Kierkegaard on Movement, Negation and Sin in Hegel; Reading The Concept of Anxiety VIII

The fourth paragraph of the Introduction to The Concept of Anxiety, including a long footnote, carries in with an ambiguous discussion of Hegel. The condemnatory aspect concentrates on the role of the negative in Hegel, starting with its role in the logic. The starting point for Kierkegaard’s discussion (presented under the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis) is the relation between the negative and movement in Hegel’s logic, which Kierkegaard finds most unconvincing. The negative is something that is needed but disappears in Hegel’s account, as soon as it is used, according to Kierkegaard/Haufniensis. In this respect, the negative has the same status as immediacy. Kierkegaard has already attacked Hegel’s account of immediacy, largely with regard to the danger of placing faith in the category of immediacy. Immediacy as a category in Hegel’s system disappears as soon as it is used, because according to Hegel any acknowledgement of immediacy turns into a concept, that is something which exists as more than a moment of immediacy. Kierkegaard does not want faith to disappear in this way. As he indicates in the fourth paragraph, the discussion of movement is necessary in philosophy. Discussion of movement, particularly with reference to the Ancient Greek κίνησις (kinesis) appears elsewhere in Kierkegaard, and cannot be dealt with at present, but its importance should be noted. At first, Hegel’s account of movement seems to be a disaster, springing out of the account of negation as what disappears. The point about negation is not fully explained, but is presumably a reference to the way that in Hegel negation is always a form of determination, so that defining something includes the negation of various  qualities. Negation is a necessary component of defining, because no one quality can be the complete definition, which means that any quality of a thing is negated in describing it fully, negating in limiting it in relation to other qualities.

The issue of sin in Hegel comes up, appropriately as that is the topic of The Concept of Anxiety. Following on from the assault on Hegel’s account of negation in the logic, there is an assault on the idea that sin is negation. No time to check precise references right now, but this could refer to The Phenomenology of Spirit or Lectures on the Philosophy of Right. It might refer, for example, to the Philosophy of Right account of evil emerging from the individual negating the external world as negative from a purely subjective point of view. The background to this is in Kierkegaard’s criticisms of ethics as founded on communal values in Fear and Trembling and Either/Or, both published the year before The Concept of Anxiety. What Kierkegaard is attacking, to some degree, is Hegel’s view that individual ethics should be directed by the ethical life of a community, a position that Kierkegaard believes brought comfort to antique life, but which is not adequate to a Christian understanding of individuality at the basis of sin and ethics.

Another part of the background to sin as negation is the view of Plotinus, the ancient Neo-Platonist who saw evil as negation of being. This is generally held to be a major influence on Augustine’s view of sin and evil and therefore an influence on the whole Christian tradition on evil and sin. However, Kierkegaard seems more concerned in The Concept of Anxiety with the argument about evil as it develops much later, in Kant’s position on radical evil, and in Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom. The Kant discussion in Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason is more concerned with the subjective than Schelling. That difference between Schelling and Kant is discussed in paragraph three, as has been explained. The Schelling discussion of evil can be more obviously be traced back to Plotinus. On the basis of paragraph four, it seems likely that Kierkegaard thought that evil as negation should be less the topic of discussion than the transcending nature of ethics. Ethics as a logical category of negation cannot achieve what we expect of ethics, which remains stuck in the immanent, the world of experience as explained by logic. Transcendence in Kierkegaard can only be subjective (though not subjectivist or voluntarist) in basis, concerned with the single individual (Enkelte in Danish).

The footnote mollifies the account of Hegel by suggesting that Hegel was correct to bring movement into logic and to correct the categorical arrangements, presumably a reference to the Aristotelian tradition of arguments about categories and syllogistic reasoning. However, hegel used these necessary corrections to run free, as suggested in the last sentence of the footnote. The running free is not explained, but presumably refers to Hegel’s belief that he had some kind of absolute knowing and that his system captured reality, including the subjectivity of the single individual

Link of the Day: Pippin on Hegel and Experience

Primary version of this post, with visual content, at Barry Stocker’s Weblog.

‘Concept and Intuition: On Distinguishability and Separability’ by Robert B. Pippin.

