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Elrod demonstrates that Kierkegaard's pseudonymous writings have an ontological foundation that unites the disparate elements of these books. The descriptions of the different stages of human development are not fully understandable, the author argues, without an awareness of the role played by this ontology in Kierkegaard's analysis of human existence. Kierkegaard contends that the self is a synthesis of finitude and infinitude, body and soul, reality and ideality, necessity and possibility, and time and eternity.

Each of these syntheses reveals a particular and unique aspect of individual being not disclosed in the others. Part One shows that ontology is central to the discussion of the self in the pseudonyms. The author notes that spirit, as a synthesis of the expressions of the self, develops as consciousness and freedom. In Part Two he indicates the relationship between notions of being and existence.

At these sites of action and reception and communicative exchange are the items just listed thanksgiving and story-telling, for instance and also oratory, monstrosity, circus, the ridiculous-academic and the political harangue — in endless variety, all in a carnival whirl. The onrush of genres marks an exhilarating embrace of temporality. This is an embrace of the endlessly surprising — the newness, sufferings, and restorations of time.

In contrast, Kierkegaard is exhilarated. Change is a bracing condition to live out and replicate in literature. Opposed to the sense of endless change is the presumption of a minimal stability. The texts of the oeuvre set us wondering where and whether a character or writer was and will be; and where and whether I, as a reader, exist and will be. To exist and own a life parallels performing a character and owning the performance -- enacted here or there -- and to be invested in how that performed life fared yesterday, and fares now, and will fare tomorrow.

Thus a now-familiar tension: it matters where, when, and how a writer and reader stand, changing yet changeless. Writers give their work a kind of imperishable existence or immortality Westfall Death and resurrection are in play as tax-liable Kierkegaard dies, and implied-author Kierkegaard, a cultural presence, gradually rise up from the grave. As we read, we find an author alive post-burial. There is yet another way to think from the far side of the grave. Kierkegaard writes looking back on past thoughts and intuitions that were his and are now past, left behind by time.

Posthumous work is work of one who has died and is now alive, resurrected, beyond bones marked by a headstone. Any praising or deflationary biography addressing the mortal taxpayer and flawed suitor becomes superfluous on this view. And flight from the factual is not flight to the fictional. As I dream of tomorrow, recollect my early childhood, or get my life in view as if it were done, I think neither fact nor fiction. No nineteenth century Danish writer has privilege in fixing the meaning of a part or the whole of the authorship.

They reside, as Kierkegaard stages things, often in a street theatre or carnivalesque whirl. No doubt there are days when our own lives have the excitement and anxiety of whirl — no reassuring anchor of identity to grip. All that notwithstanding, subjectivity and inter-subjectivity can appear not only from the inside in the midst of moments of whirl, but also from some relatively more distant vantage of composure. Stepping back, say in retrospect, I may reflect that the carnival scene that sweeps me up is put together by the vision, execution, and managerial skills of CEO Jones, CEO Kierkegaard.

He is its heart and soul, what holds it together. So although Kierkegaard-Jones is from one angle just another subject in inter-subjective space, from another he is boss, inspiration, and source of power -- however artfully he may hide this fact, and deflect attention away from himself toward the multitude performing and caught up in the whirl.

Similarly, I can be caught up in the whirl, and seem to myself to be as centreless as my surround. But the spell can be broken. Suddenly a small child darts toward the Ferris wheel. Without losing a beat, I grab her hand. I may not have been aware of a centre for myself apart from the engulfing whirl. We have subliminal confidence usually that a centred self is at the ready. It will spring into action and forestall doubts. Yet we admit that we may lose even the confidence of a self at the ready.

This may occur because of inattention, carelessness, or despair. But also, more sanguinely, a dependable identity can be swept away in a fluid mood of love, in a rising arc of music or poetry or dance, in being swept out of ourselves by majestic seas or landscapes, or swept up in the crush of Mardi Gras.

Difficult realities make for difficult philosophy. Kierkegaard was polemical and cagey enough to revel in the changing shadows of a self and in the difficulties others would have in finding him. And he was sharp enough to see a moral and religious advantage in elusiveness.

