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Either – Or. A Life Fragment edited by Victor Eremita
Simple, unadorned book cover.
Title page of the original Danish edition from 1843.
Author Søren Kierkegaard
Original title Enten – Eller
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Series First authorship (Pseudonymous)
Genre Philosophy, philosophical novel
Publisher University bookshop Reitzel, Copenhagen
Publication date
February 20, 1843
Published in English
1944 (first translation)
Pages 800+
Followed by Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

Either/Or (Danish: Enten – Eller) is the first published work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Appearing in two volumes in 1843 under the pseudonymous authorship of Victor Eremita (Latin for "victorious hermit") it outlines a theory of human development in which consciousness progresses from an essentially hedonistic, aesthetic mode to one characterized by ethical imperatives arising from the maturing of human conscience.

Either/Or portrays two life views, one consciously hedonistic, the other based on ethical duty and responsibility. Each life view is written and represented by a fictional pseudonymous author, with the prose of the work reflecting and depending on the life view being discussed. For example, the aesthetic life view is written in short essay form, with poetic imagery and allusions, discussing aesthetic topics such as music, seduction, drama, and beauty. The ethical life view is written as two long letters, with a more argumentative and restrained prose, discussing moral responsibility, critical reflection, and marriage.[1] The views of the book are not neatly summarized, but are expressed as lived experiences embodied by the pseudonymous authors. The book's central concern is the primal question asked by Aristotle, "How should we live?"[2] His motto comes from Plutarch, "The deceived is wiser than one not deceived.”[3]

The aesthetic is the personal, subjective realm of existence, where an individual lives and extracts pleasure from life only for his or her own sake. In this realm, one has the possibility of the highest as well as the lowest. The ethical, on the other hand, is the civic realm of existence, where one's value and identity are judged and at times superseded by the objective world. In simple terms, one can choose either to remain oblivious to all that goes on in the world, or to become involved. More specifically, the ethic realm starts with a conscious effort to choose one's life, with a choice to choose. Either way, however, an individual can go too far in these realms and lose sight of his or her true self. Only faith can rescue the individual from these two opposing realms. Either/Or concludes with a brief sermon hinting at the nature of the religious sphere of existence, which Kierkegaard spent most of his publishing career expounding upon. Ultimately, Kierkegaard's challenge is for the reader to "discover a second face hidden behind the one you see"[4] in him/herself first, and then in others:


  • Historical context 1
  • Structure 2
  • Either 3
    • Diapsalmata 3.1
    • The Immediate Stages of the Erotic, or Musical Erotic 3.2
    • Essays read before the Symparanekromenoi 3.3
    • The First Love 3.4
    • Crop Rotation: An Attempt at a Theory of Social Prudence 3.5
    • Diary of a Seducer 3.6
  • Or 4
  • Discourses and sequel 5
  • Themes 6
  • Interpretation 7
    • Existential interpretation 7.1
    • Christian Interpretation 7.2
    • Kantian interpretation 7.3
    • Biographical interpretation 7.4
  • Reception 8
    • Early reception 8.1
    • Later reception 8.2
  • References 9
    • Primary references 9.1
    • Secondary references and notes 9.2
  • External links 10

Historical context

After writing and defending his dissertation On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841), Kierkegaard left Copenhagen in October 1841 to spend the winter in Berlin. The main purpose of this visit was to attend the lectures by the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, who was an eminent figure at the time. The lectures turned out to be a disappointment for many in Schelling's audience, including Mikhail Bakunin and Friedrich Engels, and Kierkegaard described it as "unbearable nonsense".[5] During his stay, Kierkegaard worked on the manuscript for Either/Or, took daily lessons to perfect his German and attended operas and plays, particularly by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He returned to Copenhagen in March 1842 with a draft of the manuscript, which was completed near the end of 1842 and published in February 1843.

According to a journal entry from 1846, Either/Or "was written lock, stock, and barrel in eleven months",[6][7] although a page from the "Diapsalmata" section in the 'A' volume was written before that time.

The title Either/Or is an affirmation of Aristotelian logic, particularly as modified by Johann Gottlieb Fichte[8] and Immanuel Kant. Is the question, "Who am I?" a scientific question or one for the single individual to answer for him or her self?

Fichte wrote in The Science of Knowledge “The question has been asked, What was I before I became self-conscious? The answer is, I was not at all, for I was not I. The Ego is only in so far as it is conscious of itself. …. The proposition not A is not A will doubtless be recognized by every one as certain, and it is scarcely to be expected that any one will ask for its proof. If, however, such a proof were possible, it must in our system be deduced from the proposition A=A. But such a proof is impossible.”[9]

Hegel giving a speech
In Aristotle's laws of classical logic for being static, rather than dynamic and becoming, and had replaced it with his own dialectical logic. Hegel formulated addendums for Aristotle's laws:[10][11][12][13][14]
  • Law of identity is inaccurate because a thing is always more than itself
  • Law of excluded middle is inaccurate because a thing can be both itself and many others
  • Law of non-contradiction is inaccurate because everything in existence is both itself and not itself
Kierkegaard spoke of Hegel's Logic metaphorically in 1844:

Kierkegaard argues that Hegel's philosophy dehumanized life by denying personal freedom and choice through the neutralization of the 'either/or'. The dialectic structure of becoming renders existence far too easy, in Hegel's theory, because conflicts are eventually mediated and disappear automatically through a natural process that requires no individual choice other than a submission to the will of the Idea or Geist. Kierkegaard saw this as a denial of true selfhood and instead advocated the importance of personal responsibility and choice-making.[13][14][15]


The book is the first of Kierkegaard's works written pseudonymously, a practice he employed during the first half of his career.[16][17] In this case, four pseudonyms are used:

  • "Victor Eremita" - the fictional compiler and editor of the texts, which he claims to have found in an antique escritoire.
  • "A" - the moniker given to the fictional author of the first text ("Either") by Victor Eremita, whose real name he claims not to have known.
  • "Judge Vilhelm" - the fictional author of the second text ("Or").
  • "Johannes" - the fictional author of a section of 'Either' titled "The Diary of a Seducer" and Cordelia his lover .[1]


The first volume, the "Either", describes the "aesthetic" phase of existence. It contains a collection of papers, found by 'Victor Eremita' and written by 'A', the "aesthete."[5][14]

The aesthete, according to Kierkegaard's model, will eventually find himself in "despair", a psychological state (explored further in Kierkegaard's The Concept of Anxiety and The Sickness Unto Death) that results from a recognition of the limits of the aesthetic approach to life. Kierkegaard's "despair" is a somewhat analogous precursor of existential angst. The natural reaction is to make an eventual "leap" to the second phase, the "ethical," which is characterized as a phase in which rational choice and commitment replace the capricious and inconsistent longings of the aesthetic mode. Ultimately, for Kierkegaard, the aesthetic and the ethical are both superseded by a final phase which he terms the "religious" mode. This is introduced later in Fear and Trembling.


