Monday, March 24, 2003

Here are the first three thesis statements. These are on despair. Don't forget to click on the Guestmap at the bottom of the Links section... :biggrin: A Shout-out would be nice, too. (This is, of course, in reference to my Philo classmates.)

1. For Kierkegaard, despair implies the highest demand made on the human person, that he be spirit. Spirit is the self. The self is a relation that relates itself to its own self. The misrelation that issues forth from such relationality is the human condition that is despair. Thus, despair arises as a continuance in which every actual instant of despair is to be referred back to its possibility.

There are so many things one must consider when talking about the self. The main consideration one must take about the self is the plain and simple fact that the self is a synthesis. While some would say that the self is a walking contradiction, a synthesis would illustrate the self far more lucidly. This is because man, as a synthesis, continually needs to strike a balance within himself, despite the seeming contradictions that arise from the fullness of his being. There is no question about it: despair, particularly when one fails to deal with it, is a sickness of the spirit: a silent cancer whose symptoms go beyond the emotional and the physical.

Despair arises from the fact that in every moment of existence, one has to relate the self back to itself. This is no mean feat, for this requires a Herculean effort on one's part, and at the moment of having achieved this, the following moment renews the need to exert this effort. The mere fact that one has to relate one's self to itself means that there is a misrelation, to begin with.Thus, despair is indeed a misrelation. This misrelation is, unlike physical ailments, far from being affective (Or emotional in nature.). One cannot possibly say that because he or she is happy, then he or she is simply not in despair. On the contrary, Kierkegaard would outright say that despair is truly strongest in the comfort of the happy heart.

Would we then say that despair is such a sad thing? On the contrary, instead of calling it a "Sickness Unto Death", Marcelle would prefer to simply label it as a challenge. This is because there is great heroism in managing to conquer despair, not merely because it is a statistical abberration, but more so because the claim of destiny upon man, that of being spirit, is the greatest gift to man, while at the same time, his most dangerous curse. In succeeding to conquer despair, which indeed requires great suffering to go beyond, one makes his or her destiny to become spirit fully realized. This human condition of despair, to us, may seem to be unsettling, but this is not to say that we must further wallow ourselves in misery by having our hands tied and not so much as doing anything about it. There is indeed a lot to be done in order to solve the problem of despair, and while most would be rather complacent and just live their lives normally, oblivous to this fact, those who dare to wager more are those who stand to gain more in the end.

Think of it as gambling. When the stakes are high, fewer are willing to make a wager. Despite that, those who do, and those who manage to actually win the wager certainly gain far more than those who bet at low stakes. Likewise, in dealing with despair, one must determine for himself or herself exactly how much he or she is willing to put on the line. Will one be merely content with what is at present? Or will one look for more and in turn, wager more? We of course realize here that as you go deeper into your attempt to relate yourself to yourself and thus go against despair, the degree of suffering commensurately increases. Imagine someone, walking wounded, a knife lodged firmly in his back. He may try to just trudge on without trying to remove it, and even dismiss the knife's existence outright, but this doesn't mean that the knife isn't there. Despite that, when that very same man attempts to remove the knife from his back, he will experience great pain, and the more he tries to remove it, the greater the pain he endures. At the end of it, though, he will have extricated from himself something so deadly.

Where this analogy falls short, however, is the fact that after extracting the knife of despair, the man has no recourse but to plunge it into himself once again in the next moment of actuality. The fact remains that in every moment lies the possibility of despair, and in every moment of possiblity in the present, he bears this possibility. Likewise, in every actual moment of despair, the person in despair will have to take all the past instances of despair as a present in possibility. This is because to despair is a qualification of the spirit, meaning being spirit is not being without despair, and this relates to the eternal in one, which one cannot rid himself or herself of. With this in mind, despair indeed is something that continues. We cannot fully liken it to a physical disease, for unlike a physical disease, one "contracts" despair in every moment that the person is in despair. It is not a condition one catches for one instant, then it continues to linger. One catches it in each moment, and thus every time one is actually in despair, that moment points back to the possibility of it happening again in the present, as despair is a matter of the present, and not the past.