In a moment of prophecy, he declares that Fear and Trembling will make his name immortal. And if he were persuaded of immortality, it would not be as with Melville through a glimpse of undying friendship. He craved, we suppose, the glimpse of a God who would acknowledge his authorship, and furthermore, place him beyond all change and corruption. We crave the specificity of a particular life that, in its vivid detail, can exemplify one that could be ours. Kierkegaard brings moral knowledge and its art, the lively artistry of the soul, down to earth, letting it speak in its varied plenitude, in its alluring, halting, terrifying energies.

Having pseudonyms present various viewpoints and embody various stances encourages our free responsiveness across a range of affect. We see thinking on the go, improvising, exploratory, as art can be mobile, improvisatory, exploratory -- sketching a possibility of action or understanding, but not spelling it out in the way a treatise or lecture in morality would.

We can ask what happens or is communicated as one is overtaken by a work of art, or overtaken by a pseudonymous work, or some portion of it? A mentor, piece of literature, or an event can present an occasion of transforming reception. We might receive generosity or courage, cunning or playfulness, honesty or outrage, imaginative freedom, combative intellect, or surpassing kindness. If these lodge in the soul, it is not as new information. Religious or ethical writing, and religious or ethical acting, found in exemplary lives, and in stage, cinematic, or street performance, or in liturgical ceremonies, can have deeply transformative, non-propositional impact.

But for me, a lay reader, the delivery is indirect, for I must detour through dictionaries and other articles to get the simple facts straight. A relay of something objective can happen indirectly; and a relay of something subjective can happen directly. Many are both. I also want my words to startle you, to arrest your motion, to transfer passion or fear that I hope will be like a physical push to get you out of the way. That imparting can be as immediate and as direct as a blow to the chest or a touch of a hand. What gets imparted is not just objective information but my passion, my orientation, perhaps even my freedom.

The launch of affect or mood is not the launch of a string of words to interpret with other words. King Lear transmits not a proposition, but some mix of despair, rage, deep refusal, desperation. Voiced properly, we have nothing like data for a log. Bad weather. And these passions are imparted to me, rend my heart, opening the felt possibility of a passion that might just be mine — is, for the moment, mine.

Any single utterance can simultaneously transfer a mix of objective content and subjective disposition. And the objective-subjective contrast does not exhaust the types of interpersonal communication. If I am a policeman I may order you to stop. That will not be an ethical-religious communication, but more like grabbing your arm. As a cop, your action matters to me, and you should heed my imperative. But I have no aim to alter your ethical-religious constitution.

There need be nothing indirect about our commonplace capacities to share a sense of confidence, a mood of terror, a spirit of playfulness, a passion for truth. You communicate your phone number. Socrates does not pass on a doctrine or creed to shout from the rooftops. Socrates is a master at drawing us into his net which is not teaching us the truth of a proposition. When Dostoevsky has Christ kiss the Grand Inquisitor on the lips, the intimacy and subjective impact is deep and striking — even as we struggle with the hermeneutical question of what, objectively speaking, that kiss is supposed to mean is it acquiescence, approval, forgiveness, resignation, pity.

We will quickly sound foolish trying to say what objectively it is, exactly, in the person who steals our heart, that dispossesses the mind, that allows the theft. Take Socrates. Is it the look in his eye, the slight hesitancy in his rough speech, a melting in his shoulders as they turn slightly to one side? Is it the sensation that he sees through me, and is close enough to touch me? In the case of Kierkegaard, is it his sparkling wit, his intimate address, his sense of the great pain of love and devotion, his capacity to have Christ walk hand in hand with Socrates?

Now we see the knight of faith as a dancer — now, the knight as a woman knitting — now, the quixotic knight as a jaunty burgher whistling all the way home. This artistic troupe can be shifting and elusive in its address, but at the level of individual subjective impact, it can be as direct as can be. Improvising political street theatre, antic troupes in a beleaguered and melancholy city can communicate politics or an ethico-religious truth, as in a medieval mystery play without placards or requisite chants from the crowd or mandatory parades or riotous sweeps into battle or rushes to conversion.

One by one our hearts can be affected. How the transfer of political or ethico-religious affect will play out in our subsequent thought and comportment is an open question. Kierkegaard and Socrates leave us in a space of responsive freedom. Our ethico-religious imaginations have been invaded by a wondrous, even sublime, allure that leaves us ripe for change or consolidation. What is needed is change of affect, orientation, virtue, or enablement.

