Context

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In Either/Or, Søren Kierkegaard seeks to elucidate the contrasts and interrelationships between what Kierkegaard called the aesthetical and the ethical modes of existence. Like most of Kierkegaard’s writings, Either/Or was not published under his own name but under one of several pseudonyms. The heterogeneous literary style employs lyrical aphorisms, orations, psychological analyses, drama reviews, and philosophical formulations.

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In the first part of the work, the aestheticist, who expresses his views through these various literary forms, is designated as A. In the second part, the ethical thinker, who bears the pseudonym of Judge William, is designated as B. In one of his later works, Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift (1846; Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1941), Kierkegaard explained the central theme of Either/Or by informing the reader that A is an existential possibility, superior in dialectics and highly gifted in the use of wit and poetic style, who nevertheless remains unable to commit himself in decisive action, and thus never exists at all in the true sense. B, on the other hand, represents the ethical person whose whole life is transformed into inwardness, passion, and commitment.

Judge William elucidates the content of the ethical in the form of a letter addressed to A. The communication of ethical truth demands a form or style that is commensurate with it. Ethical truth is existential and concrete, as contrasted with the theoretical and abstract, and consequently requires for its expression a form that has the personal quality of a dialogue or a letter. This constitutes the form of indirect communication. At the outset, Judge William reminds the aestheticist of the biblical story of the Prophet Nathan and David as a supreme example of this form of communication. King David listened attentively to the prophet’s parable but remained in a state of theoretical detachment. He intellectualized the parable as an objective story that applied only to the mythical stranger. Not until the Prophet Nathan made the application explicit in his statement “Thou, O King, art the man” did David apprehend the existential relevance of the parable. The Prophet Nathan used the form of indirect communication. This is also the form used by Judge William.

The Aesthetical Way

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The aesthetical mode of existence has two primary expressions—romantic hedonism and abstract intellectualism. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni is depicted as the classical representative of the sensual or hedonistic view of life, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: Eine Tragödie (1808; The Tragedy of Faust, 1823) expresses the aesthetical personality of abstract intellectualism. Kierkegaard’s archenemy, the Hegelian rationalist, also falls victim to the latter expression. For both the sensualist and the intellectualist, inward existence and commitment are accidental and remain a matter of indifference. Neither is able to shoulder responsibility and commit the self to action. They lack the ethical pathos that characterizes B.

The view of life that characterizes the hedonist is portrayed by the young lover in the “Diary of a Seducer,” who carries through his seduction with a diabolical cunning. The young lover is a prototype of Mozart’s Don Giovanni character: He experiments with numerous possibilities but never commits himself to the responsibility of actualizing any particular one in earnestness and seriousness. He experiments with the techniques of seduction but never commits himself in a promise. He experiments with love but never commits himself in marriage. In his aesthetical experimentation, the young lover retains the proper abstractness and indifference. Every woman is, for him, a woman in general. Insofar as the young lover has a guiding principle, it is the hedonistic principle that enjoyment or pleasure constitutes the only end of life. The necessary internal conditions for the attainment of this life of pleasure are physical beauty and health; the necessary external conditions are wealth, glory, and high status. However, these conditions provide no ethical pathos for a committed life, and it is precisely a committed life that the young lover seeks to avoid. He lives only in the moment, an erotic present in which the satisfaction of a desire is maximized. Then the moment passes, and a new desire asserts its claim to thrive. His whole life becomes a discontinuous succession of passing from one moment to the next. His personality thus lacks unity and continuity. He has dispersed or lost himself in the present to the neglect of his past and his future. He no longer retains his past in memory, and he retreats from the future that confronts him with the responsibility of decision.

