Νάρκισσος (Narcissus) Aesthesis, and the Unforgivable

Νάρκισσος (Narcissus) Aesthesis, and the Unforgivable

Jankelevitch’s theory of morality is a Kantian theory which emphasizes non-deterministic human freedom and moral law. In this paper I begin with a brief illustration of Jankelevitch’s theory which utilizes Kant’s concepts of the will and the categorical imperative. I connect this to Freud’s notion of the unconscious, which in turn I show is connected to the mythological and to Jung’s theory of the image. I then show that this is further supported by Kant’s connection between the aesthetic and moral. The resulting concept we find is one which is what I refer to as the translogical image, the image which synthesizes the dualistic elements of the rational world, or in some cases dissolves all plurality altogether in an absolute monism. I further support this theory with an phenomenological epistemic and dramatic theory. This epistemic theory explains why we can have an experience and knowledge about something as an observer, without actually experiencing it, a concept which prima facie is contrary to our intuitions and epistemic assumptions. Thus, through the unconscious image we possess an innate understanding of the absolute evil and the unforgivable, both in terms of concept and appearance.

Forgiveness for Jankelevitch must be motivated by an unselfish altruism. Fleischacker writes “…Jankelevitch’s views on forgiveness seem to be as follows: people commonly say they “forgive” someone else far too easily relying on one of two dishonest and poorly thought out clichés, “time heals all wounds” and “to understand all is to forgive all”. To the first of these clichés, Jankelevitch says that human beings have all sorts of good reasons for wanting to resist the flow of time and the forgetfulness that comes with it. Insofar as “rancor”, the refusal to forgive, stands against time and holds on to memory, Jankelevitch sees it as heroic. As to the second, Jankelevitch notes that, if an action can be fully “Understood”---hence excused---there is no need to forgive at all: What we realize then is that no wrong has really been done. Forgiveness is a product neither of the passage of time nor of the excuse. Nor again is it merely an opportunity for the wrongdoer to rehabilitate himself or for the victim to display her magnanimity. All of these ways of viewing forgiveness miss the three features that Jankelevitch considers essential to it: that it be an “event,” something that changes my relationship with another, rather than something eternally built into that relationship; that it be “a gratuitous gift,” unselfish and unmotivated by instrumental concerns; and that it create or express a personal relationship between the victim and the wrongdoer. For Jankelevitch, true forgiveness is something unnatural and no rational, flowing from us as an expression of grace…if one can manage forgiveness in this sense, one can achieve a pinnacle of humanity […]

Hart writes “Early on in Forgiveness, Jankelevitch tells us that forgiveness is an event, “initial, sudden spontaneous: Forgiveness for Jankelevitch must be an event, it must be something that changes my relationship with another rather than something eternally built into that relationship. (3) that it eludes positive description and that “only an apophatic or negative philosophy of forgiveness is truly possible” (5). Forgiveness must be a gratuitous gift, unselfish and unmotivated by instrumental concerns. Forgiveness must meet a condition of sincerity and authenticity. Further, forgiveness must express a personal relationship between the victim and the wrongdoer. For Jankelevitch forgiveness cannot have a positive phenomenological description. (lecture) According to Jankelevitch, “Forgiveness forgives the guilty person even though he is guilty.”

“For Jankelevitch, forgiveness is the paradigm of moral action, and he draws repeatedly on Kant’s insistence that moral norms hold for us even if they are never instantiated in the empirical world. “Pure sincerity in friendship can be no less required of everyone. Even if up to now there may never have been a sincere friend,” says Kant. Jankelevitch says almost exactly the same thing about forgiveness (115). More generally he declares that “value…is of a wholly other Order than time” and that ethics wants to be scandalously, paradoxically antireal.” The normative order holds up ideals for us that, naturalistically we would consider impossible; insofar as we achieve them, we are aware of rising beyond the causal order that otherwise seems to determine our lives.

These three elements that view forgiveness as an “event,” something that changes my relationship with another, rather than something eternally built into that relationship; that it be “a gratuitous gift,” unselfish and unmotivated by instrumental concerns; and that it create or express a personal relationship between the victim and the wrongdoer flow out of the ethics of Kant which involves the principle of the ability to choose or respond to moral laws. Thus Jankelevitch’s moral theory, like Kant’s, is a theory the free will, a will which is free because it rises beyond the causal order. This will is further exhibited and corroborated in Freud’s concept of the unconscious, or better the interplay between the conscious and the unconscious.

