"Self is a very wicked thing"
Samuel Richardson, 1754
It's a great honor for me to be giving the opening lecture of this conference. And it's a particular pleasure to be in the Bratislava region again, almost exactly one year after having enjoyed wonderful discussions and the greatest hospitality here.
Yet I must confess to feeling a little insecure. My thoughts are too preliminary and tentative for the purpose of an opening speech. I developed these reflections only recently and am presenting them for the first time now. So please take the following as being work in progress, a sketch, an essay in every sense.
I. Becoming oneself - not finding one's Self
Let me start out by explaining a preliminary decision. "Becoming oneself" - on my understanding - does not mean "finding one's Self". I want to speak about a process and a development, not about the discovery or realization of something pregiven. And I refer strictly to the reflexive pronoun `self', not to the noun `the Self'. I do so for a simple reason: I mistrust the common philosophical substantivization of this pronoun, the step from the compounded `self' - as in `oneself' or `ourselves' - to the absolute noun `the Self'. (I could never write a book about The Sources of the Self.)
1. Misguidance through a misuse of language
As you know, Wittgenstein considered many traditional problems of philosophy to stem from a misuse of language. "[...] philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday."(1) I suspect the problems of the Self are of this type.
Another philosopher who was very sensitive to language's problematic influence on our way of thinking - Nietzsche - was convinced that our conventional talk of the "I" too is merely due to conventional grammar, and is basically mistaken. He intended to liberate us from this "faith of governesses", as he called it, by demonstrating that `the I' is a construct rather than a premiss of our thinking, and that it is not a unitary, but a manifold thing.(2)
In ordinary language, `self' is a reflexive pronoun referring to persons who - in whatever sense - say "I". It means nothing more and nothing other than this reflexive deixis. I would like to suggest restricting the use of `self' to this reflexive usage - instead of substantivizing and mystifying it.(3)
2. "The Self" - a case of modern metaphysics
Of course, abandoning the talk of "the Self" constitutes an attack on philosophical habits which many of us - and philosophers in particular - are inclined to consider simply natural. They stick to what I call the essentialistic pattern of the individual. In referring to `the Self' one believes one is making reference to something like the essence of an individual. In other words: The talk of "the Self" is the modern version of the essentialistic conception of man.
Traditionally, however, the essentialistic conception had a quite different structure: Individuals (in the sense of first substances, like Socrates) were determined by reference to a second substance, in this case to the general essence of man (or humanness). This common essence defined a set of biological, moral and cognitive standards which individuals had to try to live up to. The individuals' task was the fulfilment of the general essentialistic pattern.
In modern times however - modern times starting, perhaps, with the sixteenth century, and certainly since the eighteenth century - the essence itself was conceived in individualistic terms, as the proper essence of a specific individual. "The Self" is the name for this individualistic essence.(4) Since then people's task has been to live up to their individualistic essence, to realize one's "Self". "Become who you are" ("Werde der Du bist") is the typical formula of this modern concept, which has recently become very common, for example in the maxim of `self-realization', this key formula of the eighties.(5)
3. Paradoxes of this conception
But this modern conception of an individualistic essence called "the Self", is, it seems to me, a paradoxical one - for at least three reasons.
Firstly: Although the new essence, the Self, is understood to be strictly individualistic, the individual's relationship to this essence is still conceived of in the same way as the previous relationship to the general essence. The Self, though being the exclusive property of a single person, remains yet as distant from this individual as the former general essence was meant to be: The modern Self represents an authority within the individual which makes strong claims, and every individual has a hard time living up to its demands. It is in no way easier to be completely yourself than it was to be a complete human. But whereas it was quite understandable that an individual has difficulties realizing the human's general feature, it is difficult to make sense of the idea that an individual can have a hard time fulfilling its own individual structure. Wouldn't potential insufficiencies simply have to be counted as elements of precisely this individual's structure, as belonging to the person's characteristic traits?
A second point: The Self is considered to be something pregiven, just like the good old essence. When Aristotle declared that a man creates a man, this did not mean that he creates the essence of man, but just one more example of man by passing the form of man which he possesses down to his children. But in the context of the modern conception you are led to assume that man doesn't even create his own individualistic essence, that this is instead something pre-established, just like humanness in the former case. The Self is considered to be a kind of "original germ", a preordained scheme which is simply to be developed in the course of life - just as Kant thought of reason, whose "original germ" should come to light through "the sheer self-development of reason".(6) The Self is regarded as a pre-established entity within a person awaiting realization ever since his or her birth.
So the problem is that the new idea of the Self is still moulded along the lines of the old concept of essence. This is all the more paradoxical since the new concept was - thirdly - meant precisely as an emancipation from the old one. With the concept of the Self one wanted to get away from the old essentialistic determination of man. Freedom and self-determination were the new key words. But as convincing - or merely attractive - as this may have been on the level of intent, the intention was lost on the conceptual level: The new concept of the Self is flawed in that it repeats the conceptual form of essentialism, trying merely to replace the old general essence of man with a new and individualistic essence called "the Self". - The concept of the Self is a modern version of metaphysics, an individualistic metaphysics of the Self.(7)
4. Aim of the paper
I'm not going to follow this line of thinking. I don't conceive of the self as a pregiven core or nucleus, as a sort of ahistoric pre-ego or super-ego of the individual. If the talk of a self is to make sense at all, it must refer to something which is to be evolved, not just to be unfurled or realized.
Hence my question is not: How can we discover and finally live up to our Self? But rather: How do we evolve and finally become - or feel as if we are becoming - ourselves? And if we ever have the impression of having lost our way, how can we manage to become ourselves again? What are the processes and potential strategies in becoming oneself? This is the type of question I am now going to turn to and to explore.(8)
This is, of course, far too broad a topic. It would require talking about socialisation and education, the influence of parents and friends, and today of the media in particular. And one would have to do this in a pluralistic way - differentiating between various types of society and social classes, and trying to analyze various types of individualization.
I will - for the purposes of this conference - concentrate on just one aspect. How does one become oneself if one is an artist? And by this I mean: if one tries to become oneself by being an artist, through one's artistic activity.
In providing some elements of a possible answer I will try to cover not only the case of artists in the narrow sense, but that of authors as well - in literature and elsewhere, because it seems to me that the topic of this conference is meant to comprehend various fields. And for objective reasons, and again following the outline of this conference, I will also include reflections on the audience and public, for there is no self without others, no artist or author without public or audience.
Yet my reflections will be partial and fragmentary, in no way comprehensive. And they will, moreover, present a personal - and maybe even idiosyncratic - view. A topic like "becoming oneself" may allow for this.(9)
II. Becoming oneself - as an artist, author, etc.
As an artist - and to start with, I refer only to the emphatic type of artist - you try to create works of art of a highly specific, an individual kind. You are convinced that you become yourself in the best way via your works of art. You create yourself by producing your kind of artwork.