Hat tip PhilPapers

Pippin has posted a 2005 paper for Hegel-Studien on his personal page, link to posted publications, at the University of Chicago.

Pippin is a notable commentator on German Idealism, mostly Kant and Hegel. and the philosophical tradition that follows.

The paper resists the idea that Hegel should be seen as completely departing from the experienced based aspects of Kant’s Philosophy. Pippin argues that Hegel does not move into a very subjectivist view, detached from experience of the external world, or an absolute metaphysical structure separate from experience. Hegel has suffered from those kinds of interpretations. Pippin refers to philosophers who have situated Hegel, in an account of concepts, as both derived from experience, but also exceeding the content of one moment of experience, He refers to the Pittsburgh philosopher John McDowell and his predecessor in Puttsburgh Hegelianism, Wilfrid Sellars. Pippin also situates the interpretation if Hegel with regard to discussion of names in Gareth Evans and the discussion of truth and knowledge in Donald Davidson.

This rehabilitation if Hegel as a philosopher who is concerned with experience, and can be situated in ‘Analytic’ discussions of language, truth and knowledge, is well established now. Another Pittsburgh Hegelian has help establish this way of thinking about Hegel, Robert Brandom. However, even those who already have some familiarity with the material will still find Pippin’s paper to be very worth reading as a very economical statement of the issues, and this way of taking Hegel. Anyone who thinks of Hegel as anti-objective or anti-experience philosopher should certainly read this to get an excellent introduction to another way of thinking about Hegel.

Clausewitz, War, Dialectic and Political Economy

Primary version of this post at Barry Stocker’s Weblog

I’m following on from remarks I made yesterday at the end of my post on Carl von Clausewitz’ On War. Something I’ve mentioned before is the link between Clauswitz’s approach and German Idealist philosophy of the time. I’m not concerned with details of influence here, but with significant similarities with regard to ideas and methods which did not appear before. There is a ‘dialectical’ approach in Clausewitz’ book in its concern with the relation between part and whole and between opposites. Tactics and strategy only exist in comparison with each according to a boundary which shifts according to context. The success of Napoleon’s battles and campaigns changes according to how much we think about the overall consequences of a battle and consider what might have happened if Napoleon had done something different, or if his opponents had judged the situation more accurately. What I didn’t talk so much about yesterday is how far Clausewitz suggests that the success of one side in a battle depends on its relation to original goals. A battlefield victory in which the general does not achieve goals with regard to destroying the enemy’s army or occupying territory is not a real victory. A defeat in which the general was intending to retreat to predetermined lines while destroying as much of the enemy as possible is not a defeat.

This does parallel Hegel’s idea of dialectical method in philosophy, which emphasises context, relation between part and whole, the move from particular to universal and simple to complex as all relevant concepts are brought in relation to a single concept, the importance of conflict and resolution between differing ideas.

It also parallels political economy, which must have had some impact of Hegel. What I mean by political economy is largely Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). What Smith is concerned with is how trade and commerce integrates differing and competing interests from different parts of a country and even the world. On a very simple level, we can only understand why a village bake makes bread in relation to the demand for bread from other villagers. At a slightly more complex level, we can only understand why wheat is grown in certain parts of a country because of the demand from bakers for the materials to make bread. Economic processes allow the mergence of very complex co-ordination of a mass of different points of production and demand through a mass of individual decisions to respond to demand and production. What happens at any one point can be partly understood through a simple relation, people in that village want bread, but only fully understood through the complex set of intersecting relations in the economy as a whole.

Some of what Clausewitz says about military organisation and decisions applies to economic activity. Smith referred to the economic gains of dividing a production process between simple repeated actions carried out by distinct individuals. Famously is model was a match factory. Clausewitz recognises the value of routine to reduce friction in the operations of an army. He sees the battle as made up of a complex interaction of decisions made by junior officers, which the commander-in-chief cannot control.

