Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Deleuze: Repetition!

[size=150]Here is a paper I wrote in an existentialism class I took a few years back. I thought it might spark some disscussion. So please have a go at it, and tell me what you think.[/size]


Despite normative differences, that is, differences of name, repetition is at play within the works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Deleuze. The notion of the Other, be it “the crowd,” “the herd,” or “das man,” converges in the divergent works. The subject exists in the collectivity, it is singular, yet at the same time resides in the world alongside others. We find ourselves “there,” already in the world, dealing with the herd of man. Perhaps, we come to see ourselves as part of the crowd; the powerful gatekeepers of objective truth. We remain, at all times, that singularity, or the possibility of being singular for being a self authentically. The question, therefore, becomes, “how” can I exist my specificity, authentically, yet at the same time be located in the world with the crowd? The enigmatic statements, “to become what I already am”(1) and “to become those we are,”(2) or, “proximally and for the most part, Dasein is not itself,”(3) take on a supreme relevance if what I am concerned with is becoming the individual, which is always a possibility of my being. It would seem that this possibility remains hidden from me so long as I adhere to the whims of the crowd. It is, therefore, the case that what is reflexively referred to as “I,” namely a singular relation to one’s self, is not itself properly, but rather is the Heideggerian “They self” of everydayness. The examination that follows will illuminate the role of others in the works discussed. Furthermore, it will examine the movement from the universal to the particular, the differentiation, or process of individuation, which the authors see as the necessary movement in the task of becoming a self. This movement necessitates that we pose the question of “how,” as a manner of existing oneself as a singular individual and not simply running with the herd; the herd, or crowd, must, therefore, be overcome by the existing subject. While the authors propose divergent programs, there is a large degree of convergence, which will be our topic of discussion. Repetition is this point of convergence; it is the “how” of maintaining oneself within the process of becoming what we already are.

“The Crowd,” “The Herd,” “Das Man” and The Everyday:

“For a ‘crowd’ is untruth.”(4) Truth, in the Kierkegaardian sense, is found in subjectivity; the task therefore, of every existing subject, is to become subjective. The existing subject is always the self’s relation to itself.(5) However, the self’s self-relation is caught in a dialectical paradox between the eternal (God) and the temporal. The crowd is, therefore, a manifestation of the seductive temporal, its ways being that of objectivity; the crowd takes the self’s relation away from the eternal; alienating it from the subjective truth. For Kierkegaard, the crowd is but a mere abstraction, the crowd is nothing more than a congregation of individuals each one possessing the means of becoming one such individual self in passionate inwardness. Becoming an individual is the highest task placed before the existing subject; the crowd is always concerned with the general, with world historical significance. The crowd exerts anonymous control; it is every individual, but no single individual, because every individual is a something general with no special significance for the crowd. The crowd gives the impression of power, but it is merely a terrestrial power; one which alleviates the burden of responsibility from the self, however, “Only one attains the goal.”(6) The crowd, in fact, hides the truth in a false temporal truth; a truth which can only end in despair; the real truth, the truth of the eternal, is only for the single individual. As we shall see for Kierkegaard the process of individuation resides in the “how” of repetition, such that the existing subjects self relation can maintain itself as freedom.

Nietzsche is similarly concerned with the task of becoming an individual and the affirmation of life. For Nietzsche, therefore, the task is to undermine, to remove the ground from that which denies life; that which denies the creative force which resides in the individual as such. The herd, is one such denial of life, the will to power of the herd, undermines the will to power of the individual in favour of all that is average and unspectacular. It posits truth, where there are only errors and illusion. This truth is the will to power; within the herd will to power is the will to preservation of the species, such that, “The species is everything, and one is always none.”(7) Morality, as a major informant of action, is nothing more than the manifestation of the herd’s will to preservation in the existing individual. Morality, as a creation of the herd’s will to power, makes the individual a mere function of the herd, as a means to the ends of the herd.(8) Morality, as the law of the herd, pronounces its “thou shalt,” as a great equalizer of that which is not equal; posits sameness where there is difference, and values the individual only in terms of the whole.(9) The herd instinct is ingrained within every existing subject, such that consciousness, that which sees itself as a unity in the I am I proposition, is nothing more than the herd manifesting itself in the individual. For Nietzsche, consciousness is but an emergent faculty, which satisfies the need for communication.10 The individual who trusts the valuations of consciousness, therefore, trusts the valuations of the herd. Nietzsche, however, is not so trusting; the task he gives us is “to become those we are,” as such, we must overcome the will to power of the herd and strive through our own will to power to make our own truths and create our own values. Repetition, is once again the how this can be accomplished; through Eternal recurrence we can overcome the crowd, with a newly informed sense of time, and project our “retroactive force” into the future.

