one is something). Here we discover why the deeper the movement into spirit. Kierkegaard said.and yet these seem to be nothing to the world. self-sufficiency is the illusion that needs to be exposed. but the eternal and infinite goals . For instance.

The Final Movement Toward Defiance


The infinite in the guise of being nothing, purely and simply 'man' (somewhat like the lily and the bird, which indeed are not something), is in the world the point outside the world which can move all existence. . . . On the other hand, everything which wants primarily to be something in the world is not a moving power but becomes the untrue established order of things, a kind of secular dovetailing, which the established order is, which stretches itself out complacently in earthly security. A change from the ethical existence to the religious appears to be nothing, relatively and finitely speaking, and yet from the aspect of spirit, it is that which moves all existence. It is the infinite in the guise of nothing. One's entire existence is transformed, and yet relatively and finitely speaking nothing happened. As long as one is directed outwardly, seeking to be something and capable of something, one is closed off to the consciousness that God is, and to the infinite which moves and transforms one's existence. Dying To ... This moves us into an important characteristic of infinite resignation, which Kierkegaard expresses as 'dying to . . . ' With a growing awareness of being capable of nothing, and a greater dependence on God, life is no longer found in the world. Life becomes defined by one's relation to God — however undefined one's idea of God may be at this point. In other words, one thrusts away temporality's goal, and in the seeking of eternity's goal, the external becomes less and less a concern. This movement toward inwardness is what it means to be spirit. In the Postscript Climacus speaks of this 'dying to . . . ' in terms of an inward activity in which one cuts the ties to what is outward: But before God he inwardly deepens his outward activity by acknowledging that he is capable of nothing, by cutting offevery teleological relation to what is directed outward, all income from it in finitude, even though he still works to the utmost of his ability and precisely this is the enthusiasm. The ethical stage understands the inner teleology in terms of an outward direction, so that the ethicist is necessarily immersed in the external and its relative ends. The Judge's will expressed its sovereignty and self-sufficiency in terms of bringing the finite under the power of his absolute, good will, and this power was an expression of freedom. In infinite resignation, the self has come to see that this transformation is not possible by one's own power, and so its teleology is severed from what is externally and finitely directed. A new conception of freedom is arrived at: it is a decisive break with the external that is, the will is cut off from all concerns with conforming the external to the


Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil

absolute. The emptiness of one's finite tasks consist in an existential recognition that they are worthless in fulfilling one's absolute telos. Walker writes, 'Resignation' simply means giving up all claims on any object, person, or achievement in this world. It is the exact correlative of the discovery that I can essentially do nothing. For it is the form in which this discovery is expressed in the will. To discover that I can do nothing is to detach my will from all possible results of my acts, all possible achievements. It is, among other things, to cease to be influenced in my decisions by any desire for worldly achievable goods and any fear of worldly ills. This does not entail ceasing to desire and fear. It only requires that my decisions no longer be determined by such motives. When we look at the finite and contingent, we are unable to become conscious that God is, because his ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours; this is why dying to the world is so important for an understanding and consciousness of God: in order to know God, to know ourselves, and to comprehend our own relationship to God and his to us, we must cease viewing our existence from the aspect of the relative and comparative. Religiousness A is this initial, negative step toward God. It is a renunciation of the finite, and as such, a merely negative choice. As we will see, the vacuum or openness created by resignation does not get filled, at least not within Religiousness A. While 'dying to . . . ' includes a death to being nourished by the finite and the worldly, as well as a death to every earthly human hope, the most important thing one is dying to is one's own self-centered existence in the world. As Kierkegaard says, Therefore, death first; you must die to every merely human hope, to every merely human confidence; you must die to your selfishness, or to the world, because it is only through your selfishness that the world has power over you. . . . But naturally there is nothing a human being hangs on to so firmly - indeed, with his whole self! - as to his selfishness! Ah, the separa tion of soul and body in the hour of death is not as painful as being forced to be separated from one's soul when one is alive. And a human being does not hang on to physical life as firmly as one's selfishness hangs onto its selfishness.'19 Human existence and perfection are not about being the centre of the universe, about getting one's due, or about being the master of one's domain. In Religiousness A one sets oneself into a different universe, and one's existence is thereby transformed. The aesthetic existence is completely self-centred, knowing nothing other than its own pleasure, in which the universe and other people exist for its own

The Final Movement Toward Defiance 111 enjoyment. This is a very small self. The ethical existence understands that the self exists for more than enjoyment, and that there is a higher ideal for which it must strive. Though this self has been enlarged by the ideal, it is still the centre of its own existence, even when dutifully helping others. In religious existence, one discovers that one is a bit player in the universe, if you will. While it is true one is still concerned about oneself— indeed, one's concern is infinitely more concentrated on oneself — this self is no longer the self-centred self. A new understanding of the self arises, and this understanding leads to a transformation in one's existence. The self recognizes that all its earthly goals were attempts to be something, and yet this 'something' comes to nothing in the end; all its striving was for merely finite and contingent gains, though they were taken as the ultimate and absolute. Religiousness A realizes that the selfish energy expended by the ethical individual in the attempt to defend the perception of his or her 'right' relation to the Good is ultimately selfish energy; it is an energy filled with self-justifying posturing, criticalness toward those who threaten this self-perception and a drive to dominate anyone who questions its correctness. The religious existence has, to put it succinctly, seen through the illusion that governs most human existence. At this point it has not only died to the world, but it has died to its selfishness. What is left after this death of the self? The nothingness of freedom. In dying to oneself, the individual is enlarged into the infinite form of the self, as it floats over an abyss of nothingness. Unlike inclosing reserve, where the self is filled with dread and anxiety in the face of this nothingness, the religious self senses it has become more transparent to itself. It senses a clarity, arising through the death of its illusions of self-sufficiency. It does not have anything positive to hold onto at this point, and so has nothing (no-thing) by which to define itself. Still, this is a deeper understanding of itself than it has ever had before, and existence is purified through this transparency. We will gain a deeper understanding of this nothingness of the self by examining the absolute telos of human beings. An Absolute Relation to the Absolute Telos In infinite resignation and 'dying to . . . ' , the self is seeking to develop an absolute relation to its absolute telos. The absolute telos can be put in many ways: an eternal happiness, the highest human good, a right relation to oneself and God. All of these remain ambiguous to the person in infinite resignation, though they point to some meaning beyond the finite and relative. The absolute and unconditional task of gaining oneself remains, though it has become a purely negative task in Religiousness A — a purification. In infinite resignation, one begins to understand that the earthly must be surrendered in order to relate absolutely to one's absolute telos. Climacus

in its renunciation of the world. and making the end relative to the mediation. the roots are cut. civic responsibilities. however. the absoluteness of the goal of self-becoming is also asserted. the task is to keep the distinction between the finite and the infinite and the external and internal — firmly in mind. infinite resignation believes the only way to relate to the finite is to die to it.112 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil argues that there can be no mediation of the absolute telos. All mediation is relative. Success. 21 If one seeks to use the resignation of the finite in order to gain one's highest goal. Climacus writes. He is a stranger in the world of finitude. but he does not have his life in it. This was the mistake of the Middle Ages. then it is not an absolute and infinite act. And this highest ri\o^ is not a something. rather than a religious one. The temptation is that even the renunciation of all finite and temporal things may simply be a means to an eternal happiness. The Middle Ages sought to relate to the absolute through the relative and finite. The paradigmatic human turns out to be a socially con structed identity. He lives in the finite. but this highest TE\OS must be willed for its own sake. but he does not define his difference from worldliness by foreign dress (this is a . 'All relative willing is distinguished by willing something for something else. Climacus writes. the former ends up losing itself to the latter as a source of identity. one does not relate absolutely to the absolute. Climacus says that whenever the infinite and absolute seeks to express itself outwardly in the finite and relative. Thus. everything is changed. looks like everyone else. According to Climacus.'2 In the ethical stage. A temptation arises at this point. flagellation and so forth. though it remains tied to the finite and relative. In immediacy. If this is the case. when resignation is convinced that the individual has an absolute orientation toward the absolute rl\oq. willing the finite — willing the finite as renounced for the sake of an eternal happiness (eternal happiness as perfect self-identity). . This renunciation then becomes an ethical act (one's duty). which are governed by the established order.. but relative to one's renunciation. Given this.for example. the use of relative ends — one's career. in a vow of poverty. One continues to live in the finite. and yet is dead to the world. victory and one's highest good become measured by social standards and values. marriage. because then it relatively corresponds to something else and is finite. then one is. and so forth — is no longer to be absolutely related to an absolute telos. even in this renunciation. which will allow us to see how radical the renunciation is. then one will eventually crave the finite. serving as a conditioning element. When one uses this renunciation as a means to become something. and to this extent had more to do with ethical existence than religious. celibacy. the individual is firmly rooted in the finite. but only to relative ends. if for nothing else than to renounce it.. As long as one holds onto anything finite. it sought to use this act as an outward expression of its relation to the absolute telos .

which demands to be taken into account. and so there is no way even to communicate the struggle going on inside. . A moment came that emptied the finite of significance. Rather. since those caught up in the finite could not understand this absolute relation — so foreign to them is the life of the infinite. he is incognito. There is no sense of victory carried with this in-gathering. this is a very painful existence. The finite world would become a mere shadow. One is alienated in every external situation. and while this is good news. Eternity entered time in the moment of resolution. and they are empty of any reward. in which one gathered oneself in an infinite and absolute choice to relate to one's absolute telos. if not for the finite aspect of the self. One performs one's tasks in the world. In infinite resignation.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 113 contradiction. is unable to be at home in the finite. and life becomes a longing for the infinite — which. at least not the kind of victory found in the Judge's explication of the ethical life. is emptied of content. it implies that new temptations and failures are also being confronted daily. In infinite resignation the roots to the finite are cut. One must still perform the finite and external responsibilities. one is nothing. One's life is focused and gathered around the realization that. because there is no concrete identity to be found within the pure infinite. and that the highest human perfection is to need him. but not in such a way that one's life is found in these activities. and perhaps at times longs to be able simply to enjoy the finite again. but none of them hold any allure. and the meaning of existence needs to be defined anew. The finite goals and objectives that unite people are not available. The alienation this transcendence creates is so complete that it can feel as if one is merely watching some other self in its daily tasks. one remains alone before God and the struggle of the infinite. since with that he defines himself in a worldly way). The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed that new mercy is offered every morning. Through the focus on an absolute telos. One ventures everything upon the discovery of the absolute good. The excitement and uproar others are making is often unappealing. As we will see when we look at the pathos of suffering. One confronts emptiness everywhere. One remains continually confronted by the finite and its goals. holding no fulfilment. Repetition is the only thing that brings coherence in this situation. Every day brings with it a new set of finite tasks to become lost in. meaning or significance. of course. From time to time the finite comes to one as a temptation. life is found in the internal struggle of repetition. One transcends them while in their midst. feels the pain of loneliness. before God. existence is gathered and consolidated in a new way. but his incognito consists in looking just like everyone else. and so the dream of victory and success in relative ends remains a seductive whisper in one's ear.

self-revelation. The finite no longer has the hold it once did on us. taking place as it does in ever new circumstances and trials. and not as a . We will never be finished with this task: 'let us not forget that it was the case at least in school that the mediocre pupil was recognized by his running up with his paper ten minutes after the task was assigned and saying: I have finished. since the finite has become drained of meaning. the silence and emptiness of the infinite can be so painful that the finite tempts with its enchanting tangibility. at other times the repetition is difficult. And so we must repeat our resignation as long as we exist. It is this continual foundering that is at the heart of the suffering of Religiousness A.114 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Thus. for the finite is bitter and empty. all with the intense awareness of the emptiness of these activities. and with the gnawing hunger of the dark depths still intact. religious existence is suffering. It is due to the longing of the dark depths. the movement of resignation. and yet does so as if floating over an abyss. and fulfil the responsibilities of the finite. Whereas esthetic existence is essentially enjoyment and ethical existence is essentially struggle and victory. though it continually demands to be taken account of. and often has difficulty even stomaching it. The suffering is essential because it flows out of infinite resignation as a matter of course.that is. One must continue to work. in an attempt to gain self-identity . which continually seeks to find fulfilment and satisfaction through attaching its longing to the tangible world. Climacus writes. deal with other people. and one must again leap into the infinite. throughout one's temporal life. Although the finite's illusions have been seen through.'23 The positive effect of this repetition is not that we find a calmness within the infinite. However. By 'essential' Kierkegaard means that without this expression — without this particular type of suffering — the person is not in the religious stage of existence. allows one to gain a deeper consciousness of oneself. and at times we fall into it again. but that we bring more freedom to the struggle against the world and ourselves. the self has lost its taste for the finite. At times the repetition comes easily and naturally. One lives within the finite. The Essential Expression of an Existential Pathos: Suffering This tension between the finite and infinite becomes the basis of the second dimension of the existential pathos of religious existence: suffering. the task of Religiousness A is repetition: one must repeat. The purified desire for the infinite and absolute is continually defiled by a renewed desire for finite fulfilment. their worthlessness in fulfilling the task of the self.24 This continual repetition.

in the religious stage one comes to . Since we can neither make an adequate cellular representation of it nor incorporate it into our preexisting systems. would be to forfeit the former. Thus. no qualities. Now obviously the addicted person is struggling to be free from the addictive behaviour. The abyss is the infinite which has completely devalued the finite. It would actually be quite easy to express this struggle if one were to become something through it. it is also the source of one's suffering. it is so unconditioned that it feels strange. which seems to have no bounds. If we were willing for a deeper transformation of desire.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 115 transient element but as a continual accompaniment. the 70. but May rightly regards the struggle to be with freedom itself — that is. this is a move in the right direction. sometimes even horrible. we would need to appreciate it as an openness to God. As a deeper movement toward becoming oneself. the substitution of one normality for another allows us to avoid the open. This abyss becomes that out of which one's existence flows — that is. to recall Prater Traciturnus' words. and ends up gaining weight because one exchanges cigarettes for food). Suffering is. This can be seen in Gerald May's analysis of addiction and withdrawal. To surrender the latter. In addition to minimizing withdrawal symptoms. 27 He then points out that this spaciousness is really freedom. It is unconditioned and unconditional. there is nothing to which the self can attach itself in order to gain a sense of identity. It has no objective attributes that we can grasp and relate to other systems. while the emptiness and darkness is the source of one's freedom.28 As spaciousness and openness. May writes. no form. we would have to try to make friends with the spaciousness.000 fathoms of water upon whose depths the religious person is continually. He speaks of the infinite in terms of'spaciousness'. but the darkness of this source of self-conscious freedom means there is nothing positive on which to hang one's hope. we cannot adapt to it. empty feeling that comes when an addictive behavior is curtailed. not simply overcoming one addiction by filling the empty spaciousness with something else (as when one quits smoking. Although this emptiness is really freedom. out of which one's freedom and self-consciousness find their source. but staying in the spaciousness or emptiness of freedom itself. and it is this freedom that the addicted person is struggling with. However. Infinite resignation's suffering is due to this continual struggle of being unable to define oneself in relation to anything finite.

