Žarko Paić: The Spheres of Existence, Three Studies on Kierkegaard

Uredniški odbor: prof. dr. Jasna Koteska (Makedonija), prof. dr. Darko Štrajn (Slovenija)



If we would like to undertake a »deep scanning« of the history of Western metaphysics through a brief history of fundamental feelings without which thought cannot have a language nor man exist without a body, its credibility might have been expressed through four essential feelings. Such thought can be no reduction to philosophy as an onto-theology that created concepts within the essential framework of thinking concerning the Being (esse) and God (Deus). But philosophy presupposes an event of thought.  This is a necessary but not sufficient reason for the beginning of metaphysics. Something else might be needed as a condition of the possibility of one saying what is at the core of identity and distinction of this Western matrix of historical development. Awakening cannot arise without the apriori openness of the Being.  Everything  comes with wonder as an insight into what it is (Being). The Greeks found an expression for this ─ thaumasein (θαυμάζειν). The new era of science and technology establishes, then, the kingdom of the subject. Dubitatio from Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy opens the way of self-awareness. The creation of a subject also marks a turn of thought. With the emergence of the world as an object of scientific knowledge, therein occurs the essence of technology as an enframing (Gestell).


Completing of this process of thinking in the modern age determines the concept of anxiety (Angst). It is no longer a fear of the subject to have knowledge of the ontological area or what should be »something«, a real source of fear that makes a man a doubtful and traumatic entity. Instead of knowing the origin and foundation of fear, it’s all in what lies deep with the abyss of existence. Fear is still coming from the human close to the world of nature, though it makes him a fragile being of the animal body that still has speech (logos). Anxiety, on the contrary, comes from the abyss of the nonhumane. Its source lies in the ungrounding of the world.  From the deepest  level of Being, it raises the powerful Nothing into the ultimate end of human existence.  Anxiety in uncanny space-time thus becomes an essential mark of modernity. What can no longer be historically defined by the metaphysical view of »history« in the era of techno sphere as the rule of technoscience in the form of radical constructivism goes beyond the distinction between aesthetics and ethics. The uncanny is that any form of religious transcendence  will have no answer for the loss of soul or insensitivity of common Being. Such a feeling that  should not be marked by a sense, belongs to the experience of the end of the subject and its world in the age of the absolute rule of the technosphere. We will name this phenomenon as planetary apathy or indifference.

Philosophy begins with wonder. That is a reason why the primary thinking corresponds to prophecy and logos.  But its essential feature in the poetical narrative of the events of the revelation of the Being stands as in Heraclitus and Parmenides. Modern philosophy with Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz rises to the foundation of the universal science of nature and spirit. The technical character of Being fits here with the scientific feature of philosophical discourse. Paradoxically, it is precisely at the height of the birth of the modern age with the absolute reign of the scientific image of the world that the fundamental problem becomes what Nietzsche calls the image of European nihilism. In defining the value, the order of metaphysics becomes a play of »deconstruction«. After the death of God, the fiction of truth and unconditional will as the illusion of Being in the form of values leads to the disappearance of rank. The consequences are far-reaching. History might be reversed in the contingency field. Nothing has its cause or purpose anymore. Relativism in the knowledge of »eternal truths« produces the ultimate chaos of concepts for a reality that can be understood only by the sign system. So modernity is necessarily a paradoxical formation of a subject. The desire to overcome anxiety results in a substitute community called social solidarity. Philosophy meets with existential freedom of self-determination as a psychology in the aesthetic-ethicalreligious discourse of becoming the Other. Kierkegaard is undoubtedly the predecessor and paradigmatic thinker at this end of philosophy. Of course, that end does not end in the psychology of the desire for the transcendence of the real world.          

