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556 19 “Consciousness has the appearance of another” On Relationality as Love There are at least three discrete models that Samuel Taylor Coleridge develops by way of articulating the intrinsic relatedness of the human person. A first has to do with the love between human beings and the question of whether the insistence of (potentially unilateral) desire negates or is compatible with personhood. A notebook entry of October 1820 frames the question as follows: “Is true genuine Love of necessity Reciprocal? that is, can I really be in Love with a woman, whom I know, does not love me?” By “love,” Coleridge means “exclusive sexual Attachment … of a refined & honorably honest Man, which is exclusively felt to some one Woman; & vice versa.” As one would expect, however, Coleridge soon leaves the realm of the conventional and probes into that “where-in … this Love consist[s]. What is its universal cause, its indispensable Condition?” In the first of two answers, Coleridge follows Plato’s Phaedrus by focusing on the apparent complementarity of the two lovers, “the yearning after that full and perfect Sympathy with the whole of our Being which can be found only in a Person of the answering Sex to our own” (CN, no. 4730). Arguably, for Plato’s “natural union of a team of winged horses and their charioteer” (Phaedrus, 246a 6–7) heterosexuality does not exactly constitute the strict requirement that Coleridge makes it out to be; even so, the key Platonic conception of love as a “yearning” for the completion of the soul is unaffected by such “Consciousness has the appearance of another” 557 technicalities and remains a central feature of Coleridge’s argument here. Two implications , again Platonic in nature, follow from this scenario: “1st . that no human individual is self-­ sufficing (αὐτάρκης): 2ndly , that the consciousness and impulsive Feeling of this Self-insufficiency increases is more awakened, is stronger & more active in proportion as the to the natural Sensibility & fineness … of the Individual” (f7v ). The Platonic notion of an ascent through ēros thus not only compels us to infer the fact of our “Self-insufficiency” but, for its ultimate success, also requires our conscious and explicit acknowledgment of that fact: “In a pure & harmonious Being noble mind, the sense of his its Self-insufficingness, the sense that it is of itself homo dimidiatus, but half of a compleat Being, exists consciously, becomes & with reflection.”1 By contrast , in a self actuated merely by an “instinctive Sense of Self-insufficingness” any rational and ethical ascent will be forestalled by a “turbulent Inquietude of mere Appetite” that lacks all regard for its object. Bearing thus far a notable affinity to Hegel’s characterization of desire as the first manifestation of self-consciousness (viz., in the modality of a “drive” and thus as yet devoid of its own concept), Coleridge’s argument now takes a rather different turn.2 A desire that has not grasped its own underlying condition signals a twofold lapse or failure of the person, as both a rational and an ethical agent. For if “to love means signifies no more than an appetite represented to the eye or Imagination under the form, of which accidentally excites it” (f9), then the conflation of the true notion or Begriff (i.e., desire) with its transient and accidental object reveals a failure to “reflect ” as a rational agent. As Martin Buber would put it, “love does not attach to the ‘I’ in such a way that it has the ‘Thou’ merely for its content or object; rather, it is­ between ‘I’ and ‘Thou.’”3 Simultaneously, in so confining itself merely to an appetitive taking-hold-of its incidental object of desire, the self also fails to realize that­ desire cannot be actualized through an act of possession but only in the modality of a ­ relation—one that would have to involve, and acknowledge as such, the other as a person of reciprocal and equal reality. This originally Platonic insight which, as 1. f10; Coleridge’s decision to strike out the masculine pronoun, substituting the neuter, reflects his preoccupation in the preceding notebook entry with finding a way to think about “Love as it exists in common both in the Man & in the Woman.” To do so, the appropriate term is “Person, instead of ‘a man’ or ‘a woman’—& yet our Language will not permit to say, It—/nor the Greek, or Latin, ό or quod as the pron. Rel. to Ἀνθρωπος or Homo—and the same inconvenience is felt when I mean both sexes...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268158200
Print ISBN
9780268038403
MARC Record
OCLC
860943773
Pages
728
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-21
Language
English
Open Access
N
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