Sandra Bullock on herself…

I think people in my class might be a little surprised to see this on my blog. It’s not really the sort of International Baccalaureate Philosophy Internal Assessment stimulus I would immediately think of. Having said that, it is probably proof that you could write your essay using nearly anything as your non-philosophical text.

I more than appreciate that this might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it is a pretty beautiful insight into (at least part of) what it means to be a person. I was made to think of a whole lot of philosophy: Wittgenstiein on behaviourism, Sartre’s account of intersubjectivity but perhaps more than anything (and this will be less surprising to my students) I thought of Kierkegaard on consciousness.

This Danish philosopher used the word ‘despair’ to describe human existence that manages to fulfil our created potential of becoming a ‘self’. Some people describe this as the gap between the ‘me I am’ and the ‘me I could be’. But ‘gap’ is a problematic word… It makes you think of le Néant  in Sartre. And it is clear to see this influence of the Dane on the frenchman but Kierkegaard is talking about the way the two relate together. It is the relationship that can constitute myself. This is the difference between atheistic and religious existentialism. We know that SK thought we were created with and for this relational ability – that it is part of our design but also our potential (Evans). In 1846 he wrote that

“people in our time, because of so much knowledge, have forgotten what it means to exist”*

This is perhaps more true now than then, but in this clip Sandra Bullock shows she is not one of (or at least knows people that are not) those people. ‘Despair’ is a word that ‘turns off’ a lot of new Kierkegaard readers but what he means is not what one might initially think.

The tension that SB talks about, the ‘struggle’, is very close to what SK is on about. Now Kierkegaard thought that we could either avoid this reality or tackle it head on but only ever in a ‘difficult’ way. It is only the struggle towards a goal, the ‘relationship’ with that goal, that refuses to bury oneself in an objective system and does not hide from the ‘torn apartness’ of subjective experience that allows a human to claim to be a self in any real way.

*The Guardian – Claire Carlisle