Stages on Life's Way

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Stages on Life's Way
Author Søren Kierkegaard
Original title Stadier paa Livets Vei
Translator Walter Lowrie, 1940; Howard V. Hong, 1988
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Series First authorship (Pseudonymous)
Genre Christianity, philosophy
Publisher Bianco Luno Press
Publication date
April 30, 1845
Published in English
1940 – first translation
Media type Paperback
Pages 465
ISBN 0691020493
Preceded by Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions
Followed by Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Stages on Life's Way (Danish: Stadier på Livets Vej; historical orthography: Stadier paa Livets Vej) is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard written in 1845. The book was written as a continuation of Kierkegaard's masterpiece Either/Or. While Either/Or is about the aesthetic and ethical realms, Stages continues onward to the consideration of the religious realms. Kierkegaard's "concern was to present the various stages of existence in one work if possible."[1]

But he wasn't satisfied until the completion of Concluding Unscientific Postscript in 1846. Here he wrote: "When my Philosophical Fragments had come out and I was considering a postscript to “cloth the issue in its historical costume,” yet another pseudonymous book appeared: Stages on Life’s Way, a book that has attracted the attention of only a few (as it itself predicts) perhaps also because it did not, like Either/Or, have The Seducer’s Diary, for quite certainly that was read most and of course contributed especially to the sensation. That Stages has a relation to Either/Or is clear enough and is definitely indicated by the use in the first two sections of familiar names."[2] Later in the same book he said,

In Either/Or, I am just as little, precisely just as little, the editor Victor Eremita as I am the Seducer or the Judge. He is a poetically actual subjective thinker who is found again in “In Vino Veritas”. In Fear and Trembling, I am just as little, precisely just as little, Johannes de Silentio as the knight of faith he depicts, and in turn just as little the author of the preface to the book, which is the individuality-lines of a poetically actual subjective thinker. In the story of suffering (Guilty?/’Not Guilty), I am just as remote from being Quidam of the imaginary construction as from being the imaginative constructor, just as remote, since the imaginative constructor is a poetically actual subjective thinker and what is imaginatively constructed is his psychologically consistent production. Concluding Unscientific Postscript 1846, Hong p. 625-626

David F. Swenson cited this book when discussing Kierkegaard's melancholy which was corroborated by Kierkegaard's older brother Peter Christian Kierkegaard. However, Kierkegaard could have been writing about Jonathan Swift.[3][4][5] The background is the giving of a banquet yet it seems so difficult; Constantine, from Repetition says he would never risk putting one on. Kierkegaard says, "repetition that involved good luck and inspiration is always a daring venture because of the ensuing comparison, an absolute requirement of richness of expression is made, since it is not difficult to repeat one's own words or to repeat a felicitously chosen phrase word for word. Consequently, to repeat the same also means to change under conditions made difficult by the precedent. By taking the risk, the pseudonymous author (Hilarius Bookbinder) has won an indirect victory over the inquisitive public. That is, when this reading public peers into the book and sees the familiar names Victor Eremita and Constantin Constantius, etc., it tosses the book aside and says wearily: It is just the same as Either/Or." But Kierkegaard maintains it is the author's job to make it "the same, and yet changed, and yet the same".[6]

In Vino Veritas[edit]

The subtitle is A Recollection Related by William Afham. Paul Sponheim says in his introduction to Lowrie's translation that Afham means Byhim in Danish. The book is divided rather sharply into sections, this first being the equivalent of the first part of Either/Or and is equivalent with religiousness A. "Religiousness A is the dialectic of inward deepening; it is the relation to an eternal happiness that is not conditioned by something but is the dialectical inward deepening of the relation, consequently conditioned only by the inward deepening, which is dialectical."[7] This is the individual who is living in an esthetic way. A young man or woman who is still maturing. Still looking for the highest good. They've found love of a woman to be the highest but none have had any experience except for the seducer. Who may or not be telling the truth. Kierkegaard says, "Even “The Seducer’s Diary” was only a possibility of horror, which the esthete in his groping existence had conjured up precisely because he, without actually being anything, had to try his hand at everything as possibility."[8]

In a conscious reference to Plato's Symposium, it is determined that each participant must give a speech, and that their topic shall be love. Lee M. Hollander said, "it excels Plato's work in subtlety, richness, and refined humor. To be sure, Kierkegaard has charged his creation with such romantic superabundance of delicate observations and rococo ornament that the whole comes dangerously near being improbable; whereas the older work stands solidly in reality."[9] Plato and Kierkegaard may have been testing the reader's ability to discern truth from fiction or poetry.