There is absolutely no other free act which it is given to accomplish — only the destruction of the T. and is its ground and drive. It is then we touch the absolute good. however.these all amount to the same: the empty desire. But it is closer to Kierkegaard's thinking to see this waiting as preparation. and all your supposed self-importance is an illusion.or detachment .' These two quotes speak to the same task. To detach our desire from all good things is to wait. The particular kind of suffering characteristic of infinite resignation is to undergo the struggle. and so one's identity of oneself dissolves into this nothingness. 'the ultimate spiritual trial by tried and tested religious persons is always that the utmost effort wants to delude one with the notion of self-importance. Climacus says. cries out to be affirmed as essential in existence. is infinite resignation. finality of all content. and the absolute good to which Weil points. The only free act. to destroy. there .' That is what we have to give to God — in other words. to desire without any wishes. in the thought that this becoming nothing is becoming 'something'. Meister Eckhart wrote. In a given heart. This. containing this or that. and this indeed has its place in infinite resignation. and disperses itself selfishly around its hunger for more. infinite resignation continually comes behind it in order to give its devastating blow: 'You are nothing. the T finds a multiplicity to desire. We possess nothing in the world — a mere chance can strip us of everything — except the power to say 'I. Combined with attachment to material and finite things.30 Elsewhere she writes. one is not to be consoled by this nothingness. and gain nothing from it. It is desire and longing that empowers the T'. Although the self in its self-centredness yearns to be something. Of course. to desire in the void. the attempt to become a little 'more nothing' is the constant temptation of infinite resignation.' Simone Weil's description of this death emphasizes selfishness' relation to longing and desire: The extinction of desire (Buddhism) .or amor fati or desire for the absolute good . God does not work in all hearts alike but according to the preparation and sensitivity he finds in each. and to reveal itself as unique and significant. if only in one's own eyes. Weil also speaks of waiting. Indeed. is not the suffering of infinite resignation. that it is something.116 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil oneself as nothing. Experience proves that this waiting is satisfied.' And so one would be willing to suffer in order to become a martyr.

freedom is seen as coming from the infinite. freedom is one's task. It is not created by oneself. which they fear and dread .for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. a disinterested heart. The only consolation is that there is an opening created for the appearance of God. As beyond self-sufficiency. a gift. the condition of its maximum capacity. When one looks out into the world in infinite resignation. and this change of landscape deconstructs. if he desires to appear.that is. Therefore if a heart is to be ready for him. but one comes to understand the source of human freedom. but chosen. it must be emptied out to nothingness. and then reconstructs.given up for the sake of security. and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of . To speak of venturing everything in infinite resignation is to point to this emptying out to nothingness. then it can also be rejected . beyond the contents of the aesthetic and ethical stages. and a removal of all the pockets of obscurity that desire and longing create when they put their sights on anything other than God. Not only is transparency deepened in terms of the nature of the finite and the self. The Inquisitor recalls for Jesus the temptation with which the 'wise and dread spirit' confronted Him: ' " 'Thou wouldst go into the world. for its source is beyond the concrete and even idealized contents of our existence . though always as something to be chosen or accepted. What is emptied is self-assertion and the finite. and one's desires are no longer tied to the finite. and what is left is the nothingness of the infinite. and as chosen its source lies outside of oneself. infinite resignation comes to understand freedom as something that is offered to one. but is a source beyond all finite values and all self-sufficiency.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 117 may be an item which prevents God's highest activity. nor does it consist in a self-sufficiency out of which the autonomy of the self reigns (the ethical). but a continual repetition. and so a continual struggle in which one gains an ever deeper transparency. with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand. reduced to nothingness. if you will. One experiences freedom as something arising out of a transcendence of all one knows and can be known. and in this sense it is one's own freedom. But seest Thou these stones in the parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread. as Weil puts it. the condition of maximum sensitivity. Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor saw this clearly. This emptying of the self before God is both an absolutely free act. is the optimum. The landscape of one's existence changes with infinite resignation. So. and art going with empty hands. There is no repose in this. too. self-assertion and the pleasures of the world. the view of one's ultimate source of freedom: freedom does not consist in choosing between a multiplicity of finite goals and desires (aestheticism). If it can be accepted. Still.

' But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer. the emptiness of freedom does not give anything one can put one's hands or mind around. lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread. ' "Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone . Those in infinite resignation have become too conscious for this. In this it hands over its freedom for the comfort and security of earthly bread. give bread." '~ The Inquisitor applies this to humanity several pages later when he says. for the most part. at least it is tangible. thinking what is that freedom worth. The certainty and comfort of the finite can be so peaceful." ' In Religiousness A one gains the painful understanding that the acceptance of freedom means the rejection of that with which humans normally comfort themselves. And again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which he is born. the fortunate . and the point is to enter into the suffering (not by plunging into it but by discovering that one is in it) and not escape the misfortune. though for ever trembling. if obedience is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives . and is placed upon the individual by existence itself .or better. They have seen the nature of human existence and it is too late to go back. from the religious point of view all human beings are suffering. spiritlessness has found many ways to evade it . But only one who can appease his conscience can take over his freedom. The suffering was always there (as the Buddha's First Noble Truth states). "Behold what though didst further. Climacus says. The person in Religiousness A comes to realize that this suffering of freedom is the continual lot of human existence. The task of self-becoming brings a consciousness of the nature of freedom: it is a barren wilderness. And Thou has rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of heaven. It covers up the emptiness of the self by gaining identity through comparison. but remains simply the discovery of the infinite as the spaciousness within which God may be approached. an openness that offers no tangible comfort. grateful and obedient. to reject it. nothing more than the attempt to cover up the suffering of existence. and although one knows it is empty. for nothing is more certain than bread.118 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil sheep. though as we have seen. The everydayness in which spiritlessness has its life is. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible the structure of the self.the banner of earthly bread.33 not for bread alone. Viewed religiously. and man will worship Thee.

is just as much a suffering person. and can never be this in any immediate sense of perfect identity. In other words. nor its sense of victory or failure. . the expectation is that the emptiness of freedom will open up to something wonderful. wanting.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 119 person. but an act of love. what we have called asceticism is no longer a way of dealing with attachment. To struggle to transcend any idol is to touch the sacred hunger God has given us. but they are unable to make the transformation back down into the conditional. only within a process of becoming. and offer only the evasion of the reality that lies underneath. They remain drawn to the eternal happiness. one is able to come to terms with the fact that human existence is an inherent struggle. and can never be the stasis of perfect self-identity with the eternal. Fortune or misfortune define neither the self. What is revealed is that the finite web of means-ends relationships are without fulfilment. though it is a captivation that leaves them foundering in existence when the inevitable descent into the finite becomes necessary. if he is religious. They can make the movement of infinity by themselves. The pain inherent in infinite resignation would be overcome if perfect selfidentity with the infinite and eternal could be attained. and yet it is not. holy deprivation of our souls. This division of the self means that those in infinite resignation continually waver in existence because of their alienation from the finite aspect of the self. It remains a web of self-enclosed relationships that go nowhere. aching venture into the desert of our nature. To be deprived of a simple object of attachment is to taste the deep. It is a willing. It is itself. but in a divided manner. It holds within itself both the principle of particularity and the principle of the universal. as the person to whom the misfortune comes from outside. With the growing transparency. the reality that lies underneath the illusions can no longer be denied. that the suffering of self-becoming will yield to an eternal happiness. There is a hope of some kind of birth within infinite resignation. The self is eternal and absolute. As transparency rises. as the illusions used to cover up suffering are exposed. The deep longings continue. and though one knows they must not be attached to anything tangible. but such self-identity with the eternal is closed off by existence itself. and also relate to the unconditional (which is why Kierkegaard calls Religiousness A the religion of immanence). even though this reality is the source of suffering. then. In such a light. and the eternal consciousness of God's love for them. whom the whole world favors. the understanding of existence as suffering becomes more explicit to the individual. they are unable to affect a synthesis between the infinite and the finite on their own. The absolute telos of an existing human being is this process. Gerald May expresses the hope that resides in the suffering of infinite resignation: The specific struggles we undergo with our addictions are reflections of a blessed pain.


Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil

loving the emptiness of that desert because of the sure knowledge that God's rain will fall and the certainty that we are both heirs and cocreators of the wonder that is now and of the Eden that is yet to be.36 There is the expectation that rain will fall, but one does not know what this rain is, when it will come, or even if it will come in this lifetime. One is at a standstill (one has done all one can do), and wonders if all that is left is to twist in the wind forever. The Decisive Expression of an Existential Pathos: Guilt The task of religious existence is simultaneously to relate oneself absolutely to the absolute telos and relatively to relative ends. We have seen that this turns out to be the struggle with oneself as a self-contradiction, and entails the suffering described above. One has died to immediacy and to oneself, and gained a deeper understanding of true freedom. Though great strides of self-consciousness and freedom are made in infinite resignation, Climacus regards it as 'the enormous detour'. What he means is that Religiousness A creates a situation where one is never able to get to the point where one moves on in fulfilling one's task; instead, one expends all one's energy in the beginning — resignation — and ends up suffering under the contradiction of being both finite and infinite, rather than synthesizing these poles. Upon entering the religious stage of existence, one immediately recognizes the task — to relate absolutely to the absolute and relatively to the relative — but one is unable to actualize this right away. As time moves on, this task continues to be neglected, for one remains consumed by the beginning. Climacus writes, [T]he task is given to the individual in existence, and just as he wants to plunge in straightway . . . and wants to begin, another beginning is discovered to be necessary, the beginning of the enormous detour that is dying to immediacy. And just as the beginning is about to be made here, it is discovered that, since meanwhile time has been passing, a bad beginning has been made and that the beginning must be made by becoming guilty, and from that moment the total guilt, which is decisive, practices usury with new guilt. It is no surprise that guilt is so decisive for religious existence, since the leap into this stage consisted of the thought that, in relation to God, one is always in the wrong. The whole situation is strewn with guilt, which rises up before one in each moment of infinite resignation, because in this movement one is only at the beginning of fulfilling the religious task. One is continually having to die to the world, and is never able to get beyond this. A growth in freedom and

The Final Movement Toward Defiance


self-consciousness even comes to a halt, as one abides within the enormous detour. This guilt-consciousness is so decisive for the religious existence, that to be without it is to show that one is not relating oneself to one's eternal happiness. Thus, one finds the strange paradox that the decisive expression for relating to one's eternal happiness is guilt — one would think that guilt would be an expression for not relating to one's eternal happiness. Guilt, however, is the only way a human being can express a relation to the absolute telos. Thus, as it is with suffering so it is with guilt: one is guilty simply by virtue of existing. One is not only guilty of particular transgressions, but guilt is one's position in existence. While we are normally conscious of particular instances of guilt, these particular instances are grounded in (made possible by) our total guilt. To speak of the particular guilt or innocence of specific actions is to think in comparative and relative terms. However, there cannot be relative guilt in terms of one's relation to the absolute; either one is guilty in one's relation, or one is innocent. To see only particular instances of guilt is to measure guilt in degrees. This is to look at guilt in terms of the external and relative, which allows one to see oneself as guilty in some instances, but innocent in others. Kierkegaard is simply pointing out that guilt in any area is to be totally guilty of not relating to the absolute absolutely. Covering up this total guilt by focusing only on particular instances is an evasion of one's true relationship to the absolute. Climacus describes this by saying, With regard to guilt-consciousness, childishness assumes that today, for example, he is guilty in this or that, then for eight days he is guiltless, but then on the ninth day everything goes wrong again. The comparative guilt-consciousness is distinguished by having its criterion outside itself. . . . When he is in good company on Monday, it does not seem so bad to him, and in this way the external context determines an utterly different interpretation." What the 'enormous detour' and total guilt show is that Religiousness A ends in despair. The individual is doomed to a continual need of having to die to the finite, for fear that it will become absolute. At the same time, the finite aspect of the self can never be completely denied. The Despair of Religiousness A A Merely Negative Act: Nihilism Although Religiousness A ends in despair, there has been a rise in consciousness due to a recognition of the source or ground of freedom, as well as the


Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil

self-understanding that one's significance and identity is not tied to finite ends. These are very transformative realizations, because the self gains a more integrated, purified and absolute existence around them. There has also been an intensification of a particular kind of human strength or actualization: one is more self-determined than ever before. We saw in our analysis of Kant, that freedom is connected to the notion of self-determination, which for Kant meant to act out of the internal law of practical reason. As the ground of the will, the practical law acts as that which determines the will, so that people hold the ground of their freedom within themselves. Any motive not arising from this ground is not free, but externally determined. The most free and actualized person is the one who acts out of this self-grounded action. Kant, however, could not imagine a type of evil that would act out of this ground. For Kierkegaard, freedom is connected to the infinite, which pulls one out from the relative and external ends that most often serve as motives for choice. In aesthetic existence forces, desires and cravings arise up out of the dark abyss of longing, and gain form through their connection with the world. One's deep longing becomes prey to the resplendent forms of the world. In the ethical stage an ideal is gained; this ideal acts as that which brings order to the forces of the dark abyss. Schelling wrote of this in terms of the penetration of the light of reason into the dark depths. For the Judge, the ideal was to penetrate into every aspect of the self, and bring it under the order and rule of the ideal. In the religious stage it is discovered that this dark ground is not so easily penetrated and ordered. It must remain dark in order to serve as the ground of reason, and so there always remains a raw longing. It is this relation between the dark ground and the light of reason that accounts for the continual struggle within human existence. As a longing toward revelation, the dark abyss within us seeks to be more and more revealed (we seek identity or self-revelation), though it ultimately cannot serve as the basis of our revelation. We long to gain identity and become something, and yet we do not have the power to get under this longing - to establish self-identity out of ourselves. For Kierkegaard, the ground of human freedom consists in this contradiction of being both infinite and finite, absolute and relative, light of reason and dark depths. Human actualization takes place in the working out of this selfcontradiction. The ethical individual transcends the aesthetic view of freedom, in which one is 'free' to do whatever one desires at any given moment, no matter how chaotic these desires may be. Through the ethical stage it is learned that the ground of human freedom is not simply the dark abyss. It takes the religious individual to discover that freedom is also not simply the light of reason, as Kant's ethical view claims, because the light of reason cannot get its ground under itself. The religious conception of the ground of human freedom is that it consists of both the dark longing and the light

and is thus a form of nihilism. this is only a negative act. . and create one's own particular order out of it. because one is finally forced to decide how to relate to God. and which reason can only conceive as no-thing — as the mere potential of form and order). weakening human actualization. Guilt and weakness leave one at an infinite distance from one's absolute object ofjoy. and just this is its despair. One recognizes that the highest human perfection is to need God. self-conscious and free selfhood. a positive relationship with God. The despair of infinite resignation brings one to the brink of this choice. the more one realizes that one cannot remain forever in the 'enormous detour' of infinite resignation. The struggle inherent in human existence forces one to choose whether to become oneself in defiance of the universal will (the Good). even if this actualization takes place by asserting one's particular will over the universal will. it is an essential act for coming to know God. itself. without thereby weakening the ground of freedom — that is. is able to die to oneself. or through faith in it.and has come to se that its pride and worldliness get in the way of relating to God. It remains within the nothingness and emptiness of freedom. the more one acts out of this dichotomous ground of freedom. and yet goes no further than the recognition of neediness and death. Indeed. As a recipient of the highest heaven (the light of reason). or in faith of the Good. All the evasive and lukewarm insipidness of spiritlessness has been shattered. The negative act of freedom in infinite resignation consists of a conscious penetration of the infinite abyss of nothingness (the dark depth that grounds finite forms. one has the tools to penetrate the dark depths. The more self-conscious and free one becomes. and that there is no middle ground in this self-actualization or self-becoming: one understands that self-conscious freedom is ultimately expressed in terms of a choice for good or evil. and so never to walk into the relationship itself. The dread confronted is the infinite distance from God. To remain in Religiousness A is to remain at the stage of preparation for an eternal happiness.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 123 of reason. Although the self of Religiousness A has come to the consciousness of itself as nothing before God . they must choose whether to be themselves in despair of the Good. and one is left with how one will confront the painful struggle of human existence: since diversion and evasion are no longer an option for those who have become spirit. and the powerlessness to do anything about it. Thus. a getting-out-of-the-way. Religiousness A is not. but it is not able to provide the positive act in which such knowledge takes place. in which one remains within the spaciousness or openness of this abyss this raw craving for form and order. the more actualized one has become. evil can be expressed in authentic. It is this recognition of the ground of human freedom that allows for an understanding of a more fully actualized form of evil: defiance.has died to the world and to itself .

and first and foremost the individual himself in his finiteness. There is no diversion. The Possibility of Defiance As we saw. and think God and the God-relationship. in his obstinacy against God. they cannot remain aloft. and when they come down. As the knights of infinite resignation soar in the infinite. because God is the basis when every obstacle is cleared away. De Silentio portrays this as a beautiful dance. Elrod notes the relation to God of Religiousness A. but only suffers under it. it cannot think the Godrelationship together with the finite. and so to stop is to fall into despair. and they have elevation. since precisely the individual himself is the hindrance. and this wavering shows the despair and heaviness of this type of existence. and yet within this negative form are the positive forms of faith and defiance.through the consciousness of barriers. nor ungracious to behold. infinite resignation cannot find a way to relate to the finite pole of the self. One must not stop in infinite resignation.124 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil As a negative form of religious existence. but one that is alienated from the concrete world: The knights of infinity are dancers . no possibility of moving away from the consuming . which in itself finds the God-relationship. While it can infinitely abstract itself from the finite. and its importance to the task of self-becoming: The edifying element in the sphere of religiousness A is essentially that of immanence: it is the annihilation by which the individual puts himself out of the way in order to find God. we will examine how infinite resignation relates only to one pole of the synthesis of the self. is based upon it. and this too is no unhappy pastime. they waver. They make the upward movement and fall down again. for 'the positive is continually in the negative'. To understand how faith and defiance are within this negative form. they waver an instant and the wavering shows they are nevertheless strangers in the world.. Religiousness A is the essential form for a God-relationship: the truly positive relationship to God can take place only through the negative .39 Infinite resignation is the essential form for coming to God and becoming oneself. and so is not yet a complete self. But when they come down they cannot assume the position straightaway. Quite rightly the edifying is recognizable here also by the negative. by self-annihilation.. However. they seem to rise above all the defilements and spiritlessness of the finite and comparative.

how many of those elect. ' "Thou art proud of Thine elect. and end by raising their free banner against Thee. one becomes tempted by a more intense form of despair. in this. one's existence becomes condensed and heavy. The difference between the two lies in the dialectic between outward and inward suffering.of remaining prepared for something that lies beyond their own control.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 125 recognition of the emptiness of the finite. freedom and the infinite remain empty. 111. This despair is no longer the spiritless temptation of the finite — that internal temptation with which the dread spirit initially tempted Jesus. As Climacus says. and. that for the sake of his eternal happiness he has suffered hunger. etc. As the Grand Inquisitor says to Jesus. Wherever the ethical is present. No. these simple words are a testimony to ethical pathos inasmuch as they quite simply refer to what he. One's existence is concentrated into the single thought of one's nothingness and the nothingness of the world in which one resides. p. outward and inward acting. now the temptation is that to which the dread spirit and Grand Inquisitor themselves gave into: defiance. and the reference to oneself as one's object versus God as one's object. We will see that this is neither the resignation nor the suffering the religious individual undergoes for the sake of an eternal happiness. 390). and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit and the warmth of their heart to the other camp. been in prison. but Thou has only the elect. It should be noted that this 'giving up' of everything is not an internal act. while we give rise to the rest. whipped. acting. When the impatience of despair arises. However. SUD. surrounded by the emptiness. persecuted. 2. and become something in this dance." ' In this heaviness. has suffered. the temptation to defiance emerges. something has to give. and there is nothing available with which to lift the weight of the infinite from one's shoulders. It would be easy to shoulder it if one could stay aloft in the exquisite dance of the infinite. It is the temptation of those who have grown tired of the enormous detour . but an external act. We will now look at defiance. has been despised.. cold. p. all attention is called back to the individual himself and to acting' (CUP. in peril at sea. for example. Notes 1. The self exists on the watershed of two directions of authentic selfhood: defiance and faith. And besides. . through which the essence of radical evil will be revealed. Defiance is what tempts spirit. 'So when a man says. have grown weary of waiting for Thee. and continually tempts humanity. those mighty ones who could become elect.

pp. The point is that one believes that happiness is to be found outside the typical. CUP. whether to alcohol. or pleasing others. May. FS. Evanston: Northwestern UP. 24. 20. 17. CUP. a human being's highest good. 506 18. EUD. p. as a matter of course has even an actual idea of the significance of this good. Frater Taciturnus is another of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms. Arthur Schopenhauer. As we will see. everyday worldly concerns .whether these concerns are viewed as Maya. 303. 15. CUP. power. p. Kierkegaard uses various expressions for this same idea. is the possibility of receiving this good. pp. Ethics. 1932. 574. p. 288. which is to say that one gains an eternal happiness in being rightly related to God. 464. p. 317-18. Walker. EUD. JRNL II. EUD. 321-2. 147. 215-305. pp. or an ignorance that seeks permanence in a world of interdependent arising. Ed. Psalm 39:6. 410-11. 'Even though Christianity assumes the subjectivity . 16. . . 21. CUP. 5. CUP. 22. p. 28. sex. CUP. 27. and makes this comment on page 444 in Stages on Life's Way. Conflict of Interpretations. p. 391. Walker. shopping.though this is the tone Kierkegaard uses . purity of the heart. p. 77-8. CUP. p. 10. Don Ihde. it nevertheless does not assume that as a matter of course the subjectivity is all set. May. this object is called an eternal happiness in 'Religiousness A'. EUD. 25. 6. and Religion'. pp. pp. 29. 11. 176. . 438 (my emphasis). gambling. 'Studies in Pessimism'. p. Black. 1974. 408. 153-4. #2089. 12. p. EUD. 19. pp. The Works of Arthur Schopenhauer: The Wisdom of Life and Other Essays. such as the absolute telos. 130). 322. CUP. p. 14. 26.126 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil 3. 13. p. pp. It does not necessarily entail a specifically Western religious tone . 9. p. p. 231. 410 (my emphasis). 407-8. 'Guilt. 103. p. 7. and salvation. CUP. CUP. 307. Matthew 5:3. 4. 425-39. 8. The longings and cravings of the dark depths are nothing other than the source of all human addictions. p. p. Paul Ricoeur. 394. p. 23.' (CUP. NY: Walter J.but could also fit within Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Roslyn.

New York: Routledge. p. While the empirical ego's desires are not to be made absolute. I read the phrase 'disinterested heart' in this quote. p. not in terms of how Kierkegaard uses the term 'disinterested'. CUP. 37. pp. 525.oz. Gravity and Grace. arising from a maximum of inward earnestness. Trans. Raymond Bernard Blakney. 34. Meister Eckhart. 197. p. 1941. 35. Trans. 33. Without the desires of the finite aspect of the self. while Religiousness A may include a Buddhist conception of existence. 234. for Kierkegaard. p. p. 1980. p. 40. p. New York: Harper. 238. Constance Garnett. p. neither are they to be annihilated. we are not able to be our true self. Weil. p. The desires that arise out of the ground of who we are must find their place within a freedom that transparently wills for the absolute good. 88. 12-13. 31. p. 70. 1992. . 436. 1980. 32. 41. 1980. Elrod. FT.The Final Movement Toward Defiance 127 30. May. 42. 181. Simone Weil. 36. CUP. Emma Graufurd. Dostoevsky. 524. The Brothers Karam. but as synonymous with what Weil calls 'detachment'. 23. Kierkegaard does not believe there can be a detachment from the empirical ego. It is a disinterest in the external. CUP. Trans. p. CUP. Meister Eckhart. p. a uniquely Buddhist quality. 531. New York: Signet. infinite resignation is not. 39. Fydor Dostoevsky.ov. 233 (my emphasis). 38. Dostoevsky. It should be noted that.

and in a self-consciously free rebellion against God and what is good. the self gathers itself in the infinite source of freedom. however. and so will to be itself in despair. Although this is authentic selfhood or spirit. rather than faith. there is a self-knowing in this believing. which allows for an intense form of evil that is transparent to itself. there is the possibility that. By infinitely abstracting from the finite. Kierkegaard puts the distinction between knowing and choosing the Good in terms of the possibility of evil: [A] person certainly must know his soul in order to gain it. While Socrates believed that actions follow upon the understanding as a matter of course. because the will maintains an independence from the understanding by serving as its basis. one will embrace it. Socrates' argument is that no one would willingly harm himself or herself. The self is confronted with a choice: whether it wills to be itself in despair or in faith. to define it more closely. then one will do it. inasmuch as in knowing he ascertains that he is in the hands of an alien power and that consequently he does not possess himself or. but they differ on how they choose this relationship: to choose against it is to remain in despair. but this knowing is not the gaining. For Kierkegaard. the comparative. and the relative. and grounds its self-actualization in its rebellion against the Good. There is the possibility of an authentic despair. one may be offended by the Good. When the devil believes and yet trembles. and the more perfect it is. he has not gained himself. once one knows the Good. precisely because he does not will to gain himself/ . it can transparently choose to despair of this relationship. and since rebellion against the Good is harmful. we have come to see that there is an infinite gap between the understanding and the will. the more he will tremble. it is still despair. both defiance and faith have a self-conscious relationship before God. and rests transparently in the knowledge derived there. the self s transparency to itself has moved into an authentic understanding of the self as infinite. If spirit is offended by what a God-relationship entails. For Kierkegaard. in that the self is unable to relate to the finite.5 Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil Transparent Despair In infinite resignation. Kierkegaard does not agree with the Socratic view that if one knows the Good. due to pride.