The first section of Either is a collection of many tangential aphorisms, epigrams, anecdotes and musings on the aesthetic mode of life. The word 'diapsalmata' is related to 'psalms', and means "refrains". It contains some of Kierkegaard's most famous and poetic lines, such as "What is a poet?", "Freedom of Speech" vs. "Freedom of Thought", the "Unmovable chess piece", the tragic clown, and the laughter of the gods.[18]

If one were to read these as written they would show a constant movement from the outer poetic experience to the inner experience of humor. The movement from the outer to the inner is a theme in Kierkegaard's works.

The Immediate Stages of the Erotic, or Musical Erotic

Don Juan and the Commander[19]
An essay discussing the idea that music expresses the spirit of sensuality. 'A' evaluates Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, as well as Goethe's Faust. 'A' has taken upon himself the task of proving, through the works of Mozart, that "music is a higher, or more spiritual art, than language". During this process he develops the three stages of the musical-erotic.[20] Here he makes the distinction between a seducer like Don Juan, who falls under aesthetic categories, and Faust, who falls under ethical categories. "The musical Don Juan enjoys the satisfaction of desire; the reflective Don Juan enjoys the deception, enjoys the cunning." Don Juan is split between the esthetic and the ethical. He's lost in the multiplicity of the "1,003 women he has to seduce".[21] Faust seduces just one woman. Kierkegaard is writing deep theology here. He's asking if God seduces 1,003 people at one time or if he seduces one single individual at a time in order to make a believer. He also wrote about seducers in this way:
Achim v. Arnim tells somewhere of a seducer of a very different style, a seducer who falls under ethical categories. About him he uses an expression which in truth, boldness, and conciseness is almost equal to Mozart’s stroke of the bow. He says he could so talk with a woman that, if the devil caught him, he could wheedle himself out of it if he had a chance to talk with the devil’s grandmother. This is the real seducer; the aesthetic interest here is also different, namely: how, the method. There is evidently something very profound here, which has perhaps escaped the attention of most people, in that Faust, who reproduces Don Juan, seduces only one girl, while Don Juan seduced hundreds; but this one girl is also, in an intensive sense, seduced and crushed quite differently from all those Don Juan has deceived, simply because Faust, as reproduction, falls under the category of the intellectual. The power of such a seducer is speech, i.e., the lie.
A few days ago I heard one soldier talking to another about a third who had betrayed a girl; he did not give a long-winded description, and yet his expression was very pithy: “He gets away with things like that by lies and things like that.” Such a seducer is of quite a different sort from Don Juan, is essentially different from him, as one can see from the fact that he and his activities are extremely unmusical, and from the aesthetic standpoint come within the category of the interesting. The object of his desire is accordingly, when one rightly considers him aesthetically, something more than the mere sensuous. But what is this force, then by which Don Juan seduces? It is desire, the energy of sensuous desire. He desires in every woman, the whole of womanhood, and therein lies the sensuously idealizing power with which he at once embellishes and overcomes his prey. The reaction beautifies and develops the one desired, who flushes in enhanced beauty by its reflection. As the enthusiast’s fire with seductive splendor illumines even those who stand in a casual relation to him, so Don Juan transfigures in a far deeper sense every girl, since his relation to her is an essential one. Therefore all finite differences fade away before him in comparison with the main thing: being a woman. He rejuvenates the older woman into the beautiful middle age of womanhood; he matures the child almost instantly; everything which is woman is his prey (pur che` porti la gonella, voi sapete quel che` fa). Either/Or Part 1, Søren Kierkegaard, 1843, Swenson, 1970 [1944], p. 98-99
Kierkegaard believed the spiritual element was missing in Don Juan's and in Faust's view of life. He wrote the following in 1845.

Essays read before the Symparanekromenoi

Antigone and Polynices
The next three sections are essay lectures from 'A' to the 'Symparanekromenoi', a club or fellowship of the dead who practice the art of writing posthumous papers. The first essay, which discusses ancient and modern tragedy, is called the "Ancient Tragical Motif as Reflected in the Modern". Once again he is writing about the inner and the outer aspects of tragedy. Can remorse be shown on a stage? What about sorrow and pain? Which is easier to portray?[22] He also discusses guilt, sin, fear, compassion, and responsibility in what can be considered a foreshadowing of Fear and Trembling and Repetition.[23] He then writes a modern interpretation of Antigone which leads into The Concept of Anxiety. The second essay, called "Shadowgraphs: A Psychological Pastime", discusses modern heroines, including Mozart's Elvira and Goethe's Gretchen (Margaret). He studies how desire can come to grief in the single individual.

Historically he's asking if one person can bring the inner life of a historical figure into view. Psychologically he's asking if psychologists can really give an accurate picture of the inner world. Religiously he's asking if one person can accurately perceive the inner world of the spirituality of another person. He conducts several thought experiments to see if he can do it.

The third essay, called "The Unhappiest One", discusses the hypothetical question: "who deserves the distinction of being unhappier than everyone else?" Kierkegaard has progressed from a search for the highest[24] to the search for the lowest.[25] Now he wants to find the unhappy person by looking once again to the past. Is it Niobe, or Job, or the father of the prodigal son, or is it Periander,[26] Abraham, or Christ? This is, of course, about the new science of anthropology, which digs up everyone and tells the world if the people were happy or sad.

The First Love

In this volume Kierkegaard examines the concept of 'First Love' as a pinnacle for the aestheticist, using his idiosyncratic concepts of 'closedness' (indesluttethed in Danish) and the 'demonic' (demoniske) with reference to Eugène Scribe. Scribe wanted to create a template for all playwrights to follow. He insisted that people go to plays to escape from reality and not for instruction.[27] Kierkegaard is against any template in the field of literature or of Christianity. He was against systematizing anything in literature because the system brings the artist to a stop and he or she just settles down in the system. Kierkegaard has been writing against reading about love instead of discovering love. Scribe's play is 16 pages long[28] and Kierkegaard writes a 50 page review of the book. He wrote against the practice of reading reviews instead of the actual books themselves.

