Søren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth-century Danish philosopher rediscovered in the twentieth century, is a major influence in contemporary philosophy, religion, and literature. He regarded Either/Or as the beginning of his authorship, although he had published two earlier works on Hans Christian Andersen and irony. The pseudonymous volumes of Either/Or are the writings of a young man (I) and of Judge William (II). The ironical young man's papers include a collection of sardonic aphorisms; essays on Mozart, modern drama, and boredom; and "The Seducer's Diary." The seeming miscellany is a reflective presentation of aspects of the "either," the esthetic view of life.
Part II is an older friend's "or," the ethical life of integrated, authentic personhood, elaborated in discussions of personal becoming and of marriage. The resolution of the "either/or" is left to the reader, for there is no Part III until the appearance of Stages on Life's Way. The poetic-reflective creations of a master stylist and imaginative impersonator, the two men write in distinctive ways appropriate to their respective positions.
Reviews for Kierkegaard's Writings, III, Part I: Either/Or. Part I
Kierkegaard's Either / Or is very much a work of two parts: the first volume focuses on the Aesthetic, and the second on the Ethical. What is unusual is that the work is presented as a collection of papers of various styles and on various subjects, that have been written by two different people: one with an aesthetic outlook, the other with the ethical. The preface states that the papers were found in a secret compartment of a cabinet that was bought by the author, who sorted out the papers and edited them before publishing them. Though in fact this use of pseudonyms is partly a stylistic or narrative device, as they were all written by Kierkegaard himself. What Plato does with the spoken word, Kierkegaard does with the written word.This first volume is on the aesthetic, and consists of 8 separate works, ranging from a piece on the character of Don Juan, an analysis of the ancient tragic motif in the modern, an essay on "social prudence", and a lecture given before a society for the appreciation of melancholy. Half of the volume seems to be about love.Not only does Kierkegaard make an eloquent case for the aesthetic viewpoint in this work, but he also makes the case against by deftly interspersing the volume with parody and tongue-in-cheek mockery of what else has been written on such subjects. As with Plato, an unexperienced reader might think that the author is in fact advocating the very things he is writing against, because the irony is subtle, and in Kierkegaard much of it is subtler than in Plato, as in each piece the thoughts are given voice by just one character. The skill with which Kierkegaard achieves this is not only highly entertaining, but gives one the satisfaction of realising that what is prima facie earnest yet ridiculuous poeticism, pretentious, or vacuous sentimentalism, actually turns out to be rather clever.What makes some philosophers difficult to read is that they take themselves too seriously, but the difficulty that some may find with Kierkegaard is that he doesn't take himself seriously enough, and so it is difficult to decide when he means what he writes or the opposite. On the other hand, working this out adds much joy to the reading of a book, as it necessitates thinking. I look forward to reading the second volume, yet I somehow don't expect it to be quite as much fun.read more
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