Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article is about the book by Søren Kierkegaard. For the 1997 album by Elliott Smith, see Either/Or (album)
Either/Or is an influential book written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1843, in which he explored the "phases" or "stages" of existence.
The book is the first of Kierkegaard's works written pseudonymously, a practice which he developed throughout his career. In this case, four pseudonyms are used: "Victor Eremita", "A", "Judge Vilhelm", and "Johannes". Victor Eremita is the fictional compiler and editor of the texts, which he claims to have found in an antique escritoire . "A" is the moniker given to the fictional authour of the first text ("Either") by Victor Eremita, whose real name he claims to have not known. "Judge Vilhelm" is the fictional authour of the second text ("Or"), while "Johannes" is the fictional author of a section of 'Either'; "The Diary of a Seducer".
The first volume, the "Either", describes the "aesthetic" phase of existence. It takes the form of many tangential aphorisms and musings on the aesthetic mode of life, which are labelled 'Diapsalmata'. The word 'diapsalmata' is related to 'psalms', and means "refrains". In this section Kierkegaard's character evaluates the Mozart's Don Giovanni (in the essay "The Immediate Erotic Stages") and Goethe, and examines the concept of 'First Love' as a pinnacle for the aestheticist, using his idiosyncratic concepts of 'closedness' (indesluttedhed in Danish) and the 'demonic' (demoniske)
The aesthete illustrated in "The Diary of a Seducer" holds the interesting as his highest value, and in life attempts to manipulate his situation from a boring one to an interesting one, to satisfy his voyeuristic reflections. He uses irony, artifice, caprice, imagination and arbitrariness to engineer poetically satisfying possibilities; he is not so interested in the act of seduction, but in willfuly creating the interesting possibility of seduction.
The aesthete, accordingly to Kierkegaard's model, will eventually find him or herself in "despair," a psychological state (explored further in Kierkegaard's The Concept of Dread and The Sickness Unto Death) that results from a recognition of the limits of an aesthetic approach to life. Kierkegaard's "despair" is a somewhat analagous precursor of existential angst . The natural reaction is to make a "leap" to the second phase, the "ethical," which is characterized as a phase in which rational choice and committment replace the capricious and inconsistent longings of the aesthetic mode. Ultimately, for Kierkegaard, the aesthetic and the ethical are both superseded by the final phase, which he terms the "religious" mode.
Second Volume, thus, represents the ethical stage. Two letters from Judge Wilhelm to author A try to incite A to make the leap to the ethical stage. First letter is about the aesthetic value of marriage, while the second is about the more explicit ethical subject of choosing the good, or one's self. The volume ends in a discourse on the Upbuilding in the Thought that for God we are Always in the Wrong. Undefined usage of the term freedom, "choosing one's self", etc. pervades the second volume. Introducing the ethical stage it is moreover unclear if Kierkegaard acknowleges an ethical stage without religion. Freedom seems to denote freedom to choose the will to do the right and to denounce the wrong in a secular, almost Kantian style. However, mourning (angeren) seems to be a religious category specifically related to the christian concept of deliverance. (Samlede Vaerker(2), II, p. 190)
The extremely nested pseudonymity of this work adds a problem of interpretation. A and B are the authors of the work, Eremita is the editor. Where however is Kierkegaard in all this? It appears that Kierkegaard deliberately sought to disconnect himself from the points of view expressed in his works, although the absurdity of his pseudonyms' bizarre latin names proves that he did not hope to thoroughly conceal his identity from the reader. Kierkegaard's Papers first edition VIII(2), B 81 - 89 explain this method in writing. On interpretation there is also much to be found in the On my Work as an Author and the Point of View.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details