Marcel on ‘Performatives’ and the Self (Kierkegaardian Subjectivity and Austinian Performatives 2)

When I say that my act commits me, it seems to me that it means just this:  what is characteristic of my act is that it can later be claimed by me as mine; at bottom, it is as though I signed a confession in advance:  when the day comes when I will be confronted by my act, whether through my own agency or that of another…I must say:  yes, it is I who acted in this way, ego sum qui fecit; what is more:  I acknowledge in advance that if I try to escape, I am guilty of a disownment.  Let us take a specific example.  The clearest, the most impressive example, is doubtless that of promising, to the extent that promising is not “mere words,” just words.  I promise someone that I will help him if he gets into difficulty.  This amounts to saying:  “I acknowledge in advance that if I try to escape when these circumstances occur, in thereby disavowing myself I create a cleavage within myself which is destructive of my own reality.”

7 responses

    • This sounds a tad dramatic, but it needs to be understood in the total context of Marcel’s thinking. Here’s a relevant section: “I truly become a subject, I repeat, that I become a subject: the fatal error of a certain species of idealism really consists in a failure to see that being a subject is not a fact nor a point of departure, but a conquest and a goal.” For Marcel, the self, the subject, comes to be in vow and in fidelity; and so to betray my vow, to act in infidelity, is precisely “destructive of my own reality”.

      • I am not qualified to understand the ‘vow’ and ‘fidelity’ part of this statement.
        How would you understand Marcel in relation to the Deleuze’ian concept of “becoming”?

  1. This is off the topic of the post, but I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while:

    Do we know what Kierkegaard works Wittgenstein actually read?

    I’ve found a lot of people who mention that he read him, but the only details I’ve been able to dig up are Russell’s remark about how LW had become “a complete mystic” and was reading Kierkegaard and Angelus Silesius after finishing the TLP, and that LW thought Kierkegaard was the best mind of the 19th century. Nothing more detailed that that.

    It would be very interesting if we knew he’d read Climacus’s works, given the reading of the Fragments/Postscript that we get out of people like Conant and Mulhall (and your New Blackfriars piece on discipleship), but I find it hard to imagine LW getting through something as long as the Postscript. But then I don’t even know what Kierkegaard works existed in German or English at the time. I should probably look that up.

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