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Manheimer, Ronald J. Kierkegaard as educator

: Ronald J. Manheimer

Manheimer, Ronald J.
Kierkegaard as educator
Berkely, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, c.1977. XVI, 218 p.

Pp. XI-XVI, 3-6, 61-65, 114-127.


Introduction

Kierkegaard employed a variety of styles and a host of pseud­onyms to engage the interest of his readers. He published, simultaneously, religious, philosophical, psychological, and even humorous books and all within incredibly short periods. To the concerned reader, this many sided authorship can seem bafflingly complex, involving him in an intricate and subtle dialectic of viewpoints. Kierkegaards authorship em­bodies a multiplicity of voices aimed to reach the concrete reality of the reader as existing in the midst of a way of life. Like a good novelist Kierkegaard strives not only to depict but to project forms of life that reach out to the reader a reader recognized as one whose wholeness of being is itself made up of a plurality of dimensions of experience and meaning. The individuals being is his activity as a person in proc­ess of integrating complex forces into a unity. An authorship that recognizes that the being of the individual is in his becoming, will require of itself appropriate forms of communication. The wealth of forms of communication distinguishes Kierkegaard as a brilliant stylist.

But his style is not merely ornamental or rhetorical, it is a movement of thought in language designed to enable the reader to make use of his own capabilities for personal appropriation. Thus, by drawing the reader reflectively out into the light of personal possibility, Kierkegaards authorship is an educative one. By reflecting back upon itself the very difficulty of this process, his is a doubly reflective authorship whose educative function points to the possibilities and limits of what it means to educate.

Kierkegaard is not usually associated with a particular sys­tem or philosophy of education. He has, in fact, written comparatively little in the way of direct commentary on the content of education. But, through his authorship, he has sought to educate the reader indirectly through conjoining the what and the how of existence by interrelating the content and the form of his communication.

He stands in the tradition of great teachers such as Socrates, Augustine, Pascal, Nietzche, and Wittgenstein for whom saying is also, ideally, a form of doing, and for whom doing means to awaken the individual to possibilities of self-transformation. Unique to this tradi­tion of thinkers who could communicate possibility is the intense, often passionate awareness of the forms that lan­guage must take if it is to speak to the inner person.

Corre­spondingly, common to such thinkers is the knowledge that to bring a person to his own possibilities requires simultaneously to bring him to consciousness of his limitations.

Socrates does this through the irony that exposes the individual to his own ignorance. Only by first arriving at the impasse of self-contradiction does the person identify difficulties that can become points of departure for self-discovery.

The same could be said of the others, however differently they approach the individual and bring him to the initiation of self-inquiry. Strangely, the more evident the content of such transformations in these thinkers, to that extent are their methods of enabling us increasingly opaque. And this is equally true of Kierkegaards ability to educate.

Perhaps it will seem confusing to use the word "educate" in relationship to Kierkegaards authorship, since, most com­monly, education refers to institutionally related learning in which knowledge gets transferred from teacher to student. Someone might urge us that the term education as used here might better be replaced by something like self-discovery or self-actualization. Furthermore, it is true that Kierkegaard would have disdained being called an educator as he would have understood the term.

Nevertheless, the value of Kierke­gaards many sided authorship, with its increasingly interiorized forms of address, is precisely that it brings into ques­tion fundamental assumptions about a range of educative intentions.

These intentions to educate may vary from the formal classroom situation to the informal conversations of friends, lovers, and colleagues. Whenever one person turns to another in anticipation of playing a role in that persons development (becoming), there is the intention to educate.

The word educate, in the context of this book, may mean to enable, to help, to awaken, or even to edify. Hopefully the reader can tolerate this degree of generality. It is done for the sake of illuminating what is common to intentions to educate and for the sake of evoking fundamental assumptions related to acts furthering possibilities of human development.

The educative possibilities of Kierkegaards authorship have attracted many scholars and students into their depths... Still, it is important to remember that Kierkegaard regarded his authorship as his own education...

This book, about the education of possibility and the confrontation with limits, will explicate, discuss, and evoke a dialectic of education in Kierkegaards many sided authorship. In it I will not try to explain the function of all the pseudonyms and how, taken together, they constitute a single plan, nor will I reveal much about Kierkegaards equally complicated life. Instead, in a threefold approach, I will be engaged with aspects of the authorship having to do with education, communication, and language as they involve possibilities and limits of self-transformation and as the authorship itself reflects these themes back upon itself. I feel that I owe it to the reader to make this enterprise as clear as possible from the outset since it will be easy to get lost (hope­fully to good avail) once under way. Furthermore, since this book has no final conclusory chapter, I would like to share my incomplete conclusions with the reader right from the start, that these may serve the reader to find his bearing and hold it throughout the meanderings of this voyage.

This book traces Kierkegaards authorship to three limits. First, in Part I, it follows a series of interpretations of the Socratic educator. Increasingly, Kierkegaard carne to see a deepened human act in the possibilities that could be shared between teacher and learner, between man and man; I call these his "Socratic postures." The way in which Kierkegaard understands the stance of the teacher and the situation of the learner parallels the strategy of his different forms of dis­course. Intrinsic to this design of the limit Kierkegaard him­self designates for what can occur between human beings, and what can occur only between a man and his God. But while there may be limits or boundaries between human and divine education, the conceptions of these bear significantly upon one another. Two teachers, Socrates and Christ, draw closer together in Kierkegaards understanding of educating possibility. While at least three versions of Socratic postures emerge in Part I, the conclusion I come to is that the authorship, taken as Kierkegaards dialectic of education, remains poised at the threshold where the Socratic and Christian meet. This meeting does serve to sustain the dialectic. But it also leaves us with a question: Must Kierkegaard always stand indirectly related to the reader through the deceptive guise of his Socratic smile? Correspondingly, must the one who teachers, who enables the learner, always remain remote from the shared possibilities of reciprocal responsibility?