He has Victor Eremita, the Young Man, the Fashion Designer, Constantine, Johannes the Seducer speak. Tellingly for the reader, however, each account given is ultimately disheartening. The inexperienced young man, for example, considers it to be simply disturbingly puzzling. To the seducer, it is a game to be won, while the foppish fashion designer considers it to be simply a style, empty of real meaning, which he can control like any other style. These individuals believe that "he who has hidden his life has lived well." All the speakers at the banquet say "love is ludicrous."[10]

Kierkegaard compared this section with Philine in Johann Goethe's Wilhelm Meister.[11] He took up Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit (My Life: Poetry and Truth) in the third section of this book, Guilty/Not-Guilty.[12]

Goethe reflected on his life in almost all of his books. A, or the esthete, in Stages writes about reflection because Kierkegaard has found that he has made an art of recollection and reflection also.

The art of recollecting is not easy, because in the moment of preparation it can become something different, whereas memory merely fluctuates between remembering correctly and remembering incorrectly. For example, what is homesickness? It is something remembered that is recollected. Homesickness is prompted simply by one’s being absent. The art would be to be able to feel homesickness even though one is at home. This takes proficiency in illusion. To go on living in an illusion in which there is continual dawning, never daybreak, or to reflect oneself out of all illusion is not as difficult as to reflect oneself into an illusion, plus being able to let it work on oneself with the full force of illusion even though one is fully aware. To conjure up the past for oneself is not as difficult as to conjure away the present for the sake of recollection. This is the essential art of recollection and is reflection to the second power. The ultimate in the reflective relationship between memory and recollections is to use memory against recollection. Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 13

Some Reflections on Marriage in Answer to Objections — By a Married Man[edit]

The second section of the book begins with the party's interruption by the nearby passing, and stopping, of a carriage containing one William Afham and his wife. He's experience speaking to possibility. Afham wants to stop A from "moving restlessly from possibility to possibility will ultimately end in despair." Even so, Kierkegaard himself remained a bachelor all his life. But he found meaning in life that was not associated with the married state.[13] He says, "The resolution of marriage is a positive resolution and essentially the most positive of all; its opposite is also a resolution that resolves not to will to actualize the task."[14]

He says, "Ordinarily we speak only of a married man’s unfaithfulness, but what is just as bad is a married man’s lack of faith. Faith is all that is required, and faith compensates for everything. Just let understanding and sagacity and sophistication reckon, figure out, and describe how a married man ought to be: there is only one attribute that makes him lovable, and that is faith, absolute faith in marriage. Just let experience in life try to define exactly what is required of a married man’s faithfulness; there is only one faithfulness, one honesty that is truly lovable and hides everything in itself, and that is the honesty toward God and his wife and his married estate in refusing to deny the miracle."[15] He's against system builders in the realm of marriage just as he's against them in the realm of the religious.

This section corresponds to what Kierkegaard called religiousness B.

"Religiousness B, or paradoxical religiousness, or religiousness that has the dialectical in second place make conditions in such a way that the conditions are not the dialectical concentrations of inward deepening but a definite something that qualifies the eternal happiness more specifically (whereas in A the more specific qualification of inward deepening is the only more specific qualification), not by qualifying more specifically the individual’s appropriation of it but by qualifying more specifically the eternal happiness, yet not as a task for thinking but as paradoxically repelling and giving rise to new pathos."[16]

Howard Hong said the three sections of Stages on Life's Way were meant to compliment the Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions published only one day earlier. The discourse on marriage corresponds to On the Occasion of a Wedding.[17]

"Guilty?"/"Not Guilty?"[edit]

Victor Eremita was the pseudonymous author of Either/Or who wrote the preface to the book. In the preface he buys a writing desk in which there is a secret compartment containing the papers of A and B.[18] In this book the writer of the preface, Hillarius Bookbinder, finds a small packet of papers left over from an old customer, Mr. Literatus, and parts one and two of Stages On Life's Way are found there. A repetition occurs in this third book. He's out fishing with a naturalist. He was there for the sake of science, and the author for the sake of friendship and curiosity.[19] He when catches something wrapped in "oil cloth" and finds a box with the papers of this section of the book inside, much like the Greeks kept hope in a box this box contained guilt. This is Quidam's Diary.