In his review he goes to the play himself and sees his lover at a play called First Love; for him this is a sign, like a four leaf clover, that she must be the one. But confusion sets in for the poor girl because of mistaken identity. She is unable to make up her mind about love and says, "The first love is the true love, and one loves only once." But Kierkegaard says this is sophistry "because the category first, is at the same time a qualitative and a numerical category." Her first impression of love, when she was eight, has become decisive for her whole life.[29] Now she can love only to a certain degree because she's comparing each new experience with the past experience. Kierkegaard discussed this again in 1845.

Crop Rotation: An Attempt at a Theory of Social Prudence

In agriculture, one rotates the crop to keep the soil fertile and full of nutrients. Crop Rotation in Either/Or refers to the aesthete's need to keep life "interesting", to avoid both boredom and the need to face the responsibilities of an ethical life.

Diary of a Seducer

Written by 'Johannes the Seducer', this volume illustrates how the aesthete holds the "interesting" as his highest value and how, to satisfy his voyeuristic reflections, he manipulates his situation from the boring to the interesting. He will use irony, artifice, caprice, imagination and arbitrariness to engineer poetically satisfying possibilities; he is not so much interested in the act of seduction as in willfully creating its interesting possibility.

Kierkegaard has this seducer speak again in Stages on Life's Way[30] where he explores some of the possibilities and then once more where he tries to explain that misunderstanding can be the root of the unity of the tragic and the comic. "Anyone who, when he is twenty years old, does not understand that there is a categorical imperative — Enjoy — is a fool, and anyone who does not start doing it is a Christiansfelder. .... Our young friend will always remain on the outside. Victor[31] is a fanatic; Constantin has paid too much for his intellect; the Fashion Designer is a madman. All four of you after the same girl will turn out to be a fizzle! Have enough fanaticism to idealize, enough appetite to join in the jolly conviviality of desire, enough understanding to break off in exactly the same way death breaks off, enough rage to want to enjoy it all over again — then one is the favorite of the gods and of the girls."[32]

Kierkegaard has the category of choice and the esthetic as well as the ethical. Both can choose to love each other but the "how" of love is what Kierkegaard is getting at.


The second volume represents the ethical stage. Victor Eremita found a group of letters from a retired Judge Vilhelm or William, another pseudonymous author, to 'A', trying to convince 'A' of the value of the ethical stage of life by arguing that the ethical person can still enjoy aesthetic values. The difference is that the pursuit of pleasure is tempered with ethical values and responsibilities.

  • "The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage": The first letter is about the aesthetic value of marriage and defends marriage as a way of life.
  • "Equilibrium between the Aesthetic and the Ethical in the Development of Personality": The second letter concerns the more explicit ethical subject of choosing the good, or one's self, and of the value of making binding life-choices.
  • "Ultimatium": The volume ends in a discourse on the Upbuilding in the Thought that: against God we are always in the wrong.[33] His spiritual advice for "A" and "B" is that they make peace with each other. Here Kierkegaard quotes from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 19 verses 42 to the end for this discourse.
It's human nature to look to external forces when faced with our own inadequacies but the ethicist is against this. Comparison is an esthetic exercise and has nothing to do with ethics and religion. He says, "Let each one learn what he can; both of us can learn that a person’s unhappiness never lies in his lack of control over external conditions, since this would only make him completely unhappy."[34] He also asks if a person "absolutely in love can know if he is more or less in love than others."[35] He completes this thought later in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript and expands on looking inward in Practice in Christianity.
The ethical and the ethical-religious have nothing to do with the comparative. … All comparison delays, and that is why mediocrity likes it so much and, if possible, traps everyone in it by its despicable friendship among mediocrities. A person who blames others, that they have corrupted him, is talking nonsense and only informs against himself. Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 549-550
Comparison is the most disastrous association that love can enter into; comparison is the most dangerous acquaintance love can make; comparison is the worst of all seductions. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1847), Hong, p. 186
Lord Jesus Christ, our foolish minds are weak; they are more than willing to be drawn-and there is so much that wants to draw us to itself. There is pleasure with its seductive power, the multiplicity with its bewildering distractions, the moment with its infatuating importance and the conceited laboriousness of busyness and the careless time-wasting of light-mindedness and the gloomy brooding of heavy-mindedness-all this will draw us away from ourselves to itself in order to deceive us. But you, who are the truth, only you, Savior and Redeemer, can truly draw a person to yourself, which you have promised to do-that you will draw all to yourself. Then may God grant that by repenting we may come to ourselves, so that you, according to your Word, can draw us to yourself-from on high, but through lowliness and abasement. Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1850 p.157 Hong
Introducing the ethical stage it is moreover unclear if Kierkegaard acknowledges 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, remorse (angeren) seems to be a religious category specifically related to the Christian concept of deliverance.[36] Moreover, Kierkegaard is constant in his point of view that each single individual can become conscious of a higher self than the externally visible human self and embrace the spiritual self in "an eternal understanding".

Discourses and sequel

Along with this work, Kierkegaard published, under his own name, Two Upbuilding Discourses[37] on May 16, 1843 intended to complement Either/Or, "The Expectancy of Faith" and "Every Good and Every Perfect Gift is from Above".[38] Kierkegaard also published another discourse during the printing of the second edition of Either/Or in 1849.[39]

Kierkegaard’s discourse has to do with the difference between wishing and willing in the development of a particular expectancy. "As thought becomes more absorbed in the future, it loses its way in its restless attempt to force or entice an explanation from the riddle." Expectancy always looks to the future and can hope, but regret, which is what Goethe did in his book The Sorrows of Young Werther, closes the door of hope and love becomes unhappy. Kierkegaard points to “faith as the highest” expectancy because faith is something that everyone has, or can have. He says: "The person who wishes it for another person wishes it for himself; the person who wishes it for himself wishes it for every other human being, because that by which another person has faith is not that by which he is different from him but is that by which he is like him; that by which he possesses it is not that by which he is different from others but that by which he is altogether like all."

