Cristóbal Rio's bookshelf is dominated by male authors of existentialism: Albert Camus and Søren Kierkegaard and Miguel de Unamuno. What role do the philosophical views of these authors play in the series, and what is it about Death in the Afternoon by Hemingway?
In episode 8 of Star Trek: Picard we see in a pan the bookshelf of Captain Rios in his quarters on board the ship La Sirena. It contains an extremely fascinating number of books in a small space: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway, A Casebook on Existentialism by William Vaios Spanos, The Concept of Dread by Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death also by Søren Kierkegaard, The Rebel by Albert Camus as well as the book The Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno, which I already discussed. There is another book on the table, this is the fictional non-fiction book Surak and Existentialism by Nicolaus Notabene, a pseudonym of Søren Kierkegaard. The word Notabene is a Latin phrase and literally means "to remember" or "by the way".
- Albert Camus: The Stranger
- Ernest Hemingway: Death in the Afternoon
- William Vaios Spanos: A Casebook on Existentialism
- Søren Kierkegaard: The Concept of Dread
- Søren Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death
- Albert Camus: The Rebel
- Miguel de Unamuno: The Tragic Sense of Life
- Nicolaus Notabene: Surak and Existentialism
- Danish theologian and philospher: Søren Aabye Kierkegaard
- Conclusion: Beauty in revolt
The state of preservation of the books is excellent if one considers that they were probably printed on acidic paper in the 20th century. Surely in the future every bibliophile will have deacidification equipment available, as soon as everyone will be able to print their own spare parts at home.
Of the eight books I read one, that is Death in the Afternoon by Hemingway. I have already written something about the book The Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno. Astonishing is the accumulation of Kierkegaard, which I would like to discuss separately at the end.
As I write this, I'm not sure what it means for the characters in Star Trek: Picard. The many books about existentialism raise more questions than they answer so shortly before the last episode of the first season. And as always, more questions and new associations to real existing characters and actions in the series arise during the writing. And more than ever I think that the Christian saying "Do not be afraid! is fundamentally wrong.
May each one of you have your own thoughts!
The Stranger is the first novel that the then 29-year-old French author Albert Camus published in 1943. The book is about the average and naive Algerian-Frenchman Meursault, who shoots an Arab because he feels threatened by him. Or maybe because he was exposed to the sun for too long and it annoyed him. The second part of the book is about the consequences of this action, including imprisonment, trial and waiting for execution. As the story unfolds, Meursault will realize how insignificant his life is, he was born, he will die, and he will have no long-term significance for the world. His death is inevitable. While Meursault's perception of the real and material world is described in a particularly vivid and detailed way, Camus uses only simple, plain sentences for the perception of the social and emotional.
In the plot Camus expresses his philosophical view of the absurd and senseless. Apart from the burning sun on the beach, there was no reason to kill the Arab, yet later society tries to interpret a reason into the plot Meursault.
Camus's text is today considered one of the major works of existentialism. Existentialism is about the meaning of the naked and pure existence of man. What does it mean to exist, to be. To actively shape life in the opposite sense of things and objects that only are. Existentialism stands in contrast to the old order, when clergy or churches took away the question of meaning and order of life from man.
Eberwein speaks of the sweet seductive fear when it comes to leaving our accustomed cosmos and, like in the film Matrix, choosing not the blue pill but the red one, which leads us into something new and away from the tried and tested.
Camu's life was still determined by another essential basic attitude: The constant revolt and the constant overcoming of the absurd in human life. Camus was symbolised by the myth of Sisyphus, to which he dedicated an entire book.
What remains is a fate in which the end alone is fatal. Apart from this only fatal inevitability of death, everything, be it joy or happiness, is nothing but freedom. What remains is a world in which man is the only master."
Sisyphus is a figure from Greek mythology, who had a terrible fate imposed on him because of his many transgressions: As punishment, he must roll a boulder up a mountain forever, which, almost at the summit, rolls back down into the valley every time.
This is the situation in which we humans find ourselves again and again, although we know the terrible fate, we keep on going, we revolt against it.
