LEV SHESTOV \ Speculation and Revelation \ Edmund Husserl

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     In his striving to make philosophy a science of absolute truth, Husserl recognized no restraint. Not only did he apply his basic ideas to mathematics and the natural sciences ("the law of gravity would not be destroyed if all gravitating bodies should disappear," etc.); he also wanted to give directives to history. He wished through the phenomenological reduction to define all of the manifestations of the human spirit. With that noble and challenging resoluteness, that powerful intensity of his whole thinking self, which always was such a captivating trait of his character, Husserl rose to the defense of his cherished aims. Particularly instructive in this connection is Husserl's dispute with his distinguished contemporary Dilthey. Husserl esteemed Dilthey as only a scholar can esteem another scholar. Nevertheless, he consigned him, like Sigwart and Erdmann, to the madhouse - although in somewhat more moderate language. But a madhouse is still a madhouse, whatever you call it. Dilthey's central idea, which evoked such passionate resistance on Husserl's part, is expressed in these clear and simple words:
Before a gaze which takes in the earth and its whole past, the absolute validity of any given form of life-organization, religion, or philosophy disappears. Thus, more decisively than any mere survey of the clash of systems, the development of the historical consciousness undermines belief in the universal validity of any of the many philosophies which have undertaken, through systems of concepts, to express the connectedness of the world in a compelling way. [Wilhelm Dilthey, Weltanschauung, Philosophie, und Religion (Berlin, 1911), quoted by Husserl in "Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft," p. 324.]
To this Husserl replies sharply:
It is easy to see that historicism, when consistently carried through, passes over into extreme skeptical subjectivism. The ideas of truth, theory, science - like all ideas - would lose their absolute validity. Any idea would have validity so long as it was an actual product of Geist, held as such to be valid and defining thought by the mere fact of being such a product. In such a case, absolute validity, validity "as such" - the validity of an idea which is what it is even though no one is in a position to actualize it and no historical mankind might ever do so - simply would not exist. Hence no validity would attach to the principle of contradiction or to logic as a whole... The final result might be that the principles of logical consistency would turn into their opposites. As a further consequence, all the propositions which we have now uttered, and even the possibilities which we have weighed and accepted as valid, would have no validity in themselves. There is no need to go further or to repeat here what has already been discussed elsewhere. ["Philosophie als strenge Wissensehaft," pp. 324 f.]
The "elsewhere," as Husserl himself makes clear, is Volume I of the Logische Untersuchungen. As we know, he there consigns to the madhouse every defender of relativism - of "species" relativism as well as "individual" relativism. He declares unhesitatingly:
History, the empirical Geisteswissenschaft, cannot decide whether or not it is necessary to distinguish between religion as a form of culture and religion as an idea, i.e., valid religion, between art as a form of culture and valid art, between historical and valid law or right [Recht] , and finally between historical and valid philosophy. Nor can history decide whether or not the two are related, to speak with Plato, as Idea to its clouded phenomenal manifestation.[p.325] Philosophic understanding, and it alone, can and must unveil for us the mysteries of life and the world. ["Philosophie als strenge Wissensehaft," pp. 336 f.]
     With these words Husserl's thought reaches its culmination. The remarkable thing is that, although no philosopher has ever ventured to speak with such candor and audacity of the Schrankenlosigkeit der objektiven Vernunft, [Logische Untersuchungen, 2:90] all philosophers are in fact convinced that reason and reason alone has the power to answer all the questions which trouble man's soul. Self-evidence is like a Medusa's head: everyone who looks at it is rendered spiritually impotent, turned to stone, paralyzed in will, and made to submit to every influence from without. But no one is prepared to recognize that men are under the power of a dark, enigmatic, and incomprehensible force, which compels them to accept the judgments of reason even when those judgments encroach upon what is most precious to them, upon what they consider sacred. Following Aristotle's advice, men keep to the middle ranges of being, not risking an encounter with the extremes; they have convinced themselves that they can infer the nature of the extremes from study of the mean. But the temperate zones of human and cosmic life are not in the least like the poles or the equator. To judge of the extremes of being one must first experience them.