Clausewitz is very concerned with an overall estimate of costs and benefits, and the hidden costs of not following a certain course of action. This is the sort of thinking with which economists are very concerned, what are the hidden costs of an individual, corporate, or governmental decision; how to calculate the opportunity cost of lost benefits from another decision and the ways that not thinking about opportunity costs. Smith has a classic account of this at the governmental level in Book IV of The Wealth of Nations, ‘Of Systems of Political Economy’.

Some of this might sound very commonsensical, but as I pointed out yesterday Clausewitz explains that the importance of numerical supremacy had largely been ignored in war. What can seem like the obvious now, may not have seemed at all obvious for millenia of previous history.

Adam Smith’s attention to the basic forms of economic interaction and the appearance of complex systems, was certainly known to Kant as he refers to the role of self-interest and trade in creating human communities and unifying human communities. Before Smith it may have seemed to bizarre to think that humans come together because of self-interest, but Smith explains who competitive self-interest and co-operation need each other and even if they conflict sometimes they also depend on each other.

Kant rejected the idea of ‘dialectic’ in philosophy, nevertheless his philosophy is dialectic in the sense that it deals with complexity, parts and wholes, interaction. Kant rejected ‘dialectic’ because he thought it was a kind of reasoning that lacks reference to experience, but in Smith we see a dialectic in an area of empirical study. We don’t have to call it dialectic, Smith did not, but it we describe Hegel’s ‘dialectic’ in the simplest terms possible we can see a connection. The connection goes indirectly through Kant, but also directly as Hegel thinks of law arising from the need to mediate property disputes within the kind of economy described by Smith. This is a dialectical move, law which is universal within a community emerges from conflicting particular interests.

It maybe that Hegel’s attempt at a dialectic of spirit or logic, is too abstract and speculative, but even if we think that, we can still take bits of Hegel independently of that grand project. This kind of social-political argument in Kant and Hegel, has an impact in their philosophy as a whole.

There are certainly other things to be taken into account, the development of science, the influence of slightly earlier and contemporaneous philosophers are among the most obvious; but the methods of German Idealist philosophy have some connection with political economy. Clausewitz could not have written On War before the era of political economy and German Idealism.

Philosophy and Literature: Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge

A recent rereading of Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge has inspired a view thoughts about philosophy and literature.

It is a novel which is particularly close to tragedy, as define dby Aristotle in The Poetics, a hero falls in the world and endures suffering as the result of an error of judgement. As a novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge repeats the situation in a structure more complex than tragedy. An Aristotelian terms. a repeated tragedy within an epic. The tight structure of tragedy is repeated across a work with the episodic associational structure of epic.

The tragic falls: Henchard sells his wife while drunk and angry with her; Henchard ruins himself later when he is a wealthy farmer and a mayor, by engaging in a reckless attempt to win a commercial battle with his ex-friend and manager Donald Farfrae; he misses the chance to marry his ex-girlfriend before Farfrae wins her over; he misses the chance to tell his step-daughter Elizabeth-Jane that he is not her biological father when he finds out himself: he misses the chance to tell the truth to Elizabeth-Jane and her biological father. He goes through many little falls due to his self-destructive character leading to our next topic.

The hero Michael Henchard has many ‘anti-hero’ qualities. He is a loner and is disposed to arbitrary destructive and self-destructive acts. He is a Dostoevskian character in this sense, and has some resemblance with the heroes of Knut Hansun, themselves presumably drawing on Dostoevsky. Like Dostoevskey’s characters he tends to promote scandal. One memorable example is his attempt to welcome a member of the Royal Family to Dorchester after he has fallen from being mayor and is a rather disreputable laboourer.

The anti-hero, I believe, receives its classical description and theorisation in Lukacs’ Theory of the Novel. Lukacs refers to the growing contradiction in the novel between the hero and the world. The hero does not see herself in the world and cannot follow the laws of the world. There is an opposition between subjectivity and the world. The hero can increasingly only exist as insane or criminal. In this argument, the anti-hero is the necessary hero of the novel since Cervantes.

