- Type: TiNe
- Development: l-l-
- Attitude: Adaptive
Soeren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) wrote about four kinds of despair in “The Sickness Unto Death”.
Possibility < – – – – – – – – – > Necessity
Infinite < – – – – – – – – – > Finite
Despair is the best translation from Danish, but be aware that it has nothing to do with being sad, but rather being split into two. In German the word for this is Ver-zwei-flung. So when the word “despair” is used in the following it means the state of being separated from oneself wherein one has not found a synthesis of the pairs of opposites, has not yet become a whole being, has not become oneself .
The self is actually the synthesis of the opposites, one becomes one-self when opposites are integrated.
I propose that each p-function can be seen as a combinations these despairs, but first I will describe the four ways that a person can “despair”.
The despair of necessity
( – being dragged away from oneself and towards necessity)
This despair will often emerge with aging and the resultant decrease of one’s possibilities.
It makes the person grounded in ‘reality’, believing only what can be observed. One can also become lost in the trivial.
The person has a deterministic view of life, not believing in free will.
Kierkegaard called this state a philistine-bourgeois mentality, by which he meant a complete lack of spirit and imagination, being locked in the cage of probability.
The person neither hopes, nor fears.
What appeals to him is the predictable life, secure in a well-ordered routine.
He has no real wisdom but a “parrot wisdom” and crises emerges when something appears in his life that does not fit into his trivial ideas of life with all the shoulds and musts.
There is a fear of freedom, avoiding risks is seen as prudent and triviality is used as a defence against awareness of possibilities.
Kierkegaard said that in this despair one “tranquilizes oneself with triviality”.
The despair of possibility
( – being dragged away from oneself and towards possibilities)
Here we see people who find joy in new initiatives but are not able to complete them. There is a lack of necessity, one doesnt want to adapt to duties but prefers to live in the future of possibilities. This is the idealist who never accomplishes anything because he lacks the grounding in necessity, he has ventured so far into possibility that the self becomes abstract.
In the despair of necessity there is a lack of strength to “bend the world”, and in possibility’s despair there is a lack of strength to “bend oneself”. The result in both situations is no progress.
Where the person with despair of necessity becomes old to fast, the possibility despairing wants to be forever young.
The second pair of opposing forms of despair can seem very similar to the first one, and many people can find it difficult to distinguish between them.
The despair of the infinitude
( – to be carried away from oneself and into the infinite)
The infinite aspect of the self has the capacity for abstraction and uses imagination/fantasy to go beyond limits towards ‘something more’. This form of despair posits a multiplicity of possibilities without regard for limitations (i.e. the finite)
This sounds very much like the despair of possibility but there is an important difference as the infinite is not concerned with the future. Kierkegaards use of the word infinity is non-temporal, beyond worldly affairs, It is concerned with the now (an image I make use of is a cross where the vertical line is time and the horizontal line is eternity/infinity). This despair can be about infinite love, a love that transcends time, but the infinite can also manifest as a grandiose idea of oneself, an inflated ego as Jung would say. The person might think that humans are not enough for him and turn towards God. Or he might become occupied with just philosophy or theology and avoid contact with ordinary life.
To live a life in synthesis between the pairs where the drive towards infinity has been integrated would be to live in the “absolute now” where the eternal plays into the ongoing story.
The despair of the finitude
( – to be carried away from oneself and into the finite)
With this despair one is cut off from the infinite so there is a lack of imagination and fantasy. This can be found in people who think that everything can be explained through science, who dont feel the need for God or spirituality and in those who think that the purpose of life is to adapt to society.
This kind of despair can seem similar to the despair of necessity, but the difference is that someone with the despaír of the finite can still have an openness to possibilities (if they do not at the same time despair of necessity), but these possibilities will be unimaginative and usually determined by people of authority or organisations. Kierkegaard would say that these people are without spirit, boring people who just want to be like other people
The way out of despair is not to find a balance between opposite poles, according to Kierkegaard what is needed is a synthesis, an integration of the opposites,
I suggest the combinations of the four kinds of despair could relate to the p-functions in the following way:
The despair of the infinite and the despair of possibility combined – Ne
The despair of the finite and the despair of necessity combined – Si
The despair of the finite and the despair of possibility combined – Se
The despair of the infinite and the despair of necessity combined – Ni
(On a side note – despair can occur at the level of feelings, thinking or will)
Sickness Unto Death can be found here:
P. 28-44 deals with the two pairs of despair.
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