And how do we best work against despair? The deceptively simple formula of a human being who, in relating to himself, wills to be himself, and rests in the power that posited it within the world, may seem to be easy to follow, but it is actually a threefold process one must take: to first relate to himself, then to will to be himself, and finally, to recognize and rest in the power that posited it may seem to be simple, but each step needs further explanation.

There is no question that the one true solution to despair is death, hence it is the "Sickness unto death". Despite that, death itself is not the solution to despair.

2. Despair regarded in such a way in which one reflects upon the factors of the synthesis:

2.1. Finitude and Infinitude
2.2. Possibility and Necessity

Despair, when we regard it in such a way in which one reflects upon the factors of the synthesis, leaves us with two combination components that we must concern ourselves with.

We have to consider firstly the despair within the realms of finitude and infinitude. When a balance between the two is not struck, this is when despair in this realm occurs. In the instance of finitude, the despair of finitude is to lack infinitude, which is nothing more than despairing reductionism, or narrowness. This is simply when we see the human being as someone who ends up allowing himself or herself to be swallowed up by the everlasting Einerlei (One and the same.). Sadly, this form of despair is rather common in the world, and is almost even encouraged.

Today, we live in the world of homogeneity, where people are nameless and faceless. We turn ourselves back to Gabriel Marcel’s words regarding the definite and non-definite somebody, and in the realm of finitizing one’s self, one simply loses sight of his or her non-definite self, where one seems to be little more than an arbitrary number, and no longer a genuine human being. If we consider the song “Weird” by Hanson, one who suffers the despair of finitude is someone who “lives in a cookie cutter world, where he doesn’t stand out, and doesn’t fit in.” (Although the attempt of the despairing in finitude is simply to fit in.) We see the act of finitizing as an act of shrinking into one’s self, which, leads the self to disappear as it constricts into itself further and further: a contractive motion.

In this form of despair, one loses sight of individuality, and simply tries to mesh with the rest. This kind of despairing narrowness is to lack primitivity, or perhaps, more aptly, a self-deprivation of this primitivity. It is a self-emasculation, or for a more graphic picture, a self-disembowelment in a spiritual sense. Every human being is primitively intended to be a self, and is even destined to be a self. This form of despair is unnoticed in the world because it seems to be the norm. Worse, despairing in this manner makes one even more apt to be successful in the affairs of the world, for this is a world of conformity that we are faced with.

In finitude’s despair, one can live in temporality with nary a complication, or would even be better off for being in despair of the finitude. Regardless, they do not have a self, for they are merely a finitized being, homogenized to fit into this world. This despair makes life cozy and comfortable, and as people become complacent, they feel less need to venture any further and risk being wrong. How sad indeed, for by depriving one’s self of the risk, one ends up depriving one’s self of the greatest teacher, experience. Without venturing then, who else does one turn to for learning?

On the other hand, we talk about the despair of infinitude as the lack of finitude. The medium of infinitude is simply imagination, or Phantasien. Infinitude’s despair is therefore the fantastic and the limitless. The process of infinitizing’s danger lies in the fact that it leads one away from one’s self and thereby prevents one from coming back to one’s self. As one loses touch with reality, he or she works in the realm of abstraction, which etymologically means “to drag away into sections”. As the illusions of grandeur grows, one becomes volatile, and the self dissipates into nothingness. When the will becomes fantastic, it is drawing itself apart in its volatility, and thus, willing is not commensurately as concrete as it already is abstract. The more infinite the will becomes in purpose and determination, the more readily available it becomes in the minute details and tasks that can be immediately carried out, which, ironically, makes one come back to one’s self in the most rigorous sense. Indeed, the furthest away the infinitized self is from itself is simultaneously and personally closest to carrying out the infinitely small segment of what can be accomplished in this very moment.

Certainly, it is nothing unusual for us to see a megalomaniac in the streets who believes that he is a prophet sent from heaven to right our wrongs. We witness a man who has infinitized his mission to be something so grandiose, and yet everyone around him realizes this is not true. Everyone realizes that this man doesn’t know who he truly is, and does not even consider a self to speak of. Worse, this man sees the entire world as missionary grounds, and he has infinitized the world he walks in, and is eventually intoxicated to the point that he will end up not doing anything for his so-called mission to truly achieve fruition.