Of course, you do other things too - visit friends, buy food, negotiate with officials, make love, etc. But you will be strongly focused on your artistic activity and build the other activities around it and sometimes even functionalize them for the only purpose which really matters to you: advancing your artistic work - so as to further yourself.
1. An absolutism which makes sense
Artists often appear to be absolutists - absolutists of their artistic enterprise. Because they consider it the most important thing to be done - for themselves and in the art world in general. This absolutism often meets with criticism. But there is a reasonable point in it: The artist - the emphatic artist - is the only person in this world who is able to produce just the kind of things he produces. If he were not to do it, nobody would, and the world would remain poorer. A potentiality which can come into existence only through you - because you are the only person who is haunted by this vision and who has the potential to give birth to it - will be realized by you, or never. It constitutes your personal singularity, and you may also feel responsible for bringing about this objective potentiality which can come into existence only through you. It is either given birth by you - or will not exist at all. - Similar phenomena are to be found in other spheres too, in writing, science or philosophy.
Even putting speculations about the world aside, your work is in any case the most important thing to you. Therefore you are - in a personal respect - completely justified in being an absolutist with regard to this possibility which is unique to you. And even in an objective respect your absolutism does not have to be simply wrong. For if you realize your project, then it may well prove highly important in the eyes of others too - at least in the artworld.
And let's not forget: An absolutism of this sort can be a necessary condition for an artist's activity. If he or she were not convinced in pursuing the most important thing, he or she might not be strong enough to realize it - in the face of all kinds of atrocities, obstacles, difficulties and his or her own weakness.
From an objective point of view one may well object that there are always several, quite different absolutist claims of this sort at the same time - which casts an ironic light on these claims to absoluteness: they are obviously relative and instances of a pluralism. - But again: Don't forget that pluralism would not even exist if there weren't such absolute beliefs, hopes and activities. Absolutism seems to be a condition not only for personal productivity but also for the objective situation of plurality.
So the artist's opinion that his project is the most important thing - not only for himself but, at least to a certain extent, for this world in general - may be objectively wrong, but it represents at least a useful illusion. Artists should not be criticized for pursuing this illusion. Only art historians or art critics - who have to work on a reflective level and hence take plurality into account - should be.
In short: Artists of the type I have described are justified. The unique kind of artworks they are going to produce can be the absolutely right and only thing to do - for themselves, in becoming themselves.
2. Potential success - potential failure - a possible way out
What will happen when you pursue such a project? You may be fortunate. Things work out pretty well - perhaps not immediately, but in the long run. You become well-known for your work, and via it become - above all - yourself. But the opposite can happen too. For example, because your artistic capacity was mediocre. Or for a more interesting reason which I'm going to consider now. Perhaps your artistic project was systematically misguided. And therefore the way you pursued it led to a dead end. You pursued your project intentionally, believing that your project was perfect and had only to be carried out, and you made every possible effort to realize it the way it was conceived. But you failed again and again: the results were never convincing - not to your friends and not even to yourself.
Yet a way out of this dead end may appear by chance - and, strangely enough, in the opposite direction to your former intentional steps. Due to contingent events - and perhaps after you have lost all hope of ever achieving your goal - you may wonderously achieve what you were after in vain for such a long time. Perhaps it was not your project that was wrong, but the intentional, the direct way in which you tried to realize it.
a. Pliny and Protogenes
Let me give an example of what I have in mind by quoting a passage from Pliny the Elder. In Book 35 of his Historia naturalis he reports an anecdote about Protogenes, the ancient painter. Protogenes wanted to depict a panting dog, foaming at the mouth. Time and time again he tried to render this foam true to nature - but every time without success. He wiped away the foam, which he had just painted but which didn't appear natural, with a sponge, changed the brush, started over again, with a different stroke and application of colour. But still in vain - again he had to reach for the sponge. Finally - completely dissatisfied, despairing with himself - he stepped back from the board for the umpteenth time, reached however this time not to the brush, but rather, filled with anger, hurled the sponge against the loathed point on the board - and behold, the sponge left behind the most perfect impression of foam imaginable. "Thus [...] coincidence", Pliny summarizes, "created the natural truth".(10) What had failed time and time again intentionally, succeeded on the different and fortunate path of coincidence.
In my view this is an exemplary case. You can reach your goal - one which seemed unattainable - by quite different means, by non-intentional, by contingent means. And maybe this applies not only to things like a dog's foam, but also to artistic projects in general and - above all - to becoming oneself.
b. Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci
The story reported by Pliny is continued in the Italian Renaissance. Firstly and negatively, with Botticelli. If you throw a sponge full of assorted colours against the wall, then it leaves behind a patch in which one can discern a beautiful landscape, says Botticelli.(11) By this he wants to point out how ridiculous landscape painting is.
The positive version stems from Leonardo. According to him, Botticelli's statement proves only that Botticelli had little understanding of landscape painting - and indeed, Leonardo adds, Botticelli painted "quite miserable landscapes".(12) For Leonardo, however, the prescription of contingency is of the highest importance, and he recommends his fellow painters to "remain standing sometimes and look at the patches on the wall or into the ashes in the fire, in the clouds, or in mud and other such places; you will, if you observe them correctly, discover very wonderful inventions in them. For the painter's spirit is inspired to new inventions - be it in compositions of battles, of animals and humans, or to assorted compositions of landscapes and of fiendish things such as the devil and the like." "Through confused and uncertain things", Leonardo concludes, "the spirit is roused to new discoveries".(13)
Leonardo, who was certainly an expert in becoming oneself against all kinds of obstacles, not only acknowledged but systematically recommended contingent procedures (as far as I know for the very first time in the history of occidental art).
c. Twentieth century: Ernst, Duchamp, Cage
In the twentieth century Max Ernst - who was highly aware of the traps of intentionality and who wonderfully described the fear and even impotence of the artist vis à vis an empty canvas or a blank page - explicitly reverted to Leonardo's advice and developed, in his frottages, works which were due to the contingencies of their production process.(14) Remember also Ernst's revealing phrase "Nageur aveugle, je me suis fait voyant" ("Being a blind swimmer, I made myself seeing"). Other members of the surrealist circle introduced further contingent methods into art - think, say, of the "écriture automatique" or of Dominguez' decalcomanias. Contingency was welcomed as a method to escape the traps of autonomy and selfhood.
Or think of Marcel Duchamp who introduced true contingency into art - into this sphere which is usually believed to be one of the utmost coherence and necessity. He didn't finish his "Great Glass" but simply declared it "definitively unfinished" in 1923. And when in 1926, during transportation, the work was broken he called this - to the relief of the transport company and the surprise of many art fans - "the happy completion of the piece". He had the piece put back together so that the cracks are today effective elements of the composition.(15) This is a clear case of the acceptation of contingency.
