Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Either-Or. About the liberating effect of making a choice

Choosing to take responsibility for oneself is a big and important choice. Maybe one of the most important choices we make in life. This is only possible when one is specific and consistent with the reality we live in. This election is crucial for the development of personality of all human beings. It 's not just about choosing oneself, but to make this choice with energy and seriousness. Selecting oneself with indifference, is just the same thing as losing itself. These are some of the thoughts Søren Kierkegaard gives us the book Either - Or.

Either - Or is written by Kierkegaard, but released under a different name, Victor Eremita. The book was published in two volumes in February 1843. A total of 872 pages make this book a real challenge to read. But the book's length is really the smallest problem. Who wrote the book? What did Kierkegaard want to tell us in this book? What does this book mean for us today? What does the content mean for me? Will I ever finish the book? I read the book for the first time in the early 1990s and I'm still reading it. As with all books of Kierkegaard, I find something new in them every time I read them. They seem to always give me something new.

Although Kierkegaard repeatedly denied having anything to do with the books published under his many pseudonyms, there is no doubt that it was he wrote them. Kierkegaard wrote the book Either - Or . But who was Victor Eremita? The name is Latin and means the victorious hermit or the one who wins in solitude. The book is written just after Kierkegaard had broken his engagement to the 19-year- old Regina Olsen. Several parts of the book portrays eroticism, seduction, emotional depth, and marriage .

Søren Kierkegaard is thus the true author of Either-Or, and Victor Eremita is presented as the books editor. The book begins with Victor Eremita finding a manuscript hidden in a secret drawer of a desk . Mysterious. The manuscript was written by A and B (Assessor Wilhelm ). To make authorship even more complicated, there is another book in this book, The Seducers Diary, written by Forføreren Johannes (Johannes Seducer).

Volume 1 begins with Diapsálmata which is Greek and means an interlude or pause. Kierkegaard begins thus this monstrous and amazing book with an interlude. Readers who are familiar with the Old Testament will recognize the word, used 92 times in the Psalms, ie as a liturgical recurring text. Then comes a chapter about erotic stages, before moving into the tragedy of the modern. Then follow three chapters about living in a shadow, to be unhappy about ones first love, and work rotation. The first volume terminates with the Seducer's Diary (which was written by Johannes Seducer).

Volume 2 has two long chapters and a ends up with a short chapter. First comes a chapter is about the aesthetic validity of marriage, then comes a chapter on the balance between the aesthetic and the ethical in personality development. The final chapter is an ultimatum .

Kierkegaard has a whole host of aesthetes in Either - Or. The most extreme is Johannes, Johannes the Seducer. All the other aestheticians in Either - Or reject him. They think he goes much too far. But none of the other aestheticians have names. They are referred to only as a group, Group A. They take nothing seriously anymore. Marry, say Group A, and you will regret it. If you don't  get married, you will not regret it too. Whether you marry or not marry, you will regret both. The choice for a aesthetes is an illusion. The person making a choice, would always regret it afterwards. It is important for aesthetes are not make a choice but it's more important to live a life with passion. This is where Kierkegaard uses sexual passion as a example in his analysis of Don Juan from Mozart's Opera. Don Juan makes no choice. He desires all women equally passionately. His secret is to transform the women he meets into passionate objects. Passion is thus important. Passion gives the world a structure and gives the world a qualitative content. This may seem a bit confusing. Taking passion from a aesthetes, leaves him with with sheer indifference. Emptiness. Aesthetes cannot even see that there is something more to life than passion. This is the blindness of aesthetes. Kierkegaard says that the only way an aesthetes may be develop further, is through despair. And it is this despair that transform an aesthetes into an ethicist. This is the theme of Volume 2 of Either - Or .

Kierkegaard writes in Volume 2 that Assessor Wilhelm was once a aesthetes (as we all have been). Wilhelm advises his aesthetic friends not only to despair, but they must choose despair. And they must despair seriously. Choosing despair, says Wilhelm, is to choose oneself, and by so doing choose God. The keyword for ethicists Wilhelm is to "choose". Choosing is to will. Choosing oneself is willing oneself. If you choose oneself, if one wills oneself, the consequences will be substantial. Consequences is something aesthetes (as Don Juan) is not particularly excited about. When a person chooses oneself, s/he takes over the responsibility for oneself. It is a responsibility that is absolute. A person can only take responsibility for oneself when it happens without limitations. Thus: when a person take over the full responsibility for oneself, s/he also blames oneself. This means that we all have the opportunity to create ourselves. Our goal as humans is to reach a form for existence where we are totally present today, and where all circumstances and people are real. It is in this communal existence with each other that we are human being.

Kaare T. Pettersen

Garff, Joakim (2000). SAK. En Biografi. København: GADS forlag

Kierkegaard, Søren (1997/1843). Enten-Eller. Første del og andre del. Søren Kierkegaards Skrifter. Volume 2 and 3. København: GADS forlag.

Sløk, Johannes (1983). Kierkegaards Univers. København: Centrum.

Søren Kierkegaards Skrifter. K 2-3. Kommentarer til Enten-Eller. København: GADS forlag

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