The speculative intellectualist suffers the same loss of selfhood as the romantic hedonist. Whereas the hedonist loses himself in the immediacy of the erotic present, the speculative thinker loses himself in the immediacy of his thought. The speculative thinker seeks to comprehend the whole of reality through the categories of a universal logic. However, in such a system, the concretely existing subject really does not matter. Just as for the sensualist every woman is a woman in general, so for the intellectualist all reality is dissolved into general categories. Speculative thought sees only the general movement of history, explained through the mediation of logical categories, and forgets the individual who apprehends himself within his particular and concrete history. Thus, both the hedonist and the speculative thinker evade the responsibility of decision. Both flirt with the realm of possibility but neither makes the leap into existence. The hedonist escapes from the future and responsibility for dispersing himself in momentary pleasures. The speculative thinker evades choice by playing the role of a detached observer who speculates about the general movements in world history, but who never participates in his own inner history with pathos and inwardness. Expressing the Socratic irony of which Kierkegaard was a master, his pseudonym is made to say:To the philosopher world history is concluded, and he mediates. Hence, in our age as the order of the day we have the disgusting sight of young men who are able to mediate Christianity and paganism, are able to play with the titanic forces of history, and are unable to tell a plain man what he has to do in life, and who do not know any better what they themselves have to do.”

The speculative thinker reduces existence to thought, sacrifices involvement for detached observation, and substitutes a reflective deliberation on universal history for the responsibility of concrete, personal decision. The common denominator of both expressions of aesthetical existence is a retreat from the reality of choice. In both cases, the self has not yet found itself. Only through choice is authentic selfhood attained. This demands an awareness that life is a matter of either/or. However, the either/or is a matter of indifference for the hedonist and the intellectualist alike. The aestheticist moves in a realm in abstraction from inwardness and existence.

Boredom and Despair

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The aesthetical mode or stage of existence leads to boredom and melancholy, and finally to despair. Either/Or and the writings of Kierkegaard as a whole contain graphic descriptions of the enveloping character of the moods of boredom, melancholy, and despair. Boredom is depicted as an aesthetical determinant that has plagued humankind from the very beginning.The gods were bored, and so they created man. Adam was bored because he was alone, and so Eve was created. Thus boredom entered the world, and increased in proportion to the increase of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille; then the population of the world increased and the people were bored en masse.

The aesthetical life of pure pleasure, as well as that of pure thought, leads to an abyss of boredom and tedium. Now it is necessary to distinguish two forms of boredom. In one form, boredom is apprehended as an intentional mood that is directed toward a particular object, event, or person. One is bored with a book, a movie, or a boorish conversant. This form of boredom is merely a surface phenomenon that does not yet disclose humanity’s true situation. In the second and more genuine form of boredom, one is bored not with an intentionally specified object or person—one is bored with oneself. Humanity is confronted with a nameless emptiness that threatens life itself with a loss of meaning. This form of boredom brings one to a more intensified awareness of one’s predicament.

The enigmatic, nameless emptiness that characterizes genuine boredom is also an existential determinant of melancholy individuals. If melancholy individuals are asked what it is that weighs on them, they are prone to reply, “I know not, I cannot explain it.” Melancholy is a “spiritual ailment” or a “hysteria of the spirit” that confronts people with the abyss of emptiness and meaninglessness and reveals the disquietude and discontinuity of their existence. However, for the most part, the individuals who are subject to the disquieting moods of boredom and melancholy refuse to accept the condition and seek to conceal it through various diverting activities.

Like the philosopher Blaise Pascal, Kierkegaard saw how people seek to escape from themselves through diversions that provide momentary distraction. The continuing search for diversion is the basis of the “rotation method” described in the first part of the work. People are bored with life in the country, so they move to the village; they become bored in the village, so they move to the city; they then become bored with their homeland and travel abroad; they become bored with life in a foreign land, and then entertain the possibility of an endless journeying to alleviate their boredom. Melancholy individuals also engage in a self-defeating and frustrating search for diversion.

It is in the Roman emperor Nero, says the author, that one finds the example par excellence of a melancholy nature that had given itself over to an endless search for diverting distractions. Nero sought to divert himself through an immersion in pleasure. He appointed “ministers of pleasure” who were entrusted with the task of finding novel ways to satisfy his desires. Only in the moment of pleasure could Nero find distraction from his melancholy. “Then he grasps after pleasure; all the world’s cleverness must devise for him new pleasures, for only in the instant of pleasure does he find repose, and when that is past he gasps with faintness.” When the instant of pleasure passes, Nero again plunges into melancholy. Hence a new desire must be created so that another momentary gratification may occur. However, there is no end to this sort of thing, and Nero finds himself sucked into an abyss of meaninglessness and emptiness. Finally in his need for pleasure-producing distraction, he orders the burning of Rome, but when the last embers die, he again gyrates into an appalling melancholy. This description of Nero’s nature, we are reminded by the author, has not been undertaken as an occasion to thank God along with the Pharisee that we are different from Nero. Nero is “flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone,” which is to say that in Nero, a universal determinant of human existence becomes transparent.