I do not think that l ever finally answer the question of Kierkegaardian limits. Yet each of the three parts of this book moves precisely toward the same issue. The second part begins as if from the beginning again by entering into the dia­lectic of possibility which makes Kierkegaards early and popular book, Either/Or, a drama of education. While Part I approaches a Socratic education through historical and con­ceptual issues such as Hegels interpretation of Socrates, the concept of becoming, Socratic irony, comic consciousness and the notion of the witness, Part II explores the dramatic character of Either/Ors two antiheroes, known only to us as a and b (though b is sometimes referred to as Judge William). Kierkegaard gets two radically different ways of life mirrored into one another without resolving these reflections into a single image. The inconclusiveness of Either/Or tends to draw the reader in as adjudicator between a and a, only to mirror the reader back upon himself. Some readers of this book may find Part II a more accessible entry point and they are invited to begin there.

Part II focuses on the role of moral education as one that calls for self-transformation through the act of choosing oneself." This imperative, "Choose yourself," is addressed by b to his younger contemporary, the melancholy and poetic a. It is b who introduces the notion that mythology, history, and human individuation can be divided into stages of development expressive of life attitudes. The important role played by a theory of life stages as conceived by the moral educator is extended beyond the explicit scope of Kierkegaards dialec­tic of education. How one perceives his own and others de­velopment may help or hinder his ability to participation in that life process. Out of the context of Either/Or, the helpers need to help is examined. While again there is no one final conclusion to Part II, the issues are, I believe, sharpened. The intention to educate, which now includes an awareness of life stages, is reformulated according to a theory ot "positional" and "situational" consciousness".

Life stages reveal the individual as fundamentally rooted in a way of life. The communication across and between ways of life becomes the focus of Part Ill. The thesis and theme of Part III is That to enable is to communicate possibility. We do not exactly start over again but now draw on Parts I and II to crystallize the educative dialectic of possibility and limit as communicating interpretations of existence. In this third the­matic exploration, the emergent picture of human develop­ment is transformed, as Kierkegaard transformed it, into a theory of the variety of human discourse. To educate as to communicate possibility is searched out in Kierkegaards dia­lectic of communication.

Edification, metaphorical speech, the language of love and its limits form the context where the boundaries of Kierkegaards teaching and authorship are again critically encountered. In his doctrine of the love of the neighbor we can see Kierkegaards whole authorship in retro­spect. The same problem remains. When does it become appropriate for the dialectic of possibility to become actual­ized in the mutual accessibility of true reciprocity? While the work ends with this question still posed, one general conclusion may be stated. Kierkegaards authorship has much to teach us about self-knowledge, about writing and speech, about communication that transforms us as both speakers and listeners, as authors and interpreters. His work stands as a momentous contribution especially for those whose vocation involves the intention to educate, where educating takes place fundamentally through language - through the communication of possibility.
Preface

In order to understand Kierkegaard as educator it is necessary to follow his interpretation of Socrates. The character of Socrates and those exhibited principles that we call the Socratic were of the utmost concern to Kierkegaard in formulating his position as thinker, author, and religious individual. In Socrates the activities of educating, thinking, and doing were united. He was for Kierkegaard the paradigm of that fully human being whom Kierkegaard would call Hiin Enkelte, "the individual". In his understanding and depiction of Socrates Kierkegaard gathered every major aspect of his philosophical and religious points of view. What is of crucial importance for us is that Kierkegaards foremost instance of authentic being was contained in the figure of an educative thinker whom Kierkegaard would describe as that "existing subjective thinker."

Kierkegaards portrayal of Socrates focuses upon how Socrates engages others in philosophical discourse. The inward dimension of that relationship toward his pupils is character­ized by seeing Socrates as fundamentally rooted in a process of self-development, which Kierkegaard calls a "mission." For Kierkegaard, Socrates is essentially in a process of "be­coming," and that is what makes him "existential" and makes him available to the life of any other thinker who relates self-development to self-knowledge as a personal appropriation.

As a significant undertaking, to grasp Kierkegaards "existential Socrates," our efforts are also formidable. There is not one interpretation of Socrates to contend with but numerous and sometimes conflicting ones. In his most sustained advance upon the Socratic, which is to be found in one of the earliest works, his magister dissertation Concept of Irony, Kierkegaard introduces us to his educative mentor by saying that efforts to describe Socrates are as "baffling as trying to depict an elf wearing a hat that makes him invisible." Hence, the reader is forewarned that this is going to be an exercise in invisibility. But the difficulties of undertaking this formidable task are also opportunities for illuminating Kierkegaards activity as a philosophic and religious author, his models for educating an awareness of human singularity, the relation­ship between educator and pupil, and for gaining an initial impression of what Kierkegaard means by "life attitudes" (livs-anskuelser) or, as he also calls them, "life stages."