     The most fallacious of inferences is: Since reason has done so much, it can do everything. "Much" is not the same as "everything;" much and everything are distinct categories, neither of which can be reduced to the other. Even religion - as we have just heard from Husserl - takes on meaning and significance to the extent that it can draw support from self-evidence. Reason decides what kind of religion is valid - what kind of religion is valid in itself, and in general whether religion is valid at all; in which religion God's voice is heard, and, finally, in which religion a merely human voice sounds through the allegedly divine voice. And whatever reason declares must be the case: Roma locuta.

     I say once more: Husserl's enormous contribution consists in his having had the audacity to formulate the question in this way. His Einstellung, as he calls it, is directed not only against contemporary philosophy but also against Kant, who, despite the radical character of his "critique of pure reason," could not resist introducing a contraband into his philosophy - the postulates concerning God, the immortality of the soul, and freedom. Husserl, faithful to the tasks which he set himself, remains closer to Plato. In the Euthyphro Plato asks: Is something holy because it is loved by the gods, or do the gods love it because it is holy? And, of course, he defends the second answer. The holy is above the gods, just as ideal truth is above the cosmos. The holy is not created, and whatever it declares to us, whatever it demands of us, we must accept and obey - not only we human beings, but also demons, angels, and gods. And the holy remains holy, just as ideal truths remain truths; it is wholly indifferent to them whether or not men need them, whether men (and even gods) are gladdened or saddened by them, filled with hope or with despair. For truth is truth in itself, taking no account of the "empirical phenomena" which are in its power.

     It is just at this point that we find the most enigmatic and significant contribution of Husserl's philosophy. For here the question arises: Why did Husserl demand with such extraordinary insistence that I read Kierkegaard? For Kierkegaard, in contrast to Husserl, sought the truth not in reason but in the Absurd. For him the law of contradiction - like an angel with a drawn sword, stationed by God at the entrance to Paradise - bears no witness to the truth and in no way defines the boundaries which separate the possible from the impossible. For Kierkegaard, philosophy (which he calls "existential") begins precisely at that point where reason sees, with the force of self-evidence, that all possibilities have already been exhausted, that everything is finished, that nothing remains but for man to look and grow cold. Kierkegaard here introduces into philosophy what he calls "faith," defined as "an insane struggle for the possible," that is, for the possibility of the impossible - clearly alluding to the words of Scripture: Man's wisdom is folly in the sight of the Lord.

     Men fear folly and madness more than anything else in the world. Kierkegaard knows this; he repeatedly asserts that human frailty is afraid to look into the eyes of death and madness. To be sure, we read in the Phaedo that philosophy is "a preparation for death," that all men who have genuinely devoted themselves to philosophy, although "they may have concealed it from others, have done nothing else than prepare themselves for the act of dying and the fact of death." It seems likely that these extraordinary ideas were suggested to Plato by the death of Socrates. Plato did not return to them; he was wholly absorbed in the Republic and the Laws, even in his extreme old age - thus fulfilling, like ordinary mortals and gladiators, the age-old demand: salve, Caesar, morituri te salutant. Even in the face of death men cannot tear themselves away from "Caesar," from what everyone accepts as "reality." And this is "natural"! For how are we to understand the "preparation for death"? Is it not a beginning of, and preparation for, the struggle against the demonstrative character of proof, against the law of contradiction, against reason s claim to unlimited rights, its seizure of the power of arbitrary definition of the point at which possibility ends and impossibility begins - the struggle against the angel who stands with drawn sword at the gate of Paradise? It seems to the inexperienced gaze that this measureless power rightfully belongs to reason, and that there is nothing dreadful or threatening in the fact that it does.

