File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0009, message 16

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 11:48:41 +1000
Subject: BHA: Kierkegaard commentary with a question for Roy Bhaskar in the

Dear Listers,

This is the third of my posts on Kierkegaard. The initial impulse was that 
they were pieces that I could not get into my conference paper as it was 
way too long.  My paper was about the relationship between Bhaskar's 
alethia and Heidegger's aletheia, or I suppose between the rational and the 
intuitive mediated through the aesthetic. I completed these posts before 
the Lancaster Conference but have been unable to get back to them until 
now. Hopefully some will find it of interest.



'The Arabians say that Abdul Khain, the mystic, and Abu Ali Seena the 
philosopher, conferred together; and, on parting, the philosopher said, 
"All that he sees, I know"; and the mystic said, " All that he knows, I 
see." (Emerson)'

Before I comment on Kierkegaard's journal entry for July 29 1835 the 
thought has occurred to me about my methodology- specifically why these 
particular  pieces?  It would be easy, I believe, to answer in terms of the 
typicality of the excerpts I have chosen.  I am convinced that in terms of 
Kierkegaard's work they are indeed typical.  However the real reason for my 
choice is that in their romanticism the passages selected fit in with my 
own specific tastes and I suppose needs.  Thus I prefer Schubert to Bach 
though I am prepared to concede that the latter is a greater 
musician.  Still Schubert's Notturno strikes me as being truer to my lived 
experience than anything I have found so far in Bach. Though I am working 
on the violin concertos.

The passage from K.'s journal raises the question of the ontological status 
of religious experience, especially of the mystical variety- a question 
that is of particular relevance at present for the Critical realist 
movement.  For the rationalist, when we read this particular entry in K.'s 
journal we are in the presence of yet another 'traume eines geistersehers' 
as Kant remarked dismissively of the mystic, Swedenborg.  Religious 
experiences, such as those of Swedenborg, are accorded little respect today 
and are generally explained away in terms of personality traits or dopamine 

To be honest I am anxious to fudge things here, in a desperate effort to 
hold onto what is left of my reputation for sanity. But I do not think that 
such a compromise stance can be maintained for long.  Last nite over dinner 
I raised the topic of this post. Emboldened and fortified by several very 
cheeky reds I said that I believed that when K. spoke of the dead coming to 
comfort him that they really came.  My older son gave me a look, which 
seemed to say that I had betrayed the cause, and he asked caustically, 
"From where did they come, dad?"

It is impossible to answer that really. Either one believes or one does 
not.  Still let us proceed with the passage. It begins with fairly 
commonplace geographical detail.  However this gives way to a classic piece 
of romanticism revolving around the solitary experience of an encounter 
with nature. I am reminded very forcibly here of Wordsworth's sonnet:

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly.
Dear Child! Dear Girl! That walkest with me here,
If  thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

In Wordsworth's case the experience of nature is also a religious one 
though mediated through the 'dear girl' (presumably his sister 
Dorothy).   There is much in this of the Romantic belief that women were 
closer to nature and that the male could only approach that level of 
mystical communion through the woman. The same note is struck in 
Coleridge's Kubla Khan in the ecstatic vision of the 'damsel with a 
dulcimer.'  It is the woman's symphony and song that the poet wishes to 
draw upon so he can
speak to the masses:

Could I revive within me her symphony and song
To such delight would win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air.
That magic dome.  Those caves of ice
And all that heard should see them there
And all should cry, "Beware!  Beware!'

K.'s stance is however a solitary one and the mask of the seducer, which he 
has worn thoughout Either Or V 1 has been laid aside. When he does achieve 
communion it is with the dead. Whatever one thinks of the reality of the 
vision, the ecstatic experience is beautifully evoked and given the context 
of K.'s life it is very moving.

However the achievement of subject-object identity can only be a fleeting 
one and the vision like all visions is broken and fades.  Here the screech 
of the gulls plays the role that the 'gentleman from Porlock' played in the 
destruction of Coleridge's vision of Kubla Khan.

