Honor and narcissism, complementary androgynies

Honor and narcissism are two forms of androgyny, meaning that self knows itself both as essence (seer) and appearance (seen), but their orientations are different. Honor is extraverted androgyny and narcissism is introverted androgyny. Honor cultivates essence and appearance together in order to interface more fully with an enclosing (that is, transcendent) world populated with seeing entities who are seen (what Levinas calls “the face”). Narcissism cultivates essence and appearance together in order to create a a self-enjoying short circuit. The narcissist maintains conditions for the self enjoyment, both through behavioral aesthetics (self-pleasing actions) and ethics (doing what is necessary for the practical upkeep of the self-pleasing life). Honor also engages in behavioral aesthetics and ethics, but in addition is moral, meaning that it recognizes the mystery of others – a binding mystery.

(As I’ve said before, the borderline personality experiences self solely as seen, pure yin; and the autistic personality experiences self solely as seeing, pure yang. Existentialism is artificial autism.)


Honor cultivates appearance for the seeing of others beyond self, in order to approach them as fellow-seers who see differently and who can potentially bring one another to different seeing together: an opening to agreement. Honor recognizes the relevance of the radically other, which is not at all the same as automatically accepting its legitimacy.

Narcissism cultivates essence and appearance together in order to enjoy the seeing and being seen of self, and the seeing of others is welcomed only as a reflection of this seeing and being-seen of self: a closing off of disagreement. Narcissism rejects what is radically other, sometimes aggressively, but often serenely, and often in an act of extravagant tolerance, as acceptance of the fact of otherness as permanently and unapproachably beyond its participation. Much mysticism is narcissism: otherness is a sparkling backdrop to one’s own serene soliptic self-orbit, something to gape at or to pray to, but nothing that could break or burn or blow someone to pieces – nor renew him. Those who want to be left the hell alone are attracted to this kind of vision of heaven.

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