     But the matter is really very different. The unconquerable and unendurable horrors of being spring precisely from the fact that the power of defining the limits of the possible is wholly and exclusively arrogated to reason. As Husserl put it: reason commands, man must obey. Not only must he obey, he must humble himself with joy and reverence. An example of this is Nietzsche's preaching of unrestrained cruelty, which so stunned everyone in its time. Husserl insisted that I should study Kierkegaard. He might just as well have insisted that I study Nietzsche, except for the fact that I had known Nietzsche long before I had even heard of Husserl. There is a profound inner kinship between Husserl's teaching, on the one hand, and that of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, on the other. In absolutizing truth, Husserl was forced to relativize being, or more accurately, human life. Nietzsche too, was forced to do this. To the extent that he submitted to the power of reason, recognizing no other authority (which was often, though not always, the case with him), he had no choice but to exclaim: "Who can achieve anything great if he does not feel in himself the strength and capacity to bring about great sufferings? To suffer is a trifling matter; weak women and even slaves often achieve virtuosity in it. But not to perish from doubt and distress when one has to cause great suffering in others and to listen to their cries - this is greatness; in this greatness is manifest." [Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 325.]

     What is the source of Nietzsche's certainty that the readiness to display inexorable cruelty is an evidence of greatness? And what greatness is this to which we are supposed to strive "with all our heart and with all our soul," just as Scripture demands with respect to man's love of God. As Nietzsche assures us, men, carrying out the demands of reason, have killed God. I regret that there is not room here to quote in its entirety the passage in which Nietzsche speaks, with a force and passion extraordinary even for him, of this "crime of crimes." But reason demanded it, and it was necessary to kill God, just as it is necessary to do whatever reason considers necessary and just. Reason is inexorable in its unlimited demands. "Must we not finally sacrifice," Nietzsche writes in another place, "all of the consoling, holy, healing things; all hopes, all faith in hidden harmony, in happiness and justice in the future? Must we not sacrifice God himself, and out of cruelty to ourselves deify the stone, stupidity, gravity, fate, nothingness? To sacrifice God for the sake of Nothingness - this paradoxical mystery of the ultimate cruelty has fallen to the lot of our generation. We all know something of this." [Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 55]

     Possibly - indeed, probably - these words of Nietzsche's are not wholly accurate. It is far from being the case that all men know that to carry out reason's demands we must deify the stone, stupidity, nothingness. Rather the contrary (and this is very important): Most men have not the least suspicion of this. With that unconcern of which Nietzsche himself has told us not a little, the most distinguished representatives of contemporary science and philosophy have wholly entrusted their fate and the fate of mankind to reason without knowing or wishing to know the limits of its power and authority. Reason has made its demands and we have agreed unconditionally to deify the stone, stupidity, nothingness. No one has the courage to ask: what mysterious force compels us to renounce all of our hopes and aspirations, everything that we consider sacred and consoling, everything in which we see justice and happiness? Reason, which is not concerned about our hopes or our despair, sternly forbids us even to raise such a question. And to whom shall we address this question? To reason itself? But it has already given its answer. Reason recognizes no judge other than itself; such a recognition would amount to a renunciation of its sovereign rights.


     I have referred to certain of Nietzsche's ideas, although Husserl and I never had occasion to discuss Nietzsche. It is possible, even probable, that Husserl knew relatively little of Nietzsche. Nevertheless, he was close to Nietzsche as well as to Kierkegaard in demanding a direct approach to what they both considered the essence of philosophy - the principles, sources, and roots of all being. Both Husserl and Nietzsche placed boundless trust in reason, carrying out in their own way the principle: Roma locuta, causa finita. Nietzsche, for himself and all men, and thus for Husserl too, accepted reason's demands unmurmuringly and even reverently; he deified the stone, gravity, fate, as well as a heavy, stone-like, fateful morality.

     It must be added that the cruelty which Nietzsche proclaimed and celebrated is not, as some people have thought, wholly unheard of in philosophy. Before Nietzsche no one had revelled in the idea of cruelty with such provocative trenchancy and almost superhuman inspiration. But this idea had been fully elaborated in ancient philosophy and, like a spark among the ashes, had lived unseen in the most exalted constructions of Hellenic genius. When Plato in the Laws solemnly declares, addressing himself to the individual, "You, poor mortal, are insignificant enough; but you have a certain significance in the general order [of being]... You do not think of the fact that each individual creature comes into being for the sake of all [that exists], in order that it should lead a happy life; that nothing is done for your sake and that you yourself were created for the universe" - I say, when he asserts this he is already anticipating Nietzsche. The last great philosopher of Greece expressed this Platonic view in even more concrete and naked words: Your sons are killed, your daughters are violated, your homeland is laid waste; there is nothing dreadful or shocking about this. It is and must be, and therefore we must accept it calmly. This is the attitude which our reason takes toward "reality;" this is the way it judges reality. And one cannot quarrel with reason. It is true that Plotinus, in the last analysis, made a brilliant attempt to "soar above reason," to go beyond "knowledge and understanding." I cannot enter further into this question here; I have already said enough about it in other places.[6]