Times have changed since then. in the most distressing pain. in its very being. even if this was done in the proclamation that God is dead.and trembles. brings an authentic and conscious confrontation with it. and expect a clarifying word. He says that admiration is a happy relation to superiority. Human rationality can only go so far in discovering what has become hidden. . and it does this through the pathos of 'offense': the defiant spirit is offended by God's ways. not joyfully. and yet in despair.' Kierkegaard continues by saying. Defiance: An Unhappy Relation to Superiority In Christian Discourses. There remains a power standing as the limit of our existence. and his feeling of weakness is a tormenting sensation. there is a 'power' which human existence.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 129 The devil. as long as he believes it only in such a way that he does not become joyful. Defiance is authentic spirit that stands as a single individual before the alien power that established and holds the self. by remaining with the implications of this dark boundary. then he is far from being happy: on the contrary he is exceedingly unhappy. he does not will this relationship. and have seen that there are those who use various means to hide or ignore it. unhappy. feels God's infinite superiority and his own nothingness. though 'admiration's first feeling is one of pain . yet nevertheless able to be related to negatively.and. is transparent to himself and to his relationship with God. the relationship is painful. and is hidden behind the murkiness that belies human weakness itself. always runs up against. however. Kierkegaard compares defiance to envy. and. Religiousness A. remains something with which we must deal. God is infinitely the strongest. . and so he trembles before God. as long as he only believes it in such a way that he shrinks from the admission. and so the rebellion still took place in the face of God. As the despair of Religiousness A becomes manifest. We have been looking at the various inauthentic ways it is dealt with. whom Kierkegaard regards as a symbol of the most intense form of evil. so the power that established the self s existence is less defined. Whatever the name or connotation given to it. or whether one will try to create and reveal oneself out of the dark depths by standing in defiance of this power. basically everyone believes that and to that extent. or those who dive into scepticism in the face of this darkness. In Kierkegaard's time the memory of God was still strong. But as long as he only believes that God is the stronger one . to mention something terrible. willing or not. and beyond that there is nothing — a transcendence which is without content. that if someone senses superiority but admits reluctantly. as our limit. the question becomes whether one will have faith in the goodness of this source. believe it even as the devil also believes . .

that God is the strong one. at some level. In order to want in despair to be oneself. the self wants in despair to rule over himself. They either put God in the dock — often coming to the conclusion that he does not exist — place him in some small safe. Defiance also senses the mystery of its source. however. Spirit. what should be wonder. This consciousness becomes the torment that defines the existence of those in defiance. and its existence becomes a 'dark saying'. and is conscious of itself as weak before the power out of which its existence flows — that power over which it has no power. for the infinite self is abstract. is aware of its own nothingness. and it is this illusion of strength that allows them such innocuous. and its distance and opaqueness. and finds joy in being nothing before this awesome mystery. there must be consciousness of an infinite self. indifferent. Whether this has happened through the movement of Religiousness A (which was still a possible movement in Kierkegaard's time). but seek to remain secure in their own 'strength' and abilities. or simply ignore him altogether. the most abstract possibility of the self. or in the more modern secularized versions. And it is this self the despairer wants to be. is a happy relation to the mystery of this power. In all these reactions they stand on their own strength. Kierkegaard says that the consciousness of weakness should give way to worship. out-of-the-way corner of their lives. Defiance begins to arise out of the failure of infinite resignation. Infinite resignation is the negative form of the self in which all finite determinations have fallen away. or create himself. We have seen that this infinite self is an empty self. By means of this infinite form. make this self the self he wants to be. and so can imagine a myriad of possibilities for the self. The Possibility of Defiance is Due to the Structure of the Self We are now in a better position to see how the movement of self-becoming which is grounded in the structure of the self— allows for defiance. they would never admit this to themselves. becomes a catalyst for a transparent rebellion. It is this emptiness that at first gives defiance the hope that it can create itself. as Kierkegaard puts it. tame him through their doctrines and beliefs. and even comical attitudes toward God.13 0 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil Although the mass of spiritless people sense. However. severing the self from any relation to the power which has established it. this infinite self is really only the most abstract form of the self. however.8 the point is that through . determine what he will have and what he will not have in his concrete self. Anti-climacus writes. or severing it from the conception that there is such a power. Worship begins in wonder over the mystery of God.

to construct himself. These contents are merely the forces that have become manifest or revealed out of the dark abyss due to forms not under his own power — for example. rather than determining this self-creation. etc. However. in this concrete set of circumstances. when his longings became attached to objects in the world. as the infinite self. in that its concrete contents are determined by this creation. he wants first to undertake to refashion the whole thing in order to get out of it a self such as he wants. by virtue of being the infinite form. In defiance. But . we see that the defiant one wants to begin a little earlier than other people. though its defiance arises out of an unwillingness to fully relinquish the last remaining strongholds of selfishness and pride. To speak of the 'infinite form. he does not want to don his own self.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 131 the infinite and eternal the self has escaped all finite determinations. produced by means of the infinite form of the negative self — and it is in this way he wants to be himself. the self seeks to create itself (give form to itself) out of the dark abyss. Anti-climacus says that at this stage of defiance. the negative self. it can be said that it creates out of nothing (a formless void). he denies that these contents will determine who and what he becomes. It is untethered from all valuations of finitude. But by means of the infinite form of the negative self. He does not ignore the concrete contents of the self. but 'in the beginning'. predispositions. is this quite definite thing. is to point to that freedom which comes. for the self of defiance is self enough to recognize the concrete contents of its self. It has died to the finite determinations of itself. It is radically free in the sense of choosing out of itself being its own ground. out of the self s own structure. He seeks to take the light of reason. but through his infinite form. So yes. with these aptitudes. has indeed necessity and limits. combining the deepest pit and the highest heaven through its own power of creation. and reveal himself out of the dark abyss as his own ground. and it has suspended all valuations of the ethical universal. it desires to create a radically new self in infinite abstraction from these contents. His concrete self. which is an essential step in the movement toward a true faith in God. etc. It seeks to create itself in such a way that its concrete contents become what they are only in this creation. Anti-climacus writes. he wants. but from the self — that is.9 It is out of the emptiness of infinite resignation that defiance first desires to create itself ex nihilo. or his concreteness. Perhaps ex nihilo seems too radical a self-creation. Here we have an intensification of freedom in despair. not at and with the beginning. does not want to see his task in his given self. not from the finite world. or through the valuations given to him by the established order.

and believes this power gives it the ability to become its own source. and use that power as the source of its own self-creation. the colour of one's skin is a significant determination of whom one essentially is. To a person who has risen above this low-level valuation of selfhood. and they become just as meaningless to a person's self as does the colour of another's skin to one who judges by character or spirit alone. It is defiant in its relation to this power. In the first form of defiance. the defiant self as passive reacts to the autonomy of this power — that it does not bend to the self s will . This is the highest conception of selfhood that such people are capable of. the self tries to take within itself the power out of which it exists. or another person's skin. In this latter case the self seeks to draw strength from out of its own weakness. and so they are unable to see beyond the colour of their own. it has died to all finite valuations . and defiance begins to turn nasty. in both forms there is a misrelation with the source of its existence.will be negligible in comparison to what is created by one's own freedom.that is to say. The infinite self. the freedom which flows from the infinite annihilates the significance and value of these qualities. believes that the movement of infinity can go in an infinite number of different directions. We will see that in both forms of defiance — what Anticlimacus calls the active self and the self as passive — the self attempts to be itself from out of itself.and in this reaction seeks to be itself. The Movement of Defiance In defiance the self has become conscious of its despair (that it has been unwilling to be itself). as having resigned all finite determinations. Defiance is at the point where. all valuation. When this fails. but from within. The 'active self takes the power coming from its source. since valuations are determined through the comparisons and relations created in finite existence. the self wills to be itself out of the source of its own existence. It is this . because it proclaims itself as issuing out of itself. although the concrete self has its finite necessity and limitations. and perhaps the concrete contents one now has — which have determined one's existence so far . Thus. We can think of it this way. and that its despair does not come from outside itself. Active Self: Creator of Its Own Self In the active self. with the help of infinite resignation. and the colour of one's skin becomes meaningless in the definition of who one is. character traits and personality become central. rather than by transparently and contentedly resting in the power that established it. To some people. And so. a deeper transparency is obtained. It is aware of despair as a self-induced response to its relation to itself.132 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil there is infinitely more that can come out of the depths.

for it has gathered its existence around a particular idea. is that there is nothing which gives this imaginary construction reality. in becoming itself. however amazing and with whatever perseverance'. In other words. The eruption into revelation by the 'active self is 'constantly relating to itself only experimentally. the person may act on this 'ideal'. The self. and ultimately capable of nothing at all. but the following they garner shows the power with which they wield their vision. yet in itself it remains only a human being and not a god. Philosophy has sought to completely purge the dark basis through the light of reason. is to assert one's particular will as the universal will. It erupts into revelation. which has essentially the same effect as getting reason under one's own power. It cannot get under the light of reason enough to penetrate the dark abyss. they remain human. To use the term 'imaginary' immediately points to the imagination. but it will always fail in its attempts at dominion and self-revelation. it is impotent. and his or her existence may yield sometimes devastating effects. sometimes with 'glorifyingly' hideous results. True. as the traditional view of evil would have it. Another approach. has become the infinite self. In this form of defiance. The self continually comes to grief upon its attempts to bring these two principles together under its own power. The individuals who seek this dominion obviously need the spiritless to join the enterprise. just as cancer will never create a new form of'health' (order) within the body. however.and in a way in which it creates itself out of itself. for it is also conceived apart from any unconditioned ideal an ideal of the universal will of God. but are more free and self-conscious. destructive and shocking acts on earth are due to the attempt of a particular will to assert itself over an area of the earth — whether it be over regions or the entire earth. but in the end. and is its attempt to take hold of the 'light of reason'. The problem. its imagination can run free. These defiant individuals are not weaker and more ignorant than the rest of us. because in comparison to the universal will. their particular wills can never become the universal will. and it can create the self it wants to create. Some of the most vicious. however great. It has resolve. to be sure. no matter what it undertakes. as the combination of the dark principle and light of reason. This idea is of its own creation. and yet Kierkegaard viewed this as impossible. its entire existence can become simply an imaginary construction. which is the self s power to conceive or think the ideal (perfection) in an infinite distance from actuality. and it may actually spend its whole life in this idea. Its reason is always partial and insufficient to this task. In the end.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 133 source. apart from any of the 'ideals' of the established order apart from the possibilities handed it from this order . It seeks to be something by asserting itself in existence. While they are more actualized than others. which allows humans to be independent from God. plunging into the dark depths to create itself from out of its own power. their significance and meaning are not .

far from the self succeeding increasingly in being itself. The despair of this defiance is due to the fact that the very freedom which allows the self to create itself is the same freedom that can dissolve this self-creation. in 'the whole dialectic in which it acts there is nothing firm. the self creatively acts into the dark depths. that is eternally firm'. in the creativity and spontaneity of its own freedom. As Anti-climacus puts it. That is a specious seriousness. The binding power of this self and its resolve is to be found only within the individual's freedom. keep this resolve for a lifetime. and everything that has been pursued with earnest resolve can come to nothing by its own dictates. it can.that God takes notice of one. to the mere appearance of earnestness or seriousness. This is due to a lack of earnestness . as its own master. .or rather. Freedom is not sufficient in itself for the self to become itself. this is stealing from God the thought . Although it may. nor even out of the understanding in a purely rational sense.13 The problem the active self faces is that there is nothing binding and intrinsically stable in any of its endeavours. it seeks to be itself. it is attempting to establish its own order by the ordering power of the light of reason.134 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil under the defiant person's power. the ultimate emptiness of the resolve is that. it becomes increasingly obvious that it is a hypothetical self. however far an idea is pursued in practice. The active self recognizes no power over itself. As Anti-climacus says. at any moment. So. because.which is seriousness . As with Prometheus' theft of fire from the gods. rather than being mastered by the established order — that is. the entire action is contained within a hypothesis. in place of which the despairing self is content with taking notice of itself. The self no longer acts out of the arbitrariness and otherness of the established order. therefore in the final instance it lacks seriousness and can only conjure forth an appearance of seriousness. This creation is not irrational. making the self it wants to be. at no moment does what the self amounts to stand firm. instead. except its own resolve. Its authenticity is that it seeks to master its own existence. even when it bestows upon its experiments its greatest possible attention. and yet just this is its despair: The negative form of the self exerts the loosening as much as the binding power. Its ultimate despair is that there is nothing to bind it to its choice and its ideal. which is meant to bestow infinite interest and significance on its enterprises. and which is exactly what makes them experiments. but freedom must rest transparently in the power that established it — a power that is unconditioned. start quite arbitrarily all over again and. theoretically at least. it can change everything in an instant.

it comes to nothing. In the end. I do not believe he was able to see how the defiant individual could become an absolute ruler . then. and since the individual alone has no power to bring his or her order into the world. and exactly this is the despair. Nietzsche realized the 'great man' is not content simply to establish his own order over his particular life. For the particular will to establish itself as universal will. his position. Further. They want to embed themselves in great communities.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 135 The self is its own master. The society of men and women. in a situation where this disorder and chaos exists. there is no need for the great man to compromise. however. even this external ordering of society does not have 'staying power' for all the reasons already given. but will seek to establish it over the entire world. his sovereignty. become raw material out of which those in defiance seek to fulfil their self-creation. and gain more self-revelation. that really he rules over nothing. Because the established order is a continual levelling of individuals. chaos stimulates them. they want to give a single form to the multifarious and disordered.out of which they can create themselves but also out of the disorder and chaos residing in every established order.that is. The masses will do almost anything for them.a king with a country. but also what it regards as its pleasure and joy. it drives him to seek means of communication: all great men are inventive in such means. . it needs to extend its will. this enlargement in his experience of himself as causa and voluntas is misunderstood as 'altruism'. self-revelation through a new established order. But it is easy on closer examination to see that this absolute ruler is a king without a country. However. are subject to the dialectic that rebellion is legitimate at any moment. The great man feels his power over a people. Ultimately it is arbitrarily based upon the self itself. The more disordered and chaotic it is — the more filled with dark and undefined longings . since spiritless people long for nothing more than comfort and security. and so a weakening of freedom. he could not fathom that a single individual could usurp this established order.the easier it can be re-formed by the powerful individual. his kingdom. part of the pathos of a defiant person is a desire for domination over people . including the commission of horrendous acts against others. As insightful as Kierkegaard is about the individual. and thus create one of his own.16 Kierkegaard appears to view this despair as ultimately going no further than the individual. and will follow those who promise to deliver such things and appear to have the power to back up their promises. absolutely (as one says) its own master. his temporary coincidence with a people or a millennium. He writes. The material for self-creation no longer simply comes from the dark abyss . He believed any relation to the established order and the finite would necessarily lead to compromise.