Despair is the most intensive expression of the threat of meaninglessness and emptiness; it constitutes the culmination of the aesthetical mode of existence. The aesthetical life proves itself to be despair. In despair, the self experiences a loss of hope because diversion no longer provides its momentary satisfaction. Aestheticists realize that they cannot find themselves outside of themselves—neither in their hedonistic and sensual pursuits nor in the abstractions of their speculative thought. To discover their genuine selfhood, they must turn inward. They must turn toward earnestness, passion, decision, commitment, and freedom. Only in this movement will they be able to collect themselves out of their dispersed and dissipated existence and become a unified and integrated self. Despair is thus an intensification of subjectivity that constitutes the gateway to authentic or genuine selfhood. In “choosing” despair, the self gives birth to itself and passes from the aesthetical stage of indecision to the ethical stage of decisive commitment.

The Ethical Way

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The ethical stage is the stage of decision and resolute commitment. The act of choice is an intensification of the ethical. Even the richest personalities, writes the author, must be accounted as nothing before they have chosen themselves. On the other hand, the poorest personalities are everything for having chosen themselves. Choice liberates the self both from the immediacy of pleasure and from the immediacy of reflection or pure thought and makes possible the discovery of genuine selfhood. Through decision and commitment, the self becomes integrated and “centralized.” Aestheticists are always “eccentric” in that they seek the center of themselves in the periphery of hedonist or intellectualistic concerns—that means that they have lost their selves. Ethical people, by virtue of having shouldered their responsibility in decision, have their center within themselves. Their lives are centralized and unified. The unity of the ethical self is not a unity that is anchored in some residual ego or abiding substratum. The self is not an object that can be abstractly defined as having a permanent nature or a substantial fixity. Unity is achieved, not given. The self achieves or attains its unity and integrity through choice.

Choice thus becomes the central category for the ethical thinker. This is the category that lies closest to the heart and thought of Judge William. Not being a logician, he has no lengthy and impressive list of abstract categories—he has only one concrete denomination: choice. Choice involves freedom, an either/or, and in this can be found the greatest treasure that humans can possess. Judge William explains to the reader the central intention of his ethical elucidations when he writes:For freedom, therefore, I am fighting. . . . I am fighting for the future, for either/or. That is the treasure I desire to bequeath to those whom I love in the world; yea, if my little son were at this instant of an age when he could thoroughly understand me, I would say to him, “I leave to thee no fortune, no title and dignities, but I know where there lies buried a treasure which suffices to make thee richer than the whole world, and this treasure belongs to thee, and thou shalt not even express thanks to me for it lest thou take hurt to thine own soul by owing everything to another. This treasure is deposited in thine own inner self: there is an either/or which makes a man greater than the angels.”

Judge William’s central intention of calling the aestheticist to an awareness of freedom and the importance of choosing is understood as an expression of the Socratic task of attaining self-knowledge. “Know thyself” and “Choose thyself” are conjunctive rather than disjunctive tasks. The knowledge that was the concern of Socrates was an ethical knowledge, and ethical knowledge can be achieved only through choosing. The self becomes transparent to itself only in decisive action.

Romantic and Conjugal Love

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In the person of Judge William is the concrete exemplification of the ethical mode of existence. He is a married man who has committed himself in conjugal love. As such, he is contrasted with the young lover of the “Diary of a Seducer,” who dissipates himself in his various experiments with romantic love. Romantic and conjugal love are thus understood as existential qualities that differentiate the aesthetical and the ethical. Romantic love is experimental and nonhistorical, lacking continuity. Conjugal love expresses an inner history that gives it constancy and stability.