John Cagethen became the best known advocate of artistic and personal contingency. He welcomed sounds from beyond concert music - think of his silent piece 4'33'' -, and the manner of notation of his pieces is created by coincidental methods (such as that of the I Ging) which often leave the performance underdetermined - the door is, so to speak, left open to creative coincidence. Not only the emancipation of dissonance, but also, and above all, the emancipation of contingency took place with Cage.
In such cases contingency is a strategy to achieve what one couldn't achieve by intentional means alone. One has to shift to non-intentional ones. This may - via and alongside artistic creation - also imply a recommendation for becoming oneself. The realization of the uncompleted project of one's self is not to occur by means of intentionality alone, or - to switch from Habermasean to Kantian terminology - by sheer development of the "original germ" of one's self, but also by accepting and including contingent processes. The simple strategies of project-realization or germ-development may even turn out to have been the very obstacle in trying to become oneself. Once you are no longer exclusively focused on your goal, but open to contingent events and elements too, then you may get, through just this sidestepping approach, what you were unable to achieve before.(16)
The reason why this pertains not only to artistic phenomena but also to self-formation is easy to grasp: `self' is not a solid kernel defined once and for all, but is in its formation connected with contingency in many ways. It evolves through contingent processes; it represents a matrix which offers a variety of potentialities; it constitutes a style rather than a substance, or a way of living, acting and thinking rather than a number of strictly defined contents or projects; it is not defined in a purely internal way, but takes shape in interaction with, and is dependent upon many entities outside: certain people, cultural contexts, and professional, economic and cultural conditions; finally, it is, as a matter of principle, never stable, but open to modifications - which at least in part come from the outside or are contingent.(17)
To sum this up: Being internally linked with contingency, selfhood may very well be achieved through explicit strategies of contingency, not of intentionality alone. This explains the success of the methods mentioned before - whose application from the viewpoint of the old, substantialist concept of the Self appears paradoxical.
4. Non-selfish conceptions of selfhood
It is specific to (occidental) modernity to focus on autonomy and the autonomous self. But things haven't always been this way. Inside and outside Europe there have been conceptions of the human which suggested the opposite route: not to understand the self as something closed on itself but rather as a type of relationship, or to attempt to become oneself by being willing to lose oneself. For such conceptions contingency is quite familiar, or inherent to selfhood and becoming oneself, not something strange or menacing to it.
Think, for example, of the Christian idea that you should disregard yourself and that by so doing will gain yourself.(18) Similarly, for a Buddhist, it is the most obvious thing that you will gain redemption only by losing yourself: the intentional search for the Self is the cause of all unhappiness, the proper goal to achieve is the `selfless' self.(19)
Or think of Hölderlin. He lived in a time when the modern conception of the Self became popular and was being advanced by his former philosophical friends. Yet he never conceived of himself according to the pattern of the single I amidst other I's but in terms of a relationship between human beings und gods:
"I understood the aether's still
The words of men I never understood.
In the arm of the gods I grew."(20)
Many other poets took a comparable step when pluralizing and transforming the I into a manifold structure implying areas of contingency. Thus Montaigne had already said that "we are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game".(21) "I have nothing to say about myself absolutely, simply, and solidly, without confusion and without mixture, or in one word."(22) Novalis wrote that one person is "several people at once" since "pluralism" is "our innermost essence".(23) Or remember Walt Whitman's "I am large ... I contain multitudes",(24) or Rimbaud's "JE est un autre",(25) or Valéry's "je crois plus que jamais que je suis plusieurs!"(26) Robert Musil declared in the Man without Qualities: "The ego is losing the significance that it had previously had as a sovereign dispensing acts of government."(27) "Perhaps, when the inappropriate significance which we afford the personality disappears, we will enter into a new one as in the most splendid adventure."(28)
The philosophical critique of the standard occidental conception of the Self - a critique concisely expressed in Horkheimer's and Adorno's phrase "Men had to do fearful things to themselves before the self, the identical, purposive, and virile nature of man, was formed"(29) - has indeed had many precursors and parallels in artistic and literary experience.
And just reflect for one moment: Isn't it a strange thing indeed that - following our conventional grammar - we always talk of becoming one-self - as if this numeric singularity were simply natural? Why only one? Why not several, why not many? Is there any reason definitely obliging us to think of identity only in terms of numeric singularity? Could `identity' not also mean the ability to connect different features, to link many kinds of identity which have some traits in common while differing in others - but without any one of them comprehending all other identities?(30)
The paradigm author for what I have in mind might be Nietzsche. Of himself he said that he was "glad to harbour [...] not `one immortal soul', but many mortal souls within".(31) "The assumption of one subject is perhaps not necessary; perhaps it is just as permissible to assume a multitude of subjects, whose interplay and strife form the basis of our thinking and our consciousness altogether?"(32) Nietzsche coined the formula of the "subject as a multitude".(33)
Nietzsche's Ecce homo - his account of his own life - has as subtitle: "How one becomes what one is". This might sound like a tribute to the old concept of the Self as an internal nucleus which one has to find and to realize. But listen to what follows, to Nietzsche's answer to the question "how one becomes what one is": "That one becomes what one is presupposes that one doesn't have the remotest idea what one is. From this viewpoint even life's blunders have their own sense and value, the occasional byways and detours, the hesitations, the `modesties', the seriousness, wasted on tasks which lie beyond the task. A great cleverness can be expressed in this, even the greatest cleverness: wherever nosce te ipsum were the recipe for downfall, forgetting oneself, misunderstanding oneself, diminishing, narrowing, moderating oneself becomes reason itself."(34) Finally he says: "In this respect, my life is simply wonderful. [...] I fail to recall ever having exerted myself - no trace of struggle can be demonstrated in my life, I am the opposite of a heroic nature. `Wanting' something, `striving' for something, a `purpose', having a `wish' in mind - I don't know any of this from experience."(35)
6. Going astray and self-attainment
Having first rejected the idea of the Self as a pregiven and nuclear entity which is simply to be realized, and having instead advocated a dynamic understanding of producing oneself, I have in the meantime discussed two ways in which this can come about: by intentional, purpose-directed procedures or, on the contrary, by abandoning intentionality and turning to contingency. Let me now, after this more or less analytical distinction, present how I imagine the combination of the two aspects - and the way I feel closest to.
a. Going astray
It is a matter of fact that we sometimes feel as though we have lost our path, our direction, ourselves. This, of course, does not mean that we have deviated from an original essence - what we have lost on our way is a structure of ourselves which has evolved through our life and activities. But now we sense that we have deviated from this our concrete utopia with which we so agree in our heart of hearts. We feel that we could and should have realized this potential - but have failed to do so.
