Thanks for your response. Sorry I am a bit late getting back to you. I have
noticed the conversations you have been having with others. Clearly Mr.
Brown thinks you are a wringer and you know more about this than you are
professing. Perhaps he is right. Clearly you are a bright and thoughtful
person but I will take you at your word that you have very little
acquaintance with Kierkegaard (SK).
I think I need to think over your comments, especially that about the matter
of -ends- being more what's at stake rather than principles in Either/Or.
This is an interesting proposition.
Still, I am left with my beautiful portrait of a child and no absolute
answer to my question: is this painting unethical.
Perhaps it is Jim who is right in saying that for K the painting is neutral
as to being ethical or aesthetical. Only human beings could possibly be
assessed as either one or the other in their activities...
me: I didn't address your portrait statement previously. Several others
have. I agree with those who say that SK would likely say that your portrait
is simply an object. It is neither aesthetic or ethical - neither, in and of
itself, "beautiful" or "moral." You have asked, "Is this painting
unethical?" SK's answer, in my opinion, would be that that is a nonsensical
question. An object is not ethical. People, not things, are aesthetic,
moral, and religious as the case may be. So how a self relates to the
painting brings it to the relm of aesthetics, ethics, or the religious. More
specificly, the choices the self makes in its relationship to the painting
would be aesthetc, ethical, or religious or some combination of all three.
So your interpretation of what Jim said is essentially correct.
Still the painting is the result of the activity of the painter & of the
observer. Are their respective activities unethical ? I can't see how Jim's
latest precisions answer these questions. Your suggestion, on the contrary,
resets somehow the question.
me: But you are not satisfied so you ask about the painter and an observer.
Now it is a question SK can more likely deal with. But the answer is that
their respective activities may or may not be unethical. It depends on haw
the person who paints does it and how the person who views it responds. SK
would not be happy with the person who simply viewed it as an intellectul
exercise of seeing and registering in ones mind something that is beautiful.
It becomes ethical (or unethical) when I reflect upon it and more
specifically when it effects my life choices in some way. Whether it is
ethical or unethical depends on _how_ I choose.
As stated in the introduction, Either/or can be conceived as the exposition
of two different life-conceptions, which essential difference resides, as
you are suggesting, in the stress of either the aesthetic or the ethical as
the absolute end
me: yes this is essentially it but there is a third, and it is crucial to
SK, life-conception, the religious (Christianity). You don't as I recall get
much of the latter in Either/Or except a hint in the edifying last word (a
sermon by the Jutland priest.
- I take it you mean aim, purpose or principle by this word, don't you ?
me: Yes I suppose so. It is that to which you commit your life, that which
you most live for.
Still, for these conceptions to stand in a proper either/or, a real choice,
there need be a contradiction between the terms. You seem to be saying that
for K. the contradiction lies in the setting one or the other as the absolue
end. So a priori there is no contradiction between the beautiful and the
good, or is there ?
me: I don't believe SK would necessarily agree that there need be a
contradiction between the terms. Actually that isn't the point. The issue is
not what one thinks or how one defines terms its how one acts or doesn't
act. SK is all about making choices and acting. He is very critical of those
who go along with the croud, who just do what others do, never reflecting on
whether it is beautiful or good or whatever. They are just part of he crowd,
the herd. He wants to see people be an existing individual who chooses a
self and a life in a very deliberate and courageous manner. Of course he is
very aware that not choosing is itself a choice but it is a blind choice.
you:The following question is then : why is setting the aesthetic as the
absolute necessarily unethical ? Why, this one is simple: because now the
beautiful is thus ultimately prefered to the good if they ever collide.
me: This is getting you closer to to the truth as SK sees it.
you: Now why should necessarily the good collide with the beautiful at some
point ? Is this in their nature to collide ? No, for we have just said the
contradiction is not necessary. Is it accidental ? What have them colliding
Is it us or is it fate ? Or is it something else ? Are we free to see the
beautiful and the good as contradictionless ?
me: The contradiction comes in not in that there is a contradiction between
the logical concepts "good" and "beautiful." It is in how I respond to it.
Perhaps a quick example would illustrate: If I see a very beautiful woman
and my response is to rape her and kill her how do my actions come out in
terms of the ethical? On the other hand if I bet to know her and devote
myself to loving her and careing for and about her life how is that
Just one more word about absolute and relative commitments or aims. Sk, I
believe, would say that both "the beautiful" and "the good" as we finite
human beings know it are finite. They can point us in the direction of the
absolute (God) but they are not the absolute.
Thanks for the very stimulating conversations!!