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(08/29/2008) Either/Or - 2 Volumes by Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton. 1944. Princeton University Press. Volume 1 Translated From The Danish By David E. Swenson & Lillian Marvin Swenson. Volume 2 Translated From The Danish By Walter Lowrie. keywords: Literature Philosophy Denmark Translated 19th Century. Volume 1 - 387 pages, Volume 2 - 304 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This first English publication of Soren Kierkegaard's EITHER/OR nearly coincides with the centennial of its original Danish publication in 1843. Here is the first of Kierkegaard's important contributions to Danish literature, the one which established his fame as a writer. The occasion for the production of this remarkable book lay in his unhappy engagement to Regina Olsen and its subsequent breach. This experience constituted the determining factor which placed Kierkegaard in full possession of his aesthetic and literary powers. In these two volumes he has contrasted an ethical view of life with a purely aesthetic attitude. The 'aesthetist' is the author' of the first volume, and the 'ethicist' is responsible for the second. Soren Aabye Kierkegaard was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian. Kierkegaard strongly criticized both the Hegelianism of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. His early work was written under various pseudonyms who present their own distinctive viewpoints in a complex dialogue. Kierkegaard left the task of discovering the meaning of the works to the reader, because 'the task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted'. Subsequently, many have interpreted Kierkegaard as an existentialist, neo-orthodoxist, postmodernist, humanist, individualist, etc. Crossing the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, and literature, Kierkegaard came to be regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in contemporary thought. Kierkegaard has been called a philosopher, a theologian, the Father of Existentialism, a literary critic, a humorist, a psychologist, and a poet. Two of his popular ideas are 'subjectivity', and the 'leap to faith,' popularly referred to as the 'leap of faith. ' The leap of faith is his conception of how an individual would believe in God, or how a person would act in love. It is not a rational decision, as it is transcending rationality in favour of something more uncanny, that is, faith. As such he thought that to have faith is at the same time to have doubt. So, for example, for one to truly have faith in God, one would also have to doubt that God exists; the doubt is the rational part of a person's thought, without which the faith would have no real substance. Doubt is an essential element of faith, an underpinning. In plain words, to believe or have faith that God exists, without ever having doubted God's existence or goodness, would not be a faith worth having. For example, it takes no faith to believe that a pencil or a table exists, when one is looking at it and touching it. In the same way, to believe or have faith in God is to know that one has no perceptual or any other access to God, and yet still has faith in God. Kierkegaard also stressed the importance of the self, and the self's relation to the world as being grounded in self-reflection and introspection. He argued in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments that 'subjectivity is truth' and 'truth is subjectivity. ' This has to do with a distinction between what is objectively true and an individual's subjective relation to that truth. People who in some sense believe the same things may relate to those beliefs quite differently. Two individuals may both believe that many of those around them are poor and deserve help, but this knowledge may lead only one of them to decide to actually help the poor. Kierkegaard primarily discusses subjectivity with regard to religious matters, however. As already noted, he argues that doubt is an element of faith and that it is impossible to gain any objective certainty about religious doctrines such as the existence of God or the life of Christ. The most one could hope for would be the conclusion that it is probable that the Christian doctrines are true, but if a person were to believe such doctrines only to the degree they seemed likely to be true, he or she would not be genuinely religious at all. Faith consists in a subjective relation of absolute commitment to these doctrines. Either/Or, one of Kierkegaard's works, was authored under the pseudonyms 'A' and 'B,' or Judge William, and edited under the pseudonym Victor Eremita. Half of Kierkegaard's authorship was written behind the mask of several pseudonymous characters he created to represent different ways of thinking. This was part of Kierkegaard's indirect communication. According to several passages in his works and journals, such as The Point of View of My Work as an Author, Kierkegaard wrote this way in order to prevent his works from being treated as a philosophical system with a systematic structure. In the Point of View, Kierkegaard wrote: 'In the pseudonymous works, there is not a single word which is mine. I have no opinion about these works except as a third person, no knowledge of their meaning, except as a reader, not the remotest private relation to them. ' Kierkegaard used indirect communication to make it difficult to ascertain whether he actually held any of the views presented in his works. He hoped readers would simply read the work at face value without attributing it to some aspect of his life. Kierkegaard also did not want his readers to treat his work as an authoritative system, but rather look to themselves for interpretation. Early Kierkegaardian scholars, such as Theodor W. Adorno, have disregarded Kierkegaard's intentions and argue the entire authorship should be treated as Kierkegaard's own personal and religious views. This view leads to many confusions and contradictions which make Kierkegaard appear incoherent. However, many later scholars such as the post-structuralists, have respected Kierkegaard's intentions and interpreted his work by attributing the pseudonymous texts to their respective authors. Kierkegaard's final years were taken up with a sustained, outright attack on the Danish People's Church by means of newspaper articles published in The Fatherland and a series of self-published pamphlets called The Moment Kierkegaard was initially called to action after Professor Hans Lassen Martensen gave a speech in church in which he called his recently deceased predecessor Bishop Jakob P. Mynster a 'truth-witness, one of the authentic truth-witnesses. ' Kierkegaard had an affection towards Mynster, but had come to see that his conception of Christianity was in man's interest, rather than God's, and in no way was Mynster's life comparable to that of a 'truth-witness. ' Before the tenth chapter of The Moment could be published, Kierkegaard collapsed on the street and was eventually taken to a hospital. He stayed in the hospital for over a month and refused to receive communion from a pastor, whom Kierkegaard regarded as merely an official and not a servant of God. He said to Emil Boesen, a friend since childhood who kept a record of his conversations with Kierkegaard and was himself a pastor, that his life had been one of great and unknown suffering, which looked like vanity to others but was not. Kierkegaard died in Frederik's Hospital after being there for over a month, possibly from complications from a fall he had taken from a tree when he was a boy. He was interred in the Assistens Kirkegaard in the Norrebro section of Copenhagen. At Kierkegaard's funeral, his nephew Henrik Lund caused a disturbance by protesting that Kierkegaard was being buried by the official church even though in his life he had broken from and denounced it. Lund was later fined.

 

 

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