Heidegger, is concerned with uncovering Being through an ontological “existential analytic” of Dasein. Dasein find itself, as throwness, already in the world amongst other Dasein and entities not of the character of Dasein. As such, Dasein, which is my specificity, is forced to deal with its world and the others located therein. Although the “I” is given, and seems to impart with a notion of specificity, it is nonetheless the case that “proximally and for the most part, Dasein is not itself in everydayness.” Pre-ontologically, Dasein find itself in a world already interpreted by the Dasein of others, and thus find in itself not the “I” of Dasein specificity, but rather the they-self (Das Man) of everyone and no one. Therefore, Dasein, as a requisite of its existence, has the presuppositions of the they-self as given.11 In everydayness, or pre-ontologically, Dasein understands itself and the world in terms of the Das Man. So long as Dasein remains in this state, it remains in authentic and falling away from itself. The clock is a creation of Das man:

[size=75]“Then time is already interpreted as present, past is interpreted as no longer present, future as indeterminate not yet present: past is irretrievable, future indeterminate.”(12) [/size]

Time, lived in this fashion, is marked by its irreversibility and the primacy of the present as the space of homogenization. Time, lived in this manner, is in-authentic and Dasein living time in this manner concerns itself with questions of “when” and “what.” The task, for the authentic, singular, Dasein concerned with individuating itself, concerned with maintaining itself as possibility, involves a reconception of time grounded in the most extreme possibility of its being. The most extreme possibility of Dasein is its death and in death the specificity of Dasein is manifest; this possibility necessarily involves the question of “how” time is to be existed.

Repetition As the “How” of individuation:

Deleuze’s account in “Difference and Repetition,” seems to be an ideal starting point in order to explain the notion of repetition as it is employed by the various authors. Firstly, Deleuze posits various levels of repetition, a general, external, bare repetition, and an internal ideational repetition.(13) Repetition is the “how” which all the authors employ, once individuated, it allows the subject to maintain itself as freedom as a singular difference which defies representation.

[size=75]“Repetition must be understood in the pronominal; we must first find the self of repetition, the singularity within that which repeats. For there is no repetition without a repeater, nothing repeated without a repetitious soul.”(14)[/size]

The singularity, which avoids identity, which defies representation, is the true repetition for which Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger seek to repeat. It is a creative act which creates a new space and time, it is an affirmation of life it is the difference which animates action.

Kierkegaard’s task, that of becoming subjective, is theological in nature. Kierkegaard is primarily informed by his relationship to God.(15) Becoming subject is, therefore, the cultivation of this relation to God. Kierkegaard’s subject is individuated by faith in God and the ability to think death in every moment. The crowd offers security, anonymity, and irresponsibility; cowardess would have us choose to remain part of the crowd. Courage and passion allow the existing individual think its own death and “attend to this thought at every moment.”(16) The uncertainty of death requires an inward movement toward the truth in subjectivity. Becoming subjecting allows us to become the self which we already are. Repetition is the “how” this can be done; without the possibility of repetition the subject would lose its self in the crowd as actualized by it. Freedom, which is always the self’s self-relation, must seek to actualize itself as freedom.17 Repetition is the task of freedom, for maintaining oneself as possibility in the moment as the intersection between the eternal and the temporal. Repetition of this sort is the second type of repetition of which Deleuze mentioned, namely, it is internal repetition; it allows the subject to exist the eternal temporal paradox, while at the same time taking the past up into itself and existing it forward as freedom; as freedom’s possibility.

Nietzsche finds in the eternal recurrence the means of undermining the valuations of the herd, and of “becoming those we are.” For both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, courage lies on the side of becoming the self; further for Nietzsche, courage lies in willing the eternal recurrence. "Courage, however, is the best slayer–courage which attacks: which slays even death itself, for it says, ‘was that life? Well then! Once more!’ "(18) Eternal recurrence, as a repetition of all that is in every moment, undermines the notions of the herd. Eternal recurrence undermines the Christian notions of origins, of judgement, of another world beyond our own. In the recurrence there is only the moment, which repeats eternally, a moment, which has never begun, nor will it cease, to repeat. Eternal becoming is the result, as a sort of (non) being, not as a negation of being but as the affirmation of being as becoming. There is repetition of sameness, which affirms the moment as an eternally important one:

[size=75]“This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything utterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence-even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself.”[/size]19

The eternal recurrence is an internal repetition, regardless of whether it is so in actuality; it is a manner of living, which affirms life and affirms the creative force of becoming a self. The eternal recurrence brings with it a new conception of time, allowing every existing individual to assert its retroactive force, making the past a possibility. It allows the individual to take up the whole of history, as a creative force, and repeat it in the eternally repeating moment.20 The whole of history, in the single individual, lived as possibility in the moment;21 the moment, which has never begun and shall never cease to become. Nietzsche makes the ultimate affirmation of life; the life of the singular existing individual thus takes on the “greatest weight,” the greatest significance, and shall be the source of all our joy.

In everydayness, Dasein is not itself, but rather the they-self of everyone and no one. Dasein individuates itself only through the notion of its own death. As throwness, into the pre-interpreted world, Dasein comes to live itself in everydayness as the they-self, as the One. However, death, as specifically my death, cannot be interpreted by the they-self, for my death is mine specifically and I cannot come to know it through the death of other Dasein. Dasein, therefore, must interpret for itself the most extreme possibility of its being its own death.22 The ability to see this futural uncertainty undermines the they-self, that Dasein is pre-ontologically and in everydayness; this undermines Dasein conception of itself, allowing Dasein seek to create itself based upon the indeterminate certainty of its own death. Being-towards-death frees Dasein from its everyday conception of time as the present, a conception informed by the they-self, such that Dasein becomes futural; the future being the most fundamental phenomenon of time. The specificity of Dasein’s own death, grounds Dasein as the fundamental possibility of its being, or ceasing to be. In running ahead to this most extreme possibility Dasein is thrust back upon itself in everydayness, but with something more, as a ‘how.’ Being-futural, Dasein is running ahead to its past, a past which it now has; a past which it uses to cultivate the present; the past, is now possibility, which is repeated in ‘how’ it is lived.23

[size=75]“In so doing, it becomes manifest that the original way of dealing with time is not a measuring. Coming back in running ahead is itself the ‘how’ of that concern in which I am precisely tarrying.”[/size]24

Authentically Dasein is time; running ahead to the past, allows for a repetition of the past; yet a repetition which is concerned with ‘how’ this past is existed.


While a conclusion seems out of place, it is nonetheless expedient as a summation of what has been illuminated thus far. The individual must become that which it already is; that which remains hidden from it by the crowd. The movement, which individuates the subject, is an existential one, one which must allow itself to be subject to repetition. Although it would seem, reflexively, that we are a particular within the universal, the truth of the matter is that we must become this particular. This task, which is specifically our own, should take up the whole of our lifetime. Courage, creativity, passion and repetition are the prerequisites in the task of becoming and maintaining oneself as a singularity. The ‘how’ of repetition is the manner of existing as a particular individual. The repetition which allows us to remain possible at all times in moment, must be the object of the will, such that repetition is not a something outside of us, but rather, a manner of existing a task we gives ourselves which informs all of our actions


1 David F. Swenson. Trans. Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944. p. 116.

2 Frederich Nietzsche. The Gay Science. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books, 1974. p. 266.

3 Dasein is utilized by Heidegger so as not to import the presuppositions of the philosophical tradition; literally translated as “being there,” what is signified is the threefold structure of the being of an existing subject. Being-in-the-world, as its spatial location; Being-with, as its intersubjectivity, signifying that the space, wherein Dasein finds itself, is shared with others. Finally, Dasein is specificity, as a relation of the self to the self. Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. p 151.

4 Soren Kierkegaard. The Point of View For My Work As An Author: A Report To History and Related Writings. Trans. Walter Lowrie. New York: Harper & Row, 1959. p 110.

5 The self is a synthesis of psyche and body, achieved when spirit is posited as the third term. The self is also a synthesis of the eternal and the temporal, which can only be synthesized in the moment where time reflects eternity. Soren Kierkegaard. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin. Trans. Reidar Thomte. Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 1980. p. 85-86.

6 Kierkegaard. The Point of View For My Work As An Author. p 111.

7 Nietzsche. The Gay Science. p 74.

8 Ibid., p. 174-175.

9 It must be held firmly in mind that the notion of morality is based on the notion of the divine laws of God. Morality, furthermore, functions in consciousness in terms of what seems to be a unified self. However, Nietzsche proclaimed the Death of God and denies the existence of a unity in consciousness. Frederich Nietzsche. The Will To Power. Trans. Walter Kaufmann & R.J. Hollindale. New York: Vintage Books, 1967. p 156-157.