There is more to this than being coy, exhibitionist or secretive, more than being perverse or provocative, teasing, wicked, or deceptive, more than being playful, jesting, experimental or evasive. Perhaps entering the field of pseudonyms and varied genres creates the tension between representation and what exceeds and defies representation so familiar in encountering the sublime.

And the sublime, in eluding our grasp, sets us free. Pseudonyms create an aperture for freedom, for realization of an interpretative existence that sloughs off the automation of direct data absorption or creedal transfer. If, then, at the moment of resignation, of collecting oneself, of choice, an individual has understood this, it surely cannot mean that he is supposed to have forgotten it the next moment.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript , Hong, pp. Test it, place as the middle term between the lover and the beloved the neighbor, whom one shall love, place as a middle term between two friends the neighbor, whom one shall love, and you will immediately see jealousy. Love for the neighbor is therefore the eternal equality in loving. Equality is simply not to make distinctions and eternal equality is unconditionally not to make the slightest distinction, unqualifiedly not to make the slightest distinction.

Søren Kierkegaard

The essential Christian is itself too weighty, in its movements too earnest to scurry about, dancing, in the frivolity of such facile talk about the higher, highest, and the supremely highest. With the neighbor you have the equality of a human being before God. God is the middle term. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, , Hong p. For Kierkegaard, true individuality is called selfhood.

Becoming aware of our true self is our true task and endeavor in life—it is an ethical imperative, as well as preparatory to a true religious understanding. Individuals can exist at a level that is less than true selfhood. We can live, for example, simply in terms of our pleasures —our immediate satisfaction of desires, propensities, or distractions. In this way, we glide through life without direction or purpose.

To have a direction, we must have a purpose that defines for us the meaning of our lives. Here, then, I have your view of life, and, believe me, much of your life will become clear to you if you will consider it along with me as thought-despair. You are a hater of activity in life-quite appropriately, because if there is to be meaning in it life must have continuity, and this your life does not have.

Existentialism: Crash Course Philosophy #16

You keep busy with your studies, to be sure; you are even diligent; but it is only for your sake, and it is done with as little teleology as possible. Moreover, you are unoccupied; like the laborers in the Gospel standing idle in the marketplace, you stick your hands in your pocket and contemplate life. Now you rest in despair. Wherever there is something going on you join in. You behave in life as you usually do in a crowd. In Sickness Unto Death specifically Kierkegaard deals with the self as a product of relations.

In this sense, a human results from a relation between the Infinite Noumena, spirit, eternal and Finite Phenomena, body, temporal. This does not create a true self, as a human can live without a "self" as he defines it. Instead, the Self or ability for the self to be created from a relation to the Absolute or God the Self can only be realized through a relation to God arises as a relation between the relation of the Finite and Infinite relating back to the human.

This would be a positive relation. An individual person, for Kierkegaard, is a particular that no abstract formula or definition can ever capture. Including the individual in "the public" or "the crowd" or "the herd" or subsuming a human being as simply a member of a species is a reduction of the true meaning of life for individuals.

What philosophy or politics try to do is to categorize and pigeonhole individuals by group characteristics, each with their own individual differences. In Four Upbuilding Discourses, Kierkegaard says the differences aren't important, the likeness with God is what brings equality. Only in this way is equality the divine law, only in this way is the struggle the truth, only in this way does the victory have validity- only when the single individual fights for himself with himself within himself and does not unseasonably presume to help the whole world to obtain external equality, which is of very little benefit, all the less so because it never existed, if for no other reason than that everyone would come to thank him and become unequal before him, only in this way is equality the divine law.

Kierkegaard's critique of the modern age, therefore, is about the loss of what it means to be an individual. Modern society contributes to this dissolution of what it means to be an individual. Through its production of the false idol of "the public", it diverts attention away from individuals to a mass public that loses itself in abstractions, communal dreams, and fantasies. It is helped in this task by the media and the mass production of products to keep it distracted.

Even the fight for temporal equality is a distraction. In Works of Love he writes,. To bring about similarity among people in the world, to apportion to people, if possible equally, the conditions of temporality, is indeed something that preoccupies worldliness to a high degree. But even what we may call the well-intentioned worldly effort in this regard never comes to an understanding with Christianity. Well-intentioned worldliness remains piously, if you will, convinced that there must be one temporal condition, one earthly dissimilarity — found by means of calculations and surveys or in whatever other way — that is equality.