Hölderlin provides an example of this sentiment of having gone astray. Considering his life he complained:
"This breast, which a heaven once filled
Dead and needy, like a stubble-field [...]"(36)
And looking at what people do he said:
"Foolishly we roam around; like the roving vine,
When the cane breaks upon which it grows up to the sky,
We spread ourselves across the floor and seek and wander
Through the zones of earth, oh father aether! in vain"(37)
Nietzsche too knew such feelings:
"[...] I sensed my instinct's going completely astray,
of which the single blunder, be it Wagner or the Basle professorship,
was merely an indication.
An impatience with myself fell over me;
I saw that it was high time to reflect my way back to myself."(38)
This is quite a familiar experience, I guess - not only for people in their midlife-crisis. But what can we do in such a situation? How can we become ourselves again - after having lost, having not realized ourselves?
b. Renewed self-attainment
We will probably not directly achieve the erstwhile utopia which we have failed to realize. But we can reinvent it. We can develop a modified - perhaps an improved - version of it.
Let us first abandon the distractions which have become our daily routine. Try to find your hidden self - but be aware that it will be more a figure of the future than of the past. Be prepared for not really knowing what your self will be like. And don't hurry, take your time. Be open to contingency again, to micro-processes in the reformulation of yourself. Pay attention to unexpected attractions, to things formerly unimportant which are becoming more important to you now. Don't slight the slow and unconscious processes in which you assume a new shape, rather let yourself be seduced by them. Don't just follow your rational project and intentions, be open to your emotions too, even to micro-feelings. Give them a magnifying glass. Allow yourself to have an unclear profile amidst the new tendencies, a profile which only slowly becomes clearer and more decisive. Trust the dynamics of this creative process. Live the process of becoming - not simply and crudely realizing - yourself. Become the fruit of this experience - thus you may truly become yourself.
Or, to put all this in Nietzsche's words again - with words I partly omitted in the quotation from Ecce homo I gave before: Nietzsche speaks of the "masterpiece in the art of self-maintenance". According to him, this presupposes not proceeding intentionally, but "that one doesn't have the remotest idea what one is". The danger lies not in the "byways and detours" which you then start wandering, but, conversely, in "that the instinct `understands itself' too early". It is better to keep misunderstanding yourself, so that "the organizing `idea', destined for mastery, grows and grows in the depths - it begins to give orders, it slowly leads the way back from byways and detours, it prepares single qualities and abilities, which will prove themselves indispensable as means to the whole, - it cultivates all the servile faculties in turn, before revealing anything of the dominating task, of `aim', `purpose', `sense'."(39)
The "masterpiece in the art of self-maintenance" - or of self-attainment as I would put it - consists in paying attention to the "byways and detours", in taking one's time in following these paths of contingency, and in waiting for the growth of the organizing power arising out of these manifold experiences, which finally gives you a new and possibly powerful shape, making you become yourself.(40)
In this perspective, intentionality and contingency are combined. A project - the project of becoming oneself again - is the starting-point. But in the process contingency is equally or even more important. Finally, however, you will shift to intentionality again, but not to the previous one, but to the one which has evolved during the process and which corresponds to your new, actual being yourself.(41)
7. Becoming oneself - just once, just in one's work
I now turn to a final point in this line of argument. Becoming oneself does not necessarily establish a permanent structure. We should be glad if we become ourselves from time to time, or just once. - Let me refer to Hölderlin once more.
He felt an irredeemable loss - during his lifetime and pertaining even to the time after his death:
"The soul, which in life its divine right
Did not receive, it rests not too below in Orcus"(42)
But Hölderlin also pointed to one exception - which he declared to be sufficient:
"Yet once success was mine in the sacred,
that I have at heart, the poem"
.... one time
I lived, like gods, and more is not needed."(43)
As a poet, he had acted out his highest potential for a short period. But this was of value for ever.
And to quote a similar voice, from this century, Joseph Brodsky:
"[...] What gets left of a man amounts
to a part. To his spoken part. To a part of speech."(44)
Hölderlin and Brodsky refer to the poet. But what they say might - by analogy - also apply to artists or composers, to dancers or singers, or to scientists and - hopefully - also to philosophers, in one word: to people of every kind.
III. Others, audience, public
Let me now turn to another perspective. So far I seem to have forgotten one important point. However great one's work (in whatever field) may be - this work which at the same time helps you in becoming yourself - the work as such is not sufficient. A sort of social acknowledgement - from friends, an audience, a public - is also required. There is no success - neither for the work, nor in becoming oneself - without social recognition. In Hegel's words: "Self-consciousness [...] exists only in being acknowledged."(45)
1. Modern difficulties
But in modern or post-modern conditions becoming oneself and social recognition can hardly go hand in hand any more. Rather they drift apart - and this is for a systematic reason. The more individuals become themselves in an individualistic way, the less will they find other people who share their highly specific views and are therefore potential agents for their artistic recognition. Modern artists cannot have a large public. Individualistic self-creation and social recognition move in opposite directions. Therefore it becomes more and more difficult to achieve the recognition which is necessary for the artwork and for the artist's self-confidence.
This problem has been familiar since the nineteenth century. Even aesthetically highly experienced observers disagree about single works of art - and will do so even on an elementary level, from the facts onwards. Balzac dramatically described this in his novel Le chef d'uvre inconnu: Whereas the painter Frenhofer is ecstatic, seeing a woman of the utmost perfection on his canvas, his fellow painters Poussin and Porbus see next to nothing. And this drives Frenhofer positively crazy.
Baudelaire expressed a similar problem when - in the preface of his Fleurs du mal - he pointed out that it would not suffice for a potential reader of this book just to be a well-educated person with some general knowledge of literature; rather, one must be kindred in spirit, have lived through similar experiences - this is why Baudelaire addresses the reader as "brother".
Conversely a different aesthetic - or rather anaesthetic - sensorium can distinguish itself by glimpsing the end of the accustomed, whereas all others see only the accustomed. Thus in Beckett's Endgame Hamm says: "I once knew a madman who thought the end of the world had come. He was painter - and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go and see him, in the asylum. I'd take him by the hand and drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet! All that loveliness! (Pause.) He'd snatch away his hand and go back into his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes. (Pause.) He alone had been spared. (Pause.) Forgotten. (Pause.) It appears the case is ... was not so ... so unusual."(46)
You cannot penetrate through into the zones of individualization without having to reckon with eminent diversity. That people's perceptions can no longer be reduced to a common denominator counts among the most elementary facts of art and culture today. Whereas one person rightly delights in sprouting seeds and sailing boats, the other, just as rightly, recognizes only the masks of decline. One person's inspiration will be merely cause for boredom or contempt to somebody else. - This makes the double of becoming oneself and social recognition extremely difficult today.