the direction of defiance is the same: . and a god without ultimate power. the self. for out of the consciousness of its weakness in regards to the finite and temporal. The active self may live in its defiance its whole life. however. When defiance comes to realize that it does not appropriate transcendence as its own — that it cannot reveal itself in its particularity as something all-consuming. and yet it remains in despair.136 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil The active self has taken hold of itself in authenticity. In other words. Whether this thorn is a specific limitation or the consciousness of the general despair of self-creation. the infinite 'negative self feels itself nailed to this restriction'. it is unwilling to be itself. stable. in willing to be itself. because it is unwilling to allow the power that established it to appropriate it. Or perhaps it becomes conscious of the dialectic of the active self. defiance comes to feel itself as cornered and trapped within the limitations of its own existence.20 Anti-climacus speaks of such a person becoming conscious of a specific 'thorn in the flesh'. becomes its torment: in the face of the power that established it. This rise in consciousness. Perhaps it recognizes a limitation or weakness that brings down the whole imaginary construction. The Self that is Defiantly Passive The self that is defiantly passive is the form of defiance that has come to better understand its relationship to its source.that power which binds it to itself in steadfastness. or gain control of. sought to relate to both the infinite and finite. Whichever way this consciousness comes. its own source. we can see how this defiance becomes a radical evil. for it has willed to be itself in defiance of the power that established it . We will now look at the transition from the active self to the passive self. which will not allow the infinite self to continue its imaginary constructions. it will likely discover that it is not its own master after all. it is a king without a country. and see the nature of the latter's defiance. and thus becomes aware of its despair. in that it is an evil whose very existence is defined by its hatred and rebellion against the Good. If we call this power the Good. With this.then it develops a tormented relation to transcendence and the power that established it. defiance has taken a disturbing turn: it begins to lash out at existence and its source. because it is so transparent to itself. and unconditioned . through the power of the infinite. though. Thus. It is a strange twist. In the consciousness of this power over which it has no control. This remains despair. Its reaction to this power is intensified as it finds itself unable to either wiggle free from. it has a deeper consciousness of itself and its relation to the power that established it than does the active self. has sought to be strong by stamping its will upon the finite.

would be to abstract from it. The unfulfilled longings. defiance is at the point where it becomes offended by this possibility: these promises of rain only mock its infinite thirst. You probably admitted that life was a dark saying. but not in spite of it in the sense of without it (for that. contrary to his admonition. almost flying in the face of his agony. Kierkegaard describes this move in one of his Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses: [Pjerhaps you were too old to nourish childish ideas about God. One decides to bow to the contradictoriness of existence. pride and defiance. Through infinite resignation. indeed. Indeed.and your heart grew hard. to take eternal possession of it. in keeping with the apostle's admonition. you would not trouble yourself about the explanation . If life is a dark saying. and it holds onto this darkness in order to nourish its growing discontent. Despair at this stage has felt the full force of its weakness. so be it. It has also come to see the despair of the active self. not out of humility for the power that established it. a self-becoming that might break through into a true identity of freedom. In this acquiescence to the darkness of existence. it knows the suffering of freedom or spaciousness. In this suffering it does not will to be itself by faith in God — a joyful relation to God . or rather. the limitations of reason and the pain and suffering of transparency all go to prove that God is a second-rate creator. It offends him. you were swift to anger. It had hoped for an eternal happiness. and no longer believes that 'God's rain will fall'.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 137 If he is convinced (whether it is really the case or his suffering only makes it seem to be so) that this thorn in the flesh gnaws too deeply for him to be able to abstract from it. It loses confidence in the possibility of any clarifying word. which is something he cannot do. The contradictoriness of existence becomes settled in one's mind. or at least not to be trusted. it knows the pain of not being able to create itself by piercing the darkness with its imagination. he uses it as an excuse to take offence at all existence. but you were not. and one embraces the darkness one confronts. or it would be the movement towards resignation). and suffers under it. no he wants to spite or defy all existence and be himself with it. swift to hear a clarifying word. as May put it. and its death brooded over your heart. And the chill of despair froze your spirit. then he wants. but one bows to the power welling up out of this . a strange power begins welling up within oneself. he wants to be himself in spite of it. you perhaps wished to move him by your defiance. as it were. take it along with him. Existence becomes for it a dark saying.but now wills to be itself through an anguished relation to God. too mature to think humanly about him.

if the bottomless void that nothing can fill underlay all things. Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. Anti-climacus says. . rather than resigning itself to falsehood. however. and a growing desire for one's particularity to be revealed in existence through one's torment and longing. and since existence. and I am assured that this ignorance explains everything and that this darkness is my light. . . The defiant one becomes disgusted at the desire for the Good and its clarifying word. what would life be but despair?' This cry is not likely to stop the absurd man. no transcendent and ordered reality that undergirds existence and makes sense out of it. hatred and defiance of one's existence and its source. . seething force producing everything. if at the bottom of everything. . in the storm of dark passions. It is a refusal to wait for a clarifying word. This defiant despair refuses to relinquish itself completely. feed on the roses of illusion. Kierkegaard may shout a warning: Tf man had no eternal consciousness. which sits as a thin veneer over all existence. Defiance refuses to accept God's help because it refuses to be helped on God's terms. The dark ground longs for clarification. One must therefore turn away. and yet the defiant one believes this longing exists simply to mock human existence. then the absurd man. rather. at least not the hope that existence will gain meaning and value. there were merely a wild. not because the help cannot be found. It wants to determine how the help will come. the absurd man 'knows simply that in that alert awareness there is no further place for hope'.138 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil consciousness. both large and trifling. but in coming to see life as a dark saying. If in order to elude the anxious question: 'What would life be?' one must. defiance will stand by absurdity. only serves to mock our human yearning for meaning. . This is not the power of the active self.24 The despair of Camus' absurd man does not. I know that it implies obscurity and ignorance. simply acquiesce to the dark abyss. There is no room for hope in existence. as it presents itself in its darkness and emptiness. I ask what is involved in the condition I recognize as mine. does not offer help on those terms.' Camus sees no help. darkness is the ground of all reality — the ultimate power against which we collide — and order. like the donkey. . but a power which flows from torment. As Camus has written. and divest itself of the last remaining seeds of pride. he asserts that it is inauthentic to seek a clarifying word in this darkness: It is a matter of living that state of the absurd. prefers to adopt fearlessly Kierkegaard's reply: 'despair. Kierkegaard's analysis points out that the absurd man sees no help. but because he prefers not to be helped. 'he would rather be himself with all the torments of hell than ask for help'.

so to speak. In defiance one will not relinquish the last fortress of the self: the desire to be able.such expectations only intensify the absurdity and pain of existence. and you were blinded enough to delude yourself. in that. Kierkegaard also points to the limits of reason. The evidence is in. and that the clarification of existence is not within our own power. and so although this is the sickness unto death. . however. Kierkegaard writes. For Kierkegaard the limits of reason point out that we are not in control of how we will be helped. but you also wanted him to be the almighty Creator of heaven and earth so that he could properly fulfill your wish. You wanted God's ideas about what was best for you to coincide with your ideas. we must accept the darkness that encompasses our existence as the ultimate reality. this does not mean that no clarification of existence is possible.. that reason points to its own limitations — that is. In your childish impatience. Camus speaks of this brushing up of human reason and the dark abyss as the evidence upon which the absurd man makes his stand: My reasoning wants to be faithful to the evidence that aroused it. chooses itself in its despair. to distort God's eternal nature. as if you would not some day discover to your horror that you had wished what no human being would be able to endure if it happened. For Camus. and reason must accept what has been presented: life is a dark saying. my nostalgia for unity. . to choose the means by which one is helped in existence. It is that divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints. he would cease to be the almighty Father. and the hope and expectation of reason for a clarifying word will not be fulfilled . the defiant one refuses treatment for despair . you wanted. an individual 'has himself decided originally for the necessity of his essence'. And yet. though he does not come to the same conclusion as Camus. at the very least. Defiance grows and intensifies to such an extent that it becomes that out of which one finds one's existence. however. That evidence is the absurd. It is an act of freedom in the highest sense. it points to the boundary at which darkness brushes up against human existence. this fragmented universe and the contradiction that binds them together.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 139 Philosophy has always sought to be 'helped' through reason. that the cure will be worse than the disease. if he were to share your ideas. as Heidegger put it.that is. There is a suspicion. as if you would be benefited if God in heaven did not know better than you yourself what was beneficial for you. given the way existence has been unfolding up until now. It is the existentialists' belief. It is in this sense that Anti-climacus speaks of .

[I]t seemed to him . broken. then he did what is related in an old devotional book: 'he boasted that he was lost. so that no one will take it from him — for then he would not be able to convince others and himself that he is right. for just this is its pain. He wants to maintain his torment in order continually to accuse existence of its wretchedness. out of . It chooses to exist out of its torment. judgement is proclaimed against all existence and its source. Defiance has chosen itself as lost.140 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil defiance as the despair that wills to be itself. to cease being defiant is to become the wounded. Defiance cannot take place in a vacuum. thus choosing its torment as its essence: Once he would gladly have given everything to be rid of his agony. to describe figuratively. and yet his heart continued to be troubled. and now all that's past. In the same way. all existence. Therefore.perhaps it wasn't a mistake but from a much higher point of view an essential ingredient in the whole presentation . and in this revelation. but he was kept waiting. the one for whom it is especially important to ensure that he has his agony on hand. pitiful creature one despises. has wronged. . Then his innermost being rebelled within him. . the very category carries within it the power it defies. . as if he were a child of wrath. Defiance has the same self-contradiction within itself as inclosing reserve. Inclosing reserve desired to be rid of its agony by getting rid of the Good. changes into a more positive power of spirit. as if a writer were to make a slip of the pen. he prefers to rage against everything and be the one whom the whole world. As demonic rage increases. prideful pleasure of its pain. and yet it needed the Good in order not to lose the strange. Kierkegaard writes. demanding that its existence be heard. yet it is through this torment that it has gathered itself and come to be who it is. what had previously been an acquiescence to its pain and lostness. To escape the Good is to bring an end to one's defiance. and the error became conscious of itself as such . . He did not seek peace and tranquility in externals. and yet he could not come any closer to understanding or explaining how this could be. one is careful to maintain a close relationship with the power against which one rages. the defiant person does not want to acknowledge anything over itself.and as if the error wanted now to rebel against the author. It is.' and that it was God himself who had plunged him down into damnation. Then the inner being within him froze/30 He boasts about his lostness because he himself now becomes evidence against all existence. Anti-climacus writes. .

but in human despair. the 'error' comes to be seen as an essential part of the whole production. which drives man out of the centre. The Inquisitor's defiance was expressed in a distorted (that is. and forced into forms not of one's own making. and it believes that this contradictoriness bears witness against the author of its existence. save me'. as well as its self-revelation within the 'whole production': It is horrible to see a man seek comfort by hurling himself into the whirlpool of despair. not to draw man's eyes to himself by beauty. most extreme vanity. but that he should quietly choose to be a witness to his own destruction! Oh. but is the possibility of good. As we saw in the introduction. swallowed up by the universal will. externally speaking. by honor. This terror is the anxiety of being consumed by the centre.' The self is tormented by its existence as a self-contradiction. in the anxiety of death. and in manic defiance say to him: 'No. I will not be erased. I will stand as a witness against you. and can fit in quite well with the established order. by ability. it has chosen to determine itself out of its pain and disappointment with God. T am going under. a man should not cry out for help. It provides the independent basis through which it may be conquered by the Good through faith. which sought to close off the way of freedom and self-consciousness to the . Having become conscious of its weakness and its lack of power over being. This 'attention' is not necessarily perceived as evil or destructive. a defiant) 'love' for humanity. by power. but. it also provides the independent basis through which it may rise up in defiance of the Good. but as a sign of the author's greatness: freedom and self-consciousness have been bestowed on Being through human existence. For Kierkegaard. perhaps even that around which the entire production revolves. In this. a witness to the fact that you are a second-rate author. Kierkegaard does not regard this contradictoriness as an error. Its defiance of the Good will be its identity and integrity. this terror of life is an awakening of spirit. Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor is a good example of this. But this coolness is still more horrible: that. The contradictions of the self give rise to the 'terror of life' Schelling pointed to.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 141 hatred for him forbid him to correct it. As we have come to see. it does so in its resolute defiance against the Good. by riches. It is not itself evil. the 'error' is not in the author's production. but to wish to get his attention by his own destruction. Defiance does not seek to stand out or be 'on top' through the comparisons afforded by finitude. if it draws attention to itself. Defiance wants to determine the part it will play in the 'whole production'. which refuses to exist as the painful struggle it is.

what if the Inquisitor had 'wasted his whole life in the desert and yet could not shake off his incurable love for humanity? In his old age he reached the clear conviction that nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could build up any tolerable sort of life for the feeble. convinced of this. unruly. Ivan asks Alyosha. He sees that he must deceive them all the way so that they may not notice that they are being led. the dread spirit of death and destruction. though he believed. Kierkegaard does not deny that existence is traversed on a painful road. especially in terms of infinite resignation. "incomplete. and lead men consciously to death and destruction. he does this under the banner of love. though their happiness was (and the Grand Inquisitor is fully aware of this) the sickness unto death. and came to despise even the thought of it — so offended by it's tardiness was he. and accept lying and deception. And note.142 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil masses. What he calls love is actually his own disappointment with existence. and taking away their freedom — thus. He could not wait for the rain or the consoling word. that the poor blind creatures may at least on the way think themselves happy." And so. defiance is radically evil. This. the deception is in the name of Him in Whose ideal [love] the old man had so fervently believed all his life long. desperate. taking away their suffering. he spent the end of his life and most of his small fortune trying to intensify this suffering by attempting to awaken the single individual to the terror of life. his task becomes the ideal around which his life is integrated. Thus. Conclusion: The Category of Offense We must now bring our reflections together in the context of a focused treatment of the question of evil.'33 The Inquisitor decides that he will help the masses by blinding them to their task. I believe). Further. though he believed that the consciousness of existence would awaken spirit to its ultimate freedom. indeed. From the standpoint we have reached in our . He will be perceived more as a saint and saviour than a devil. As we have seen. he seeks to close off the Good for all other people. though it is defiance against love. though internally the act is one of self-conscious destruction: the desire of watching the masses plod comfortably and contentedly to hell. the Inquisitor says (in irony. empirical creatures created in jest. sometimes empty. No doubt he knew that some who were awakened would choose defiance. that they may at least be happy in their miserable existences. in another it is closer to it than spiritlessness. At this point. Existence is confusing. and exhausting. as distant as defiance is from the Good in one sense. he sees that he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit. is for the good of the masses.

