I just read this question while scrolling the Facebook page, and it fits my current philosophical-emotional thinking task.
The question I must answer inevitably involves the phenomenological philosopher Hans Blumenberg, a pupil of Edmund Husserl and author of the main work “Zu den Sachen und zurück” (“To the things and back”). A work by Hans Blumenberg that is decisive for my association and that I have read in its entirety alongside “The Readability of the World” turned out to be: “Description of Man.”
Since man is the only being who walks upright, the phenomenological observation of man is about the question of seeing and being seen. What happens if you are not seen, not only in traffic but by other people, by another person, perhaps by the person you see the most and the best, in a relationship for example?
That hurts the spirit – not to be seen plunges one into loneliness, not into a healthy one, but into a pathological one, into depression, into senselessness, into meaninglessness. And each one of us wants to have a meaning. Meaning. Every one of us wants to be important.
If the other person makes themselves important, then the one who watches him must watch and is not seen himself. But perhaps he will be recognized at a different time, later, so to speak, more so, under the premise that he addresses this subject. Because our society today, perhaps yesterday, was and is full of egoists who only see themselves and want to be seen beyond, but I see, and I will be seen they are indeed two different pairs of shoes, there is something like dialectic at play.
Either I’m seen, or I see both can’t be done at the same time. Egoists and narcissists only want to be seen without seeing themselves. Altruists and passive people, philosophers see. As soon as I am active, become active, I also see, but only myself. Only the one can be seen who either stands in front of you and wants to be recognized penetratingly or it happens in a subtle sense in thoughts due to considerations and associations or due to decisions.
I want to see you, so I’ll deal with you and see you. It is precisely in relationships between two people that this topic comes up in such a significant way. I want to be seen by my partner. Otherwise I suffer, and I want to see him; otherwise, I have the feeling not to love him. This directness can go so far, and today in relationships it also goes more and more in this direction, even in the relationship between mother and child or parents and children, that one should be physically and mentally present to satisfy the opposite.
The spiritual component is faded out as soon as this person physically stands in front of you because there are other laws of spiritual perception that apply. It’s like writing something or talking to someone in real time. When you speak, you are much more focused on yourself than when you think or write. Because speaking is an act, an action and only in passivity can I see something or someone. As soon as I speak at least half of my concentration is fixed on myself, so that I can say what I want and use my body for it, in this case, my voice, I lose thereby the concentration on my opposite pole.
Asking questions would mean that I know about this problem of concentration on myself and would like to get away from it by letting the other person have their say. Listening to the other doesn’t necessarily mean seeing him. Because while listening I could drift my thoughts somewhere else and the person, I am talking to would only notice it if my thoughts were important to him. If he likes to hear himself speak, it won’t matter to him whether I listen to him or not, it just matters to him that somebody stands there so that he feels that somebody is listening to him.
Seeing and being seen, as presented most superficially in the tabloid press, is apparently really an essential and inherently given subject to man. And with this topic, there are all possible variations, misunderstandings, exaggerations, and understatements.
Famous people are seen by many, but only on certain occasions when the celebrities perform in front of audiences. During the rest of time, they are usually not seen, because the audience or the individuals who make up the audience take care of their own lives and most likely want to be seen by their partner, friend, work colleague or whoever. In any case, the famous person is then out of mind, to a specific person, the one who experienced him live at a concert, for example.
That’s why celebrities are often very lonely, because they are there for many, for all, but for no one in particular. The individuals who make up all of them, the audience, for example, become interchangeable, it doesn’t matter whether precisely this or that person becomes part of the audience, the main thing is that there is an audience that sees you, many pairs of eyes, it doesn’t matter who they come from. The loneliness or emptiness results at the end of the concert, when the adrenaline has normalized again, as the audience was composed entirely by anyone. Except when there was a particular person in the audience that you really wanted to be seen by, a lover for example. Then one will be anxious to know what this lover partner thought of the performance because in principle one only appeared because of their lover partner, all the others were only ornaments.
