One of the theses advanced by Carl Schmitt in his Political Romanticism (MIT Press, 1986, tr. Guy Oakes; German original first appeared in 1919 as Politische Romantik, 2nd ed. 1925) is that romanticism is a form of occasionalism. As Schmitt puts it, “Romanticism is subjectified occasionalism.” (PR 17) In this set of notes I attempt to interpret and develop this thought. I will take the ball and run with it, but I won’t quit the field of Schmitt’s text. Before proceeding, a preliminary point about metaphysics needs to be made.
Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951, p. 284, entry of 20 December 1949:
Mitleid beruht auf Identifikation; daraus machen die Mystiker des Mitleids, Rousseau und Schopenhauer, eine magische Identität. Aber das Mitleid, dessen man sich bewußt ist, kann nur Selbstmitleid sein und ist deshalb nur Selbstbetrug.
Compassion rests upon identification; the mystics of compassion make of it a magical identity. The compassion of which one is conscious, however, can only be self-compassion and is therefore only self-deception. (tr BV)
The old Nazi's cynical thought is that one deceives oneself when one thinks one is feeling compassion for another. What one is feeling, in truth, is compassion for oneself.
I wonder if Schmitt's thought is coherent. Compassion requires both identification and differentiation. On the one hand, I must identify with you in some manner and in some measure if I am to feel compassion for you. There must be some recognition of common humanity. If I have completely dehumanized you, like the Nazi the Jew, or the Commie the bourgeois class enemy, then there is no question of compassion. On the other hand, compassion as a conscious state is a state of me as distinct from you. So Schmitt is only half right. Compassion is at once self-compassion and other-compassion.
Example. A schoolmate of mine, Lee Didier, was killed at the age of 19 in a motorcycle accident. Ten years later, his mother Mabel was at my mother's funeral. Our eyes met and she gave me a look of compassion such as I have never experienced before or since. She had lost her only child; I had lost my only mother. It is not that Mabel felt my grief, which is impossible; she felt something analogous to my grief. She felt her own grief at the loss of a loved one and at the same time co-suffered (mit-leidet) my grief as an affect analogous to hers. Thus Mabel identified with me, but without any mystical or magical becoming identical with me. It was an identification presupposing differentiation, as opposed to an identification issuing in identity.
So I say Schmitt is wrong. He mistakenly thinks that identification entails identity. He does not see how there can be compassion along with differentiation. Failing to see this, he falls into the cynical view that compassion is at bottom compassion for oneself. If that were true, there would be no compassion.
Carl Schmitt, Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951, hrsg. v. Medem (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1991), S. 213 (14. I. 49):
Das Feindschaftpotential des Denkens ist unendlich. Denn man kann nicht anders als in Gegensätzen denken. Le combat spirituel est plus brutal que la bataille des hommes.
The enmity potential of thought is infinite. For one cannot think otherwise than in oppositions. Spiritual combat is more brutal than a battle of men. (tr. BV)
There is something to this, of course. Philosophy in particular sometimes bears the aspect of a blood sport. But thinking is just as much about the reconciliation of oppositions as it is about their sharpening. A good thinker is rigorous, precise, clear, disciplined. These are virtues martial and manly. But there are also the womanly virtues, in particular, those of the midwife. Socratic maieutic is as important as ramming a precisely formulated thesis down someone's throat or impaling him on the horns of a dilemma. The Cusanean coincidentia oppositorum belongs as much to thought as the oppositio oppositorum.
There is more to philosophy than "A thing is what it is and not some other thing." There is also, "The way up and the way down are the same."
But it is no surprise to find the unrepentant Nazi onesided on the question. We shall have to enter more deeply into the strange world of Carl Schmitt.