2. How to deal with this situation?
How can one manage this situation? I see, broadly speaking, two different strategies - the first comprehending many, the second two versions.
First: One can try to escape the problem by producing works which are acceptable to a large number of people. This can be attained by linking one's work with the standard perceptive modes of one's time - today with the modes of electronic media in the broadest sense. Or by catering for the average perceptive habits of almost everybody - by producing the kind of work which everyone can like - in literature the standard bestsellers, or in art what Adorno called "hotel art" or the type of art which is today exhibited in middle class banks. Or one just makes one's works playful, non-intellectual, post-modern in the trivial sense.
The second strategy faces up to the difficulties. You are aware that you need recognition, but you are not going to compromise for this purpose. You don't look for the large audience or public, but only for the right one, for the one you consider competent: experts or just friends - the few friends you have in everyday life or those who became your friends through appreciating your work. The public you need for recognition is not a matter of quantity but of quality. You are satisfied when you get recognition from those you consider competent. And you will - hopefully - resist the temptation to turn this around and to consider just those people as competent who happen to appreciate your work. - For artists or writers or creative people of this second kind a small public constituted by their fellows in excellence is sufficient.
But what if there are very few of them? Just one or two (however highly competent) persons on each continent? Should this make you unhappy? It probably will - in one respect at least, with respect to your present life. But you may think - and they may tell you - that you should be patient. Because your work's recognition will occur one day, in the long run - as has almost always been the case in history, think of the late Rembrandt or of van Gogh.
Following this advice you may decide to be patient, to take your time, a lot of time. You may yourself be more and more convinced that your work - that this unique vision or conception which only you can give birth to and nobody else ever will - is for the future, for a nearer or a more distant future. Assuming this, you should however not leap to terms of eternity, as was often (in an emphatic and exaggerating manner) done in tradition - "manebit" was the formula with respect to the works, and "non confundar in aeternum" with respect to the authors. Well, don't be obsessed by eternity, you don't need to be. Have hopes for the years ahead of you, or for decades, maybe even centuries. Take your time and let things take their time.
In this respect, I would finally like to quote an author who - besides the artists and authors I've mentioned - could very well have served as a standard example during my talk: Ludwig Wittgenstein. He certainly became himself through his work, but was also a person whose great recognition, which everyone attributes to him today, came only after his death. Wittgenstein was not a short-term thinker, he could very well wait, as he said, for "a new generation", to which his "way of philosophizing [...] will have become second nature".(47) And Wittgenstein offered some good advice. "In philosophy", he said, "the winner of the race is the one who can run most slowly. Or: the one who gets there last."(48) And, finally, Wittgenstein recommended as the way how "philosophers should salute each other: `Take your time!'"(49)
By way of a supplement I would like to expand on two points very briefly. One has already been alluded to. I said that I would refer, to start with, to the emphatic type of artist. Of course there are other types too. Today - in `postmodern' conditions - a type is becoming prominent which I want to characterize a little more closely. Before doing so however I would like to clarify another point. A prototypical image in my account was that artist, writer, philosopher or whatever who pursues a work which he or she alone is capable of realizing, which would exist neither so nor similarly without him or her. I had in mind people who are stars - of course not `stars' in the sense of the culture industry, but in the sense, say, of Leonardo da Vinci who wrote "He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind",(50) or of Heidegger, who admitted to "proceeding towards a star, only this".(51),(52) But how - this is the question that remains - will such `solitaires' refer to other things? Might they not have to live in a closed world - incapable of perceiving and acknowledging other things? I would like first of all to expand on this under the heading "transversality".
If I have emphasized the processual character of becoming oneself as opposed to the traditional idea of the `Self' as a substantial core or germ, then this alone already speaks for the perspective of a subject which is able to comprehend and to link many different elements - even various parts and forms of himself, as the reference to the experience of a plural structure from Montaigne through to Musil made clear. The most accomplished subject in my view - stated without further ado - would be that which both unites several self-parts within itself and is capable of transition outwardly between various frameworks of meaning. I denote this type of subject a "transversal subject".(53) I cannot set out its theory in detail here, but I do however want to indicate the decisive point.
If it's true that subjects respectively comprehend different subject-parts - and this is diagnosed not only by the authors quoted, but is confirmed equally by modern psychology and sociology -, then the integrity and coherence of such a subject does not depend on its identity function as such. For although it is true that we are constantly producing identity, that we are more or less relentless identity constructors (and we have to be, since fragmentation or renunciation of identity would be no humane ideal), our identity production is significantly more manifold and complex than was traditionally imagined. And above all the identity function causes - since it leads to the construction of differing identities - precisely the problem which it was traditionally believed to solve. It does not vouch for solid wholeness, but leads to different versions of wholeness.
The integrity of a person then ultimately depends on whether he is capable of making transitions between his diverse identity constructions. This - and this alone - guarantees that the inner plurality does not lead to polyphrenia. But this new type of coherence - the convergence through transitionality - calls for a descriptive pattern which is strictly different to the traditional one. The various identities are not related to one another by standing under the supremacy of an `actual' identity or identity authority - as abstractly, formally, or principle-based as one might conceive of this. Rather the linking of the diverse identities takes place, so to speak, horizontally: through overlaps, references and transitions between the diverse identities. Their relationship has a fundamentally transversal structure. I would like to outline this under four aspects:
1. The different subject-parts are connected not from outside (by a meta-authority), but from inside in that they exhibit overlaps, links, and interdependencies - but equally, of course, frictions. They can affect, modify, interpret, endorse or suppress one another. This reciprocal interaction - and nothing else - guarantees their connection.
2. What however is common to the diverse subject-parts is a certain colouring, which respectively designates the style of the individual and affords the role-play - the professional, private or social role-play - an index of individuality. Moreover it is foreseeable that further roles, which one is still to acquire, will also exhibit this - or a similar - style. Equally, recursive changes in style are possible. They can be caused by new orientations, the acquisition of new competence and new experience. This can go as far as to the rejection of previous subject-parts. Individuals can also `shed their skin'. Perhaps they even should do so. The observation that one hasn't changed at all doesn't always represent a compliment - look at Brecht's Keuner.(54) With different individuals the `colouring' mentioned can be not only different in kind, but also of a quite different type. It can be determined not only by personal characteristics such as emotionality or drowsiness, but equally by relational patterns such as monomania or openness.