The variety of interpretations which Kierkegaard makes of Socrates over the span of his authorship can be apprehended in several ways. First, they indicate Kierkegaards own maturing view of how Socrates participated in the life of thought as an existing thinker. By implication this offers some insight into transformations in Kierkegaards own per­sonal life. Second, the interpretations are couched in the lan­guage of Kierkegaards notion of life attitudes comprehensive life modalities through which an individual bestows value, meaning, and significance on experience. By following the developing view of Socrates various postures as educator, we are following a depiction of human development in which an increasingly more mature position is attained. These positions have deep influence on the formulation that Kierkegaard would give to his own educative enterprise, his "authorship". Third, the Socratic postures could be understood less as a sequence of surpassed life-attitudes than a set of transformations which refer back and forth to one another in presenting dimensions of a multifaceted educative thinker who must be grasped from more than one perspective.

Our present approach emphasizes the second and third possible understanding of Kierkegaards Socrates, foregoing the biographical account that might have been rendered. We seek to explore the relationship between particular characterizations of the Socratic educative postures and the form of self-knowledge which animates these orientations. This should throw light on first, the relationship between the edu­cators idea of educating and his conception of what it means to be an individual; second the implications for a philosophy of human development shaped by Kierkegaards idea of life attitudes; and third, the implications and consequences of interpreting a model classical educator who continues to serve as an ideal in our own time. But, fourth, there is one further advantage of exploring Kierkegaards interpretations of Socrates. It will help us to understand why Kierkegaard disclaims the role of educator. His insistence that "I am not a teacher, only a fellow student," that he was merely turning back upon the age the education that life pressed upon him, will become clearer as we discover that "to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner." Eventually Kierkegaard will come to the final position of saying that his entire activity as an author was really his own self-education. Understanding what Kierkegaard means by this self-education is indispensable to an understanding of his idea of authentic individu­ality. It should also alert us to the problems of reading and interpreting Kierkegaard. By posing simultaneously the situ­ations ot both learner and teacher, he brings the dialectic of self-knowledge to a vibrant peak of intensity.

Kierkegaard uses three key infinitives to describe the So­cratic postures: to hover, to vanish, and to witness. There are, no doubt, further terms that could be found throughout the authorship, but these seem to be the most vivid and compellingly central ones. He always seems to have Socrates in some kind of motion, corresponding to a key aspect of transformation in a persons life. In his theory of life-stages, these infinitives correspond generally to intermediary phases or, if you will, interfacings between spheres of being. We identify them for now as the attitudes of the "ironist, the "humorist," and the ethical-religious individual not yet a Christian whom we might entitle the "theist." These Socratic movements add to the problem of invisibility. But they help to remind us that the correct orientation toward Socrates is one of self-knowl­edge, that efforts to grasp Socrates concrete historical reality become moments in which the very assumptions of our ap­proach may become transparent to us. This is also the case for Socrates pupil Kierkegaard and the many-sidedness of his activity as an educator. We therefore embark upon trac­ing the journey of the educative thinker, brought from the agora of ancient Athens to the nineteenth-century Danish market capital of Copenhagen by means of an allegory of education.
The Paper Duel of Victor Eremita

In 1843 a certain two-volume work entitled Either/Or came before the reading public in Copenhagen, a book that aroused much interest partly because of the great diversity in style and temperament of its six partsincluding some very provocative writing about seductionand partly because the book had no author but only the name of an editor, that clearly pseudonymous figure "Victor Eremita." Victor dis­claimed any imputation that he might have been the author of the two volumes. Instead, he offered the following explana­tion. There was a certain old bureau standing in the window of an antique dealer, which, as he passed each day, he grew increasingly fond of. Finally, in a moment of acquisitive pas­sion, he bought it. He gave it a prominent place in one of his rooms and all was well and good. But early one morning, as he was about to take a journey to the countryside, a drawer in the bureau containing his travel money refused to open. In a fit of passion equal to that when it was acquired, Victor struck the bureau with a hatchet. The drawer failed to budge but instead a secret door sprang open. Inside was a parcel ot papers. Examining thorn quickly he realized that here was something more valuable than money, here was access to the intimate lives of two very different sorts of individuals. He would therefore take the papers with him on his journey. But where to put them? A mahogany case was fetched which con­tained a pair of pistols, very likely dueling pistols. They were removed and the papers were placed inside. Victor then set off on his journey. Once having arrived at the country inn, he proceeded to a secluded place in the forest where he with­drew the papers from the dueling case and began to read them. With this the duel of the two sets of papers began. Sub­sequently, since he so gratuitously decided to share these papers with us, we too enter into this paper duel.

The editor, then, of Either/Or, Victor Eremita, claims to have discovered the papers of two unknown authors of oppo­site and irresolvable dispositions. He proposes to put them before us in a manner consistent with his own dialectical marksmanship.


One sometimes chances upon novels in which certain characters represent opposing views of life. It usually ends by one of them convincing the other. Instead of these views being allowed to speak for themselves, the reader is enriched by being told the historical results, that one had convinced the other. I regard it as fortunate that these papers contain no such information.


It is for the reader then to decide what the historical results of Either/Or might be; he must himself produce the significance of the title.

We of course have the historical advantage, or perhaps dis­advantage, of knowing without question that the real author is Kierkegaard and that this is his first literary work com­posed in part while he was finishing that ironical dissertation on Socrates, Concept of Irony. Either/Cr possesses qualities of the Socratic in that a situation of reflective contrast is opened between pseudonymous characters while any actual author remains absent. The work itself as "edited" rather than "authorized" remains unresolved, having no final results apart from what the reader chooses to imagine. The work of Either/Or is to evoke subjectivity by beckoning the the reader to invest his sense of the possible in life, such as one might expect of a novel. It does not compel the reader to witness the utterances of a narrator and, hence, its dialectic remains something less developed than the advanced Socratic posture reached by Kierkegaard, the "witness," in his later nonpseudonymous writings. Kierkegaard considered it an "aesthetic" work since for the reader so much emphasis was placed upon possibility while the author disappeared into the recesses from which the work issued.