the mind is itself. In regard to this Augustine wrote. To relate to the Good out of misery. but when it becomes that passion around which one gathers one's life. Karl Jaspers has described the aggressiveness inherent in the despair and evil that has gripped our age: What took over the rebels' [those who have given up the question of truth and falsehood] state of mind was simply the lust of being against' \_sic\. but it is a Yes. is to be offended by the Good. It is a position (a positive stance toward Being). The mind commands the hand to move and there is such readiness that you can hardly distinguish the command from the execution. While there is no doubt that the dialectic of evil entails a No to hope and faith. The mind commands the mind to will. orders. except for this .' This No is not an evil that is a negation or privation of the Good in the traditional conception. Yet the mind is mind. We have seen that defiance has an anguished relationship to the Good. of destruction as such. The mind gives the body an order. it was aggressiveness in itself. it is to be understood. measures. Why this monstrousness? And what is the root of it? The mind I say commands itself to will: it would not give the command unless it willed: yet it does not do what it commands. The trouble is that it does not totally will: therefore it does . Augustine's Confessions already contains an explanation of this purity of heart. we are now able to gain a deeper understanding of the passion at work in evil. whereas the hand is body. more primordially. The delight of the 'we' in joint unsubstantiality caused the illiberal intolerance of a No born of nothing. and is obeyed at once: the mind gives itself an order and is resisted.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 143 analysis.34 No itself. in which the will wholly wills the Good. of smashing traditions. so this offense becomes more intense. evil becomes radical and aggressive. Purity of the Heart is to Will One Thing Kierkegaard's understanding that purity of the heart is to will one thing is not new. Evil gathers its existence around the destructive passions. the brazen avowal of vulgarism in word and deed. Everything is to become nothing. this offense is at all levels of despair. but it does not do it. as a continual invitation (a Yes) to despair and offense. As we will see. We may now say that the passion at the heart of this unhappiness is offense of the Good. Just as despair grows in intensity as the self becomes more selfconscious and free. and not simply a privation (not simply a failure to comply with some universal standards put forth by human or divine decree).

then one's will is necessarily good. Kierkegaard was able to tap the tradition moving from Kant to Schelling. for Kant. it is not yet 'monstrousness'. who are the supreme substance: so that it casts away what is most inward to it and swells greedily for outward things. With this view of the pure heart. 35 While this lack of whole willing is a sickness of the soul for Augustine. I realized that it is not a substance. The problem of good and evil plays itself out in this development from unconsciousness to consciousness (the development of freedom). concerning the nature of sin (evil). it is merely a lack of health. like Augustine. O God. evil becomes a lack or privation of this willing of one thing . Augustine writes. It is this purity of the origin of the will that gives moral worth to actions. then one is acting from natural impulses or inclinations. In Schelling a malignant reason is indeed possible. reason infallibly determines the will. and it disobeys the command in so far as it does not will.144 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil not totally command. It is therefore no monstrousness partly to will. but a sickness of the soul to be so weighted down by custom that it cannot wholly rise even with the support of truth. But it does not in its fullness give the command. Kant came to realize. a privation of a fully integrated will. The connection between will and reason is not a preordained. In originally working out his ethics Kant. For if the will were so in its fullness. partly not to will. Since this is not acting from the will. Rather. Thus. It commands in so far as it wills. not some other. then there is no place for immoral actions: all actions are either moral or amoral. also held the view that moral action came from the pure will — the good will — which fulfilled its duty out of respect for the law. Kierkegaard understood this purity of the heart that wills wholly for the Good.the Good. one cannot be said to be acting out of freedom. When one does not will from reason. in that if one acts according to reason. so that what it commands is not done. but a swerving of the will which is turned towards lower things and away from You. in Schelling's ontology. however. which is a struggle of the particular . that if the only free actions are moral actions. it would not command itself to will. and those done against duty are done merely from inclinations. [WJhen I now asked what is iniquity. established relation for human beings. The will is commanding itself to be a will commanding itself. Within this recognition. but he also realized that there is a purity of the heart that wholly wills by turning toward the Good in defiance. there is a sense of becoming in which consciousness arises out of unconsciousness through the light of the understanding's penetration into the dark depths of longing and will. We noted that.

begin to come to light. rather. and that it will be 'good'. Evil is not. While Kierkegaard took much from Schelling's analysis. then. but reason itself. Evil becomes radical when one chooses to determine one's freedom on the basis of one's particularity against the universal will of reason. but is fluid in its development. transcend. what keeps it moving is the expectation that the nourishment will come. and have chosen from a 'place' outside time. a dimension reaching back before one's birth. This is possible because the dark depths of longing and the light of reason are dissoluble in human beings. In other words. but through existential leaps. This transformation is a movement into further transparency and freedom. As the self moves from stage to stage. What it means by 'the Good'. in which the individual determines the purity of the will from out of a choice. It is not the incentives that act as the rule of the will's maxim (to put it in Kantian language). The connection between will (the dark depths) and reason (the light of the understanding) is not set in stone. and finds the nourishment in the passions by which one leaps into another stage of existence. This choice — which has already been made by the time we come into existence . however. the eternal from the aspect of the past. which it has been his definition of radical evil: 'Only an evil which attaches to us by our own act. and so. In this concern one comes up against limits reason cannot. Schelling could not allow freedom to remain as a loose end. As a system builder. he closed his system by use of the Platonic notion of recollection — that is. he did not accept that the determination of one's will (the basis of freedom) is posited in the eternal past. so one may use the light of reason in order to create a false unity out of the dark depths. albeit a false unity.'' Freedom arises out of this originality of disposition. the self continues to define the Good solely within its own horizons. as it grows in self-consciousness. as philosophy has always done. and by which the knower is transformed. but does so from birth. a discord in which there is the chaos and disorder of the various desires and passions which drive the individual from one appetite to the next. my 'just desserts'. it is in the concern for one's existence that all genuine self-understanding arises. can therefore be designated as radical evil. which are driven by reaching the boundaries of a particular stage or life-view. Still. by itself. what is good for me. the light of reason has penetrated the darkness and separated the forces. According to Schelling. these pockets of selfishness. we have always already chosen to determine our will according to selfishness. The grasping of Being is not simply — or even primarily — directed by reason. Kierkegaard moves the issue into existence. is often a self-centred conception such as. The movement from spiritlessness to self-conscious freedom is a movement in which the self comes up against the limits of its existence-stage. and looks at it in terms of existential passion and concern.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 145 will against the universal will. creating a unity. .

At some point one becomes offended by existence — its contradictions. We examined how the established order becomes a . but also the mystery that surrounds it. and when it floats over the abyss. one despairs of such nourishment. but thought it had been feeding itself through its weakness — that it had. its lack of definitive answers. or as quickly as one felt it should have.146 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil The self is being transformed by some principle of nourishment that accompanies the need it continually confronts. In the end. This pride is also within spiritlessness. When this happens it is offended at the way existence has been 'set up' by the Good. we find that although it had admitted its weakness. from this perspective we may now look back and see that it is this offense at existence which is also at the heart of spiritlessness. the nourishment always came. when much of the self-centredness attached to the 'Good' has become apparent. Perhaps it is offensive that one should require supplementary nourishment of this sort. It evades the consciousness of this despair by seeking to ignore not only the contradictions and sufferings of existence. we discover that at the limit of self-conscious freedom. There can arise. nothing by which to evade its utter dependence on God. at the pinnacle of freedom. and moves into a defiance in which the will is unified around one's offense at existence itself. The Movement from Spiritless to Spiritual Offense Spiritless despair has unconsciously given up hope in the ultimate meaningfulness of existence. By admitting its need. and the fact that the universe does not revolve around one's own existence . across all modes of self-consciousness and freedom. the suffering and seeming injustice of the world. and yet. and despairs of any desire or hope for a clarifying word. the selfish and insolent demand for nourishment that was always there shows itself. becomes offended at existence. when freedom has absolutely nothing to rest on. This offense arises out of the pride that believes it can somehow move God by its suffering. Whatever the case. through its brooding and self-effacement. but becomes most apparent when it has been actualized in spirit. complaint and resounding voice. then. We have come to see that this hopelessness may eventually turn into a defiance that despairs of receiving a clarifying word out of the infinite mystery that encompasses us. an offense and despair that causes the self to recoil. though it is able to evade this despair by ignoring the limits and needs that offend it. it never relinquished its selfishness and pride. Perhaps the nourishment did not come as one had desired and expected. in that it discovers that it can neither tame nor control the Good.and so gives up hope and faith in the Good. Indeed. a sense of hopelessness toward existence. however. the self may still be offended at the very nourishment the Good provides. moved and manipulated God to act. its mysteries. Despair is.

though selfishness and pride are barely touched. which despairs of existence and the self. While one may find many interesting and important things about evil under the microscope. This offense is the leaven of evil. and it is this very confrontation that begins the process of self-becoming in the individual. life becomes trivial. by ignoring this concern. in its poverty. it closes itself off to the eternal and absolute within itself. one awakens to the absolute and the ideal. One must. In Kierkegaard's terminology. It is the pride behind the assertion that we should be the judges of God's managerial effectiveness. one will not discover its actual existential nature. Evil. Its pride and anxiety cannot allow anything to stand outside its control. the self ignores its limitations. it may evade its offense and pride by abiding in its own self-sufficiency. it closes itself off to the self-consciousness and freedom that comes out of the nothing. or thinking sub specie aeterni. With the death of mystery (the sacred). It is offended by the mystery that limits it. because evil is in the heart of the one looking through the microscope. While the ethical self awakens to its despair. and out of which it has its being. we must confront our own offense and despair. thus evading its ultimate concern. or we should have control over existence and manage it according to our own conceptions of the meaning of Being. its desire is not to become richer. in its genuine and radical character. cannot be correctly understood abstractly. We cannot gain deep philosophical understanding of its nature until we recognize that each of us is also immersed in evasion and despair that is. In choosing despair. as Judge Wilhelm said. and that the self despairs of becoming itself by denying the need and limitations. because the ground and essence of evil is found within the human heart. This prideful offense. A philosophical understanding of evil is approachable only through a philosophical ^//^understanding. in evil. gaining its identity through aping others. In this absolute choice the self is awakened to its task of becoming itself. Thus. choose despair. In ignoring this nothing. is the issue around which the problem of evil revolves. because it is outraged at almost anything beyond its control — even something as mundane as how fast the line at the supermarket is moving. but to become more impoverished. and so one begins to fulfil the ideal by one's own strength — that is. and so it seeks to wrap its mind around Being through sticking to the facts. but is grasped only through the knower's relationship to it . Evil is not to be approached objectively. and creating its own little established order — an order it feels it can control. It creates for itself its own safe haven by lowering any ideals beyond its least nothing important. like a scientist studying and observing an object under a microscope in order to discover its nature. The tragedy is that. probability. to address the problem of evil.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 147 means of evasion. Spiritlessness is offended by mystery. one . Anything that cannot be grasped under these categories is nothing .only as the evil of the knower.

Even if one does not seek identity through the external. This nourishment consists of the existential passions which allow one to leap into the religious stage of existence. Purity of the Heart: The Passions of Offense and Faith The movement toward God is radically individual. step by step. We have noted several problems that arise in the ethical relation to the absolute telos. however. otherness. the whole notion of the ideal remains ambiguous. the offense at existence comes out: the ethicist becomes offended at his or her inability to fulfil the universal. If the ethicist remains earnest in the task of selfbecoming. rather than from out of one's absolute relationship to God. and then call this the 'paradigmatic human being'. Third. the religious offers mystery. Although these qualities sound abstract. In place of this non-existing manual. into an eternal happiness. these qualities become absolute and infinite. then life would be so much easier. selfknowledge would consist of comparing oneself with this manual. the continual temptation is to 'solve' the other two problems by lowering the ideal to the socially accepted norms. or to seek any other form of human security is. and feed on the nourishment that comes only with this recognition. If only existence provided us with a clear path toward meaning (an instruction manual). absolute telos. At this point another choice is faced: one can evade this growing consciousness of the despair of the ethical existence. to look for a how-to manual. freedom would consist in wholly willing the instructions provided by the manual. Thus. the ethical seeks to fulfil itself in relative ends. but it is up to us to choose to become a self through the freedom of ethical action. Philosophical understanding would consist in reading this manual with the help of reason. we are not sufficient in ourselves to fulfil the ideal. to move away from oneself by seeking identity from the external. all non-manipulative (free) personal relationships are characterized by degrees of mystery. according to Kierkegaard. or one can again recognize the need. With each awakening of the despair of self-sufficiency and pride. To look to others in order to steady oneself. evil . The leap into Religiousness A is the realization of just this lack of a manual for existence. and through the consciousness that one can only gain oneself by way of the spaciousness and openness provided by the Nothing. and the heart becomes purified around a single. since existence has not provided us with an obvious and certain how-to instruction manual in which we may move unambiguously. First. one takes more and more possession of oneself. one may still remain offended at the darkness that remains beyond one's control. God may have given the self existence as a gift. and even darkness. Freedom arises out of this nothingness.148 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil maintains autonomous control over the ideal. infinite otherness and the darkness of the Nothing. when the relationship is to God. Second.

