jean wahl

“[Kierkegaard]…tells us…that existence is separation, because to exist is to stand out from, to remain outside of. Existence is always separation and interval; existence and distance come out to be well-nigh synonymous; existence is distance.”

(p. 36)

“In the face of evil, war, suffering, death, our existence is tried to the extreme, finds itself at its own extremity, realises that it exists only because there is something else which it cannot surmount and before which it must finally assume silence: transcendence.”

“The instant springs from the junction of the past and the future authentically conceived, just as the now springs from unauthentic past and future. But the instant lifts us above the planes of past and future; the instant, says Kierkegaard, is the encounter of time and eternity; the instant, for Heidegger, is the moment when with resolute decision we take ourselves upon ourselves and, uniting our origins and projects, accept the responsibility of what we are. We can draw a parallel between this doctrine and the doctrine of Jaspers according to which what is highest in the hierarchy of realities is also the most precarious, the most fragile, revealing itself only in flashes. For a moment the flashes light up the darkness of our night; they are the carrier of all values. In a view such as this, value may be said to be inversely proportional to stability.”

(p. 56)

“I myself am nothingness; I am the one who introduces the idea of absence into the world. The world is plenitude, or rather it would be plenitude were it not for the for-itself, were it not for man. Man is a kind of gap, an empty and vicious duration; it is man that brings absence into the world.”

“In Sartre’s philosophy there is a multitude of nothingnesses or rather what he calls nihilations. Every psychological phenomenon is interpreted by him in terms of nihilation. Imagination, for example, is that which is not perception; perception, in its turn, is that which is not reducible to itself. Each thing, indeed, is nothingness in comparison with something else. For instance, if I wish to achieve some goal, I must set myself an ideal, that is to say, I must nihilate reality; then I must realize my ideal and nihilate once again by my action some aspect of reality. There is a succession, a cascade of nihilations. Every act in the domain of the for-itself constitutes a nihilation.”

(p. 72)

Jean Wahl, Philosophies of Existence, 1959, trans. F. M. Lory, Routledge, London 1969

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