Either/Or poses the possibility of choice to the reader by trying to gain his interest in one or another of the characters, inviting the reader to identify with a life view only for him to discover the dialectical tension of that view when contrasted to an opposing position. The work then is educative, just as the word educate (Latin, e-ducare) means to bring out or draw out .The work of Either/Or is to draw the reader out into his own possibilities and to heighten his experience of standing out (ex-istence) in the light of his own uniqueness. The work, therefore, belongs intimately to our study of the educative thinker since it goes beyond a theoretical posture, becoming the literary and philosophic embodiment of one of these postures. But there is also a second, equally important reason for placing Either/Or in a centra! position in our the­matic interpretation of Kierkegaard as educative thinker. The drama of Either/Or is constructed through the meeting of two characters and then a peripheral third one (as we shall see). One of these characters takes up the posture of seeking to enable the other to reach a qualitative alteration of his life disposition. He becomes an educator in much less than a Socratic sense even though he is primarily concerned with the ethical in life. In typifying the person who seeks to facilitate the development of another, the character of an ethical edu­cator is itself portrayed and revealed. We have, therefore, something to learn from Either/Or first, as we let ourselves be caught up in the dialectic of opposing life views, and sec­ond, as we come to understand the efforts and motives of an educator who brings unique insight to the tradition of philo­sophical ethics while revealing something of the complex and even contradictory position of the one who seeks to help an­other.

Our understanding of the relationship between modes of educating and a philosophy of human development expressed as a series of life attitudes is furthered in the interpretation of Either/Or. Here we discover that a life attitude is not only a relation to ones world but also an interpretive stance in rela­tion to ones self. This is exemplified through the two pri­mary characters of Either/Or in their essays, letters, and aphorisms. A is the young man who seeks to dwell in the im­mediacies of mood and feeling, while (the elder) b, a lower-court assessor also known as William, seeks to fulfill the ethical imperatives of what he calls the universally human. The two characters are faced together, as mirrors can be posi­tioned, to produce an infinite series of reflections. It is a cer­tain style of self-consciousness that creates for each character these mirrorlike surfaces.

The life attitudes expressed in their styles of discourse form the perspectives of world views. When they make themselves, reflectively, the object of their own views, one might expect an open and limitless horizon of meaning to arise from the identity of subject and object. In the instances of a and b, something other than a limitless capacity for self-consciousness occurs. The control that they exercise over a view of life, presented as self-consciousness, always encounters disturbing elements. These elements are precisely those that have become associated with existential­ism: despair, choice, anxiety, guilt, to name a few. They are factors oi human finitude which feature whenever a finite human being faces into the cosmos of infinite possibility even if it is the infinity of the self. Self-consciousness, for these characters, reaches a limit. Kierkegaard leaves his char­acters there at that threshold. Life is filled with incongruities, paradoxes, contradictionsa dialectic is born. The charac­ters of Either/Or have so well circumscribed themselves that they are transformed into types, b clearly shows that this typology itself can become an object of consciousness. He attempts to show a just where the "aesthetical type" fits into the structure of types of mental attitudes. When b compares these mental attitudes to a sequence of historical personalities who exemplify their age, he establishes a parallel between the advance of historical consciousness and the development of the self.

Kierkegaard is playing up that aspect of the romantic imagination which parallels historical consciousness to the process of individuation. The idea that each individuals life is a unique participation in a universal and evolving pattern of development permeates the spirit of the romantic age. Kierkegaard uses this assumption to present the idea that while stages of life are indicative of a maturation process, their simultaneous intersection in life situations more accu­rately describes the dialectical tension that keeps us strug­gling with choices we must make over and over again. Like the sides of a die, all the stages are present. With each throw a different side gives the orientation, b himself provides us with the interpretive clue when he says that "it is not the par­ticular stage but the movement between stages that is impor­tant." The underlying theme of Either/Or is that man has become historical to himself, apprehending himself as a life history, and that his mode of self-apprehension is the origin for philosophical attitudes that are styles of interpretation carried out even though a different and constructed philoso­phy may be presented by the individual to his world.

Kierkegaards conception of the stages of life development the aesthetic, ironical, ethical, humoristic, and the reli­gious are prefigured in bs delineations. But b does not him­self move beyond the ethical. He does have premonitions of a "beyond" that he is unable to enter. What is notable here, and crucial to our purposes, is that the apprehension of one­self as in a stage of life along the scale of other stages becomes itself a frame of consciousness. When character and con­sciousness become equivalent terms, the efforts of an educa­tor to participate in the development of anothers character reveal limits in the educators own consciousness. The inter­relationship between motives co educate and passage through life stages becomes the subject of our thematic interpretation.
Educating Consciousness at a Limit

There is no easy access to the poet, who bears himself back­ward into the womb of the mythical mother, or is carried by the spirit of Mnemosyne into multiple worlds of newly con­ceived selves; for whom human limit becomes a literary tool and every "other" is a potential alazon. b, the straight man, but with enough of the eiron in him to make the struggle dra­matic, advances into the kingdom of the beautiful, bearing the shield of summum bonum (highest good) and equipped with the spear of a moral imperative, "Choose yourself." Because a and b dwell in incongruous temporal modes, the ethical squire must first transfix A (the author of fictive selves) at a particular moment and in a particular stage of develop­ment in order that his message finds its mark. Either /or be­comes the grammatical principle of transformations where one realm is brought into relationship with another, b listens for the sigh of melancholy indicating the interim between ironical movements and, by focusing upon the / of either/or, he drives the wedge of finitude which separates, while inexo­rably joining together, two sides of every fundamental life proposition, bs effort is to enclose the aesthetical within the kingdom of the ethical and, by doing so, to hold a fast at a limit.