The Dostoevskian aspects of Henchard, irritability, irrationality, self-destruction, provocation of scandal, excessive pride coexisting with excessive humility, draw us towards Bakhtin”s discussion of the novel through Dostoevsky in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Bakhtin emphasises all these aspects of Dostoevsky in a discussion of what he takes to be the ideal form of the novel in Dostoevsky. The most Bakhtinian concern is the provocation of scandal and that leads us to the preoccupations of Rabelais and his World. Famously Bakhtin there dwells on the carnivalesque as an important moment in popular culture until recent times, referring to festival moments where social hierarchy is inverted, and power is mocked. The rise of Henchard from labourer to mayor and rich farmer, and his subsequent fall to labourer again has this structure in general. One moment in the novel particularly suggest the Carnivalesque. This is the ‘skimmity ride’ in which disreputable local characters humiliate a couple in the novel. In general the Skimmity Ride is a rural practice of mocking a couple where the wife does not ‘belong’ wholly to the husband. In this case they the locals parade large dummies of Henchard and his ex-girlfriend Lucetta. The intention is to humiliate Lucetta and her husband Donald Farfrae. The consequence is that Lucetta miscarries and dies. This is the Carnivalesque as a festival of resentment, rather then the neo-Marxist reading of Bakhtin in which the Carnival is the release of popular radical energies. In this case, the mocking of power is clearly an example of evil, and is described in terms of every kind of economic, social and psychological resentment coming to the surface. It very much suggests Rousseau on self-love and imagination, and Nietzsche on ressentiment.

In its tragic aspects, Hardy’s novel seems to confirm Hegel and Kierkegaard’s analysis of the difference between Ancient and Modern Tragedy. Ancient Tragedy refers to the burden of fate carried by a family or a nation , it refers to pollution that afflicts the hero which comes from an unconscious or inherited transgression of boundaries. In Modern Tragedy, the hero bears all this alone from deliberate willed decision. Henchard demonstrates a strong sense of unbearable guilt not just at his actions, but at his who,e existence. The novel ends with his desire to be forgotten. Elizabeth-Jane is left to reflect in a more measured novellistic way on the burdens of existence, so tragic elements are modified by the novellistic which presents a whole world or varied fortunes. The tragic elements also have to be seen in terms of Schopenhauer, whose philosophy Hardy knew,a s did many literary writers of the time. Henchard’s sense of the futility of existence is like Schopenhauer. The role of tragedy relates to Schopenhauer, as does the role of music. Henchard is partly destroyed because he normally lacks the music which communicates with his inner self, a view of music clearly taken from Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation.

Fear and Trembling: Ethics of Marriage

Further thoughts while teaching Kierkegaard.

Marriage and Ethics
What is the topic of Fear and Trembling? Is it the story of Abraham and Isaac? Yes, but we should not be distracted from the other topic. This is the topic defined in the ‘Diapslamata’ of Either/Or I, in the first sentence of the section on ‘Either/Or: An Ecstatic Discourse’

Marry, and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way (Princeton University Press, edited and translated by Hong and Hong: 38)

Either/Or I deals with the aesthetic stage in which marriage is to long term in a perspective dominated by the interest of the immediate. Most of Either/Or II deals with the ethical stage, and that is defined by marriage. The ethical stage is presented by Judge William, the aesthetic stage in the fragments of an anonymous young man.

Marriage and the Daemonic
Fear and Trembling deals with the drama of Abraham and Isaac, but in large part it deals with relations between men and women and the possibility of marriage. There is more to be said about Fear and Trembling but will concentrate on the marriage theme which is deeply embedded. It was published in the same year as Either/Or, so we would expect some common themes. Kierkegaard deals with various ways in which the possibility of marriage, and barriers to such a possibility, are presented. In comedies, Kierkegaard gives Danish examples which seem to correspond with Hollywood Romantic Comedies in structure. A barrier to love and marriage is overcome through happy accident. In the more sombre examples, marriage is related to terrible danger. Sarah and Tobit in the Old Testament/Torah book of Tobit, are married despite the deaths of seven previous husbands of Sarah. Faust avoids marriage with Gretchen in Goethe’s poem to protect her from his daemonic side. In a very Danish touch, Kierkegaard refers to the story of Agnes and the Merman in Hans Christian Anderson, the story is non-Danish in origin but given that it was published by Anderson and that it fits with various reference Kierkegaard makes to Nordic myths and monsters, we can see it as belonging to the Danish-Nordic element Kierkegaard regularly introduces. Kierkegaard thinks of various possible alternative versions of the story of the girl seduced by a merman. They all deal with the daemonic in the merman.

