Repetition, and Pedagogy, via Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard writes, "Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backward whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward." I love that — totally insane and totally lucid in the same breath.

Socrates asked the great epistemological question: How can we know something we don't know? If we don't know it, how can we even form a question about it? How can it enter into our understanding? His answer is that all knowledge is recollection. We already know, Socrates claims, but we've forgotten. The task of the teacher is to help you remember. Ergo, the Socratic technique which asks questions, as if to trigger what you already know.

This, alas, was never my pedagogic approach.

For Kierkegaard, that is the classical way. But with Jesus, we get a different mode of life (and a different pedagogy): we get rebirth. We get repetition. We get a living that is always looking forwards, that is future oriented: "When the Greeks said that all knowing is recollecting, they said that all existence, which is, has been; when one says that life is a repetition, one says, actuality, which has been, now comes into existence." Recollection, Kierkegaard claims, makes us sad; repetition makes us happy. It is the emergence of life rather than its memory.

Life is repetition, says Kierkegaard. To repeat is to live.

A pedagogy based on repetition is, in a sense, much more violent: it must pick the student up and move him elsewhere, into a future the student couldn't possibly know exists (see Kierkegaard's book, "Philosophic Fragments").

Just think about this as an epistemological and then pedagogic problem: How can a teacher get a student to know something new, something that student couldn’t even know was possible to know?

For the student, it demands a leap — and a leap onto unsteady ground, into space. It’s Carlos at the very end of “Tales of Power,” leaping off that cliff: “Then a strange urge, a force, made me run with him [Pablito, another student] to the northern edge of the mesa. I felt his arm holding me as we jumped and then I was alone.”

And for the teacher it demands a push, a prod, a poke, and then a disappearance.


dustygravel said...

Are all these Kierkaard quotes from Philosophic Fragments? I never knew he
Wrote about repetition like this.

Do you think that this indicates that kierkegaard anticipated Deleuze view of repetition or is this something totally DIFFERENT?

If their views are the same then
is Delueze recalling Kierkegaard or is he repeating him or maybe replacing him? What going on here?

Daniel Coffeen said...

The quotes actually comes from SK's book called, Repetition. The stuff on Socratic vs. Christian pedagogy comes from Philosophic Fragments.

In Different and Repetition, Deleuze invokes and compares Kierkegaardian repetition and Nietzschean repetition. Kierkegaard, Deleuze claims, leaps to repeat — it's a matter of these vertical jumps. Nietzsche, however, dances along the surface — leaps are for buffoons.

Now, what the fuck does that mean? My guess is as good as yours.