3. We associate with subjectivity the idea of a subject's competence to deal with her diverse resources and versions. We expect, say, that a subject both amplifies certain components as well as situationally `switching' to other parts, or that it is capable of refusing orders and altering power relations by intervention. Such competence accrues to a subject as a consequence of the overlaps, interdependencies, entanglements and transitions between its diverse subject-parts. From the very base, the sphere of subjectivity is constituted not atomically, but in a field-like manner. This makes it possible to keep the egoism of singular subject-parts in check and to consider other subject-parts - through to the consideration of potentially all parts. Plurality competence in the full sense only comes about where this possibility is consciously developed and seized. One is then capable of taking a stance towards the interplay of parts, forces and dominances and of purposefully intervening therein. Of course this is not done from an Archimedean position, but in the mode of being involved, as someone affected and as a participant. Different ideas of the aim can be the guide in this. For instance one can decide for the promotion of a single subject-part at the cost of all others - this possibility, along with its rigorism and its forms of greatness as well as potential self-destruction, belong to subjectivity. But the idea of balancing out the diverse parts and of justice towards all of them can also be pursued - subjectivity then aims for the ideal of a personality free of suppression. In any case the subject's competence distinguishes itself by being capable of taking up a regulating stance towards, and of dealing with the plurality of its parts. This is the meaning of self-determination.
4. What is altogether decisive in this is the permeability of the subject-parts. The greater this is, the more competence and coherence accrues to the subject. Transversality is an elementary condition for plural subjectivity. It is already built into the subject-parts, and the art of being a subject stems from the practice of transversality.
Subjects who are open to such transversality have plurality competence in a broad sense at their disposal - with regard to both their internal as well as external plurality. They are not banished within their own world, but open to other worlds. They will not have to judge everything by their own measure, but can - from time to time at least - also allow themselves to be alienated. They can cope with plurality precisely because they possess the ability to make transitions. Transversality thus protects against the dangers of alienation and splitting of one's existence, as well as making possible openness towards other forms of life and frameworks of meaning. Last but not least it opens up through this chances for successful practice and contented identity. In this way it assures a kind of sovereignty. Traditionally this was - far too straightforwardly and too absolutely - described as autonomy of the subject. Transversality redeems this aim in a less cramped manner: both without rigorisms and with the awareness of limits. It is aware of the ubiquitous dual of success and partiality. It is precisely through this structure that we are humans, not gods. Transversality aims for the execution of human subjectivity - in contrast to its failing through unreasonable demands to divinity.
2. Contemporary strategies of artists
Proceeding from here I can finally move on to a treatment of the non-emphatic, the specifically `postmodern' type of artist, for whom transversality is obviously a guiding purpose. Artists of this type are no longer concerned with creating the ultimate kind of work (and then repeating it a life long). Rather they sometimes do this, sometimes that. They change between different possibilities, switch easily and playfully. Plurality characterizes the sequence of their works - often so much so that you can hardly believe that they originate from one and the same person. The aim of these artists is not an unmistakeable subject, which is precipitated in the works and which is constituted through these - they work rather on its dissolution, its disappearance. To them that old ideal counts as monomaniacal and obsolete.
The connection between the production of works and self-attainment has also become looser. Artists don't want to become themselves through their work alone. The rest of life is just as important to them. And self-attainment has for them assumed new meaning. They want to have many faces - and to allow none of these to become a mask which sits so firmly that it can no longer be removed. If it's serious to them, then not in an austere, but in a playful gesture. This might seem close to the gesture of trivial postmodernity previously mentioned - an `anything goes' gesture -, but it does not have to be. By no means does everything count for the same, for instance single works can still very well be calculated, and generally the plea is made for transitionality in contrast to lack of mobility - far from any lack of distinction.
Through their new strategies artists are aiming for an identity in transition, for an open, manifold identity. `Being oneself' makes little sense to them - a continual `becoming oneself' would indeed be more interesting. But this too they understand in a way that agrees with neither the old idea of a pre-existing Self nor the modern one of a self which is to be produced. In the long term they don't want to be or become comprehensible. They want to remain in transition. Fernando Pessoa - with his motto "Be plural like the universe!"(55) or with his maxim "I am the living stage on which different actors performing different pieces make their entry"(56) - could have been this type of artist's prophet. Or was it rather Foucault, who wagered "that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea"?(57)
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, New York: Macmillan, 1968, p. 19e . "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language" (ibid., p. 47e ).
2. Cf. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, transl. Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage, 1989, p. 1 [Preface], p. 47 , p. 67 ; Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente. Juli 1882 bis Herbst 1885. 2. Teil: Frühjahr 1884 bis Herbst 1885, in: Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke. Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Bänden, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1980, vol. 11, p. 526 [Mai - July 1885], pp. 635-637 [August - September 1885].
3. Similarly Tugendhat notes: "The talk of the Self and of Self-being is based [...] on a dual-phased abuse in the usage of the word `self', firstly that it is taken out of the context, and secondly that it is substantivized" (Ernst Tugendhat, Selbstbewußtsein und Selbstbestimmung: Sprachanalytische Interpretationen, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979, p. 233).
4. To note some main points in the history of the term `self': 1. In Christian tradition `self' had a moral meaning, but - except for Augustine and his followers - a negative one. It was regarded as our "diabolic part" which we should get rid of in order to enter the path of faith and to achieve redemption. This tradition stretches from the Middle Ages through to the Pietist writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. 2. In the meantime, however, during the seventeenth century, a genuine philosophical usage of the term had been established in England. It was still focused on the individual, but was shifted from a moral to an epistemological viewpoint and referred in particular to the question of personal identity. Cudworth had used the noun "the Self" for the very first time instead of its former usage as a pronoun and attribute. Strong criticism of the term's claim to unity - of `identity' - was however developed by Locke and Berkeley. 3. In the German philosophical tradition (into which the term `das Selbst' was introduced as a translation from English) the Self continued to be related primarily to epistemological questions, but its accent was changed from emphasis on the individual to the universal. `Self' now designated the most eminent form of `the I': its universal structure as opposed to its individual occurence, the singular ego simply having to correspond to the general feature without introducing any `individualistic' properties. The Self was something essentially universal, in no way properly individual. Fichte, for example, proudly declared his philosophy to be "a system whose beginning, and end, and whole essence aims to theoretically forget and practically deny individuality." (Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Versuch einer neuen Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre [1797/98], in: J.G. Fichte Gesamtausgabe, eds. Reinhard Lauth and Hans Gliwitzky, I, 4, Stuttgart: Frommann, 1970, pp. 183-281, here p. 267) 4. English authors of the eighteenth century such as Shaftesbury, Thomson and Richardson then established a very different meaning of the `Self'. In their writings it was understood as being strictly individual; it gained moral rather than epistemological significance; and from now on it meant the thing which every person has to develop in order to become his or herself. The modern conception with its slogan "become who you are" was born. (This conception represents, so to speak, the positive reversal of the former Christian pattern.) - This brief historical survey shows that the `self' could, generally speaking, oscillate between an individualistic and a universal meaning and between moral and epistemological functions, the epistemological ones being connected more with the universal, the moral ones more with the individualistic meaning of the term. The latter combination characterizes the modern significance of the term, the `self' now pointing to the individual's core which every individual has to develop. It is this modern - individualistic and moral - meaning of `self' that I will deal with in my reflections.