Kierkegaard discusses various fictional and scriptural examples of the daemonic in the individual coming into conflict with the desire to marry, in a way which relates to Abraham’s choice between ethics and obeying God. Abraham’s solution is the paradox in which he obeys both, Kierkegaard recommends the same solution for the marriage dilemma. The ethical relation of marriage is threatened by the daemonic within the individual, the daemonic element within makes marriage apparently unethical for that person because it threatens the destruction of the loved person

Ethics and the Absolute Self
Kierkegaard recommends faith that ethics will not be contradicted in marriage, just as Abraham is a hero because he had faith that God’s command could be obeyed while remaining within ethics. Ethics must be suspended in order to preserve it. Ethics rests on the absolute, the absolute self, the absolute capacity of the individual for a decision. Ethics is always suspended in relation to that absolute, the necessity of the judging self.

By any standards, marriage can be defined as an ethical relation because it requires two people to think of at least one other person, and because it provides a basic structure for the existence of a society based on ethical principles. This is particularly clear if we think of the way Hegel thinks of marriage, it is the first step of the ethical. For Hegel, the ethical is a social form, a form of life as opposed to nature and as opposed to purely individual morality.

In the very first page of ‘Problema 1′ in Fear and Trembling, Hegel is referred to with regard to individual conscience as evil. In the section on morality and conscience in Philosophy of Right, Hegel refers to individual conscience as evil in its results, because it is purely individual. Opposing the individual to universality can only be evil. Hegel describes a move from morality to ethical life (Sittlichkeit, which is something like the being of ethos/mores), in which individuals are part of universality through marriage, family, civil society, and the state.

Absolute Individual and Marriage
The project announced in Fear and Trembling is that of showing that the individual is higher than the universal but is not evil. That should encourage us to read the Abraham/Isaac story as referring to individuality rather than God. This is very clear with the accounts of marriage dilemmas which in their most serious refer to the daemonic within an individual.

Fear and Trembling deals with the aesthetic individual who is beneath marriage and the absolute individual who is above marriage. The individual as individual is beneath and above the ethical relation or marriage. There is no complete distinction between the aesthetic individual and the absolute individual. The absolute emerges from the aesthetic through the melancholy of mere immediacy.

Kierkegaard’s Epistemology

I’m including some Kierkegaard in an Introduction to Philosophy course, where I concentrate on questions of knowledge. Kierkegaard is not obviously a reference for Epistemology for most people, but I believe he made an important contribution. My teaching is drawing on Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments and on Johannes Climacus or De omnibus dubitandum est, and that’s what I will mostly refer to here.

Kierkegaard against Descartes and Epistemic Scepticism
Kierkegaard questions the method of doubt in philosophy. He contrasts Cartesian doubt with the ‘wonder’ with which the Ancient Greeks regarded the world. Descartes claims that philosophy begins with doubt. Kierkegaard’s reply is that doubt in Descartes is only possible after philosophy has begun. Descartes’ method of doubt casts doubt on previous philosophical positions. Wonder better describes a pre-philosophical attitude of curiosity and questioning with regard to the world. Descartes’ claim, or implicit claim, that modern philosophy begins with doubt, leaves two unanswered problems: what was philosophy before doubt? From where did the method of doubt originate? In general the idea of philosophy as the appearance of pure doubt in the mind, leaves finite consciousness in a confrontation with the absoluteness of pure doubt. Consciousness cannot grasp such an abrupt intrusion of an external absolute. That is another reason why we need to begin with ‘wonder’. With regard to general positions in Epistemology, Kierkegaard is against scepticism. It should follow that he rejects Foundationalist attempts to find pure foundations, beyond doubt, for Epistemology.

