That which is core being

At it’s most exciting and interesting existentialism brings to the fore the problem of the core of my very being and even if it may fall back on the model of the human in its own attempt to think through this problem, the fact that the problem is posed in large part derives from existentialist thought.  This ‘core’ sounds naive and simple, as though some ‘true me’ can be found if we look hard enough.  This implies something like a essence and the first crucial step that existentialism began to make explicit was was that this core is not some essence to be understood through the philosophical process of distinction and definition supported by argument.  Sartre’s crude formulation of this shift in existentialist thought found itself expressed in his famous slogan – ‘existence precedes essence’.  Kierkegaards’ investigation of the case of Abraham and his faith is also, however, reliant upon this kind of shift from essence to existence.

A core, like the core of an apple, might be missed by being unthinkingly passed over, almost as though it were waste.  Custom and practice where I live is for the core of an apple to be thrown away after eating the flesh and pulp.  I’ve always found that strange, always eating my apple cores and once I had children often eating theirs too.  The core of an apple is crunchy, tasty and – more importantly – the very point of the apple.  It is the seed carrier, which all this flesh and pulp is there to sustain.  It contains a small forest within, an orchard of life.  My own, naive, magical, thinking has always taken the core of the apple to be that which is the most vital, life-containing element of the fruit.

This core of my own being I also take to be that which is most vital, life-containing.  Assuming, as I do, that I am not a deterministic being this core is also something that doesn’t cause anything, including my being.  It is, instead, that which is within the eyes that see, not as a pre-existing soul but rather as the confluence of all those forces that have coalesced to form this moment of subjectivity in which I see or feel.  At times this core will be in one form, at times in another, though at each time it will present as an eternity.  At times, indeed, the core might might be in a ‘non-dual’ form, presenting itself not as my core but as the core of everything.

How can such a shifting form in any sense be called a ‘core’?  Moreover, how could such a core be both continuously shifting and yet also ‘that which is most vital’?  Implicit in the notion of a variable core is something like a ‘variable object’.  Why is it difficult to imagine an object that has enormous variation?  It seems that at the point at which we allow the enormous variation the object is no longer identifiable.  We cannot recognise something as an object unless there is enough stability of identity, so it might be argued – and yet we seem entirely capable of handling the weather, of handling things which have enormous variability.  The lower intensity of the rate of change in many objects perhaps inoculates us from the pressure of handling the higher intensity objects.  It seems that if a core does exist, almost by definition this core must be that which is most vital – these two notions seem to co-define each other.  The difficulty is not, then, in recognising this core and this vitality but rather in handling an intense core, that intensity now being understood as a high degree of flux.

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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

One Response

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  1. voltron
    voltron at |

    i immediately think of this core in terms of S1, objet petit a, and the Real. That is, their structural function is precisely that of a hard kernel, but one whose place is void and whose void is expressed paradoxically in the positivity of objet a, that which represents the unrepresentable. This way, there certainly is no essence, but rather a shifting objet a whose actual embodiment in a material object is radically contingent, it is the structural place this objet occupies and its significance is in the way it is caught up in the mirror-play of fantasy. hence your reference to ‘experience of myself’ at this ‘moment’. it would be important to emphasize that with Sartre, the mind is in the negative, void.

    Another question, i wonder what you think about the implications of an ethics of affect, as Nietzsche put it, ‘If striving gives you the highest feeling, then strive, If rest gives you the highest feeling, then rest, if fitting in, following, obedience give you the highest feeling, then obey. Only make sure you become aware of what gives you the highest feeling, and then stop at nothing! eternity is at stake!” -(notes from 1881). That is, how (if we can) can we separate this from a mere utilitarian hedonism, accruing whatever pleasures are subjectively suitable for me? As an ethics, where do u think its utility lies, can it be applied or thought of in terms of global politics or is it restrained to the micro level of my everyday interactions, and is it mistaken to draw a division between these two orders?

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