Repetition does not feature much in Kierkegaard commentary. However, it is rather important. There is a book called Repetition and it features heavily in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. This lack of discussion reflects a failure for Kierkegaard commentary to develop properly. This certainly not a comment on the competence of individual commentators, but it is a comment on a tendency to put him in an over restricting framework, where concepts are applied to Kierkegaard without enough attention to how Kierkegaard’s thought might challenge those concepts . Over time this has given us: Existentialist Kierkegaard, Postmodern Kierkegaard, Deconstructive Kierkegaard, Literary Kierkegaard, Fideist theological Kierkegaard, Neo-Aristotelian Virtue Theory Kierkegaard.
Repetition and Recollection
A brief consideration of ‘Repetition’ will hopefully make some small contribution to grasping Kierkegaard himself. ‘Repetition’ is established in opposition to ‘Recollection’. Recollection is presented with reference to Plato’s Theory of Recollection from the Meno and the Republic. That is the theory that perceptions of the forms of things are present in our memory, so that knowledge in its fullest sense comes from recollection of those forms.
Metaphysics and Psychology
Kierkegaard suggest that his is a move at the heart of metaphysics. We can think here of Kierkegaard giving a psychological theory for the origin of Platonism and of metaphysics in general, paralleling his explicitly psychological account of Anxiety as essential to free will.
An Alternative to Anxiety and Melancholia
Recollection is a backwards move in which we establish the continuity of the self through orientating our state now to past states. It represents a subordination of subjectivity to objectivity, and a subordination of ‘living’ to abstraction. Recollection is a backward Repetition. Repetition is a forward recollection in which we live forward, actively repeating the past in order to establish the continuity of self. In this understanding, knowledge emerges from subjectivity instead of an impossible attempt of subjectivity to subordinate itself to objectivity. The relation between subjectivity and objectivity is irreducibly paradoxical for Kierkegaard, but the paradox must be approached from subjectivity because that is our irreducible starting point. Repetition is against the metaphysics which subordinates time to atemporal forms, and tries to crush subjectivity under atemporality. Subjectivity is temporal and time moves in a direction, from past to future. That direction enables Repetition in which past moments are seized in the present in a new context. Repetition is the condition of happiness, so it it provide a structural psychological alternative to his discussions of Anxiety and Melancholia.
Kierkegaard at the Main Event in British Philosophy
Fortunately Kierkegaard will be the subject of a plenary Session of the Joint Society of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, in Aberdeen in July 2008. John Lippett and Michelle Kosch will speak. Given the under developed nature of Kierkegaard commentary
the organisers have made an interesting choice. The Joint Session is the big event of the philosophical year in Britain. Kosch and Lippett have a chance to make a difference to the interest in and understnad of Kierkegaard, I hope they use the chance to the full.