     But insofar as he remained within the rut of ancient thought - bringing together the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics - Plotinus too, yielding to the self-evident, came to accept the horrors of human existence as something flowing inevitably from the principles and roots of being, hence definitive, right, and legitimate. Thus it continues to our own day. Everyone is convinced that our thinking should, as Seneca expressed it, submit joyfully and without a murmur to what reason reveals. The last word of both divine and human wisdom is: Fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt ["The fates lead the willing; the unwilling they drag" - Seneca]. The idea of fate - a fate blind, deaf, and indifferent to all things - holds absolute sway over the thinking of all rational creatures. Nietzsche himself, who attacked slave morality so ferociously and glorified the morality of the rulers so exuberantly, submitted reverently to fate. To be a slave of fate, to carry out all of its commands not from fear but from conscience, seemed to him neither shameful nor dreadful. His preaching of submission to, and even love of, fate (amor fati) - fate with all of its inexorabilities and cruelties - was both candid and inspired. Reason and the knowledge which reason provides reveal truths to us which are unsurmountable not only for us but also for higher beings, for angels and gods. Every attempt to struggle with these truths is foredoomed to failure. Both Nietzsche and Husserl - each of them expressing this idea in his own way - felt that on this point they were invulnerable: here they stood defended by self-evidence.

     But, I ask once more, why did Husserl refer me so insistently to Kierkegaard? Kierkegaard too had said a good deal about fate. With his characteristic penetration, anticipating both Husserl and Nietzsche, Kierkegaard declared that the more profound, significant, and endowed with genius a man is, the more absolutely is he dominated by the idea of fate. But, in contrast to Nietzsche and Husserl, he did not regard this as a sign of greatness. It is not easy, Kierkegaard declares, to admit this, but it must be said that the man of genius is a great sinner. Absolute trust in reason, not only when it assumes hegemony in the empirical world or the "temperate zones" of being, but also when the events of our life exalt us to the extremes of being, is a sin, a fall, the greatest fall imaginable - that of which we read in Genesis. Man, having tasted the fruits of the tree of knowledge, was torn away from the source of life. To our understanding this is madness. Kierkegaard knows this very well, better than anyone else. But this "knowledge" does not restrain him. For him Job is a "thinker," a "private thinker," to be sure, but one from whom we can learn truths not revealed to the great representatives of contemporary philosophy (Hegel) nor to the brilliant symposiasts of antiquity: there are scales upon which human suffering weighs heavier than the sands of the sea. Kierkegaard knows very well the power of self-evident truth over human beings. He experienced this power in his own person as few men have. Nevertheless, inspired by the Scriptures, he made a grandiose effort to overcome the self-evident. In opposition to self-evidence he placed - as a fatal objection - man's great suffering and the horrors which fill our life. Of course, Kierkegaard was not alone in standing with open eyes before the horrors of being; others, both philosophers and non-philosophers, have done this. But he was confronted by a dreadful dilemma: whether to go on as before in the face of the horrors of being, to accept what reason offers as ultimate and final truth, or, following the Scripture, to raise the question of the competence of reason and of the knowledge which reason provides. Human wisdom is folly before the Lord. Whether to oppose to the "considered judgments" of reason the "screams" of Job, the "lamentations" of Jeremiah, the thundering of the prophets and the Apocalypse? This, I say once more, is indubitable "madness." But then, are life's horrors - which reveal themselves to anyone who looks them straight in the face - not madness too? Does not Job's dreadful experience, Jeremiah lamenting the fate of his people, or even Plotinus recalling the slaughtered youths and violated maidens already stand at the limits of the rational?