In terms of this failure. is not such a bad thing. because it does no good to add to the plethora of'answers' given throughout human history (though he may relish the irony of adding to the confusion by giving more answers).that is. at least according to Kierkegaard . after all. This is why Anti-climacus has correctly stated that the opposite of sin is not virtue. Anti-climacus makes clear that evil is not about particular sins. He does not possess or control the clarifying word the defiant person needs. have faith in the goodness of God. The only message he gives to defiance is that it must humble itself under its suffering. Overcoming our offense at this mystery is not accomplished through an accumulation of knowledge a penetration of reason into the darkness — but through a particular. and the origin of one's disposition. the question is whether one will curse God and despair. and then be evil on Friday and Saturday. He is writing to the spiritless. He sought to awaken the individual to earnestness. and hold onto the hope that is against hope . but about a position of sinfulness. A study of the best human wisdom and knowledge available does not simply boggle the mind. hoping to awaken them from their spiritual slumber. and so one would be good insofar as one kept its directions or rules. This is not how existence has been handed to us. offense and despair are chosen in a self-conscious freedom that has lost faith and hope in the grace and goodness of God. but faith. the more this evil is intensified . Perhaps the biggest reason Kierkegaard did not say much concerning how to overcome defiance is because he is not really writing to those in defiance. for that matter. but leaves one numb and confused. in hopes that the spiritual journey may at least begin. He understood the individual needs to be awakened to the seeds of pride.the Paradox of the Incarnation. . Thus. The more self-consciously free one becomes. This. then. who have. the more it becomes the principle out of which one lives. One may hope. because the storm brings the universal itself into question. or continue to humble oneself and worship. and so it might someday move from offense to faith. We are forced to admit that we do not know nearly as much as we think we do. Kierkegaard gives no rational arguments for God's goodness. the emphasis would be on the particular instances in which one transgressed the instructions. passionate relationship to the source of this mystery.or to Socrates. 39 When the darkness of the storm overwhelms one's life. but at least defiance is earnest. offense and despair.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 149 would consist in the lack of fulfilling these instructions. Just a perusal of Western and Eastern philosophy as well as the major and minor religions of both hemispheres — will show that existence is a messy affair. At its highest potency. that an eternal happiness consists in being good at least five-sevenths of the time. however. and evil insofar as one did not. one may be good Sunday through Thursday. whether due to ignorance or weakness. He knew full well the journey could end in defiance. made their choice. the question is not whether one can continue to fulfil the universal.

and put too much stock in our own power. for he is gallant. Notes 1. but we have given up the greater part of our Being in doing so.150 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil whereas spiritlessness does not even have the capacity for faith. we tend to put all value on what we have thought. or at least that which is to be overcome. All pursuit and love of wisdom must remain within this existential neediness. sleeping on the naked earth.p. But. and to leave the consciousness of our neediness behind as a nuisance. secondly. In this. There is no doubt that we have shown ourselves to be masters of device and artifice. in hopes of awakening the need for God. we move from setting our designs upon the beautiful and the Good. What is tragic is that we have come to use our resourcefulness against ourselves: we have so enchanted and seduced ourselves by our own resources. a mighty hunter. and put our eyes only on what we have done. he brings his father's resourcefulness to his designs upon the beautiful and the good. Eros is the passion that drives the pursuit of wisdom. By losing the need. a lifelong seeker after truth. and on those aspects of existence we can control. and the place these limitations played in the philosophical pursuit. Kierkegaard's authorship is an attempt to confront the single individual with the limitations of existence. once desirous and full of wisdom. and energetic. for Resource to become the focus of the philosophical pursuit (it took place in Plato himself). and the weakness of the self in overcoming these limitations. Eros was born from Resource and Need.98). and seduction. on what we know with certainty. impetuous. Socrates was thoroughly aware of the limitations within existence. and which longs for the Good to give birth in oneself and others. however. wills not to be itself (SUD. He recognized the frailty and neediness in this pursuit. Defiance is defined as that despair which. and so It has been his fate to always be needy. nor is he delicate and lovely as most of us believe. in willing to be itself. in doorways. 120-8. an adept in sorcery. SeeSUD. This is perhaps most clearly seen in his recounting of the myth told to him by Diotima concerning the birth of Eros. barefoot and homeless. and always partaking of his mother's poverty. By focusing on Resource — by being offended by our neediness — we look to our own self-sufficiency. and a master of device and artifice . and on the order we have created. enchantment. 40 For Socrates. and continually expressed this in the ignorance that drove his questioning. It did not take long. . or in the very streets beneath the stars of heaven. 2. that we are unable to see that we are barefoot and homeless. but harsh and arid.

SUD. but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. SUD. 19. 100. In his book. 99. 100. meal. through the eternal the self has the courage to lose itself in order to win itself. but the power of evil is what grounds such manifestations. 173-4 (my emphasis). 100. 18. In the same way. Evil is independent of its effects. Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life. the external effects display the power inherent in this evil. streetcar. 100. 1968. No doubt. Trans. 10. 98). Rising. Trans. 16. Camus is a good example of this type of infinite resignation.this path is easily followed most of the time. CD. p. 506 (my emphasis). p. Walter Kaufman and R. p. In reality. CD. the freedom of the self does not mean that we . 4. 12. "Begins" . 8. It has to do with freedom and self-consciousness. p. SUD. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. p. 131-2. to be itself (SUD.Defiance: The Essence of Radical Evil 3. it is infinitely far away. Hollingdale. 13. 14. The Myth of Sisyphus. SUD. And just because it is very close to the truth. It is because of statements like this that Kierkegaard is often pegged as a subjectivist and relativist of the most radical type. pp. The despair which is the corridor to faith is also due to the help of the eternal. 7. But here it will not begin by losing itself. is not to say that we control or create our own truth. Rather. 6.this is important. SUD. 1955. meal sleep. and not with the external. but that we have allowed the truth to control us. then. p. 5. Justin O'Brien. 99. What follows is the gradual return to the chain or it is the definitive awakening' (Albert Camus. New York: Random. The Will to Power. 'But just because it is despair by means of the eternal. the manifestation is not the power of the evil. the truth is what appropriates us. 10). streetcar. SUD. however. it wants. one finds an instance of a secularized infinite resignation: 'it happens that the stage sets collapse. pp. p. SUD. p. In the Postscript Climacus speaks of the need for the self to appropriate the truth. 15. p. 131. p. But one day the "why" arises and everything begins in the weariness tinged with amazement. 131. it is in one sense very close to the truth. SUD. Friedrich Nietzsche. four hours in the office or the factory. and in this sense truth becomes subjective. p. four hours at work. because it is an ontological issue. and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm . J. 99. for he recognizes the despair of such a project. CD. p. 151 9. creating it according to our own will. 100. It awakens consciousness and provokes what follows. Kierkegaard knew that we do not appropriate the truth. 17. It should be noted that simply because this defiance has outward effects does not mean that it is more evil than the defiance that does not manifest itself. 11. New York: Random. EUD. on the contrary. To say that truth is subjectivity.

Plato. 555-6. 65 (my emphasis). Schelling. pp. pp. pp. 103. .pp. SUD.p. Heidegger. he is glad to be helped. 1967. Philosophical Faith and Revelation. Ed. 24. Trans. even if this worship takes the form of envy and resentment. p. 102-3). p. PH. 35. 38. But as soon as the question of being helped begins . 1961. p.. Augustine. 155. pp. 40.that we are self-sufficient . pp. 141-2 (my emphasis). 34.. Confessions. 105. 39. 31. 1985. SUD. 1992. 25. . SUD. 30. 28. p. 101-2. 27. Trans. well yes. EUD. Camus. 36. especially when the help is to come from a superior. Augustine. 1980. 21. pp. If then someone helps him. Dostoevsky. 30-1. 295. to be serious. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns.but freedom is the means by which we open ourselves to being controlled by the source of our existence. p.must worship something. EUD.37-8. Symposium. 121. Indianapolis: Hackett.67. 101. 241 (my emphasis). Ashton. pp. 114-15. Sheed. 97-8 (my emphasis).J. 28. Michael Joyce. Trans. . or the most exalted of all . 26. p.then comes this humiliation of having to receive unconditional help. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 20. pp. See SUD. 33. E. 22. 23. SUD. 37. 32. Karl Jaspers. of becoming like a nothing in the hands of the "helper" for whom everything is possible . Camus. SUD. p. The same idea is expressed by Anti-climacus in The Sickness Unto Death: 'someone suffering has usually one or more ways in which he could wish to be helped. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. B. p. 29. p. EUD. Princeton: Princeton UP. Human existence is such that it must serve something . p. 37. p. Camus. 526-74. p.' (SUD. 102. 37. SUD. 138-41.152 Kierkegaard's Analysis of Radical Evil control the source of our existence . F. in whatever form.

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146-50 corruption 5-6. 128-44. 133. 76-7. 122. 30. 37. 147. 81. 115. 102-3. 125. 79. 80. aestheticism 25. 52. 136. absurd man. 119-21.69 Buddhism 116 Buechner. criterion 52-4. 143. 126n. 146 addiction 84-5. 128-9. 91. 144-5 longing 107.67. 106. 67. 148 awaken.122-3. 122. 89-91. 108.146. 145. 147 Aristotle 24 Augustine 8. 150 ethical 81.15. boredom 61.132-3. 81.60-61. 108. 140-1. 136. 114. 111. 102.137-9. 75-6. 129. 17. 17. 50. 104.97.85-6. 104.9 craving(s) 12-13. 61. 107-8 clarifying word 129.20. 140 dependence 107-9. 110-11. 85. 122~3. 97. ground depths 12-13. 85 bored. 118-19. 31.49-50.53. 105.81. 67. 23-4. 146 depths 11-17. 26. 94. 121.105 contingent. 34. 118. 105. 136 autonomous. Albert 138-9 categorical imperative 2~3 chaos 11.133 saying 130. 147 choice 67-8. 144.Index absolute. 129. 84-6. 79. 82. the 92-3. 139.135. 111. 54. 114. 102. 125.108.137-9 darkness 12-13. 142. 147-50 being 10-13. 117.72. 92-3. 146. 78. 89-90. 58-9. 131.31.88. 122.104. 110-14. 63-4.137-9. 49-53 cruelty 35 dark see also abyss.52. 115. contingency 8. 44-5.58-9. 145. 104-10. 72. 144 anxiety 17. 95-8. 39. 18-19. 141-2. 121 crowd.78.97-8. the 43. 135. 38. 119 consciousness 16. 91. 16 depravity 42 . 102.36. 147 decision(s) 6. 86. the 138-9 abyss 11. 58-70.141 conditional. 106. authenticity 70. 123.96-7.110 defiance 9. 135.74-5.115. 149 demonic. 95. 15. 133-4.38. 50. 105.41. 135 principle 13. 88. 29-30. 94-5. 141-2. 110.53-4. 141 comparison 8. Nicolas 38.26.27. 107. 128.143-4 authentic.119 Ahab 9 amoral 2. 130. 123-5.93. 74. 115. 118. 147 aesthete. 82.149 comfort 43-4. 137. 50-1.76.20. 54. 139. 92. 45.114. 123. 67.96. 92.113. 89.85. awakening 17-18. 132. 70-1.16. conditioned 9. 40. 108. 102. the 74-6.26 criteria.16. 116. 53. 16. 123-4. 102. 18. 132 of longing 12. 138. 85-6. 146. 110-11 continuity 29-32. 148.13.16. 41. 117. 32.18. 48-50. 134. 139. 5.83. 106. Frederick 29-30 Camus. 136.65. 141. 76. 81.20.145 Christendom 52. 82. 52-3.118. 129. 148. 58-9. 150 Berdyaev. 116. 30.27. 82.64. 150 death 8.61. 123. autonomy 2-4.81 control 14.

67-8. 102-5.13. 110. 54. 59.85-6. 61. 32. 69. 141. 131. 59-60. 24-5. 145 nexus of 15-16. 103-4. 14.93.70. 64. 111-12. 110-11. 106. 94.111.123. 107-9.97.125 duty 2.158 Index system 91 task 78.41. 146-7 eternal.16-20.147 propensity to 7-8. 47. 87. 111. 108-9.63. 31-2. 121. 110. 38-9. 62. 147 evil 4-20. 131. 80. 29. 27-9. 145. 118-20. 32-6. 82-4.18 freedom 1-4. depression 67. 125. 130-1.51-2. 102-4. 26.115. 75-93. the 42-3. 34-6. 111. 118-19. 122 ethical 41. 92 disinterested 32. 149 earthly 43.103 ethics 42. 14. 72 emptiness 48. 67. 77. 28. 119. 109. 135. 131. disconsolateness 48-50. 145. 49-54. 29. 91. 71. 139. 113-15. 97-8 eternity 19-20.76. 131.10-11. 122-3. 19 established order.64. 60-9. 129-30. 49-50. 70-1. 30-3. 67. 104-5. 133-5. 50. 130. 96 dread 69.98. 27-8. 52. 110.119.109-11. 111-14. 42 moral 6-7 finitude. 122-3. 103. 12. 147 happiness 98. 36. 67.66. 74. 62. 43. 149 dissoluble. the 24-5. 28-9. 124 self's 23. 54. 9-10. 96-8. 92. 72. 38-41. 108-9. 145-7 devil. 142. 145-50 aesthetic 65. 103-4.114. 142 disconsolate. 123.84. 123-4 Dostoevsky. 98. 63-5.81.82. 127n. 46-9. 87-8.75-6. 16-20. 144 evasion 23. 145 diversion(s) 41. 135. 130-6. 129. 137.84.98. 38-40. 96. \W-% see also stages requirement 83.91. 40.108-16. 136-42. 104-6. 119. 136. 134. 47. 41. 58.123. 69. 34.82-3. 51. 137. 78. 141-5. 31-3.71 desire(s) 3-6.83.111. 138 energeia 23-4 enjoy. 123-5.102-7. 76-7 faith 18. 146.78 facticity 53. 15-16.53.106-7. 34. 120-1. 76-7. 78. 50. 102-5.118 in toto 70. 145 as weakness 7-10. existence 19.20. 38. 131. 64-8.80. 59. 117.72. 123.18-19. 45-6. 10. 85-6.28. 20 radical 1. 75. 145 disposition 7. 69. 94-5. 125. 67.142. 148-50 fanatic. 111-12. enjoyment 31. 63.5-6. 58-9.97-8. 67. 96 .70-1. 141.98. 69-70. 41. 128.40.97. 147-9 good and 1.75. 117.144 as negation 15. 141 forces 1. 119. 44.61. devilish 9-10. 23-5.69. 66-7. 80. 58-9.8. 114-17. 76.7.76. 117 disorder task of 27. 48. 143.95.8. 6-7.65.75. 123.138-40. 138-9 religious 41.123.67. 107. 17. 42. 122. 27. 32-3. fanaticism 45—7 feeling 15. 121.30.143 problem of 1. 39. 108. 30-4. 74-5. 114 human 29.51. 72.89-90. the finite 16. 61-2. 94.60. 152n.81. 18. 35. 88. 60. 109. 113 ethical 8. 137-8. 107. 45-7. 26.144 dying to 109-11 earnestness 29-32.83-7. 42-7.132-3. 84.125. 38. 122-3. 89.131. 133. Fydor 93-4 doubt 48.70-1.79-81. 56n.89.122. dissolubility 13-14. 148-9 recurrence 75 validity 44. 134.117. 125 envy 18. 131.10-13. 68-9.23. 112.80. 128-9.104-7. 114. 92. 58.54.75. 128-9. 113-14 enormous detour 120-1. 36. 105. 42. 86-8.91.129 infinitized 25. 74. 32.111. 122.113.

