Sickness Unto Death
Despair: that of being conscious of being despair, and is conscious of the nature of
the self as being eternal, then either one, does not will to be a self, or two, in
despair wills to be a self.
Denial is a tool to bear the pain of spiritual tension that a human being is (tension
between finite and infinite, necessity and possibility, reality and ideality). The
extent to which we are in denial varies enormously.
Two forms of despair:
1) Not willing to be oneself (of weakness; of womanliness)
2) At willing to be oneself, but failing (of manliness)
1 is despair over the immediate, over the quantitative, despair over external
pressure. At this stage, the dialectic of despair is the agreeable and the
disagreable. The concepts include fate, fortune, and misfortune. At this stage, a
person is like a child whose self is all the world, and who doesn't take
responsibility for things happening to the self when its pleasures are disrupted -- a
low notion of the self.
What plunges this being into despair is something that happens to it, something
that happens from the outside. Again: not over herself, but over something that
happens to her. This is not a reflected self, but an immediate self.
If something happens to him, he thinks he's in despair, but he's actually very far
from being in despair, because he doesn't even understand what despair is.
If external circumstances improve, then he thinks himself out of despair. He may
imitate how others live, follow some kind of understanding of life, make motions
toward eternity – but he never was a self, and he can never become a self, even if
he may be a Christian. He has an identity, but it may be a false identity.
This weakness is not having the strength necessary to be what one is. Failure to
will oneself out of this immediate, low fashion. This kind of immediacy is a person
who is so weak, so far from being able to recognize himself, that he is like a
peasant who went to the city, bought really nice clothes, and then got drunk, then
didn't recognize himself.
This kind of despair is comical, because this man will talk about overcoming
despair, he thinks he has overcome despair, but that is when he is truly beginning
to come to be in despair.
Pure immediacy can be disrupted or broken not by having something external
happen to oneself, but one's capacity for reflection, for activity. This person could
recognize a degree of despair, but this person could also knowingly, more
consciously, deliberately, continue to live in this state, this “basement of being.” Because this person is at least a little conscious of the eternal, of his soul, he
visits once in a while the possibility of authenticity, of his true self – but eventually
he goes away, finding it uncomfortable. With time he rationalizes it, and hopes it
will go away on its own.
These men have not learned to fear; they have not learned what must means, to
have to will one thing, to be compelled. They can't bear the task of really
becoming subjective, really looking inward.
Most of us never advance beyond this immediacy with quantitative reflection.
Kierkegaard makes fun of these people; they think that despair is something
which one can outgrow, and that wisdom and faith will grow somehow.
Kierkegaard distinguishes between earthly despair -- “the determinate of totality”
-- and despair over some early thing, the particular. The self transforms the
particular object of despair into an earthly totality. It is not possible to be deprived
of the earthly totality because it is a category of thought, and it is not
substantiated in the earthly. So the self increases infinitely the loss. Then the self
despairs over the loss of the earth in its totality, and then the self recognizes the
essential distinction between the despair over a particular earthly thing, and
despair over earthly totality, and mov