Monday, November 22, 2004

Kierkegaard: Love believes all things (2)

«When deception and truth are then placed in the equilibrium of opposite possibilities, the decision is whether there is mistrust or love in you. See, someone says, "Even what appears to be the purest feeling could still be a deception." Well, yes, that is possible; it must be possible. "Ergo I chose mistrust or choose to believe nothing." That is, he discloses his mistrust. Let us reverse the conclusion: "Truth and falsity reach unconditionally just as far; therefore it is possible that even something that appears to be the vilest behavior could be pure love." Well, yes, it is possible, it must be possible. Ergo the one who loves chooses to believe all things - that is, he discloses his love. A confused person no doubt believes that existence is a rather muddied element - ah, the sea is not so transparent! If, then, someone can demonstrate on the basis of the possibility of deception that one should not believe anything at all, I can demonstrate that one should believe every­thing - on the basis of the possibility of deception. If someone thinks that one should not believe even the best of persons, because it is still possible that he is a deceiver, then the reverse also holds true, that you can credit even the worst person with the good, because it is still possible that his badness is an appearance.
Love is the very opposite of mistrust, and yet it is initiated into the same knowledge. In knowledge they are, if you please, indis­tinguishable (in the infinite sense, knowledge is indeed indiffer­ent); only in the conclusion and in the decision, in faith (to be­lieve all things and to believe nothing) are they the very opposite. In other words, when love believes everything, it is by no means in the same sense as light-mindedness, inexperience, and naiveté, which believe everything on the basis of ignorance and inexperi­ence. No, love is as knowledgeable as anyone, knows everything that mistrust knows, yet without being mistrustful, knows every­thing that experience knows, but also knows that what we call experience is actually that mixture of mistrust and love.
"How much that is hidden may still reside in a person, or how much may still reside hidden! How inventive is hidden inwardness in hiding itself and in deceiving or evading others, the hid­den inwardness that preferred that no one would suspect its existence. modestly afraid of being seen and mortally afraid of being entirely disclosed. It is not so that the one person never completely understands the other? But if he does not understand him completely, then of course it is always possible that the most indisputable thing could still have a completely different explanation that would, note well, be the true explanation, since an assumption can indeed explain a great number of instances very well and thereby confirm its truth and yet show itself to be untrue as soon as the instance comes along that it cannot explain - and it would indeed be possible that this instance or this somewhat more precise specification could come even at the last moment. Therefore all calm and, in the intellectual sense, dispas­sionate observers, who eminently know how to delve searchingly and penetratingly into the inner being, these very people judge with such infinite caution or refrain from it entirely be­cause, enriched by observation, they have a developed conception of the enigmatic world of the hidden, and because as observ­ers they have learned to rule over their passions. Impetuous, passionate people, who do not know themselves and for that reason naturally are unaware that they do not know others, judge precipitously. Those with insight, those who know, never do this.»

(Works of Love, Edited and translated by Howard V. Hong
and Edna H. Hong, Princeton University Press, 1995)