Note: While I intend this piece to be readable for those who haven’t also read Fear and Trembling, I suspect that this piece will be a lot more valuable to those who are interested in the text itself, which can be found in loads of places on the internet, but also at least here.
A few months ago I was writing up a storm about Heidegger. The ultimate purpose of this storm was because I find him fantastic. But I like Kierkegaard a whole lot more. I’ve recently been re-reading his Fear and Trembling, and the concept in it I find the most interesting and worth discussing is the Teleological Suspension of the Ethical that he describes in the first main section of discussion.
Whew. The phrase itself is somewhat of a mouthful. Therefore, in order to make sense for you readers, I should explain what a Teleological Suspension of the Ethical is. That would make sense before I start telling you why it’s important.
And once you know what it is and why it’s important, then we can maybe start talking about it. Or perhaps I’ll save it for a later post. We’ll have to see!
In his book The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist argues that Western society has been oscillating between periods where cognitive-behavioural tendencies associated with the activation of the intuitive-melancholic right hemisphere of the brain, and periods where society was ruled by the approach and methodology associated with the optimistic-rationalistic left hemisphere.
For McGilchrist, the paradigmatic periods of Western thought which illustrate the function and approach of the right hemisphere are those of the Medieval Period and the Romantic Period. On the other hand, he presents the Enlightenment and subsequent Modern and Post-Modern periods as writ-large instantiations of left-hemisphere modes of being and thinking.
In case you doubt that post-modernism is rationalistic and optimistic, McGilchrist has an explanation: post-modernism for him is a consequence of a radical decoupling of left-hemisphere modes of being from right-hemisphere modes, and a subsequent domination of the right by the left. He argues that the left brain– thinking in terms of parts and unable to appreciate somatic or holistic gestalts– is running amok, fragmenting and alienating us from the bare facts of being.
I’ve never rough slept, though I’ve had plenty of friends who were rough sleeping at one point or another. For the most part, they were the types you would least expect to need to. Two of them were one time students at Cambridge. Sometimes I laugh a little bit internally whenever I hear anyone describe Oxbridge students as ‘poshos.’ They are ultimately people, just like any other person. I’ve never gone to an Ivy League school, but I think that’s probably a generalizable sentiment.
In my past professional life, I’ve worked at a charity for what we term ‘the homeless.’ Even now, my day to day experience mostly amounts to holding people’s hands while they’re burning in hell. Let me assure you, this is an experience that makes you ask questions.
When I opened the text editor to start this piece I was 100% certain that this piece would not be about death. I guess that’s just not my karma, guys.
More thoughts on cancer: if things don’t die, then nothing works. That sounds horrifically vague. I guess what I mean is that nothing in life can be completely free. Limitation seems like it might be a necessary condition for existence.