111-15. 83. 134-5.107.96. 18. 47-9. Immanuel 1-10. 146-50 death of 49-50 Good. 62. Adolf 9 hope 44. 128. 138-9.16. 130-3.20.96. 92.120 pure 62-5. 92. 41-2. 44. 97-8. 17. 15-16. 64.92.123. 19. 146 humble. 95. 128.81-2. 137. 120-1 happiness 4. 33-6. 104-5. Ivan 52 imagination 25.144 Heidegger. 58-60. 86. 138 Ilych.41-2. 76.86. 111. 63-4. 102-3. 110. 75. 91.30. 95. 143.46 infinitude.67 reflective 64-5 immoral. 75. 131-2. 27. 82-3. Martin 12. 43. 70-1 integrity 55n. 83-4.40. 39-42.71-2. immorality 1. 119.121 total 95-8.97. 61.62. 90.61. 103. 79. 49-51. 109. 49-50. 65. 92-7. 47 longing 26. 123. 58. lostness 24-7. 111. 19. 39-40.89. 85. 33-8. 49.84. 149 ideal. 144 levelheadedness 43-4 leap 67-9. 119. 144-5 knowledge 8. 20.23. 113. 148-9 law moral 2-10.67. 116. 114. S. 109. 18. 122. 79-81. 104-5. 38. 103-4. 35.98. 3. 92. 104-5. 135.85.31. 14-15. 128. 144. 148 qualitative 31-2 levelling 42-3.28. 148 purityof 126n. 125. 83. 137-41. hopelessness 15. 150 Grand Inquisitor 117-18.133. 122. 38-40. Karl 143 Jesus 117. 144 inclosing reserve 91—6. 146.76. 106—7. 144-5 lost.147-8 illusion 15-16. 145. 130.137 as basis 11-12 depths of 12-13.39. 68. 92. 122-3. 46 James. 61.148 Hitler. 123-4. 119. 140 indifference 29. 131. 119. 128 infinitized 25. 91-2.135 Lewis.114. 114. 130. 52-3. 133-4.32.7-8.29.135 Kant.84-6. 102-11.95. 136.123 . 103-4.140 love 7. 18-19. 131. 139. 125. 117-20. C. 86-7. 78-9. 35. 51-2. 97-8. 98. ideality 25. 12. 111. 62-3.141 intoxicated. 120. 74. 138. 120.94.90. 105. 141- 69-71.143-4. 116-17. 140-6. 46. 27. 117-23. 72. 70. 140. 116.17-18.86. 84-6.82. intoxication 39-40. 90. 27~8. 16-17.80. 26. 61. 62.122-3 guilt 19-20. 44-53. 88-93.86. 107. William 46 Jaspers.112. 115-20. 42 objective 41-2 self. humility 18. 53. 90. 95. 10. 137.70. 9. 114-15. 70.27. 85-6. 38-9. 42-51. 105. 138. 30. 34.51. 54. 116-17. 46. Sigmund 107 God 10-14.81. 122. 123. 88. 115. 94. 72. the infinite 24-5. the 10-12.26-7. 144-9 Freud. 107-8. 105.77.141-2 ground 4-6. 107. 122. 121. 36~8. 104. 138. 133-4.60-1. 149 hopeless. 66.125 joy 30.96. 123 consciousness of 89. 137. 113.Index 74-7. 80. 150 lukewarm 49. 60.13. 148 passion 30~2. 13-14.19. 147. 65-7. 98. 43-7. 105-7. 94.113.15-17. 88. 81. 40-1. 142 see also eternal health 15. 125. 142. 147 of God 11 of the will 2-3. 102. 85-7. 136. 95-8. 105-6. 133. 111. 141-2.139 heart 8. 92. 32.67. 5-6. 111.125.34. 87. 137 159 immediacy 14. 33-4. 128-31.85.130.

115.121. 122. 119. 137-8. 108. 148 religion 54. 46.69. 123-4. 58-60. 36. 47. 128-30.69-70. 39. 51-2.66-7. 58. 116-17. 12-16.147 purification 104-5. 148 repentance 79. Paul 104 risk. 36. 109-10. Machiavelli. 32. 75. offended 18. F. 85-8. 77. 138. Gerald 84. 137.42. 128. \50seealso established order pain 30. 62~5.6-10. 9-20. 40.132 Plato 7. 47-9. 66. 138. 70-2.44 power 9-10. 143. 118-21. 131. 45.71. 18-20. 118. 9-10. 47-8. 148. 51. 147 Napoleon 9 narrowing reductionism 43 neediness 83.137 meaning of life 29-30. 119 relative ends 108-9. 22. 68 Schelling. 122-3. 75. 146-50 openness 47. risky 44. 150 104-7. 116-17 mundane 36—7. 67-9.92.60-1.88. Karl 107 masses. 139-41 Pascal.10. 105. 18. 27-8.94 repetition 29-31.98. 135-6 redemption 92.45-7. 36 object of 102 personality 7. 133. 122. 48.122 rebellion 10.96. 133. 123.68. 13. 15. 114. 75. 147. 122. 113. 123. 11-15. 75. 42. 18.145 malignant 8-9. 141.87 idealizing 30-1. 131. 42. 104. 16.61. 142 resolution 35-8. 62. 68. the 43-5.80-1. 148 offense. 28. 112-13. 60. 123-4. 79. 119. 129-30. 83-6. 70.78-9. 42. 62. 46. 146-8 meaningless. 65-6. \50seealso infinite ethical 79.49 multiplicity 28. 110. 133-4. 123 for evil 28.75. potentiality 3. 107. 143.75-6. 95. 47.5-6. 128-41. 33. 125. 50. 1. 67. 139.111 Rahner. Karl 28 reason 4. 150 Nietzsche. 138. 111. 41. 133-5. 30. 94. Blaise 62 passion 17. 60.76. 142 maxim 2-3.47-8 self 28-9.28. 48. 140 Ricoeur. 75-6.97. 31. 49 moral action 1-2. 23-4.8.80. 119.94 reflection 36. 69. 145. 144-5 Schopenhauer. meaninglessness 43.85. 48-9. 120. 144 practical 2-3. 111. 35-6.86. J. 47. 43. 150 predisposition 7. 145. 135 nihilism 107. 123. 137. 60. 66. 137.47.45 moment of 29—31. 88-90. 80. 97. 83.87-90. 98. 131 pride 27. 148 nothingness 75. 129-30. 35.91. Niccolo 26 Marx.160 Index potential. 145 limits of 139. 115. 6-7. 144-5. 149 Religiousness A 95. 16. 91-5. 103.76-7. 129. 93-5.42.145 May.106-7. 38.33. 18. 122-3. 113-14. 51 . 113 responsibility 29. 46. 122. 142-3. 107. 45.81. 116.119. 110-11. 105-6.146-9 primitivity 53 privation 15-16. 104.33. the 135. W.123 norms 8. 109-20. Friedrich 36. 143-4 probability 43. 128-9. 103 revelation 11-12. 99n. 137. 28. 132 Meister Eckart 116 moderation 43-5. 31. 67-8. 130-32. 117 resignation finite 66-7 infinite 73n. 66. 148-9 light of 13-14. 123. 113-14. Arthur 108 secular mentality. 79. 11-14.32. 128.148 order 8-9.

63. 125. 102. 119-20. 77-9. 128-32. 132 selfish.26-8. 116. 120-1. 145-6 .49. 140-2. 122. 42-5. 141.67-8. 31.136-41 empirical 4 misrelation of 24. 114 terror 69. 111. 117. 58.24-5. 105. 149-50 sovereign. 117-19. 135.Index self. 125. 11. 124 as a relation 23-4.33. 122 religious 59. 118-21. 105.58. 69.144. 113-17. 133. 75. 114. 146 spiritless. 65. 123-5. 67. 34. 111. 92. 43-4. 89-90.91 ethical 59. 69. 132. 117. 42-3. 114.79. 17-19.141-2 tranquil.87. 145-7 self-contradiction 24. 130.96. 79. 16. 141 self-sufficient. sufficiency 80-3. 61.102. 80. 128-30. 115. 24. 112.110-13. 84-5. 83. 148 strength 9. 36.124 as task 78 task of 23.109. 125. 150 self-will 13-14. 43-4. 28. 147 struggle 18. 65.42.95. 36. spiritlessness 18. 83. 145 aesthetic 39. 145-7. 122. 48-50.104. 70. 109.32. 147-8. 42.137. tranquillity 42. 135.98. 81. 37-8. 117.7. 70-1. 113-16. 77-8 telos 23.78. 132. 8 1 . 58-65. 88. 43. 123. 32-4.84.85-8. 122. 137. 123. 107-9. 14-15. 106.24-9. 36. 62-4. 42. 104 self-possession 29.17.28. 34. 109-11. 1 1 1 . 32.20. 113.20. 76.91-2. 74-89. 107-8. 122-3. 128 self-becoming 23-5. temporality 23-6. 112. 130 syntheses of 25. 102. 92. 54. 32-9.90-91. 54 self-determined. 28. 128. 34. 31. 70. 118. 145-7 Shakespeare 59 161 single individual. 145-8 active 132-8 defiantly passive 132.118.68. 80-1. 122-3.91-2. 149-50 sin 18. 119. 135. 103.59. 58-61. 19 phenomenal see empirical self poles of 24-5.98. 110-11. 81 self-revelation 11.68. 93-5. 131. 139. 142. 46.87. 125. 50. selfishness 16.148 spirit 7-8. 85. 32.107 absolute 98. 150 Socrates 58.85.29. 2 6 .93. 20.42. 1 0 2 . 38.114-15. 95.83. 108-9. 120. 97. 146. 122. 104-5. 145-6 self-consciousness 25.85. 1 1 5 synthesis see self talent(s) 60-1. 118-19. 116.135 spaciousness 115.28. 37. 130. 47-52.48 selfhood 14. 102-3.94. 96-7. 133. 105-6. 71 of life 17-18. 85. 53. 42. 102. 40. 54.76. 58-9.71. 42-7.84-5. 18. 38. 120. 63-4. 88. 72.82. 108-9. 83 structure of 23.95. 112. 144 suffering 89-90.81-8. 26. 110-11. 59-62. 114 self-actualization 80.47. 102-5. 14-16. 123. 92. 81-2. 107.76. determination 1. 25-9. 42 as negative unity 25. 123-4. 32. 102-5. 149 surrender 1 2 . transformation 20. 102-5.88. 147-8 self-centered 35. 141. 18. 98.148 temporal. 149 consciousness of 29. 44.123. 29. 141. 67.91. 28 noumenal 4.91. sovereignty 81. 122 self-knowledge see knowledge self-legislation 2-4 self-love 7-9. 142. 54. 86 state of 85-9 stages of existence 25. 136 tension(s) 12. 85-7. 137. 115. 130. 92. 140 transform. 91. 31-3. 85. 137. 142. 54. 105. 20. 49-51. 75-7. 43. 52. 36. 67-9. 77. 13-18.33. 128. 70. 17-18. the 5.97-8. 34. the 50-4.119-21. 140-1 self-deception 28. 69-72. 107. 129.

89-90. 30. 112-14. 75. 135. 10.135. 128-30. 60-1. 113. 88. 123.82. 62-5. 49. 135. 134. 106. 122.146. 84. 49. 52. 87-8. 71. 13-14 Willkiir 6-8. 43-4. 86-7.85. 147 Index Weil. transparency 36. 117. 133. 92. 19 sensible 4-5 worldliness 26-7. 39. 144 particular 13-15. 17-18. 80-3.95. 47. 128. 112. 139-40. 119 victory 71. 84. 4. 77. 72. 146 intelligible 4-5. 123 worship 18. 150 . 49-50. 132. 47. 76. 52-4. 24-5. 47-50. 64. 132. 136-7. 145 universal 13-18. 25. 93. 136. venturing 13. 44-7.123.97. 145 trivial. 89. 24-5. 123. 37. 108-14. 40. 104. 122-5. 119. 58. 67. 34. 109-10. 131. 116-17.115. 13-14 world. 141. 49. 119 vision 78.118. 117 unwillingness 36-7. 119.133. 102-4. Simone 116—17 wickedness 8—9 will. 133-4. 75. 34. 17-18. 98. 37. 60. 111.46. 143-6 autonomy of 2~3 corruption of 5-6 freedom of 28 infinitized 36-8 origin of 2. 133 weakness 42. 39. 68-9. 111. 136 Underground Man 93—4 unfreedom 92~3 unruliness 11-12. 93. 131 venture. 72. 98. 64. 141. 10. 52. 136-7. unconditioned 46-8. triviality 29.149 unconditional. 90-7. 107. 82-3. 81-2. 129-30. 23-8.95.145 Wille 6-8. 67-72. 119-20.97. 28. 58. 66. 62-4. 117. 102-3.130. 51.13. 68. the 11. 108. 70.97. the 2-14. 42-4.162 transparent.

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