Between the Real and the Role

Only living in the subjunctive mood, in „were , would, could, should“ human beings are human beings according to the German philosopher Helmut Plessner in his (Categoric Subjuctive). A human being is destined to live in „ the past conditional“, he / she has no fixed role,  is always unresolved. The term „Categoric Subjunctive“ is probably coined in analogy to Kant´s „Categoric Imperative“.

No, I have had no fixed roles / identity, I have been unresolved all my life, always floating, in the pending, trying to keep the balance. You must be a Libra, they said, with an unresolved personality, suffering from a mental disorder, from depersonalisation. Wait a minute, I said, the subjunctive cannot be a disorder. Its very linguistic existence is an indication of its necessity and importance.

A human being is a juggler, indefinite, indetermined between nature and culture. True we have a body with senses, something which is real, concrete which can be touched but we are not imprisoned in it. We can distance ourselves, adopt different roles and identities, escape in our imagination to open doors of freedom and options. We have a choice now, we can make our own decisions in the subjundtive.

Human identity is not fixed, it keeps changing,  our clothes, taste and roles keep changing. A human being is defined through his / her unfixed, double roles between being a body and having a body i.e between the body-self and the imagined, reflected-self. We use our bodies as a means and as a role. We are able to anticipate roles and play them. We can play different subjunctive roles from our repertoire of roles and choose the most appropriate. We want to play inside and outside our-self. Our body (concrete) - mind (abstract) continues adopting different roles depending on the posture or the roles adopted.

Maybe we can understand now why some people undergoe cosmetic surgery or sex change. Adapting, modelling and varying roles have to be mastered. They provide us with temporary stability and identity. However, some of the roles and models might continue all our life as our unique selling points without being fixed forever. Fixing roles is not human, stereotypes kill the subjunctive, the possibilty of behaving differently from what we are. We can now make our own decisions about what we want to be.

Fixing identities is a threat, it stops human inclination towards  making decisions. It turns us to animals which can only react instinctively. Human identity is calibrated anew on an ongoing basis to comply with the human psyche and mood. However, if the gap between the real and and the role widens, the self-image is distorted and experienced with a feeling of anxiety, uneasiness and apprehension. Material things such as a special watch, glasses, shirt, suit, coat….. create an identity, a mood, a role. Human beings differ in the number of these identity accessories they acquire and in how long they last.

Nothing can stop passion in imagination, in the „could“, in the ambiguity, in the subjunctive. However, the subjunctive disappears  in precision and in the clearly defined feelings of love and hate. These clearly identified feelings of passion are a threat to the humanity of human beings. The moment the borders between you and me disappear (Cathy in Wuthering Heights of Emily Bronté: I am Heathcliff) a very categoric irreality next to deep passion prevails.


12 September 2016