While one’s relationship to the power that posits one’s self is indeed an infinitizing, it is differentiated from fantasy in that the latter can sweep a man off his feet to a state of intoxication. While to stand before a higher power may seem so overwhelming in that the human person cannot come back to himself or herself, but it is still markedly different from being swept off in awe and intoxication in that there is great merit in the relationship to the higher power. Moreover, in resting in this power, one actually manages to defeat despair, whilst intoxication simply exacerbates this.

In spite of this, it is still very plausible for one who despairs in infinitude to actually live a seemingly normal life. Such is the great tragedy in the world, for so many things can be lost and noticed, but when one loses the self, it seems to be of no consequence to the rest of the world. It is as though the self is of no importance to the world, and it is clear that no other loss can ever go as silently as the loss of the self.

In contrast with that, the dialectic between possibility and necessity, while actually sharing some similarities, is more concerned with the formation of the actual self, than merely the infinitizing of different things within the world. We must realize that firstly, the actual self is the result of the synthesis of the dialectic between possibility and necessity, that what could be is congruent with what has to be, which leads us to what currently is.

The despair of possibility is the lack of necessity. The self is indeed itself, but it has the task of becoming itself. If possibility outruns necessity so that the self runs away from itself in possibility, then there no longer is any necessity to return to. The self thus becomes an abstract and floundering possibility, as it is simply moving in place. So much movement that does not get it anywhere, as though one were drowning and thrashing about.

But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. More and more becomes possible but in the end, nothing becomes actual. Imagine if you will, an actor who wishes to portray a role and sees each role he intends to portray to be a possibility for him. He can be a murderous villain. He can be a trampled upon protagonist. He can be this. He can be that. In spite of all these possibilities, the fact remains: he is not truly being any of them. In the end, he doesn’t get a single movie deal, because everything to him is possibility, but nothing is actuality.

What becomes missing in this picture is the obvious fact that there is the need to obey one’s limitations. As much as there are possibilities one can ruminate upon, there are still things-as-they-are that must be taken into consideration at present. Man is characterized by his being thrown into temporality, and necessity plays a part in that. By being oblivious to the need for necessity, one who despairs over possibility loses sight of what he is and is not capable of, whereas one who infinitizes is ignorant of the finite realities of the world in general.

One may be lost in possibility in two primary ways, though there is obviously a multitude of ways to get lost in it. One may take the form of an insatiable appetite for possibility, where one so desires these possibilities to become realized somehow. The other form is in melancholy-imaginary, wherein one merely hopes or fears or is riddled with anxiety. The former is one who chases after the pinnacle dream; such as the budding businessman who craves to be the CEO of the company he is employed in, yet at the same time, still unable to make this possibility an actuality because he moves onto grander possibilities of himself. The latter speaks of one who pursues one of anxiety’s possibilities, which leads one away from one’s self, and ends up being victimized by this anxiety, and is perhaps even overcome by it.

It must be noted that possible selves create who one actually is. For instance, it was possible back then for Marcelle to become an Atenean. And so he now is an Atenean. Indeed, Marcelle brings the past with him wherever he goes, but he also holds the future within him. For all we know, contrary to Mr. Bulaong’s assertion, Marcelle would someday be working as a wrestler for the WWE. This is a possible self, and if Marcelle were to nurture this possible self, he could very well be a professional wrestler someday (*Marcelle’s headed to the gym after finishing all this. :laughs: ). For possible selves to be actual selves, they must be nourished like a seed, as was mentioned above. Thus, even the actual self is, at the same time, a possible self. Its dialectic with necessity arises from when someone is becoming. The authenticity of being is the uniqueness of the synthesis that makes a human being spirit.

Lastly, the despair of necessity is due to the lack of possibility. Clearly, in the higher power, everything is indeed possible. It is the battle of faith, for knowing how far we have fallen from what is deemed to be the human ideal, only in the belief in possibility can there be salvation. Only in possibility can there be salvation, in fact. Indeed, the believer would have the ever-infallible antidote for despair in possibility (So long as one does not lose sight of necessity, apparently.), for in the higher power, everything is indeed possible.
Compared to the determinist or the fatalist, the believer has the advantage. The former two have attributed everything to necessity. Nothing is possible, for what will happen was necessitated to happen already by some cosmic plan we cannot fully comprehend. This is, of course, codswallop in light of our discussion on Sartre’s moment of appropriation, wherein we do not merely react but respond to stimuli, and simply put, our actions are not wholly determined for we, in our process of being human, also must determine ourselves.