In community, the individual is, crucial as the prior condition for forming a community. For Kierkegaard, in order to apprehend the absolute, the mind must radically empty itself of objective content. What supports this radical emptying, however, is the desire for the absolute. Kierkegaard names this desire Passion. In line with this philosophy, some scholars have drawn similarities between the Stoics concept of Apatheia and Subjective Truth as the highest form of Wisdom.

For the Stoics, Pathos Passion is a Perturbation which man has to overcome in a similar manner to Kierkegaard's concept of Objective Truth. According to Kierkegaard, the human self desires that which is beyond reason. Desire itself appears to be a desire for the infinite, as Plato once wrote. Even the desire to propagate, according to Plato , is a kind of desire for immortality —that is, we wish to live on in time through our children and their children. Erotic love itself appears as an example of this desire for something beyond the purely finite. It is a taste of what could be, if only it could continue beyond the boundaries of time and space.

As the analogy implies, humans seek something beyond the here and now. The question remains, however, why is it that human pathos or passion is the most precious thing? In some ways, it might have to do with our status as existential beings. It is not thought that gets us through life—it is action; and what motivates and sustains action is passion, the desire to overcome hardships, pain, and suffering. It is also passion that enables us to die for ideals in the name of a higher reality. While a scientist might see this as plain emotion or simple animal desire, Kierkegaard sees it as that which binds to the source of life itself.

For Kierkegaard all Christian action should have its ground in love, which is a passion.

The Sickness unto Death

If anyone is unwilling to learn from Christianity to love himself in the right way, he cannot love the neighbor either. To love yourself in the right way and to love the neighbor correspond perfectly to one another, fundamentally they are one and the same thing. The Law is therefore: you shall love yourself in the same way as you love your neighbor when you love him as yourself. Whoever has any knowledge of people will certainly admit that just as he has often wished to be able to move them to relinquish self-love, he has also had to wish that it were possible to teach them to love themselves.

When the bustler wastes his time and powers in the service of the futile, inconsequential pursuits, is that not because he has not learned rightly to love himself? When the light-minded person throws himself almost like a nonentity into the folly of the moment and makes nothing of it, is this not because he does not know how to love himself rightly?

When the depressed person desires to be rid of life, indeed of himself, is this not because he is unwilling to learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When someone surrenders to despair because the world or another person has faithlessly left him betrayed, what then is his fault his innocent suffering is not referred to here except not loving himself in the right way?

When someone self-tormentingly thinks to do God a service by torturing himself, what is his sin except not willing to love himself in the right way? And if, alas, a person presumptuously lays violent hands upon himself, is not his sin precisely this, that he does not rightly love himself in the sense in which a person ought to love himself? Oh, there is a lot of talk in the world about treachery, and faithlessness, and, God help us, it is unfortunately all too true, but still let us never because of this forget that the most dangerous traitor of all is the one every person has within himself.

This treachery whether it consists in selfishly loving oneself or consists in selfishly not willing to love oneself in the right way — this treachery is admittedly a secret. No cry is raised as it usually is in the case of treachery and faithlessness. Works of Love , Hong p. One can also look at this from the perspective of what the meaning of our existence is. Why suffer what humans have suffered, the pain and despair—what meaning can all of this have? For Kierkegaard, there is no meaning unless passion, the emotions and will of humans, has a divine source.

Passion is closely aligned with faith in Kierkegaard's thought. Faith as a passion is what drives humans to seek reality and truth in a transcendent world, even though everything we can know intellectually speaks against it. To live and die for a belief, to stake everything one has and is in the belief in something that has a higher meaning than anything in the world—this is belief and passion at their highest. Kierkegaard wrote of the subjective thinker's task in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

Intellectual reason had been deified by Hegel in his theology and Kierkegaard felt this would lead to the objectification of religion. There is an old proverb: oratio, tentatio, meditatio, faciunt theologum [prayer, trial, meditation, make a theologian]. Similarly, for a subjective thinker, imagination , feeling and dialectics in impassioned existence-inwardness are required. But first and last, passion, because for an existing person it is impossible to think about existence without becoming passionate, inasmuch as existing is a prodigious contradiction from which the subjective thinker is not to abstract, for then it is easy, but in which he is to remain.

