Existentialism appears to be the search for the story about “self.” The best read philosophical authors, whether academic or popular, always write about the way “beings” fit into the world. Yes, they write about the “other” but it was always in relationship to their “selves.”
Kierkegaard attempted to modify his past with a reflection. He wrote about a “being” that had a binding relationship to another. He depicted how special relationships between beings are threatened. Yet, in the end and with a great leap faith, the relationship is miraculously restored, never to be lost again. His example was the biblical episode of Abraham and Isaac. Delving beneath Kierkegaard’s story, “Fear and Trembling”, we discover that he is writing about himself. As a younger man he forfeited his first love, Regina. Behind Kierkegaard’s philosophical writing are a pair of opposing mirrors; Kierkegaard reflects Abraham, Regina reflects Isaac.
Heidegger was an existentialist who used a mottled echo to hide that label. On occasion he donned an “existentialist suit” as an echo of commonality. At other times he wore a literary suit that echoed himself into “Dasein.” Indeed, everyone claims to know who or what “Dasein” is, but no one appears to have given “Dasein” a clear definition. It is Heidegger’s world, according to Martin. A secondary question is why would Heidegger write in such a strange manner? The man who requires the meaning of Heidegger’s work will never finish reading it. An example:
“Listening to . . . Is Dasein’s existential way of Being-open as Being-with for Others. Indeed, hearing constitutes the primary and authentic way in which Dasein is open for its ownmost potentiality-for-Being — as in hearing the voice of the friend who every Dasein carries with it. Dasein hears, because it understands. As a Being-in-the-world with Others, a Being which understands, Dasein is ‘in thrall’ to Dasein-with and to itself; and in this thralldom it ‘belongs’ to these.”
Nietzsche is a little more devilish in his work. He plays with us constantly. He informs us his writing is for himself; he does not care if the others comprehend. I think he is waving a literary flag of bravado. His “Madman” ran into the marketplace, carrying a lantern in broad daylight, screaming “Where is God?” This striking piece of authorship reaches down into the bowels of every man. It is a masterpiece. Nietzsche was clever, writing clearly and brilliantly; and nastily, when necessary. But he did not write for himself, as he wanted us to believe. He wrote for all of us. Nietzsche echoed and reflected only Nietzsche. Now Nietzsche echoes new questions in each of his reader’s minds.
Nietzsche was not a hero as author of “The Antichrist.” He forced thinking Christians to understand that something may be amiss with St. Paul. Nietzsche questions the concepts of self-denial and the creation of a God that allows throwing our sins overboard. The expectation is that they will appear in the apostle’s nets as wholesome fish. We have to thank Nietzsche for making it clear that we are responsible for our own actions.
However brilliant his first sections (1 – 45) of “The Antichrist” are, it is obvious that he had something other than theology troubling him in the second sections (46 – 62). This is displayed by a series of anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Polish, statements indelibly carved in his biography by his own pen. I review examples from the opening section forty-six;
“You should put gloves on before picking up the New Testament.”
“We would not want to associate with the ‘first Christians’ any more than with the Polish Jews; . . . Neither of them smells good.”
As another example let us inspect Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Philosophy which has four main points: Objective Reality, Reason, Self-interest and Capitalism . There are no convoluted or minced words in Rand’s philosophy. However, if that is a philosophy why did she write “Philosophy; who needs it?” The answer may lay in the fact that it was assembled after she died; but, it was all her. The essays are typically brash, confident and to the point. Her self confidence is not in the least tempered by forethoughts of who might be reading it. Rand echoed Nietzsche on that issue.
Husserl, on the other hand, asks us to be wary of what we believe we may be perceiving. Perceptions could simply be the residue of a previous experience. Husserl’s authorship of “The Basic Approach of Phenomenology”, yields several insights regarding thought and perception when considering our spatial and temporal world. He discusses the experience of observable “natural attitude” (I propose that Heidegger would call this “every-day-ness”) and symbolic “arithmetical attitude” (Nietzsche’s abstractness) as well as the differences between a “studied” non-actionable object and an “actionable” thought. Another Husserl concept introduces us to “parenthesizing”, the holding of a known belief in suspension. He ties this together by stating that residue of previous experiences may “fill in” those things that were not, in reality, encountered. That is, the “broken section” of the observation or experience would be “filled in” with the variations and permutations of previous experiences.
Husserl reminds his readers of misty “horizons” (preconceived perceptions) and the various values we assign to objects and beings. He reminds his readers to focus on the object in order to avoid the possible error of “filled in” experience.
Husserl warns his readers of the echoes and reflections of their own experiences. Nietzsche would call them “instincts.” Heidegger may have called them “intuitive-ness.” Husserl is convinced that we, as individuals, conjure up these residual experiences and reflect or echo them into other experiences, regardless of their incompleteness or validity.
Jorge Luis Borges, on the other hand, is a universe of echoes, reflections, and allusions. I will allow the reader to discover JLB for himself.