Kierkegaard against Hegel and Epistemic Coherentism or Internalism: Definitions
A lot of what Kierkegaard writes in many texts is directed against Hegel. Where Kierkegaard talks about Hegel, he is also referring to earlier Rationalism, particularly Spinoza. We can also take him to be referring to Kant and to the more recent phenomena of Coherentist and Internalist Epistemology; and Analytic Hegelianism. Coherentist Epistemology argues that the criterion for there being a state of knowledge, is that a set of beliefs cohere with each other. Internalism develops from this position, because it argues that there is knowledge where is agreement amongst inner beliefs. Donald Davidson’s paper ‘A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge’ is probably the best known argument for Coherentism in recent philosophy. Hegel could be taken as a forerunner of Coherentism, certainly the Preface and Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit are open to that interpretation. Hegel is not so clearly an Internalist, because he takes consciousness is general as what knows. The earlier Fichte (first and second editions of the Grundlage der Gesamten Wissenschaftslehere, mistranslated into English as Science of Knowledge) might be a better example of an Internalist in German ıdealist philosophy, a he takes the ‘I’ as a starting point for philosophy. We might also think of recent ‘Analytic Hegelianism’ as a kind of Coherentism (thinking particularly of John McDowell and Robert Brandom).

Kierkegaard against Hegel and Epistemic Coherentism or Internalism: The Critique
Kierkegaard asserts that objective knowledge must be a contradiction. What he is referring to here is knowledge as something outside subjectivity. Since it must be the subject that knows, what is know cannot completely stand outside subjectivity according to Kierkegaard. An object of knowledge is known by subjectivity and therefore cannot be absolutely objective. It mus tbe an object for a subject, though that should not be taken to mean that Kierkegaard is a Solipsist. He is an anti-Solipsist since he shows how the subject can have knowledge, if not absolutely objective knowledge. Coherentism is contradictory because we cannot enter the Coherentist circle of mutually supporting beliefs from outside. The beginning of Coherentist Epistemology cannot be epistemic since it does not already have a set of mutually supporting and connecting beliefs. There cannot be a entry into the Coherentist circles accept by weakening the criterion of Coherentism that there should be a complete set of strong mutually justşfying beliefs. Hegel was aware of this problem, as can be seen in his Prefaces and Introductions, where he announces the Preface of Introduction cannot be part of the system. He leaves open the question of why there is a Preface or Introduction. This will not do for Kierkegaard, it is the subject that knows. Hegel gets into the same problem as Descartes: knowledge is such an absolute it is not possible to understand how to enter it, and it is not possible to understand how one contingent consciousness can come into contact and union with it.

Kierkegaard’s Epistemic Alternative: Realist and Subjectivist
As was pointed out above, the early Fichte could be taken as a proto-Internalist. Indeed Fichtean has been critically examined by a major Analytic philosopher, RobertNozick as contributing to the internal understanding of the ‘I’. I hope to return to Nozick and Fichte at a later date. Fichte was certainly very important for Kierkegaard, and Kierkegaard paid exhaustive attention to the internal reflections of consciousness. He also pays great attnetion to similar aspects in the work of other German ıdealists, as in theConcept of Anxiety, where he develops Kant’s account of the inner traumas free will in Religion within the Bounds of Reason and Schelling’s development of that account in the Essence of Human Freedom. Should we see Kierkegaard as an extension of Fichtean Internalism? Kierkegaard strongly criticises Fichte in his first book, his dissertation on The Concept of Irony. The context is irony in literary aesthetics. The starting point here, and in Kierkegaard’s later work is an Ironic Subjectivism, in epistemic terms Internalism. However, this is not enough for Kierkegaard.
The Paradox. Like the method of doubt (and foundationalism), and Coherentism, Fictean Subjectivism runs into paradox. The paradox is good for Kierkegaard, it is the passion of paradox. The point though is to make a ‘leap’ beyond the paradox. It must be emphasised that the phrase ‘leap of faith’ is never used and that the leap is a twist in dialectical reasoning rather than an irrational unmotivated jump in to the beyond. There must be a dialectical move to surpass paradox, because the concepts must change. The paradox is never left behind, the existence of the paradox and the surpassing of the paradox belong together. Kierkegaard’s Epistemology is Subjectivist. It is strongly Subjectivist, because it is based on a double reflection, in which reflective knowledge reflects on its belief that something is the case.
Time. However, Subjective consciousness escapes from the isolated moment of Subjectivity because that double reflection can only be grasped over time, in a moment known as the leap, as the reflection on the paradox that subjective knowledge is not knowledge of the objective. That movement in time establishes the self as existing over time as well as in moment to moment. The self is aware of something permanent in relation to itself, indepedent in relation to itself, but which is within it What is known is Real though Subjective. It does not disappear in a moment because it can be the object of double reflection, and subsequent indirect communication. It is only grasped through those movements. If what is known endures over time, it is Real and can be known to others, and we can communicate this even if only indirectly.