In a world-historical dialectic, individuals fade away into humankind; in a dialectic such as that it is impossible to discover you and me, an individual existing human being, even if new magnifying glasses for the concrete are invented. The subjective thinker is a dialectician oriented to the existential ; he has the intellectual passion to hold firm the qualitative disjunction.

But, on the other hand, if the qualitative disjunction is used flatly and simply, if it is applied altogether abstractly to the individual human being , then one can run the ludicrous risk of saying something infinitely decisive, and of being right in what one says, and still not say the least thing.

Therefore, in the psychological sense it is really remarkable to see the absolute disjunction deceitfully used simply for evasion. When the death penalty is placed on every crime, the result is that no crimes at all are punished. It is the same with the absolute disjunction when applied flatly and simply; it is just like a silent letter-it cannot be pronounced or, if it can be pronounced, it says nothing.

The subjective thinker , therefore, has with intellectual passion the absolute disjunction as belonging to existence, but he has it as the final decision that prevents everything from ending in a quantifying.

(PDF) The Hidden Authorship of Søren Kierkegaard | Jacob Sawyer - pilifysopysy.tk

Thus he has it readily available, but not in such a way that by abstractly recurring to it, he just frustrates existence. The subjective thinker, therefore, has also esthetic passion and ethical passion, whereby concretion is gained. All existence-issues are passionate, because existence, if one becomes conscious of it, involves passion.

To think about them so as to leave out passion is not to think about them at all, is to forget the point that one indeed is oneself and existing person. The subjective thinker is not a scientist-scholar; he is an artist. To exist is an art. The subjective thinker is esthetic enough for his life to have esthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, dialectical enough in thinking to master it.

To understand Climacus's concept of the individual, it is important to look at what he says regarding subjectivity.


  • The Boy Who Would Live Forever (Heechee Saga, Book 6).
  • Being and Existence in Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Works by John W. Elrod.
  • [PDF] Being and Existence in Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Works - Semantic Scholar.
  • Søren Kierkegaard (1813—1855)!

What is subjectivity? In very rough terms, subjectivity refers to what is personal to the individual—what makes the individual who he is in distinction from others. Another way to interpret subjectivity is the unique relationship between the subject and object. Johann Fichte wrote similarly about subjectivity in his book The Vocation of Man. I must, however, remind my reader that the "I" who speaks in the book is not the author himself, but it is his earnest wish that the reader should himself assume this character, and that he should not rest contented with a mere historical apprehension of what is here said, but really and truly, during reading, hold converse with himself, deliberate, draw conclusions, and form resolutions, like his representative in the book, and, by his own labour and reflection, developed out of his own soul, and build up within himself, that mode of thought the mere picture of which is laid before him in the work.

Scientists and historians, for example, study the objective world, hoping to elicit the truth of nature—or perhaps the truth of history. In this way, they hope to predict how the future will unfold in accordance with these laws. In terms of history, by studying the past, the individual can perhaps elicit the laws that determine how events will unfold—in this way the individual can predict the future with more exactness and perhaps take control of events that in the past appeared to fall outside the control of humans. In most respects, Climacus did not have problems with science or the scientific endeavor.

He would not disregard the importance of objective knowledge. Where the scientist or historian finds certainty, however, Climacus noted very accurately that results in science change as the tools of observation change. But Climacus's special interest was in history. That is, the assumption is that by studying history someone can come to know who he really is as a person.

Kierkegaard especially accused Hegel's philosophy of falling prey to this assumption. He explained this in, Concluding Unscientific Postscript :. It is the existing spirit who asks about truth , presumably because he wants to exist in it, but in any case the questioner is conscious of being an existing individual human being. In this way I believe I am able to make myself understandable to every Greek and to every rational human being. If a German philosopher follows his inclination to put on an act and first transforms himself into a superrational something, just as alchemists and sorcerers bedizen themselves fantastically, in order to answer the question about truth in an extremely satisfying way, this is of no more concern to me than his satisfying answer, which no doubt is extremely satisfying-if one is fantastically dressed up.

