The existence of human beings is not a particularly simple question. It engages curiosity, wonder, imagination and other forms of questions and thoughts of the human mind. Thinking the existence of the self-represents a big part of life since it is a question that hides among the common questions: What is to live? How and why to live? What is good? What is bad?
And even though maybe a person that has them does not realize it, all these questionings are about the Self, his coexistence with the world and how this result in an inner-Self and an outer-Self.
Human existence, therefore, as the interweaving of emotions, thoughts, actions, causes, effects, relationships, laws, circumstances that it is: bifurcates itself. An individual has before him and by his own condition of a conscious being, the possibility of being through what he experiences in himself (his reflections, understandings, emotions) and what he experiences “outside himself” with the other, with the external (relationships, what he has created, manifested).
“Borges and I” is the perfect example to explain this division of the Self. In the short story from Jorge Luis Borges, the author reveals himself as two beings, on one hand, there is the Borges who everyone knows as the literary writer, as a man of intellect, a professor, known for the structures and titles that he has built for himself, his accomplishments and so on. On the other hand, there is the Borges who reflects on that being, who discovers himself as something else that what exist to external world. The Borges who knows he is part of the constructions of other him. As said by himself “I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me”. (Borges 1)
So, what can be the cause or purpose of these two beings? these two Borges. The story itself explains: “Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him.” (Borges 1)
Borges is experience then a self-consciousness, an acknowledgment of how his inner self, is one that does not exist but trough the outer self. With his intelligibility, and freedom he has construct himself, hence, he is responsible for his own existence.
Being responsible for the own existence involves a number of circumstances. For an individual, it means that he is responsible for his actions, his happiness and his purpose in life. For the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, the justification for existence is the Self. That is, we, as conscious, intelligible and free beings, are who justifies our own existence taking conscious of it. Thus, since each individual constructs himself, each individual is existing by being self-conscious.
Therefore, this entrusts an individual the right or wrong decisions he can make, which also means that every person has a part of the responsibility on the mankind as a whole.
Aristotle, for instance, in his Nicomachean Ethics, differs from Sartre since, although he always considers the noble virtues as part of the happiness of an individual, he considers that existence has the purpose of achieving happiness, which for him means to lead a contemplative life. In this way, he separates the common actions and virtues from those that can result in contemplation, whereas, for Sartre, actions, decisions and self-consciousness are the main elements of existence.
Finally, returning to the story of “Borges and I,” it is evident that the reflection of the two self that the character makes is about the complexity of his existence and justifies it through what he has become. Being Borges is to be two forms of existences, the one that constantly experiences, lives, relates, and one which sometimes needs to think of himself, to reflect and then to fade again. What justifies the existence of Borges is that outer-self, but that which perceives existence itself is the inner-self.
- Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics.” Batoche Books 1999. https://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/aristotle/Ethics.pdf. 2016.
- Borges, Jorge Luis. “Borges and I.” 1960. Georgetown.edu. http://www.georgetown.edu/irvinemj/english016/borges/borges.html. November 2016.
- Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Existentialism Is a Humanism.” 1946. http://homepages.wmich.edu/~baldner/existentialism.pdf. Document. November 2016.