Death in the Afternoon
Death in the afternoon is a literary essay by Ernest Hemingway, published on 26 September 1932. Hemingway is said to have said "What to write about" about his work on the essay and gave himself the answer:
This sums up the plot surprisingly well. The bullfighter, most experienced in killing bulls, enters the arena. The bull follows him, without any experience at all. The bull usually has a quarter of an hour to gain experience and, according to Hemingway, a fair chance to kill the matador, the bullfighter in the corrida. Nevertheless, the death of the bull is quite certain and inevitable. If not in this fight, then all the more glorious in the next one. In classical bullfighting, the bull is fatigued by the matador and his mounted helpers and dies with a precise stab in the heart. According to Hemingway, in this stab it is important to face the danger as close as possible with a stab through the bull's horn, otherwise the fight is not fair. Sometimes, Hemingway describes, the bull lifts its head at the last moment before death and stabs. Then the matador is seriously injured or dies. According to Hemingway this is the fair component of the fight.
Hemingway's description of bullfighting is accurate and precise, sometimes apathetic, sometimes poignant. He wants a fair fight, the fight fascinates him, he enjoys it. The bull has a fair chance and the history of bullfighting also shows that sometimes he could use it.
Hemingway was fascinated by Spain, the machismo of Spanish men, bullfighting and the civil war. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his late existentialist work The Old Man and the Sea, written in Cuba.
Many of the characters Hemingway described reflect a central motif: to prove oneself anew, to decide anew and to take a new path, to live actively; whether in hunting, fishing, boxing, shooting or bullfighting. And this perhaps in the spirit of Camus' permanent revolt against the absurdity of the human condition. In the end there is always death. In the early morning of July 2, 1961 Hemingway himself ended his life at the age of 61.
Why is this book on the pilot's shelf? Is it about Hemingway's masculinity, which has been repeatedly attributed, accused to the literary macho prototype?
Is Rio going into a fight - yes, he is going into a fight - but what role does he play in it?
Is it about fairness? Because according to Hemingway, bullfighting was always fair as long as the matador adhered to the unwritten, centuries-old laws?
Is it about the fact that the bull always has a - admittedly small - chance to take the matador on his horns, but even at the last moment he can die by stabbing him in the heart?
William Vaios Spanos
A Casebook on Existentialism
William Vaios Spanos was a literary critic born in 1924 and professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Binghamton near New York.
Spanos was born in Newport, New Hampshire, the son of Greek immigrants. A World War II veteran, he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge and brought to Dresden as a prisoner of war. There he survived the Allied fire bombing of the city. It was a unique experience, which he told only fifty years later in his autobiographical book In the Neighbourhood of Zero.
About his anthology A Casebook on existentialism I have found nothing but a table of contents. There are case histories about existentialism using examples, among others Sisyphus, Hemingway, Kafka, Camus, Sartre, Unamuno, Dostojewski, Auden, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and many others.
The Concept of Dread
Of one who set out to learn to fear
The fairy tale of one who set out to learn to fear is a fairy tale and is in the children's and house fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm in place 4, based on various retellings and legends of different German regions and is about two sons, an older capable and a younger simple-minded one. The simple-minded son doesn't understand why others get a little spooked. The father sends him away to learn the creeps at some point. The son experiences and survives horrible stories and in the end inherits a castle and marries the princess.
The book The Concept of Dread (original title: Begrebet Angest) is a work by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, which he published under the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis (the Keeper of Copenhagen) in 1844. In it, Kierkegaard analyses the concept of fear from a psychological point of view and makes considerations and thoughts about original sin, and the states of fear and anxiety.
According to Kierkegaard, before the incident that caused original sin, there was ignorance of Adam, Eve and the apple, the so-called "Urstand", as a counter term to original sin, the peccatum originale originatum. Adam and Eve would be in a state of freedom, free from fear and anxiety about the consequences of their actions. Through the first sin of the first two human beings, man was at the mercy of death, and only with the new Adam, the protagonist of the new humanity, Christ, according to the Christian view, this sin is lifted, because only Christ can make all people alive again in the spirit. Original sin is a specifically Christian phenomenon and thus does not exist in Judaism or other religions.