The romantic hedonist lives in the present, which he experiences in abstraction from existence. The present becomes an instantaneous now, defined as the occasion for enjoyment. The past loses its existential significance, and the future is never really faced. The young lover seduces a girl, and after the moment of seduction passes, all is over. The moment then becomes part of an abstracted past that has significance only as an object for melancholy recollection. Romantic love knows no repetition. The romantic hedonist lives his life as though it were a discrete succession of instantaneous nows, each coming to be and passing away into a past that is bereft of existential importance. Everything is concentrated in the present, which is apprehended as embodying full reality. Conjugal love, on the other hand, strives for repetition. The ideal husband is one who is able to repeat his love every day. The married man thus carries within himself the memory of his past, anticipates his future, and undertakes his daily tasks and decisions in the context of his integrated wholeness. His past, future, and present are unified. It is thus that time and history become of paramount importance for conjugal love. The constancy and continuity of conjugal love are made possible through a unification of the self in its inner history.

In distinguishing between romantic and conjugal love, Judge William does not intend an absolute disjunction. He speaks of marriage as the true transfiguration of romantic love. Marriage is its friend, not its enemy. Romantic love is not left behind in the transition to the ethical sphere. It becomes transfigured through the constancy of conjugal love. In the ethical stage, romantic love is historicized and apprehended in terms of its temporal significance. The aesthetical always remains in the ethical, but it remains as a relative and dependent mode of existence. “By the absolute choice the ethical is always posited, but from this it does not follow by any means that the aesthetical is excluded. In the ethical the personality is concentrated in itself, so the aesthetical is absolutely excluded or is excluded as the absolute, but relatively it is still left.” The romantic hedonist absolutizes the aesthetical as the final and self-sufficient dimension of existence. The ethical person appropriates the aesthetical in its relativity and transforms it by the existential determinants of choice and commitment. At one point in his letter, Judge William speaks of the three stages (aesthetical, ethical, and religious) as “three great allies.” The spheres or stages of existence are not temporally successive levels of development, excluding each other in a hierarchical ascent. They are modes of existence, always in some sense present, penetrating the personality in its process of becoming. They constitute the existential cross section of the self and coexist interdependently throughout its history. No sphere is sufficient by itself. The absolutization of one of the three spheres brings about a suffocation of the self.

Choice

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The phenomenon of time, which plays such an important role in ethical existence, is the focus of a profound analysis of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s teaching on the alienated or unhappy consciousness. Hegel had already taught that the alienated consciousness is the self that is never present to itself, being absent from itself either in the past or in the future. The author agrees that Hegel was right in thus defining the realm of the unhappy consciousness but argues that he was wrong in understanding it abstractly rather than existentially. Hegel “beheld the kingdom from afar off.” The author understands himself to be a native inhabitant of the realm. Consciousness is alienated from itself when it is severed either from its past or from its future. The alienated consciousness has lost the memory of its life and has nothing for which to hope. Thus, it culminates in despair. The unified consciousness has within it both pastness and futurity. Memory and hope are unified in the center of personality. The ethical person attains this unified consciousness in the moment of decisive action. In the act of choice, the past is taken up, the future is acknowledged and faced, and the self is centralized.

The touchstone of the decision through which the self achieves its unity and integrity is inwardness. An authentic choice is a choice made inwardly in passion and earnestness. The accent falls on the way of choosing rather than on what is chosen. In the ethical sphere, people are educated in how to choose. Their first concern is not with the choice of the “right” but with the earnestness and inwardness that determines the movement of choice. This does not mean that the ethical thinker has no interest in the moral content of choice. It does mean, however, that the moral content cannot be abstracted as a what—as an objectively determined and legislated moral standard. An action made solely because of external standards is bereft of moral content. Only that action that proceeds from the depths of inwardness qualifies the self as ethical. Judge William has little interest in a table of virtues that delineates abstract moral requirements. Ethical action is not a matter of following virtues. It is a matter of self-knowledge and self-commitment. Like German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s strong person, Kierkegaard’s ethical person exists “beyond good and evil.”

