In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

KIERKEGAARD AND THE LEVELS OF EXISTENCE REID MACCALLUM BLANKETING the summit of thought in the 1830's there lay a great glacier, the System of Hegel. Within it were held in suspension, and in alleged reconciliation, the ideal and the actual, what ought to be and what is, the inner and the outer, God, Nature, and the life of men and nations. Hegel's victories had been won through a new secret weapon, dialectic; the technique was to use and exploit contradictions rather than to ·avoid them. Any thesis-and this could be a fact or action as well as a concept-inevitably calls up and passes into its contradictory, the antithesis; (rom the struggle between the two emerges a synthesis or reconciliation which provides the thesis for a new round of dialectic. What happens to the contradiction in the synthesis? Well, it is aufgehoben; and in the alarmingly plastic German tongue to be aufgehoben means both to be removed and to be retained. Kierkegaard irreverently calls this process of "mediation," "One, two, three, Cockalorum." Simultaneously in 1843, with Kierkegaard's uEither-Or" and Marx's "Critique'~ of Hegel's political theory, two violent torrents of protest begin to rush away from the glacier, though down opposite sides of the mountain. Both men, while owing Hegel more than appears, and certainly deriving from him the dialectic which each reshapes to his own ends, agree in regarding Hegel as the most colossal,· the most complacent looker-on of all time. Both see the task of thought not as contemplative understanding of things, but their radical transformation . What Marx demands, the union of theory and practice, forms the core of Kierkegaard,s "existential" philosophy-that a man should think his life and live his thought. Both are preoccupied , not with abstract essence, but with existence, and for both this implies action, passionate and single-minded decision. The demoralized age of which Marx says that its passions are without truth and its truths without passion, is the same which for Kierkegaard is "a knowledgeable age without passion, where all know the way we ought to move, and how, but no one moves ... , where men want the established order to continue, but are reflectively certain that it no longer exists." 258 KIERKEGAARD AND THE LEVELS OF EXISTENCE 259 For both existence is change, passage by sudden leaps to new levels of quality; it is kept moving by the tension of opposites. But here all resemblance ·ceases. It is under Kierkegaard's ,. sign of "Either-Or" that these men operate, and Marx 1s the Either to Kierkegaard's Or. Hegel, a false mother like the one in Solomon's judgment, had pretended that the inner was the outer and the outer the inner: that either half of this baby was as good as, the whole. But Marx and Kierkegaard each demand all or nothing. And for Marx, of course, existence is the outer, the objective: the social process of economic production is the substantive reality which is finally decisive for everything else. No doubt Marx was not a Marxist-at least not to the extent of denying the very existence of a self and of individual consciousness. But it was not substantive ; it was not to the point; it was a realm of reflections of the objective, and treacherous reflections, full of shadows and distortions and uncertain deceptions: something to escape, and from which there is no escape in terms of this inner life itself. The dispossessed, the masses, pressing on the future with all the weight of the changed economic system they will effect, hold the key to· this and all other problems. Take up their cause and you ." will escape the illusions of subjectivity. But for Kierkegaard existence is the inner, subjective consciousness . It is the masses which are a phantom-'a kind of gigantic something-or-other, made up, no doubt, of individuals, but at moments when they are nothing-an anonymous, irresponsible public consisting entirely of third parties-i.e., onlookers.'1 Existence is passionate intensity of individual inner life, and all objectivity is a more or less elaborate distraction by which the task of existing is evaded. It is objectivism...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 258-275
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.