I imagine that original sin must have been a considerable means of pressure for the church against people until modern times.
Vor dem Sündenfall war Adam (hebräisch Mensch) unschuldig, er hatte keinen Begriff von der Sünde, Gut und Böse konnte er nicht unterscheiden, von Sterblichkeit wusste er nichts. Nach Kierkegaard schwindelte den ersten Menschen vor der Entscheidung, er blickte in die Möglichkeit seiner Freiheit, gerät ins Taumeln und ergreift auf fatale Weise die falsche Wahl. Und erst durch diesem Schwindel der Freiheit der Wahl kam die Ursünde in die Welt.
Before the Fall, Adam (Hebrew man) was innocent, he had no concept of sin, he could not distinguish good from evil, he knew nothing about mortality. According to Kierkegaard, the first man was dizzy before making a decision, he looked into the possibility of his freedom, staggered and fatally made the wrong choice. And only through this swindle of freedom of choice did the original sin come into the world.
For the God-fearing theologian Kierkegaard, the original sin, the original sin had considerable consequences for all mankind. Every person sins and the result of sin is fear. Fear of evil and renewed sin, fear of good. Kierkegaard calls the fear of the good neurotic, because the good describes salvation.
When one returns to the film Matrix, Neo is afraid of making the right decision, although he knows that it will bring him happiness and the right knowledge.
Kierkegaard makes three central statements about fear in his work:
- Fear makes one unfree.
- Fear as a possibility of freedom.
- One must learn to fear, then one has learned the highest.
Learning to be scared. Kierkegaard is referring to the fairy tale: From one who set out to learn to be afraid.
Kierkegaard distinguishes between fear and anxiety. While the fear is always indeterminate - one is afraid - the fear is determined and directed at something - one is afraid of something. In fear, nothingness reaches out to us. According to Kierkegaard, fear causes us to perceive change as threatening and annoying (indeterminate), but on the other hand, fear challenges us to face it and become ourselves, in overcoming fear.
For me personally, it always helps to turn fear into fear, I clear up the fog and my opponent, name him. Because when I am afraid of something then I have identified what I fear and can do something against my fear.
To conclude with Kierkegaard:
Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death
The book shown is basically a double volume, unfortunately I could not find out which edition it is, but these two books by Søren Kierkegaard have often been published together in one edition.
Fear and Trembling
Fear and Trembling, in the original Frygt og Bæven is a philosophical treatise by Søren Kierkegaard from 1843, which he published under the pseudonym Johannes di Silentio. The title refers to a quotation from Paul's letters to Philippians 2:12 "... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling", which is probably itself a reference to Psalm 55:5 "Fear and trembling came upon me...".
The treatise is simply about the question: Why was Abraham willing to sacrifice his son to God?
In Rembrandt's famous painting, an angel finally prevents the deathblow. Abraham holds his hand over his son's face, Rembrandt has painted the scene in such a way that the dagger is just hovering in the air, just released.
Kierkegaard's simplified conclusion to this biblical question: Man is overwhelmed with the answer to this question.
At the beginning of his 1843 treatise Fear and trembling Kierkegaard wrote
It is an absurd paradox that Kierkegaard is working on. The father who wants to sacrifice his son out of firm faith, but always and at the same time believes that he will not take the sacrifice. As it happens.
It is about the risk of faith, to believe where thinking stops. For man must capitulate before the incomprehensibility of God.
The scandal of the book was due to the fact that Kierkegaard called God incomprehensible, where for centuries God was made comprehensible and tangible: as the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the Creator. But if we can grasp God, if we know him, where is faith?