The unconscious is defined as the area of the mind that the person can never directly perceive or be aware of but which affects much of human behavior. It is the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, desires, fears which affect behavior without our (conscious) awareness actively involved, but can only be accessed in sleep, hypnosis, or psychoanalysis (cite source).

All of Freud’s theories were connected directly or indirectly with the unconscious. For example, Freud’s theory of romantic love (at least in heterosexuals ) is explained by what is referred to as the Oedipus complex which consisted of the unconscious sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex combined with the unconscious desire to kill the parent of the same sex. His theory of hysteria said that hysterics had an unconscious homosexual desire which was repressed and which the conscious mind was partially aware of. (CONNECT) It appears that according to this description that we can say that the unconscious has a predetermined and fixed nature. But such a notion has an unexpected implication. Paradoxically, this idea presupposes that in the conscious mind we actually must make decisions which are causally independent, at least in essence, of any extraneous entity, i.e. we must have some degree of autonomy. In a word, it is the principle that there is no black without white, no negative without positive. In the conscious mind the unconscious desires must be controlled and manipulated. This process of adjusting and controlling mind presupposes autonomy because the unconscious desires are non-autonomous and pre-determined and, hence, presuppose an autonomous mind in the conscious mind. If the response in the conscious mind to the pre-determined unconscious thoughts was pre-determined, it would not be a response but would simply be another piece in the causal chain and that is inadmissible because if the response was another piece in the causal chain then it simply would not be a response, a response, in the sense that it is used in Freudian theory (that is, in what it metaphysically implies. (Complete)

This conception of the non-causal, and hence, moral, nature to the unconscious-conscious dichotomy is further supported by the development of Freud’s psychological theory in the work of Jung. Jung took Freud’s theory of the unconscious and applied it to society as a whole, developing the theory of the collective unconscious, a theory which also connects Freud’s work to mythology and theology. According to Edward Casey
The collective unconscious was induced by Jung from his analysis of dream symbols and psychopathological symptoms. It is an inherited archive of archaic-mythic forms and figures that appear repeatedly in the most diverse cultures and historical epochs. Such forms and figures-also called archetypes-are considered “primordial images” preceding the “ideas” that articulate rational thought. As a consequence, the self, rather than being autonomous, is embedded in a prepersonal and prehistoric background from which there is no effective escape.

Examples of those mythic forms and figures that appear are, e.g., Oedipus complex
The question is though on what basis did Jung conclude that these images were mythological. According to Cassirer, the mythological has defining features. First it is defined by imagery which synthesizes dualistic concepts or physical aspects of the world, it is monistic. Secondly, and this is intrinsic to this monistic aspect, it is eternal. Therefore, the mythological, in both its form in that of the image and in the conceptual aspect, is moralistic

So such examples can also be seen in literature itself as literature often expresses the mythological. For example, the image of Hamlet with Yorick’s skull, the image of Man as part machine (seen in Robocop, and various sci-fi films) the image of Dorian Gray’s beautiful face but horrendous inner quality revealed in his painting, the image of a man with head cut off, man as part animal, Man as a purely physical being, (devoid of thought, thought involving the non-physical). Man without a face, or eyes, ugliness, madness, masks, a severed head rolling, facelessness, bodilessness

Further, Jung, like Heidegger, agreed that the allegory expressed something of supreme ontological significance.
This implies that this image in our unconscious often represented at the conscious level in morality plays. This concept is further supported by the connection between morality and the aesthetic. Going back to Kant we see this. Kant describes the faculty of judgment as bridging the great gulf between the concept of nature and that of freedom. While Kant says that the concept or principle of judgment which mediates the transition between nature and freedom is that of the purposiveness of nature he also associates judgment in this context with the feeling pleasure and displeasure making clear that it is not only judgment in the context of empirical scientific enquiry but also aesthetic judgment which plays this bridging role. Aesthetic experience serves as a propaedeutic for morality, in that “the beautiful prepares us to love something, even nature, without interest; the sublime, to esteem it, even contrary to our interest.” The demand for universal agreements in judgments of the sublime rests on an appeal to moral feeling […] Beauty serves as the symbol of morality (§ 59, passim)in that judgment of beauty “legislates for itself” rather than being “subjected to heteronomy of laws of experience” relatedly, feelings of pleasure in the beautiful are analogous to moral consciousness (§ 59, 354) Beauty gives sensible form to moral ideas (§ 60, 356) this is related both to the view that there is an analogy between the experience of beauty and moral feeling and to the view that beauty is the expression of aesthetic ideas. Because of this the development of moral ideas is the true propaedeutic for taste.