However unlike Coleridge and Keats in Ode to a Nightingale the breaking of 
the ecstatic link does not bring despair. More like Wordsworth in this, K. 
draws upon the visionary experiences to mould them into a religious 
one.  The birds woke him from the dream but the birds also remind him of 
Christ's promise that he will recognize our very thisness or haecceitas. It 
is a caring god and our personal fate does matter.

This religious affirmation makes way for a healing of the duality of K.'s 
life.  In a way which is very anticipatory of Bhaskar's personal 
transcendence of alienation in  From East to West the duality of pride and 
humility is absented. Interestingly the ending of this split seems to K. to 
be the key to power.  He can move now outside time and space and lever the 

Such a moment was not to be maintained for long throughout K.'s life and 
his religious inclinations were to become darker. But for the moment we are 
with the 22 year old philosopher as he moves from ecstatic mysticism, to 
religious certainty and then to a personal healing.

The experience of healing and a certainty that we matter to a god take K. 
outside this world as he puts it 'outside the limitations of time and 
space'.  It also takes him outside the experience or the interests of the 
rationalist, and thus we have come full circle.  The aesthetic crafting 
of  K.'s meditation is done with great skill but whether we wish to follow 
him is another matter.

For the moment we content ourselves with saying that the alethia of these 
passages lies in its expression of a desire for an end to the alienation 
and splits and dualities that K. laboured under. It is our personal lived 
experience of the same divided world that lend K.'s visionary writing its 
power and appeal.

Since writing the above passage I have had a chance to study further 
Bhaskar's concept of Transcendental Identity Consciousnes (TIC) in FEW 
pp46-47, especially the footnote on page 46.

"15. DCR does not deny that identity (here specifically subject-object 
identity) occurs in moments or states of trandscendence but insists only 
that it presupposes the non-identity of the terms (which are at most 
constellationally identical) so the referential detachment (and hence the 
possibility of emotional attachment) is always possible."

This clears up for me at least something that I have always worried at - 
namely whether the aesthetic experience entails at its most successful the 
achievement of subject-object identity.  In that it is quite like the 
experience of the mystics. I am inclined to say,  'Yes the aesthetic does 
take us into the realm of subject object identity.'  However I am far from 
certain as to the full implications of this.  There is a definite shaping 
process to the production of the aesthetic (and the mystical) that does 
entail a distanciation and prevents a dissolution of the subject into the 

The production of the aesthetic is work. If this were not so then the 3000 
pages of automatic writing by George Yeats that have recently been 
deposited in a library would be of very high aesthetic value.  Perhaps they 
are but somehow I doubt it.

So the dilemma here is that we can sometimes achieve subject-object 
identity through the aesthetic but the nature of aesthetic production is 
that it can tend to limit or maybe control the achievement of such identity 
consciousness.  I have in mind here a poem by Robert Graves entitled "The 
Cool Web".  It deals specifically with the capacity of language to prevent 
subject-object identity.

"Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There's a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing of language and its watery grasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children's day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.

The reference to madness brings me to back to the relationship between the 
mystical and the aesthetic and the rational with which this series of posts 
began! Bhaskar has been driven to expand the notion of alethia to include 
moral and religious experience due no doubt to personal experiences of the 
religious that are to a certain extent encoded in the novella part of FEW. 
In terms of the paper I wrote for the conference, this process could be 
described as the re-writing of the notion of alethia (truth as the reason 
for things) in terms of Heidegger's concept of aletheia - truth as 
revelation.  In other words the ontology of FEW entails the abandonment of 
the rational in favour of the intuitive. Bhaskar would I suspect deny this 
and instead hold that alethia remains within the fold of rationality.




If Hans E. has got this far he might put to Bhaskar my conclusion and ask 
him if indeed alethia has been overtaken by aletheia.  This is *not* a 
hostile question or a trick. As should be clear from the above I am 
prepared to go a long way with FEW. My question merely represents my wish 
to know how Bhaskar sees the role of alethia now,

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