The logico-grammatical disjunctive either/or sets a boundary between two related statements where the truth of one statement means the falsehood of the other. According to Judge William, he who stands in the moment of decision con­fronts himself with an either/or. The individual, constantly faced with the opportunity to act decisively, brings himself to full presence through a temporal determination, an exercising of the capacity to make things real, the moral will. He who chooses decisively, affirms his basic freedom to act within limits and to relate himself absolutely to the object of choice. When an individual makes himself the object of choice by wholly affirming his condition, then that individual legislates his independence. Such an autonomy has the principle of uni­versality as ground of action. The individual self-legislator, the ethical man, asserts his freedom as comprehensive of per­sonality, and his ability to decide for himself links him to a commonly shared intelligible world, the universal-human.

If the universal-human bears a resemblance to Kants king­dom of ends it is certainly not by accident, since b appears to utilize the main thrust of thought in Kants ethics. By a "king­dom of ends" Kant understood "the linking of different rational beings by a system of common laws." As one of the formulas stemming from his categorical imperative Kant called mankind to become member and sovereign of such an ideal kingdom by invoking the command, "So act as if you were always, through your maxims, a lawmaking member in a universal kingdom of ends." The progress toward this pos­sible kingdom could be actually realized if the individuals made the maxims of their subjective interests conform to the rule prescribed by the categorical imperative, that acts of will be subject to the requirement that they hold without contra­diction when formulated as universally applicable moral laws. But Kant recognized what b similarly echoes in his let­ters to a, that the universality of moral will requires that the individual free himself from the dominations of "sensuous at­tachments." There is a faculty of "inner freedom," report Kant and b accordantly, which enables the individual to re­lease himself from the domination of inclinations. This power of independence gives a man the feeling for the worth of self and serves as compensation for the sacrifices called up by duty. This mastery, brought about by duty and reverence for law, marks the rebirth of the person into the true life of self. The condition that coincides with this rebirth is "self-contentment," where the self-contentment of mortals is a par­allel experience and analogy to the self-sufficiency that can be ascribed to a Supreme Being.

By means of the form of his imperative, Kant derives a conception of perfection as the complete accordance of will and feeling with the moral law. Though such a perfect virtue is commanded by reason in its practical use, it is not fully attainable by human beings at any given moment. Kant calls this perfect moral will "holiness," and he arrives at a notion of the divine as a limit-idea toward which human beings strive as an ideal state. The indefinite, unending progress toward this ideal calls upon the faith of the individual in the very process, revealing an understand­ing that all duties are divine commands guiding man from lower to higher stages of moral perfection.

Judge William, likewise, appears to derive his notion of the Absolute from his apprehension of the universal-human. In his eyes duty is the inward requirement of an individuals, authenticity, a sign that reveals to him that he is "correctly oriented" in life. The apprehension of duty leads the individ­ual to recognize that a greater context, a broader structure of reason, surrounds and resonates his actions. This coherent reality, to which the intelligibility of his actions leads him, is represented in absolute terms, the greatest of which is the divine presence, God. Concurrently, b discovers that no indi­vidual ever attains the perfect identity with the ideal uni­versal-human, that each one is in some way an exception to the universality of the common good and that, therefore, each individual becomes "extraordinary" or an "exception" in relationship to his own formulation of the universal full­ness that lies before him.

Judge William departs from the Kantian formulation of the harmonious self-contentment within the rational limits of the practical will when he opens his description of the reality of despair and the remorse that seeks a transcendent principle to overcome the experience of imperfection. The rift in the human domain of finite freedom reveals a self-alienation be­tween the individual self and the selfs own conception of its perfection. Consequently, the individual discovers a separa­tion between himself and the representation of the Absolute. A certain discontinuity arises in the coherency of the univer­sal, a certain incongruity shows itself through the fabric of reason causing a man to sorrow over his remoteness from the kingdom of perfection and to experience anxiety over the restrictions of his own naturethe narrowing of existence.

Unlike Kant, bs discourse carries him over to the theologi­cal. The two kingdoms, that of the finite and the infinite, lack a uniting principle. Since the finite side has reached a limit, only an act coming from the side of the infinite can further the individual to his rebirth. The attitude of repentance serves to guide the individual back to his origin in God. There, in that atonement, he would receive Gods grace and be reborn. Repentance functions within an immanent dialec­tic, a willfully animated logic, through which limitation leads to an inner intensity, a passion that reveals the deeper mean­ing of the individuals common plight a realization which resolves him back into harmony with himself and the cosmos.

bs narrative of the meaning of either/or enables him to derive a role in relationship to that meaning, a role that itself helps him to resolve the incongruities of finite and infinite freedom. His response to as fictive selves is the autobio­graphical account he builds toward through the biographical account of historical personalities on the way to the ethical. Again, in this approach, he is apparently following the advice Kant gives in his "Methodology," that access co the moral will of another can be gained through the use of his­torical characters whose embodiment of virtue produces ven­eration in the pupil. Hence, b describes various Greek per­sonages, the Roman Nero, and a sequence of modern charac­ters, e. g., the count and countess, "poor Ludvig Blackfeldt," the mystic, to name several. But all these biographies serve to illustrate some incomplete resolution or the problem o; ethics and rebirth. He uses his own biography to illustrate the posi­tive in ethical life, and his own writing to affirm life from the side of the reborn. This variation on the Kantian approach is consistent with the entire procedure of conjoining sides of personality. For, just as the task of the student is to have intercourse with himself, it is the goal of b to be rejoined with a under the category of friendship. He adds to the Kantian paradigm a developmental and historical dimension in the relation between student and teacher, and bs personalized ethics brings the status of the moral educator into question with the final paradoxinability to achieve the universal-human in spite of good will and adequate intelligence.