Differentiating this from the Philistine-Bourgeois notion, there is spirit involved in the despair of the determinist, for they recognize the essence of a human being, as is clearly seen in Ayer’s writings. The Philistine-Bourgeois notion is merely spiritlessness, which is also naturally despair. It does not possess any imagination, and does not recognize the spirit, which leads it to think that everything that happens is merely brought about by stimuli, and humans are necessitated to react accordingly. Thus, the despair of necessity is very risky business in that one who loses sight of things that are not supposed to be but may be is one who does not recognize the self to be a synthesis of the possible and the necessary. In this despair, one loses himself, for he is constraining himself and crushes himself in despair.

3. Despair viewed under the aspect of consciousness:

3.1. Despair that is unconcscious that it is despair
3.2. Despair that is conscious that it is despair:
3.2.1. In despair at not willing to be oneself, Over the earthly or something earthly About the eternal or over oneself
3.2.2. The despair of willing despairingly to be oneself, or defiance

Despair that is unconscious that it is in despair is best described as the sensate man. The sensate man merely lives life as though it were nothing more than a world of hedonism, wherein he chases after pleasure and avoids pain and suffering. Clearly, this person does not even have a sense of what despair is, and is only looking after his or her own interests, wrapped up in the self, yet ironically, bereft of a self. Being ignorant of the condition that is despair does not mean one is not in despair. Likening it once again to a physical ailment, one who doesn’t know he or she has cancer is not necessarily someone who does not have cancer.

The sensate man is dominated by the sensate and the sensate-physical. These categories of living makes one dismiss spirit, truth, and so forth as insignificant. The sensate man is far too afraid to venture out and endure being spirit. It is a simple matter of complacency and obliviousness, as though the Ateneo Blue Eagles one day decided to aim not for the championship, but only to have a single win in spite of thirteen losses. It is a lower standard that one subscribes himself or herself to, for there is not much need to prove one’s self by wagering any further than this.

This despair is despair in error, for one does not recognize the state-of-affairs to be that of despair, and thus, it complicates what is already a perplexing despair. Furthermore, the despairing individual is merely a negativity away from the truth and deliverance, for despair itself is a negativity, and so is ignorance of it. To reach truth, however, does not exactly mean that this form of despair is easy, for one has to pass through the other stages of despair in dealing with it, and in each degree, the amount of suffering is sure to increase.

This form of despair is the most common in the world. With the world taking on a more hedonistic stance, people constantly end up forgetting that they are more than just their physical reality. This forgetfulness leads them to lives that do not put anything on the line for them to achieve gaining their spirit. They are too drowned and dominated by what is sensate, and they do not see the need to even try and transcend it.

When one becomes conscious that he or she is in despair, on the other hand, the considerations likewise change. One may actually will not to be one’s self in the realization that one is despairing, and actually despair over the earthly or something earthly. This is characterized by the immediate man: the man who is not as dominated by the sensate man is by his own sensate, but a man who, in contrast to the sensate man’s selfish nature, actually uses other as his compass and guide.

We can see people like this everyday: people who try to imitate their Philosophy professors, for instance, who use their professors as a standard of reference, at the very least. These people are those who have selves which are in truth nothing more than mirrors of their surroundings: a superficial shell that is of no true substance. Indeed, the immediate man despairs, but he mistakenly attributes this despair to external factors, such as tragedies and miserable events in his life. Yes, the state-of-affairs is indeed despair, but what he attributes his despair to, which is something both external and affective, is clearly wrong. Despairing is not a passive event brought upon man. It is something that comes from within as action.

Sadly, his inkling of despair is far from the truth. To despair is to lose the eternal, and being merely physically qualified, he has no idea about this, and he begins to despair over things external to him, be it something that is actually earthly, or if one were to infinitize further, the earthly itself. Because of the externalities this man is faced with, and because he doesn’t realize that the self is infinitely distinct from an externality, he ends up not wanting to be himself. He may not will to be a self, even, or even wish to be somebody else. Even if the immediate man were to have some degree of reflection, the fact still remains that he begins to despair in his weakness, and he despairs to not will to be himself. But despair does not need a timely event for it to happen. Through reflection, man should realize how much he can lose without losing himself.