As Lyotard argues, aesthetic judgment is the appropriate model for the problem of justice in postmodern experience because we are confronted with a plurality of games and rules without a concept under which to unify them. Judgment must therefore be reflective rather than determining. Furthermore, judgment must be aesthetic insofar as it does not produce denotative knowledge about a determinable state of affairs, but refers to the way our faculties interact with each other as we move from one mode of phrasing to another, i.e. the denotative, the prescriptive, the performative, the political, the cognitive, the artistic, etc. In Kantian terms, this interaction registers as an aesthetic feeling.

The aesthetic is something which has an integral objective element. It expresses itself in part in visual art and theatre. Thus, we can give examples of the aesthetic which represent morality, the essence of which is forgiveness, and we determine which examples are acceptable aesthetic examples. These images are embedded in our unconscious. They are not revealed in every day experience. The reason for this is that they are images of spirit. They do not involve representation. They are direct encounters. These images in the unconscious are not representations of other things or concepts. They purely are what they appear to be. Being is at one with appearance.

This is supported by the inductive evidence in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis in its conversation with the patient reveals through observation images and their trans-symbolic structure. But deductively speaking this fact is demonstrated in what may be called the translogical structure to Freud’s conception of mind referred to above.

Evil involves a rejection of existence itself, and of thought itself, and a splitting or bifurcation of the self as a result, or thought turning in on itself in a self-representation or self-reference. (An absolutely evil being does not want to exist. He would want to cease to exist.) This evil becomes absolute when it rejects the fundamental reality that all love or goodness presupposes, but at the same time desires to be this source and to have the power of this source. This source might be called God. This idea can be seen in Kant, it can also be traced back to Plato in his connection between intelligence and virtue in The Republic and elsewhere. (But I do not claim that virtue is purely connected to intelligence. It is also connected to feeling. This is contra Plato and Kant.) Absolute evil (characteristics of absolute evil: absolute pride, the denial of the power of love, the power forgiveness or the reality which forgives, absolute self-absorption, self-reflection, self-deification, creation of one’s own reality characters in literature (Satan, Hamlet, father Karamazov, Hamlet) self-preoccupation, unfounded desire to be King (God), narcissism, feeling of superiority, a lack of inner conflict) Self-deification, the rejection of the reality that is the basis for love, for forgiveness, Self-reference, self-representation, emptiness, non-being, the disintegration of the implicate order, the elimination of the principles of the heart, of feeling (rationalism) concept of God Define deity, and its relation to creation, phenomenologically- Thought is directed towards God. For thought to be directed away from God involves a self-diremption, a psychic splitting. Plato’s and Kant’s theories of morality are identical for the most part except that Kant rejects eudaemonism. They both appear to say that the intellect is what provides the basis to morality. What I say is that in actuality there is an element to humans, of goodness, which is non-rational and which involves feeling more than thought. In the theory of Kant and Plato there is no element of personal responsibility. Responsibility is critical to the concept of forgiveness if forgiveness is authentic and not a delusion.

How does this image tell us that absolute evil is characterized in the following way?
An absolute or unforgiveable act or thought involves an act which is a complete commitment to evil. A complete commitment to evil is a complete identification with evil, not in a potential, but in an actual sense. (This is an important distinction because it explains why we may never commit unforgiveable sin but we will always be in our existence in the position where we can do it, i.e. potentially. It is inherent in our existence.

An absolute commitment to something involves a self-identification with something. It is where the self becomes inherently and permanently linked. The question is what specifically dos such a self-identification involve?

Define what relative evil is relationship to forgiveness why forgiveness of relative is a choice unforgiveable offense is the act of self-deification, which involves the creation of one’s own reality, a I maintain that the unforgiveable offense is the act of self-deification, which involves the creation of one’s own reality, and this is inherently related to the notion pure and complete self-love, love which involves no love for the other. Absolute Evil involves a rejection of existence itself, and of thought itself, and a splitting or bifurcation of the self as a result, or thought turning in on itself in a self-representation or self-reference. This evil becomes absolute when it rejects the fundamental reality that all love or goodness presupposes, but at the same time desires to be this source and to have the power of this source. This source might be called God. (Why would an intelligent (conscious) being choose to do these things? In other words, what is the sense to the unforgiveable behavior or thinking?) This idea can be traced back to Plato in his connection between intelligence and virtue in The Republic and elsewhere. (But I do not claim that virtue is purely connected to intelligence. It is also connected to feeling. This is contra Plato and Kant.) I in particular would like to focus on the aesthetic expression of evil, e.g. (explain why this is important) I want to show how evil is related to these aesthetic representations and I want to examine the deeper meaning of these aesthetic forms. The greatest expression of evil in art is in the human face and form, and its perversion.

