… in order to live and act, I need to be unconsummated, I need to be open for myself … I have to be, for myself, someone who is axiologically yet-to-be, someone who does not coincide with his already existing makeup.
This is from the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):
… The author is the bearer and sustainer of the intently active unity of a consummated whole (the whole of a hero and the whole of a work) which is transgredient to each and every one of its particular moments or constituent features. As a whole which consummates the hero, this whole is in principle incapable of being given to us from within the hero, insofar as we “identify” ourselves with the hero and experience his life from within him.
[line break added] The hero cannot live by this whole, he cannot be guided by it in his own lived experiences and actions, for it is a whole that descends upon him — is bestowed upon him as a gift — from another active consciousness: from the creative consciousness of an author. The author’s consciousness is the consciousness of a consciousness, that is, a consciousness that encompasses the consciousness and the world of the hero — a consciousness that encompasses and consummates the consciousness of a hero by supplying those moments which are in principle transgredient to the hero’s consciousness and which, if rendered immanent, would falsify this consciousness.
[line break added] The author not only sees and knows everything seen and known by each hero individually and by all the heroes collectively, but he also sees and knows more than they do; moreover, he sees and knows something that is in principle inaccessible to them. And it is precisely in this invariably determinate and stable excess of the author’s seeing and knowing in relation to each hero that we find all those moments that bring about the consummation of the whole — the whole of each hero as well as the whole of the event which constitutes their life and in which they jointly participate, i.e. the whole of a work.
… The author … orients the hero and the hero’s own cognitive-ethical orientation within a world of being that is in principle consummated, that is, within a world which derives its value, independently of the yet-to-be meaning of the event of a lived life, purely from the concrete manifoldness of its already existing makeup. If I am consummated and my life is consummated, I am no longer capable of living and acting. For in order to live and act, I need to be unconsummated, I need to be open for myself — at least in all the essential moments constituting my life; I have to be, for myself, someone who is axiologically yet-to-be, someone who does not coincide with his already existing makeup.
… all these moments or costituents of our life that we recognize and anticipate through the other are rendered completely immanent to our own consciousness, are translated, as it were, into its language: they do not attain any consolidation and self-sufficiency in our consciousness, and they do not disrupt the unity of our own life — a life that finds no rest within itself and never coincides with its given, presently existing makeup.
… Even if we succeeded in encompassing the whole of our consciousness as consummated in the other, this whole would not be able to take possession of us and really consummate us for ourselves: our consciousness would take that whole into account and would surmount it as just one of the moments in its own unity (which is not a unity that is given but a unity that is set as a task and in its essentials, is yet-to-be).
[line break added] The last word, that is, would still belong to our own consciousness rather than to the consciousness of another, and our own consciousness would never say to itself the word that would consummate it. After looking at ourselves through the eyes of another, we always return — in life — into ourselves again, and the final, or, as it were, recapitulative event takes place within ourselves in the categories of our own life.
… the author [on the other hand] must move the very center of value from the hero’s existence as a compelling task into his existence as a beautiful given; instead of hearing and agreeing with the hero, the author must see all of him in the fullness of the present and admire him as such.
… If there is only one unitary and unique participant, there can be no aesthetic event. An absolute consciousness, a consciousness that has nothing transgredient in itself, nothing situated outside itself and capable of delimiting it from outside — such a consciousness cannot be “aestheticized”; one can commune in it, but it cannot be seen as a whole that is capable of being consummated. An aesthetic event can take place only when there are two participants present; it presupposes two noncoinciding consciousnesses.
[line break added] When the hero and the author coincide or when they find themselves standing either next to one another in the face of a value they share or against one another as antagonists, the aesthetic event ends and an ethical event begins (polemical tract, manifesto, speech of accusation or of praise and gratitude, invective, confession as a self-accounting, etc.). When there is no hero at all, not even a potential form, then we have to do with an event that is cognitive (treatise, article, lecture). And, finally, when the other consciousness is the encompassing consciousness of God, a religious event takes place (prayer, worship, ritual).