One of the strongest memories of my youth is of an orchard next to our house. Maybe it was not really an orchard but more of a hobby garden. at the front of this garden there was an apple tree that grew into the street. My strongest memory of growing up is hiding in the garage and eating the apples on a warm summer afternoon.
As you read that story (and be honest) what was the image of an apple that you had in your mind? Was the apple large or small? Was it sweet or sour? And was the apple green or red?
For the record the apples were green, small and extremely sour. When I hear the word “apple” that is the image I have in my mind.
So here is the “moral of the story”: can I assume that my experience of the world is anything like your experience of the world? I know I experience the world but can I abstract a common experience from my experience. Or is it an act of faith?
An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Individuality (or selfhood) is the state or quality of being an individual; particularly of being a person separate from other people and possessing their own needs or goals, rights and responsibilities. The exact definition of an individual is important in the fields of biology, law, and philosophy.
With the rise of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard rejected Hegel’s notion of the individual as subordinated to the forces of history. Instead, he elevated the individual’s subjectivity and capacity to choose their own fate.
I had some time this morning so I sat down to drink my coffee – rather than do it on the run between various duties. I read Kierkegaard’s world part 8: God and possibility by Clare Carlisle. I think I have read it before. I know I have listened to an audiobook version of the whole series.
I was struck by the following quote:
In The Sickness Unto Death, the despair that lacks possibility is described as ‘spiritless philistinism’, which both “tranquilises itself in the trivial” and “imagines itself to be the master”. In our own world, this takes many different forms: the reduction of spiritual teachings to rigid dogmatism; the commodification of romance; the stifling of intellectual life by a fixation on measurable “skills”, “outputs”, and “impacts”.
Since I had a copy of SUD with me, I read the whole section where SK speaks about the imbalance (despair) of possibility and necessity. The psychological insight that SK offers often amazes me.
In my own context I have often been struck by how people will escape into the trivial – minutiae – of a particular issue. And become addicted to their point of view. I am not saying I have been, or am, immune! I like to escape. But my own experience of myself and of other people has really highlighted this “despair” of the actual over the “what could be”.
SO I have set myself a task: start dreaming more! Worry less about the mess and the problems, and start seeing the possibilities of my daily life. And in those possibilities see God working for and in me.
I read a great article on SK and possibility this morning. It is especially useful since I am reading Sickness unto death. Anyway, here is a quote:
The important step for Kierkegaard is the concept “before God”. This is a Christian concept. He sees this actuality, standing in prayer before God, or becoming contemporary with God, as the highest for any Christian. Here the possibility of the offense is present, and must be ever-present. But here also the possibility of being able to become a believer is present and is ever present.
“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.”
I often think about SK’s “inside vs outside” at the start of Either/Or. I especially think about it when I listen to modern preaching. There appears to be a common understanding of religion that, simply put, emphases the external over the internal. “Just be obedient, follow the rules” – learn the script to play the part! Or, in theological terms, there is an emphases on “Christ for me” over “Christ in me”. It often strikes me that modern religion calls me to give up “me”, to conform to a model (of worship, life, thinking, emotions, vocations), and then calls that obedience.
“Existentialism”, therefore, may be defined as the philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence. To approach existentialism in this categorial way may seem to conceal what is often taken to be its “heart” (Kaufmann 1968: 12), namely, its character as a gesture of protest against academic philosophy, its anti-system sensibility, its flight from the “iron cage” of reason. But while it is true that the major existential philosophers wrote with a passion and urgency rather uncommon in our own time, and while the idea that philosophy cannot be practiced in the disinterested manner of an objective science is indeed central to existentialism, it is equally true that all the themes popularly associated with existentialism—dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment, nothingness, and so on—find their philosophical significance in the context of the search for a new categorial framework, together with its governing norm.