5. Humanist psychology (Bühler, Maslow, Rogers, Fromm et al.), which has flourished since the sixties, had a great impact on this.
6. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), p. 655 f., A 835.
7. I have expanded on the problems of the modern age philosophy of subjectivity in greater detail in: "Nach welchem Subjekt - für welches andere?" (in: Philosophie der Subjektivität? Zur Bestimmung des neuzeitlichen Philosophierens, Akten des 1. Kongresses der Internationalen Schelling-Gesellschaft 1989, eds. Hans Michael Baumgartner and Wilhelm G. Jacobs, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1993, vol. 1, pp. 45-70). - On the whole two directions can be distinguished. The epistemologically accented mainstream favoured the universal element over the individual one, which was considered legitimate only to the extent that it corresponds to the universal. Fichte was more than clear on this point (cf. footnote 4). Hegel too elevated subjectivity to the level of the world spirit - that true thing which is to be grasped and expressed "not only as Substance, but equally as Subject" (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller, foreword by J. N. Findlay, Oxford: Clarendon, 1977, p. 10). Against this universal subject no individual can be in the right, the forms of stubborn private subjectivity are rather to be inexorably "exposed to the power of reason" (Hegel, Elements of Philosophy of Right, trans. H. B. Nisbet, Cambridge: CUP, 1991, p. 279 [§ 258, Addition]). On the other hand Hegel also attempted to safeguard the right of individuality against this emphasis on the world spirit. His basic idea aims for the movement of the spirit qua movement of the spirits (not against them), and so he conceives of the relationship between the two forms of subject as ideally being one of interpenetration and mutual fulfilment: What matters is "to preserve [...] subjective freedom in the realm of the substantial, and at the same time to stand with [...] subjective freedom not in a particular and contingent situation, but in what has being in and for itself." (ib., p. 22) This reconciliatory formula is of course treacherous at the same time: potential instances of conflict are to be decided from the start to the benefit of universality and to the detriment of individuality. Assimilation to the general is demanded of individuality. The mainstream of modern age subject philosophy - far from helping the singular subject to make a breakthrough - takes the very sting out of individuality and turns into a normalization philosophy of the individual. (It is no coincidence that we speak of `being subject to'.) - On the other side objections to this main tendency came about increasingly, pleas for the significance of the singular. `Self' is no longer understood as a reflexive logical concept, but used for the designation of the existing subject in its singularity. But these attempts seem to be troubled by the the fact that they don't really transcend the opposition of singular and universal, but plead only for the inverted one-sidedness within it. Thus Herder expressed an obviously excessive hope when he stated: "When will I be far enough to destroy everything in me that I have learnt, and only myself to invent what I think and learn and believe!" (Johann Gottfried Herder, Journal meiner Reise im Jahre 1769, in: Herder, Sämtliche Werke, ed. Bernhard Suphan, vol. 4, Berlin: Weidmann, 1878, reprint Hildesheim: Olms, 1967, pp. 343-461, here p. 349). Later he demanded: "Let everyone act only completely from himself, according to his innermost character, be true to himself - that is the whole of morality" (Johann Gottfried Herder, Letter to Karoline Flachsland, 9 January 1773, in: Johann Gottfried Herder, Briefe [Gesamtausgabe 1763-1803], Weimar: Böhlau, 1977, pp. 289-291, here p. 289). This line was then continued by Kierkegaard or Stirner or by existential philosophers like Heidegger or Sartre. The crux of such endeavours seems to be that there is no individual success without a kind of universality - which admittedly may not be permitted to have the form of subjection. I will come back to this in section III.
8. In preparing this paper, I didn't think about existentialism at all. But the audience kept asking about existentialism. I understand: to today's philosophers the tradition which has raised somehow similar questions is existentialism (no matter how exaggerated its focus on individualism as opposed to society, system etc.). I, however, had intended rather to consider a very old question, one which had already been pursued by Socrates, the Stoics, Montaigne etc. I certainly try to answer this question for our time. But in doing so I feel at least as close to the traditional philosophers just mentioned as to existentialism.
9. I confess: There is a personal story - a story related precisely to today's topic and lecture - underlying my reflections. I will be more explicit about this later.
10. C. Plinius Secundus the Elder, Naturkunde, lateinisch-deutsch, ed. Roderich König in cooperation with Gerhard Winkler (Munich: Heimeran, 1978), pp. 79-81.
11. Quoted from Leonardo da Vinci, Traktat von der Malerei, ed. Marie Herzfeld, Jena: Diederichs, 1909, p. 63, no. 79.
12. Ibid., p. 64, no. 79.
13. Ibid., p. 53, no. 62.
14. Cf. my "Frottage" - Philosophische Untersuchungen zu Geschichte, phänomenaler Verfassung und Sinn eines anschaulichen Typus (Philosophical Dissertation, Würzburg 1974), Bamberg, 1974.
15. I am referring to the original piece, today located in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are, in the meantime, some break-free reproductions around in various museums (for example in Stockholm). In my view they reflect the art world's resistance to the step made by Duchamp. One still prefers the illusion of necessity over the acceptance of contingency.
16. Your project may even have been not only unrealizable by intentional means - it may have been mistaken as such, at least in personal regards, it may have been based on a deep misconception of your abilities and potentials. People of this kind may fail to become themselves for their whole life. They are after a phantasmagoric, a wholly unrealistic feature of themselves. The only thing which might provide help to such people are sensible friends or a deep crisis: friends who give good advice persuasively, or a crisis which you cannot overcome without radically changing the project of yourself. In such cases - analogously to Horkheimer's and Adorno's famous phrase "Homeland is the state of having escaped" (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, transl. John Cumming, New York: Continuum, 1994, p. 78.) - a phrase like "Selfhood is the state of having escaped" would apply.
17. Cf. for a conception of the self linked with contingency as opposed to the traditional substantialistic view Richard Rorty: "The strategy is [...] to substitute a tissue of contingent relations, a web which stretches backward and forward through past and future time, for a formed, unified, present, self-contained substance, something being capable of being seen steadily and whole" (Richard Rorty, Contingency, irony, and solidarity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 41). Rorty suggests "a conception of the self as a centerless web" (Richard Rorty, "The priority of democracy to philosophy", in: Rorty, Objecitivity, relativism, and truth, Philosophical papers, vol. 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 175-196, here p. 193).
