The Art Of Indirect Communication

Double reflection is thus necessary in the communication of all knowledge pertaining to existence, or what Climacus calls 'essential knowing', namely ethical and ethical-religious knowledge or truth, which requires an indirect rather than a direct mode of communication to others (CUP i. 74, 197-8, 274).17 Direct communication, or the communication of objective knowledge or information to others, is appropriate for conveying the results of certain kinds of objective truth, such as mathematical, historical, and scientific truths. This sort of knowledge can be passed on directly from one person to another in a typical teacher-student relationship. Ethical and ethical-religious truth, however, is not the sort of knowledge or truth that can be communicated directly, for what is being communicated in this instance is not information that can be learnt and repeated by rote but an inward capability for ethical and ethical-religious existence. This capability cannot be passed directly to another person but must be communicated in such a way as to elicit the recipient's own ethical and ethical-religious capability, which every individual must be assumed to possess as an inward potentiality. With respect to specifically Christian communication, however, Kierkegaard concedes that some preliminary knowledge about Christianity must first be communicated, since 'a human being as such does not know about the religious in the Christian sense' (JP i. 650, 651, 653, 657). In Philosophical Fragments, for example, Climacus suggests: 'Even if the contemporary generation had not left anything behind except these words, "We have believed that in such and such a year the god appeared in the humble form of a servant, lived and taught among us, and then died"—this is more than enough' (PF 194). Even so, Kierkegaard maintains that Christian communication is still essentially indirect communication, or more precisely, 'direct-indirect' communication, inasmuch as, like ethical and ethical-religious communication, it has the communication of human capability as its goal (CUP i. 653, 657).

Indirect communication of ethical, ethical-religious, and Christian capability to others is also made dialectically difficult by the fact that the recipient is an existing person, which is the essential factor in this form of communication (CUP i. 277). Indirect communication is thus likened by Climacus to 'having to say something to a passerby in passing, without standing still oneself or delaying the other, without wanting to induce him to go the same way, but just urging him to go his own way—and such is the relation between an existing person and an existing person when the communication pertains to the truth as existence-inwardness' (277). The

17 See also Houe and Marino (2003); Walsh (1994: 206-9); Pattison (1992: 63-94).

purpose and desired effect of indirect communication is to set the recipients free so they can enter into their own subjective relations to existential truth and appropriate it as their own (74). For this to happen, however, self-control and the practice of an 'inexhaustible artistry' are required on the part of the communicator, who must pay close attention to the form of the communication, being careful to cast it in such a way as not to interfere with the recipient's God-relationship by becoming a meddling third party or by making oneself an object of admiration as an ethical or religious prototype for the recipient to emulate (80, 358-9). There is, then, a certain secrecy in indirect communication inasmuch as the content of the communication is private and personal to both the communicator and the recipient, and one can never be certain whether the recipient has been helped or not (74, 78-80). The model of indirect communication for Climacus is Lessing, to whom he ascribes, potentially if not actually, the thesis that 'The subjective existing thinker is aware of the dialectic of communication' (72). Another exemplar is Socrates, who 'artistically, maieutically', that is, in the role of a midwife, helped others 'give birth' to themselves and achieve self-knowledge on the assumption that everyone has to acquire truth by oneself (80, 277-8).

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