The problem is that the end of metaphysics ends in cybernetics. This assumption seems to us as most convincingly articulated by Heidegger in the lecture »The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking« at the international conference devoted to Kierkegaard in 1964 in Paris. New meta-science combines all the previously separated areas of nature, society, culture and the world. Moreover, it intends to become a general theory and practice of systems management of life itself.  From the metaphysics, the  idea of purpose and aim (telos)  evolves.  And from its speculative peaks in Hegel the idea of overcoming the contradictions and differences evolves to a higher level of development of consciousness. The emergence of a new science of human in the posthuman condition assumes, therefore, the overcoming of the subject. The construction of life from the radical transformation of Being derives from application of cybernetics in handling all the processes of the formation and management of life.

Why did we name the »sense« of all the experimental exaltation with which the virtual worlds of artificial mind and life (A-intelligence and A-Life) are created by a word which transcends anxiety? How can it be explained that our age has come to the paradoxical constellation of technoscience and indifference, which inevitably goes back to the issues of ethics and religiosity? Is Kierkegaard in the postmodern age a thinker of a new ethical-religious revelation that has come out of the crisis of the idea of community and truth into which we are falling due to the fact that he radically established  a new principle of thinking ─ that is the kingdom of subjectivity in the form of the knights of faith? Apathy or indifference has determined the underlying ontological mark of the posthuman condition. The aesthetic construction of technosphere leads to superiority of form over matter.  It should not be necessary to prove that this rule establishes a new information code in global networking societies. Hence apathy or indifference does not signify only the absence of compassion for the suffering of the Other.  Instead of »theological suspension of the ethical«  we now have the technological neutralization of the religious. Kierkegaard’s idea of a leap to the last stage of Christ’s transcendence is thus reflected in the existential faith. Philosophy as a critique of absolute knowledge in the method and system of Hegel’s dialectics becomes the consolation of the aesthetic subject and its inevitable suffering because in the endless repetition of the Same (the event of Christ’s revelation) comes the repetition of the same difference between love and suffering. This takes place in an ethically unconditional relationship with the Other. Commitment to God denotes sacrificing the aesthetic pleasure of the subject in favour of one’s ethical duties.  In Kierkegaard’s book Either/Or, the limits of ethical validity have been developed.  The narrative of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac for Kierkegaard becomes an event of religious truth. What might be strange and ethically absurd for the community, represents the condition of possibility of religion in its absolute requirement. God does not seek the real sacrifice of one’s neighbour. It only endeavours to the founding of the community based on ethical law. However, the conflict between religious truth and state law cannot end by compromise. It is always a matter of reconsideration of the foundations of history. This was particularly significant to Lévinas in its reflection of messianic justice in a world without universal ethics.

To talk about truth and the end of life reaching by attaining eternity and happiness in this turn of metaphysics should be the only technical question in becoming the Other. If so, then the technosphere in its ethical-religious indifference towards Kierkegaard’s »un-contemporaneous considerations« refers to the same as a triumph of technoscience in its defeat of religious impact. Mortality is transformed into the immortality of artificial intelligence and artificial life. Ludwig Wittgenstein had performed a decisive approach to the problem of creating a  new life beyond the metaphysics and ethical-religious orientation of existence, which can be considered paradoxically in the traces of Kierkegaard’s view of existence in the technical world.

»Christian faith ─ so I believe ─ is a refugee in this ultimate distress. Someone to whom it is given in such distress to open his heart instead of contracting it absorbs the remedy into his heart. Someone who in this way opens his heart to God in remorseful confession opens it for others too. He thereby loses his dignity as someone special†a & so becomes like a child. That means without office, dignity & aloofness from others. You can open yourself to others only out of a particular kind of love. Which acknowledges as it were that we are all wicked children.«