10 Nietzsche. The Gay Science. p 299.

11 This is what is meant by throwness into the world; it a sort of abandonment into a world already interpreted by the-they to which we are thrown.

12 Martin Heidegger. The Concept of Time. Trans. William McNeil. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. p. 17E.

13 The external repetition is one of difference between objects represented by the same concept. The internal repetition is the pure unmediated movement of an idea, as a creative accentuation, or moreness. The internal repetition is always masked by the external repetition, such that they are intimately interlinked. Gilles Deleuze. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Colombia University Press, 1993. p 24.

14Deleuze. Difference and Repetition. p. 23.

15 “The truth can neither be communicated nor be received except as it were under God’s eyes, not without God’s help, not without God’s being involved as the middle term, He himself being the Truth. It can therefore only be communicated by and received by the ‘individual’ which as a matter of fact can be every living man.” Kierkegaard. The Point of View For My Work As An Author. p. 117.

16 Swenson. Trans. Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. p. 151.

17 Kierkegaard lists three stages in the history of repetition in the sphere of individual freedom. The first is freedom as desire, which leads to despair; freedom as sagacity, which in turn leads to despair; freedom as freedom, which is the highest repetition and leads to atonement. Soren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling/Repetition. Trans. Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983. p. 288.

18 Frederich Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra: a Book For None and For All. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Penguin Books, 1978. p. 157.

19 Nietzsche. The Gay Science. p. 273.

20 Ibid., p. 104.

21 Ibid., p 268.

22Heidegger. Being and Time. p. 296.

23 Heidegger. The Concept of Time. p. 14E.

24Ibid., p. 14E


Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Colombia University Press, (1993.)

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, (1962.)

Heidegger, Martin. The Concept of Time. Trans. William McNeil. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, (1992.)

Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling/Repetition. Trans. Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, (1983.)

Kierkegaard, Soren. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin. Trans. Reidar Thomte. Princeton: University of Princeton Press, (1980.)

Kierkegaard, Soren. The Point of View For My Work As An Author: A Report To History and Related Writings. Trans. Walter Lowrie. New York: Harper & Row, (1959.)

Nietzsche, Frederich. The Gay Science. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books, (1974.)

Nietzsche, Frederich. Thus spoke Zarathustra: a Book For None and For All. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Penguin Books, (1978.)

Nietzsche, Frederich. The Will To Power. Trans. Walter Kaufmann & R.J. Hollindale. New York: Vintage Books, (1967.)

Swenson, David F… Trans. Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Princeton: Princeton University Press, (1944.)

Veeery nice, Trotter!

I have only yet read the opening portion and want to comment quickly on it, then return to reading it entirely.

To solve the paradox created in the Kierkegaardian and Heideggerian comparison of individual authenticity to the paradigm, what is at first an apparant dilemma is not in fact a problem if both religion and the idea of ‘existential meaningless’ are discarded, since they are the primary concepts which introduce subversive nihilism through adulterated freedom and notions of equality, where in fact the human species is hierarchical both biologically and politically.

Both the Hiedeggerian and Kierkegaardian ‘subjectivity’ are the PERFECT balance of the Nietzschean ‘over-man.’ Combining the elements within the appropriate political atmosphere would breed satisfied politics and sciences. The concepts of meaninglessness, dread, existential angst, et al, wouldn’t be issues where the false senses of anxiety were vanquished- those ‘opiates’ which serve to crutch mankind. All this, all this, generates from false senses of equality, rights, freedom, and purposes.

Too many chiefs and not enough indians.

It should be a natural consequence that the greater ones, the pioneers and rulers, be distinguished from the ordinary man. When in society everyone is equalized through ‘religious’ sanctions and genius becomes rare, those that are greater become tyrants and criminals, where they should be natural leaders.

Power and individual purpose, the subjective authenticity, is practiced in how one takes one place in a ranking of degrees of greatness. But where this natural expression of power is repressed, the sense of conformity hinders growth. It should never be a case where an ordinary person is even compared to a great person- most likely the feeling of losing one’s authenticity and ‘originality’ happens because of being surrounded by limits and ‘conventions.’

The Kierkegaardian turn inward is the reaction of the failed Nietzschean over-man in the Heideggerean ‘everyday-ness.’

…when the three terms result from bad politics, I think.

Veery nice détrop,

I really like this formulation. You have given me a great deal to think about. I do have some observations, however, that I have seen fit to share.