Either/Or concludes with a prayer and a sermon. This is a reminder to the reader that the ethical stage is not the final dimension of existence but is itself transfigured by a religious state. As the ethical stage transfigures the aesthetical, so the religious transfigures the ethical by introducing the existential determinants of suffering, guilt, sin, and faith. However, Either/Or does not carry the existential elucidation beyond the ethical. One of the reasons Kierkegaard wrote Stadier paa Livets Vej (1845; Stages on Life’s Way, 1940) was to give proper due to the religious stage.

Either/Or

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The Work

In the two volumes of Either/Or, Kierkegaard confronts readers with a sharp choice between two forms of existence, the aesthetic, which regards enjoyment and pleasure as the highest values, and the ethical, which views the world in terms of right and wrong. Rather than describing these two forms of existence, Kierkegaard brings them to life in the writings of two fictional characters. An unnamed sophisticated young man, designated “A,” is credited with the widely varied essays and aphorisms that make up volume 1; Judge William, a family man and minor court official, writes the two long letters to “A” that make up volume 2. A third fictional character, Victor Eremita, claims to have found the papers of “A” and Judge William in an old desk and to have arranged for their publication.

Volume 1

After a preface in which Victor Eremita describes finding the papers that make up Either/Or, volume 1 is composed of the papers of “A.” The first section is a group of aphorisms that “A” calls “Diapsalmata.” These aphorisms set the tone for volume 1 by vividly conveying the cynical and world-weary but also sensitive and enthusiastic character of “A.” These aphorisms further show “A’s” strong interest in literary and musical art, an interest that is amply demonstrated in the five substantial essays on art and artistic themes that follow the Diapsalmata. The first and longest of these, “The Immediate Stages of the Erotic or the Musical Erotic,” is an impassioned celebration of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. Don Juan is significant to “A” because he represents a distinctive form of aesthetic existence: the immediate. An immediate aesthete, such as Don Juan, seeks pleasure in a wholly spontaneous, unself-conscious manner. His consciousness is confined to the here and now, and no thought of guilt for his many seductions ever clouds his enjoyments. While “A” enthuses over Don Juan, his self-consciousness, or reflectivity, separates his form of aesthetic existence decisively from the Don’s. “A’s” mode of aesthetic existence is best illustrated in the essay “The Rotation of Crops,” in which “A” humorously states his strategy for finding enjoyment and avoiding boredom. To seek pleasure directly, like Don Juan, eventually jades the self; overused enjoyments grow stale. So “A” constantly varies his amusements just as farmers rotate crops so as not to exhaust their fields.

Despite the witty, jesting tone of “The Rotation of Crops,” this and other entries in volume 1 show “A” to be afflicted by a deep and dark melancholy. He even cultivates this melancholy as a source of enjoyment, calling sorrow his castle and naming hopelessness as the precondition of the aesthetic life. “A” is also profoundly interested in the sorrow of others. Many of his essays are analyses of tragic figures from literature that he presented to a ghoulish club, the Symparanekromenoi, “the society of the already dead.”

The final section of volume 1, “Diary of a Seducer,” is both the longest section of the volume and the most chilling picture of aesthetic existence. “A” claims to have copied a large section of the journal of an acquaintance named Johannes, which chronicles the devious seduction and callous abandonment of an innocent young girl. In his introductory remarks to the copied journal entries, “A” shudders at Johannes’ calculating coldness and worries that Johannes reveals the demonic character of aesthetic existence by carrying it through to its logical extreme.

Volume 2

Kierkegaard brings the ethical form of existence to life in three letters, two very long and one short, from Judge William to “A.” Judge William tries to convert “A” from aesthetic existence to ethical existence by (1) analyzing and criticizing aesthetic existence and (2) depicting ethical existence in a highly positive light. It is significant that Judge William writes letters rather than essays: he is not interested in a disinterested, impersonal, theoretical analysis of aesthetic and ethical existence. Rather, he speaks as a concrete, existing, concerned individual to another such individual.

