- Jefferey, the right half is always humour. I suspected that my
non-answer was the answer you were looking for, and, if not, at the
least I entered the trap from the least expected direction. At first,
all one sees is the gleam in the eyes, then, suddenly, the mind
appears in its sharpness to immobilize the poor victim. Alas, but
enough of this parlor talk.
I'll begin at the beginning, if for no other reason than to make it
what it is, a beginning. This quote, from the horse's mouth, so to
speak, is where I would begin were I to begin to try to understand SK.
Why? Because he has admitted to there being one idea streaming through
his works, like a silver thread running through each part that makes
each part whole. That idea was cast as the casting of religiousness in
terms of reflection.
"What I have understood as the task of my authorship has been done. It
is one idea from /Either/Or/ to Anti-Climacus, the idea of
religiousness in reflection. The task has occupied totally, for it has
occupied me religiously; I have understood the completion of this
authorship as my duty, as a responsibility resting upon me." (FS-E,
Supplement, Hong, p. 224) (JP VI 6770)
I represent this as the beginning not because I want to speak down to
you, but because this is how I began understanding SK. When I first
read him, I saw what he was saying, regardless of the book he was
saying it in, as one idea. When I came across the above quote, some
years later, I found that I had already interpreted it.
Now, the second thing I would place before us here would be the answer
to the question of what he meant by reflection. Take away from this
his saying that the self is reflection. His one idea is to place
religiousness in terms of self and characterize the self as an act of
"The self is reflection, and the imagination is reflection, is the
rendition of the self as the self's possibility. The imagination is
the possibility of any and all reflection, and the intensity of this
medium is the possibility of the intensity of the self. (SUD, Hong,
p. 31; Lowrie, p.164)
One more thing here. He begins this book, SUD, with the following
words: "A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the
self." He goes on in a rather complicated way to define the self as a
relation that relates itself to itself, but essentially, he is saying
that the self is reflection.
Ok, another one more thing and I'll send this off for your comments.
The book that has been catching much attention here of late is his
Concept of Anxiety. This is the book where he brings the spirit to
selfhood. His scheme here is to start off with a spirit not yet a
self, give it enough consciousness to become anxious, and allow that
spirit to leap to selfhood in an attempt to find some continuity in
the flux of anxiety. As that spirit leaps to selfhood, SK will attach
guilt and sin to it, and essentially make it the mess that he will
call the esthetic self, which he will cast as the esthetic sphere of
existence. And thus the spirit/self-reflection has stepped into the
first of SK's three existence spheres.
I offer the above, not as the truth, but as a working hypothesis to a
possible understanding of the difference between the esthetic and the
ethical as he uses the terms. If you accept this working hypothesis, I
will introduce the ethical, and the dichotomy next time around.
Naturally, since what I have offered is simply a working hypothesis,
any other who cares to offer another hypothesis should do so; more
than one viewpoint sometimes has the advantage of offering an added