This section of the book corresponds to the third discourse from Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions published one day earlier, The Decisiveness of Death or At the Side of a Grave The manuscript proves to be the diary of a young man written much in the style of Night Thoughts by Edward Young.[20] He writes morning and evening thoughts that alternate between his guilt and his innocence. Later, in 1847 he wrote once more about this problem of guilt as he had earlier in 1843. Either/Or Part II Hong p. 341 The Upbuilding That Lies in the Thought That in Relation to God We Are Always in the Wrong and Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong P. 265 the joy of it that in relation to God a person always suffers as guilty.

He believes "God sanctions intrigues" but that it would do no good for a leper to find a way to move his sores to the inside of his body. He would still be found guilty by someone.[21] But he sticks to his thesis with proof from Solomon's dream.[22]

He writes about what could be interpreted as accusations against himself regarding Regine Olsen. And admits he's "really no religious individuality; I am just a regular and perfectly constructed possibility of such a person. With a sword hanging over my head, in peril of my life, I discover the religious crisis with a primitivity such as if I had not known of them before, with such a primitivity that if they had not been I would have to discover them."[23] But Kierkegaard has already said he is none of the pseudonymous authors. Yet in some way he is them all.

This unending guilt leads him to ask, "What similarity is there between her sorrow and mine, what solidarity is there between guilt and innocence, what kinship is there between repentance and an esthetic sorrow over life, when that which awakens repentance is that which awakens her sorrow? I can sorrow in my way; if she must sorrow, she must also do in on her own account. A girl may submit to a man in many things, but not in the ethical; and it is unethical for her and for me to sorrow jointly in this way. Taking this path, how will she ever come to sorrow religiously when she must leave undecided an ethical issue such as my behavior toward her, when it is indeed over its result that she wishes to sorrow. Would that I might be a woman for half a year so that I could learn how she is dissimilar to man."[24]

Letter to the Reader[edit]

Kierkegaard finished his book with a Letter to the Reader from Frater Taciturnus (Brother Silent). He was upset that the critics had not done good job on Either/Or so he decided to contact his readers directly. He begins with analogies:

The esthetic hero must have his opposition outside himself, not in himself. That this is not the case in Hamlet is the anomaly. If we consider the distinctive characters among those unhappy lovers whom “song and sage” reward with renown, we shall promptly see that the passion is immediate and that the contradiction is from the outside, somewhat as the pastor on the behalf of the engaged couple publicly invited objections, for he, too, cannot imagine that in the lover’s own passion there would be a contradiction, because in that case he might feel constrained like the poet, thus by a poetic call, to say of the guilty party: He does not love. Petrarch sees Laura joined to another. Abelard does not feel separated from Heloise by his holy orders (for love is the absolute passion)-he is separated by Fulbert’s wrath and, alas, by his cruelty. Romeo does not feel the family hatred as that which separates, because it also moves in him through filial piety toward his father; it is the family feud that actually separates him from Juliet; Axel has no conscientious scruples about the close relationship, and Valborg understands only that they love each other; it is the Church with its external power that separates them. Take the obstacles away, and those unhappy people are happiest of lovers. In our day, unhappy love does not make a good show. Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 407

He states it was his task to present "an unhappy love affair in which love is dialectical in itself and in the crisis of infinite reflection acquires a religious aspect."[25] His task resulted in an editorial from the Danish newspaper The Corsair directed at Frater Taciturnus which brought Kierkegaard into open conflict with Peder Ludvig Møller and Meir Goldschmidt. The Corsair had reviewed Either/Or March 10, 1843, it had been published on February 20, 1843. On July 4, 1845 the Corsair praised Hilarious Bookbinder for his work on Stages. Victor Eremita was praised for his work on Either/Or once again in November and then in December Moller wrote A Visit in Soro and Frater Taciturnus replied with The Activity of a Traveling Estetician and How He Still Happened to Pay for the Dinner.[26] The newspaper began to caricature Kierkegaard after he wrote to them in reply after reply. Kierkegaard wrote the following in his Journals in relation to this external episode in his life as an author.

In my opinion an editor is literally responsible when there is no author. The editor of The Corsair is Mr. Goldschmidt, university student, a bright fellow, without an idea, without scholarship, without a point of view, without self-control, but not without a certain talent and a desperate esthetic power. At a critical moment in his life he approached me. I tried indirectly to help him negatively. I praise him for his self-assurance in getting himself established. I believe he has succeeded in what he wanted to do. I had hoped that he would have chosen an honorable way to earn a name for himself; to be honest, it pains me that as the editor of The Corsair he continues to choose the way of contemptibility to earn money.