In his thinking about people, Kierkegaard comes closer to the Protestant and Jewish mystics, including the Jewish mystic Martin Buber, according to the Israeli Admiel Kosman:
The Sickness Unto Death
The second volume in this double edition is the book The Sickness Unto Death, originally Sygdommen til Døden, in German Die Krankheit zum Tode by the Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, which he published under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus in 1849. The Danish philosopher's late work deals with the existential problem of despair. Also the title of this book goes back again to a biblical quotation, namely to the saying of Jesus about Lazarus illness: This illness is not for death, but for the glorification of God, that the Son of God is glorified thereby. (John 11:4 Lut). In the end Jesus brings Lazarus back to life.
The book is about the infinite self of man and how it relates to itself. Kierkegaard divides this relationship of man to himself into three relationships: The relationship between finiteness and infinity, the relationship between freedom and necessity and between temporality and eternity. Only when one is in the unity of all these relationships does one's self find its foundation in God again.
Our self shows itself in how we consciously relate to these positions. But according to Kierkegaard this is not yet enough to determine our self. For our self is not freely chosen, no, it has been set. By God, says Kierkegaard. If one is now dissatisfied with one's self, there are different ways to live with one's self, but all behaviors lead to the same problem, despair.
According to Kierkegaard, this desperation is the disease of death. The despair comes from dissatisfaction with the God-given self. Whenever one is dissatisfied with the imposed self, one is desperate. Over and over and over again. According to Kierkegaard, despair is therefore a permanent and general state of mind of the human mind.
According to Kierkegaard, however, the illness does not end with death, since it is not an illness of the body but an illness of the mind. Unfortunately, despair increases with the degree of self-awareness.
According to Kierkegaard, there is only one salvation from this: One must overcome despair by one giving up one's imaginary self and returning to the original God-given self with all its strengths and weaknesses in humility. This is difficult, and according to Kierkegaard this would also show in the degree of despair in society.
While writing, I think a lot about episode 9 and how artificial life reacts to its own existence and the threat it poses. Apart from this small group of artificial existences, none is allowed in the known universe anymore. At what level do these artificial existences see themselves? Do they see themselves as artificial existences or simply as beings, only in a different way of formation, in the body different from humans, but not in the spirit? But if the spirit is the being, then the spirit does not die with the body, at least Kierkegaard says so. And who are these guardians of the synthetic, who want to protect artificial life from the organic?
Will artificial life in Kierkegaard's sense subordinate itself to God or a higher instance?
For what reason do the creators of the series bring Lazarus and his resurrection into play, even if only in a 3 second long panning shot?
The book The Rebel, in the French original L'homme révolté, is a collection of philosophical and political essays by the French writer Albert Camus, published in 1951. Camus's essays were a response to the endless suffering of two world wars and the millions who died in the death camps and on the battlefields.
Camus is concerned with man's struggle against oppression. The core content of the writings is a vehement criticism of the collective plague of nihilism in philosophy, politics and political theory.
Nihilism is the general rejection of all positive goals, ideals and values. The nihilist believes in the futility of being, in the senselessness of all that exists. According to Dostoevsky, the nihilist does not bow to any authority. If God does not exist, everything is permitted.
Camus is concerned with an ideal revolt, a revolt based on solidarity. Non-violent, civil society resistance and the actors, in contrast to many revolutions in history, must not act as judge and executioner.
This excludes no one. Camus' harsh criticism of the socialist revolutions in the Eastern Bloc met with harsh criticism in the left-wing camp of Paris in the 1950s. Jean-Paul Sartre, in particular, was very critical of Camus.
Revolution in beauty. What a wonderful thought. What salvation do we seek? I personally find the Wikipedia hit particularly fitting: Do we strive for inner-worldly salvation with our fellow human beings and co-existences or for extra-worldly salvation through a higher being, an unknown power.
In the revolution, we must not set ourselves up as judges and executioners, that condemns us forever. Authoritarian murderous regimes are not a solution to the absurdity of human life, it is the peaceful revolt in the sense of beauty.
In the Middle Ages, beauty was considered the splendour of truth, the philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten called beauty the judgement of the mind, the perfection of sensual existence. Man can overcome the ugliness of the world, and if it is in the eternal revolt. If he succeeds, he is free.
