≡ ‘confession and honest talking-about-oneself’ ≡

Aleksandr Sokurov, Confession. From the Commander’s Diary, 1998

«The confession is for us, therefore, besides “theory,” the most important form in which the truth is said. From Augustine to Francois Villon, from Rousseau to Freud, from Heine to current autobiographical literature, we hear decisive truths in the form of admission and confession. Moreover, those narrative communities that ultimately develop out of all depth-psychological practices constitute, in essence, confessional communities that have been morally neutralized through therapy. In motley reality, all talking about oneself necessarily ends up in the vicinity of a blackguard’s confession or a criminal’s testament, a sick report or a story of suffering, a witness’s statement or a confession. That is the condition of authenticity in a situation of the unavoidable ethical overtaxing of oneself. Only bastards always have one more excuse, one more white vest to change into, one more spine, and one more good conscience. Those who really say what they are and what they have done always and unavoidably, nolens volens, provide a rogue’s novel, a certification of poverty, a story of a young scamp, an image of a fool a book of twists and turns.

What Erich Fromm calls his “ethics of being,” if one views it properly, aims ultimately at such an upright bearing regarding one’s own life, thinking, planning and failure. Without doubt, all that also belongs to “being,” of which, according to certain value systems, we would have to be ashamed. An “ethics of being,” therefore, if it (and because it) should be a conscious bearing, must lead to a point at which, for the sake of uprightness, all shame also has an end and at which we confess to everything we “are,” right or wrong. The ethics of being seeks the truth in authenticity. It therefore demands and encourages confession and honest talking-about-oneself as the cardinal virtue per se. Before this ethics all other morals are suspended, even if the various sectoral ethics do not already contradict each other. Those who want the truth cannot simply build “theories” and see through masks; they must also create relations among people in which every confession becomes possible. Only when we have understanding for everything, give everything its due, place everything beyond good and evil, and, in the end, view everything in such a way that nothing human is foreign to us-only then will this ethics of being become possible because it puts an end to the hostility toward other ways of being. Being as such knows nothing and is nothing of which it would have to be ashamed, apart from conscious crookedness, dishonesty, and self-deceptions. Everything can be “forgiven,” not merely what tradition calls “sins against the Holy Spirit” and what we today call a lack of authenticity (genuineness, honesty). That consciousness is inauthentic that consciously does not go “into itself because it still banks strategically on the advantage gained through lying.»

excerpt from Peter Sloterdijk‘s Critique of Cynical Reason, in Minima Amoralia: Confession, Joke, Crime.

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