But whether a German philosopher is or is not doing this can easily be ascertained by anyone who with enthusiasm concentrates his soul on willing to allow himself to be guided by a sage of that kind, and uncritically just uses his guidance compliantly by willing to form his existence according to it.

It has not even occurred to him that it should be done. Like the customers clerk who, in the belief that his business was merely to write, wrote what he himself could not read, so there are speculative thinkers who merely write, and write that which, if it is to be read with the aid of action, if I may put it that way, proves to be nonsense, unless it is perhaps intended only for fantastical beings. Hegel wanted to philosophize about Christianity but had no intention to ever become a Christian. For Climacus, the individual comes to know who he is by an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what will give meaning to his life.

As an existing individual, who must come to terms with everyday life, overcome its obstacles and setbacks, who must live and die, the single individual has a life that no one else will ever live. In dealing with what life brings his way, the individual must encounter them with all his psycho-physical resources.

Subjectivity is that which the individual—and no one else—has. But what does it mean to have something like this? It cannot be understood in the same way as having a car or a bank account. It means to be someone who is becoming someone—it means being a person with a past, a present, and a future. No one can have an individual's past, present or future. Different people experience these in various ways—these experiences are unique, not anyone else's. Having a past, present, and future means that a person is an existing individual—that a person can find meaning in time and by existing.

Individuals do not think themselves into existence, they are born. But once born and past a certain age, the individual begins to make choices in life; now those choices can be his, his parents', society's, etc. The important point is that to exist, the individual must make choices—the individual must decide what to do the next moment and on into the future.

What the individual chooses and how he chooses will define who and what he is—to himself and to others. Kierkegaard put it this way in Works of Love, We are truly reluctant to make a young person arrogant prematurely and teach him to get busy judging the world. God forbid that anything we say should be able to contribute to developing this malady in a person. Indeed, we think we ought to make his life so strenuously inwardly that from the very beginning he has something else to think about, because it no doubt is a morbid hatred of the world that, perhaps without having considered the enormous responsibility, wants to be persecuted.

But on the other hand we are also truly reluctant to deceive a young person by suppressing the difficulty and by suppressing it at the very moment we endeavor to recommend Christianity, inasmuch as that is the very moment we speak. We put our confidence in boldly daring to praise Christianity, also with the addition that in the world its reward, to put it mildly, is ingratitude. We regard it as our duty continually to speak about it in advance, so that we do not sometimes praise Christianity with an omission of what is essentially difficult, and at other times, perhaps on the occasion of a particular text, hit upon a few grounds of comfort for the person tried and tested in life.

No, just when Christianity is being praised most strongly, the difficulty must simultaneously be emphasized. Moreover, the person who chooses Christianity should at that very moment have an impression of its difficulty so that he can know what it is that he is choosing. Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Hong , pp. The goal of life, according to Socrates , is to know thyself. Knowing oneself means being aware of who one is, what one can be and what one cannot be.

Kierkegaard uses the same idea that Socrates used in his own writings. He asks the one who wants to be a single individual the following questions in his book, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits. Everyone must make an accounting to God as an individual; the king must make an accounting to God as an individual, and the most wretched beggar must make an accounting to God as an individual — lest anyone be arrogant by being more than an individual, lest anyone despondently think that he is not an individual, perhaps because in the busyness of the world he does not even have a name but is designated only by a number.

What else, indeed, is the accounting of eternity than that the voice of conscience is installed eternally in its eternal right to be the only voice! Are you now living in such a way that you are aware of being a single individual and thereby aware of your eternal responsibility before God; are you living in such a way that this awareness can acquire the time and stillness and liberty to withdraw from life, from an honorable occupation, from a happy domestic life — on the contrary, that awareness will support and transfigure and illuminate your conduct in the relationships of life.

You are not to withdraw and sit brooding over your eternal accounting, whereby you only take on a new responsibility. You will find more and more time for your duties and tasks, while concern for your eternal responsibility will keep you from being busy and from busily taking part in everything possible — an activity that can best be called a waste of time Have you made up your mind about how you want to perform your work, or are you continually of two minds because you want to be in agreement with the crowd?