It seems that the idea of sin would have to presuppose, at least the potential of, unforgiveable sin. The reason is basically that there are principles which are absolute, absolute in the sense of being finite, which means one cannot violate them indeterminately. That is to say, when I make stipulations about what one should and should not do (actions which have moral significance) and they are violated, this violation is permitted but actually only on the basis that complete continual violations against moral laws will not be made. If a person or being violated every moral law, in the sense that every action or thought performed was a moral violation, then he could not function as an intelligent being. I argue that this is because human thought and action is inherently directed towards the Good (and also towards God). Thus, the functioning of a person as an intelligent and contributing being is intrinsically related to his existence as a being. Not just his actions but his consciousness is inherently related to this functioning. And consciousness is tied to existence. Thus we see here that the desire to consistently break all of these laws is actually a desire to cease to exist.

How can such moral judgments exist in the dichotomy of the unconscious-conscious mind (the entire mind) but rather specifically how moral judgments could be made purely in the unconscious mind. Although it may seem impossible at first, this criticism does have a defense. Knowledge and judgment do not have to be conscious nor do they have to be seen in everyday experience, although it is possible that they can. The reason for this is that knowledge and judgment involve the concept of innate ideas, and these are partially ideas which exist in the unconscious and which show us how unconscious judgment is possible. This is supported by several things (1) Kant’s theory of being which connects epistemic and metaphysical principles with moral principles (2) a phenomenological and non-pragmatic epistemic theory (3) the dichotomy between the observer and the observed seen in dramatic theory and (4)Plato’s theory of knowledge as recollection in the Theatetus

Present Kant’s connection between the moral judgment and epistemic judgment but what exactly is a mythic form, what characterizes its structure? According to Cassirer mythological structure is characterized by, among other things, a synthesis and transcendence of dualistic elements which Kant’s theory is further supported by the notion of a non-pragmatic epistemic theory. This is where he distinguishes knowledge from experience, and knowledge from innate ideas.

What really makes possible the notion that all knowledge is supported by moral principles or moral reality is the idea that we have innate ideas, because innate ideas are intrinsic to the unconscious, and the unconscious as shown above is intrinsic to moral judgment. This is in contradistinction to the theory held in pragmatism that knowledge is found in all of consciousness, in general, as opposed to being considered as a segment of knowledge. This is more of a semantic error of pragmatism, but what is not is the issue of innate ideas, and whether or not knowledge can be said to be based on experience. As we can see, phenomenology appears to be the correct view because the view of consciousness and its intentionality presupposes the concept of innate ideas and moreover these innate ideas are eternal and must exist prior to and beyond any finite existence. This is evident in the fact that they are translogical.

Present themselves in ordinary experience and so images of absolute goodness
Where Kant emphasizes the feeling of the beautiful as a harmonious interaction between imagination and understanding, Lyotard stresses the mode in which faculties (imagination and reason,) are in disharmony, i.e. the feeling of the sublime. For Kant, the sublime occurs when our faculties of sensible presentation are overwhelmed by impressions of absolute power and magnitude, and reason is thrown back upon its own power to conceive Ideas (such as the moral law) which surpass the sensible world. For Lyotard, however, the postmodern sublime occurs when we are affected by a multitude of unpresentables without reference to reason as their unifying origin. Justice, then, would not be a definable rule, but an ability to move and judge among rules in their heterogeneity and multiplicity. In this respect, it would be more akin to the production of art than a moral judgment in Kant's sense.These images thus tell us that absolute evil involves a collapse and rejection of the implicate order, the a priori. It also must involve a somatic narcissism. A love of one’s self, and lack of a teleological element.