Like “A,” Judge William is especially concerned with the romantic dimension of human life. Whereas “A” focuses on brief and usually tragic romantic liaisons, Judge William is an enthusiastic advocate of marriage. Marriage represents for him the ideal example of ethical existence. It represents an open-ended, infinite commitment rather than a short-term, fulfillable task. Furthermore, Judge William uses the example of marriage to show that a life of duty is not less but more enjoyable than an aesthetic life, even though the aesthetic life makes enjoyment its highest end. The first of his letters to “A” is accordingly titled, “The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage.” Here, Judge William argues at great length that duty, the obligation entered into with the wedding vows, preserves, nurtures, and strengthens spontaneous love rather than banishes it as “A” asserts. The second letter, “The Balance Between the Aesthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality,” makes the same essential point: the choice is not between a life of enjoyment and a life of duty; in living responsibly and ethically, the person can have a much better time and enjoy himself or herself much more thoroughly than if he or she is always focused on getting enjoyment. Volume 2 ends as did volume 1: with a copied text by someone else. Judge William sends to “A” a copy of a sermon written by an old university friend entitled “The Upbuilding That Lies in the Thought That in Relation to God We Are Always in the Wrong.” The sermon emphasizes the infinity of the ethical demand and the impossibility of actually fulfilling it. Though Judge William writes that the sermon makes the same point he had been making in his two letters, it seems to call into question Judge William’s whole project of existing as a morally righteous person. This ending of Either/Or points ahead to later works of Kierkegaard’s in which religious modes of existence are contrasted with both the aesthetic and the ethical.

Bibliography

Allen, Diogenes. Three Outsiders: Pascal, Kierkegaard, Simone Weil. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1983. The chapter on Kierkegaard examines his time period and its influence on his ideas. The author discusses how Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel influenced Søren Kierkegaard by breaking the hold of the eighteenth century Enlightenment on European philosophy. Also includes the influence of Socrates on Kierkegaard.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Soren Kierkegaard. Modern Critical Views series. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. A collection of essays discussing the importance of Kierkegaard and his philosophy. The editor’s introduction places Kierkegaard in historical context, relating him to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and others.

Evans, C. Stephen. Kierkegaard’s “Fragments” and “Postscript”: The Religious Philosophy of Johannes Climacus. Atlantic City, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1983. An analysis of the two books that Kierkegaard wrote under a pseudonym in which he reveals much of his religious philosophy. Evans’s book is basically a commentary on the two books by Kierkegaard.

Hannay, Alastair. Kierkegaard. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. A study that asserts the philosopher developed his ideas in response to his own personal struggle with the Danish church.

Hannay, Alastair, and Gordon D. Marino. The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998. The sixteen essays in this volume look at Kierkegaard’s contribution to philosophical, theological, and spiritual issues. Contains bibliography and index.

Lowrie, Walter. Kierkegaard. 2 vols. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1970. This is the definitive biography of Kierkegaard, written by one of the most prominent translators of his writings. Traces Kierkegaard’s life chronologically, providing a list of dates for major events and publications. Also includes a helpful fifteen-page synopsis of Kierkegaard’s works.

Pattison, George and Steve Shakespeare. Kierkegaard: The Self in Society. New York: Macmillan, 1998. This volume presents twelve essays from the 1995 meeting of the Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom. These essays challenge the notion of Kierkegaard as an extreme individualist.

Rae, Murray. Kierkegaard’s Vision of the Incarnation: By Faith Transformed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. Rae, chaplain at the University of Auckland, examines Kierkegaard’s view of the Incarnation. His sympathetic interpretation contrasts with that of many other commentators. Contains an extensive bibliography.

Ree, Jonathan, and Jane Chamberlain, eds. Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1998. The nine essays in this work attempt to determine the role of Kierkegaard’s work in philosophy and religion in modern society. Includes index.

Sontag, Frederick. A Kierkegaard Handbook. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1979. A systematic approach to Kierkegaard’s philosophy, which Kierkegaard himself avoided. A study of major concepts that provides a companion reader to the student of Kierkegaard.

Stack, George J. Kierkegaard’s Existential Ethics. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1977. An explanation of the ethical concepts in Kierkegaard’s existentialism. This volume examines the philosopher’s connection to the developing philosophy of nihilism and helps readers understand how his personal struggles affected his philosophy.