The characters in Either/Or believe everyone is alike in that everyone has talent or everyone has the conditions that would allow them to live an ethical life. Goethe wanted to love and complained that he couldn’t be loved, but everyone else could be loved. But he wished, he didn’t have an expectancy to work his will to love. Kierkegaard responds to him in this way:

The "Ultimatium" at the end of the second volume of Either/Or hinted at a future discussion of the religious stage in The Two Upbuilding Discourses, "Ask yourself and keep on asking until you find the answer, for one may have known something many times, acknowledged it; one may have willed something many times, attempted it-and yet, only the deep inner motion, only the heart’s indescribable emotion, only that will convince you that what you have acknowledged belongs to you, that no power can take it from you-for only the truth that builds up is truth for you."[40] This discussion is included in Stages on Life's Way (1845). The first two sections revisit and refine the aesthetic and ethical stages elucidated in Either/Or, while the third section, Guilty/Not Guilty is about the religious stage and refers specifically to Goethe's other book, The Autobiography of Goethe: Truth and Poetry, from My Own Life vol 1, 2[41]

In addition to the discourses, one week after Either/Or was published, Kierkegaard published a newspaper article in Fædrelandet, titled "Who Is the Author Of Either/Or?", attempting to create authorial distance from the work, emphasizing the content of the work and the embodiment of a particular way of life in each of the pseudonyms. Kierkegaard, using the pseudonym 'A.F.', writes, "most people, including the author of this article, think it is not worth the trouble to be concerned about who the author is. They are happy not to know his identity, for then they have only the book to deal with, without being bothered or distracted by his personality."[42]


The various essays in Either/Or help elucidate the various forms of aestheticism and ethical existence. Both A and Judge Vilhelm attempt to focus primarily upon the best that their mode of existence has to offer.

Summary of the Stages
Aesthetic Ethical Religious
Defined by immediacy: the failure to reflect seriously upon the nature of one's way of living Defined by critical reflection: able to make and take moral responsibility and accountability for his life choices
Sees the outer existence as more important: The self is entirely subject to external factors Sees the inner existence as more important: The self shapes one's own character, values, inclinations, and personal identity; thus, the self is partially subject to internal factors
Accepts passively that one's life is based entirely upon external factors Willing to take active control of one's life
Tends to avoid commitments, as they see it as boring Commitments, like friendship and marriage, are cornerstones of a responsible ethical way of existence.
Exhaustion of aesthetic pleasure leads to boredom and despair Strives to become a better human being through taking an active role in shaping oneself and one's manner of life.
Three concentric circles: The outer circle is labeled Aesthetic. The middle circle is labeled Ethical. The inner circle is labeled Religious.
Three Stages of Life. Either/Or discusses the aesthetic and ethical stages or spheres. An ethical person is still capable of aesthetic enjoyment. The size of the spheres are for illustrative purposes only.

A fundamental characteristic of the aesthete is immediacy. In Either/Or, there are several levels of immediacy explored, ranging from unrefined to refined. Unrefined immediacy is characterized by immediate cravings for desire and satisfaction through enjoyments that do not require effort or personal cultivation (e.g. alcohol, drugs, casual sex, sloth, etc.) Refined immediacy is characterized by planning how best to enjoy life aesthetically. The "theory" of social prudence given in Crop Rotation is an example of refined immediacy. Instead of mindless hedonistic tendencies, enjoyments are contemplated and "cultivated" for maximum pleasure. However, both the refined and unrefined aesthetes still accept the fundamental given conditions of their life, and do not accept the responsibility to change it. If things go wrong, the aesthete simply blames existence, rather than one's self, assuming some unavoidable tragic consequence of human existence and thus claims life is meaningless.[14] Kierkegaard spoke of immediacy this way in his sequel to Either/Or, Stages on Life's Way,
"The esthetic sphere is the sphere of immediacy, the ethical the sphere of requirement (and this requirement is so infinite that the individual always goes bankrupt), the religious the sphere of fulfillment, but, please note, not a fulfillment such as when one fills an alms box or a sack with gold, for repentance has specifically created a boundless space, and as a consequence the religious contradiction: simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful. Just as the ethical sphere is a passageway-which one nevertheless does not pass through once and for all-just as repentance is its expression, so repentance is the most dialectical. No wonder, then, that one fears it, for if one gives it a finger it takes the whole hand. Just as Jehovah in the Old Testament visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the latest generations, so repentance goes backward, continually presupposing the object of its investigation. In repentance there is the impulse of the motion, and therefore everything is reversed. This impulse signifies precisely the difference between the esthetic and the religious as the difference between the external and the internal." Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life's Way, Hong translation, p. 476-477
Commitment is an important characteristic of the ethicist. Commitments are made by being an active participant in society, rather than a detached observer or outsider. The ethicist has a strong sense of responsibility, duty, honor and respect for his friendships, family, and career.[14] Judge Vilhelm uses the example of marriage as an example of an ethical institution requiring strong commitment and responsibility. Whereas the aesthete would be bored by the repetitive nature of marriage (e.g. married to one person only), the ethicist believes in the necessity of self-denial (e.g. self-denying unmitigated pleasure) in order to uphold one's obligations.[14] Kierkegaard had Judge William speak again in his 1845 book Stages on Life's Way. Here he described the enemies the single individual faces when trying to make a commitment, probability and the outcome.

Kierkegaard stresses the "eternal" nature of marriage and says "something new comes into existence" through the wedding ceremony.[43] The aesthete doesn't see it that way. The aesthete makes a "half hour’s resolution"[44] but the ethical person, and especially the religious person, makes the "good resolution".[45] Someone devoted to pleasure finds it impossible to make this kind of resolution.[46] The ethical and "Christian religious"[47] person make the resolution because they have the will to have a true conception of life and of oneself."[48] A resolution involves change but for the single individual this involves only change in oneself. It never means changing the whole world or even changing the other person.[49]


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. Kierkegaard's role in all this appears to be that he 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 Point of View of My Work as an Author.[50]

Furthermore, Kierkegaard was a close reader of the aesthetic works of
  • Quotations related to Either/Or at Wikiquote