     We stand between two "madnesses" - between the madness of a reason for which the "truths" which it reveals about the horrors of real being are ultimate, definitive, eternal truths, obligatory for all, and the madness of Kierkegaard's "Absurd," which ventures to begin the struggle when, on the testimony of reason and self-evidence, struggle is impossible, is foredoomed to humiliating failure. With whom should we go - with the Hellenic symposiasts, or with Job and the prophets? Which madness is preferable? The book of Job, the lamentations of Jeremiah, the thundering of the prophets and of the Apocalypse leave no doubt that the horrors of human existence were not hidden from the "private thinkers" of the Bible, and that they had enough courage and fortitude to gaze squarely into the face of what is customarily called reality. Nevertheless - unlike the great representatives of philosophia perennis - they do not feel compelled by reality and its horrors to submit to the inevitable. At that point where speculative philosophy sees the end of all possibilities and submissively folds its hands, existential philosophy begins the great and final struggle. Existential philosophy is not Besinnung, "interrogating" reality and seeking truth in the immediate data of consciousness; it is a surmounting of what to our understanding seems insurmountable. "For God," Kierkegaard repeats unceasingly, "all things are possible," summing up in these few words what had hitherto reached men s ears from scriptural sources. Possibilities are not determined by eternal truths inscribed by a dead or dying hand in the structure of the universe; possibilities are in the power of a living, all-perfect being who has created and blessed man. Whatever horrors being may reveal to us, and despite the assurances of reason, these horrors do not exhibit "truth" nor preclude the possibility of their own eradication.

     The psalmist cries, De profundis ad te, Domine, clamavi. Out of the depths of his dreadful, fallen, and despairing state man cries to the Lord. The prophets and apostles exclaim: "Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?" They bring us the tiding that God cares for each living human being, and that the ultimate victory lies not with the iniquities and inexorabilities of reality, but with a God who "numbers the hairs upon a man's head," a loving God, who promises that every tear shall be wiped away. It goes without saying that for reason this whole struggle, all of these promises, and the human hopes bound up with them, are an absurd illusion, a lie. The law of life is not given by the living God; the law of life is not love, but eternal, irreconcilable hostility. The great Hellenic philosopher "knew" that strife is the father and ruler of all things. One must deify not the biblical Creator, but the stone, stupidity, nothingness.

     Deifiers of stones will not make heroes of men who see the principles, sources, and roots of all things in love, but rather of men who realize in life the principle of hostility - not the apostles, not the prophets, but Hannibal as a child swearing eternal hatred toward Rome, or Cato with his caeterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse.

     For a reason which worships self-evidence, interrogating reality in search of truth, the prophets' and apostles' preaching of love is childishness, mawkish sentimentality, which will be dissolved without trace by the events of history. The thundering of the prophets and apostles springs not from the clouds but from the dunghill. The biblical legend of the fall of the first man is a naive and empty invention: not only do the fruits of the tree of knowledge not destroy the fruits of the tree of life; the former are the precondition and presupposition for the latter. As Husserl proclaimed: reason has spoken, wisdom must obey. The "Revelation of St. John" declares that God not only wipes away every tear, but gives men to eat of the fruits of the tree of life. But what enlightened man will agree to discuss seriously, let alone accept, such scriptural assurances? Everyone wants to "know-" everyone is convinced that knowledge will bear away the ultimate and final truth - about what is and what is not, about what is possible and what is impossible. And no one ventures to dispute the truths which knowledge affords. How then did Kierkegaard, to whom Husserl referred me, dare to begin the struggle at that point where no one else ventured to dispute - at that point where everyone casts himself upon the mercy of the enemy? The answer to this question will also be an answer to the question which Max Scheler put to me.