Faith lies in Christ’s sacrifice for humanity. Although Kierkegaard constantly used the figure of paradox, and  faith in Christ  is considered by »teleological suspension of philosophy« in the form of the absolute spirit of Hegel’s metaphysics, paradox should be that faith in the living God means a repetition of events of Christ’s life, death and the resurrection. Truth designates the ethics in Christ’s Crucifixion. Religious consolation, however, has its truth in the new life as the truth of bodily love and suffering. The path seems to be the same as in Hegel’s dialectics. The only difference is that, instead of the machine of dialectical overcoming (Aufhebung), we are witnessing the irony of »the last jump« to the living absoluteness. If there is something inside the technosphere that overcomes Hegel’s substance-subject relation of the entire history of Western metaphysics, then it is neither mind nor work as pure being in its realization. Control of the process of life as an eternal process becomes a substitute for the power of transcendence. In this regard, the main problem of the contemporary discussion of the »necessity« of the human dimension of the encounter with inhumane cannot be the  aesthetic question of posthuman existence in the technological environment. The question might be how can we preserve »human dignity« before requesting changes of substance if a man is not an entity who encompasses this more  general  »subject«  of that dignity. From this follows the issue of what denotes a  »philosophical faith« if it lacks what was described in such a plastic way by Gilles Deleuze by referring to the disappearance of the form of animal, man and God? What comes after history when there is no longer a linear relationship between the members of this triad? Obviously, there cannot be the same mediation between God and man as in the previous case. At the same time, the relationship between the form of the animal and the human being is transformed. By means of a powerful mediation, the metaphysics of pure nature is lost.7  The machine in the form of the potentiality of life calls into question both the dialectic of grounding and paradoxes of ungrounding of Western metaphysical history  (Hegel and  Kierkegaard).  Undoubtedly, Christianity as the existential suspension of »ethical« cannot be overcome by the philosophy by faith.

Exactly this excellent insight formulated by Wittgenstein refers to the problem of world and history as a problem of withdrawal from the world and its overtaking in the Other. The anxiety and infinite suffering, which is ultimately necessary, forces a man to believe in the resurrection to be »necessary« but not sufficient reason to escape the total mobilization of the technosphere. Is there still a belief in the true possibility of turning into the constellation of planetary technology unless the radical »emergence« of the subject as a »consolation« and philosophical faith as the last refugium? The utility needs its sanctity as faith needs its spiritual space of execution. This is not, of course, the institutional space of the church, but also not that of the univ ersities for teaching academic philosophy. The effort of philosophy as a »system« and »methods« against so-called objective truth presupposes a radical eccentricity of the subject.  »The philosopher constructs a palace of ideas and lives in a hovel,« wrote Kierkegaard in Philosophical Fragments.  Self-sufficiency in openness towards the future requires the rootedness of existence without the support of society and the state. Without it, man drowns in the foolish world. The individual in anxiety begins with the end of existential faith in a salvific turn. Modernity, also, appears as an uncanny condition of freedom. Being its own and alone means to be on the edge of the abyss as the core of the Nothing.          

In the following, I will try to show the relationship between Kierkegaard and contemporary philosophical issues as existential faith concerning the already overshadowed horizon within which the concepts of »mind« and »faith« are again discussed. Kierkegaard’s three spheres of spiritual Being ─ aesthetic, ethical, and religious ─ come to mind with the question of the boundaries between thinking and belief about the very occurrence of what is no longer a Being or the beings, neither alive nor dead. How to approach it? Kierkegaard’s contribution to the thinking of Be[1]ing can be solved as a question of the subject of »philosophical faith«. It seems that such faith belongs to the future. Beyond all spheres  lies a pure and spiritual place. Is it a habitus of God which can only be confirmed by »philosophical faith« in the event? In addition, should one finally abandon any possible »faith« to get a »faith« which no longer thinks of the openness of the historical event, but an event beyond the difference between philosophy and faith? An analysis shows that neither Jaspers’ attempt to establish a new »philosophy of faith« in existence, nor the restoration of the traditional opposition to thinking and belief in a contingent event, the power of technosphere in the creation of an artificial mind and artificial life as a result of the construction of a subject, reach the pure event itself. Instead, we should see whether it is possible to think the technosphere even in the form of metaphysical thinking of the aesthetic-ethical-religious criticism appropriate to absolute science in the shaping of inhumanity today.