Start From Scratch

Danish 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard introduces to Philosophy., of his moment but also of our time — for anytime —  A couple curious invitations to thought.


The first one here actually came to my mind after the second one.

The second one is “Where is everyone going so fast?”

Sometimes people like to read Kierkegaard and then they start to think that he must not be saying what he’s really saying.  Then they might discover that his masters thesis was called the concept of irony, and then that confirms for them that he indeed was not saying what we think he’s actually saying.

I think I wrote in a post not too long ago about absurdity. People tend to read Kierkegaard and they see that he’s talking about absurdity and they think that he is saying something to the effect that absurdity is no place that we can go; or that the only way to go there is thus into what is irrational. Indeed, the 20th century philosopher John Paul Sartre in his existentialism is often understood to use Kierkegaard in this manner. That is, that we revolt from absurdity to assert our freedom of choice in the world, by bringing irrationality into rationality or by some concoction of the two, the various formulas… but this is a mistaken reading of Sartre as well as Kierkegaard.

Everyone loves to read existentialism in this way because it doesn’t challenge our thought in the least. Everyone, including Rollo May and Victor Frankl, two Existential psychologists of the mid 20th century, enjoy a good justification of freedom of choice.  And, I would suggest that everyone also loves to be an Existentialist and have “existential crises” that have to do with choice and mortality and things like that because it allows them to be justified in that they are experiencing the problems of their freedom. Strangely enough, no matter how shitty it gets, people will hang onto the ideal of freedom of choice to the bitter end, even justifying their own misery through projecting the freedom of choice that others have had to enact upon them such that they are now miserable.  This is so much that case that we could not be too off the mark to call this method of Being, of subjective ontological justification, the modern method.

Nonetheless, I do not see Kierkegaard as speaking of these kinds of crises, nor Sartre really. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that such existential crises as everyone loves to have are actually the type of crises based in what Sartre called “bad faith”, and what Kierkegaard refers to as the “inauthentic Christian”.  But try not to be thrown off by these religious labels — you would not want to be in bad faith, now, would you?  lol.


Now, back to the question of where everyone is going so fast. People who are in an existential crisis typically are there due to a want to avoid what existentialism and Kierkegaard was really indicating.  People have existential crises because they are unable to move beyond what absurdity marks as real; so sure and invested in the real world (what Kierkegaard calls the “universal is the ethical”) people are they will fight to retain this reality even when it does not serve them.  Existential crises in our modern world is based in that absurdity is understood to mean something that they are absolutely forbidden and indeed unable to get “into”; their conceptual ability is so repressed by this ‘real’ determination that they simply are unable to think anything outside of it; indeed, will not.

They are going so fast that they have a crisis, and then they continue to see that the solution is to continue to go fast. It never dawns on most people to stop, to stop considering their real life as the end all and beat all of what is rational and sensible.

The point that Kierkegaard makes throughout all of his works, and as well Sartre when he is considered thoroughly, is that rationality is just a name for a particular kind of thinking against which what is not included in the rationality  is “absurd”. But further;  if one is able to make the leap, which is to say, if one is able to just stay with one’s own authentic self (the leap from faith as opposed to a leap by which faith is gained through hope), then what is absurd has its own rationality. And to embody and occupy this kind of rationality, with reference to the modern sense of rationality, is absurd.. And its is because every one is rushing to get to nowhere that they never have time even to notice the absurdity of their own manner.  They rush right past the obviousness of their situation.


But likewise, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to slow down like some Zen Buddhist, be mindful of our experiences and such things.  Yes, however…

…Those those are modern rational ways to attempt to encounter what is absurd as an embodiment, but that particular method perpetuates a wall of absurdity that Kierkegaard and subsequent philosophers are trying to describe and move one’s sense of rationality beyond. Instead of a “leap”, the modern Being would rather have a step by step, cautious manner of getting to what is absurd.  But by virtue of the step by step, they often enough merely reify the there is nothing absurd at all, but only a modern way to Be, albeit, by allowing an ‘irrational’ part of themselves to take part in the rush to make mortal decisions…

…it is like a motor of inspiration…less either/or like we have to choose from a set of rationally mitigated risk options, and more that we are always caught in a moment of option which is Being pulled at from some other ‘absurd’ situation that we must rebel against despite what decision we make or have made

The radical Ontological absurdity is actually the situation whereby no transformation, no intentional slowing down, no choice over any matter of rationality is made at all.  Being is the weighing, the heaving and ho-ing; the rocking of the boat which is the individual caught in the moment of mortal choice.

We are either oriented in the heaving and ho-ing as though all of existence depends upon what choice we make, or, we are the heaving and ho-ing, making real choices only by virtue of our faith in the absurd situation whereby our heaving and ho-ing makes a difference.  The former is ethical and universal in as much as our faith in humanity sees the world with referent to our common humanity.  The latter sees the ethical universe as indeed something with which we have to contend, and indeed do contend, that is, making choices and such, but with the added recompense that the view upon this situation is radically different that the former view of Being which is essentially and totally consistent and made up only of that heaving world. It is a knowledge which is not contained and manifested with respect to the operations of the real ethical power, for, itself is, ironically, the origin of that ethical power, that is, in the last instance, which is with referent to the modern ideological mode, absurd.

…it is like a motor of existence, operating, either noticed as such, or denied by its operating.


the first one was about how “philosophers love to start in the middle”.

…next time.






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