Negative and Positive Liberty: A Short History

The distinction between negative and positive liberty was famously discussed by Isaiah Berlin in his 1958 lecture ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’. The essay is very widely quoted which is very odd in some respects since it is not a very good paper. It is readable introduction to the distinction in very vague terms. It refers to a distinction between freedom from restraint and freedom to improve the self. The essay vaguely gestures at Eighteenth Century origins without explaining them. The essay has a very polemical purposes, delivered as it was 13 years after the end of World War Two and 5 years after the death of Stalin. Berlin emphasises the value of negative liberty in distinguishing liberal democracy from Fascist and Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism, while leaving some room for the idea of liberty as the pursuit of human perfection.

There’s a lot more going on, here is a list with so elements of a discussion.

Seventeenth Century.
defines liberty as freedom from physical restraint. The political regime is irrelevant. Ancient ideas of political liberty are an illusion. A regime based on monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy all rest on obedience to sovereign authority.

Eighteenth Century
distinguishes between Ancient Republicanism and modern Monarchy.
Republicanism is Democratic, resting on the Principle of Virtue Or
Republicanism is Aristocratic, resting on the Principle of Moderation
Monarchy rests on the principle of Honour, which is refers to Ambition.
Monarchy offers freedom absent in Despotism which rests on the principle of fear.
In all regimes Montesquieu is concerned with liberty. Ancient Republicanism gives liberty on the basis of following a character of Virtue or Moderation, linking the right to political freedom with perfection of the self. Monarchy gives liberty through honour, the principle of competitive self-interest detached from political rights.
Morality refers to positive duties/freedom and negative duties/freedom. There are negative duties limit us from harming ourselves or others. There are positive duties which encourage us to be concerned with the gaols, and ends, of others.
Negative freedom in Kant is freedom from harming the self.
Positive freedom is the freedom to perfect the self from impurity, positive freedom is willing the good of all, the perfection of humanity as a whole.
Constant Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns Hunboldt Negative Welfare and Positive Welfare
Humboldt: in the Ancient world, the state protected the negative welfare of the population, which refers to protecting its security.
In the Ancient world, the state protected the positive welfare of the people by acting to improve their souls.
In the modern world, state power is more dangerous because the possibilities of control and interference are much greater. In the Ancient world, dependence on the state was limited by the individual’s struggle with nature to survive and struggle with neighbouring states as as a soldier. Positive welfare in the modern world means the state bureaucracy interfering with the economy and providing social welfare for the poor. These measures result in a constant increase in the size of the state, and in a growing dependence of individuals on the state.

Morality and Ethical Community
In the freedom of private morality and conscience the individual is free from external constraint but has no external constraint on its consciousness and actions which are dangerously self-centred.
In the freedom of ethical community, the individual finds it is free through the family, civil society and the state, which all create the conditions for the individual to enjoy freedom though family relations, the economic corporations of civil society, the way in which the state establishes law.
In the Ancient world, the individual sees itself in the state and community of its limited social world. Following Montesquieu, Hegel suggests that in the Ancient world the state is identical with the community. In the modern world, the state is distinct from the complex structure of the community, which contains a complex civil society.
For Hegel, the complexity of the modern world gives more space for individual freedom, while establishing a a state which is the condition of modern liberty under laws.