     For Husserl, as for Kierkegaard, moderate solutions were a turning away from philosophy. Both of them faced the gigantic problem of the "either-or" in its full dimensions. Husserl despaired at the thought that human knowledge is conditional, relative, transitory, that even an eternal, unshakeable truth like "Socrates was poisoned" might totter, that indeed it has already tottered and does not exist for angels and gods, and that we have no ground for asserting that it will not someday cease to exist even for ordinary mortals. At this point, the reader will recall, Husserl formulated his own "either-or" with unprecedented power: either we are all insane, or "Socrates was poisoned" is an eternal truth, equally binding upon all conscious beings. Kierkegaard's "either-or" has just as resolute and threatening a sound: either the "eternal" truths which reason discovers in the immediate data of consciousness are only transitory truths, and the horrors which Job suffered, the horrors which Jeremiah lamented, the horrors of which John thundered in his "revelation," will be turned into nothing, into an illusion, by the will of Him who created the universe and "all that swell therein," just as the horrors of a nightmare which absolutely dominates the consciousness of the sleeping man turn into nothing when he awakens - or we live in a world of madness. Under the pressure of the groans and lamentations of Job, Jeremiah, St. John, and all the others for whom "reality" has become a nightmare, it begins to appear that self-evidence - which, Husserl said, is not a voice from Heaven - is not nearly so insurmountable and that its claims to invincibility are wholly unjustified. Doubts as to the sovereign rights of self-evidence were suggested to Kierkegaard by Scripture: "human wisdom is folly before the Lord."

     Nor does the law of contradiction save self-evidence. In a dream, when a man is being pursued by a monster which threatens to destroy and reduce to ashes both the man himself and the whole world, while he himself feels paralyzed, incapable not only of defending himself but even of moving a limb, salvation comes with the contradictory consciousness that the nightmare is not real but only a temporary "obsessive" state. Consciousness is contradictory because it assumes that the sleeping person is aware that the state of consciousness of the dreamer is not true; it thus assumes a self-destroying truth. In order to escape from the nightmare, one must repudiate the "law" of contradiction upon which all the self-evident truths of waking consciousness are based. One must make an enormous effort - and wake up. This is why, as I said to Husserl, philosophy is not Besinnung, not a reflection or interpretation which deepens sleep to the point of no awaking - but a struggle. This is my basic objection to Husserl. And this is the meaning of the enigmatic legend in Genesis about the fall of the first man: the death-bearing tree of knowledge is set in opposition to the tree of life. The truths provided by knowledge are vanquished by human suffering.

     I know all too well the indignation felt by the enlightened thought of contemporary man at the possibility of such suppositions. Not only European thought, but also Hindu thought, cut off from the rest of the world by the impassable Himalayas, has moved in the same tracks. Brahmanism, and to an even greater degree Buddhism, which is regarded by European scholars as the highest achievement of Hindu thought, relies entirely upon knowledge based on self-evidence. One cannot overcome the eternal principle of the law-like causal connection of phenomena; one cannot put an end to metempsychosis or karma; one cannot change the eternal truth that everything which has a beginning must have an end. One must submit to all of these "cannots." To be sure, there is reason to believe that Western thought has modulated the Hindu world-view into greater conformity with its own intellectual and cultural tradition. The idea of emancipation or redemption dominates Hindu thought, but perhaps it has a different meaning for Hindus from what it has for us. There is a legend that the Buddha himself, in the hour before his death, reiterated that everything which has a beginning must have an end. Yet he spoke no less passionately than Jeremiah or St. John about human suffering: The sum of human tears, he said, would be greater than the four great oceans. Did not Buddha, like Job, compare to the sands of the sea the horrors of human existence? Did he perhaps say nothing further about this out of an aversion for "theorizing"? This, of course, is not the place to discuss such questions. I wished merely to emphasize that European thought, bewitched by self-evidence, considers itself to have "risen above" a "revealed" truth for which human tears are more powerful than the necessities disclosed by self-evidence, "above" the assurance that the path to the principles, sources, and roots of life leads through the tears with which one calls upon the Creator, and not through a reason which interrogates the "given."

