Continuing from part one on “The Balance Between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality.”
Kierkegaard’s polemicist Judge William begins this part by criticizing (Hegelian) philosophy as being too abstract and not providing concrete guidance to people.
The ethical point of view, on the other hand, as Kierkegaard conceives of it, is all about how to build yourself in an optimal way. A chief component of being autonomous and free is to not put your sense of value in anything external: not the results of your actions (Recall that Kant focuses on “the good will,” i.e. intentions), not the success of your artworks or whatever, certainly not pleasures or wealth or fame, and not even the presence of God. As well discuss in episode 332, this requires that the ethical individual understand ethics as something internal (again, for Kant, ethics is a matter of self-legislation), not as a set of external rules that you’re trying to conform to.
Kierkegaard describes the despair of the aesthete as a step that motivates the fundamental leap to becoming an ethical individual, and in part three of this discussion, we’ll talk in more detail about the steps we outline here by which despair deepens and prepares us for transcendence.
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