External links

  1. ^ a b Kierkegaard, Søren. The Essential Kierkegaard, edited by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, ISBN 0-691-01940-1
  2. ^ a b c Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Classics, 2nd edition. Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23998-2
  3. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Judge William, Stages on Life's Way p. 88, 119-120 Hong
  4. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 172-173
  5. ^ a b Chamberlin, Jane and Jonathan Rée. The Kierkegaard Reader. Blackwell, Oxford, 0-631-20467-9
  6. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Hong and Hong (ed.) Søren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, Volume 5: Autobiographical, §5931 (p. 340)
  7. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Hong and Hong (ed.) Either/Or Volume 1, Historical Introduction, p. vii
  8. ^ Fichte (1762-1814) wrote against philosophy as a science in his books The Science of Rights and The Science of Knowledge
  9. ^ The Science of Knowledge p. 70-75
  10. ^ "Hegel's Science of Logic". Retrieved 2011-12-27. 
  11. ^
    "From this it is evident that the law of identity itself, and still more the law of contradiction, is not merely of analytic but of synthetic nature. For the latter contains in its expression not merely empty, simple equality-with-self, and not merely the other of this in general, but, what is more, absolute inequality, contradiction per se. But as has been shown, the law of identity itself contains the movement of reflection, identity as a vanishing of otherness. What emerges from this consideration is, therefore, first, that the law of identity or of contradiction which purports to express merely abstract identity in contrast to difference as a truth, is not a law of thought, but rather the opposite of it; secondly, that these laws contain more than is meant by them, to wit, this opposite, absolute difference itself."
    Hegel's Remarks § 883 & 884
  12. ^
    "The law of the excluded middle is also distinguished from the laws of identity and contradiction ... the latter of these asserted that there is nothing that is at once A and not-A. It implies that there is nothing that is neither A nor not-A, that there is not a third that is indifferent to the opposition. But in fact the third that is indifferent to the opposition is given in the law itself, namely, A itself is present in it. This A is neither +A nor -A, and is equally well +A as -A. The something that was supposed to be either -A or not A is therefore related to both +A and not-A; and again, in being related to A, it is supposed not to be related to not-A, nor to A, if it is related to not-A. The something itself, therefore, is the third which was supposed to be excluded. Since the opposite determinations in the something are just as much posited as sublated in this positing, the third which has here the form of a dead something, when taken more profoundly, is the unity of reflection into which the opposition withdraws as into ground."
    Hegel's Remarks § 952–954
  13. ^ a b Beiser, Frederick C. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Cambridge, ISBN 0-521-38711-6
  14. ^ a b c d e f Watts, Michael. Kierkegaard. Oneworld, ISBN 1-85168-317-8
  15. ^ Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 214ff
  16. ^ Magill, Frank N. Masterpieces of World Philosophy. HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-270051-0
  17. ^ Gardiner, Patrick. Kierkegaard: Past Masters. Oxford, ISBN 978-0-19-287642-3
  18. ^ Oden, Thomas C. Parables of Kierkegaard. Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-02053-2.
  19. ^ See Stages on Life's Way, Hong, p. 143-144
  20. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 66ff
  21. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 107, 190-191
  22. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 145-147
  23. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 139-145
  24. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 27 "sleeping is the highest", 32 "A good cut" of meat is the highest, 37-39 "Tautology is the highest law of thought", 46-47 "I will form a sect which not only gives Mozart first place", 59 "sensuousness is first posited in Christianity", 63 "Don Juan deserves the highest place', 68 music is higher than language, 101 "Don Juan is absolutely musical"
  25. ^ 154-156 "Antigone's" "sorrow", 167-168 "grief", 177-178 "deception" which is for love an absolute paradox", 182ff the inability to decide if you've been deceived, 220-221 "unhappy consciousness"
  26. ^ See Søren Kierkegaard, Stages on Life's Way, Hong, p. 323-328
  27. ^ Eugene Scribe e-Notes
  28. ^ Eugene Scribe The First Love, Hathi Trust
  29. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 253
  30. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong, p. 71ff
  31. ^ Victor Eremita's speech begins on p. 56 (Stages on Life's Way) The Young Man speaks as well as the Fashion Designer
  32. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong, p. 73
  33. ^ Kierkegaard repeats this theme often in his writings. The third section of Stages on Life's Way (1845) Hong p. 185ff, Guilty? Not Guilty?, is about a person who can never discover or accept his or her own guilt and the fourth section of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847), The Joy of It That in Relation to God a Person Always Suffers as Guilty Hong p. 265-288, is about the person who "with joy" discovers his or her own guilt and that God still loves him or her.
  34. ^ Either/Or II p. 188 Hong
  35. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, p. 509
  36. ^ Kierkegaard, Søren. Samlede Vaerker. (2), II, p. 190. 1962-1964. Either/Or part II, Hong, p. 224-225
  37. ^ Religious works penned under his own name. Commentary on Kierkegaard, D. Anthony Storm,[1]
  38. ^ Kierkegaard, Søren. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. Princeton, ISBN 0-691-02087-6.
  39. ^ Collected by Princeton University Press in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses
  40. ^ Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 354
  41. ^ Kierkegaard, Søren. Stages on Life's Way, p. 148ff trans. Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-02049-5
  42. ^ D. Anthony on Who is the Author?
  43. ^ Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong, p. 44-47
  44. ^ Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 380-381
  45. ^ Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 102-105, 111-112 and Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong, p. 48
  46. ^ Concluding Upbuilding Discourse, Hong, p. 294
  47. ^ Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 298-299
  48. ^ Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong, p. 52, 58, 63
  49. ^ Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 19-23, Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, Hong, p. 50, Works of Love, Hong 1995 Princeton University Press, p. 7-10, 13-15, 34, 213-218
  50. ^ Kierkegaard, Søren. The Point of View, translated by Howard and Edna Hong, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-05855-9
  51. ^ The Autobiography of Johann Goethe
  52. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, Preface, p. 4-5
  53. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, Preface p. 63, 70-71, 115-116, 37
  54. ^ Either/Or Part I, Swenson, p. 105-110, 118-119
  55. ^ ," (1893) Archive.orThe Ethics of Hegel: Translated Selections from His "Rechtsphilosophie
  56. ^ a b c Davenport, John and Anthony Rudd. Kierkegaard After MacIntyre: Essays on Freedom, Narrative, and Virtue. Open Court Publishing, 2001, ISBN 978-0-8126-9439-0
  57. ^ Green, Ronald M. Kierkegaard and Kant: The Hidden Debt. SUNY Press, Albany, 1992. ISBN 0-7914-1108-7
  58. ^ Kierkegaard is familiar with Hume through the works of
  59. ^ Green, p. 95-98
  60. ^ Green, p.87
  61. ^ "Dr. Scott Moore's Summary of the Diary". Retrieved 2011-12-27. 
  62. ^ Warburton, p.181.
  63. ^ Stages on Life's Way p. 267
  64. ^ Concluding Postscript p. 165-166, Note p. 447
  65. ^ Stages on Life's Way p. 272
  66. ^ a b Garff, Joakim. Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography. Trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse. Princeton, 2005, 0-691-09165-X
  67. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Johannes Hohlenberg, translated by T.H. Croxall, Pantheon Books, Inc. 1954 p. 18-19
  68. ^ Historical Dictionary of Kierkegaard’s Philosophy, By Julie Watkin, Scarecrow Press, 2001 p. 112
  69. ^ Prefaces 47-49, 57-60
  70. ^
  71. ^ , Georg BrandesEminent Authors of the Nineteenth Century Translated from the original [Danish] by Rasmus B. Anderson 1886 p. 344-345
  72. ^ The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James Lecture 6-7 The Sick Soul
  73. ^ , Published 1913 by Greenwood Press, p. 21-22Critical Studies of the New Spirit in LiteratureVoices of To-morrow:
  74. ^ , by August Strindberg; translated by Claud Field in 1914, Chapter X, Torn to Pieces, p. 161ffGrowth of a Soul
  75. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript, p. 298-299
  76. ^ Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Søren Kierkegaard (1847) What Blessed Happiness is Promised in Being a Human Being p. 201ff Hong
  77. ^ Rée, Jonathan and Jane Chamberlain (eds). The Kierkegaard Reader, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001, p.9.
  78. ^ Reply to Mrs. Hess, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 42, No.8, p. 219
  79. ^ A Strange but Stimulating Essay on Music, The Musical Times Vol. 90, No. 1272, p.46, February 1949
  80. ^ Søren Kierkegaard, Johannes Hohlenberg, 1954 p. 159ff
  81. ^ Published in 2006, with Gerd Aage Gillhoff as translator, ISBN 978-0-8264-1847-0
  82. ^ Published in June 1966 by Ungar Pub Co., ISBN 978-0-8044-6357-7
  83. ^ Published in March 1999, by Pushpin Press, translated by Alastair Hannay, ISBN 978-1-901285-23-9
  84. ^ a b Published in August 1997 by Princeton, with an introduction by John Updike, ISBN 978-0-691-01737-2
  85. ^ Historical Dictionary of Scandanvian Literature and Theater
  86. ^ "After Anti-Irrationalism". 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2011-12-27. 