18. Take for instance Johannes Tauler's view that experience and knowledge of God require a kind of surrender and annihilation of the self (cf. Alois M. Haas, Nim din selbes war: Studien zur Lehre von der Selbsterkenntnis bei Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler und Heinrich Seuse, Fribourg / Switzerland: Universitätsverlag, 1971).
19. The Zen master Dogen (1200-1253) said: "To learn the Buddha Way is to learn the Self. To learn the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things" (Dogen, Shôbôgenzô, chap. 1).
20. Friedrich Hölderlin, When I was a boy ... (Da ich ein Knabe war ...) - It is characteristic of Hölderlin's language that the subject often follows the predicats: The subject is not understood as a firm substance with determinate traits (as a hypokeimenon) but (in quite a non-metaphysical manner) achieves its `self' and its determinations through the contact and exchange with the other entities as expressed in the predicates.
21. Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, transl. Donald M. Frame, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, p. 244 [II 1].
22. Ibid., p. 242.
23. Novalis, Schriften, eds. Paul Kluckhohn and Richard Samuel, vol. 3: Das philosophische Werk II (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1983), p. 571  and p. 250 resp. .
24. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass ["Song of Myself"], 1855 (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), p. 84 [1314-1316].
25. Arthur Rimbaud, Letter to Paul Demeny [May 15, 1871], in: uvres complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), pp. 249-254, here p. 250).
26. Paul Valéry, Letter of August 30, 1890, in: Valéry, Lettres à quelques-uns, Paris: Gallimard, 1952, p. 17 f., here p. 18.
27. Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1952, p. 474. This is, of course, an echo of Mach's "The I cannot be rescued" (Ernst Mach, Die Analyse der Empfindungen und das Verhältnis des Physischen zum Psychischen , Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1987, p. 20). Carlo Emilio Gadda expressed the same idea with wrathful irony: "The I, I! ... the shabbiest of all pronouns!" (Carlo Emilio Gadda, La cognizione del dolore, Torino: Einaudi, 1987, p. 175 [I 3]).
28. Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, p. 572.
29. Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 33.
30. I developed this aspect for the first time in my article "Subjektsein heute: Zum Zusammenhang von Subjektivität, Pluralität und Transversalität", Studia Philosophica 51 (1992), pp. 153-182.
31. Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches. Ein Buch für freie Geister. Zweiter Band, in: Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2, p. 386 [1,17].
32. Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente. Juli 1882 bis Herbst 1885. 2. Teil: Frühjahr 1884 bis Herbst 1885, in: Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke, vol. 11, p. 650 [August - September 1885].
34. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce homo. Wie man wird was man ist, in: Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke, vol. 6, pp. 255-374, here p. 293.
35. Ibid., p. 294 f.
36. Friedrich Hölderlin, To Nature (An die Natur).
37. Friedrich Hölderlin, To the Aether (An den Aether).
38. Nietzsche, Ecce homo, p. 325.
39. Nietzsche, Ecce homo, pp. 293-295.
40. Nietzsche also said: "Something dark, elemental is inherent in all creation. Self-consciousness is blindfolded. Homer is blind" (Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente. Herbst 1869 bis Ende 1874, in: Sämtliche Werke, vol. 7, p. 54 [Winter 1869/70 - Frühjahr 1870]).
41. This gives me the chance to explain why I like the description given by Nietzsche in Ecce homo so much by telling the underlying story of this lecture. When I first suggested the title "Becoming oneself", I did so because I planned to speak about a specific idea of `becoming oneself' which had become important to me - and which I hoped to realize myself in the near future. But when, some months later, I started making notes for this paper, I couldn't remember my original intuition. I remembered only that there had been such an idea and that it had been very important to me. But I had lost this idea, and probably also my project - and myself. This is how I had - in a quite unforeseen manner - become involved in the topic and the suggestions of this paper. While having my project and this paper in mind I had made "byways and detours", had followed paths of contingency, finally ending up by no longer having "the remotest idea" of what my original project was. But finally, when I continued writing the paper, three days before the lecture the original idea came back all of a sudden. This was a surpise in two ways: that the idea was there again, and that what I had written so far partly contrasted with the former intuition and corresponded to it only in a modified way. - I am inclined to the following reading of the story: Perhaps I had not failed in realizing my project, but in the meantime had pursued it more contingently than intentionally. Maybe I had to follow aberrations and "occasional byways and detours" and to accept delays. Above all I probably had to escape the danger of knowing too precisely what I wanted, of focusing too directly on "`aim', `purpose', `sense'". Thanks to the `aberrations', however, the original idea returned - in a nicely modified form. The paper now is the result of the involvement in the topic which I experienced while I was planning and finally writing the paper - and it pictures my conception much better than any blueprint of the original idea would have done.
42. Friedrich Hölderlin, To the Fatal Sisters (An die Parzen).
44. Joseph Brodsky, "A Part of Speech", in: A Part of Speech, New York: Farrar - Straus -Giroux, 1980, pp. 92-105, here p. 105.
45. Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit, p. 111.
46. Samuel Beckett, Endgame, London: faber and faber 1992, p. 24 [807-814].
47. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G.H. von Wright in collaboration with Heikki Nyman, transl. Peter Winch (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 1e.
48. Ibid., p. 34e .
49. Ibid., p. 80e .
50. "Non si volta chi a stella è fisso" (The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, ed. Jean Paul Richter, New York: Phaidon, 31970, vol. 1, p. 388).
51. Martin Heidegger, Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens, Pfullingen: Neske, 21965, p. 7.
52. Harold Bloom calls poets of this type "strong poets" (cf. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973). Cf. Richard Rorty's discussion of Bloom's views in: Rorty, Contingency, irony, and solidarity, especially p. 41.
53. Cf. my Vernunft. Die zeitgenössische Vernunftkritik und das Konzept der transversalen Vernunft, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1995, stw, 1996, especially chapter XIV, pp. 829-852.
54. "A man, who hadn't seen Mr Keuner for a long time, greeted him with the words: `You haven't changed at all.' `Oh!' said Mr Keuner and turned pale" (Bertolt Brecht, Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner, in: Brecht, Werke, vol. 18, Berlin: Aufbau resp. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1995, pp. 11-43, here p. 21).
55. Fernando Pessoa, "Toward Explaining Heteronomy", in: Pessoa, A Galaxy of Poets. 1888-1935, London: Borough of Camdem 1985, pp. 22-26, here p. 23.
56. Fernando Pessoa, Das Buch der Unruhe des Hilfsbuchhalters Bernardo Soares, Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1987, p. 61 .
57. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, trans. A. Sheridan, New York: Random House, 1970, p. 387.
Document update 2 Nov 2000