as essay and lecture on tragedy can be seen as a response to bs ethical offering, assuming that the letter and the lecture are concurrent. He rejects the requirement of the ethical im­perative to choose oneself absolutely. He seems to have already perceived the consequences of individual limit and sets out instead to seek for the poets infinitude, an ironic, relationship to the real, the common, the expected.

Poetic irony tries to take advantage of the contradictions it has encountered; it strives to make them its own content and to master them through a unifying form. The perfect accordance of form and content signifies a resolution of differences between self and world, and a victory for the poet. The poet a, lets language give the appearance, through images, that paradoxically results in the beautiful and serves the purposes of the work of art. The poetics of irony means that the sub­ject, the author, transcends the paradox of finitude through the perfection of form and content and seems to hove, masterfully over his work, as essays seem to release their author, the inner speaker, from the limitations they discuss and express: historical conditioning, formal requirements death, anxiety, boredom, among others. In this way, poetic irony exemplified by a shows the voice of the narrator mov­ing beyond the circle of his speaking, leaving behind the contradictions and incommensurabilities that his language em­bodies. The only remaining difficulty for the poet-ironist is the interim between victories over life paradoxes. Because the ironist, like the thief, likes to or is compelled to return to the scene of the transgression, enough energy is necessitated to repeat this act in this case, the annihilation of actuality an infinite number of times. The poetic effort constantly seeks to renew itself, but a doubt arises in the ironist as co whether it is the freedom he gains through irony or the paradoxical nature of existence which compels him to persist.

Irony confronts the exclusive determinations or an either/ or in the same way it confronts all other contradictions, only this time it is the law of contradiction itself which it con­fronts. The poet, a, tries to take advantage of the either/or, turning it to his own purpose. Irony, true to the poet, seduces the either/or by accepting its claim and by emphasizing these claims to such an extent that they go over into their opposites, namely, neither/nor, a makes either/or seem to imply a difficulty with choice so great that it rises, beyond human comprehension and capability; either/or signifies impossi­bility of true choice and yields only the consequences of regret for submitting oneself to its rule. "Do it or do not do it, you will regret both," says a. Whenever the individual situ­ates himself in an occasion of absolute difference he exposes himself to the dialectic or choice and regret. The dialectic of expectation and disappointment is to be avoided through the realization that either/or signifies the realm of higher illu­sions subject matter for the poetic irony.

A and b uncover transcendent principles in their confronta­tion with limitation, b finds repentance and historical con­sciousness at the far edge of universal human will; these prin­ciples enable him to resolve human limitation through for­giveness and continuity, a pursues acceptance from the gods, seeks the perfect state of being, and follows aesthetical cate­gories to their polar extremities. He makes a literary form, irony, an all-pervasive attitude and an omnipresence in liter­ary production which tries to burst the confines of the conventional and the finite. Irony becomes the vehicle of poetic infinitude, undermining the resistances of the real, sacrificing actuality for the pure realm of higher possibilityexercising the complete mutability of self, fictionalizing of personality, and an ecstasy of objectless emotion.

Neither a nor b passes through the portal their principles of transcendence open, bs notion of repentance founders upon a psychological limit: the remembrance of his mortal father, which he has incorporated into himself as the very origin of ethical law and reverence, becomes an interpretive opaque­ness to the religious experience he seeks and otherwise transparently discovers, b satisfies himself with a sense of universality, a sense of common plight, of the guilt of mankind; his repentent attitude is generalized so that he receives a gen­eralized rebirth, a generalized forgiveness. He seeks to share that sense of universality with A, the solitary, isolated indi­vidual devoted to immediacy. Educator William has the vir­tue of practicing his own limitedness as a principle of self-knowledge. He is almost successful. But he falls short at las... a concealed love and a pride in human limit itself distorts his effort and reveals his rationalized religiosity, a, on the verge of tragic limits, himself a kind of educator as essayist and lec­turer, disdains the righteous rationality of b. He pursues the infinitude of a pure all-encompassing feeling for which his irony clears a space, a can never enter into that cleared space, his irony must be maintained, he must continue to hover above the clearing, pointing to it but never able to belong in the place that becomes temporal and hence limited the moment he descends to it. He seeks comfort in the mother-love of tragic destiny and is borne back toward a preexisted eternity that he never quite seems to reach.

Limit becomes threshold in the world of a and b. Each is at the threshold of his own consciousness, peering through the structure of ground and transcendence, the lower and higher demarcations which form the doorway of the self and the domain of being. And each views the others realm as insuffi­cient, as a building without a solid foundation, or as a solid foundation without a building; as a height without a corre­sponding depth, a depth without a height.

The heights and depths of consciousness in the world of A and b are like obliquely intersecting lines; the sublime and subliminal motifs of each of their lives converge at an apex. Whether the lines meet and end, or whether they cross and continue their individual directions is a question left open to the reader.

b apparently feels it necessary to call in another opinion to conclude the long argument, and sends a a final document as a sort of postscript, which the editor, Victor Eremita, assigns to the last section of Either/Or, the "Ultimatum." The arts of the letter, the essay, the aphorism, and the lecture have been employed. The form of the sermon with its prayer, gospel, and interpretation remains for the readers consideration.