Surak and Existentialism
Surak and Existentialism is a fictional book by the author Nicolaus Notabene. Nicolaus Notabene is one of many pseudonyms of the Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard. Surak is a volcanic philosopher in the Star Trek universe and founder of the Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination (UMUK or IDIC), one of the basic principles of the volcanic philosophy of pure logic according to Surak. Michael Chabon, the showrunner of Star Trek: Picard Season 1 himself shared a photo of the book on his Instagram account.
Jörg Hillebrand wrotes about it on his Twitter account @gaghyogi49: The book Surak and Existentialism in Rios' Quarter shows volcanic writing on the cover. The volcanic text is identical with what was seen on the hull of the long-distance shuttle Surak in "Star Trek: TMP".
Dänischer Theologe und Philosoph
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, essayist, theologian and religious writer. He was born in Copenhagen on 5 May 1813 as the last child of seven and died there on 11 November 1855 at the comparatively young age of 42 from a stroke. His father was the melancholy merchant Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, who had become wealthy in Copenhagen through the wool trade. Kierkegaard's life is outwardly comparatively uneventful and it takes place almost exclusively in the microcosm of the city of Copenhagen. His father left Kierkegaard a considerable sum of money on his death and so Kierkegaard's existence was secured for the rest of his life. He lived most of the time with his servant Anders in his apartment in Copenhagen, interrupted only by two stays in Berlin.
Kierkegaard's private life was strongly influenced by the death of his father, which he called an earthquake, and by his unhappy relationship with Regine Olsen. At the age of 24, Kierkegaard met the 14-year-old daughter of an upper middle-class family. Both felt attracted to each other and began an extensive correspondence, of which unfortunately only Kierkegaard's letters have survived.
On 10 September 1840 Kierkegaard became engaged to the now 18-year-old. Already days later Kierkegaard was tormented by doubts about the engagement. According to some sources he feared, like his father, to suffer from melancholy, he doubted the later course of the love and relationship. He also doubted that his love would be sufficient for the relationship. Only a month later, he broke it off again.
Seven years later Regine Olsen married the lawyer and administrative officer Johan Frederik Schlegel. Both probably experienced a happy marriage, but Kierkegaard was absurdly shocked, stunned, even horrified by this betrayal of the woman he himself had betrayed, tormented by self-doubt. He had idealistically assumed that she would remain faithful to him despite the break-up of the engagement.
Regine Olsen herself suffered throughout her life from the fact that Kierkegaard repeatedly revealed details about her in his works, some of which were published under a pseudonym. In his works she carries the name Cordelia. In Copenhagen word quickly got around who this Cordelia and who this author writing under a pseudonym must be.
Beauty in revolt
Only man is aware of his existence? Probably not in Star Trek: Picard, because artificial life has reached an evolutionary stage with artificial memories and an own consciousness, which is mentally equal to humans and physically even superior.
Man knows that he will die and in this knowledge lies, according to Camus, the absurdity of his existence. Does artificial existence, artificial life, know this? Is it aware of its finiteness? According to Kierkegaard we can recognize our true God-given self and therefore escape from despair. We humans can end the balancing act between finiteness and infinity, the relationship between freedom and necessity and between temporality and eternity, but can artificial humans do the same?
Are they able to find a way to inner-worldly salvation or do they insist on an extra-worldly salvation of their existential problems?
The philosophers say that man differs from things by the consciousness of his existence. If machines make themselves aware of their self, there is no difference in this philosophical sense.
The responsibility for our lives we have to take ourselves, it is a continuous revolt, a Sisyphus work that never ends. -
Thanks to the makers and thinkers in the series, who motivated me to this beautiful and interesting insight.
Captain Cristóbal Rios' small but fine bookshelf is dominated by existentialist writings by male authors. It is about the existence of man, the distinction between fear and anxiety, the everlasting despair of man, the Sisyphus task of life and the recognition of the true divine self. And about bullfighting.