This form of despair is likewise very common, for many people believe despair to be affective in nature, and even attribute despair to the young, for their illusion of hope. Adults are likewise attributed to this form of despair in their illusions of recollection. Thus, when the self begins to despair in this way over a salient point in his or her life, then he or she likewise begins to despair over something earthly, or even the earthly itself.

When one manages to step even beyond that, and actually realize that there is something eternal within him or her, and thinks how sad it is that he or she is despairing over something earthly. When this happens, the self despairs over this weakness, for it is weak for one to be despairing over the earthly. This results into an introversion by the person concerned, a blind pride is also likely to be manifest. This pride will make the self pretend to be strong, yet still passive. Instead of finding a way to extricate one’s self from this despair by turning to faith, in its pride, it further entrenches and wallows itself into the suffering this despair causes him or her. Imagine Gloria Arroyo turning down Cardinal Sin’s offer to help her become president back in EDSA II. She will rely on her small merits and tiny achievements. She will not put faith in the Archbishop. Instead of actively working for the change of governance, she will passively plot and plan, yet never reach fruition, and the anguish over the fact that she is still not president will continually gnaw at her psyche. It’s not like she’d ever win an election for president had she decided to run. Especially not with her son making all those irritating movies we now see.

Men and women of pride, who will actually long for solitude because of this despair are called closing-reserved. They are like doors that do have something within, but are loked out from the rest of the world, because they despise their own weaknesses.

This human being, now that he or she has realized that indeed, he or she has been overtly despairing over the earthly, will begin to start despairing over how weak he or she is, and despise himself or herself for it. This is the reason why despair over the eternal or over one’s self is likewise a despair of not willing to be one’s self. Truly, in despairing over the eternal, all one needs now to reach the highest form of despair (And the one closest to conquering despair.) is to take another step from being passive and actually being active.

When one becomes active in despair, and wishes to become a self more fervently than even one who despairs over the eternal, one will attempt to “immortalize” one’s self by making the self a fixed and final matter for all of eternity. This is why we call this an “Abuse of the eternal”. There is so much that can be said to be wrong about this, for one, it does not recognize the synthesis of the temporal and the eternal. For another, it rejects what makes the human being dynamic: the malleability of the self to change and still be considered a self.

This form of despair, the strongest form of despair, is something that is extremely terrifying. It is, so to speak, a demonic rage that is now a conscious act of despairing, as one attempts to do the impossible and try to become fixed and permanent for all of eternity. This is an “unfair advantage” for the person, for he or she intends to begin not at or with the beginning (Meaning, throwness and all.) but in the beginning (Fashioning one’s self for one’s self.). By fashioning one’s self, he or she, as an acting self, relates to himself or herself only through imaginary constructions. By not recognizing a higher power, he or she lacks true earnestness to become, for one believes himself or herself to already be is, but this self he or she envisions is nothing more than hypothetical.

Even if the self were being acted upon, it is still nevertheless in despair to will to be oneself. It is an unwillingness to be comforted and healed by the eternal, and it is an overappraisal of the worldly such that the eternal is no longer of any consolation. Yes, this imperfect self is filled with agonizing “thorns” that rip into his or her psyche, but it now becomes an opportunity for him or her to simply flaunt this agony, knowing that he or she cannot be abstracted from this self. By the aid of this infinite form one holds onto (In both instances, even.), the self despairingly wills to dispose itself or create itself, and make itself the self it actually wills to be, distinguishing for itself what of its concrete self it will or will not accept.

Defiance is about being static. The self becomes stuck in a moment it can’t get out of, as U2 would put it. It refuses its own inherent dynamism, and through this, the suffering continues, as one simply cannot continue indefinitely being a model for a painting, neither can a hypothetical self held only by imaginary constructs expect to hold itself together. You cannot expect a model for a painting to just sit there and smile for the next five hours without moving a muscle. Much less can you expect a self held together by imaginary constructs to stand in eternity.

And thus, despair with regard to consciousness becomes a heightened ladder towards resolution and suffering. It is therefore an issue to us of whether or not we are willing to wager as much and be able to actually transcend despair. No matter what we can try to say about despair, the fact remains that whether or not one is conscious of being in despair, there is no merit in not attempting to resolve it.

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