The sermons author is an older friend of b, a parson assigned to a country parish on the Jutland heath. A new voice, that of an older man, perhaps more advanced in his wisdom than b, may at the last be able to evoke the life or the spirit that has now faded from the other "flowers of expres­sion." Judge William approves wholeheartedly the message contained by the sermon; he believes that it expresses what he had meant to say and also what he would like to have been able to articulate. He has taken the words of the sermon to heart and advises a to do the same, to "think of yourself."

The parsons sermon, appropriately, concerns the question of that which edifies, that which promotes spiritual improve­ment. He begins with a reading of the gospel of St. Luke (19:41) in which Christ tells of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Parson c advances his homily through a series or rhetorical questions which he sees reflected in the text: shall the righteous suffer with the unrighteous, does Divine reason not single out the innocent from the guilty, should good deeds go unrewarded? When we experience our actions jo good deeds that deserve the promised rewards, we seek, says the parson, to prove ourselves as in the right before God. Such an attitude presumes to contend with God, and is therefore lacking in that activity that makes for edification.

What then is edification for the individual? Parson cs ser­mon opens new ground in the narrative of educating con­sciousness, a ground that perhaps penetrates deeper than bs ethical reflections, shaking the very rational framework of the moral act; it may even soar higher than as ecstatic feeling through its uplifting considerations of a paradox of love. Par­son c calls into question the very nature of the motives that impcll the teacher and the learner, the motives of self-improvement and self-knowledge. It is perhaps not strange that b sends a sermon to a which describes a love transcend­ing the love that rewards righteousness and punishes wrong­doing, a love that has the capacity to experience itself as "in the wrong."

The parson continues rhetorically. Under what circum­stances is it both more painful and more uplifting to be in the wrong? Is it not before the beloved that one wishes rather to be in the wrong than to be righteously sorrowing over the others actions toward oneself? When love is present, it is preferable to be in the wrong than to have won a rightful position over against the beloved; and the expression for this wish to be in the wrong is an infinite relationship."

The individual who is motivated by a will to be ever more right, and is continually seeking for the state of perfect rightness, commits himself to a self-enclosing, self-restraining process. The implications of the country parsons sermon, especially following upon bs long epistle, is that a moral will animated by the desire for complete rightness before all else is a desire animated by pride. Pride denies the givenness of its ability to pursue truth and truth of self. The virtuous individual can easily become proud, particularly if some injury lies concealed beneath the surface of virtuousness. Pride denies the fundamental givenness of the right to seek truth and goodness, for pride denies the freedom of the indi­vidual to first be in the wrong. Self-education that is ani­mated by pride denies the ground of freedom and rejects its own givenness to seek. The betterment it reaches is an uncar­ing and finite increase of self, a love of self which, because it intensifies its defensiveness, becomes more painful. Parson cs sermon begins to speak to the offended consciousness which stands at its limit.

But how can one will to be in the wrong? Is this not a para­dox in which one tries to give oneself that which is already givenhumility, mortality? Parson c begins to approach this problem by drawing a careful distinction In the relationship between the individual and God, the rational man might be willing to admit that he is in a state of error relative to the divine knowledge. He mignt be convinced of this state of error as a logical consequence of thought,, derived as it were from the necessity of the concepts divine/mortal, perfect/ imperfect. A rational knowledge compelling the individual to realize his limitedness and relative wrongness still presumes to control the fundamental fact, making itself super or in its own inferiority. In relation to God, continues Parson c, one must wish (rather than will) to apprehend oneself as in the wrong as an act of love stemming from Gods absolute love. It is the modality through which the moment of receptiveness is reached, which essentially determines the infinite and edi­fying relationship.

The confirmation of the freedom to be able to allow one­self to be in the wrong, grounds that which edifies. Neither the necessity of being wrong nor the pride of being right yields the infinite relationship that is edifying, that builds up and goes deep at the same time in one self. It is possible, adds the parson, that one may even be unfaithful to ones duty in response to the higher freedom which foregoes rightness and honor. His meditations verge on the reflections of Job (40:2). He does not resolve the consequences, nor does he deny the voice inside which asks whether things might not be other­wise, the insistent resistance of the selfs claim to be right; rather, he encourages the intensity of the questioning of the law, the "deep inward movement" by which knowledge of the mind and the emotion of the heart reach the conviction that unites them in appropriation and belonging to the truth that edifies.

Parson cs sermon describes the ultimate collision that as vanishing tragic heroine fails to achieve and bs ethical prin­ciple covers over: the thought that discovers itself limited in its seeking and which lets that limit open itself to receive the unthinkable, the spontaneous acknowledgement of freedom as already given. The will impels reason to a point of unwill­ing resistance that it is in need. To be in the wrong, by ones own wish, is to be needful. And needfulness awakens the nearness of what is sought. Need lies outside will and fantasy and the individual is outside his freedom when freedom, like rightness, is perceived as something to achieve, something to conquer. In his wrongness the individual lets himself be found out by that which he seeks, his ultimate. There, in the wrong, says Parson c, is the individuals perfection.

A makes an effort to lose himself in his tragic heroine or to delete himself in his irony, b calls for a finding oneself through giving birth to a second self; he comes closer to the goal of re­newal through the thought that only by revealing oneself does one prepare receptively. But, when he might have been found, he hides in morality and the harmony of universality. The edifying sermon introduces an educative insight by clari­fying the process of seeking, and by purifying the approach so that the seeker can be found in his seeking.