One can also see and be seen only in mind, in memory or in the expectation of the future. I can think of a person, then I see them in my thoughts, they are seen by me. He/she is a respected woman/man, although he/she does not know it at all, unless he/she appears in front of an audience, then he/she is seen by many, but is he/she also perceived by them in the spirit? Many go to concerts and lectures and hear or see nothing going on, to them. It`s an entirely different thing, maybe they only went to the show because they wanted to see someone else there, someone from the audience, for example. It’s not like everyone who goes to the concert of a “rock singer,” for instance, goes there exclusively because of the rock singer. To see and to be seen in the last consequence means in principle to be seen by a human being at a particular moment or to see a human being and this not only externally but also in his spirit, in his inner nature and each of us wishes to be seen and to see, because that is where life happens.
If I don’t want to be seen, it’s because I’m a sighted person myself and vice versa, if I want to be seen, it’s because I don’t want to see. The problem in relationships is that partners, by having different perspectives, different intensities in their views, often misunderstand each other and hurt each other by not seeing each other enough or seeing each other too much and being seen.
If someone is introverted, then he doesn’t want you to see everything and doesn’t see everything from the other with a clear conscience. The other, who may be extroverted, on the other hand, want to see everything and wants the other to see everything. There are limits crossed that lead to injuries. The convention then intervenes as a regulator, and you hold on to it when you can’t get any further. We must, we must not, this set of rules, which changes from generation to generation, is then used in the hope of not experiencing so much suffering.
To be seen and to see should perhaps be balanced, this relationship should not be too one-sided in a partnership, otherwise suffering an injury will happen.
It is not possible to both see and be seen at the same instant. It’s about the temporal and spatial component. In a relationship, this should be balanced, 50:50 would be optimal, even if never achievable. This 50:50 association, however, could be created by man through the fact that he does not only attach seeing and being seen to one person, to an exclusive relationship but enters several relationships for it.
If one partner who wants to have an exclusive relationship does not get it because of the other partner because the other partner also sees many other people, then one partner has to help himself not only to see his partner but to see other people and things, so to speak adapt to his partner.
Once one saw oneself observed by a so-called third-party, by God, for example, or by the convention of a God. Robert Pfaller, an Austrian philosopher, has dealt with this in detail in his books. The imagination has no limits, you can imagine being seen by many, or even better, by just one, then we are back to monotheism because many will see many things, many different things, one will only see what he sees.
What’s better now? To be seen by many or by only one? It is more difficult to be recognized by only one and to see only one because the other is the stranger in me and the more I see him, the more I see the strange aspects of myself. The habits of the other are foreign to me, and a pattern is something that repeats itself in time and consolidates as a quality. To see many or to be seen by many is more comfortable because then I see many different things, I am not so involved and distracted in a certain way.
To deal only with the sun means not only to see the sun superficially but to want to capture it in all its depth. I can see the sun and the moon and the clouds and the sky and then again, the earth, then I see a little bit, but only as part of a whole. And that is also how the degree of relationship works, which either means that I see the person, depending on how long and how intensively I have dealt with him/her.
I also want to be seen means something other than being seen. I want to be seen means that I don’t want to see myself at all because I want to give myself up, I want the other person to see me. I’m seen means I see myself, too. It’s milder, not so aggressive, not so reactionary, and it doesn’t work at all. Because “I will” is ultimately a compulsion. I cannot force anyone to see me, I can, but in the urge, a lot would be lost in spiritual potential and width.
It gets tight, then I see only that I was forced to see someone and in fact, a lot of people instead think that they want to be seen casually, voluntarily or out of interest so to speak. When I force my will to be seen upon someone, he sees my intention, but nothing else.
Sarah Krampl, born in Latisana on 3.9.1971 and raised in Italy (Sanremo) until the age of 14. After graduating from high school, she studied Italian and Spanish in Graz and Klagenfurt. 2003 Master of Philosophy – Mag. Phil. Since 2005 language trainer in Italian and Spanish for the Adult Education Centre, BIT, language courses for the AMS, children’s language courses and adult language courses. Translator for the Pension Insurance Institution since 1998. Translations from Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese for various companies. Two self-published books: “Literarisch-philosophische Rezensionen” and “Fachessays”- Married, three children. Lives in Villach, Austria.