We’re reading the second half of “The Balance Between the Esthetic and the Ethical in the Development of the Personality” from Vol. 2 of Either/Or (1843).
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This is a direct continuation from ep. 331, which we felt gave us more than enough critique of the aesthetic life, but not enough of K’s picture of the alternative, which is formation of a coherent self that is somehow affirmed “absolutely,” both connecting us with God and yet also placing us firmly in time (unlike the Romantics, whose wish to merge with God places them supposedly outside of time). In practical terms, this means making real life commitments, including probably marriage, definitely friends, and certainly a job.
Given that I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, and I just watched a Christmas Carol, I’ll venture that Scrooge’s conversion might be exactly the kind of thing that Kierkegaard has in mind: Driven to see the emptiness of a small, personally directed life, Scrooge decides to make his business the welfare of the human race, to see himself not as self-interested but as someone whose life will only have meaning if it resounds beyond his own lifespan. He throws himself open to the judgment of the herd, no longer clinging to a narrow sense of superior self-righteousness. What do you think?
Our rather long Kierkegaard arc starts with ep. 329.
Image by Genevieve Arnold.