Secondary references and notes

  • Either/Or: A Fragment of Life. Translated by Alastair Hannay, Abridged Version. Penguin, 1992, ISBN 978-0-14-044577-0 (Hannay)
  • Either/Or. Translated by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson. Volume I. Prinecton, 1959, ISBN 0-691-01976-2 (Swenson)
  • Kierkegaard's Writings, III, Part I: Either/Or. Part I. Translated by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, 1988, ISBN 978-0-691-02041-9 (Hong)
  • Kierkegaard's Writings, IV, Part II: Either/Or. Part II. Translated by Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, 1988, ISBN 978-0-691-02042-6 (Hong)

Primary references


In contemporary times, Either/Or received new life as a grand philosophical work with the publication of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue (1981), where MacIntyre situates Either/Or as an attempt to capture the Enlightenment spirit set forth by David Hume and Immanuel Kant. After Virtue renewed Either/Or as an important ethical text in the Kantian vein, as mentioned previously. Although MacIntyre accuses Victor Eremita of failing to provide a criterion for one to adopt an ethical way of life, many scholars have since replied to MacIntyre's accusation in Kierkegaard After MacIntyre.[56][86]

Many authors were interested in separating the esthetic, the ethical and the religious but it may have been, as far as Kierkegaard was concerned, of more importance for the single individual to have a way to decide when one was becoming dominant over the other two. Henrik Stangerup, (1937-1998) a Danish writer, wrote three books as a way to illustrate Kierkegaard's three stages of existence, 1981, The Road to Lagoa Santa, which was about Kierkegaard's brother-in-law Peter Wilhelm Lund (the ethicist), 1985 The Seducer: It Is Hard to Die in Dieppe, Peder Ludvig Moller was the esthetic in that novel, and in 1991 Brother Jacob which describes Søren Kierkegaard as a Franciscan monk.[85]

Johannes Edouard Hohlenberg wrote a biography about Søren Kierkegaard in 1954 and in that book he speculated that the Diary of the Seducer was meant to depict the life of P.L. Moller who later (1845) wrote the articles in The Corsair detrimental to the character of Kierkegaard.[80] The Diary of a Seducer by itself, is a provocative novella, and has been reproduced separately from Either/Or several times.[81][82][83][84] John Updike said of the Diary, "In the vast literature of love, The Seducer's Diary is an intricate curiosity – a feverishly intellectual attempt to reconstruct an erotic failure as a pedagogic success, a wound masked as a boast".[84]

Thomas Henry Croxall was impressed by 'As thoughts on music in the essay, "The Immediate Stages of the Erotic, or Musical Erotic". Croxall argues that "the essay should be taken seriously by a musician, because it makes one think, and think hard enough to straighten many of one's ideas; ideas, I mean, not only on art, but on life" and goes on to discuss the psychological, existential, and musical value of the work.[79]

Although Either/Or was Kierkegaard's first major book, it was one of his last books to be translated into English, as late as 1944.[77] Frederick DeW. Bolman, Jr. insisted that reviewers consider the book in this way: "In general, we have a right to discover, if we can, the meaning of a work as comprehensive as Either/Or, considering it upon its own merits and not reducing the meaning so as to fit into the author's later perspective. It occurred to me that this was a service to understanding Kierkegaard, whose esthetic and ethical insights have been much slighted by those enamored of his religion of renunciation and transcendence. ... Kierkegaard's brilliance seems to me to be showing that while goodness, truth, and beauty can not speculatively be derived one from another, yet these three are integrally related in the dynamics of a healthy character structure".[78]