The Kierkegaardian paradox cannot be solved, rather, the task is to exist the paradox as freedom. Repetition is ‘how’ freedom maintains itself as freedom. How one exists the paradox.

The herd, indeed, posits equality where none exists. However, is it necessarily the case that the “greater” would make natural leaders? I don’t know if genius necessarily translates favourably into the political realm. Politics, as the realm of human interaction, tends aware from greatness and toward the general and the lowest.

How can greatness be measured, save by appeal to a kind of world-historical significance? As a singularity, or an over-man, without precedent, upon what could we base such a notion of varying degrees?

Why would the great person even be concerned with such a comparison? Mediocrity should be the prerogative of the mediocre, greatness should remain in the realm of the great; are either of these realms commensurate? The great person should be the destroyer of such conventions, and limits perhaps, however, only for himself/herself!

All that aside, I am thrilled that you decided to read it and engage in some disscussion. I can see that we may have agreat deal to disscuss

My line of thinking here involves a comparison of what I believe are two predominant characteristics, and perfectly diametric, in human conscience. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard concepts of the Ethical show to me the two sides of conscience and how senses of guilt, remorse, anxiety, and shame originate before the Other. The formula regarding the paradox is precisely the loss of the Nietzschean ideal of self-mastery through expression and pioneering preceding the inwardness of morally obedient existence and submission before ‘religious’ authorities. This maneuver results from the atmosphere wherein stronger types cannot lead and diminish their integrity through the Hiedeggerian ‘every-dayness’ of social existence. However, there is no objective standard with which to measure ‘mastery,’ nonetheless these forms of conscience are deterimental to selfhood and everyone feels them to some degree or another. Which is to say, everyone masters something which they cannot have full permission to express within certain social conventions. This problem creates the paradox that would be resolved if, somehow, either people didn’t feel repressed and exploited or those that were stronger or better were not overwhelmed by the mediocre and placed in an area for their full potential, while also allowing the possibility for all expressions of power at the lose of no-one and their rights.

The ‘bite’ of conscience, as Nietzsche called it, is in my understanding a reaction to the uneccessary circumstances of comparison between victim and offender; where the actions of the stronger should not be offensive, and the experience of the victim should not be exploitative. In a sense I am agreeing with Nietzsche’s caste or level system in that there will always be the productions of exceptional specimens in any species, although I am also taking this into Kierkegaardian areas involving religious and emotional criticisms and personal prejudices as they translate into real-time existential and social interactions between these level systems.

The Kierkegaardian ‘ethical self of compassion’ is the same essence of the censored Nietzschean stronger type’s passion to lead, create and care for its counter-part, the weaker or herd individual. This very possibility is a result of that diagnosis of every-dayness and the extreme speed at which we evolve, interact and produce society. For Kierkegaard the final step after this compassionate leap into the ethical and the submission to custom and law was inspired by a fatalism. Kierkegaard dropped to his knees in some wonderful blissful dispair. A no-no. For Nietzsche the final step after the collapse of the over-man was the distribution of the criminal, the tyrant, the antagonist, into society. They were all misplaced rulers, and warriors who became self-destruct mechanisms of the society gone-bad. Nietzsche jumped up out of his seat swinging a sword in some ecstatic exaltation of power and declaration. This is another no-no.

For each the concept of freedom was negative- it was a consequence of ill-mannered politics. For Kierkegaard it was the fact that killing and torture and rape and war and slavery was possible before God, creating that burden of sin before oneself and God, that ‘freedom as temptation,’ a dangerous freedom. For Nietzsche it was the fact that killing and torture and rape and war and slavery were necessary without God, creating that relentless will to power in the absence of reward or punishment through God.

Niether are necessary without God and democracy. None of these ill-mannered politics are necessary whatsoever. Each case is an example of misplaced power in social cooperation.

All the themes of existentialism generated from the emergence of democracy and capitalism from the good ol’ fashioned Aristocracies where only smart fellas ruled and reading Plato was mandatory before meeting one’s girlfriend at the soda-stand for burgers and milk shakes.

Now? Well, look at us. Vomitous masses of pity and shame before ourselves and I blame the Hegelean geist for this terrible mistake. Preferably the failings of Germany in WW2. I don’t know why this was allowed but it fucked everything up, I think.

The celestial engineers would know but they wouldn’t tell us if we asked. Hopefully its all part of the plan because I’d hate to think we’ve run amuck.

Wonderful posts all. I am off to the store, but will continue reading tonight and tomorrow. Thanks for the insights. I am not a philosophy person, but am most interested in the illuminating insights.