     This is the substance of my answer to Max Scheler. At the same time it explains why I have such an extraordinarily high regard for Husserl's philosophic enterprise. Husserl dared, with rare courage and inspiration, to formulate the most essential, most difficult, and at the same times most painful of all questions - that of the "validity" of knowledge. To be valid, knowledge must be accepted as absolute, which means that we must accept whatever knowledge demands of us. We must deify stones, accept relentless cruelty, petrify ourselves, renounce everything that is most precious and essential to us - as Nietzsche, under the compulsion of truth, declared. Or else we must repudiate absolute knowledge, rebel against a truth which compels by we know not what right, and begin a struggle against those self-evident truths which arbitrarily convert the horror of empirical existence into eternal laws of being. In modern times the first path was chosen by Husserl, the second by Kierkegaard, to whom Husserl referred me. As I have already indicated, one must either absolutize truth and relativize life or else refuse to obey the compulsion of truth in order to save human life. The struggle with, and surmounting of, self-evidence is a translation into philosophical language of the testament or, if you will, the revelation of the Bible: man's wisdom is folly before the Lord. Husserl felt this with the full penetration of philosophic genius. That is why he directed me so insistently to Kierkegaard, in whom, to my great astonishment, I discovered a twin of Dostoevsky, the writer whose works had supported me in my struggle against Husserl. Who would expect to be sent by a philosopher to his most determined intellectual opponent? Who would think that a man who had penned a hymn to reason and its self-evident truths would value so highly a man who celebrated the Absurd and waged relentless battle, a struggle to the death against self-evidence?

     It is possible to understand and judge Husserl only if one grasps his profound inner relation to Kierkegaard. Husserl submits to the compulsion of truth and finds his revelation in the self-evidences of reason; Kierkegaard, his heart full of "fear and trembling," seeks his revelation at that point where reason sees the beginning of a realm of eternal nothingness. For Husserl the sands of the sea outweigh human suffering; for Kierkegaard human suffering is heavier than all the sands of the sea. Husserl hides beneath the shadow of parere, of eternal obedience; Kierkegaard delves into the cryptic and mysterious jubere, forgotten by human thought. Is there ground for the hope that the provocative "either-or" of Husserl and Kierkegaard will reform contemporary thought, rousing it from its age-old torpor? I think not. A number of outstanding philosophers have already emerged from the phenomenological movement; but they have all repudiated the Husserl-Kierkegaard "either-or," even though they were acquainted with both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard from their early years. They preferred the old slogan: back to Kant - for whom Kierkegaard's Absurd signifies the realm of Schwärmerei und Aberglauben which he found so distasteful and against which he was so careful to warn his readers. Kant deliberately softened the "critique of pure reason" with a "critique of practical reason." The postulates of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul were intended to calm man, shaken, as Kant himself was, by the news of the death of God which had come to him from the critique of pure reason. But surely these postulates are not acceptable to reason! Surely reason would consign them without hesitation to the realm of Schwärmerei und Aberglauben. There can be no doubt of it: it is the most fantastic superstition to admit the existence of God or to believe in the immortality of the soul, whether you call these truths axioms or postulates! It is not in man's power to unsettle self-evidence. Let us assume the alpha and omega of Scripture to be the story of the fall, which is placed at the very beginning of the Old Testament, and the promise that God will give man to taste of the fruits of the tree of life, which is placed at the end of the New Testament. But surely it is obvious to everyone that both the Old and the New Testaments are products of fantasy and superstition! An enlightened man will never seek truth in an ancient book written by an ignorant people, just as he will never consent to set the cries of Job, the lamentations of Jeremiah, the thundering of the Apocalypse, in opposition to the deliberate judgments of reason and its self-evidences. Philosophy will not renounce Kant.

     Does this mean that the Kierkegaard-Husserl "either-or" will always be rejected? - that we are condemned to deify stones and preach relentless cruelty toward our neighbors, as Nietzsche proclaimed when he was possessed by reason? - That Kierkegaard's Absurd will sooner or later be torn by the roots from human consciousness? I do not think so. In the general economy of man's spiritual life, the attempts to surmount self-evidence have their own enormous significance, even though this significance may be impossible to estimate. I consider myself infinitely indebted to Husserl for having forced me, by the power of his impetuous thought, to begin the struggle at that point where no one "considers" hope of victory at all possible. In order to struggle with self-evidence one must stop "considering." Husserl taught me this, and I rebelled against him, although I regarded him and continue to regard him as a great, a very great, philosopher of the modern period.

[6] I had occasion to discuss Plotinus with Husserl only once. With characteristic and captivating honesty he admitted, "I have never studied Plotinus, and all I know of him is what I have read in your books." [Shestov's note]

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