Do you stick to your bid, not defiantly, not despondently, but eternally concerned; do you, unchanged, continue to bid on the same thing and want to buy only the same thing while the terms are variously being changed? Are you hiding nothing suspicious in your soul, so that you would still wish things were different, so that you would dare robber-like to seize the reward for yourself, would dare to parade it, would dare to point to it; so that you would wish the adversity did not exist because it constrains in you the selfishness that, although suppressed, yet foolishly deludes you into thinking that if you were lucky you would do something for the good that would be worth talking about, deludes you into forgetting that the devout wise person wishes no adversity away when it befalls him because he obviously cannot know whether it might not indeed be a good for him, into forgetting that the devout wise person wins his most beautiful victory when the powerful one who persecuted him wants, as they say, to spare him, and the wise one replies: I cannot unconditionally wish it, because I cannot definitely know whether the persecution might not indeed be a good for me.

Are you doing good only out of the fear of punishment, so that you scowl even when you will the good, so that in your dreams at night you wish the punishment away and to that extent also the good, and in your daydreams delude yourself into thinking that one can serve the good with a slavish mind?

Subjectivity comes with consciousness of myself as a self. It encompasses the emotional and intellectual resources that the individual is born with. Subjectivity is what the individual is as a human being. Now the problem of subjectivity is to decide how to choose—what rules or models is the individual going to use to make the right choices? What are the right choices? Who defines right? To be truly an individual, to be true to himself, his actions should in some way be expressed so that they describe who and what he is to himself and to others. The problem, according to Kierkegaard, is that we must choose who and what we will be based on subjective interests—the individual must make choices that will mean something to him as a reasoning, feeling being.

The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air

Kierkegaard decided to step up to the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil for himself, replacing Adam , and make his choice in the presence of God, where no one was there to accuse or judge him but his Creator. This is what he had Abraham do in Fear and Trembling. This is how Kierkegaard thought learning about oneself takes place.

Here is where the single individual learns about guilt and innocence. His book, The Concept of Anxiety , makes clear that Adam did have knowledge when he made his choice and that was the knowledge of freedom. The prohibition was there but so was freedom and Eve and Adam decided to use it. In Kierkegaard 's meaning, purely theological assertions are subjective truths and they cannot be either verified or invalidated by science, i. Early American Kierkegaard scholars tried to reduce the complexity of Kierkegaard's authorship by focusing on three levels of individual existence, which are named in passing by one of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms, Johannes Climacus, who wrote Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

Though the stages represent only one way of interpreting Kierkegaard's thought, it has become a popular way of introducing his authorship. This typifies what Kierkegaard was talking about throughout his writing career. He was against "reflecting oneself out of reality" and partitioning the "world of the spirit" because the world of the spirit cannot be objectively divided. Hegel wrote about his stages in his book, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion and Kierkegaard replied in his Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments These stages may be compared to those of the ages of man.

The child is still in the primal immediate unity of the will with nature, as representing both his own nature and the nature which surrounds him. The second stage, adolescence, when individuality is in process of becoming independent, is the living spirituality, the vitality of Spirit, which while setting no end before it as yet, moves forward, has aspirations, and takes an interest in everything which comes its way.

The third is the age of manhood; this is the period of work for a particular end, to which the man makes himself subserviently, to which he devotes his energies. Finally, old age might be considered as a last stage, which having the Universal before it as an end, and recognizing this end, has turned back from the particular interests of life and work to the universal aim, the absolute final end, and has, as it were, gathered itself together out of the wide and manifold interests of actual outward existence and concentrated itself in the infinite depths of its inner life.

Such are the determinations which follow in a logical manner from the nature of the Notion. At the close it will become apparent that even the original immediacy does not exist as immediacy, but is something posited. The child itself is something begotten. E B Speiers p. In the world of the spirit, the different stages are not like cities on a journey, about which it is quite all right for the traveler to say directly, for example: We left Peking and came to Canton and were in Canton on the fourteenth.

A traveler like that changes places, not himself; and thus it is alright for him to mention and to recount the change in a direct, unchanged form. But in the world of the spirit to change place is to be changed oneself, and there all direct assurance of having arrived here and there is an attempt a la Munchausen. The presentation itself demonstrates that one has reached that far place in the world of spirit. The pseudonymous author and I along with them were all subjective.