Heidegger not only says though that all art is essentially poetry, his other meaning is that reality or the world in its broadest sense is seen in poetry and the allegory as well. This goes back to Kant and perhaps this in turn back to Plato’s concept of justice, the political milieu and metaphysical and ontological reality. (see Derrida “Economimesis” and “The Truth in Painting”)

Freud’s conception of mind which involves a non-causal element is also corroborated by Sartre’s metaphysics and ethics. For Sartre freedom consists of two major elements: facticity and transcendence. Sartre defines facticity as the For-itself’s necessary connection with the In-itself, hence with the world and its own past. It is what allows us to say that the For-itself is or exists. The facticity of freedom is the fact that freedom is not able not to be free.

Sartre defines transcendence as […] the process whereby the For-itself goes beyond the given in a further project of itself. Sometimes the For-itself is itself called a transcendence. If I make an object out of the Other, then he is for me a transcendence-transcended. On the other hand, the Being-in-itself which overflows all its appearances and all attempts of mine to grasp it is called a transcendent Being. The word “transcendence” is sometimes purely a substantive, sometimes refers to a process.

For what is required of an authentic choice is that it involves a proper coordination of transcendence and facticity, and thus that it avoid the pitfalls of an uncoordinated expression of the desire for being. This amounts to not-grasping oneself as freedom and facticity. Such a lack of proper coordination between transcendence and facticity constitutes bad faith, either at an individual or an inter-personal level. Such a notion of authenticity is therefore quite different from what is often popularly misrepresented as a typically existentialist attitude, namely an absolute prioritisation of individual spontaneity. On the contrary, a recognition of how our freedom interacts with our facticity exhibits the responsibility which we have to make proper choices. These are choices which are not trapped in bad faith. (Christian J. Onof)

Being-in-itself and being-for-itself have mutually exclusive characteristics and yet we (human reality) are entities that combine both, which is the ontological root of our ambiguity. The in-itself is solid, self-identical, passive and inert. It simply “is.” The for-itself is fluid, nonself-identical, and dynamic. It is the internal negation or “nihilation” of the in-itself, on which it depends. Viewed more concretely, this duality is cast as “facticity” and “transcendence.” The “givens” of our situation such as our language, our environment, our previous choices and our very selves in their function as in-itself constitute our facticity. As conscious individuals, we transcend (surpass) this facticity in what constitutes our “situation.” In other words, we are always beings “in situation,” but the precise mixture of transcendence and facticity that forms any situation remains indeterminable, at least while we are engaged in it. Hence Sartre concludes that we are always “more” than our situation and that this is the ontological foundation of our freedom. (Stanford, Thomas Flynn)

The connection between art, myth, religion and morality (Joseph Campbell, Ernst Cassirer, Max Muller)

Cassirer, Ernst
Fleischacker, Samuel - book review Ethics, October 2007
Freud, Sigmund
Heidegger, Martin The Origin of the Work of Art

Introduction to Metaphysics
Hegel, GWF
Jankelevitch, Vladimir Forgiveness “Should we pardon them?”
Jung, Carl
Kant, Immanuel
The Critique of Practical Reason
The Critique of Judgment
The Critique of Pure Reason
Sartre Being and Nothingness
Notebooks for an Ethics
Scheler, Max
Von Balthasar, Hans Urs
Weber, Max

But Jankelevitch often conceives of forgiveness as an impossible duty. In this way forgiveness becomes a tyranny an imperious demand or command that commands the impossible. Many things become unforgiveable. One example of the unforgiveable that Jankelevitch makes mention of is that of the crimes of the German government, and to some extent, the German people, during the second world war. Kevin Hart writes “Should we Pardon Them?” is one of the most piercing short works of moral polemic in recent history, its most striking feature being that its rhetoric, though always on the brink of becoming invective, never quite leaves the realm of philosophical questioning. Jankelevitch argues eloquently and soberly that the Shoah cannot be forgiven because it is a crime “against humanity,” against “the being ness of the being…the human of every human being” (555). The attempted extermination of the Jews is not a war crime but something wholly different: the singular instance of “pure wickedness, of ontological wickedness” (556). One cannot pardon crimes against humanity because “the penalties against them cannot lapse” (556). Nor can the matter be debated for “Auschwitz precludes dialogue and literary conversation. The mere idea of confronting pro with con in this case has something shameful and absurd about it; such a confrontation is a grave indecency with respect to the tortured” (560). Besides the Germans have not asked for forgiveness: “German repentance, its name is Stalingrad, its name is the breakthrough at Avranches, its name is defeat” (566). “To presume to be pardoned one must admit to being guilty, without conditions or alleging extenuating circumstances” (567). (Hart, book review, Forgiveness)