It was my desire to snatch, if possible, a talented man from being an instrument of rabble barbarism, but I certainly had no wish to be shamefully rewarded by being immortalized by a paper of contemptibility which ought never exist and by which I can only wish to be abused. It is expedient for my life as an author to be abused and that is why I wished it and asked for it as soon as I was finished, for by the time Frater Taciturnus wrote, Johannes Climacus had already been delivered to the printer a few days before. I had also hoped to benefit others by this step; they do not want it — well, I will go on asking for abuse because it suits my idea and in order to get some good, after all, out of the existence of a paper like that. It is sad to see the pack of fools and the fatuous who laugh and yet, at least in this case, they do not know what they are laughing at. God alone knows whether or not I am playing for too high stakes with respect to my contemporaries. My idea requires it; its consistency satisfies me beyond measure — I cannot do otherwise, I beg forgiveness of all the better people who are undialectical or do not have the presuppositions to understand that I must do as I am doing — and then forward: Would that I might be abused. However important or unimportant my life as an author, this much is certain: because of my dialectical relation, I am the only Danish author who is so situated that it can serve the idea to have every possible lie and distortion and nonsense and gossip come out, confusing the reader and thus helping him to self-activity and preventing a direct relationship. Journals and Papers of Soren Kierkegaard, VII 1A 99[27]

Criticism[edit]

Georg Brandes is credited with introducing Soren Kierkegaard to the reading public with his 1879 biography about him, he also wrote an analysis of the works of Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in which he made many comparisons between their works and the works of Kierkegaard. Brandes' translator called Stages on Life's Way, Stages on the Path of Life, in 1899. He considered Stages on Life's Way in relation to Either/Or and the works of Ibsen. This is what Brandes had to say:

I wonder whether Henrick Ibsen did not feel a little uncomfortable, when Letters from Hell, (by Valdemar Adolph Thisted), seized the opportunity, and sailed forth in the wake of Brand? They both stand in direct relation to the thinker, who, here in Scandinavia, has had the greatest share in the intellectual education of the younger generation, namely, Soren Kierkegaard.

Love's Comedy, although its tendency is in the opposite direction, finds its point of departure in what Kierkegaard, in Either-Or and Stages on the Path of Life, has said for and against marriage. And yet the connection in this case is very much slighter than in the case of Brand. Almost every cardinal idea in this poem is to be found in Kierkegaard, and its hero’s life has its prototype in his. Ibsen shares with Kierkegaard the conviction that in every human being there slumbers a mighty soul, an unconquerable power, but he differs from Kierkegaard in holding this essence of individuality to be human, while Kierkegaard looks upon it as something supernatural. Henrik Ibsen. Björnstjerne Björnson. Critical studies (1899), by Georg Brandes, 20-21, 61-62, 99[28]

Julia Watkin says the bulk of Stages was composed between September 1844 and March 1845. And that Quidam's diary is the conterpart of the seducer's diary.[29] Naomi Lebowitz said, "Kierkegaard takes his most cherished model Socrates, who hid his beauty behind the Silenus skin of a "hectoring satyr". He spends his whole life, says Alcibiades in the Symposium, a favorite dialogue of Kierkegaard, pretending and playing with people, and I doubt whether anyone has ever seen the treasures which are revealed when he grows serious and exposes what he keeps inside. And he would imitate Christ,[30] in whom everything is revealed and everything hidden, so that his words are heard as offense and stumbling blocks."[31][32]

Walter Lowrie notes that Kierkegaard wrote a "repetition of Either/Or" because it stopped with the ethical. "He said of it that, like Aladdin's palace, it was left with an unfinished window, this lack he proposed to supply by adding a story entitled Guilty?/Not Guilty? He advised readers to read the Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses as well as Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions "to understand how it is that Quidam's Diary leads up to and into the religious stage."[33]