Later reception

his own Either/Or. [76] (1847). He learned to chooseUpbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits and then described what he had learned about himself and about being a Christian beginning with (1843-1846) in the first part of his authorship [75] about devoting himself completely to aesthetics or developing a balance between the aesthetic and the ethical and going on to an ethical/Christian religious existencedouble-mindedness: Kierkegaard put an end to his own Either/Or This is how he described [74] might have led him closer to Christianity but he didn't know if he could come back to something "which had been torn out, and joyfully thrown into the fire". However after reading the book he "felt sinful". Then another writer began to influence his life.discourses." He then states that Kierkegaard's Philistine were the author himself, who satisfied his desires in imagination". Part II was his "Discourse on Life as a Duty, and when he reached the end of the work he found the moral philosopher in despair, and that all this teaching about duty had only produced a Don Juan: "it was valid only for the priests who called themselves Christians and the seducer and Either—Or published posthumously in 1913 about Kierkegaard’s Growth of a Soul. He wrote the following in categorical imperative where Kierkegaard developed his Either/Or Part II Strindberg was obviously attracted to [73] must be subservient to life, and that life itself must be lived as we know best, chiefly because we are part of it and cannot escape from its promptings.”knowledge and art and this book made him “forever a champion of the ethical as juxtaposed to the aesthetic life conception and he always remained faithful to the idea that Either/Or was familiar with August Strindberg
August Strindberg (1849-1910)
If a person whose life has been tried in some crucial difficulty has a friend and sometime later he is unable to retain the past clearly, if anxiety creates confusion, and if accusing thoughts assail him with all their might as he works his way back, then he may go to his friend and say, “My soul is sick so that nothing will become clear to me, but I confided everything to you; you remember it, so please explain the past to me again.” But if a person has no friend, he presumably goes to God if under other circumstances he has confided something to him, if in the hour of decision he called God as witness when no one understood him. And the one who went to his friend perhaps was not understood at times, perhaps was filled with self-loathing, which is even more oppressive, upon discovering that the one to whom he had confided his troubles had not understood him at all, even though he had listened, had not sensed what was making him anxious, but had only an inquisitive interest in his unusual encounter with life. But this would never happen with God; who would dare to venture to think this of God, even if he is cowardly enough to prefer to forget God-until he stands face-to-face with the judge, who passes judgment on him but not on the one who truly has God as a witness, because where God is the judge, there is indeed no judge if God is the witness. It by no means follows that a person’s life becomes easy because he learns to know God in this way. On the contrary, it can become very hard; it may become more difficult than the contemptible easiness of sensate human life, but in this difficulty life also acquires ever deeper and deeper meaning. Søren Kierkegaard, Four Upbuilding Discourses August 31, 1844 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 324)
, Søren Kierkegaard, 1847, Hong, p. 19 Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits is inwardly changed. It is indeed like changing one’s clothes to divest oneself of multiplicity in order to make up one’s mind about one thing, to interrupt the pace of busy activity in order to put on the repose of contemplation in unity with oneself. And this unity with oneself is the celebration’s simple festive dress that is the condition of admittance. confessionJust as a man changes his clothes for celebration, so a person preparing for the holy act of
When a person turns and faces himself in order to understand himself, he steps, as it were, in the way of that first self, halts that which was turned outward in hankering for and seeking after the surrounding world that is its object, and summons it back from the external. In order to prompt the first self to this withdrawal, the deeper self lets the surrounding world remain what it is-remain dubious. This is indeed the way it is; the world around us is inconstant and can be changed into the opposite at any moment, and there is not one person who can force this change by his own might or by the conjuration of his wish. The deeper self now shapes the deceitful flexibility of the surrounding world in such a way that it is no longer attractive to the first self. Then the first self either must proceed to kill the deeper self, to render it forgotten, whereby the whole matter is given up; or it must admit that the deeper self is right, because to want to predicate constancy of something that continually changes is indeed a contradiction, and as soon as one confesses that it changes, it can of course, change in that same moment. However much that first self shrinks from this, there is no wordsmith so ingenious or no thought-twister so wily that he can invalidate the deeper self’s eternal claim. There is only one way out, and that is to silence the deeper self by letting the roar of inconstancy drown it out. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 1845, Hong translation, p. 314
Now he discovers that the self he chooses has a boundless multiplicity within itself inasmuch as it has a history, a history in which he acknowledges identity with himself. This history is of a different kind, for in this history he stands in relation to other individuals in the race, and to the whole race, and this history contains painful things, and yet he is the person he is only through this history. That is why it takes courage to choose oneself, for at the same time as he seems to be isolating himself most radically he is most radically sinking himself into the root by which he is bound up with the whole. This makes him uneasy, and yet it must be so, for when the passion of freedom is aroused in him-and it is aroused in the choice just as it presupposes itself in the choice-he chooses himself and struggles for this possession as for his salvation, and it is his salvation. Either/Or Part II, Hong, p. 216
Anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit, and as such it has its place in psychology. Awake, the difference between myself and my other is posited; sleeping, it is suspended; dreaming, it is an intimated nothing. The actuality of the spirit constantly shows itself as a form that tempts its possibility but disappears as soon as it seeks to grasp for it, and it is a nothing that can only bring anxiety. More it cannot do as long as it merely shows itself. The concept of anxiety is almost never treated in psychology. Therefore, I must point out that it is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of possibility. For this reason, anxiety is not found in the beast, precisely because by nature the beast is not qualified as spirit. The Concept of Anxiety, Nichol p. 42
You are outside yourself and therefore cannot do without the other as opposition; you believe that only a restless spirit is alive, and all who are experienced believe that only a quiet spirit is truly alive. For you a turbulent sea is a symbol of life; for me it is the quiet, deep water. Either/Or Part II p. 144, Hong
[72] where he wrote, "the man must die to an unreal life before he can be born into the real life."The Sick Soul echoed Kierkegaard in his lecture on William James, 1847. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, August 31, 1844, and once again in Four Upbuilding Discourses, June 17, 1844, and then in his The Concept of AnxietyKierkegaard later referred to his concept of choosing yourself as the single individual in
A third significant feature in [Rousseau’s] La Nouvelle Heloise is that, just as we have passion in place of gallantry and inequality of station in place of similarity of rank, we have also the moral conviction of the sanctity of marriage in place of that honour grounded on aristocratic pride and self-respect, which stood for virtue in fashionable literature. This word, Virtue, little in vogue until now, became with Rousseau and his school a watchword which was in perfect harmony with their other watchword, Nature; for to Rousseau virtue was a natural condition. Following the example of society, French literature had been making merry at the expense of marriage; Rousseau, therefore, defied the spirit of the times by writing a book in its honour. His heroine returns the passion of her lover, but marries another, to whom she remains faithful. Here, as in Werther the lover proper loses the maiden, who is wedded to a Monsieur Wolmar (the Albert of Werther and the Edward of Kierkegaard's Diary of a Seducer), a man as irreproachable as he is uninteresting. The moral conviction which is vindicated and glorified in Rousseau as Virtue, is the same as that which in Chateaubriand, under the influence of the religious reaction, takes the form of a binding religious vow. Georg Morris Cohen Brandes, Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature Vol. 1 (1906), p. 16-17
Next to Adam Homo,the most interesting work of Paludan-Muller is Kalanus. It is the positive expression of his ideal, as Adam Homo is the negative. Nowhere is his intellectual tendency more akin to the negative bent of his great contemporary Kierkegaard than in this work. The problem which Kalanus endeavors to solve is precisely the same as the one whose solution Kierkegaard attacked in his Either-Or (Enten-Eller), namely, that of contrasting two personalities, one of whom is the direct representative of innate genius, of the pleasure-loving, extremely energetic view of life; and the other the incarnation of ethical profundity and moral grandeur, allowing them to struggle and contend, and convincing the reader of the decisive defeat of the purely natural views of life. With Kierkegaard the two opposing modes of contemplation of life are represented by a follower of aesthetics, and a judge of the supreme court, with Paludan-Muller by celebrated names in history; no less a man than the conqueror of the world, Alexander the Great, represents in Kalanus the aesthetic view of life, and the opponent allotted to him is the philosopher Kalanus. The ideal situation in the presentation of the intellectual wrestling-match of this sort would be that the author should succeed in equipping the contending parties with an equal degree of excellency. The actual situation, in this case, is that with Kierkegaard the representative of aesthetics is lavishly endowed with intellectual gifts, while the endowments of the representative of ethics, on the other hand, appear somewhat wooden and weak; and that with Paluden-Muller, on the contrary, the representative of ethics is no less intellectual than inspired, a man of the purest spiritual beauty, while the great Alexander is not placed upon the pinnacle of his historic fame.[71]
. Sorrows of Young Werther and with Goethe's Julie, or the New Heloise with Rousseau's Diary of the Seducer, which was translated into English at that time. Later, in 1906, he compared Kierkegaard's Eminent Authors of the Nineteenth Century in Kalanus Frederik Paludan-Müller'sIn 1886

