Being-in-the-World: Selected Papers of Ludwig Binswanger

By Ludwig Binswanger; Jacob Needleman | Go to book overview

Extravagance (Verstiegenheit)

Human existence projects itself in breadth, and in height; 1 it not only strides forth, but also mounts upward. In both respects, therefore, it is possible for human existence to go too far, to become Extravagant. If, now, we are to understand the anthropological meaning of Extravagance, we must seek what it is that makes possible the change from existential rising into a mode of existence that is Extravagant. Anthropology can never limit its investigations to only one existential direction, but, rather, being anthropological, must always have before it the total structure of human beings. The basis, therefore, of this change or conversion from existential rising into Extravagance will, from the start, be viewed not merely as upward movement, but will be understood as part of the koinonia2 or community of other basic potentialities of human existence. As I have attempted to show elsewhere, 3 Extravagance is, in fact, rooted in a certain disharmony in the relation between

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TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: There is no one word in English that adequately conveys the meaning of the German verstiegen. The verb, sich versteigen, means to climb too high so as not to be able to return, to lose one's self among precipitous mountain peaks, to fly high, to go too far, etc. As an adjective, it is, therefore, inaccurately rendered by such words as "extravagant," "eccentric," "queer," "odd," or "high-flown," none of which convey the sense of one's climbing into a cul-de-sac. The term "extravagance," capitalized, is used here because, despite the fact that its common English usage is not adequate to the German word, its Latin roots (extra, beyond, and vagari, wander) taken together, give the meaning of wandering beyond a limit. To feel the full sense of the word, imagine a mountain climber trapped on a narrow ledge such that he can neither descend nor ascend, and from which he must be rescued by others.

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