I ask for nothing better than to be known in our objective times as the only person who was not capable of being objective. That subjectivity, inwardness, is truth, that existing is the decisive factor, that this was the way to take to Christianity, which is precisely inwardness, but please note, not every inwardness, which was why the preliminary stages definitely had to be insisted upon-that was my idea, I thought that I had found a similar endeavor in the pseudonymous writings, and I have tried to make clear my interpretation of them and their relation to my Fragments.

In one popular interpretation of stage theory, each of the so-called levels of existence envelops those below it: an ethical person is still capable of aesthetic enjoyment, for example, and a religious person is still capable of aesthetic enjoyment and ethical duty. The difference between these ways of living are internal, not external, and thus there are no external signs one can point to determine at what level a person is living. This inner and outer relationship is commonly determined by an individual by looking to others to gauge one's action, Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself.

This makes it easier to degrade your neighbor instead of loving your neighbor. But one must love the person one sees not the person one wishes to see. Either love the person you see as that person is the person he is or stop talking about loving everyone. Back to the Stages.


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There are three stages, an esthetic, an ethical, a religious, yet not abstract as the immediate mediate, the unity, but concrete in the qualification of existence categories as pleasure-perdition, action-victory, suffering. That is, the ethical and the religious stages have an essential relation to each other. In Stages that has been made clear, and the religious is maintained in its place.

A story of suffering; suffering is the religious category. In Stages the esthete is no longer a clever fellow frequenting B's living room — a hopeful man, etc. Humor advanced. Concluding Unscientific Postscript , Hong, p. Christ's love for Peter was boundless in this way: in loving Peter he accomplished loving the person one sees. He did not say, "Peter must first change and become another person before I can love him again.

My love, if anything will help him to become another person. Do you think that Peter would have been won again without Christ's faithful friendship? But it is so easy to be a friend when this means nothing else than to request something in particular from the friend and, if the friend does not respond to the request, then to let the friendship cease, until it perhaps begins again if he responds to the request.

Is this a relationship of friendship? Who is closer to helping an erring one than the person who calls himself his friend, even if the offense is committed against the friend! But the friend withdraws and says indeed, it is as if a third person were speaking : When he has become another person, then perhaps he can become my friend again. We are not far from regarding such behavior as magnanimous. But truly we are far from being able to say of such a friend that in loving he loves the person he sees.

This is very easy to perceive. However much and in whatever way a person is changed, he still is not changed in such a way that he becomes invisible. If this-the impossible-is not the case, then of course we do see him, and the duty is to love the person one sees. Ordinarily we think that if a person has essentially changed for the worse, he is then so changed that we are exempt from loving him.

But Christianity asks: Can you because of this change no longer see him? The answer to that must be: Certainly I can see him; I see that he is no longer worth loving. But if you see this, then you do not really see him which you certainly cannot deny you are doing in another sense , you see only the unworthiness and the imperfection and thereby admit that when you loved him you did not see him in another sense but merely saw his excellence and perfections, which you loved. When a person to whom the possible pertains relates himself equally to the duality of the possible, we say: He expects.

To expect contains within itself the same duality that the possible has, and to expect is to relate oneself to the possible purely and simply as such. Then the relationship divides according to the way the expecting person chooses. To relate oneself expectantly to the possibility of the good is to hope, which for that very reason cannot be any temporal expectancy but is an eternal hope. To relate oneself expectancy to the possibility of evil is to fear.

But both the one who hopes and the one who fears are expecting. As soon, however, as the choice is made, the possible is changed, because the possibility of the good is the eternal. It is only in the moment of contact that the duality of the possible is equal; therefore, by the decision to choose hope, one decided infinitely more than it seems, because it is an eternal decision. What nonsense! Thus, in talk about hope they completely leave out the eternal and yet speak about hope.

But how is this possible, since hope pertains to the possibility of the good, and thereby to the eternal! On the other hand, how is it possible to speak about hope in such a way that it is assigned to a certain age! And then they think they are speaking with ample experience about hope-by abolishing the eternal. Kierkegaard was interested in aesthetics , and is sometimes referred to as the "poet-philosopher" because of the passionate way in which he approached philosophy.

But he is often said to be interested in showing the inadequacy of a life lived entirely in the aesthetic level. Aesthetic life is defined in numerous different ways in Kierkegaard's authorship, including a life defined by intellectual enjoyment, sensuous desire, and an inclination to interpret oneself as if one were "on stage.