Johan Ludvig Heiberg, a prominent Hegelian, at first criticized the aesthetic section, Either (Part I), then he had much better things to say about Or, Part II.[67] Julie Watkin said "Kierkegaard replied to Heiberg in The Fatherland as Victor Eremita, blaming Heiberg for not reading the preface to Either/Or which would have given him the key to the work."[68] Kierkegaard later used his book Prefaces to publicly respond to Heiberg and Hegelianism.[69] He also published a short article, Who is the Author of Either/Or?, a week after the publication of Either/Or itself.[70]

Johan Ludvig Heiberg (1791-1860)

Either/Or established Kierkegaard's reputation as a respected author.[66] Henriette Wulff, in a letter to Hans Christian Andersen, wrote, "Recently a book was published here with the title Either/Or! It is supposed to be quite strange, the first part full of Don Juanism, skepticism, et cetera, and the second part toned down and conciliating, ending with a sermon that is said to be quite excellent. The whole book attracted much attention. It has not yet been discussed publicly by anyone, but it surely will be. It is actually supposed to be by a Kierkegaard who has adopted a pseudonym...."[66]

Early reception


(1845). Stages on Life's Way both her and himself like this in [65] He thought this to be a difficulty she needed to surpass and diagnosed[64].Juliet and another [63]"Much Ado about Nothing at the theater. One day she would be "Beatrice in ShakespeareYet, Kierkegaard was concerned about Regine because she tended to assume the life-view of characters she saw in the plays of

From a purely literary and historical point of view, Either/Or can be seen as a thinly veiled autobiography of the events between Kierkegaard and his ex-fianceé Regine Olsen. Johannes the Seducer in The Diary of a Seducer treats the object of his affection, Cordelia, much as Kierkegaard treats Regine: befriending her family, asking her to marry him, and breaking off the engagement.[61] Either/Or, then, could be the poetic and literary expression of Kierkegaard's decision between a life of sensual pleasure, as he had experienced in his youth, or a possibility of marriage and what social responsibilities marriage might or ought to entail.[2] Ultimately however, Either/Or stands philosophically independent of its relation to Kierkegaard's life.[62]

Portrait of a young lady. She is wearing a dress under a coat. She is looking to the left, somewhat smiling.
Regine Olsen, a muse for Kierkegaard's writings.

Biographical interpretation

However, other scholars think Kierkegaard adopts Kantian themes in order to criticize them,[56] while yet others think that although Kierkegaard adopts some Kantian themes, their final ethical positions are substantially different. Either/Or), the bifurcation between his ethics of self-becoming and Kant's formalistic, meta-empirical ethics is, mutatis mutandis, complete ... Since radical individuation, specificity, inwardness, and the development of subjectivity are central to Kierkegaard's existential ethics, it is clear, essentially, that the spirit and intention of his practical ethics is divorced from the formalism of Kant."[60]

Summary of Kantian Themes in Either/Or
Immanuel Kant Judge Vilhelm
"The ethical is the universal" When acting on a maxim of mutual aid, one must mentally "create" a world with its own type of humanity and existence An ethical choice requires one to convert to a "universal man" or model of "essential humanity"
"Moral judgments cannot be private or privileging" Universalization of maxims; Distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives "earthly love is ... partiality; spiritual love has no partialities"
"Ethical laws are universally known and applicable" Derived from a priori principle of reason Criticizes "freethinkers" who attempt to prove ethical relativity
"Rationality determines moral protection" Must respect rational beings as "ends in themselves" "[each person] even though he were a hired servant ... has his teleology in himself."
"Happiness as a supreme end" Happiness as a universal maxim is unstable as a universal law Private pursuit of happiness is unsociable
Portrait of an elder man. He is wearing a coat, with a necktie. He is looking to the bottom left, in a serious manner.
Either/Or can be seen as endorsing Kantian ethics.

A recent way to interpret Either/Or is to read it as an applied Kantian text. Scholars for this interpretation include Alasdair MacIntyre[56] and Ronald M. Green.[57] In After Virtue, MacIntyre claims Kierkegaard is continuing the Enlightenment project set forward by Hume and Kant.[58] Green notes several points of contact with Kant in Either/Or:[59]

Kantian interpretation

. Philosophical Fragments to Concluding Unscientific Postscript were neatly summed up in his existence it to be. So Kierkegaard says to leave it all to God. The three spheres of imaginedKierkegaard, speaking in the voice of the upbuilding discourse at the end, says they are both wrong. They're both trying to find God in a childish way. Whatever they relate to in an external way will never make them happy or give them meaning. Art, science, dogma and ethics constantly change. We all want to be in the right and never in the wrong. Once we find what we desire we find that it wasn't what we

"B" argues with "A". He says ethics are the highest. "A" wants to remain a mystery to himself but "B" says it's the meaning of life to become open to yourself. It's more important to know yourself than historical persons. The more you know about yourself the more you can find your eternal validity. God will bless the most ethical person. Each one knows what's best for the other but neither knows what's best for himself.

The whole book can be viewed as the struggle individuals go through as they attempt to find meaning in their lives. Victor Eremita bought a secretary (desk), which was something external, and said, "a new period of your life must begin with the acquisition of the secretary".[52] "A" desires the absolute highest. He can find no meaning in his life until he begins to study. He writes letters for the dead like the historians do. He's trying to find God by studying the past as Hegel did. Don Juan seduces him away from God and Faust robs him of his innocent faith through the power of language. For him, tautology is the highest realm of thought.[53] He's someone who is in complete "conflict with his environment" because he is relating himself to externals.[54]

Christian Interpretation

in 1846. Concluding Postscript as he points out in Either/Or. However, it is not the same as Either/Or is considered a direct sequel to Stages on Life's WayHowever, the aesthetic and the ethical ways of life are not the only ways of living. Kierkegaard continues to flesh out other stages in further works, and the


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