Self-Love as the Foundation of Kierkegaard’s Ethics

I’ve just got through grading last semester’s courses and submitting grades at the two universities in Istanbul I was giving courses last semester, one full time and one part time. The process of grading overlapped with getting next courses ready, and it’s been an intense time. It’s left with me with a few ideas which I hope to keep developing. Some of this comes from what I feel I did not convince students of last semester. I usually get that when I’m teaching Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and I spent 8 weeks on them in an Ethics course last semester, after working through Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Bentham and Hegel. The other figure I might have that problem with is Machiavelli. I’m teaching him in a Politics course next semester, but I’m teaching the overtly Republican Discourses (pdf download) instead of the merely covertly Republican Prince (pdf download), in the hope that cuts out all the Machiavelli was a life style coach for power junkies kind of stuff. Machiavelli may well feature in future blogs.

My immediate concern is the tendency to see Kierkegaard as a Christian Moralist. This is a misleading way of looking at Kierkegaard, with respect to both words. That is an absurd thing to say in some sense, as Kierkegaard devoted himself to Christianity and to Christ as the supreme moralist. There are strong reasons for rejecting this label for Kierkegaard though. In his philosophical arguments (as opposed to his declarations of faith, and even those are still conditioned by the philosophy), the problem is what it is to be a self.

I chose to illustrate this in my Ethics class with a thorough look at Part I of Works of Love. That seems like a high risk place to start a non-theological and non- Fideist reading of Kierkegaard. The non-Theological reading emphasises Kierkegaard’s Enlightenment attitude to the metaphysical reality of Christianity, which is that there is no objective reality established for Christianity. The non-Fideist reading emphasises that Kierkegaard does not put pure unmotivated faith at the beginning of his thought. The Fideist interpretation of Kierkegaard partly relies on the widespread myth that Kierkegaard advocated a ‘a leap of faith’, a phrase he never used. In general it ignores the structure of argument in which a relation within the self in Kierkegaard is a relation between the empirical self and the absolute self. In genral it ignores Kierkegaard’s use of dialectic. It is ‘dialectic of the absurd’ but it is still a dialectic. Kierkegaard advocated a passion for paradox, which is sill a rational philosophical exercise in finding paradoxes of reason. Philip Quinn’s argument for a Divine Command Ethics does not rest on an irrationalist form of Fideism in its reading of Kierkegaard, but its emphasis on the acceptance of divine command as absolute is still failing to engage with the question of subjectivity in Kierkegaard.

The Christian readings of Kierkegaard cannot deal with Kierkegaard because they cannot deal with his approach to subjectivity, which is at work in all his texts, including both the ‘aesthetic’ texts of literary philosophy and the ‘Christian’ texts of Biblically based faith. We will see how this works in the highly Christian looking Works of Love. This is centrally concerned with a philosophical problem of moral motivation taken from Kant, as interpreted by Hegel. Kierkegaard deals with the question of why we should obey law if it exists in the univeral rational form suggested by Kant. What motivates the individual to follow law? It is Hegel who suggested that an absolute gap opens between subjective inclination in Kant and the abstract universality of law. Kierkegaard has a solution in love.

Christ commands us to love. Kierkegaard looks at that injunction itself, before looking at hiw it applies to ‘God’, ‘the neighbour’ and so on. In the Bible (pdf download), Christ says you shall love, or you ought to love as Kierkegaard says in an echo of Kant’s formulation of moral law as a universal ought. The command to love, however, is not a command to follow abstract duty, it is a command to be what you already are, to become what you are, since love is part of human inclinations and needs.

The command to love your neighbour comes out of the command to love (again echoing Kant on respect for humanity) through self-love. I can only love my neighbour if I can already love myself. The command to love the neighbour is the command to love yourself and then love what you see of yourself in the neighbour. The command to love God continues on this basis since it is the command to love the absolute in myself.

Kierkegaard is not a ‘moralist’ since he puts our capacity for ethical judgement on the grounds of out subjectivity, not of the duty to obey external commands. The subjectivity itself is not Christian in the sense of giving ethical commands from God which are external to us.

Therefore, we do not read Kierkegaard in all his philosophical riches if we assume that his philosophy leads us to an extra-rational faith, or willingness to follow external commands. Truth is already in us and becomes apparent in the subjectivity of life, without reference to the historical truth of the Bible or the external existence of God.