Paul Sponheim, in his introduction to Lowrie's translation of Stages, compares the book with Fear and Trembling. He agrees that the religious stage is not "fully stated in Stages because Quidam cannot understand the paradigm "for he fails to speak of the forgiveness of sins, which lies outside his task.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Journals of Soren Kierkegaard VIIA 106
  2. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 284 Hong See also p. 322-323, 625
  3. ^ The melancholy which was the common heritage of father and son can be described by citing a single characteristic trait. One day while herding sheep on the bare Jutland heath, embittered by his privations and oppressed by loneliness, the elder Kierkegaard, who was then a boy of eleven or twelve, had mounted a hill and assailed with curses the God who had condemned him to so wretched an existence. In Kierkegaard's journal for 1846 there is a reference to this incident in the following terms: "The terrible fate of the man who had once in childhood mounted a hill and cursed God, because he was hungry and cold, and had to endure privations while herding his sheep and who was unable to forget it even at the age of eighty-two." When after Kierkegaard's death this passage was shown to his surviving elder brother, Bishop Peder Christian Kierkegaard, he burst into tears and said: "That is just the story of our father, and of his sons as well." Elsewhere, in Stages on the Way of Life, Kierkegaard suggests that these dark moods served to link the father and the son in a fellowship of secret and unexpressed sympathy. Scandinavian studies and Notes 1921 p. 3
  4. ^ Journals 71A5
  5. ^ This is what Kierkegaard wrote in Stages on Life's Way p. 199-200 Hong:

    When Swift became an old man, he was committed to the insane asylum he himself had established when he was young. Here, it is related, he often stood in front of a mirror with the perseverance of a vain and lascivious woman, if not exactly with her thoughts. he looked at himself and said: Poor old man! Once upon a time there were a father and a son. A son is like a mirror in which the father sees himself, and for the son in turn the father is like a mirror in which he sees himself in the time to come. Yet they seldom looked at each other in that way, for the cheerfulness of high-spirited, lively conversation was their daily round. Only a few times did it happen that the father stopped, faced the son with a sorrowful countenance, looked at him and said: Poor child, you are in a quiet despair. Nothing more was ever said about it, how it was to be understood, how true it was. And the father believed that he was responsible for his son’s depression, and the son believe that it was he who caused the father sorrow-but never a word was exchanged about this. Then the father died. And the son saw much, heard much, experienced much, and was tried in various temptations, but he longed for only one thing, only one thing moved him-it was that word and it was the voice of the father when he said it. Then the son became an old man; but just as love devised everything, so longing and loss taught him-not, of course, to wrest any communication from the silence of eternity-but it taught him to imitate his father’s voice until the likeness satisfied him. Then he did not look at himself in the mirror, as did the aged Swift, for the mirror was no more, but in loneliness he comforted himself by listening to his father’s voice: Poor child, you are in a quiet despair. For the father was the only one who understood him, and yet he did not know whether he had understood him; and the father was the only intimate he had had, but the intimacy was of such a nature that it remained the same whether the father was alive or dead.

  6. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript p. 286
  7. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 556
  8. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Note p. 295
  9. ^ Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard p. 29-30 University of Texas Bulletin Lee M Hollander 1923
  10. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 16-18, 36
  11. ^ Journals and Papers VA 82 Much of the content of "In vino veritas" will no doubt seem to be terribly sensuous; already I hear an outcry, and yet what is this compared to Goethe, for example, Philine in Wilhelm Meister.
  12. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hosng p. 148-149
  13. ^ Training in Christianity, Lowrie translation, 1941, 2004 chronology p. xxvii
  14. ^ Stages on Life's Way, p. 107
  15. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong beginning on p. 90
  16. ^ Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Hong p. 556
  17. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Introduction p. x-xi
  18. ^ See the Preface to Either/Or
  19. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 189
  20. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 216
  21. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 229-231
  22. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 250-252
  23. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 253-258,
  24. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 300-303
  25. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 415-416
  26. ^ Howard V. hong and Edna H. Hong published The Corsair Affair in 1982. In that book they have all the materials available if one wants to read it.
  27. ^ Journals and Papers of Soren Kierkegaard, VII 1A 99
  28. ^ Henrik Ibsen. Björnstjerne Björnson. Critical studies (1899), by Georg Brandes at archive.org
  29. ^ Julia Watkin, Historical Dictionary of Kierkegaard's Philosophy, p. 241
  30. ^ As was the prototype, so must the imitation also be, even though it is a slow and difficult task to deny oneself, a heavy cross to take up, a heavy cross to bear, and one that, according to the prototype’s instructions, is to be carried in obedience unto death, so that the imitator, even if he does not die on the cross, nevertheless resembles the prototype in dying “with the cross on.” Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, 1847 p. 220-221 Hong
  31. ^ 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 The Bible
  32. ^ Naomi Lebowitz, Kierkegaard: A Life of Allegory,1985 p. 2-3
  33. ^ A Short Life of Kierkegaard, Lowrie, 1942, 1970 p. 164-165
  34. ^ Stages on Life's Way, Lowrie 1940, 1967 p. 10

External links[edit]