Apr 19, 2011

To Have a Cause

To Have a Cause

A. Lower forms

  1. Because it seems good in the eyes of men, a sign of earnestness, etc., one speaks uninterruptedly about having a cause, about wanting to work for the cause, everything for the cause — and he has no cause except that of wanting to please men by his talk about having a cause. Such people have no cause but dress something up, a display mannequin which they coddle as if it were a child.
  2. One has a kind of cause — but the cause, however, is consequential only to the point of gaining one's own advantage by having the cause.
  3. One has a cause but supports it in every possible way by clubbing together etc.; one is happy when someone, even through misunderstanding, joins up, for although one has a cause, he wants to spare himself as much as possible, i.e., one wants to have a cause as little as possible.

B. Higher forms

  1. Ethical irony and intellectual, unselfish interest, which have a cause to the degree that it is hidden in order to prevent the misunderstanding of being of help to someone.
  2. The martyrs who suffer for the cause. They need have no fear at all of getting the support of men, because where there is suffering, men flee. But in any case, they are still careful to parry assistance through misunderstanding, if it should be offered, because the cause is to them unconditionally the absolute, the I unconditionally nothing. This is what it is to have a cause in the highest sense.

— Kierkegaard, 1851 (4 years before his death)

Angry reactions to living conscientiously

When a person voluntarily exposes himself to dangers and loss for the sake of a good cause, people reproachfully say, "It is his own fault," and become angry with him. What are they angry about? It is because of the voluntariness, the fact that he is disinterested, that he scorns what they aspire to as the highest. One can hurt a self-loving person in two ways: as a thief, a robber, gossip, et al., one can take away from him his earthly goods, but one can also by disinterestedness and sacrifice take the value away from those goods, those goods which he values as the highest. Men get just as bitter about the one way as the other. It is also a kind of reduction when that which a person regards as supreme and which he possesses is not actually taken from him but is shown to be empty and worthy of disdain.

- Kierkegaard, 1848