Walker, Jeremy. Kierkegaard: Descent into God. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1985. Walker examines Kierkegaard’s remarks on the importance of Socrates, discusses his ethical positions, and attempts to reveal the effect of personal sorrows on his philosophy. The title refers to the philosopher’s difficulty in explaining exactly how a person becomes a believer in God.

Watkin, Julia. Historical Dictionary of Kierkegaard’s Philosophy. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2001. A handy aid to the study of the philosopher’s work.

Westphal, Merold. Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987. A discussion of different aspects of Kierkegaard’s philosophy. Chapter 6, “Kierkegaard and the Logic of Insanity,” is a lecture-essay that discusses the difficulty in understanding many of Kierkegaard’s concepts.

Stephen M. Ashby Glenn L. Swygart

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593

Allen, Diogenes. Three Outsiders: Pascal, Kierkegaard, Simone Weil. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1983. The chapter on Kierkegaard examines his time period and its influence on his ideas. The author discusses how Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel influenced Søren Kierkegaard by breaking the hold of the eighteenth century Enlightenment on European philosophy. Also includes the influence of Socrates on Kierkegaard.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Soren Kierkegaard. Modern Critical Views series. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. A collection of essays discussing the importance of Kierkegaard and his philosophy. The editor’s introduction places Kierkegaard in historical context, relating him to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and others.

Evans, C. Stephen. Kierkegaard’s “Fragments” and “Postscript”: The Religious Philosophy of Johannes Climacus. Atlantic City, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1983. An analysis of the two books that Kierkegaard wrote under a pseudonym in which he reveals much of his religious philosophy. Evans’s book is basically a commentary on the two books by Kierkegaard.

Hannay, Alastair. Kierkegaard. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. A study that asserts the philosopher developed his ideas in response to his own personal struggle with the Danish church.

Hannay, Alastair, and Gordon D. Marino. The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998. The sixteen essays in this volume look at Kierkegaard’s contribution to philosophical, theological, and spiritual issues. Contains bibliography and index.

Lowrie, Walter. Kierkegaard. 2 vols. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1970. This is the definitive biography of Kierkegaard, written by one of the most prominent translators of his writings. Traces Kierkegaard’s life chronologically, providing a list of dates for major events and publications. Also includes a helpful fifteen-page synopsis of Kierkegaard’s works.

Pattison, George and Steve Shakespeare. Kierkegaard: The Self in Society. New York: Macmillan, 1998. This volume presents twelve essays from the 1995 meeting of the Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom. These essays challenge the notion of Kierkegaard as an extreme individualist.

Rae, Murray. Kierkegaard’s Vision of the Incarnation: By Faith Transformed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. Rae, chaplain at the University of Auckland, examines Kierkegaard’s view of the Incarnation. His sympathetic interpretation contrasts with that of many other commentators. Contains an extensive bibliography.

Ree, Jonathan, and Jane Chamberlain, eds. Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1998. The nine essays in this work attempt to determine the role of Kierkegaard’s work in philosophy and religion in modern society. Includes index.

Sontag, Frederick. A Kierkegaard Handbook. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1979. A systematic approach to Kierkegaard’s philosophy, which Kierkegaard himself avoided. A study of major concepts that provides a companion reader to the student of Kierkegaard.

Stack, George J. Kierkegaard’s Existential Ethics. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1977. An explanation of the ethical concepts in Kierkegaard’s existentialism. This volume examines the philosopher’s connection to the developing philosophy of nihilism and helps readers understand how his personal struggles affected his philosophy.

Walker, Jeremy. Kierkegaard: Descent into God. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1985. Walker examines Kierkegaard’s remarks on the importance of Socrates, discusses his ethical positions, and attempts to reveal the effect of personal sorrows on his philosophy. The title refers to the philosopher’s difficulty in explaining exactly how a person becomes a believer in God.

Watkin, Julia. Historical Dictionary of Kierkegaard’s Philosophy. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2001. A handy aid to the study of the philosopher’s work.

Westphal, Merold. Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987. A discussion of different aspects of Kierkegaard’s philosophy. Chapter 6, “Kierkegaard and the Logic of Insanity,” is a lecture-essay that discusses the difficulty in understanding many of Kierkegaard’s concepts.

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Critical Essays