Consciousness cannot completely penetrate itself whether by fantasy or will. But by reaching a knowledge of its own confines, the individual self sees itself as looking ou. from within a place of being. From within, it comes nearer to its freedomits freedom that is already given. The collision seems to be the requirement for presence to self, as if the self needed to be surprised by its own discovery: being found.

The papers of a and the letters of b are found, edited, en­titled, and published seven years later by an individual who calls himself Victor Eremita. The public suspects that Victor is himself the author of the two volumes, since the literacy device, discovering secret papers by unknown authors, has a certain popular romantic flavor making credible the notion of a philosophical work in novelistic form written under pseudonym. If this turns out to be the case, that the whole work has one author and that the author is himself disguised so that there seems to be a puzzle of authors within authors, then how should this mystification be understood a mystifi­cation by one who appears to be outside the situation of a collision between extreme modes of life?

The author is apparently beyond the limits that his charac­ters profile. Their discord has no resolve. Only the edifying sermon seems to reach a conclusion: "for only the truth thai: edifies is truth for you." Nevertheless, the parsons words are rather a tiding that opens up the themes of bs dense discourse to the light of reflection than a final conclusion for the whole work. Their collision has then no result, and this is perhaps appropriate for characters who are in conflict with them­selves at their inner limits; or, as the editor says at the outset, at the point where an incommensurability is undiscovered between the inner and outer life-forms.

If the work has no conclusion, at least it ends. Edification qualifies the ultimate lesson, and the ultimate truth is the individuals concern for that which is uplifting. The editor;, final and perhaps only advice is that the reader find himself in closest proximity to the character whose words reach him most intimately and proceed from that point.

A general confusion and curiosity surround the publica­tion of Either/Or and, as is often the case with a book whose truth is obliquely pointed toward, the authorship became of primary interest. After some interchange of views and a complaint from a certain Magister Artium that he had been mis­takenly and repeatedly accused of the authorship, Victor Eremita bequeathed to the public one last message, to this effect: if the book had no author, and no actual title, neither should it have a real editor. Rather, the work should encom­pass its own indeterminateness and as a book should not stand in any definite relationship to some special reader. Rather, the editors name was no personal nominative, not a proprium for the editor but an apellativum for the reader who would make himself the works "first reader." He, then, whose motivation activates the work will experience a moment when Eremita (hermit) is his proper name, since a serious contemplation makes one solitary; though, perhaps, at a later moment, Victor (triumphant) will become his chosen title, nearing as he will a victorious understanding of the text.

The present reader is certainly not victorious since he has allowed the deception, that there were two or three authors, to predominate throughout his interpretation, seeking all the while a nexus where the lives of a and b would open to one another. This oblique intersection seemed forthcoming as the characters neared each other through expression of their experiences with principles of limitation and through the evolving story in which eros drew together the pathos of the one and the ethos of the other. The readers serious contemplations, however, were not able to triumph; the dramatis personae remained isolated and the love between learner and teacher where the will of the one sought to win the imagina­tion of the other foundered, only to be revived again and transformed into the agapic love of Parson cs sermon.

Even the good parsons words, edifying as they may be, only give enthusiastic assurance that the doubters question, "Could it not all be otherwise?" if pursued persistently, would produce the self-appropriation of that which one al­ready knew and already had repeatedly willed. The love of which the parson speaks brings the conflict with limit closer to a resolution, uncovering a new way of belonging to exis­tence. Yet, this needful wish, however much it evokes a tran­scendent principle of finite freedom, echoes the kind of im­manent dialectic which was encountered in bs discourse. A truly transcendent point of departure remains unclarified though Parson cs sermon prepares edifyingly for such action. In developing his private relationship with God, and perhaps in discovering Gods love for mankind, Parson c loses sight of his congregation as existing individuals. Rather he pictures from the pulpit an "ideal listener." His religious idealism achieves a premature certainty which elevates credibility above faith. The new life, which b also introduced once again breaks forth without breaking through.

Even this final effort, of wishing to see oneself as limited to a domain bordered by the divine, nevertheless holds on to a notion of self-consciousness which closes the circle or its own self-becoming, albeit with the grace of God. Victor Eremitas characters all refuse to give up their self-consciousness whether through the control of irony or even to the point of turning humility into a principle of self-closure. Though there appears to be an idea of stages developing toward an ultimate perfection, and though the ethical is characterized as inclusive of the aesthetical, and the religious subsequently follows the principle of concentricity by including both the aesthetic and ethical, still each character remains qualitatively separated from the perfection toward which he orients himself. If the author has made this understanding possible through the inconclusive and paradoxical limits of self-con­sciousness, that no stage is a solution and that from within a stage or life orientation the nearness of an ultimate concern is still experienced as or shown to be infinitely distant then it is not the stages (as b once pointed out) but self-transformation, the movement from and toward a stage, which deserves the readers primary attention,

The present reader has looked in vain, following the common error, for the "real" author. Now he concludes along with the editor that there is no author but only a sequence of silences into which the reader listens. The conventional designations of the terms aesthetic, ethical, and religious are here broadened and personified to the degree that they become allegorical in pointing beyond themselves, having become explicit and in a sense empty of further enrichment or nourishment. They seek and reach an end, or terminate in a silence that gives the impression that the entire development has been metaphorical, has only served to transfer the reader from point to point, thus evoking the movement of transformation which itself becomes the principle experience of a revealing education.


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