Subjectivity As Untruth

The first dialectical problem that confronts the subjective thinker in Christianity concerns the condition of the thinker's own subjectivity. Seeking to show how Christianity makes an advance upon the Socratic position that subjectivity is truth, Climacus claims that in Christianity one must begin by positing the opposite thesis, namely that 'subjectivity is untruth'

19 On the inverse dialectic of Religiousness A, see Walsh (2005: 8, 83-5, 114-16). See also Law (1997); Westphal (1996: 150-79); Evans (1983: 161-84).

(CUP i. 207).20 This does not mean the negation of subjectivity in favour of objectivity as in speculative thought. Rather, subjectivity is still affirmed as the truth, but Christianity begins with the revelation that one exists in a state of untruth or sin inasmuch as a radical alteration has taken place in one's being, resulting in a break in one's relation to the eternal and a loss of one's essential self-identity as an eternal being (584). In the Socratic or immanent ethical-religious relation to the truth, the individual anticipates the eternal conformity of being and truth and is prevented from the realization of that telos only by the fact that existence is continually unfinished and one is always in the situation of only approximating the truth. In Christianity, by contrast, the revelation of one's condition as a sinner radically alters one's self-understanding and relation to the eternal. Existing in a state of untruth or complete discontinuity with the eternal, one cannot begin the task ofinward self-transformation assuming, as could Socrates or a person in immanent religiosity, that one is 'essentially integer', that is, uncorrupted or innocent in relation to the truth (205).

According to Plato, Socrates advanced the thesis that all knowledge is recollection.21 This thesis assumes that truth resides eternally within human beings; thus they already know the truth and need only to be reminded of it or become conscious of what they have forgotten. From the Socratic viewpoint, therefore, human beings exist essentially in conformity with truth. According to Climacus, however, Socrates constantly departed from this proposition in order to emphasize existence (CUP i. 205-7). While the possibility of affirming the unity of thought and being by way of recollection was always open to him, Socrates preferred to bring it to expression by accentuating existing rather than speculative thought. He perceived that a human being is first of all an existing individual and that existence makes a claim upon all human beings by presenting the task of existing as their essential task in life. The task of existing is to become concrete, not abstract, to accentuate existence rather than to negate it. Thus Socrates moved forward in existence rather than backward in recollection, transforming his existence in inwardness in the wisdom that subjectivity is truth.

In Climacus's estimation, then, Socrates went beyond speculative philosophy in affirming existence rather than recollection as the way to truth. The theory of recollection thus belonged more to Plato and his idealist followers than to Socrates (CUP i. 206). But because Socrates retained the possibility of taking himself back into eternity through recollection, existence in time did not hold for him the decisiveness or extent of alteration that it does for Christian subjective thinkers, who begin by discovering that they exist in a state of untruth or sin. For the Christian, then, there

20 See also Barrett (1997). 21 Plato, Meno 870-97.

is no eleventh hour escape from existence through recollection, and the task of becoming the truth in Christianity is a far more difficult and crucial matter when one is not already in the truth than it is for someone who is essentially in conformity with the truth and needs only to demonstrate it in existence through a concrete reduplication or actualization of the truth in one's personal life. The individual in sin is faced not only with the task of reduplication but also with an inward contradiction that makes reduplication impossible. This has the effect of intensifying passion to the utmost, for 'it cannot be expressed more inwardly that subjectivity is truth than when subjectivity is at first untruth, and yet subjectivity is truth' (213).

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